This post won’t be about cake (sorry!). We got 12 1/2 inches of snow dumped on us last night and school was cancelled. I’ve decided to share with you a little of what we do on our days off! We started the day with French Toast. Why? Because we have eggs coming out our ears and 3 loaves of bread, so why not! Then we made homemade soft pretzels. This is a tradition that goes back to my childhood…well, my Mom’s childhood, truth be told. The recipe at the end of the post.
Soft Pretzels ~ Heaven on a Rack!
This is one of my very favorite appetizers OF.ALL.TIME! So much, in fact, that I craved them while I was preggers with my youngest and could have probably eaten a whole batch of them in one sitting! They are flakey and cheesey and salty…yummy! These are very nice hot and fresh from the oven! The smell of these baking brings back many memories of spending Christmas with my Dad’s family. And as a Holiday treat, I’m sharing the recipe with you! It comes from my Grandmother on my Dad’s side. I’m not sure where she got the recipe from, but they sure are yummy!
1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup butter
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 (5 oz) jar of pimento-stuffed olives (normal-sized, not jumbo)
Cut together the cheese, butter and Worcestershire sauce with a pastry blender. Add the flour and salt. Wrap the olives in bits of paste (about 1 tsp), roll them into a ball and place on cookie sheets. Freeze them until hard, about 1 hour. Bake (straight from the freezer) at 425 degrees for 12 minutes and serve hot.
1. DO NOT line your baking sheets with foil…they will stick!
2. If the ingredients are all room temperature, it works much better.
3. These freeze well, so after they are frozen on a cookie sheet, put them into zip-top bags to remove on an as-needed basis!
4. Be careful, they are addicting!
Hope everyone has a safe and happy Holidays! See you all after the new year!
Well, I tested two more recipes today…both yellow cakes. My problem now is that they are both good, but for different reasons! The first has great moisture, texture and flavor (but to me is a little on the sweet side). The second is perfectly yellow, moist, has great texture and good flavor, but could be a little sweeter! DILEMAS! My trusty cake taster is off work today, so not around town to taste them, so they will probably wait until tomorrow for a deciding factor! I may just tweak the second recipe a little to make it a bit more sweet!
Sorry this post will have no pictures…keep reading though! 🙂
I bake all my cakes from scratch. I use recipes and quality ingredients, but sometimes, just sometimes…even using great ingredients and recipes makes for bad cake! I spent the day yesterday testing recipes. I searched high and low on the internet looking for highly-rated cake recipes. When I found them, I printed them out. Then I chose a few to bake. I’m not sure why so many people liked this particular yellow cake recipe. One of the yellow cakes I tested was spit-out-of-your-mouth nasty…and it actually had a really high rating…by a lot of people!
I’ve been getting a few complaints that my cakes have good flavor, but are a little on the dry side. I heard it especially, about my white cake, so that prompted the search. After a few failures (yellow cake), I have found THE PERFECT CHOCOLATE CAKE! The flavor, texture and moisture-level are perfect…it’s superb! I also tested a white cake that I really love too! The flavor is almost like an angel food cake, but a little denser and it’s pretty darn moist too!
See, texture is key in stacked cakes. While it would be nice to have a soft, fall-apart-melt-in-your-mouth cake, it’s really hard to layer and stack a cake like that! Sides bulge, they crumble when torted, and they squish when stacking…makes a decorator’s life a nightmare! 🙂 So, I’m trying to find a happy medium!
Back to baking…
Modeling Chocolate Monkeys
In two weeks, I’m making a shower cake for a very dear friend who is having twins, a girl and a boy! Here’s the modeling chocolate monkeys I’ve been working on. The first one I did took about 2 hours to figure out how to get it right (the girl monkey). The next one was the boy monkey. He only took about 1/2 hour, but that was because the hat was giving me fits! It was supposed to be a baseball cap, but ended up being a little beany. The third was the one laying down…he only took about 20 minutes. Then the last one was the sitting one. He only took about 10, but I wasted about 1/2 hour trying to find something small for him to sit on! I imagine these will get easier to do as time goes on!
Here’s the recipe (by the way, I used 3 recipes…one dark chocolate, one white chocolate and one peanut butter chip…the leftovers are going to be used as decoration for the cake):
Modeling Chocolate (or Candy Clay)
14 oz chocolate (any kind will work)
1/3 cup light corn syrup
Using a double boiler, bring the water to a boil. Poor chocolate into a bowl that fits over the pan but doesn’t touch the water. Turn off the heat and add the bowl over the saucepan. Gently stir until all the chocolate is melted. Poor in the corn syrup and stir until a ball forms. It will look as if the chocolate has seized, but it is normal. Pour out onto waxed paper and allow it to cool. When cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest overnight.
To use the chocolate, break or cut off a small amount and knead in your hands until the chocolate softens. Repeat with small chunks until you have enough to complete your project.
Things I did learn:
- Modeling chocolate is SUPER easy to make. I almost thought I screwed it up!
- Modeling chocolate is difficult to work with if you have hot hands…fortunately, mine only get that way under pressure (or if I’m standing on a ladder changing a light bulb in the ceiling fan…eeek!)
- It smells yummy! And tastes pretty good too. Next time though, I’ll use a higher quality chocolate.
- It helps to get everything set up first and all the chocolate kneaded until it’s softened before you start.
- Keep your work area dusted with powdered sugar or cocoa powder, because once that stuff starts to melt a little, it’s sticky!
- It is much easier to use than fondant or gumpaste, as it doesn’t dry up. It does, however, cool and harden as it cools, but you can warm it up with your fingers to make it pliable again.
When I get the cake done (March 7), I’ll be sure to post a picture!