Monday, August 13, 2007

Finding My Phood Muse Again

Was it really just April 29th when I last wrote? It feels like a year or more has passed. It's been a busy summer, some good busy, some ok busy and some just downright high on the ick factor busy.

I haven't done a lot of in depth cooking since my last entry except for a wedding cake. That was monumental. I wanted to blog the process but really just needed to get the thing baked and delivered. I did take a picture of the final product. I was happy with it. The bride was happier. It was a tribute to flavor. The largest layer was chocolate cake with hazelnut syrup, hazelnut buttercream between layers and a thin layer of Nutello mixed with a bit of apple sauce spread over the layers to help keep it moist. The next layer up, my favorite, was a lemon cake. From a regular yellow cake recipe, I simply replaced the vanilla with lemon extract. It was so brightly flavored. Between the layers was a lemon buttercream and a layer of raspberry all fruit jam. The top two layers were the same flavors, chocolate cake sprinkled with rum and coffee with rum buttercream between. All of it was covered with rolled fondant flavored with either hazelnut or lemon depending on the layer. It worked. I have made quite a few wedding cakes over the years. Each time I am happy with them. I take a few years break, thinking I'll never do that again, then a friend with an as yet unmarried relative comes crawling out of the wood work and asks if I still bake cakes. I always seem to answer yes. About half way through the process I start wondering what I got myself into and how could I say yes again, etc. But by the end I feel like I've accomplished something wonderful for someone I care about. It's worth it.

Finished cake. No topper, she didn't think it needed it.

I am settling into my new place. It is a beautiful 1920's apartment with hardwood floors, high ceilings and lots of windows. The kitchen is of an actual workable size. I haven't had any parties yet. There are still a lot of unopened boxes blocking space my dining room. I have, however, taken to making ice cream. The back yard has a couple of nice flower gardens and one is just teaming with mint. So, what else, mint ice cream happens. I used the base recipe from David Lebowitz Perfect Scoop. To that I added more mint (I really like the flavor) and chopped up bittersweet chocolate. That was super yummy. Every now and then I think about the flavor of that first batch and I actually miss it. I must make more before summer is over. Thankfully, summer in the midwest can last right on into late October. My next batch was Maple Walnut ice cream. My sister had given me a tin of Grade A Dark Amber and I found some walnuts at the farmers' market. It was a custard base that came out smooth and super creamy with a heady maple flavor and chunks of maple covered walnuts throughout. At the same time, some friends of mine had just returned from a trip to Mexico and had challenged me to make a sorbet like one they had tasted there. It was mango and chili's. Getting the mango sorbet was a breeze, but figuring out what kind of chili and how much is a work in progress. The first batch was with chipotle powder, only a half teaspoon in 2 quarts of sorbet. It was smokey and hot and frozen all at once. It went best, I think, mixed with a scoop of chocolate ice cream (which is exactly what we did at Stavra's Ice Cream Social). Without the chocolate ice cream, I found the chili a little too overwhelming and I'm no whimp when it comes to this stuff. So what flavor shall I make next? Research Geek and I were talking about sticky toffee pudding ice cream. I'm thinking it's a must! And, yes, I will start taking more pictures as I go. It's a bad habit of mine to forget that I own a camera at all.

So here I am, sitting at my desk in late evening thinking about what will be next. I am going to start a sourdough starter tomorrow night and go for the bread this weekend. I can't wait to try sourdough flapjacks and doughnuts. I promise to write all about it in the coming weeks. I'm busy getting ready for a new semester in school, working hard and settling in, but I miss the writing. I am making more time for it and for the baking and cooking that inspires it. How else will I get any relaxation if I don't make time to work in my kitchen?

More later....and beyond.... ;)

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