Monday, August 1, 2011

Looking back at July

The month of July came and went in a flash.  Right before the 4th of July weekend, I showed you those wonderful chocolate marble madeleines that were so light & delicious.  To be honest with you, the first batch, although not a complete disaster, were very misshapen & certainly NOT good enough to show in my actual posting; I had to experiment with several batches of these little cakes before getting them just right.  What went wrong?  I had too much flour & too much leavening in the batter.  The madeleines ended up spreading way too much.  The cookies spilled over the top and fused against one another.  I'm not above showing you this kitchen mishap.  Avert your eyes if you're squeamish.


The failed recipe had one too many eggs, too much flour & too much sugar. 



Yikes!  This is what came out the first time.  NOT a Good Thing.



A sink with dirty equipment.  This is typical of my baking endeavors. 



My last batch was a success.  I was taking a little downtime here & enjoying these tasty cakelets with a bit of tea.  After that first bite, it was pleasing to see that my marbling hadn't gotten all muddy. 



Here's the flip side of the other madeleine.  The perfect blend of chocolate & vanilla.

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Note: I just finished reading a small story on madeleines written by Dorie Greenspan.  In it she reveals the secret to getting that desirable hump on her madeleines.  I must say it's very compelling & I'm certainly going to profit from it in the future.  Thank you Dorie!

~

This is how I work whenever I develop a recipe.  I make several write-ups, taking notes here & there.  If something needs tweaking, I write it down.  The notebook behind my recipe sheets has a list of future Monthly Cookie recipes & ideas that I eventually want to get to.



If you haven't guessed it by now, I like to share.  I'm always eager to have friends try "experiments" from my kitchen.  The feedback for me is great because I get to see how people initially respond to something.  Everyone liked them!



Do you remember that easy affogato I showed you?  After reviewing the pictures from this photo shoot, I decided against them.  The scoop looked too much like a brain floating in coffee!  Tasty, but not pleasing to the eye; this was fine for me because it meant that I was able to have more affogato later in the week.  I also decided to swap this white bone china tea cup and the piece of felt it was sitting on. What was I thinking?  Instead, I pulled out a drabware tea cup & saucer and set it atop a porcelain platter.  The silver teaspoon was the same.



Who can forget those beautiful Martha by Mail Noah's Ark Copper Cookie Cutters that are from my private collection?  What I didn't tell you was that I had just used all three sets (27 cutters total) to make a series of cookies for a baby shower that was close to my heart.  My darling nephew who was born around Easter, was celebrated by our family several weeks before his arrival.  The cutters from Set ISet II, & Set III were the perfect ones to use for such an occasion.  After cutting two of every animal and baking them, it was time to ice them.    


This sheet pan had several baked cookies in the shapes of lions, doves, peacocks, owls & horses.  The sugar & chocolate cookies were iced with a simple outline & pretty dots in the palest of robin's egg blue. 


Here's another sampling of these delicious cookies.  I also made edible announcement shapes that were stamped with Welcome Baby & some that had the baby's name, Aiden Robert.  Do you see the cookie on the bottom right?  That dough was marbled!



A closeup of some beautiful giraffes & a cute, little skunk.  The tiny dots in that lovely Tiffany blue shade were flocked with fine sanding sugar.  No other adornment was needed.



Some more animals.  This tray includes magnificent ostriches, a polar bear, a seal, an alligator, a kangaroo & some woolly sheep.  Cute, wouldn't you say?



These particular cookies were being shipped across the country & needed special attention.  I used strong, reusable plastic containers with tight fitting lids.  They were lined with paper grass & each cookie was gently placed and cushioned into them.  The animals arrived safely and everyone enjoyed them. 



This was a story I was planning on writing about, but because of time constraints, I never quite managed to get to.  There are only a few short weeks during late June & early July when the puckery-tart, montmorency cherries are available at local farmer's markets.  I've seen people get a bit nasty with one another when the last batch is sold, because everyone eagerly wants to take some home.  Don't these look good?



When I got home from the market I placed them on a cake stand in my kitchen.



These ruby red delicacies are too tart to eat raw.  They must be cooked down with sugar to bring out their flavor.  My cherries ended up getting washed, pitted & frozen for later use.  I vow to make a pie or tart with them soon & blog about that.  Stay tuned! 



This is just another lovely shot of that yummy Whipped Cream Chocolate Cake.  It's such a quick and simple recipe.  Everyone ought to try it.


Onto my birthday cake.  Some of you may be thinking to yourselves, why on earth is he baking his own cake on his birthday?  I'll tell you a little story and shed some light as to why.  Many years ago, my spouse surprised me with a birthday cake from a very reputable fresh & organic grocery store.  It was a small genoise covered in buttercream which looked rather appealing.  After our first bite, however, we quickly detected staleness.  We ate our little slices with a bit of a grimace on our faces and didn't bother saving the leftover cake.  Needless to say, I vowed never repeat that incident again.  Ever since then, I've been making my own birthday cakes and I rather quite enjoy it.  Mom spoiled us growing up, because we never had store bought birthday cakes at our house and quite honestly, neither did my spouse. Never! 

Some of the cakes I've enjoyed over the years include: a lemon blueberry bundt cake, an upside down cake, a chocolate cake with seven minute frosting, a coconut layer cake, a blueberry pie (!), a Boston Cream Pie, a lemon layer cake, a devil's food cake and even a "chicken" cake (this was baked in a lovely chicken shaped mold).  I don't like repeating myself, so I search and search through the hundreds of recipes out there & decide what I want. 



This was last year's cake.  It was a Chocolate Marble Chiffon Cake covered in a rich, bittersweet ganache.  The recipe came from Greg Patent's book, Baking in America.  I loved it.



This is a bowl of chopped up chocolate covered espresso beans that were used in the whipped cream filling of my Mocha Birthday Cake.  Having a jar or container of this is great because I can use it to sprinkle over ice cream or a bit of plain, low fat yogurt. 



This slice didn't stay put.  It toppled over before I was able to get an upright photograph of it.  Oh well, down the hatch!




I enjoyed the month of July.  The weather cooperated for the most part and the food we ate was especially good.  We finally had the pleasure of eating the sweet white corn that our Amish farmers from Lancaster County bring into the markets this time of year.  Among my favorite dinners right at the moment include, fresh corn on the cob with butter & sea salt (I can eat 3 ears in one sitting), poached wild-caught salmon, a salad of fresh Jersey tomatoes that everyone loves, sprinkled with a bit of basil from the herb garden, some of my succotash (I use frozen baby lima beans for this) and always a refreshing drink or two.  The month of August promises even more Good Things, so I hope you stick around and partake of them with me.  I hope each & everyone of you is having a great summer!

4 comments:

  1. I want those cherries!!

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  2. I want those cherries too!! I haven't had the pleasure yet. Soon, very soon.

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  3. I also want those cherries! Happy belated birthday David - the date is going in my calendar in a second. What a wonderful round up of the month. So many great delights. I often look at my photos and wish I had taken them differently - problem is, I just want to eat whatever i'm taking a photo of!

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  4. Pru, you're so sweet! I feel the same way about your postings: cookies, shortcakes, that red currant jelly (it's too bad I'm not your neighbor!), just to name a few. The support, comments & thoughts are much much appreciated here in Pennsylvania.
    ~David

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