I made Marshmallows!

You read that right! Marshmallows. Soft puffy clouds of sugary, vanilla goodness. A couple of weeks ago I was feeling pretty stir crazy. With Christmas over and all my crafty present projects done. I fled to the kitchen in an effort to find new and interesting things to do. I came across a recipe for Marshmallows. I always thought these were one of the highly complicated things that would never come out decently at home and you should always just suck it up and buy it from the store. Well, no more!

Marshmallows

These marshmallows are deceptively easy to make and I can only imagine the customizing ability of them. I’m thinking not just vanilla, but what about Strawberry… Banana! I won’t even mention the colors you could go for! But I digress! Let’s go back to how easy it is to make these childhood delicacies.

boiling

If you have a candy thermometer and a stand mixer (or electric mixer of any kind… but you might get worn out with a hand mixer; more on that to come) you can make these. Marshmallows are basically all about timing, and waiting. Boiling a sugar and water mixture to 236 degrees F; and then beating the life out of it for 20 minutes.

mixing

Yes, 20 minutes. (I told you you might get tired with a hand mixer!) Any less than 20 min and it won’t get the bright white shine. It won’t incorporate enough air, I don’t even know what you would end up with at that point. Trust me, it is worth the noise for 20 minutes to end up with these Marshmallows!

Ready To Freeze

Then all there is to it is to scoop the mixture into a well buttered and sugared pan and freeze overnight. I was absolutely incapable of keeping the freezer closed in all my excitement to see them done.

To my great surprise, they weren’t all that difficult to cut either! Rolling them in a little more powdered sugar takes away all the stickiness and then they are good to eat! Although I must say, they are so much better after having been cut and rested in the freezer one more night.

Mellows

The recipe instructs to keep in an air tight container in the freezer for storage, and I highly agree. They are absolutely delightful out of the freezer but I decided to take some to work for a lunch time treat in a Zip-lock bag and while they are still very yummy at room temperature, the texture does get somewhat gummy and soft.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and down right shocked at the ease and outcome of this experiment and I can’t wait to see what else I can do with Marshmallows in the future. I’m thinking… Walnut Whip!

All I can say…

… is I made a Roulade. Truly, having a job makes long weekends so much sweeter (literally!), I knew I had to do something special today.

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So, a gluten-free, chocolate meringue roulade filled with fresh cream, rolled up tight and topped with fluffy powdered sugar…. definitely a good project for a day at home. Sure, I should have went out and enjoyed the beautiful weather, but sometimes, the kitchen just calls your name and you need to do something creative and different.

Baking up the Roulade was a lot easier to make than I thought it would be! I have wanted to give this one a shot since I saw Mary Berry make it on an episode of The Great British Bake Off: Master Class. I found her recipe here, for the Ultimate Chocolate Roulade. But as things do, this one slipped my mind until I was looking though gluten free cakes, in my blog feed of all things, and found this recipe here. I am so glad I found it, because while mine didn’t turn out as pretty, it sure did taste fantastic.

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I have to say, if you have a little bit of time to work patiently and wait (you want to make sure the cake is really really cool before putting the cream on it!), it is without a doubt, well worth the time and effort it takes to make it!

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…and with reviews like ‘Oh yum!’ I think this will definitely be on the docket for future holidays. Although I have to say, for something made without any flour, that is pretty much eggs and chocolate, it is an extremely rich desert.

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Just remember, more than two pieces and “you should probably go to rehab!”

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Chocolate rehab that is!

Crumb-ly Cupcakes

So it was the late days of summer that are pretty characteristic of September here in Northern Virginia and I was feeling rather restless and not in a baking mood. But I knew I wanted to have something tasty as an after dinner surprise. A short walk away from our apartment is quite an interesting shopping center. No, not like a mall, more like a few streets lined with cafes, bars, specialty shops and chain stores. So I thought I would go have a look. I stumbled upon a little bakery called ‘Crumbs.’

Click the above photo to check out the Bake Shop Website

Click the above photo to check out the Bake Shop Website

The air conditioning hit me like a truck as I opened the door and it was so welcomeingly refreshing I took my time in the completely empty bake shop and admired every little cake they had in their display. But not all the cakes were so tiny. These cupcakes come in four sizes from tiny (bite sized) cupcakes to Colossal (a 6.5″ tall and wide cupcake). I picked up two different signature sized cupcakes.

cupcakes

Both were filled with a chocolate ganache, one was chocolate chip cookie, the other was marble. They were moist and everything you would expect from a gourmet cupcake. This little bake shop couldn’t come more highly recommended. According to their site, some of their bigger shops even offer coffees and signature sandwiches. While the one I went to didn’t have such a wide variety, I would certainly look into trying these different goodies!

Throw Back Thursday: The Case of the Sinking Sponge

September is a big birthday month for me…  remember, we are calling this Throw Back Thursday for a reason! 3 birthdays to celebrate in 3 weeks. One birthday celebrant asked me for one thing, a sponge cake. Now, I am not a frequent cake maker and a ‘sponge cake’ as it was described to me was not how I would describe a ‘normal’ cake. So a week before the birthday I found a recipe online and gave it a try… and to my disappointment I came out with this:

Spongev1

Okay, so maybe it didn’t come out of the pan exactly like that; but it stuck to the tin so badly, it was so dense and crumbly that it hardly passed as a cake at all!

So I did a little more reading up, read that a smaller tin can help with the sinking problem and I tried a different recipe.

Spongev2

A smaller tin did NOT help with the sinking problem. It was a disaster. It was mistake after mistake (I thought my tin was a 8″ pan, it was really a 6″ pan – a too small tin can cause major sinking).

I tried 4 different cake recipes in 3 days, until I realized I had my Great Grandmother’s recipe cards.

RecipeCards

After heading to my local craft store and purchasing an actual 8″ cake tin. I whipped up my Great Grandmother’s 2 egg sponge cake. It was the closest I came in the week of trying to make sponge cakes. (I won’t even mention 3 additional attempts made by my partner in crime) In the end, my sponge was sandwiched with one of his with jam and fresh whipped cream in the middle and brought into the work place of the birthday boy to good fan fair.

I on the other hand was still not satisfied and decided to try my hand at making an Angel Food Cake (which sounded far more like what was being described to me than the ‘sponge cake’ my internet searches were turning up). I didn’t have a bundt pan, so I found this recipe for angel food cake in a loaf pan and served it with fresh whipped cream and strawberries for the after birthday dinner treat. After all that sponge cake madness it turns out that the fluffy, slightly rounded top and moist center of what I know as the Angel food cake is what we should have been trying to make the whole time!

If there is any lesson to be learned in all this it is to keep your cool in the kitchen at all times and if one recipe or idea doesn’t work, there are always others!

Just a Bite… Of Good Reading

This book review has been a long time in coming. Remember when I picked up all those books at the library so many months ago? That’s okay, I barely remember myself. So you will have to bare with me as I stumble my way through this review. A review that wouldn’t have even been written if this wasn’t such a memorable cook book!

Gale Gand’s just a bite: 125 Luscious Little Desserts

Gale Gand and Julia Moskin

GaleGandBite

Her recipes are perfectly sized and fit for serving not just at parties but at any occasion. While she provides many ideas and tips for entertaining, her recipes are still accessible for home chefs who just want a unique treat after dinner. There is also a great variety of treats. From the classics you remember as a kid to ones that have great new twists. It is certainly a book I hope to pick up again in the near future and spend some more time with.

But another feature that I love about this book, or more, love about this author, is her website and the little snippets and recipes she provides. I know that I will be trying her Mint Chocolate Chip MeringuesSoon!

Roses are red…

You may have seen my last frustration filled post. An experiment gone wrong. Well, there certainly were a few bumps along the way, but I will admit, the end result was not entirely disastrous! Meringue roses…

…and here they are! There is nothing special about the meringue recipe itself. Just your basic Swiss Meringue recipe. I didn’t want to try anything special or tricky, the main focus of this experiment was going to be in presentation. I recently bought some new gel coloring and new pastry tips and wanted to give those babies a spin.

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Icing colors, they work for meringues too!

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Beautiful new pastry tips

This is what I came up with!

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Red Red Roses

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That looks like a rose right?

I am really happy with them considering all the trouble with the pastry bags. I am terribly impressed with the gel food coloring, how bright and vibrant the colors are. The pictures don’t really do justice to that aspect.

Not to mention, after making due with only one pastry tip for all of my meringue adventures so far, it was so much fun to have 12 new tips to play with. It was kind of like writing in black ink for years and then finding out that Crayola markers exist! I went a little crazy.

But after all that effort to make something pretty, you want it to be tasty too right? I tried a new type of flavoring called an emulsion. I’m not too sure what the difference is between that and an extract is, but I will be doing a little more research and experimenting and getting back to you with the answer! Suffice to say now, after using a raspberry emulsion in these meringues, emulsions may be the way to go. The flavor was bright and vibrant and just down right yummy. My head is just spinning with thoughts of raspberry chocolate chip!

I guess that just goes to show that if you don’t try you will never know… and even if you don’t think you succeed at first, the results might be a little sweeter than you think!

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List of things that can go to hell…

As far as I am concerned, here is the list of things that can go to hell:

  1. Disposable Pastry Bags
  2. Reusable Pastry Bags
  3. Anything called a Pastry Bag

I’m sorry. I don’t normally vent my frustration in such a colorful (and public) manner, but after the debacle last night during my kitchen experiment I believe a touch of colorful language to be necessary.

I went to my local craft store yesterday afternoon (they have a really decent baking/candy/ pastry section) with the goal of picking up some new pastry tips and gel color to make some meringue roses (stay tuned for that post, it will be coming soon! HERE!). I came home with a bountiful load of goodies.

Goodies

I was especially excited to use the pastry tips with my new pastry bags. Usually I just use a gallon plastic freezer bag. They are cheap, flexible, easy to come by; what’s not to like!? But I thought with a pastry bag perhaps piping the meringue would be easier, or I would get better results (and I will admit, part of me wanted to look the professional part of baker). But these pastry bags were just not for me. Perhaps I got the wrong size, or wrong brand, but I couldn’t find one redeeming quality in these bags.

They were difficult to fill. They were difficult to pipe through. The re-useable bag was damn near impossible to clean. The meringue wouldn’t make its way down the cone and even gentle prodding caused a gush of meringue to come seeping out of the top of the bag, I had meringue not only all over my hands, but somehow up to my elbow as well. Now that I look back, it was probably pretty comical and I must give my partner all the credit in the world for not coming into the kitchen and bursting out laughing at the disheveled state of me and the kitchen, but calmly listened to me vent… before slowly backing out of the kitchen and leaving me to it.

I won’t be using these bags in the future and it will take a lot to convince me to give them another whirl. In the mean time, I have to find a use for 23 unused disposable pastry bags… and it won’t be making meringues.