Nana Glen Mum

Thomas the Tank Engine Cake – Part 2 – How I Iced It. November 20, 2009

Okay, here we go, the long promised part 2 of the Thomas the Tank Engine Cake Tutorial.  Sorry it took so long, but I hadn’t made another since until 2 weeks ago.  So, without further ado, here it is:

You can check out the previous post for how I carved the cake here.

First up, cover the entire cake with buttercream so that the fondant will stick.  It doesn’t matter if it is a crusting buttercream or not, infact just butter and icing sugar beat together will work just fine.  If you don’t want to go to the trouble, just brush the entire cake thoroughly with melted jam.  It’s basically up to you.  Personally, I find it easier to get a smooth finish on the fondant with buttercream underneath, but at the end of the day, it is just personal preference.

It doesn't have to be neat.

First up are the wheels.  Colour some fondant blue (remember it will darken somewhat overnight), roll it out to about half a centimetre thick and roll out at least 6 circles.  I say at least 6 because you are going to need 6, but I like to do a couple extra just in case I break one, or the kids eat one (also, this way you can pick the best ones).

Next, using small cutters or a knife, cut some bits out to make it look like wheels.  The shape doesn’t matter so much, nor how many you put, it’s just to give the impression.  You could even leave them solid if you like.

You really want to do this part a few days (at least overnight) before hand so they can dry and harden.  Once they are cut out, put them aside on a flat surface to dry.

Next up, cut the scrappy bits off the blue and roll it a bit thinner – I like about 3mm.  Put the cake right next to it so you don’t have to carry the fondant too far.

Now carefully slide both hands and arms under the fondant, lift it up gently and drape it over the cake.  It doesn’t have to come right to the front because that is going to be a different colour anyway.

Now carefully using your hands (take off all rings and bracelets first), press the fondant down over the cake, easing it into the crevices and over the bumpy bits.

You’ll have to manipulate it a bit around the corners.

Now y0u need to trim the front edge.  Using a sharp, smooth blade knife (NOT SERRATED!!!), cut across the front pretty much in line with the edge of the round bit, but just a bit back from it (about half a cm).

Now you need to peel off the extra bit at the front that you don’t want.  I don’t usually keep this bit as it has buttercream on it and can’t be rerolled.

And from the side:

Next you need to colour and roll your red fondant, and cut one edge straight with a ruler.

Place this across the front, slightly overlapping the blue and smooth down.

Now with your sharp, smooth bladed knife, trim across the front to the edge of the blue and peel away the excess.

Now trim across the bottom to give an even bottom edge, and cut a wide strip long enough to wrap around the other 3 sides of the cake.

Now wrap it around the base of the cake and trim the ends and bottom edge.

Now cut 3 thin strips and place them across the rounded bit at the front (sorry about the lack of technical train terminology!!)

Next cut out 2 number 1s.  I used a proper cutter for this, but you could easily do it with a knife.  Then wrap another thin red strip around each.

Now stick them one on each side.

All you need to do now is put a face on.  I made a mould from a toy and cut out eyes and a mouth.

Hope this helps.

 

THE DARING COOKS OCTOBER 2009 CHALLENGE: MACARONS October 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — nanaglenmum @ 3:02 pm

Macarons

 

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

 

I generally like to add my own little blurb when posting about my daring kitchen challenges, but I think Ami did a fantastic job in her introduction, so here it is.  Thanks Ami for a fantastic challenge!  The following excerpt in blue itallics are Ami S’ words.  You can find her website Baking without Fear here.

Unless you’ve been frozen in permafrost for the past five years, you’ve likely noticed that cupcake bakeries have popped up all over like iced mushrooms. Knock one down, and three take its place. Much has been made about not only the cupcake’s popularity, but also its incipient demise as the sweet du jour. Since we seem to be a culture intent on the next sensation, pundits, food enthusiasts and bloggers have all wondered what this sensation might be. More than a few have suggested that French-style macaroons (called macarons in France) might supplant the cupcake. This may or may not come to pass, but the basic premise of the French macaroon is pretty damned tasty.

In the United States, the term “macaroon” generally refers to a cookie made primarily of coconut. But European macaroons are based on either ground almonds or almond paste, combined with sugar and egg whites. The texture can run from chewy, crunchy or a combination of the two. Frequently, two macaroons are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam, which can cause the cookies to become more chewy. The flavor possibilities and combinations are nigh endless, allowing infinitely customizable permutations.

Famed purveyors of the French macaroon include the legendary Ladurée (http://www.laduree.fr/index_en.htm) and Pierre Hermé (http://www.pierreherme.com/index.cgi?cwsid=7450phAC194316ph5211130) in Paris, Paulette Macarons (http://www.paulettemacarons.com/) and Jin Patisserie (http://www.jinpatisserie.com/) in Los Angeles, and La Maison du Chocolat worldwide (http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.com/en/index.php#/home/undefined/1). This is by no means a complete listing of patisseries and bakeries that sell macaroons. If you want to check if any bakeries near you sell French macaroons, here’s a good place to start: http://www.seriouseats.com/2007/10/where-to-find-macarons-new-york-city-….

French macaroons are notorious for being difficult to master. Type in “macaroon,” “French macaroon” or “macaron” in your search engine of choice, and you will be inundated not only with bakeries offering these tasty little cookies, but scores and even hundreds of blogs all attempting to find the perfect recipe, the perfect technique. Which one is right? Which captures the perfect essence of macaroons? The answer is all of them and none of them. Macaroons are highly subjective, the subject of passionate, almost Talmudic study and debate. Chewy? Crisp? Age your egg whites? Ground the nuts or use nut meal or nut flour? Cooked sugar syrup, or confectioners’ sugar? In the words of a therapist, what do you think is the ideal macaroon? The answer lies within you.

Will French macaroon supplant the cupcake as the next sweet trend? There’s no way to know. I couldn’t have predicted the resurgence of leggings, yet here they are.

Macaroon making is somewhat labor intensive, yet simultaneously less difficult than you think it will be. One thing you must do is have your egg whites at room temperature. This ensures they beat up properly, as texture is an integral component to macaroons. You will be piping the batter onto parchment paper or nonstick liners, and some home bakers use stencils to make sure their macaroons are uniform in size.

Some recipes call for drying the piped macaroons on the counter prior to baking for 30 minutes to an hour. This recipe stipulates that you bake the macaroons at a low temperature for 5 minutes, then take them out of the oven, raising the temperature, and baking them for an additional 7 to 8 minutes. Drying is necessary to get the trademark “feet” on your macaroons. Experiment to find the best technique for you.

 

If you would like a printable copy of the recipe used in this challenge, you can find it here.

 

These macarons were a big hit with all my regular sweet tooths, but a bit too sweet for me I’m afraid.  Such a shame, I really want to like them because they are such pretty little things.  Perhaps I’ll have to try a savoury version.

 

Cabbage August 26, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — nanaglenmum @ 4:50 am

Still in the veggie patch

Still in the veggie patch

Super short post today.  I picked a cabbage yesterday.  I know, doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but it is the first cabbage I have ever grown myself.  I’ve grown lots of herbs and had good success with zucchinis and cucumbers, but this is my first ever “hearting” vegetable.  It looked amazing.  Full and plump and crisp, and the most gorgeous purple, especially once cut into.

I’m a tad excited, and just wanted to share it.

And on the inside...

And on the inside...

 

Daring Cooks August Challenge – Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish & Artichokes August 14, 2009

Hi everyone, well here I am with my second Daring Cooks Challenge.  This month Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes is our lovely hostess.  I urge you to please check out her yummy sites!  She has selected a Spanish dish for us – Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish & Artichokes by Chef José Andrés who has worked at the world famous El Bulli!  If you like the look of the recipe and want to see more of his work, you can check out the website of his US TV show Made in Spain, which has videos of his episodes.

I must say a personal “Thank You” to Olga for this recipe – it was an excellent dish for my family in more ways than one.  For starters, my six year old daughter Miss J is a self proclaimed vegetarian who refuses to eat meat.  After many lengthy philosophical discussions, we have finally convinced her to still eat seafood as she needs her Omega 3s.  She just doesn’t eat red meat, chicken or pork now.  (I must admit, it was quite a shock that she gave up both spaghetti bolognese and pepperoni pizza – 2 of her all time favourites!!)  In addition to her dietary “restrictions”, I am allergic to shellfish, so when it comes to preparing the family meals, I have to put in a bit more thought these days as I refuse to cook a separate meal for each person in the family.  I am a big believer that dinner is the most important time of the day and that we all sit and share the meal together as a family.  It also turned out that we were having a few friends (9) over for dinner at short notice, making a grand total of 6 adults and 7 kids to feed!  This dish was perfect…easy to cook for a crowd, tasty (even for fussy kids), suitable for myself and Miss J, and almost all of it could be prepared ahead of time.

At first glance, it looks like a fairly complex dish, but broken down into its components it is really quite straight forward. So, without further ado, here is the recipe for Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish & Artichoke.  I have added my comments and changes in this colour.

Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available – I used artichoke hearts in a jar, but only half the quantity as the flavour can be very strong)
  • 12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
  • 1 or 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 glass of white wine (for the pot – 2 for you lol!!)
  • 2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh – I used squid)
  • “Sofregit” (see recipe below)
  • 300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) Please read this for more info on suitable rices.  (I used Arborio)
  • Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice) (I used home made vegetable stock as I couldn’t get fish bones being in a rural area)
  • Saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)
  • Allioli (olive oil and garlic sauce, similar to mayonnaise sauce) – optional (this sauce actually MADE the dish – well worth the trouble of making!!!)

Directions:

  1. Cut the cuttlefish in little strips.
  2. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan.
  3. If you use fresh artichokes, clean them as shown in the video in tip #7. Cut artichokes in eighths.
  4. Clean the mushrooms and cut them into quarters.
  5. Add a bay leaf to the cuttlefish and then add the artichokes mushrooms.
  6. Sauté until the artichokes are a golden colour.
  7. Put a touch of white wine in the pan (from the 1 cup in the ingredients – not from your glass – it’s hard work cooking for that many people!!) so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavourful dish.
  8. Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit (I added all of it) and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit.
  9. Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
  10. Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.
  11. Add some saffron threads to enrich the dish with its flavour and colour. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.
  12. Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
  13. Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.

Sofregit

(a well cooked and fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions, and may at times have different vegetables such as peppers or mushrooms)

Ingredients for the Sofregit

Ingredients for the Sofregit

Cooking time: aprox. 1 hour
Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Salt
  • Touch of ground cumin
  • Touch of dried oregano

Directions:

  1. Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft.
  2. Taste and salt if necessary (maybe it’s not!)
Sofregit after ingredients have cooked down

Sofregit after ingredients have cooked down

Next time I make this, I will use tinned tomatoes if I don’t have any in the garden – I think they would  give better colour, texture and taste than bought tomatoes unless you can get REALLY good quality ones.Allioli is the optional part of the recipe. You must choose one of the two recipes given, even though I highly recommend you to try traditional one. Allioli is served together with the rice and it gives a very nice taste

I made the traditional Aioli, and believe me, it was well worth the effort.  It was GORGEOUS and by far everyone’s favourite part of the dish.  It complimented the main part of the meal beautifully.

Allioli (Traditional recipe)
Cooking time: 20 min aprox.
Ingredients:

Aioli Ingredients

Aioli Ingredients

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)

Directions:

  1. Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
  2. Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
  3. Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
  4. Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
  5. Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
  6. Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.

José’s tips for traditional recipe: It’s hard to think that, when you start crushing the garlic, it will ever turn into something as dense and smooth as allioli. But don’t give up. It’s worth the extra time and effort to see the oil and garlic come together before your eyes. Just make sure you’re adding the olive oil slowly, drop by drop. Keep moving the pestle around the mortar in a circular motion and keep dreaming of the thick, creamy sauce at the end of it all.

Allioli a la moderna (Modern recipe)
Cooking time: 3-4 minutes
Ingredients:

  • 1 small egg
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (as above, Spanish oil is highly recommended)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 Tbs. Spanish Sherry vinegar or lemon juice (if Sherry vinegar is not available, use can use cider or white vinegar)
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Break the egg into a mixing bowl.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic cloves, along with the vinegar or lemon juice.
  3. Using a hand blender, start mixing at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste.
  4. Little by little, add what’s left of the olive oil as you continue blending.
  5. If the mixture appears too thick as you begin pouring the oil, add 1 teaspoon of water to loosen the sauce.
  6. Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli.
  7. The sauce will be a lovely yellow color.
  8. Add salt to taste.

José’s tips for modern recipe:
(1) If you do not have access to a hand blender, you can use a hand mixer (the kind with the two beaters) or a food processor. If you use a food processor, you must double the recipe or the amount will be too little for the blades to catch and emulsify.
(2) What happens if the oil and egg separate? Don’t throw it out. You can do two things. One is to whisk it and use it as a side sauce for a fish or vegetable. But if you want to rescue the allioli, take 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water in another beaker and start adding to the mix little by little. Blend it again until you create the creamy sauce you wanted.

Olga’s Tips:
(1) In Spain, rice is not stired as often as it is when cooking Italian risotto. You must stir it once or twice maximum. This tip is valid for all Spanish rice dishes like paella, arròs negre, arròs a banda…
(2) When cooking the alternative style you can change the cuttlefish or squid for diced potato.
(3) If you can’t find cuttlefish or squid, or you’re not able to eat them because of allergies, you can try to substitute them for chicken or vegetables at your choice.
(4) Sofregit can be done in advance. You can keep it in the fridge or even freeze it.
(5) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
(6) To watch how Jose Andres cooks this dish click here.
(7) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
(8) To tone down the taste when you do it by hand in a mortar, then add an egg yolk. If you want to tone it down in the alternative way use milk or soy milk. Anyway, the best alternative way is the original oil and garlic alone.
(9) Allioli must be consumed during the preparation day and preserved in the fridge before using it.
(10) For help on conversion on metric to imperial, visit this page.

The Finished Dish!

The Finished Dish!

All in all, this recipe was a success from start to finish.  From being able to prepare all but the final stage before guests arrived, to the delicious flavour that suited various dietary requirements and people used to a variety of food styles.   A definate must cook again!