Sunday, 31 July 2011

Cantaloupe Semifreddo

I want to buy an ice cream maker.  The thought of making various flavor combinations of ice cream with natural (and pronounceable) ingredients makes me excited.  However, I’m finding it difficult to dish out the dough for an ice cream maker (A graduate student until very recently = tight budget!).  Well, it turns out that semifreddos (Italian for half-cold) are partially frozen ice cream-like desserts that do not require churning!  I had to try it. If this is as good as it seems, then here comes a summer of flavor experiments!

Wait for the verdict at the end of the post!

Cantaloupe Semifreddo
Adapted from here.

2.5 cups cantaloupe
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
¼ cup agave syrup (or 1/3 cup sugar)
1 cup chilled whipping cream

1.       Line a spring-form pan (or other mold such as a bread pan) with plastic wrap.
2.       Puree fruit in a blender. Add lemon juice.
3.       In a metal bowl, beat eggs, pinch of salt, and agave syrup with handheld mixer on medium-high speed for 5 minutes or until doubled in volume.
4.       Set bowl over a saucepan with 1 inch of boiling water and beat for 7 minutes (or until it reaches 160F).
5.       Remove from heat and chill (place in an ice bath to speed things up).
6.       Fold in fruit puree.
7.       In a separate bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form.  Fold into cantaloupe mixture.
8.       Scoop mixture into mold and freeze for 2 hours.
9.       To serve, use the plastic wrap to pull the semifreddo out of the mold and onto a plate to slice.

Notes: I divided the semifreddo into 2 pans and made a 2 tiered dessert, but there’s no need to do this.
Line pan with plastic wrap.

Cantaloupe puree and egg mixture.

Before freezing.

Verdict:  Creamy yet icy! Perfectly sweet and great cantaloupe flavor.  Would also be good as ice pops!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Strawberry Banana Ice Pops

The boyfriend loves “popsicles” (I guess I should refer to them as ice pops).  Apparently, 2 ice pops a day keeps the belly away (he says this about doughnuts too).  But he buys those plain ice pops that are basically sugar water with artificial flavoring and colour – you know the ones…they come in grape, orange, and cherry flavors.  So I made these fruit and yogurt ones that are way more nutritious (and tastier) than those sticks of frozen sugar.  You get your vitamin C from the strawberries, potassium from the bananas, and calcium from the yogurt! Seriously, those store bought ones can’t compete!

Check out the verdict at the end of the post!

Strawberry Banana Ice Pops
Makes 4.

1 heaping cup of strawberries
½ cup of yogurt
2 Tablespoons agave syrup (or honey, maple syrup, or nothing)
½  banana

1.       Blend strawberries and 1 Tablespoon of agave syrup (if using) in a blender or food processor.
2.       In a small bowl, stir the yogurt with 1 Tablespoon of the strawberry puree and 1 Tablespoon of agave syrup.
3.       Fill ice pop molds with strawberry puree and yogurt (alternating to make layers) and slices of bananas and strawberries.
4.       Insert sticks and freeze for 4 hours or until frozen.  Run under hot water to release.

Before freezing

Verdict:   These were very tasty!  So worth the 2 seconds it takes to make them!  We joked about how I can sell them at the local farmer’s market and make a killing – a vendor was selling natural fruit ice pops at the farmer’s market for $4 a pop!!!! Really?!!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Banana Hot Chocolate

While I was in Las Vegas with my girl friends for a double-stag, we checked out the Sugar Factory at the Miracle Mile Shops in Planet Hollywood.  My friend Cat wanted try the banana hot chocolate because she LOVES bananas, but she didn’t because it was too hot for hot chocolate.  So, I suggested that I make it for her when we got back into Vancouver, because even though it’s technically summer in Vancouver, it thought it was autumn.  And yes, sure enough, when we got back, it was rainy and cold – perfect hot chocolate weather.

Wait for the verdict at the end of the post!

Banana Hot Chocolate
Makes 2 servings.

3 cups whole milk (use whatever milk you like but a lower fat milk will be less creamy)
1 banana
50 grams dark chocolate

1. Blend milk and banana in a blender or food processor.
2. Pour milk-banana mixture in a small saucepan and heat on medium until warm and the smell of bananas fill the room.
3. While milk is heating up, place chocolate in another saucepan and heat on medium low, stirring until melted.
4. Using a sieve, strain the milk mixture into the chocolate.
5. Stir until the chocolate dissolves into the milk. Pour into mugs and serve.

Verdict:  For me, the best part of making banana hot chocolate was the smell of banana bread that filled the kitchen (and other parts of the house)!  Smelled so good! Oh yeah, and it tasted pretty good too!  Perfectly sweet for no added sugar.  Cat, of course, loved it!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Black and White Bridal Shower Cake

My friend’s family, along with her bridesmaids, were throwing her a (somewhat of a) surprise bridal shower.  Her mother asked me to make a cake that feeds 30-35 guests.  She gave me free range to do whatever I wanted with the cake!  What flavor combination should I do?!  What design should I do?!  So many options!  Yet, I decided to play it safe, and went with a (new) white, vanilla cake recipe with raspberry filling as I keep getting requests for this combination.  I kept with the Black & White theme of the shower and made black and white carnations for the decorations. I was so excited to surprise her with this cake!

Wait until the end to see the verdict!

Vanilla Cake
Adapted from here.
I doubled the following recipe for 2 cakes fitting a 13 x 9 x 2 inch cake pan.

1 ¼ cup butter, room temperature
3 ¼ cup sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons milk
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
5 egg whites, room temperature
1 ¾ cups sugar

1.       Line baking pan with parchment paper for easy cake removal.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.       Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a cup, mix milk and vanilla. Set aside.
3.       Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
4.       In a large bowl, cream butter with a beater until fluffy. Gradually add sugar and beat until fluffy.
5.       Mix the flour into the butter in 3 batches, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour.  Beat until just combined.
6.       Re-whip the egg whites with a fork or manual whisk to combine (if it’s been sitting for a while, there will be liquid at the bottom and will just take a few seconds to re-combine)
7.       Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter at a time.
8.       Pour into the pan and tap on counter to release air bubbles.
9.       Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Cool and slice.

Batter before baking...

After baking.
Buttercream recipe
I tripled the following recipe for this 3 tiered cake.

1 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups icing sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a large bowel and beat until fluffy.  Add more milk for a thinner, less stiff consistency.

Raspberry buttercream (Mix buttercream with jam to taste)
Raspberry jam

Fondant Carnations
I used pre-made fondant for these carnations.  I added (a lot) of food colouring to dye the fondant black. Here’s how I made the carnations:
1.       Roll out some fondant.  The longer and wider the roll, the bigger the carnation.
2.       Use a spatula to press and drag the fondant, working your way from one end to the other.
3.       Use the spatula to scrape under the fondant to release it from the work surface, in one motion from one end to the other.
4.       Starting from one end, gather the fondant to make a carnation.

Adding gel food colouring to the fondant.

Final colour.  It had a slight purple tint to it...but it'll do.
Fondant rolled out.

Pressed and pulled by spatula.

Gathered to make carnations.

Cake Assembly
1.       Cut the cakes to the desired sizes.  I made 3 different sizes for a 3 tiered cake. (Notice that I pieced the top tier together from scraps!)

2.       Slice each tier in half so that they can be filled.  At this point, I wrapped them in plastic wrap and froze them to make them easier to work with, although this is not necessary.

3.       Place each tier on their pre-cut cardboard bases.  The middle and top tiers are placed on cardboard that is flush with the cakes (exact size). Use a dollop of buttercream to secure the cake to the base.
4.       Spread raspberry jam on the bottom slice of one tier.  Spread the raspberry buttercream on top.

5.       Place top slice to sandwich the filling and repeat with the other tiers.

6.       Cover the tiers with buttercream. I used Wilton piping tip #789 to cover the cakes.

7.       Cut and insert dowels into the bottom and middle tiers (I used chopsticks for the bottom and straws for the middle tiers).

8.       Stack the cakes

9.       Pipe buttercream into the crevices between the tiers.
10.   Arrange fondant flowers, securing with more buttercream.

11.   I glued tulle fabric around the edge of the cake to hide the foil base.

Final cake:

Verdict: The bride-to-be loved the cake, and the guests thought it was delicious!  A small slice goes a long way with this cake and there was a lot left over.  They ate the rest of the cake at a BBQ hosted by the bride-to-be’s family 2 days later.  Thanks to my friend Tina who promoted my blog as I was cutting the cake by yelling “tast-e blogpot”!!!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Fondant Roses and Strawberry Marshmallow Frosting

It was my friend Charlene’s birthday and I wanted to surprise her with a personal sized cake.  Since I had strawberries on hand, I wanted to experiment by adding them to the marshmallow frosting that I had previously made here.  I also wanted to practice flower making using fondant.  The result was a cute cake that we ended up splitting 7 ways and devouring.  Wait for the verdict at the end of the post.

Lemon Chiffon Cake
From a previous post and here.

Strawberry Marshmallow Frosting
Adapted from here.
1 cup white sugar
4 Tablespoons strawberry puree (I blended 4 strawberries)
3 Tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.       Combine sugar, puree, and water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until it reaches soft ball stage (see for definition).
2.       Beat egg whites and vanilla extract in a large bowl until soft peaks form.
3.       Add the strawberry syrup in a slow stream to the egg whites while beating.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks form (about 7-9 minutes).

Fondant Flowers
I used pre-made fondant to make flowers.  Fondant dries out fast so only use a small piece at a time.  I also did not have a shaping foam pad, so I improvised with a stack of towels and parchment paper.

Stack of towels, parchment paper, and ball tool.

To make roses,
1.       Roll out a small ball.
2.       Flatten on parchment paper over a stack of towels (or foam board).
3.       Using a ball tool, roll out one end of the petal so that it is thin.
4.       Roll up the petal to make the centre of the rose.
5.       Repeat steps 1-3.  Attach to the centre petal.  Continue to make petals and attach until you are satisfied with the size of the rose.

Ball, flattened petal, rose center.

Rolling out the edge of the petal.

Roll up the petal to form the center of the rose.

Attach first petal to the center of the rose.

Attach second petal to rose.

Final rose.

To make flowers,
1.       Roll out a small amount of fondant with the fondant roller.
2.       Cut out flowers using the flower cutter.
3.       Roll out tips of the flower petals with the ball tool on the stack of towels.
4.       Place flowers in an egg carton to firm up in a flower-like shape.

Cut out flower.

Roll out the ends of the flower petals.

Place in egg carton to firm up.

I glued ribbon to the board to cover up the aluminum foil.

Verdict: The strawberry marshmallow frosting was the best thing that I have ever tasted in terms of frosting!  I seriously wanted to roll around in the stuff!!  It was a definite hit with the birthday girl and the entourage!