Friday, July 27, 2012

Oreo’s Centennial Celebration Continues

I was in the grocery store, where so many of my ideas begin, and saw Golden Oreo Fudge Cremes with Birthday Cake Filling.  The Birthday Cake cream filing has reappeared, after it seemed like public love and outcry that its previous limited release was a little too limited.  During its previous release, I made these inspired cookies.  Everyone in my office loved them, but I could no longer find the cookies after I made those cookies.  I was out of town at a wedding a few weeks later and I saw them at a local grocery story there.  I bought 10 packages of Birthday Cake Oreos.

Do not judge me. I was so excited that I did not think reasonably.  I shared my impulse over-purchase with co-workers and other that did not get a chance to taste the cookies the first go round.  When I saw the Fudge Cremes, there was no urge to buy enough cookies to feed a large daycare center, however.  I bought two packages, one I used for this dessert and the other I used for pictures (which remains at home, opened but disappearing slowly).

After I bought these, I did not know what to do with them.  They are tasty, if that is your thing, but that is not my (or my housemates) thing.  What to do?  When in doubt, Rice Krispie it out!  I decided to incorporate them into the old standby, no-bake, yet delicious treat.  Instead of chopping them up (been there, done that, blogged about it), I layered them in the treat.

These are not rocket science to create—Lay down a layer of cookies, a half batch of rice krispies treats, repeat…top with sprinkles.  That is about it.  So, if you are in the mood to celebrate Oreo’s Birthday all over again, you may want to try these, or I would recommend trying the Original Birthday Cake Oreos, which have made a reappearance in stores this week.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

If Two Birthdays, then Two Cakes

That logically makes sense, right?

Two of my co-workers, in my little office of 7 people, have the same exact birthday.  For birthdays we generally do lunch from the place of the birthday person’s choice and cake.  At our office meeting, while discussing the arrangements for my co-workers’ birthday, one co-worker jokingly asked would there be two cakes.  I said no (as the resident cake baker), one cake with two names.

Even though it was jokingly asked, I thought what a great surprise two cakes would be.  I champion the cause of NO DUEL HOLIDAYS & PRESENTS.  My own birthday is a mere 12 days after Christmas.  Just 12 days to get over the holiday over spending, kindness and caring spirit burn-out, and holiday pounds that have returned (plus some).  My birthday is usually fraught with part 2 of a previous  gift (i.e., earrings at Christmas, matching necklace at birthday); New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, of which the will power to continue has not dissolved yet; church fasting that always starts January 1 and disallows birthday cake (among other things); and cancellations/lack of participation due to weather.  Most of these I cannot control (weather, other’s diets, and it would be rude/ungrateful to refuse the second part of a two-part gift from anyone… except my mom), but as a person who often gets the dual-holiday short-end of the stick, I could not just lump these two birthdays together.

I decided to make two completely separate cakes—no flavors or components where duplicated (no half gifting here).  The flavors did have to at least be able to comfortably exist next to each other because I put them on the same cake board, in the same box, to retain the element of surprise.  The first cake is a Vanilla Bean Cake, and the second is a Banana Cake with a Peanut Butter Filling and Chocolate Ganache Frosting.  The cakes easily existed on the same board, but they were completely separate and independent, just the way any good holiday and gift should be!

Vanilla Bean Cake

I wanted to try a new recipe, so I used a Warren Brown recipe for United Cakes of America.  The cake came out okay (in my opinion) and my co-workers liked the denser texture of the cake, though it was not supposed to be dense.  The recipe used six… yes 6… eggs separated with the egg whites being folded in at the end.  (I love Mr. Brown’s story—law to baking—and sometimes I consider dream of following a similar, though not exactly the same path, BUT in trying his recipes I have always found them overly/unnecessarily complicated or ingredient heavy [hello, potato starch in this recipe] with varying results.  Just putting it out there… sorry.) 

The frosting was a Swiss Meringue Butter Cream (SMBC) with Vanilla Bean flecks.  It was awesome.  This cake, as a whole, was definitely the office favorite (this was the cake with the name of the co-worker who is in charge of personnel/HR in our office on it… coincidence?).

I used the recipe out of the book, but you can access it here- Amazing Vanilla Cake.

Banana Cake with Peanut Butter filling and Chocolate Ganache frosting

This cake was my favorite and, I believe, the better cake.  I used bananas I threw in the freezer to save from over ripening, just like you would use for banana bread.  I usually do not care for banana desserts; the taste, texture, and density of typical banana desserts are unpleasant to me.  First, I cannot even eat a banana with a brown spot and warn bananas in my crepes make my stomach turn.  So, the thought of over ripe bananas disturbs me.  Second, the texture of mashed bananas in desserts usually leads to a heavy dense, soggy, mess.  Ewww.

To combat those typical issues I drained off the liquid from the bananas after they defrosted.  Also, I used a stick blender to make a smooth banana puree, there would be no dense banana chunks in my cake.  I believe the banana puree is the secret to ensuring this cake is heavy on banana flavor, but light in texture.

The filling was simply Peanut Butter mixed into a Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  It was yummy and silky.  Peanut butter is a strong flavor however, and I suggest using it sparingly on the cake as to not completely cover up the banana flavor, which is more delicate.  Similarly, with the Chocolate Ganache frosting, it can (and I believe did here) over power the cakes flavor balance.  I would suggest lightening the gananche by adding it to a SMBC or using a Chocolate SMBC instead.

This cake was not as well received (in theory) by most of my office mates, who overwhelmingly choose to try the vanilla cake.  If they had sampled this one, however, I believe they would have chosen this cake as the favorite.  It is hard to be, especially when it is undeserving, the lowest cake on the totem pole.  That’s okay, I loved it and if you try it, I think you will too!

I followed the recipe pretty straight forward from Moms Who Think, except I did not use a cream cheese frosting.  (Side note: I just re-read the recipe and I feel like an idiot.  It says banana puree; I thought it said mashed banana.  I thought I was doing something novel in using my stick blender to make a puree, but apparently not.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

To Pie or not to Pie, that is the Question

As part of my top 100 list I have included a few pies.  Pies are not something that I bake a lot, well not real pies with flaky, homemade crust and fruit filling.  Nevertheless, part of having a top 100 list is to challenge myself, right? Right.

So, on this one particulate Saturday, I was ready to tackle two items on my top 100 list—Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and a double crust pie.  When I went to the wholesale super store that morning, I bought a large tub of strawberries.  Yet, when I went to my favorite local grocery store, they had no rhubarbs in stock.  (Mind you, ever since this day I have seen them in stock.   Just not on the day when I needed them…)  Without rhubarb I could not make a Strawberry rhubarb pie.  Considering I had more strawberries than my household could eat before perishing, I had to think of a plan B.  Peaches were just starting to come into season, and looked great.  So, the idea become a Double Crusted Strawberry Peach Pie.

I used this original recipe I had for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, with a few tweaks to account for the peaches instead.  I first made the dough, taking caution to keep the ingredients cold and freezing butter and shortening, etc…  I wanted a flaky double crust.  I hulled, peeled, cut-up, sliced, and mutilated all the fruit.  Now came the time for rolling out of the crust.  I rolled the dough between parchment papers, but I just could not get it to work for the bottom of my piecrust.  The dough started to get warm and I freaked out, thinking about the butter and shortening speckles I carefully ensured were cold during the mixing process melting into the dough.  So, in the freezer the dough went.

I did this 2 more times before feeling like I wanted to give up.  Why could I not get this dough rolled out properly AND into my pie dish?  I was ready to quit and actually was in the process of wrapping the sough in plastic wrap and taking it to the trash.  However, when I considered the amount of butter in the crust I would be wasting and having no clue what to do with the fruit that was now ready for the pie, I put on my problem solving hat.  The dough was not getting big enough without being too thin to cover the pie pan. I decided to turn the pie into a single crust pie, quickly working the two separate dough rounds into one and putting it back in the freezer ONE more time.

This worked like a charm and the one layer of crust was perfect.  Just to point out, the recipe was not the problem, it was me!  I used a pie pan larger than the recipe recommended 9-inches.  There was not enough dough to cover the bottom and top of my-too-big pie pan.  Now, what would I do on the top of the pie to cover it?  Two, and only two, words came to mind, crumb topping.  I googled and quickly found a well-rated crumb topping recipe and whipped it up and placed it on the pie.

The pie baked up pretty well and looked okay.  Taste wise, the bottom crust was flaky, and the fruit filling was divine.  It was not too sweet and paired nicely with a scope of vanilla ice cream.  The crumb topping was nice and crunch on top (no nuts were in it), but did not bake evenly.  I may have piled it on far too much, squishing it in the process.  The center was slightly underdone.  Overall, the pie was okay, but not worth sharing my recipes as I am not thrilled with my initial results.  I will continue to play around with it.  After all, I went from trying to accomplish two items off my top one hundred list, to accomplishing none!  So, there will definitely be more pie in my future… unfortunately…

Monday, July 02, 2012

Cookies in Support of a Cure

A very good friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of 2011.  My friend was just the tender age of 28 when she received her diagnosis.  She immediately took on cancer head on.  She pursued an aggressive course of treatment with a positive, combative, and victorious attitude.  Though everyday has not been a good day, they have all been days where she has shown her strength and determination.  No overactive-cell was going to invade her body and take over without a fight.  She has fought and continues to fight it.  She is a young women, a friend, an auntie, a creative person, an athlete, and much much more… and now, she can add warrior and cancer survivor to her every growing list of attributes!

In celebration of her continuing victory over cancer, my friend formed team “Red Devil Riderz” (RDR), to come together and join as one as we walked/raced for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.  (The name is a play on one of my friend’s chemotherapy medications.)  It was awesome to see how much support my friend had through online donations, people walking and racing at the event, and those that showed up after the race.  Though physically treating cancer is something that only my friend’s body can do, every other aspect of her recovery has been a supportive group effort of her spirit, mind, and will to succeed.

To commemorate the event and just provide a little treat to all those who were there to support team RDR, I made these sugar cookies.  I used my typical decorated sugar cookie and royal icing recipes.  After the race (and actually during the walk for a few folks), the cookies were a welcomed treat.  A nice crunchy, sweet finish to an awesome day in support of my friend, her triumphs over cancer, an organization fighting to end a terrible disease, and millions of other cancer survivors as well.