Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Chewy: Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was born and raised a Toll House girl. Plain and simple. No complaints. They are perfectly delectable and an American classic. My mom made them for us just as my grandma made them for her. I have wonderful memories of my Mom and me bellied up to the counter rolling dough balls to place on cookie sheets for baking. If I was really luck, we would forgo the rolling and press all the dough into a baking dish to make pan cookies (my favorite).

With such fond memories and a love for the Toll House recipe, why would I search for another chocolate chip cookie? That is a fair question. All I can say is that as I continue to write this blog, I have become a bit of a crazy person collecting recipes and reading baking posts from other talented bakers. It seems as though there is a bit of a debate in the blogging world as to which recipe produces the best, the supreme, the ultimate chocolate chip cookie.

I decided that I must join in on this quest even if I had to betray my beloved Toll House. And, who better to begin with than Mr. Food Science himself, Alton Brown. He has never let me down before. So, off I went to conquer, "The Chewy".

These cookies are reminiscent of the Toll House variety, but this recipe is unusual in that it calls for bread flour instead of all-purpose and to melt the butter before creaming it with the sugars. I had never heard of this before. What sort of craziness was this? However, after doing some research I discovered that the bread flour allows for the chewy texture of the cookie. Go figure. I am still not sure why he has you melt the butter first, but the cookies were delicious, so I am not gonna argue with his mad science.


Slowly and the flour a little at a time, and mix until just right.

Add your semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Toll House so I didn't feel like I was a total cookie back-stabber) or even better high quality chocolate chunks..... mmmmm! You want to make sure you get the proper chocolate to cookie dough ratio for each bite. It is a crucial step in my mind.

Alton's recipe tells you to chill the dough for 1 hour. I upped that big time to 12 hours, at least. In my opinion, it allows for the caramel undertones in the dough to deepen, and it prevents it the cookies from spreading while baking. I will actually chill mine for 24 next time I make these.

I also stick the formed dough balls in the freezer for 10 minutes before placing in the oven. Overkill? Maybe, but my cookies were pretty much perfect :)

They were chewy around the edges and soft and tender in the middle with just the right amount of sweetness. The salt to sweet balance was perfect. I heart these cookies!

Sorry, Toll House. You've been bumped by "The Chewy".

Hmmm... do I dare continue on this quest? Is there a cookie out there even better than "The Chewy"?

I will ponder the question and get back to you....

The Chewy  
(Recipe adapted from Alton Brown)  

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups (12 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup (8 ounces) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Pour the butter into the bowl of your stand mixer and set it aside to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda.

Add the sugar and brown sugar to the mixing bowl, and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the whole egg, the egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract in a measuring cup. Reduce the mixer speed to low-medium and slowly add the egg mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.

Set the mixer to low speed, and slowly add the flour to the batter a little at a time.  Stop a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Once the flour is worked in, stop the mixer and add the chocolate chips. Stir until the chips are thoroughly combined. Cover the dough with saran wrap and chill for at least 12 hours, if not longer. I chill mine overnight. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and place racks in the top third and bottom third of the oven.

Scoop the dough into large tablespoon (1 1/2-ounce) portions and place onto parchment-lined cookie sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. (I placed my cookie sheets in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking.) Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Remove from the oven, and allow cookies to cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing from pans. Remove cookies from pan and place on cooling rack to cool completely, or pour yourself a glass of cold milk and enjoy warm... YUM!

Note: I baked mine for 13 minutes, rotating the pan after six and a half minutes.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Marquise

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

This was my first Daring Bakers challenge, and whoa, they weren't kidding about the challenges being daring. An overly adventurous baker I am not (at least not yet). So, this dessert proved to be quite a feat for me! What the heck is a Chocolate Marquise anyway?! Well, I can tell you this... the dessert has French roots, it was a bit of a stretch for my budding pastry skills, and it was pretty darn time consuming. At least the end result was rather enjoyable :)

There were five components to this dessert including: a tequila and cayenne pepper flavored chocolate base for the marquise, the completed frozen marquise, cayenne toasted almonds, torched meringue and an irresistible salted caramel sauce... Wait a sec...let me catch my breath.... whew, what a list! All the elements weren't overly difficult to make if you know the basics behind making caramel, ganache and meringue. It was actually more of a challenge of timing and patience to pull this one off. 

The Marquise itself was unusual and quite wonderful. It had a lovely silky texture that melted on your tongue, and the caramel..... mmmmm! So good! The meringue and toasted almonds did not blow me out of the water, and I probably could have done without them from a taste perspective, but they did make for a pretty plate.

Will I make this again? Nope, too much work! But, it really was a nice treat and a cool thing to be able to say I made. I am very eager to see what next month brings...

Happy baking!
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company

Chocolate Marquise
Servings: 9 - 2"x2" cubes

Hint: Make in the order listed below

Chocolate Base (for completed Marquise)
3 oz (85 grams/ 6 tablespoons) bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cocoa)
1/3 cup + 2 teaspoons (90 ml/3 fluid oz.) heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/16 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon (15 ml/ 1/2 fluid oz.) tequila
1 tablespoon (15 ml/ 1/2 fluid oz.) light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon/(less than 1/4 ounce) Dutch Processed cocoa powder
dash freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon (8 grams) softened

Completed Marquise
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
1 large egg
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (40 ml) (40 grams/ 1½ oz) sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (2/3 fluid oz/ 20 ml.) water
Chocolate Base, barely warm (recipe above)
½ cup (4 fluid oz./ 120 ml.) heavy cream
½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder (for rolling)

Line a 6" square baking ban with parchment paper. Be sure to leave a little extra on either side for easy removal of the Marquise from the pan.

Begin by making the chocolate base. Place the chocolate in a small mixing bowl. Pour the heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl and warm it in the microwave until the cream is hot to the touch (but is not boiling). Remove it from the microwave and pour over the chocolate. Allow the heavy cream to sit for a minute or two before stirring. Stir until the chocolate is melted completely and is smooth throughout. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Set aside the chocolate until cooled to room temperature. Do not refrigerate, as the base needs to be soft when added to the marquise mixture. If you make it the day before, you may need to warm it slightly. Whisk it until it is smooth again before using it in the marquise recipe.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg yolks and whole eggs. With your whisk attachment, whip on high speed until very thick and pale, about 10 minutes.

When the eggs are getting close to finishing, make a sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring the syrup to a boil and then cook to softball stage (235F/115C). Remove the pan from the heat and immediately drizzle the sugar syrup into the fluffy eggs (while the mixer running on low speed), trying to hit that magic spot between the mixing bowl and the whisk. When all of the syrup has been added (do it fairly quickly), turn the mixer back on high and whip until the bowl is cool to the touch. This will take at least 5 minutes.

In a separate mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Set aside.

When the egg mixture has cooled, add the chocolate base to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Try to get it as consistent as possible without losing all of the air you've whipped into the eggs. Fold 1/3 of the reserved whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, and then fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Pour into the prepared liners and freeze until very firm, at least 4 hours (preferably 6 – 8 hours). Remove the pan from the freezer and place in the refrigerator about 15 minutes before cutting. Do not allow marquise to sit out more than 5 minutes before cutting and serving. It melts quickly. If the dessert appears too melted, return the freezer for a few minutes.

Toasted Almonds
1/4 cup (2 oz.) sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 large egg whites
1/2 cup blanched whole almonds

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and salt.
In a larger mixing bowl whisk the egg white until it's frothy and thick. Add the spice mix to the egg white and whisk to combine completely. Add the nuts to the egg white mixture and toss with a spoon.
Spoon the coated nuts onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake the nuts for 15-20 minutes, or until they turn light brown. 
Allow the nuts to cool completely and they will get very crunchy. Set aside until ready to serve.

Tequila Caramel
1/4 cup (60 ml/2 fluid oz) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
2 tablespoons (1 fluid oz./ 30 ml.) water
1/4 cup (2 fluid oz./ 60 ml.) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon tequila

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water on medium-high heat. Boil until the water completely evaporates and the sugar caramelizes to a dark mahogany color. Working quickly, add the cream to the darkened caramel. It will bubble and pop vigorously, so add only as much cream as you can without overflowing the pot. Return the pot to the stove on low heat and whisk gently to break up any hardened sugar. Add any remaining cream and continue stirring. Gradually, the hard sugar will dissolve and the caramel sauce will continue to darken. When the caramel has darkened to the point you want it, remove it from the heat. Add the salt and tequila and stir to combine. Set aside until ready to serve.

3 large egg whites
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) (3½ oz or 100 gms) sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla

When about ready to serve, make the meringue.

Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using a whisk to stir continuously, heat the egg whites over a saucepan of simmering water. The egg white mixture is ready when you can no longer feel pieces of sugar between your fingers when tested.

Remove the mixing bowl from the saucepan and return it to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until you reach soft peaks. In the last 10 seconds of mixing, add the vanilla to the meringue and mix thoroughly.

When you're ready to plate first drizzle the caramel sauce and then place a dollop of meringue onto each plate. Torch the meringue by hand or under a broiler set to 'low'. If using the broiler, watch very closely so you don't end up burning the meringue. Also, do not place Marquise under the broiler, unless you want a puddle of chocolate.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Baked: Cowboy Cookies

Don't you just love when the stars align and things fall into place? As a mom of three little kids, things are always a little hectic and unpredictable. So, when something works out perfectly and makes my life a little easier, I rejoice and savor the moment.

Such was the case with this week's Baked Sunday Morning selection. My oldest son had his school's end-of-year fundraiser this past Friday... an Ice Cream Social chock-full of carnival games, bouncy toys, food and fun! One of the popular events of the evening is the 'Cake Walk'.  Basically, it is musical chairs except everyone sits in a numbered chair when the music stops. If your number is called, then you win your choice of baked good from the prize table full of hundreds of cakes, cookies and brownies.

Of course, I volunteered to make a few treats for the Cake Walk. But, what to make? What to make? Hmmm... I know! How about Cowboy Cookies?! Nothing like knocking two birds out with one stone :)

These cookies were yummy and a perfect choice for a kids event. What kid (or adult for that matter) doesn't love a moist, delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with a few salty pretzel bits thrown in for good measure? Actually, since the recipe substituted pretzels for nuts, it became a much safer option for a school function. You can never be too careful with peanut allergies these days.

These cookies had a wonderfully crispy exterior with a chewy inside that was perfectly to my liking. The substitution of pretzels for nuts was clever and provided a delicious sweet/salty flavor. I will for sure make these again using pretzels, but I love cookies with nuts. So, I am going to throw some walnuts in next time and see how they bake up. I imagine they will be quite tasty since the recipe itself is oh, so good!

Stop on by the Baked Sunday Morning blog to see what my fellow bakers thought of Matt & Renato's Cowboy Cookies.

Have a Sweet Sunday!
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie

Tuesday was my husband's 35th birthday. Every year I ask him what he wants for his birthday dessert. It is never cake. He isn't a fan, which is interesting since that's what I do. Nope, it's always pie. He is a pie guy through and through. Last year we had blueberry. The year before was apple. This year it was deliciously tart, make you smile lemon meringue. 

There is something so pretty about these pies. Actually, I think all pies have their own unique beauty, but the lemon meringue really gets me. I love the billowy clouds of golden meringue that sit atop the the creamy, perfectly tart filling. It's like a ray of sunshine. A thing of beauty. 

Lemon Meringue Pie

Prebaked Pie Crust
I recommend this all butter recipe or this graham cracker recipe. Both are very good.

1 1/4 cups sugar
5 Tbs cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 lemon juice, fresh squeezed
2 Tbs butter

4 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325-degrees. Place rack in the middle of the oven.

Place sugar, cornstarch, salt, water and milk in a large, nonreactive saucepan. Over medium heat, bring mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly. When the mixture begins to thicken and become opaque, add the egg yolks two at a time. Stirring constantly, whisk in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Whisk for one more minute and remove from heat. Whisk in butter. Pour filling into prebaked pie shell and place plastic wrap on surface to prevent a skin from forming and to retain heat.

In a large mixing bowl, whip egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Stop mixer and add cream of tartar. Continue mixing on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, and continue to whip whites until stiff peaks form. 

Place scoops of meringue around the outside edge of pie. Add the remaining meringue into the middle. Using a spatula, gently spread the meringue over pie making sure to seal the edges at the crust. To create peaks in the meringue, take the back of a spoon and gently press into the meringue and lift.

Bake pie for about 20 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown. Remove pie from oven and place on a cooling rack. Allow it to cool to room temperature before serving.

Happy Baking!
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Baked: Tomato Soup Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting (Savory Style)

For this week's addition of Baked Sunday Morning we are tackling Tomato Soup Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting. Hmm? Usually, they would have had me at mascarpone, but the tomato soup, really? I have seen a few recipes for cakes and cupcakes using tomato soup as an ingredient, but I have never felt a need to attempt one. Not because I thought they wouldn't taste good (tomato soup and grilled cheese is one of my all-time favorites after all), but more from the perspective of -- I have stacks of other recipes I want to try first! This, however, is why I love baking clubs. I would have simply passed over this recipe and moved on to something more in my comfort zone. But not today, I have decided that Matt & Renato of Baked Explorations have yet to lead me astray. Not only am I eager to make these, I am also going to get a little crazy and try them 'savory style'.... should be interesting!

There were two versions of this recipe in Matt & Renato's book. The written recipe called for cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Alright, I am familiar with all those flavors, and they can make almost anything taste good if used properly. Then, in a tiny, easily overlooked corner of the page (in the 'Baker's Note' section), it is mentioned that you can really go crazy with these by omitting the above spices and substituting them with fresh ground pepper and extra salt. Doesn't that sound fantastically different? I am in!

First, let me say these baked up beautifully. I tasted the cupcakes alone right after they cooled. They were moist, tender and fluffy. They were texturally perfect. They also tasted like tomato soup...just like I sipped it right off a spoon. The flavor of the fresh ground pepper added a nice little savory bite, but so very strange.

Enter the frosting. I whipped up this heavenly concoction and had to restrain myself from eating it all before I frosted the cupcakes. It was temperamental, but divine! I'd have to say, I can think of a dozen other recipes that I would use this with, but I wasn't so sure how it would pair with the tomato soup cupcakes. It seemed like it would be a waste of a beautiful thing....

Sadly, my fears on the frosting were confirmed. The flavor profile of these never quite came together for me. The frosting on its own was delicious, but I couldn't get past the cupcake flavor. I felt a bit like I was licking the wallpaper in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory ... "The Snozzberry taste just like a Snozzberry! The Tomato Soup Cupcake tastes just like a Tomato Soup Cupcake!" By no means was it a poorly written recipe, it just wasn't for me. Am I glad I tried it? You bet! I loved the challenge of this week, and I hope there are more like this to come!

Click here for Matt & Renato's Tomato Soup Cupcake recipe, and to see the what my fellow bakers thought of these week's challenge.

In closing, I want to wish all you lovely, patient and deserving moms out there a very Happy Mother's Day! I hope you have as relaxing and enjoyable of a day as you possibly can... I think we all secretly fantasize for a fleeting moment about doing nothing on Mother's Day but sitting in a bubble bath with a nice glass of wine and a trashy tabloid, but alas, it is not to be. Instead, we get to be kissed and hugged all day by our loving, smiling kids, and visit with our own mother's who would kill us if we ever tried to wiggle out of spending the day with them...at least that is how it is in my family :)  It's not such a bad trade off in my book.

Happy Baking!
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company

Friday, May 6, 2011

Homemade Rocky Road Marshmallow Pops

This all started with a simple campfire and my sons' love of the ooey, gooey sugar bomb otherwise known as the marshmallow. On a typical campfire night, we are a Jet-Puffed marshmallow family without complaint. However, on this particular night I had a crazy idea... "Hey guys, maybe we can try to make our own marshmallows someday?" Well, you would have thought I told them that we had a personal invitation to visit Santa at the North Pole. They wanted homemade marshmallows, and they wanted them right then and there.

Enter Mother's Day and Rocky Road candy. I know, it's not your traditional Mother's Day treat, but there is a simple explanation. My mom has made this delicious candy for us ever since I can remember. When I see a bag of marshmallows I think 'Rocky Road' before Rice Krispie Treats or S'mores even enter my mind. My mom stands by the Eagle Brand recipe for her Rocky Roads (which is very good), however, I wanted to jazz them up a bit for Mother's Day... make them pink, add a fancy stick....

To start, I needed to make homemade marshmallows. I have only ever tired one recipe for homemade marshmallows (click here for recipe by Alton Brown), and I see no reason to look further. His recipe results in deliciously soft pillows of delight! I do feel as though I should forewarn you, once you make these it is really hard to go back to the store bought hockey puffs (especially since these can be made and stored in an airtight container for quite some time).

I follow Alton Brown's recipe almost exactly except I always line the pan with parchment before coating with cooking spray to allow for easier removal of the marshmallow. For these marshmallows I also added three (3) drops of AmeriColor Tulip Gel Paste and two (2) drops of AmeriColor Soft Pink Gel Paste with the vanilla in the last minute of whipping to make them pink for Mother's Day (optional).

After the marshmallow has set for about six (6) hours, lift it out of the pan using the parchment handles. Take a pastry brush and brush the excess powder sugar/corn starch mixture off the top. Then, using a pizza wheel dusted in the powder sugar/corn starch mixture, divide the marshmallow into equal sections based on the pan sized used. Since I used a 9"x13" pan I divided it into three equal lengths measuring 3"x13". Dust the raw edges of the marshmallow with the powder sugar/corn starch mixture, and set two of the three aside (see below).

Next, place the ruler along side the long edge of a marshmallow strip, and cut the outside 1/2" off each end using a long knife dusted in the powder sugar/corn starch mixture. Readjust your ruler so it lines up at one of your clean edges, and cut the marshmallow every two inches. This will allow for you to have six 2"x3" rectangles for your pops. Again, dust all raw edges of the newly cut marshmallows with the powder sugar/corn starch mixture, and repeat the same process for the remaining two marshmallow strips. You should end up with 18 marshmallows total.

My marshmallow mongering kids would have me stop here, and that would be perfectly acceptable. You could easily package these pretty gals, and they would make lovely gifts. Alas, I am going to carry on for Mom and make these into Rocky Roads.

OK, so here is where there is potential for things to get a bit messy! There is probably some easy method for dipping marshmallows documented out there somewhere, but I was not privy to this information. So, I rolled-up my sleeves and went at it alone. Hopefully, you can avoid the mistakes I made, and move directly to the adorable, delicious pop part. Here is what I learned.

...It is all in the dipping. You are going to want to use a vessel that has a narrow base and taller sides to hold the melted chocolate, such as a coffee cup. This will allow you to have a uniform line of chocolate around the marshmallow. I used my husband's ceramic Butter Bell (which, by the way are fantastic). It was the perfect shape and held the heat of the chocolate well.

The key is to dip the marshmallow into the chocolate (do not hold the stick for this), remove it, and then using a small spatula or knife gently scrape off the excess chocolate first from the sides and then from the bottom of the marshmallow. Be careful not to take it all off (that would be a shame), just the heavy stuff. Set the pop on its side on the plate of peanuts (or any nut or decoration for that matter), and let it rest for a good minute or two before you rotate it to cover the remaining sides with the peanuts. This allows time for the chocolate to set and helps keep the peanuts in place. Also, try to keep the nuts off the bottom... unless you want your pops falling over and disorderly.

Once your pop is dipped and rolled, stand it upright on a sheet of parchment, and allow it to rest until it the chocolate is completely set. Then, place them in cellophane bags, tie on a ribbon and a tag (yeah, I forgot that part), and pass them out to all the deserving moms you know and love.

Homemade Marshmallows
Recipe by Alton Brown

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
Gel Paste Food Coloring (optional)

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 and gel paste color (if using) in the last minute of whipping.

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 6 hours and up to overnight.

Lift the marshmallow out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut the marshmallow into desired size using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Rocky Road Candy Coating  

12 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
16 ounces dry roasted peanuts (or other nut), coarsely chopped
Parchment Paper
Offset spatula or knife

Place coarsely chopped peanuts (or other nut or decoration) on a plate. Have ready a sheet of parchment paper for cooling the pops.

Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds in the microwave. Remove and stir the chocolate. Place chocolate back in microwave and heat for 15 seconds. Remove and stir. Continue heating and stirring in 15 second increments until the chocolate is melted. Scrape chocolate into coffee cup or other vessel for dipping.

Good Luck!
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Baby Girl Farm Cake

Wow, it has been a crazy week and a half full of holiday excitement and cake orders. Easter came and went rather quickly this year, but it was such a fun day. My three kids were finally of the ages (6, 4 and 1 1/2) where they all could participate and enjoy a good 'ole fashioned Easter Egg Hunt. I am not going to lie, there were a few elbows thrown and body checks given, but they still had a blast. The adults indulged in good food, company and stolen Easter candy. Oh, please... like you don't steal a handful or two of jelly beans from your kid's Easter baskets when they're not lookin'!

Since I was so swamped with cake orders this week, I was a bit sad that I wasn't able to participate in any of my baking clubs. However, I should be back to my normal schedule this week, and I had the opportunity to work on a few really cool cakes. I completed a carved wine bottle 50th birthday cake and a basic hat box cake, but this was my favorite. I was asked to create a farm-themed 1st birthday cake using "girlish" colors instead of the traditional primary colors. It was a challenge I was eager to take on.

We are short on little girls in my extended family (3 girls and 6 boys), and I am just starting to build my business with clients that are not in my circle of family and friends. Let's just say I have made A LOT of boy cakes in the past few years, and I am always excited when I get a cute themed 'girl' cake to work on.

This was such an adorable theme, and I enjoyed my time on it. I loved the way the colors came together and the animals had little personalities. I even developed a soft spot for my pony who ended up to look a little more like Eeyore than I had planned.

Here's a funny note on the barn topper. I originally had all the ducks staring straight ahead until my husband gently asked if I was trying the scare the bejesus out of the poor little girl. They did look a little like they were in strike formation. I agreed he had a point, and adjusted the ducks to a more friendly arrangement. I wish I snapped a picture of it... it was quite funny :)

I also want to note that I took inspiration for this cake from two very talented cake decorators: Beth at Cakespace and Melanie at Cakebox. Check out their cakes here and here.

Thanks everyone!