Monday, June 27, 2011

Mint Oreo Cookie Truffles

I made a batch of Mint Oreo Cookie Truffles last week for a group meeting, and they were a big hit! It was such a simple recipe I couldn't resist throwing together a batch of these delightful confections (or as one of our group members called it "sin") :)  I read about this recipe somewhere on the WWW and do not know whose blog it belongs to so I apologize for the lack of reference here.

Mint Oreo Cookie Truffles
1 16oz Package Mint Oreo Cookies
1 8 oz Package Cream Cheese (I prefer whipped, but any type will do)
1  Package Vanilla or Chocolate flavored Almond Bark (also known as Candy-Quick, or the candy melts you can buy at Michaels)

1) Place the Oreo cookies in a food processor or blender (don't put them all in at once, the blender may jam up), until the cookies have been reduced to a crumbly mixture.

2) Place cookie crumbles in a mixing bowl (stand or hand mixer will work fine), and add in the cream cheese. Blend together until the cookie crumbs hold together like cookie dough.

3) Using a small cookie scoop, measure out all of the dough on a piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each piece between your palms to form a firm ball.  Place sheet in the freezer for about 10 minutes, or a refrigerator for about 20 minutes, until the balls of cookie are cool to the touch and firmly set.

4) Heat up the almond bark in the microwave (or using a double boiler if you wish).

5) Remove the balls of cookie from the freezer or fridge, then place another piece of parchment or waxed paper on the counter.  Transfer each cookie ball into the almond bark and completely coat, then transfer to the new piece of parchment (you can transfer cookie ball using your fingers, a fondue fork, chocolate dipping tools or a regular fork or spoon- whichever you prefer- although the chocolate dipping tools produce a much more "smooth" and professional looking coated ball... just remember, it tastes the same no matter which method you use!)

6) Allow the candy-coated balls of cookie to set until the coating has dried completely. If you are in a hurry, you can place a cookie sheet or cutting board under the parchment/waxed paper and put it in the freezer for about 5 minutes to set up the candy coating. Just know that extreme temperature difference can cause the brown colored chocolate to discolor.

7) Optional- before the candy coating dries, you can sprinkle the balls of cookie in various colored sprinkles or candy pieces. You can also take colored candy coating and drizzle it on the dried candy coating to provide a color theme and contrast to the singular color of white or brown. You can also use any type of sandwich cookie for these Truffles- you're not limited to only Mint Oreo Cookies- the sky is the limit- or at least the shelf of your grocery store is the limit!

8) Don't be afraid to be creative! Just like the popular "cake pops", you can decorate these and make them match your occasion's theme.

Black and White Wedding Reception Cake

Good friends of ours were throwing a wedding reception for their daughter and son-in-law and were kind enough to involve me in their plans. When they asked me to replicate the actual wedding cake I was both nervous and excited. Copying the artistry of another baker as talented as their original wedding cake designer is most definitely a tough act to follow, but I truly enjoyed the experience.  Although my version of the cake was smaller and a little less refined, I am pleased with the final product, and I was happy to be able to practice skills I'd never tried before! 

 Aren't the bride and groom absolutely adorable together?!
So happy for you both!!

The Cake Layers
The top tier (Tier 1): Peanut Butter cake with Raspberry filling and Chocolate Buttercream, covered in a base layer of white fondant and a top layer of black fondant. The "pearls" are royal icing and the bow is fondant.

Tier 2: Vanilla cake with Bavarian Cream filling and Vanilla Buttercream, covered in a base layer of Vanilla modeling chocolate, then a top layer of black fondant. The layer is quilted, with "pearls" of royal icing.

Tier 3: Red Velvet cake with Cream Cheese filling and Vanilla Buttercream, covered with black fondant. The scrolling is hand-piped royal icing using a size 4 Wilton tip.

Tier 4: Lemon cake with Raspberry filling and Lemon Buttercream, covered with a base layer of black fondant and accented with strips of white fondant.

I was so happy that the Bride and Groom enjoyed their cake replica- Congratulations to such a SWEET couple! :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

S'mores Pie

I wanted to make S'mores for a barbecue I was hosting tonight, but I decided that 8 adults, 2 kids and 2 German Shepherds might make for a difficult S'mores-making experience. So I decided to make a pie! Graham Cracker crust coated with melted Hershey's chocolate bar, then filled with chocolate pudding and topped with Marshmallow Fluff, lightly toasted. Very simple and very yummy!

S'mores Pie Ingredients:
Graham Cracker Crust: 3 C Graham cracker crumbs, 2/3 C Butter, 1/2 C Granulated Sugar
Chocolate Pudding: 1 Large box chocolate pudding, 3 C milk
Large Jar Marshmallow Fluff
Hershey's chocolate bar, grated

First I made the graham cracker crust- It included a double Graham Cracker crust recipe (you can cut this in half if you like a thinner crust): Graham Cracker Crust: 3 C Graham cracker crumbs, 2/3 C Butter, 1/2 C Granulated Sugar

Mix all ingredients together well then press into pie pan and bake for 12-15 minutes at 350F until golden brown. Let cool on a cooling rack.

Once the crust was baked, I grated chocolate on top of the still-warm crust to provide a light layer of chocolate, and a barrier between the pudding and the graham crust.

Next I made the pudding using one large box of chocolate pudding and 3 cups of half-and-half (milk can be used). Once the crust cooled, the chocolate pudding was layered on top of the chocolate-coated graham cracker crust.

The pudding layer was then topped with the large jar of Marshmallow fluff (microwaved for about 30 seconds to help spread the fluff more easily.

Lastly I toasted the Marshmallow fluff using a kitchen torch- you can broil for 1-2 minutes to get a more consistent "toasted" look of the marshmallow- but it it was hot and I didn't want to turn on the oven- plus my guests really enjoyed watching me torch the marshmallow fluff with a kitchen torch :)

It was gooey, chocolately and delicious- everything a S'mores should be!

Vanilla Extract-a-Palooza

Oh Vanilla, how do I love thee. Let me count the ways... oh wait, I mean the beans.

Ok, enough cheeziness, on to the serious topic of Vanilla Extract. After a discussion with some acquaintances about which type of vanilla bean is best for making Vanilla Extract, I decided to order a variety pack of beans from the online company I received my Vanilla Bean Sampler and the following bean types were included: Bourbon, Indian, Mexican, Mexican Organic, Madagascar, Tahitian and Tongan.

I split each bean lengthwise, bottled them in sets of 3 pods per bottle, then covered them with Vodka. The typical bean-to-vanilla ratio is 1 Cup of Alcohol for every 3 Vanilla Beans. Sometimes I'll add a fourth bean, but 3 beans seems to make a nicely darkened Vanilla Extract. Due to this experiment, in about 3 months I will have 7 different types of extract and hopefully I'll be able to figure out which bean I like best for baking and cooking!

Here is a bit of additional information for those looking to make their own Vanilla Extract- you can try different types of alcohol: Brandy, Rum or Vodka. Others I have spoken with about making their own extract indicated that they will add 2 tablespoons of Dark Rum to their Vodka or Brandy-based extract for a richer flavor and a darker color.

Additionally, once you have used your extract, you can refill with vodka up to three times- the Vanilla Bean Pods will continue to produce a vanilla flavor- each time the vanilla must be placed in a dark area (being shaken up every couple of weeks), for 2-3 months to infuse.  Once the beans are no longer good for Vanilla extract, you can dry them off and put them in a container of sugar to make Vanilla Sugar (which can be used for any baking recipe that requires sugar and it infuses a nice vanilla flavor into the recipe!).

ETA: I was asked where I got my cute vanilla bottles so I wanted to share that with you all! SKS Bottle & Packaging  was the least expensive online retailer for similar bottles. They are of high quality, and their customer service was exceptional. They have a large variety of bottles (including Amber and Blue glass bottles which I'll probably try next time- but I wanted to see the color changes which is why I ordered the clear bottles).

This post has been Continued HERE... (after 3 months of brewing)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rose Cake with Vertical Layers

I wanted to make a simple but elegant cake for a coworker's baby shower luncheon and someone suggested the Rose Cake with Vertical Layers from the I am Baker blog- she is amazing and her cakes are inspirational! You should definitely check out her work- and her cake photos are gorgeous!

So I attempted her Rose Cake with Vertical Layers, and it was SO much fun to make!

I used a Red Velvet Cake and a White Almond Sour Cream Cake (WASC) for the vertical layers, and a crusting Vanilla Buttercream icing.

Although my pictures aren't very pretty- you get the idea of how this is done- it was pretty simple and a huge hit with the mommy-to-be, and my other coworkers :)

Without further ado- here are a couple of photos- a photo of the inside layers will be added soon.

These steps aren't complete- but you get the general idea of how to assemble the Vertical Layer cake.

1) Make two 2" 2-layer cakes (or just make two 3" or 4" cakes instead of making a multi-layer cake (I used Red Velvet and WASC flavors). If making a 2-layer cake, while the cakes are still hot, torte them and stick them together with the crumb-side facing each other (after drizzling simple syrup between the layers to help them stick together).  Stick the cakes in the freezer for at least 5-6 hours.

2) Take a cardboard round the size of your cakes and draw symmetrical circles on the cardboard- basically like a replica of a dart board. Keep the cardboard round in tact.

3) Cut each cake using the outer circle first- as you see in the photo below each circle cut into the cake is the same distance as the other cake.  Once the first circle has been cut, take the cardboard round and cut the outside layer off- which will make a smaller circle. Use that circle to make identical cuts on the cakes again. Then cut the cardboard round one more time, then put the smaller cardboard round back on the cake to make additional identical cuts in the cakes- do this until you have used all of the rounds (this is starting to confuse me- if you have questions about how it is done, I'll email you more specific directions- or you can check out I Am Baker's blog- did I mention she's amazing?!)

4) Next disassemble each of the layers of both cakes. Take the center of the Red Velvet cake, and wrap the next-sized layer of the WASC around the core of the Red Velvet. Then take the next-sized layer of the Red Velvet, and wrap it around the WASC. Do this until you don't have any other layers to wrap around each other. This will make two cakes with reverse-layers like you see in the photo below.

5) Next put a simple syrup on the layers, wrap them in wax-paper, then tie it with a piece of towel or soft material, and freeze for about 2 hours. Don't add too much simple syrup, just add enough to help the layers stick together.

 6) Allow the cake to thaw to avoid it's production of condensation under the crusting buttercream frosting. Put on a crumb coat so the cake can no longer be seen. Allow the crumb coated cake to sit for about 15 minutes before decorating.

7) Next cover the cake with piped-roses. Start with a 1M large star tip, and make the roses the size of a cupcake. I started on the top of the cake and worked over the edges then down the sides of the cake. When you find a gap, you can just make a "swoosh" of icing that follows the curve of the rose.

Below is a photo of the Vertical Layers. The party guests cut into it before I could get a good picture, so this is the carnage that followed the initial cutting of the cake. Next time I make this I'll take additional photos!

I used the following crusting buttercream recipe, and it was very yummy- not too sweet, but it crusted very well.

Crusting Buttercream Ingredients:
1 cup butter, unsalted
1 cup vegetable shortening
8 cups powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

- In a stand mixer (you can use a hand mixer, but stand mixer is preferred), blend together the butter, shortening and salt.
- Slowly mix in the powdered sugar, whipping cream and vanilla extract.
- Once the ingredients have been combined, mix on high for 5-10 minutes until the frosting is well beaten, light and fluffy.
- You can add different flavored extracts if you do not want to use vanilla- Almond is a popular flavor, or an Almond-Vanilla combo.