Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009: A Recap

I hope all you Americans had a great Thanksgiving, and that everyone else in the world had a great Thursday! My roommate, Annmarie, and I hosted an open house Thanksgiving. We were basically the safe house for all of our friends who wanted a break from their families. We had friends popping in and out all day and evening, which was great fun. Someone made a comment about how much food we had made, and Annmarie pointed out that we would be making all this food for ourselves anyway! It's true; how could we say no to turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and all the rest? We even made 3 delicious pies. Oh yes, and all gluten free, of course.

November 26, 2009

Cooking began on Tuesday. There were cranberries to sort through:

cranberry goodness

Cornbread to bake (for the stuffing):

the cornbread for the stuffing (GF)

Shallots to fry for the green bean casserole:

frying shallots (GF)

And the mushroom sauce to make (no photo, sorry). The shallots were dusted with white rice flour, and the roux for the sauce was made with sweet white rice flour. Worked really well.

Then I made a gingersnap cookie crust for the chocolate pumpkin pie:

how i make a cookie crust, GF

That night I hid the cornbread and the cookie crust in the microwave, to keep them safe from Violet.


(By the way, last night I found her head inside the box of crackers looking to help herself.)

Wednesday came, and Annmarie needed the kitchen to prepare and bake the pumpkin pie and the chocolate pumpkin pie. Whole Foods makes a decent frozen GF pie crust, which she used for the regular pumpkin pie:

the pumpkin pie (GF)

This is a Martha Stewart recipe from last year, and it turns out a nicely spiced pumpkin pie. Annmarie had some problems with the filling spilling when she pushed the rack back into the oven, but it didn't affect the tastiness of the end product.

However, this pie is totally overshadowed by the chocolate pumpkin pie:

the chocolate pumpkin pie

Hello, gorgeous.

This is technically supposed to have a milk chocolate drizzle on the top as decoration, and also lending itself to the official name, Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie. We have always been happy with a simple Double Chocolate Pie, and we call it the Chocolate Pumpkin Pie for short. There is a layer of bittersweet chocolate between the crust and the filling to keep the crust crispy.

This pie is definitely the blue ribbon winner of our Thanksgiving menu. People who were too tired came over just for this pie. People who thought they were too full suddenly found room for this pie. And when I woke up Friday morning, I knew that my breakfast was going to be a slice of this pie.

I also made RLB's Deep Dish Blueberry-Cranberry Internet Pie. This is a good freaking pie. The berries are so juicy and bright and tart. There is a little bit of lemon to wake the senses up a bit more, and the deep jewel tones of the fruit are a feast for the eyes. Holy antioxidant pie, Batman. I think I am in love.

cranberry-blueberry pie (GF)

The GF crust was made by rolling together two store bought 9 in premade pie crusts. These premade crusts (not the same one Annmarie used for her pumpkin pie) were surly and difficult but finally we worked out some sort of compromise. I would roll it out, it would fall apart when I picked it up, and I would press it back together in the pan. I reminded myself there was no gluten to toughen things up and render like cardboard, so I didn't worry about overworking.

This pie requires a 9 in deep dish pie plate, as does the chocolate pumpkin pie. So the chocolate pumpkin pie got the pie plate and this pie got the cast iron skillet. I actually really like the look of this pie in the skillet:

cranberry-blueberry pie (GF)

It looks very down-home and unassuming.

The top crust, even after rolling out and refrigerating, was even more rude and unhelpful. I ended up just sliding it off the cookie sheet it was resting on right on top of the berry filling, without crimping the edges or turning anything under. It will be more like a pandowdy, I told myself. Rustic.

And tasty. The crust is still tender and yummy. We have taken to scooping out portions of this pie with a serving spoon. This was today's breakfast, and it was good.

That night a couple of friends stopped by with their leftover GF pies. We had FIVE PIES to sample. It was truly, truly decadent.

all 5 GF pies

The photo is blurry and dark, but you get the idea. From left to right the pies are: cherry, key lime, blueberry-cranberry, pumpkin, and chocolate pumpkin. You can see the green bean casserole right behind the pies, as well as some of our leftovers inlcuding our large boat of (awesome GF) gravy and our crockpot of hot buttered rum.

All in all, a very delicious, happily gluten-free, and fun Thanksgiving. I hope yours was just as wonderful if not more so!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake

I like to call this cake the Lemon Triple Threat as it has lemon in all three components: cake, curd, and buttercream. There's also a large amount of white chocolate (in both the frosting and cake) so I guess you could say this is a Lemon Triple Threat With a White Chocolate Sidekick. Or you could just call it good and get to the eating part.

November 11, 2009
Name of Cake: The Triple Lemon Threat
Occasion: Doula Meeting, and Heavenly Bakers!
Constituents: two layers 9-in white chocolate lemon cake filled with lemon curd and white chocolate lemon buttercream, frosted with white chocolate lemon buttercream

Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake

This cake has several components so it takes a bit of forethought to prepare.

The Lemon Curd
First off, if you are really serious about this made from scratch thing, you need to make a lemon curd. RLB does have a favorite lemon curd made by Tiptree that I guess you could use, but I didn't figure that out until after the cake was baked and eaten. Next time.

Not that making lemon curd is a terrible process that I'll never want to do again. In fact, I enjoyed making homemade curd, mostly because I love lemon curd. However now that I've made it, I understand why they say curd isn't very healthy. There was no skimping on egg yolks (7) and butter (3/4 stick), no siree, not at all.

Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake
it took just under 8 egg yolks to get the required weight. darn you, egg yolk conspiracy!

Also, I think I may have overcooked the curd. When it cooled down instead of the smooth and creamy lemon curds I have seen out there, mine was thick and lumpy. Not cooked-egg lumpy--I did strain it--kind of like a shiny yellow blob. Kind of. Still tasted

Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake
lumpy mclumpenheimer

The White Chocolate Buttercream, part one
This buttercream is a two-step process. That kind of freaked me out as I am only used to one-step buttercreams where you have a sugar syrup and some egg yolks or a double boiler and some egg whites and eventually they get beaten up with a ton of delicious, lovely butter. And there was great rejoicing. (Hooray.)

For this buttercream, there is first a white chocolate custard to make. This involves melting over a double boiler white chocolate and butter, to which 4 eggs are added, and some whisking until they get to a certain temperature. This then gets covered and left in the refrigerator for almost an hour to cool.

Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake

I have many questions--mainly because I am curious--what is it about this recipe that requires the chocolate and eggs to be handled in such a way? Is it the need to heat the eggs to a certain point and without a sugar syrup to do it another way needed to be found? Is it the white chocolate that requires this extra step? Or is it just that this extra step ensures a silkier, creamier buttercream? Or do we need this extra step to get a silky, creamy buttercream because of the nature of the ingredients?

The White Chocolate Buttercream, part two
This part is fairly straightforward. More butter is beaten in a mixer, to which the custard base is added and beaten until stiff peaks. Once stiff peaks have been achieved a small amount of lemon curd is added.

This buttercream did look sublimely silky and creamy. Maybe the two-stage buttercream is where it's at.

the amazingly creamy white chocolate lemon buttercream

I had made the curd and buttercream the day before I needed it, so I packed them both away in the refrigerator and went to bed.

The Cakes
These were pretty much standard RLB cakes. Hooray! It took me forever to get these cakes put together as I was IM chatting with the Stooges at the same time. Hello Stooges! Joelf wished he could try this cake, and Joelf, I think you would have really liked it. Too bad for you sucka!

This is pretty much RLB's Golden Luxury Butter Cake from The Cake Bible with a bit of lemon zest to lemon things up. Such a lovely, thick batter. The cakes bake for about half an hour.

I couldn't find any cake flour (where's my cake flour? I usually have two boxes!) nor could I find any bleached all-purpose flour (where'd that go? What is going on here?) but I did find in my cupboard unbleached AP flour. According to RLB, UBAP is not a choice when baking cakes with unmelted butter. Butter cakes baked with UBAP sink in the middle and the butter drops to the bottom. Something about the way the grains of flour are too smooth and can't hold onto the butter.

I knew that with all the effort and egg yolks that I had already put into this cake that I ought to go to the store and get some cake flour. But I didn't want to. You will notice that not having an ingredient but not wanting to go get it is a common theme in my baking adventures. One of these days I will learn to pre-prep.

Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake

I decided to go renegade and use the forbidden flour. What the hell.

The cakes rose well, and when cooling one of them did sink a tad in the middle. I didn't split the cakes perfectly in half, but I will say that I am very glad I read the passage where Rose talks about using the nonstick tart pan bottoms for supporting and transporting cake layers. This made the whole moving cake halves from one place to another really easy. Thanks for the tip RLB!

Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake

The Completed Triple Lemon Threat
Assembling the cake, thanks to the tart pan bottom, was fun. A layer of cake, a layer of curd, another cake layer, some buttercream, and repeat. Frosting the cake was pretty easy, thanks to the lovely white chocolate buttercream. Rose suggests swirling the frosting and then adding little curd pools in the swirls. I tried to do that, It didn't look so great, but I wasn't too worried. I knew my doula girls would accept the cake no matter how unprofessional it looked.

Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake
with and without curd pools. sorry the photos make the frosting look different; my fault

It was great to see my doula girls. They are such a warm, funny, supportive, and smart bunch of women. All of them are women whom I love and who inspire me, and not just in my work. It is such an honor to be counted among them, and such a treat.

And I love bringing them cake! The doulas dug into it pretty soon after arriving, and all plates were cleaned. Our resident midwife gave me the biggest hug as a thank you for the cake. It was cute, and so sweet.

Just like this cake.

Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake

(Sidenote: even with UBAP, the cake was wonderful, light, and deliciously lemony. I know it would have been even fluffier and tender with cake flour. This day-old piece, above, became even more moist and lemony!!)

Monday, November 09, 2009


In the Harry Potter books, Obliviate was a spell that would erase the memory of the victim. It played quite a significant role in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, both funny and sad. I would hope, were I ever to find myself facing down the Obliviate charm, the memory of these little truffle cakes would be spared.

November 6, 2009
Name of cakes: Baby Chocolate Oblivions
Occasion: Heavenly Cake Bakers
Constituents: Chocolate. Sugar. Eggs. Butter. Good Times.

This is my first bake-along with the Heavenly Cake Bakers. I have been enjoying Marie's (aka BBC's) adventures as she bakes her way through Rose Levy Beranbaum's new cookbook Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Recently she invited others to join her and the Heavenly Cake Bakers was born.

Baby Chocolate Oblivions

These Baby Oblivions are simply the Chocolate Oblivion Truffle Torte from The Cake Bible repurposed as cute little individual servings. I have no complaints about that. This cake has always been a delicious and decadent hit!

The only real difference between the two recipes, is that the Babies use a higher percentage chocolate, and thus, a little bit of sugar has been added. I will confess that most of the time I bake the Torte I've used a darker chocolate (62%-ish) without adding sugar and it has been freakishly good. So initially I wasn't planning on adding the 3 tablespoons of sugar, but then things went a little off script.

First off, I wasn't going to buy a silicone cupcake pan as I have a bunch of silicone cupcake cups. I figured I could use the cups inside my metal cupcake tin, skip the metal rack (since I guessed it was to stablise the silicone pan), and not have to buy any new bakeware this week. Then of course I couldn't find my cupcake tin. What the fudge, people? Have any of you seen my cupcake tin? Let me know.

Baby Chocolate Oblivions

I bought a new metal cupcake tin, came home and turned on the oven. I pulled down my favorite dark chocolate, and noticed that I didn't have a full pound. So I pulled down my favorite semi sweet chocolate, and noticed that box was almost empty. Combined I was still in need of 100 grams, and I was resolved not to leave the house again. I searched my pantry, and found my old roommate had left behind a unsweetened baking bar. So my Babies have an approximate percentage breakdown as follows: 75% dark chocolate, 20% semi sweet chocolate, and 5% unsweetened chocolate. I added a little more than the 3 tablespoons sugar called for just in case.

Baby Chocolate Oblivions

The cupcake tin fit in my 12x18 pan, and I actually have a 9x13 pan and it fit nicely on top of the cupcake tin. I was worried about that. I also bah-humbugged the need for silicone gloves (if I was using the silicone pan and the wire rack I believe it would have been absolutely necessary). Luckily there were no mishaps.

Hey, did anyone else have a leftover batter? I had enough to fill a little ramekin which I baked in my toaster oven. All the Babies, including the rogue ramekin, are currently chilling in the refrigerator. I am totally having that rogue for breakfast tomorrow. (Yeah, I said it. Breakfast.)

The silicone cups released the Babies easily and nicely, hooray! The extra batter that I baked in the ramekin took a lot more coaxing, but it finally slid out without leaving too much behind. I whipped up some cream and my roommate and I dug in.

Baby Chocolate Oblivions

Mmmm. So good. So soft, so creamy, so chocolaty! And so freakin rich! Annmarie couldn't even finish her little Oblivion Baby, and the ramekin full of Oblivion I'm trying to eat is winning. I didn't make the raspberry puree this time around which is a bummer. The whipped cream is a wonderful companion but (in my opinion) these Babies need a raspberry chaperone as well. I'm sure I have some in the freezer! I guess the Obliviate charm wouldn't be such a bad thing after all; I'd be able to finish that ramekin. (Don't worry, I finished it later on in the day. Everything's gonna be allll-right.)

Oblivion Torte, previously.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Shout Out to the Cloud Creator

I have been largely displeased about how to list my blog labels for a long time now. I tried a list, but it got long and unwieldy. I tried using a google search toolbar but it didn't work the way I wanted it to. I tried Blogger's tag cloud, but it was ugly. Really ugly.

I have a satisfying tag cloud over on my other blog and I tried copying and pasting the code from there to here, but it was way too complicated for me to understand. I'm not a programmer, I just like to dabble!

After doing a search for html for tag clouds I found the exact same webpage that I used for my other blog. And I am quite pleased. I hope you spend some time admiring my tag cloud--maybe poke around in my ingredient list and find something new to read!

And for those of you readers with a Blogger blog who would like a cool tag cloud, check out phydeaux3's tag cloud hack. Best blogger hack ever. So far.