Monday, June 30, 2014

Marshmallow Fondant


I love marshmallow fondant!  It's easy to make from materials that don't cost much, really dresses up
a cake, and tastes pretty darn good, especially when compared to store-bought.  That stuff's nasty.  One of these days, I'll learn how to make my own marshmallows so it'll taste even better, and I can avoid corn syrup and all the other nasties in regular marshmallows.  But until then, I'll keep using this recipe:


 Marshmallow Fondant
1 16 oz. package marshmallows
2 or 3 Tablespoons butter
3 to 5 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
Note:
For snow white fondant, substitute a clear oil such as coconut for the butter, and leave out the vanilla unless it's clear as well.

Melt butter in a 3 or 4 quart cooking pan over medium heat, rolling pan until butter covers then entire bottom and sides.  Add marshmallows and stir until melted (it may take a while).  Remove from heat and sift in sugar one cup at a time, stopping when it becomes like a firm ball of bread dough.

Cover your counter with some butcher paper if desired, wax side up.  Cover your hands with a health amount of coconut oil, rubbing it all over the butcher paper or counter as well.  Turn out the marshmallow "dough" onto the prepared paper and roll out to 1/8" thickness, adding more oil as needed.

If the fondant is sticky yet firm and stretchy, or is dry and breaks/cracks, add more oil.  If it's sticky and gooey, add more sugar. 

~*~


When I first started making this, I used a LOT of powdered sugar since the recipe called for it.  It also said to keep adding sugar if it got sticky.  All that sugar did was make it dry, so dry that it would crack and break.

Sometimes that made happy accidents, such as with the dark brown cake above.  I wanted to cover that peanut butter cake with chocolate fondant, so I kept adding cocoa and kept adding cocoa (instead of powdered sugar), thinking it would help the stickiness I was encountering since the cocoa was dry like sugar (I was still believing in the original recipe).  It just kept breaking into pieces, so I stacked them and rolled them, leaving the lines from the cracks so that it looked like leather.  Neat. 

That fondant was leftover from the fondant I used to cover the gold cake above.  For that one, I followed the original recipe that called for a lot of sugar.  Because it was so dense, I wasn't able to roll it out very thin.  It ended up fairly thick.  You can see how thick if you look closely at the triangle cutouts surrounding the base on the sides.  Those were cut from the same fondant.

It wasn't what I'd call bad tasting really, but the marshmallow flavor did kind of overwhelm the cake flavor because there was so much of it.  I switched to peeling off half of the fondant before taking a bite and it was much better.  (Btw, I used Wilton gold dust and lemon extract to paint it on.  Lemon wasn't the best flavor with the chocolate, but it was all I had on hand. I've since bought a bottle of everclear for painting since it evaporates completely.)

For the lighter brown cake just above and to the right, I also covered it with some previously-frozen white fondant with cocoa kneaded in.  This time I did things a bit differently, adding "wet" and "dry" both as I kneaded.

I covered my hands in a generous amount of solid-at-room-temp coconut oil, then rubbed it over the entire blob of fondant.  I started kneading it, dipping into the oil and adding more to the blob as I went.

Once it was well-softened, I spread it out into a flat blob about 8" across and topped it with a good bit of cocoa, maybe 1/4 cup or more.  Then I folded it and kneaded it, folded and kneaded, until the cocoa was worked in.  I kept this up, adding more oil and cocoa as needed, 'til it was as brown as I wanted and the color was even.

Once I started rolling it out, I noticed it was much easier than it ever has been, and I was able to get it thinner than I ever have.  I'm thinking the extra oil was the answer, though I may have gone a bit overboard with the oil.

With the oil and thinness, it was harder to pick up.  If it touched any part of itself, it stuck firmly.  I carefully pulled it off the paper, holding it with both hands, and draped it over the cake.  All those beautiful folds in the cake?  Just happened that way!  I love it.  It's never done that before.  It was a bit shiny, too - not sure that would work on other cakes, but it did on this one.

The white cake above and below was covered with fondant with a teaspoon of regular vanilla mixed in.  It makes it an attractive creamy, beige-y off white.  I like how that makes the snow white cream cheese icing really pop.  Also, I think I got the "wet" and "dry" additions while kneading about right on this one.

I think one of these days I'll experiment with coloring more.  Maybe I'll try kneading in a LOT of tumeric.  I think I'll also try beet juice, probably with extra sugar to counteract the extra moisture in the juice, though will probably try this on a small amount as I'm thinking it might make it too sticky.  And then maybe I'll try spinach for green.  Wonder what that'll look like.  And blueberry juice, and cherry juice, and ... and ...

Or I'll just learn to paint.












Saturday, June 28, 2014

Heaven & Hell Cake




June's birthday cake at work was the Heaven and Hell Cake ~ angel food and devil's food layers with peanut butter ganache in between.  It was a lot of work, but worth it.  I did change it up a bit and put a layer of chocolate ganache in the very middle.  Yum.

I was also making a cake for Toddi's birthday and covered it with marshmallow fondant.  I had some left over, so decided to play with it. 

I'd already colored some icing for this cake with tumeric (yellow), cocoa (brown), and paprika (orangey-red), so tried coloring the fondant with tumeric, too.
It didn't turn out so well.  It might have worked had I used more, but it wasn't looking appetizing, so decided to try working in some cocoa.  It took a lot of cocoa, but turned out nice.

I love playing around, not really having any outcome I'm dead-set on, just seeing what happens.  I learn a lot that way. 

While playing with the fondant this time, I learned that it's good to add oil when it gets sticky.  Before, I would dust on some powdered sugar.  It just made it more sticky, and more dry and brittle.  But that's what I'd read online, so I kept at it. 

This time I was using some fondant I'd made before and froze for later.  Since it was dry, I thought it would be good to coat it and my hands in a little coconut oil.  I don't know why I didn't connect those dots before.  I'm glad I finally did since it was SO MUCH EASIER to knead it and roll it this time! Very little stickiness, nice and smooth, easy to fold and knead without it splitting much, and when it did it was a cinch to knead those right out. 

And I was able to get it thinner than I've every gotten it.  Thin enough that it draped so beautifully when I put it on the cake.  I saw that, said "Huh", and went with it, tucking it in a bit and trimming to fit the plate.  Another nice thing learned from just going with the flow.

Nice.  I love learning new tricks.



~*~

Heaven & Hell Cake

Angel Food Cake
2/3 cup cake flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup egg white ( about seven or eight)
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract 

Devil's Food Cake 
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup strong coffee
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda 
 
Peanut Butter Ganache/Mousse
12 ounces cream cheese
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups peanut butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup heavy cream 

Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate 

Directions:

Angel Food Cake

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Cut a circle of parchment paper or wax paper to fit the bottom of a 9" cake pan. Do not grease the pan or paper. Sift together the flour and powdered sugar and set aside. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer. Beat slowly while adding the salt and cream of tartar and continue beating for 1 minute or until soft peaks form. Increase speed to medium, add sugar into whites by tablespoons until all is incorporated, then beat about 1-1/2 minutes longer. When egg whites have stiff peaks, add vanilla and almond extract. Remove bowl from mixer and sprinkle half of the powdered sugar-flour mixture and fold in again, using a minimum number of strokes so the egg whites do not deflate. Gently spoon the mixture into the pan and bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown. Do not over bake or the cake will sink in the center.

Devil's Food Cake
Preheat oven to 350°F.Oil and flour a round 9-inch cake pan. Sift the cocoa powder into the mixing bowl, then drizzle in the coffee while whisking to make a smooth paste. Set aside. (Might be more liquid than paste) Combine shortening, sugar, vanilla, and eggs and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Alternately add the cocoa-coffee mixture and the flour mixture to the sugar-egg mixture and continue beating until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Test for doneness.  
Peanut Butter Ganache/Mousse
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the cream cheese until light and creamy. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar, then the peanut butter.If mixture looks lumpy, add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Continue beating until thoroughly incorporated and fluffy. Transfer mixture to another bowl and set aside. Place heavy cream in the electric mixer bowl and whip until stiff. Carefully, but thoroughly, combine both mixtures; set aside. 

Chocolate Ganache
In a saucepan, bring the cream just short of a boil and stir in the chocolate. Remove from heat, cover pan and let the chocolate melt. Whisk to combine thoroughly then let cool to room temperature.

Assembling the cake
When both cakes have cooled, carefully slice them in half horizontally with a long, serrated knife so that you now have four layers. Place one layer of the devil's food cake on a cake plate and spoon 1/3 of the peanut butter mousse on the top. Place a layer of the angel food on top of the mousse and spread with the chocolate ganache. Place another layer of devil's food cake, then peanut butter mousse, then angel food cake.  Frost with cream cheese icing. 

Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving. Slice thinly. It's rich! 

Heaven & Hell Cake recipe #22312 on Food.com




Friday, June 20, 2014

I'm a beekeeper now


Got my bees today!  And it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.
 



 We got to the apiary about 9:30.  There were quite a few people there.


I waited in a line a bit to check in, but it wasn't bad.  Picked up a couple things I needed, got my ticket, and got in line.

These are the nuc boxes.


And these are the full strength colonies.  
Mine ended up being the one second from the left in the front row.


I had thought it would be really heavy, so asked my buddy George to come help.  We even had a bee suit all ready for him.  Turns out, I didn't need George or the bee suit.  

The lady helping people get their beees loaded them in the back of my truck by herself 
with nary a grunt, so I knew I'd be able to unload them myself when I got home.  I put a 
ratchet strap around them (without a veil or gloves even!) to make sure the top didn't blow off.  
THAT would have been a nightmare.  

And off we went. 

Got them home, I set them in place, and there ya' go.

See the girls coming and going through their front door?! Squeeeee!

I did go out there later to give them some water.  There is tons of it down in the creeks, but I thought it'd be nice to welcome them to the neighborhood with a gift of water right by their front door, 'til they get settled in and can find it on their own.  

They gave me a gift right back: when I lifted the lid to check the feeder and see if I 
needed to refill it, they stung me on the ass.  Yeah.  Right in the freakin' middle.  Just over
onto my right butt cheek.   
Nice to meet you, too, girls.
I dub thee Lilith.


Toddi's coming over later and we're going to do some beewatchin'.
With bourbon.








Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gettin' ready for the bees


 Got the bee yard ready.  It's *Nellie approved*.
Ain't it cute?


I lit up Daddy's smoker.  First time in over 35 years.


It smoked for almost the entire time I was out there.
I think Daddy had a hand in that.


Got my bee boxes all ready for expansion.  These are all medium supers
(hive boxes).  They're lighter.  The ones on the left are 10-frame,
on the right are 8-frame.  They have 82 frames inside them.  I got all
those put together a couple weeks ago using my screw gun and brad nailer.


 Eventually, I think I'll move all my bees into 8-frame medium boxes
throughout the entire bee yard.  It'll be easier on my back so I'll be
able to continue beekeeping by myself 'til I'm 80.


 Those bricks on the right are where the new hive is going.  I've got them nicely leveled,
as is the hive on the left.  It's currently unoccupied, waiting for expansion.  I hope
to split my new hive later this year (move some of the frames with bees, brood, and honey 
into the second hive to make a new one).

Ever seen the inside of a hive without bees in it?  This is what it looks like
It's missing a frame.


The bottom board with a screen on top.  I need more of these screens.  If you put a
sticky board on the bottom board below the screen, it'll catch mites that fall through.
Then I can easily monitor the mite levels.


And my helpers, keeping the mulch from blowing away.


I can't wait for tomorrow.




Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake ~ May Birthday Cake

I love chocolate, and so do everyone at work, so this month I decided to try another chocolate cake.  I was looking through the recipes at Hersheys.com and found this one.  Man, is it good!! 





I made marshmallow fondant to cover the cake.  I used vanilla in it, so it was slightly off-white.  I didn't really notice it until I went to put it on the cake.  It was quite apparent when put alongside the snow white crumbcoat of cream cheese icing.

But it was pretty!  Made it look like a wedding cake.




 When I started the writing with the same snow white cream cheese icing, it stood out on the beige-y fondant, looking even more white.  I really like that.

Then when I cut into it, the dark chocolate interior made it even more apparent, how white the cream cheese icing is.

Man, isn't that something?



~*~


"PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" Chocolate Cake


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water


1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.
VARIATIONS:
ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.
THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.
BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.
CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes. 






Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tomatoes! Finally!


Picked the tomatoes today.  I've been getting some for a couple weeks now, 
but they're really coming hot and heavy now.

Today's harvest.
Alltogether now.



Those long, striped ones below are Cream Sausage.  There are also Mortgage Lifter (the fluted ones), Cherokee Purple peeking out behind the Mortgage Lifter, Valencia Orange on the top left, 
Plum Paste (those little, olive shaped, purpley ones), Stupice (little red ones),
and Large Red Cherry (littler red ones).



The striped ones in this bowl are Green Zebra.  Then there are White Cherry and
Black Cherry, and more Valencia Orange, Plum Paste, Large Red Cherry, and Stupice.
Somewhere underneath are a bunch of Sungolds, but the White Cherry is kicking the 
Sungolds' butt this year for production!  



Those little ones over on the right are Peacevine Cherry in a bed of Romas. 


I'm making pasta sauce tomorrow! Woot!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pretty Onions and BIG Garlic

Harvested the garlic the other day.  Check it out!


I am so proud of it.  I did the bed like I did all the others this year (well, Michael did for me) - no-till, with just molasses, earthworm castings, and compost.  I planted about a hundred and fifty Inchellium Red (above on the left, and first below) and about a hundred Conventional (above on right, and second below) cloves in there, with some shallots in between.   

I mulched it well right after planting, then fertilized with 8-2-4 and Flower Power (4-6-4) both at regular strength.  

And waited.
♪"The way-ay-ting is the hardest part."♪♫


A couple months later, I fertilized again.  
And look what I got!


I think next year I'm going to fertilize even more.  I got great garlic, but some of it was still small.  And I definitely need to fertilize the onions more.  I didn't push them enough I don't think.  But I still got a lot.  Ain't they pretty?  I just want them to be whoppers like the garlic.  

Next year...

L-R: Texas Early White, Yellow Granex, Southern Belle Red, White Bermuda, 1015 Yellow, & Texas Legend (not so legendary unfortunately).


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