Cake, Wedding

Square Cakes, a.k.a. My Fickle Adversary In the Kitchen (This Week…)

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In the last week and a half I’ve made 3 square wedding cakes at work, and let me just say, they can be a pain in the butt. Don’t get me wrong, I love decorating cakes regardless of the shape or size, but square cakes have so many more obstacles than your ordinary round cake!

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For instance, corners! Do you know how hard it is to cover a sharp, pointy corner with something as soft as fondant? Those 4 corners are basically 4 chances for your fondant to tear. And even if you aren’t using fondant and just covering it in buttercream, it’s hard enough just to make it look like it has a sharp, clean edge.

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This was another cake I made this week. They wanted it under a canopy hanging from the ceiling! The ceiling!! I know that has nothing to do with the cake being square, but I just wanted to point out how crazy wedding trends are getting these days, haha.

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I had so much trouble covering that bottom tier with fondant that I had to do it 3 (3!!!) times before I got it right, without any tearing. It was just really big and it turns out I have tiny arms and/or tiny hands. Who knew? Anyway, in the end, as long as the finished product looks amazing then I know it’s all worth the strain and stress that it was. So far I haven’t had any real disasters decorating (that were my fault, at least), so I’m grateful for that and for all the opportunities I have to just MAKE these things from start to finish and get some good practice in. These are just two of the many cakes that I have done (and will do in the future), and I don’t think they look too terrible! Practice makes perfect, right?

Also, just in case you haven’t noticed, Knitterbakerpateachouxmaker has a new look! Since the ol’ bloggy is almost 2 years old, I decided it’s time to change things up a bit and give it a more simple, minimal look so that I can place more emphasis on the pictures I upload rather than any background images and so forth. Whaddaya think?

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Cake, Chocolate, Custard, fruit, Home

Happy Birthday (To Me)!

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Another year, another birthday cake made by yours truly. Little Lainey is finally 23! Those of you who know me know that I’m not really big on celebrations (for myself, at least), and that what I really like to do on my birthday is use it as a time for reflecting on some of the things I’ve accomplished and mistakes that I’ve made within the last year and within my lifetime; I think for someone as young as myself, there are actually quite a bit of each!

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Because I have to work today, I spent the last couple of days by having dinner with my family, and spending an awesome relaxing day with the hubby. I also went to the beach for a couple of hours to do some of that reflecting I was talking about.

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This cake was kind of a last minute decision, so no recipes for this post (sorry!). For anyone who’s interested, though, it has layers of an almond olive oil sponge cake, dark chocolate, fleur de sel, and olive oil ganache, and a citrus cream. I wasn’t 100% in love with these recipes (maybe more like 85-90%) which is also why I wanted to wait on posting them till I get it right. The overall taste was good though, regardless (:

Anyway, in regards to the things that I’ve accomplished thus far in this short life, according to my husband I’m doing pretty well for someone my age, so I think I’ll take his word for it (:

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Breakfast, Custard, Petit Four, Recipes

Chai Latte Eclairs

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After going through a rough week and a nasty cold, there was nothing I wanted to do more on my day off than just spend it relaxing by myself, watching movie after movie on Netflix while sipping on a hot latte. Yes, I am aware that dairy is bad for a cold, but it’s soothing, okay?! Plus at this point I’m almost all the way through it, and it was time for a little indulgence.

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There’s a little outdoor cafe by the train station here that I absolutely adore, and they happen to make excellent chai lattes. I got to spend my morning chilling on their patio, surrounded by greenery and perfect SoCal weather, all while grubbing on some yummy Greek food and treating myself to a latte (plus or minus some coughing or sneezing here and there, but I choose to forget those parts!). Despite being sick, I also decided to bake on my day off, so why not make an homage to this drink that I wholeheartedly adore?

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A big ol’ bowl of chai pastry cream. I added hints of cinnamon and vanilla, so while the cream itself is cold, the flavor holds a lot of warmth.

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I topped each eclair with a creamy cinnamon icing, and I love that you can see the little flecks of cinnamon floating around there. I kept the decor to a minimum on these guys, because sometimes patience has no place in this kitchen! I made the pastry cream first, then as I was making the eclairs I had my cream chilling in the fridge so that by the time the eclairs were baked, the cream would be cold enough to pipe. These were little 3-inch eclairs, but feel free to make them as big (or as small!) as you desire.

The pate a choux recipe I used wasn’t my own, but can be found here. The only thing I did differently was I baked my eclairs at 325F instead of 375F, and increased the baking time. Enjoy!

Chai Latte Pastry Cream

fills 32 (3-inch) eclairs

276 g milk

203 g heavy cream

6 g loose-leaf chai tea (or 3 tea bags)

2 cinnamon sticks

100 g whole eggs (2 large eggs)

24 g cornstarch

10 g brown sugar

70 g granulated sugar

55 g butter, cold, cut into small cubes

3 g vanilla extract

Combine your milk, cream, chai leaves, and cinnamon sticks in a medium-sized saucepot and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and let chai and cinnamon sticks steep in cream for at least 10 minutes. Strain tea and cinnamon sticks from cream mixture, then return cream to saucepot and warm up again, just to a scald. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, cornstarch, brown sugar, and granulated sugar just until there are no more lumps. Temper egg mixture into hot cream, then cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until cream thickens to the consistency of pudding. Strain cream through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl set over an ice bath. While cream is still hot, stir in your butter and vanilla extract. Chill completely before filling eclairs.

Cinnamon Icing

150 g powdered sugar

60 g heavy cream

scant 1/8th tsp. ground cinnamon

Sift powdered sugar to remove lumps, then whisk together with heavy cream and cinnamon until smooth. Mixture will be really thick. Pipe icing over the tops of eclairs after they are filled.

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Bread, Breakfast, Cake, fruit, lunch, Recipes, Vegan

Chia Olive Oil Muffins with Caramelized Peaches [Vegan]

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In the world of all the “superfoods” out there, chia seeds seem to be the next big thing. While I’m not one for fads, I can’t say I wasn’t intrigued; the promise of more energy, lower cholesterol, aiding digestion, and a multitude of other health benefits drew me in. I bought a bag at Whole Foods and tried it for a few days, adding a spoonful or so to every meal.

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The seeds themselves are, well, pretty tasteless. Think in terms of poppy seeds; they add a nice crunch but not much else in the flavor department. And as for using it as an energy booster, well anything I could use to boost my energy can easily be trumped by the amount of hours I spend at work, leaving me tired at the end of any day. What I DO like about them is their amazing ability to absorb water; chia seeds can absorb 9 times their weight in water, leaving a gelatinous by-product that could easily replace eggs as a binder in baked goods. The moment I heard this I knew it was time to hit the kitchen.

In this recipe I used a combination of almond flour, olive oil, brown sugar, and lemon zest, leaving me with a nutty, fruity, and tender muffin, great for any breakfast on the go.

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I couldn’t resist adding a bit of tartness to it, so peaches it was! You could really eat these muffins with any fruit, but I love the lacquered sheen of these peaches once they’re cooked. It adds a nice amount of acidity and sweetness that I think pairs well with the nuttiness of the muffin.

Chia Olive Oil Muffins with Caramelized Peaches

Makes 5 muffins

10 g whole chia seeds

50 g water

125 g almond flour

62 g cake flour

4 g baking powder

1 g salt

60 g extra virgin olive oil

40 g organic brown sugar, plus more for peaches

28 g water

3 g vanilla extract

about 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

2 ripe peaches

In a small bowl, stir together your chia seeds with 50 g of water, and let sit for 20 minutes until it forms a gel. Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease a medium-sized muffin tin with olive oil or line with cupcake liners. Sift together your almond flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together your extra virgin olive oil, brown sugar, 28 g water, vanilla extract, and lemon zest until combined. Whisk in your gelled chia seeds, water and all. Whisk in your dry ingredients, just until combined. The batter will look a bit lumpy and thick, like oatmeal. Distribute batter into your muffin tin, filling each well about 3/4ths of the way up and smoothing out the top. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan completely before removing. Store at room temperature.

For caramelized peaches: Set your oven to broil and place a rack on the highest level of your oven. Cut peaches in half and remove pit. Place peach halves on a lined sheet pan and cover the tops of each half with an even layer of brown sugar. Put under your broiler for 3-4 minutes, until all the sugar is melted and bubbles, and the peaches look shiny and lacquered. Let cool completely, then peel off skin (this should be easy since the peach is cooked) and cut into slices. Enjoy!

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Candy, fruit, Gluten Free, Petit Four, Recipes, Vegan

Coconut & Pomegranate Mochi [Vegan, Gluten Free]

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Mochi is a treat that I loved as a kid, and still love to this day. For those of you who haven’t experienced this Japanese delight, mochi is a slightly sweet, sticky dessert snack made from Mochiko, or glutinous rice flour.

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As I strolled about the market the other day, I saw a basket full of fresh pomegranates, and I knew I wanted to cook with them. I love pomegranate seeds not only for their taste, but also their look; they look like shiny, precious gemstones, and what girl doesn’t love a little sparkle?

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The batter before being cooked. I have been dying to make something with coconut lately, and I knew this would be a match made in heaven!

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Coming out of the oven. This recipe is by NO means anything close to the traditional method of making mochi, which for years has been made by pounding glutinous rice over and over again in a large mortar-and-pestle type of tool, but homie ain’t got time to play games! This recipe is infinitely easier; you literally just need a whisk and a bowl, and you’re good to go!

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Cutting into the sticky stuff! Make sure you use a clean, sharp knife before cutting into these babies, otherwise you’ll have to deal with the mochi sticking to your knife and a not-so-pretty mess on your hands.

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The finished product. The mochi itself is creamy, chewy, and soft, and the pomegranate seeds add a crunch and a tart pop of flavor when you bite into them. For the mochi I used a blend of both coconut water and coconut milk, to keep it from being overly rich. I also tossed the mochi in some coconut flour instead of the traditional rice flour, giving it a nice nutty flavor as well.

Coconut & Pomegranate Mochi

makes 28 (1×1″) pieces or 7 (1×4″) logs (as pictured)

311 g Mochiko (sweet rice flour)

324 g granulated white sugar

224 g coconut water

254 g coconut milk

65 g fresh pomegranate seeds, carefully patted dry

coconut flour, as needed

Preheat your oven to 350F. Liberally grease a 9×9″ square pan. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together your Mochiko and sugar until combined. Whisk in coconut water and coconut milk, stirring just until there are no more lumps. Gently fold in your pomegranate seeds, and pour batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until the edges of your mochi are lightly golden brown and the mochi jiggles just slightly in the center if shaken. Cool completely. Run a knife around the edge of your pan, and turn over onto a cutting board covered with parchment (to keep it from sticking as you cut it). Using a clean, SHARP knife, trim off your edges (they’re too tough to serve) and then cut mochi into 1×1″ cubes (or 1×4″ logs like I did, but keep in mind that this is a large portion!), and then gently toss in coconut flour just to cover all sides. Garnish with more fresh pomegranate seeds if desired, and enjoy!

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Cake, Chocolate, Petit Four, Recipes

Green Tea & Black Sesame Halva Gateaux

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I love green tea. I also happen to love coffee. Since I’ve been making so many fruit-based desserts lately, I wanted to switch things up a bit and make something that has a bit of bitterness to it rather than something tart, but I was torn on which to pick; green tea or coffee? Why not both?

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This cake has layers of green tea sponge cake and black sesame halva filling, and is topped with a creamy mocha glaze. I have to say, the flavor combination couldn’t be more perfect.

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The black sesame filling before adding your chocolate. Halva is a sweet sesame paste, similar in texture to tahini but much, much sweeter. It provides an intensely nutty flavor to the cake, and the addition of toasted black sesame gives a slight crunch to the filling.

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Overall, I’m very satisfied with how this cake came out. I’ll admit that I was a little hesitant about the outcome as I was making it since I was just experimenting with these flavors, but it turned out to be one of the best tasting cakes I’ve made yet, so I’m very proud of it!

Green Tea & Black Sesame Halva Gateaux

makes 6 (1″x 4″) bars

For green tea sponge cake:

100 g egg yolks

50 g whole eggs (1 large egg)

80 g granulated sugar

95 g cake flour

3 g baking powder

12 g sweet matcha powder

a scant pinch of salt

for black sesame filling:

85 g black sesame seeds

255 g soft halva (1 9oz package)

170 g milk chocolate, melted

for mocha glaze:

5 g powdered gelatin

25 g water

40 g sugar

20 g cocoa powder

a pinch of salt

213 g strong coffee

60 g heavy cream

For green tea sponge: Preheat your oven to 350F, and grease a 13×17″ jelly roll pan, and line it with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together egg yolks and whole eggs with sugar on high until eggs are pale and very thick. In another bowl, sift together your cake flour, baking powder, matcha, and salt. Fold your dry ingredients into your eggs, and spread batter over your sheet pan using an offset spatula. It should be a very thin layer. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the top of the cake just barely gets a little color. Cool completely, then refrigerate.

For black sesame filling: Toast your black sesame seeds in a pan over medium high heat until the seeds become slightly aromatic, then while seeds are still hot, pulse in a food processor for about 1 minute, just to break up the seeds. Add your soft halva to the seeds and blend another minute until mixture is slightly smooth. You don’t want to blend it too much because you want it to still be slightly crunchy. Add your melted chocolate and blend just until combined. Mixture will be really thick. Store at room temperature.

For mocha glaze: Bloom your gelatin in your water. In another bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until there are no lumps. Set aside.  In a small saucepot, combine your coffee and cream and heat over medium heat until steaming. Whisk in your sugar/cocoa mixture, then whisk in your gelatin mixture, and just heat until the gelatin is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Glaze will be really thin. Chill until glaze thickens slightly (this could take a couple hours depending on how hot you got your coffee/cream).

For assembly: Cut your cooled sponge cake into quarters, then spread a layer of your halva filling on top of one of the cake quarters, and layer on the next cake, and repeat, finishing with sponge cake on top and pressing down to make sure the surface is flat. Chill until filling is firm. When glaze has cooled, cover the cake using about half of  your glaze (the top layer of sponge will absorb this glaze because the glaze is thin) and refrigerate until set. Pour the rest of your glaze on top, then spread into an even layer over the cake. Glaze should look glossy. Refrigerate until glaze is set, then using a very hot, clean knife, trim off edges of cake and cut into bars (you should get 6 (1×4″) bars). I dusted the top of mine with a bit of gold dust and then sprinkled some more black sesame seeds on top for garnish. Enjoy!

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Breakfast, Custard, fruit, Recipes

Lychee Pudding with Strawberry Salsa

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It’s hot. It’s hot, I have a ton of egg yolks in my fridge, and a craving for something sweet. There’s no way I’m touching the oven today so cakes are out of the question. I guess I could make ice cream, but that would require me to pull out the ice cream machine, freeze the bowl, and then go through a multitude of other steps that I really don’t have the patience for right now. So what can I make? A custard, of course!

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Lychee, litchi, whatever you want to call it, is an amazing little fruit. I love it for the lightly sweet and delicate floral flavor it provides, and when it’s ripe it’s amazingly juicy.

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I know, it looks kinda like a bowl of raw calamari. But it’s delicious, I promise! Within that rough exterior lies a juicy, tender, burst of flavor, just waiting to sweep you off of your feet and into a tropical paradise.

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The pudding itself is a creamy custard that is cooked over the stove much like a pastry cream. I topped it with a tart strawberry salsa and a quenelle of airy whipped cream, and garnished it with some lemon zest. The tartness of the strawberries really balances well with the smooth, creamy custard and just gives your mouth a little “pop” when you bite into them.

Lychee Pudding with Strawberry Salsa

For lychee pudding:

134 g fresh lychee (peeled and seeded)

530 g milk

180 g heavy cream

80 g granulated sugar

115 g egg yolks

10 g cornstarch

25 g Soho or other lychee liqueur

30 g butter

For strawberry salsa:

95 g finely diced strawberries

1 g lemon zest, plus more for garnish

15 g guava juice (you could use orange or any other citrus juice really, this is just what i had on hand)

5 g sugar

For lychee pudding: In a food processor, blend lychee meat until completely pulverized. You pretty much don’t want to see any lumps. Strain out any pulp with a fine mesh sieve, and make sure to push on pulp to release all of the juices.

In a medium sized saucepot, combine lychee juice, milk, and cream, and bring to a scald over medium low heat.

In another bowl, whisk together sugar, egg yolks, and cornstarch. When milk mixture is hot enough, temper in your yolk mixture, then cook over the stove until custard looks about the consistency of a gravy (this will take a few minutes). You want to stir the pot constantly while it’s cooking to prevent scorching and to keep the eggs from curdling. When the custard is thick and you start to see bubbles forming in the middle of the pot (from boiling), turn off your heat and whisk in your butter and Soho.

Divide your custard between your serving dishes (I divided it between 4 bowls, but these portions were kind of large), then cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours (but preferably overnight) before serving.

For strawberry salsa: The salsa is best when made the day that you are serving it, so that the fruit doesn’t break down too much with all the citric acid. Combine your finely diced strawberries with the lemon zest, juice, and sugar, and lightly toss them together. Let sit for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves, then divide between your dishes and spoon the salsa on top of your custard. Top with a dollop of whipped cream if you like, then enjoy!

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