Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta

I was feeling adventurous yesterday. Or maybe it had more to do with the fact that we have an empty fridge and I didn't feel like going to the store. Of course, I never really feel like going to to the store. But I guess that is just life. 

I have always wanted to try making my own pasta. But, it just never happened. I thought that to do it right I needed a pasta machine or else it would be super complicated and take more time than it was worth. But, with some extra spaghetti sauce, no packaged noodles, and no other better ideas for dinner... I decided to give it a go. 

Surprisingly, it didn't take that long at all. I had a lot of fun making them, and yeah, the noodles were really really good. 

Start off with 2 cups of whole wheat flour ( I used King Arthur's 100% Whole Wheat) and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Make a well in the center and crack in two eggs. Add in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Mix around with your hands and then knead for 4-5 minutes until smooth and elastic. You may need to add water to get it to the right consistency. With 2 cups of flour I had to use about 1/4 cup water to get it right. 

Roll it out as thin as you can. It will be hard to get it thin if you are trying to roll it out all at once. The gluten is activated during kneading causing it to shrink back when you try to roll it. If you get frustrated just let it sit for 5-10 minutes and the gluten will relax enough for you to roll it out thinner. It may take letting it relax two or three times to get it as thin as you want. It worked out for me because I was working on make the sauce while it rested. 

Roll it up into a log and with a sharp knife cut it into small rolls. Like you would make cinnamon rolls. 

Unroll and eat it right away or let it dry and eat it later. 

They were really tasty and they tasted just as good as leftovers the next day. 

100% Whole Wheat Pasta
Serves 3-4
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Water as needed

Measure out flour and salt into bowl. Make a well in the center and add olive oil and eggs. Mix until well blended. Add water if needed until the dough comes together. Knead until smooth and elastic. Let rest for a few minutes then roll out. As you roll you may need to let it rest a few more times for 5-10 minutes each time. When it is as thin as you can get it, roll it up into a log and cut thin slices. Unroll the noodles and let dry or cook right away. 
To cook: Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Dump in the fresh noodles. Only leave them in there for a few seconds. Drain off the water and serve with sauce or toppings of choice.  

This post is a part of Tuesday Twister over at GNOWFGLINS.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Wedding Cake

Now, onto the wedding cake. I also baked the wedding cakes on Thursday. In the picture below you can get a glimpse of the chaos that ensued that day. 

Here I am about to make my 4th out of 6 batches of cake. I have cakes in the oven, cakes cooling, and cakes wrapped ready to be put in the fridge. The recipe I used was the Vanilla Buttermilk Cake that I found off of Smitten Kitchen's blog. She used this recipe to make a wedding cake for her friend that she blogged about. If you like reading about cake-making, her account is pretty fascinating as well. She used a swiss buttercream that is on my list of things to try. For my cake I used a standard buttercream icing, and raspberry jam for the filling.

I used 5 dozen eggs for this project between all the cakes.

The bride wanted her cakes to be separated by silver spheres. They are called globe pillars. Normally they are $9-10 for a set of four. For this cake I needed 12 for three layers. I didn't wanted to spend $30 plus shipping so I came up with another idea. I went to Michaels and found foam balls for $4.49 a bag. I got a bag of 2" for the bottom tier, and a bag of 11/2" for the second and third tiers. Then I got 3 wooden dowels that were under $1 a piece as the separator dowels for the cake. 

I borrowed Chris' drill and drilled a hole through each one. 

I think it looks pretty legit for styrofoam and cardboard. When I was at Michaels I also bought some metallic silver paint to make the spheres silver. It took 3-4 coats to cover it well enough. 

Then I assembled the cakes. It is helpful to smear a little bit of frosting onto the board before you put the cake on to adhere it and keep it from sliding.

For the second tier they wanted a hexagon cake. I didn't have a pan so I made it in a circle pan and cut off the sides. I know that I am not very mathamatical and there was probably a better way to measure than I chose. But even after 15 minutes of measuring and calculating the sides still weren't even. Then for some reason the top layer was not lining up with the bottom. I had already placed it and then tried to pick it up but the jam acted like glue and it was a mess. Cake was everywhere the jam started oozing out the sides because I kept trying to pick up the top layer and move to line it up correctly. haha Next time I am going to buy the cake pan. Or have Chris help me because he probably would have made it even. 

One of the cakes for the bottom layer got really brown and I didn't want to use it if I didn't need it. I had baked three layers and the other two were not overdone but high in the middle. So instead of leveling them off by cutting down the middle, I just cut off the top of the overdone cake and filled in the sides of the other two layers to make it level. It worked really well. 

All four cakes are assembled and crumb coated and ready to be frosted. 

The topper was the last thing to go on. When I opened the package they were broken apart and the bride was holding the grooms hand. Someone found super glue at the last minute, and Chris saved the day and put them back together before the wedding started. Yay Chris!

The finished cake. It was funny because in the middle of the cake cutting after they fed the cake to each other the bride looks over at me and said "oh, this is good". It made me smile really big :).

This is the aftermath. They surprisingly ate almost all the cake. I am very happy with how it all turned out and I am going to print off the pictures of the finished cakes and start a portfolio. I really enjoyed the whole process and I learned a lot. Hopefully you enjoyed reading about it and I can't wait for my next culinary challenge. Anyone in the Northeast GA area need a cake?


Yesterday was the wedding. It was beautiful and I am very happy for the newlyweds. I didn't take any pictures of the actual wedding. I only took pictures of the cake. I guess that shows my priorities. The cake is all that matters. Right? 

Today I will post about how I made the icake :). 

On Tuesday I made the black and grey fondant as the base for the cake. On Thursday I made another batch to color for all the apps. I wanted to make it fresh that day for all the detail work so it would be easier to work with. I found out that it takes a lot of work to get it soft and pliable again after it has been refrigerated. 

I referenced a photo of another iphone cake someone made online, and made a list of what colors I needed for each app. This is my interpretation of the solar system :).

I like to use the gel colorings. It doesn't change the consistency too much like liquid coloring and gives a truer and richer color to your finished product. Use it sparingly, because a little goes a long way.

I found a square cookie cutter at Michael's that was a life saver. I placed all the squares on a piece of wax paper that I rubbed with shortening. It worked very well and nothing stuck.

Make sure everything is well coated in powdered sugar when rolling it out. Especially when rolling with a wooden rolling pin. Fondant likes to stick. 

I had a little cutting board and a super sharp knife to do all my detail work. I am working on the calculator app at this point. 

Once everything was cut and put in place, I went through and stuck all the pieces together with water. 

I also baked the cakes on Thursday. The recipe I used was the Strawberry Dream Cake recipe from allrecipes. I used a different icing, I didn't use any oil, I didn't add the extra egg, I used strawberry cream cheese, and I added red food coloring. It turned out perfectly. I had a half-sheet pan and used two cake recipes for each layer. After they cooled I wrapped them in plastic wrap and let them refrigerate overnight. On Friday for the assembly I laid out everything I needed. 

I unwrapped the first cake and placed it on the board. One corner was high, so I cut it off and placed it on the low corner on the other side. It evened out nicely and kept me from wasting cake. When putting filling in a cake you want to pipe icing around the edges to make a dam so the filling won't fun out when the second cake is placed on top. 

I used a strawberry jelly filling. 

Take your second cake, make sure it is evened out and CAREFULLY place it on top. 

It is always helpful to start off with a crumb coat on your cake. Take a few big spoonfuls of icing and place it in a separate bowl so the rest of the batch doesn't get contaminated. Spread a thin layer on the cake. This is to catch any crumbs so your final frosting will be smooth and free of stray cake.

After the cake was iced, I got the fondant ready. It had been siting out all morning, but was still pretty hard so I zapped it in the microwave for 60 seconds on power level 4. I kneaded it out for a while until it was pliable. It was a little dry so I added a touch of water and covered my hands in shortening to make it more smooth. Measure your cake and make sure you give yourself plenty of extra just in case. My cake was 3"x 12"x 20" if I remember right. So, when rolling it out my goal was 20"x 30". This part takes some time and lots of elbow grease so be ready.

Once you have reached your desired width and length, take your rolling pin and carefully roll it around the pin. Pick it up, position it over your cake and let it unroll. Work quickly to smooth it over the cake, then take a sharp knife to cut off the excess. 

I used a little bit of water on my fingers to smooth out cracks and pockets of powdered sugar. I used the gray as a border around the side and bottom and a panel on top.

Then I placed on the apps that I had made the day before and stuck them onto the cake with water. 

I used a little bit more white fondant to finish up the final touches. 

Voila! Here is the finished cake. I am quite pleased with how it turned out. I had a great time working on this project and everyone thought it is was as delicious as it was cool :). This is what I call a sweet success.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Cake is Finished! (but you can't see pictures yet)

Hey everyone. I have been meaning to update. But last night I was up until 10:00PM baking cakes and after I finished I practically just fell down. haha Then today things took longer than I thought they would and I am just finishing everything at 4:00AM. But they are done. Hallelujah! It has been a bit of a stressful week, yet fun and I got to be creative :).

So... the wedding is tomorrow morning at 11AM. I promise to document it well. I think the cakes turned out great. Now I am just terrified of something happening to them on the 2 hour drive there. Ah!

Hopefully tomorrow, but more likely Sunday, I will post about the rest of the process in a few posts. The cake baking, the decorating, the fondant, the cake separators, the assembly, etc. I took lots of pictures of everything and it will be fun to write about.

Thank you for your great comments and for reading. It is always encouraging to get feedback from you.

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

May My Hand Mixer Rest in Peace

Yeah! All the frosting is made, the cake boards are completed and I have made two out of three batches of fondant.

Before I continue I want to say a few quick words about a faithful member of our family. My hand mixer. It came to be in our house as a wedding present and we have had a very close relationship ever since. I knew I could trust it through thick and thin. But, I guess yesterday was too much. It couldn't take the pressure and gave out after the 5th batch of frosting. I missed it terribly as I hand mixed the final 6 batches to whipped creamy perfection. But on the bright side I feel that my left arm is more toned this morning :).

The buttercream icing for the wedding cake is pretty standard. I just picked one that uses all butter because I prefer the flavor over the recipes with shortening. For the groom's cake I made a cream cheese chocolate icing that is incredible. Normally, I am not a big fan of icing. I prefers muffins over cupcakes for this reason. However, after making a test batch of this frosting last week I admit I ate a few spoonfuls and even licked the bowl. It was a crazy moment. 

Cream Cheese Chocolate Icing
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 T butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 T milk or cream

Blend cream cheese and butter in mixing bowl. Add in powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add in cocoa powder. Then add in milk or cream one tablespoon at a time until it reaches desired consistency. Use it to frost immediately or store in fridge for later use.

Then I made fondant. It is so nice for covering cakes for that beautiful smooth finish. I would recommend making it from scratch as it tastes way better than the pre-made fondant.

Here is the recipe I used.

Marshmallow Fondant
1 lb marshmallows
2 tsp clear vanilla extract
2 T water
2 lbs. powdered sugar
shortening(I used butter flavored)

Use shortening to grease a large glass bowl. Add in marshmallows, vanilla, and water. Microwave on high for 60 seconds. Stir, and if the marshmallows are not dissolved, microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Sift in powdered sugar. Stir in the powdered sugar. When most of the powdered sugar is incorporated and it gets hard to stir, dump it all out onto your working surface. Knead until the rest of the sugar is incorporated and it is smooth and elastic. If it is too wet add more powdered sugar. If it is too dry add a little water and keep kneading until it reaches desired consistency.

You may color it right away and use immediately or you can rub it with shortening, cover it in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. It will last for weeks in the fridge. 
When you are ready to use it, take it out of the fridge and let it soften for a few hours. If it is still really hard zap it in the microwave for a few seconds. Knead it out until pliable and use as normal.

I took pictures of the process.

Melted marshmallows, vanilla and water.

Sifted powdered sugar. It looks like snow!

 I was going to take a picture of the part where you dump it all out on the table and mix it with your hands, but it was impossible to get the camera being covered in sugar. You will just have to imagine that part. Once it was smooth and I finished both batches I moved on to coloring the fondant. 

I took a third of one of the rolls and made it grey for the outer edge of the iphone. The rest I colored black to cover the cake. It was harder than I expected and it took me a full hour to knead in enough color to make it black. Phew! There are two reasons why I made it ahead of the time. I will not be decorating the cakes until Friday, and the first reason was for time. I want to be prepared, and give myself enough time so I am not working until 3AM on Saturday trying to finish. Also, I hear that when colored fondant sits for at least a day in the fridge the colors will set and deepen. I wasn't sure when i finished yesterday if it was dark enough, but after letting it sit for a day it definitely got darker. So, that was good.

I rubbed them with a good amount of shortening to keep them from cracking and drying out, and wrapped then with plastic wrap.

My fingers turned purple. haha

I was meaning to work on the fondant iphone apps today, but I ended up cleaning a house that took all day. So, tomorrow will be a full day with fondant work and baking all the cakes. I promise I will take lots of pictures. 

In other news, Chris and I got a tree and we decorated it on Monday night. It is perfect!
Chris still thinks it is not bright enough and we need to add more lights. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Project Wedding Cake Step 1: Frosting

This week I get to pretend to be a pastry chef. I will be making a wedding cake and groom's cake for my friends who are getting married on Saturday. The first will be four tiered vanilla cake with buttercream icing and black filigree piping. The second will be a strawberry cake with chocolate cream cheese icing and decorated like an iphone. 

It has been in the works for months and I have tried to plan as much as possible. On the agenda for today is to make 11 batches of frosting, 3 batches of fondant, color the fondant, and finish prepping the cake boards. For the boards I took each size cake pan and traced it onto a piece of cardboard. Then I cut it out with an exacto knife. For each cake I will have three layers of cardboard that I will tape together and cover in a decorative foil for the base.

I don't know about you, but if I am about to start a big project I want everything to be set up and prepped so I can work efficiently. I have been prepping for about two hours now trying to get everything together and in place. I straightened up the house and finished the laundry. I want the house to be in order before I start. Because, there is an off chance that I will still working on frosting when Chris gets home from work. 

I set out all my ingredients including 20 lbs. of powdered sugar, 4 lbs. of butter, 3 lbs. of marshmallows, and 2 lbs. of cream cheese. I gave myself props for all the math I had to do to come up with the amounts for what you see on the counter. Let's hope I did it right :).

 We brought in the table from the office and now I have a handy work surface, so I only have to clean up powdered sugar from the table and floor and not from the appliances and walls.

I set up my computer and speakers so I can jam out to christmas music and Adventures in Odyssey. 

I even set up a little bed with Bowdon's blankets by the heater so he has somewhere comfortable to lay down since we'll be in the kitchen all day. I think he likes to be with me whenever I am in the kitchen because he has this notion that I will inevitably drop food. No matter how careful I am, I always end up reinforcing that idea. Go figure. 

I will be posting over the next few days as I work on this project, so stay tuned :).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Twin Sisters Who Make Pink Waffles

I have already told you about my twin sister Nicole who lives in Mexico. She only comes home to visit once a year around Thanksgiving and she is home right now! I stole her away from the rest of our family for a few days to spend some time with me up here in Homer. During her 4 day stay here we exercised, cooked lots of food, ate said food, and spent hours at thrift stores and bookstores perusing shelves of books. It was perfect! We actually are very similar and our time spent showed our equal love of literature, fitness, and food :).

A highlight of our culinary creations were waffles. We tried several different varieties, but our favorite was one we created with cornmeal, beets, and coconut milk. It is naturally gluten free, as well as dairy and sugar free. We decided to make it savory and topped it with avocado and tomatillo salsa. Nicole wanted to add the extra beet on top for presentation, but it didn't go too good with the salsa. We just picked it off before eating the rest. 

It is hearty and can hold up to whatever toppings you throw at it, yet airy from whipping the egg whites separately. I think one of the best things about this waffle is the color. Who can resist a waffle that is naturally pink from real ingredients?

This was really quite tasty, and open to experimentation as well. You could add sweet potato, applesauce, banana, or even grated carrot and spices to the batter instead of the beet to be creative with different flavors and textures. 

Beet & Corn Waffles (Gluten free, Dairy free, Sugar free)
Serves 2
2 Eggs
1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
3/4 cup coconut milk ( I used half coconut milk and half water and it didn't seem to affect the flavor)
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 one large beet, roasted and peeled (about 1/2 cup)

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Place yolks, coconut oil, coconut milk, cornmeal, salt, and beet into food processor. Blend until the batter is smooth. In separate bowl beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Pour the cornmeal batter over the whipped egg whites and fold carefully until incorporated. Immediately pour 1/3 of batter onto preheated waffle iron. Repeat.
The recipe made three waffles in our waffle iron to feed the two of us. Serve with sweet or savory topping of choice.

We didn't just make waffles though. Here are a few pictures of some of our other creations.

Tomato Minestrone with Wild Rice 

Potato Lefses

100% Whole Wheat Pita Bread

Chickpea Falafels with diced cucumber and a cucumber dill yoghurt sauce served with whole wheat pita. I think this meal ties with our beet waffles for taste and enjoyment. Yummy!

Unfortunately we took lots of pictures of food and none of us together. I guess you can see where our priorities are when it comes to picture taking. haha I love her :).