Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chocolate with Francois - Chocolate-Honey Madeleines

Prior to this month's choice, by Julie of Little Bit of Everything, I had never baked Madeleines. I have seen them, and the pans for them, but never had any desire to try them. They looked to me to be fussy cookies, and I assumed they would be a lot of work and they just didn't interest me. Having said all that, when I saw that it was Julie that had picked this recipe I decided I had to give it a go. The fact that they were chocolate madeleines certainly didn't hurt. :)

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. These cookies were really quite simple to pull together. I decided to only bake half of the recipe, not knowing if I would like them or not. I had all the ingredients on hand except for the orange. However I did have orange extract and added a scant 1/4 teaspoon in place of the zest. I had everything mixed up and in the fridge in less than 30 minutes.

I ended up baking the Madeleines the following night after I got home from Starbucks. I knew if I didn't bake them that night I wouldn't have another chance to bake them before the 30th. So, after the hubby went to bed I heated up the oven and got ready to bake my first ever Madeleines.

Not having a Madeleine pan I used my mini muffin pan. Thanks Julie, for posting that hint. I also used cooking spray to prepare the pan. I used a star tip and pastry bag to pipe the batter into the pan. I was hoping the cookies would retain the swirls. They didn't. :( But, they baked up in the time recommended in the recipe and smelled delicious as they baked.

When I pulled the pan from the oven I saw I had about a dozen mini muffins. As I mentioned, no ridges or swirls remained after baking. I flipped them onto the prepared pan and after placing the pan in the sink, I picked up one to try. What? Thirty seconds isn't enough cooling time? :D Maybe not, but after smelling them bake I couldn't wait!
Delicious! A bit hot, but so yummy. Tender inside, a slight crunch on the edges. I can't say I tasted the honey. I had my doubts about whether I would taste it considering there was only 1/2 a tablespoon in the recipe. I could taste the orange flavor. It didn't overpower the chocolate, and I like the combination of orange and chocolate. I tried another one, just to be sure the taste and quality was the same. And then tried another one. :) So good! I may have tried one or two more before putting them away. In my defense I was only following the directions in the recipe. Francois says these should be eaten the day they are baked, as they aren't as good the next day. You know what? He's right. The next day I had one and it was nowhere near as yummy as the couple 5, or maybe it was 6 that I had the night before. It was chewy-er, rubbery-er (is that even a word!?!). The flavor was still good, but the texture had changed completely. Definitely better eaten the day they are baked, fresh out of the oven.

Overall? I would call them a success. Simple to put together. A lot of flavor. Light and delicious. I would love to try the regular ones as the recipes I have read call for lemon zest. I also think if I made these again I might add a bit more honey and skip the orange zest altogether. See if the honey flavor comes through. So, my thanks to Julie for choosing a great recipe. I am glad to be able to cross Madeleines off my list of things I haven't baked. Still have to try fresh croissants but that will be another day. :) Swing by CWF to see who else tried these and what they thought of them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

One (or several) reason I haven't been blogging lately

I have a few minutes this afternoon and thought I would try to post some pictures of the reason I haven't been blogging lately. Besides cleaning houses during the day and selling coffee at Starbucks at night, I have had several cake orders in the past two months. Thought I would share a few pictures of them with you. :)

This first one is a topsy-turvy cake I did for a baby shower. It is a White Almond Sour Cream cake with a simple butter-cream icing. I was given an apron and I scanned the design and then used my edible printer to print out several sheets of the design which I cut into ribbons and wrapped around the cake. I used a photo editing program to erase what was written in the hearts and write "baby girl" in each one. (They knew it was going to be a girl). I also cut out one heart and one rose from the pattern and placed them on the cake. It was a big hit at the shower.

The next cake is a birthday cake for a woman who likes the west. Her sister ordered the cake and asked me to do a "western-y" themed cake. This is what I came up with. It is another White Almond Sour Cream cake with the "ground and hills" in Fluffy Dark Chocolate  buttercream and the sky and clouds in an Almond buttercream icing. The horse is a frozen buttercream transfer.

After that I did a groom's cake for a UVA graduate. The bride asked me to make a Red Velvet cake with Cream Cheese icing and to make it in a UVA theme. I decided to color the icing blue and ice the cake with it. Then I did a frozen buttercream transfer of the "V". The sabers are made from gum paste colored orange.  I heard from the bride (as I was setting up her wedding cake) that everyone, including the groom, loved the cake.

Next we have the first of two weddings I had on the same day. This one was two tiers of White Almond Sour Cream (what can I's my most popular flavor) cake with Cinnamon buttercream and one layer of Espresso Sour Cream cake with Caramel filling. The cake was covered in fondant, which was impressed with a diamond pattern and small silver dragees were attached to each point of the diamonds using royal icing. The flowers are gum paste, hand painted and then dusted with a pearl luster dust. When the bride told me what she wanted I thought it would be too busy, but once I finished setting it up, I loved it!

The other cake that day was actually both cupcakes and a small 8" cake. Around the top of the 8" cake were ribbon roses made from chocolate fondant. The bride had a cupcake stand made and I placed 144 cupcakes iced in almond buttercream colored blue and chocolate buttercream. The 8" cake was to be placed on the top of the stand and used for the bride and groom to cut. They didn't have the cake topper when I set up the cupcakes so the cake with the topper was going to be placed on top of the stand later that day. Which is why I don't have a picture of it on the stand with the topper on it. :) The cupcakes were vanilla, chocolate and white almond. :)

This last one is not really a cake but a 12" chocolate chip cookie. The Mom (who last year I did a "Pizza" cake for one of her other sons) contacted me and asked if I could do a Lego cake only use cookie in place of cake. Turns out this son doesn't like cake or icing. I made all the legos using fondant. The squares and rectangles were easy. Each little nub though was a bit more labor intensive. I cut out the nubs using a #10 icing tip. Then, each block got 4 or 6 drops of water and each nub was placed on the drop of water, gluing it in place. Once dried I used royal icing, sparingly, to attach each block to the cookie. When the Mom picked it up she was thrilled with how it turned out and hugged me. I love baking for people. :)

So, that is one of the reasons I haven't been around lately. Or I guess it's 6 reasons. :) Hope to "see" you soon!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I'm still alive :)

Long time, no "see".  :}

I recently received an email from a fellow blogger/friend, Pam (Thank you for your concern Pam). She noticed I hadn't posted anything recently and wanted me to know she noticed, and to let me know that she was thinking of me and hoped all was okay. So, I thought I would take a couple of minutes tonight and say hello to anyone who has missed me.

Life has been extremely crazy for the last couple of months. I can't recall if I mentioned that my husband's Uncle had been murdered. It was pretty traumatic for the family. The trial for the man accused of the murder was in September. I am glad to say that he was found guilty of the murder and of the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The jury gave him 3 years for the firearm charge and 25 years for the 2nd degree murder charge. While it won't bring back Uncle Jerry, we are pleased that justice was served.

Then, later last month, my Mom's oldest sister passed away. As much as I wanted, I was unable to go to South Carolina to be with her and the rest of the family. I had two weddings booked on the same day (at the same time an hours drive from each other!) and had to stay at home to take care of business. The cake for one wedding and the cupcakes for the other wedding turned out great. I will post pictures later.

In addition to all that, I have also been busy during the day and Starbucks at night and weekends. Today I worked 9 to 5 at Starbucks.  It has left little time for me to do other fun things, like baking and blogging. Not that I am complaining. I am grateful to have the work. But, it seems like the only baking I have done lately has been for customers. I did bake for my Secret Baker last month, and baked for my Secret Baker this month. And, I made some delicious Caramel Crumble Bars after receiving some from my Secret Baker. (Thank you Leslie!) They were soooo good I had to find the recipe and make them again. I baked a delicious Pumpkin bread recipe that I will post later. It makes two 8x4 inch loaves. I kept one and am mailing the other one to my Secret Baker.

I am doing well emotionally at the moment. My doctor has tweaked my medication and we seemed to have found a good combination for me. I am feeling better about myself and my life and finding I have a bit more energy to do the things I need and want to do.

So,  for the moment, that's that. :) I promise to try and post on a more regular basis. I am not sure if I can keep up with my commitments to my baking groups and may have to drop out of them. But I will still try and bake an occasional recipe that's picked. In fact, last week I made the Chocolate Ganache ice cream from Dorie's "Baking" book. It was (is) fabulous!! Creamy, rich, so chocolaty. The hubby mentions how good it is each time he has some. :)

Thanks again for checking in on me. It is really nice to know I have friends out there that miss me. <3