Sunday, May 26, 2013

Happy Sunday and, for those of us in America, Happy Memorial Day Weekend! 

As I mentioned last week, I just got back from Sicily. Whenever we travel I try to bring something back that I can use in baking. This time is was this wonderful pastry cream called Crema di Pistachio. Unlike most pastry creams it's not too sweet. I got a jar of this for about $10 at a little shop on Ortigia Island in Siracusa. Yes, a definite treat. Unfortunately, to buy it here is much much more expensive so I'm just going to have to learn how to make it from scratch! to use it. When I first tasted this heavenly stuff it was just on a piece of bread. I knew from that first second that I adored it and had to take a jar home. It is a thick paste but I figured I could mix it with butter cream, if necessary, to use it for cakes or just use it as it is for cookies. Then I had an idea...filling for cupcakes!

I baked a simple yellow cake recipe into cupcakes and let them completely cool. Then, with a round cutter but you could just scoop with a small spoon, I hollowed out about an inch of the center of the cupcake.  I filled this with the undiluted pistachio cream and then piped on a soft butter cream/whipped cream mixture and crushed up roasted, salted pistachios to put on top. I really wanted the sweet/salty mixture to set off the cream hidden inside.  It was simply divine!

Now I realize that picking up a jar of pistachio cream is going to be next to impossible for you so I had a few ideas to use as substitutions. Nutella was my first thought. Fill the cupcake with the nutella, top with a soft butter cream and then crush up some salted hazelnuts. If you have a good almond butter you can also mix that with some melted chocolate and then top the cupcake with crushed roasted salted almonds. The idea is to have a nut butter base that has been sweetened up a bit and then top the cupcake with a salty nut that's been crushed up for easy eating.

I'm going to be trying some of these ideas out over the next few weeks and let you all know how my little experiments turn out..I have a feeling my family will NOT be complaining! 

For those hoping to make the Pistachio is all I have found, so far...

Ingredients for pistachio cream
  • 100 grams of chopped pistachio
  • 500 ml of milk
  • 3 egg yolks medium
  • 140 gr of caster sugar
  • 30 g of corn starch
  • 20 grams of flour 00 (alternatively you can use directly used 50 grams of flour 00)
Procedure for the pistachio cream
In a saucepan, simmer milk. Add the chopped pistachios in boiling milk and moved away from the fire. Cover with a lid and leave to infuse for about half an hour.
After this time, pass the milk with pistachio crumble in a colander and collect everything in a bowl.This will eliminate the pieces of chopped pistachio.
In a ricipiente apart, work the egg yolks with the sugar with the help of an electric mixer, until frothy.
Add the flour and cornstarch. Bring to a boil the milk previously filtered, removed from the heat and pour in the milk, leaving a glass aside. Mix well the two compounds.
Put everything on the stove and bring to boil it off, stirring constantly, simmer on low heat for a few minutes until the mixture thickens. Stir constantly to prevent lumps from forming, adding the glass of milk that you have previously set aside. Turn off the heat and leave to cool the cream, stirring occasionally. Once cooled, place the pistachio cream in the fridge for a couple of hours to rest covered with plastic wrap along the surface before use.
I have to admit that I'm not sure I will go to all of this trouble but will rather use this idea of the pistachio cream as a jumping off place for new recipe combinations instead. If any of you are adventurous enough to give this a try please do let me know how it worked out?
See you next week! I'll be putting up a Nautical Party Plan tomorrow on the Cherry Party Blog so I hope you take a few minutes to see how easy throwing a birthday party can be! Also, check us out on Facebook. We are giving tips and tricks for Brides and Grooms for the next two weeks!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

 Happy Sunday! This week I bring to you a Princess Cake! But this is a very special Princess indeed. I belong to a volunteer group called Icing Smiles. The is a wonderful organization that uses local bakers to provide special occasion cakes for families who are dealing with a serious illness for their child. I answered the call to provide a cake for Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is 5. Brooklyn was proudly celebrating her End of Treatment Day! Yup, she's in remission and we are all so very very happy to see her healthy. This little blonde angel was SO surprised to see her very own Princess Cake she dissolved into shy giggles. It was totally adorable.

The cake was for a small family group so I made a 6 inch and a 4 inch cake to stack. The idea was to give a princess dress and crown look, there's even a bow in the back! The cake was a white cake filled with butter cream filling...Brooklyn's favorite. I then cut out an 15 inch circle of fondant and laid that over the 6 inch cake. To figure out how big of a circle you need to cover a cake you want to use the measurement across the top (6 inches) by how tall it is times 2 (4 + 4 = 8) for a total of 14 inch circle needed for this cake. I wanted overflow so I cut it one inch larger but you can just stretch out the 14 inches so it drapes properly. Then I cut out 3 inch circles in the pink fondant and layered them onto the cake. Finally I piped the purple butter cream onto the lower tear, added the candy pearls, and let it set up.

Now the top tier I wanted to make into a crown. Easier said than done since I wanted it to be soft to eat. So I cut out a strip of the white fondant and used a circle cutter to make the scalloped edges. I layered that onto the already fondant covered 4 inch tier with water. I then folded over the tips of the scallops to give it more body and then used some plastic wrap rolled up to keep the tips steady while they set up for an hour. During that time I rolled the pink filigree and allowed that to set up for the hour as well. When all of that was ready I removed the plastic wrap, adhered the filigree with water and then piped the butter cream decorations. Finally I stacked one cake on top of the others. I made the dowels shorter than normal for this cake so that the crown would sink down just a bit into the bottom tier making the "skirt" look like it's flouncing. Then I twisted pink fondant ropes into a belt and attached a bow made from more twisted rope to finish off the skirt.

Last item was to pipe out the detail and wording on the board and then it was ready to take to Brooklyn! I hope to be able to do more cakes for this organization and I realize that not all of the kids will be healthy and happy when we arrive with the cakes. Some will be actively fighting an illness. So this time I took my 12 year old son with me so he could see the happy ending that so many of these kids get and all of them deserve before he helped me deliver a cake to an ill child. 

We arrived at the University of Davis Cancer Center and was lead back to a room past the chemotherapy treatment room. My son's eyes got as big as saucers. I could tell it was freaking him out a bit and told him after that if it freaked him out how does he think it feels for those kids who are undergoing treatment?! A small lesson at life for my son with wonderful effects.

We walked into the room with the cake to meet Brooklyn and her family and for a second didn't know which kid in the room was her! She was completely healthy. It was so wonderful to see. When she realized the cake was made just for her and even had her name on it she was so very surprised and happy. 
 Brooklyn is the little girl to the right...see, you never would have guessed that for the past 18 months she's been battling leukemia! From one very sick little girl to one happily celebrating her End of Treatment Day. We were SO very happy to be allowed to be a part of it and to bring such a big smile to her, and her family's, face.

See you next week with a new cupcake! Remember to visit us over at Facebook for daily tricks and tips!