Sunday, November 27, 2011

 Harry's Birthday Cake

Happy Sunday and for those of us in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving Weekend! For many of us this is the beginning of our Holiday Season but for some of us there are still some family holidays to be celebrated before Christmas or Channuka preparations can begin. I know a special little girl who became a woman this week at her Bat Mitzvah! And my own husband celebrated another birthday. So Mazel Tov to both of them!

I begin this week with my husbands birthday cake and for a very important reason. Not every celebration is a huge one with lots of people filling up the house and wanting to be fed. Sometimes it's just a small family dinner that you want to top off with a special cake or dessert for 4. This Birthday Cake is just a 4 inch Mexican Hot Chocolate cake, filled with vanilla bavarian cream filling and covered in vanilla buttercream then decorated with drizzled chocolate and Reeses candies (his favorite). The fun of making a cake like this is that the surface of the cake is not smooth so you really don't have to work about filling splooshing out a bit (yes, that's a technical term..."splooshing" LOL) and you don't have to worry about your crumbcoating having any bumps in it. I purposely left the dome on the little cake so that it would be easier to make this look like a huge mound of frosting covered in candy. This way the frosting layer can be thinner and there's more cake underneath. The initial was piped out onto parchment and left in the freezer for a few minutes to set up while I used the same tip and bag of melted chocolate to drizzle over the frosting and candy. Then, before the chocolate on the cake could set up, I peeled the initial off the parchment and used the melted chocolate to "glue" the cold initial to the cake. Little cake, HUGE impression for a loved ones birthday.
 Graham Cracker Pumpkin Pie

Next up was Thanksgiving and, by popular demand, my Pumpkin Pie. I make a spicy pumpkin pie that my kids just adore, so while my younger daughter always gets tagged to do the bird, I always get tagged to bring the pie. This year I mixed it up a bit with wonderful results! I decided to try out a graham cracker crust and it was SO good. It brings a bit more sweetness and almost a nutty flavor to the pie which just adds to the spice and makes it even more perfect. There are two secrets I'll share in this week's to make my pie is the first. I use real roasted pumpkin. This is SO easy to do and you end up with roasted pumpkin seeds as a extra reward for your efforts. All you do is get a sugar pumpkin (tho' a regular jackolantern type will work too, you will just end up with much more pumpkin than you would ever want or need unless you are serious baker and a small sugar pumpkin is sweeter naturally) quarter the pumpkin after removing the stem area. Clean it out reserving the seeds to roast with a bit of olive oil. On a lightly grease cookie sheet (you can use spray) place the pumpkin, lightly salt it and then roast at 300 degrees for about 40 minutes. When it's soft, like a baked potato, pull it out and scoop the soft flesh from the skin. Mash it up and it's ready to freeze. Now, I take this one step further and I puree the pumpkin with some water to make sure it's really smooth for my pie. Then I freeze in one cup portions. I AM one of those serious bakers who will make cookies and muffins and cupcakes and pancakes, etc. all month long. Now follow the pie recipe as you always would on the side of the Libby's can (you can find it online if you don't have a copy) only DOUBLE the spices. Yup, I said "double the spices". Do not add any extra sugar, let it be spicy. Poor into your graham cracker crust and bake for 50 mins or till the knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Do not prebake the graham cracker crust...remember it's already cooked. And, yes, I used a prepared crust from the store for this...I find that there is little difference between the homemade one and the packaged one but you can, of course, easily make your own with graham cracker crumbs and butter. Now top with whipped cream. I love fresh whipped cream and how you can decorate with it so beautifully. Here is another use for your piping bags and extra large tips. Just drop one into a bag, fill with whipped cream and decorate your heart out! I just did a little "S" pattern and look how gorgeous it looks! In the end you get a pie that's sweet and yet spicy and Oh So Good!
Nana's Fudge

Ok, second secret...I'm the "Nana" in Nana's Fudge. But what makes my fudge so much better than most homemade fudge recipes is how I put the ingredients together and what I add to them. Most simple fudge recipes involve chopped up chocolate or chocolate chips along with sweetened condensed milk. 12oz chocolate to one can milk. You are told to put the chocolate with the milk into a double boiler and melt together then put into a buttered pan to cool. Unfortunately this can lead to a really grainy fudge that breaks, cracks or falls apart. Not exactly the rich treat you were hoping for, right? So here is my secret. I melt the chocolate FIRST. All by itself, no company. When it's all melted and smooth I turn of the heat, add the milk and when that is stirred smooth I add a teaspoon of good vanilla. Then I stir that till it's all incorporated and put into a buttered pan. I let that sit overnight in the fridge (at least 3 hours) before cutting into 1 inch pieces. This is treasured by my family because I only make it once a year at Christmas. It was a surprise for my daughters this Thanksgiving and, as you can see by the photo, our grandaughter couldn't wait to dig in! Yup, it's that good!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday, enjoyed some time off with your families and are looking forward to the upcoming month. For me and my business, the end of the year is one Christmas creation after another so I'll have plenty to share with you in the upcoming weeks!


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