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Everything posted by StephMac

  1. Another small tip for easier ice-cream cake making: springform pan. A college roommate first did this when making a coffee ice-cream cake (fabulous, btw), and it makes it pretty simple to bake, layer, freeze in one pan, then just remove the sides to frost and serve. One of those "wow, why didn't I think of that" moments for me
  2. Pizza rolls... Totino's if possible, cheapie version in a pinch. Little cheesy-saucy packets of greasy goodness, even when the filling starts to leak out after microwaving. And alas, I have a hard time considering anything less than one box a single serving. Close runner up: cinnamon mini-donuts from Entenmann's and Little Debbie raspberry-filed angel food cakes. Although the angel food cakes seem to have disappeared from most places around here - I suppose to my benefit, but compared to other snack cake options, they were seriously low on the fat scale and had something intriguing going on texture-wise.
  3. Aw, thanks for the compliments. I'm a hobbyist/home baker myself, so it's nice to hear The stripes on the top tier and diamonds on the bottom tier are a mix of rolled buttercream for flavor and fondant for elasticity. I think it was like 75/25 in favor of the rolled buttercream. They're painted with luster dust. All of the borders, the dot patterns on the top tier, and the swirls on the middle tier are piped buttercream. Definitely check with the venue and see if they can store the cake, it's a load off your mind if you can put it in a safe place and not have to worry about it for a while (just make sure it's not next to the onions/fish/garlic/gorgonzola). If you're going to transport it stacked, though, make sure they know that it will have to have a very tall shelf available. I don't have a lot of transporting tips for stacked cakes, other than I've heard that taking the cake chilled and putting your AC on in the car helps. Other folks here may have tips for that, if you want to start a new thread. The internal support structure will be key, as I'm sure you already know. Good call on trying out the ganache recipe to find one that's stable at room temp for a while. The other option, if you can store the cake at the site, is to bring it out a little while before serving vs. having it on display all night... but that might end up with you having to cut into cold cake. Take a breath, enjoy the process as all the pieces fall into place. Trifle and such sounds lovely for cake leftovers - if there are any!
  4. I made my own wedding cake, too, so I've been there! Mine was a 12/9/6 topsy-turvy - I loved the style of cake and knew it would (rightly) cost a lot from a bakery, plus I wanted to use my mom's icing recipe and didn't want it covered in fondant. It came out OK: Cake rings should work fine, especially if you will use them for other things. Another option would be to see if there are any cake supply stores or restaurant supply houses in your area that rent out pans. My first bit of advice would be to practice - do a whole test run before the wedding to see how long it really takes you to bake, stack, ice, decorate, etc., as well as how much room you'll need to store the cakes, how you're going to set them up, etc. I did a test run a few months before my wedding and it was absolutely invaluable in working out all the little "oops" moments that you really don't want to be thinking about right before the wedding when everything else is going on. Extra cake can be given away to friends, family, community groups if necessary (my officemates made quick work of my leftovers, and one of my mom's friends actually used the practice top tier as an impromptu birthday cake I had to transport my cake up a mountainside as well, but I was lucky enough that the location allowed me to bring the cake up the day ahead and store it safely in their refrigerator. I took it up in layers and assembled on-site the day of the wedding. This made me feel a lot better about transportation/storage, although I did have to make sure I accounted for time the day-of to assemble the cake before getting dressed at the site, etc. Are you thinking about transporting the cake stacked or unstacked? It's nice of you to consider what the guests might prefer, but I agree with RWood - it is your cake. Don't come away from the day feeling like you "settled" for something that wasn't what you really wanted. After all, you're putting in the sweat and tears to make the cake, so it's clearly important to you. Plus, you mentioned that there will be other dessert options, so guests can choose to eat something else if they really don't like the cake. That said, if you've got a warm location or if the cake will be outside, ganache might hold up better than SMBC? It's not a stupid decision to make your own cake. That said, if you're also making other desserts for the wedding and hosting a brunch the next day and having guests in your house - that's a lot of stuff going on that doesn't even count the flurries of getting yourself ready for your wedding. Are there any tasks for any of these things that you can do ahead of time or "outsource" to trusted friends and family in the area? I suggest making lists... lots and lots of lists!
  5. I know you've already got the chocolate grahams, but would Newman-Os be an option? They're the Newman's Own version of Oreos, and I found this on the Newman's Own FAQ: >>> # Are Newman\'s Own Organics cookies kosher? All NOO cookies are kosher. They are certified kosher by the Orthodox Union. # What does the OUD on the front of the Newman-Os and ABCs packaging stand for? Although there is no dairy in these products, the certifying rabbi assigns the OUD symbol to signify that there are dairy materials present in the production facility.
  6. I've always found that homemade potato salads tend to get better with time... but then again, I really like onion-y flavors in my potato salads! Sounds like you've probably already got storage space for everything, but I do find that storing salads in ziplock bags helps save a lot of space in the fridge compared to putting everything in plastic containers or bowls and trying to fit them all in. Do be sure not to over-fill those bags, though, or you risk an explosion when moving them around... our family still talks about the Fruit Salad Blow-Out of Summer '07
  7. Spotted Iced Animals and a few others (oatmeals, I think?) in Foster City, CA! Hoping, hoping, hoping that they bring back the "mixed bag" with the iced animals, chocolate sandwich cookies, and mini chocolate chip and sugar cookies...
  8. My mom did this when I was in elementary school - she would split bagels in half, spread each side with cream cheese, place a small square of wax paper between the two halves, and wrap in a plastic bag or wax paper. She'd probably make a dozen or so at a time, maybe more. All of the bagels then went into a larger tupperware and into the freezer. Once or twice a week, she (or we kids) would grab a bagel out of the box in the morning and put it in our lunch bag; by lunchtime, it was defrosted and ready to eat. Of course, our lunch bags were sitting in backpacks and lockers all morning, not refrigerators - I'm sure that helped the defrosting process. The wax paper in the middle kept the cream cheese from freezing to itself and pulling off the bagels. She also did the same thing with little loves of dense raisin-nut breads that we got from Costco...yum. I don't remember a lot of problems with sogginess or weird tastes, but then again, I was in 4th grade at the time and probably more concerned with the type of dessert in my lunch bag than the texture of my bagel
  9. Just spotted the news that Hershey's is closing the Scharffen Berger factory in Berkeley, CA and the Joseph Schmidt factory in San Francisco: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?...5I9DV.DTL&tsp=1 This makes me sad... even if most of the production had moved elsewhere, it was still nice to have that original, local connection. If you want to go on the (free!) Scharffen Berger factory tour, better make your reservations sooner than later!
  10. StephMac


    Let's see: -the giganto-sized jar of capers -pork chops, especially when I'm doing a stuffed chop recipe... the Costco ones are nice and thick for a decent price -bagged spinach - it's like $3 for a massive bag of spinach! -fresh mozzarella (for marinating when having a party) And then there are the baking supplies: -sour cream -eggs -vanilla -flour -sugar -powdered sugar (when I have a lot of cake-decorating to do) The problem with the baking supplies is that I haven't yet found a good container system to keep the dry goods in, so I end up storing the big bags. My husband says it feels like he's living in a feed store!
  11. If you're looking for basic recipes, decorating ideas, and methods, maybe take a stroll down the cake-book shelf at your local library? Just search for "cake decorating" in the catalog and it should point you to the right section... my library has a pretty good range of books, from Betty Crocker's decorating tips to cupcake books to Colette Peters and Dede Wilson, so you might find a good range of instructional books to start with. Good luck!
  12. Are you looking for recipes, or decorating ideas/instructions and construction tips? The books you mention are two good ones. In terms of basic construction techniques, you might also want to check out Wilton's books and website - at least it can get you started. Other suggestions: Toba Garrett's books have lots of techniques in them. Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes has a new book out - I paged through it at the bookstore and it had some nice designs (can't speak to the instructional/construction info, I didn't have time to read it all ). Colette Peters has several books, but those are going to have more complex construction methods (lots of decorating ideas, though). Hope that helps, and gfron is right - the wisdom of eGulleteers is an excellent resource!
  13. Nicely done! Cupcakes look good, too. And with the sudden time change, it's even more impressive - I don't think I could have handled that as well!
  14. I think a two-layer 9x13 should be fine for 25 people - especially if we're talking about a cake that will be 3-4" tall. Look at it this way - if they cut 2"x2" pieces, you'll have 24 even servings plus several 1" extras out of that 9x13 cake. And a 2"x2" piece is a large-sized serving - most "party serving" charts I've seen use a 1.5"x2" sized piece for their estimates. If you use that size to estimate your servings, you'll get 36 even pieces out of a 9x13, with a little left over. A level, flat top is definitely good What kind of decorations will you be doing?
  15. Well... it did have to serve hundreds (thousands?) of people, and it had to be transported and decorated far, far away from their "home base" in Baltimore, and it had to assembled as quickly as possible... I think that kind of limits your design a bit. Besides, the wind and shaking stage worked plenty of havoc with that "Junior High School Art Class" cake; something more "cutting edge" may have been in worse shape in those conditions. I do think they missed a prime opportunity to use some fireworks on the cake! (Probably couldn't due to the crowds, I'm guessing.) The typewriter cake, though - that was an impressive, beautiful piece of work. The round coffee-mug stains on the board were an especially nice touch, I thought.
  16. Early guests are worst than late ones in my book, since I'm continually running late prepping for parties. At least late guests call to warn you they'll be late! (well, the good ones do...) As for the shoes-off thing, my friend has this same policy and solved it by getting a bunch of cheap, easily-washable, one-size-fits-all (plus a few XL-sized ones for the tall folk) slip-on slippers in various colors at Ikea or somewhere similar and putting them all in a large basket by the door with a simple wood shoerack next to it. As you come in the house, she'll say something along the lines of "please help yourself to a pair of slippers; you can leave your shoes on the rack next to the basket." Oh, and when it's cold out, she lines up the slippers next to the heater so they're warm and toasty for the tootsies. Fabulous!
  17. Oh, I have fond memories of those Laughing Cow Cheese Bites... little tiny cubes of white "cheese," individually wrapped with the tiny tab that, when pulled, unzipped the foil wrapper all the way around. Squishy, squeezy, and oh-so-good, but portioned out in small amounts by mom, since these were not an everyday purchase. I distinctly remember a friend and I declaring that when we grew up, we were going to eat Cheese Bites every day for lunch. I think we were seven. Also, that Hoffman's smoked cheddar, the kind with the brown diamond pattern on the sides. Yum.
  18. Sorry to hear that. Of course, you can make the cream puffs at any time and freeze them, and make the fillings ahead, too. But I don't think the assembly process can be done too far in advance unless you have some kind of perfect temperature/humidty-controlled environment to store it in...
  19. Thank you for all the kind words Marmish - as for how far ahead of time you could put one together - a lot depends on the weather (humidity and rain cause the caramelized sugar to soften quickly) and what you're filling the cream puffs with (how long it can stay out of refrigeration). I made one small test croquembouche of empty puffs that managed to stay standing overnight (8-10 hours), but the caramelized sugar was very soft by morning and the cone fell apart as I was taking it to the office to share. I think the longest I'd push it would be to assemble the cone in the late morning of an evening event- that's assuming you have a filling that doesn't need refrigeration - and I'd leave it upside down in the paper mold until it display time. Chezcherie - the stand is not an antique; it's actually an embossed silverplate cakestand, about 12" round, I think. I got it for cheap around the time of my wedding from another bride who didn't need it. It has come in handy a couple of times for cakes and dessert tables! I like the savory croquembouche ideas, and I'm definitely going to keep thinking about this. The tricky part is finding a substance that is not overly sweet but will also harden well enough to keep the puffs stuck together in a solid mass. I need a savory royal icing!
  20. A few months ago, my brother-in-law and his fiancee asked if I could make a croquembouche for their end-of-December wedding. Now, normally I make cakes, but I couldn't resist the challenge. Then I started to worry: how was I going to do this? I'm used to making and decorating cakes, not cream puff towers; I've never worked with caramelized sugar, I've only made a few cream puffs in my entire life, and I've either got to transport this thing 2.5 hours in the car or make it at the site (a relative's house, luckily) the morning before the wedding. Well, where else to turn but egullet? I read through every choux paste and croquembouche and caramelized sugar post - all the tips about how to assemble and how to be careful with the sugar and so on. I asked a few questions and got some very helpful answers. And I made hundreds of cream puffs using Pichet Ong's recipe , burnt two batches of sugar (pee-yew!), and stacked two small test croquembouches. And slowly, I started to feel a lot more confident that I could do this - and not only that, but it would turn out pretty well. Nevertheless, my fingers and toes were crossed that it would not rain that day... not only because the wedding ceremony was outside, but because I didn't want the cream puffs to come tumbling down in a pile of humidy-softened sugar, melting filling, and floppy pastry! We headed up to the wedding site the day before to help get the place ready, so I carted half my kitchen there and made everything on-site. After several hours in the kitchen (and a last-minute run to the store for heavy cream, whoops), I had 200+ profiterole-sized puffs, a double batch of pastry cream, a triple batch of cheesecake mousse, and my caramelized sugar ready for assembly the next morning. (I caramelized the sugar and put it in a glass container to microwave the next morning; I didn't want a hot pot of sugar on the stove while people were running around in wedding chaos.) The next morning, bright and early, I started filling puffs. The wedding was at noon but family photos were at 10, so I had about 3 hours to get the croquembouche ready -- not to mention getting all pretty for the pictures. The bottom half of the croquembouche puffs were filled vanilla pastry cream; the top half were cheesecake mousse. I formed a cone out of posterboard, lined it with Reynold's Release foil (the kind that's supposed to be non-stick - it worked like a dream! No need to oil the foil at all!), warmed up the sugar and started dipping and sticking. I did not dip the tops first; I dipped only the sides to stick the puffs together. When I dipped the tops, it ended up being too much caramel per puff, and eating one nearly pulled your teeth out. Despite having to re-warm the sugar a couple of times, it went well and faster than expected. Since I hadn't made a test-version this large, I was surprised at how heavy the cone got as it filled up... and that made me worry. Would it stand up OK? The croquembouche sat upside-down in its foil until about 11:30, when I set it on its stand, removed the paper cone... and took my hands away. It was still standing! Next, however, I had to remove the foil. Slowly, I pulled... a little further... a little more... and it was done. The croquembouce was standing on its own - and quite solidly, I must say. I slipped a few more cream puffs into gaps around the bottom to even out the base, and that was ready for showtime. Huge sigh of relief. After the ceremony, I popped into the kitchen, heated up my sugar again, and made some spun-sugar strands to wrap around the croquembouche. I didn't make these earlier in the day because I knew they would be the first to soften and potentially melt in a warm house full of people. I made three sets to wrap around the cone. And then... finished! Here's how it came out: (that's grandma's famous apple pie on the left, and mom's pecan pie on the right. It was a pie-and-puff wedding.) I'd say the final height was about 1.5 to 2 feet, and it used somewhere between 160-180 puffs. By the time they served it, the sugar was just a little soft, enough so that we could break of chunks of puffs without smushing them and sending sugar shards all over the carpet. We served them with raspberry puree and dark chocolate sauce. It was a hit, the bride and groom were happy, no one lost a filling while eating the caramel, and I was thrilled. Now I can't wait for an excuse to make another one, and I ponder variations... I'd love to try a chocolate one...or, if I made a savory croquembouche, what to stick it together with?... hmmm... So I wanted to say thank you to the eGullet pastry forum folk for helping make this a success. I'm so proud of how it all turned out, and I really could not have done this without you. I'd especially like to thank chefpeon, Wendy DeBord, Patrick S and KarenS for all the advice and insight they've posted to this forum over the years; your previous experiences with cream puffs, croquembouches, and spun sugar made my first croquembouche fabulous. Grazie mille!
  21. Maybe it's brush embroidery, done very lightly? I think it's also sometimes called royal icing appliques? I don't have a lot of examples at hand, but here's a nice photo of some brush embroidery on a cake, and here are some online instructions. Basically, you outline your design in royal icing, then use a clean brush to sweep some of the icing toward the center of the design, creating a soft textured look. And you can pipe on lines and dots around it when it's dry. That's a beautiful cake, good luck!
  22. Other than the preservatives/ingredients issues - which, obviously, a packaged cake mix probably has some stuff in that you don't keep on your kitchen shelves, and some people prefer not to eat that stuff - and various allergies, etc. that would dictate leaning toward a scratch cake recipe where you know exactly what's going into your body, I feel this one of those arguments that really has no true answer. To me, the real question is: Did you enjoy that piece of cake? If the answer is yes, then does it matter whether it's a mix or a scratch recipe? If the answer is "no," then I say subtly or tactfully inquiring about the recipe is probably fair, just so you can avoid it in the future (whether it's scratch or mix). Life's too short to eat icky cake when there's so much good cake out there ...now back to my regularly-scheduled lurking...
  23. If you don't want to do the cable-car trip to In-N-Out in SF, there is an In-N-Out Burger location just off of the Millbrae Ave. exit on 101 South, a smidge south of SFO. It's also very close to the Millbrae BART station (like across the street - maybe a block or so of walking total)... so... it wouldn't be too difficult to get to Millbrae and walk over to the In-N-Out on the way to/from SFO. You could either stop by when you first arrive in SF, or leave for the airport a little early and snag a burger, then hop back on BART to get to SFO. Whatever you end up eating, enjoy!
  24. It may not be you at all... my candy clay recipe calls for 14oz chocolate (I use candy coating, it works best for me) and 1/3 cup light corn syrup... and yes, it "breaks" on me every time as I stir in the corn syrup. However, I end up with a thick chocolate mass - not grainy - and some oily, semi-opaque liquid. Here's what works for me: I pour off most of the liquid and then turn out the candy clay onto a piece of wax paper set in a bowl and let it sit there over night. The candy clay and the remaining liquid will harden up; once it's hard, you can either break off the hardened liquid and toss it, or knead it back into the clay. Microwaving for a few seconds helps soften the candy clay to start kneading it, but don't overdo it or it gets chunky and oily. Next time, if you get the oil, let it sit for quite a while and see if it sets up or not?
  25. Pretzels are really yummy! And shortbread cookies are really excellent. Cupcakes will definitely be too crumbly; angel food cake sometimes works, but only if it's well skewered so it doesn't fall part. Caramel apples are fun; set out pre-coated slices to dip so you get caramel and chocolate in the same bite. Pineapple is good, too. Oh, and a pile of napkins or wet-naps can be useful!
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