Sunday, July 29, 2012

Whippet (Whippet Good)

I love Canada.  I also love the awesome things that come from Canada.  All the good HGTV shows.  k.d. lang.  Poutine.  Beavers.  The list of Canadian things I love expanded this week when I was asked to create a unique birthday cake: a giant Whippet.

What's a Whippet? you may be asking yourself. Well, according to the Wikipedia page of chocolate-coated marshmallow treats: "Whippet cookies are produced in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. They consist of a biscuit base topped with marshmallow-like filling and then coated in a hard shell of pure chocolate. Whippet cookies first came to the market in 1927... They are currently available with both dark chocolate and milk chocolate coatings, and with several flavors of artificial fruit jam filling inside the marshmallow-like filling."  In other words, Whippets are like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens--a few of my favorite things.

After some consultation with my client, we decided on a ten-inch cookie featuring a shortbread base, raspberry jelly, marshmallow, and a dark chocolate coating.  Here's how I put it together:

1. Bake shortbread in a 10-inch cake pan (lined with parchment paper).  I made the cookie about 3/4" thick and it took about 35 minutes to bake.

2. Make a batch of homemade marshmallows and pour onto parchment paper dusted with confectioner's sugar and corn starch.  I drew a 10" circle on the back of the parchment to use as a guide.

3. Melt 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate with 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.

4. Spread a think layer of chocolate on the bottom of the cookie and allow to set (I froze for about 15 minutes). 

5. Flip onto a wire cooling rack.  Spread about 1 cup of raspberry jelly or jam onto the cookie, leaving about an inch border.

6.  Place giant marshmallow on top.

7. Pour about half of the remaining chocolate over the top, using a small spatula to spread and get full coverage on the top and sides.  Pour remaining chocolate over top to make a smooth and pretty finish.

8. Allow to set in the fridge at least an hour before serving or (sniff) handing over to paying customer.

I'm sad that I didn't get to see the inside and/or taste the whole thing put together.  Nevertheless, it was a ton of fun.  I think I'm going to try my hand at some other homemade/over-sized cookie/candy bar creations.  Any suggestions?  I promise to attempt and write a post about your responses!

Keep it sweet.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stay Puffed: Homemade Marshmallows

I've often considered trying my hand at homemade marshmallows, but I never got around to it.  That changed this week when Much Ado About Cake received a rather odd cake request.  More on that later.  For the moment, let us talk only of my need for a ten-inch marshmallow disc.

So, I had need of a ten-inch marshmallow disc.  I considered Fluff.  Alas, too soft.  I considered a barely-melted mash-up of commercial marshmallows.  Amateurish.  No, it seemed the time had come to make my own.

As a culinary (if not technological) geek, there is a very special place in my heart for Mr. Alton Brown.  I swear there is not an episode of Good Eats during which I do not snicker/giggle/laugh out loud.  Yes, even the ones with sock puppet yeast.  Okay, I confess, especially those.

Anyway.  Marshmallows.  The recipe and a delightful video are available on the Food Network website.  It goes a little something like this...

Homemade Marshmallows

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture.

Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping.

While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

For regular marshmallows: Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use. When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

For miniature marshmallows: Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper, spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray and dust with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Scoop the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round piping tip. Pipe the mixture onto the prepared sheet pans lengthwise, leaving about 1-inch between each strip. Sprinkle the tops with enough of the remaining cornstarch and sugar mixture to lightly cover. Let the strips set for 4 hours or up to overnight. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces using a pizza wheel or scissors dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining sugar mixture and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Literate Baker notes:  This stuff is sticky, freaky sticky.  Be prepared.  Also, I wish I'd added a touch of almond extract in addition to the vanilla.  Of course, I always wish that.

At first, these bad boys seem a little denser than the bagged variety (similar to some gourmet marshmallows I got from Williams Sonoma once).  Yet, once you pop one into your mouth, it melts.  Literally.  Delightful.

The goo set fairly quickly and I was easily able to throw together my attempt at a Whippet (I'll tell you all about that next time.)  I can't wait to try toasting one of the little ones I made from the extra.  (I'll tell you all about that, too.)  I'm thinking that hot chocolate may never be the same.  I'm also thinking these will make a fun holiday gift.  I wonder if I could sub out some of the water with booze...

 I hope you'll give them a try.  Let me know if you do and if you get creative with flavorings.  In the meantime, keep it fluffy and always...

Keep it sweet.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

The Pin-Up Baker

No, I am not posting racy photos of myself in nothing but an apron.  (Insert big sigh of relief here.)

Yes, I did figure out how to add a Pinterest "Pin It" button to all of my posts.

For those of you in the Pinterest cult fan club, you know how helpful this can be... Easily save links and images of things you like in categories you create!  Share with friends!  Spend more time collecting ideas than trying them!  Good times!  The fun little widget I found lets you select the image of your choice from the post, so you can pin whatever pic you want!

For those of you not on Pinterest, I encourage you to check it out and get with the program!

For those of you who think I've used too many exclamation points in this post, relax; I have not forsaken the semicolon.  I promise a return to regularly scheduled punctuation next post.

If you'd like to see what tickles my fancy, you can follow me here. (I think I'd confuse myself with multiple accounts, so you may want to choose the "Recipe" and "Cake" boards if you don't want to see my DIY and belly dancing inspirations as well.)

Pin It: the fun new technology to...

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Muffin Mama

We are at the peak of blueberry season here in the Northeast. Not only are they front and center in every produce department, you can take a short drive to one of the local farms and pick your own. If you haven't picked your own blueberries before, I definitely recommend it. No thorns, no stooping, and (unlike apples) you can pick to your heart's content and don't end up with thirty pounds of them.

In addition to stuffing handfuls of them directly into my mouth, I did some lovely baking with my bounty. First order of business: blueberry muffins.

I love blueberry muffins. And I really love streusel topping. I happened upon this recipe and figured it was a winner. For all the pans I do own, I do not have a muffin top pan. I used a regular one and the results were delightful. Here is the recipe from the lovely folks at

Blueberry Muffin Tops

For batter
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1 whole large egg
1 large yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries (12 oz)
For topping
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Make batter:
  1. Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Generously butter muffin pans.
  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over moderately low heat, then remove from heat. Whisk in milk, then whisk in whole egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined well.
  3. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, then add milk mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries gently but thoroughly.
  4. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups, spreading evenly.
Make topping and bake muffins:
  1. Rub together all topping ingredients in a bowl with your fingertips until crumbly, then sprinkle evenly over batter in cups.
  2. Bake until golden and crisp and a wooden pick or skewer inserted diagonally into center of a muffin comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.
  3. Cool in pans on a rack 15 minutes, then run a knife around edge of each muffin top and carefully remove from cups. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Literate Baker Notes:  I used three cups of blueberries.  The resulting muffins were a bit messy, but blueberririffic.  I did not use muffin liners because I find muffins always seem to stick.

One of these with an egg white omelet would be a fairly balanced breakfast.  Two would be perfectly reasonable.  Four with a half a pot of coffee and the Sunday New York Times?  Why, that's weekend indulgence at its finest (saving, perhaps, a way to incorporate bacon)!  No matter how you have them, you really really should have them.  Preferably while sitting on the back deck and having your ass kicked by a crossword puzzle.

Kick up your feet and...

Keep it sweet.

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The Baker is Back... Again

You know what they say about blogs.  They come, they go.  Actually, I don't know if anyone says that, but it's certainly true.  They're shiny and fun, like a new toy or kitchen gadget.  Then, inevitably they lose their luster, relegated to the back of the drawer or the bottom of the to-do list.  It doesn't mean we don't enjoy them.  It just... happens.

Then, one day when you're bored or antsy or nostalgic or particularly ambitious, you find yourself wanting to dust it off and take it for a spin.  Dear readers, today is that day for the Literate Baker.

I've read some wonderful things lately--stories, novels, articles.  They have helped me to remember how much I love to write.  I've also baked some wonderful things.  Chocolaty things and fruity things and buttery things and even some savory things.

It's time to bring Jane and Julia back together and make some magic.  Okay, maybe magic is a bit of an overstatement, but still.  Let's do this.  I've missed y'all.  Here's to a renewed commitment to...

Keep it sweet.

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