Monday, April 30, 2012

Uncle Alton's Seven Minute Frosting

Eek! It's been far too long since I posted, especially considering I know you're just patting your foot waiting on this dang frosting. Probably had to go on and eat your cake without frosting altogether by this point. So sorry. I take full responsibility. Thank goodness that cake is good enough to stand on its own...

But we want more than good. We want life-changing. So, with no further digression....drum roll....


Uncle Alton's Seven Minute Frosting


3 large egg whites
12 ounces sugar, approximately 1 3/4 cups
1/3 cup coconut water
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated coconut from 1 coconut, approximately 8 to 10 ounces

Friday, April 20, 2012

Coconut Cake-Now with REAL Coconut!

Question: have you ever eaten coconut?  No, no. The bagged junk doesn't count. Who knows how long it's been there, or what kind of adulteration it's endured. So much flavor and texture is lost. That's why I prefer this recipe, which calls for the processing and use of your own fresh coconut. It's a bit of a hassle, but once you get the hang of it it's not hard at all, and believe me-

Believe me-

you'll be glad you did it.

I love making cakes in general, but coconut cake is among my favorites. It's a complicated procedure, sure, but to me that makes the successful final product that much more exciting. The recipe I use is directly from Good Eats, no alterations. We now refer to Alton Brown as "Uncle Alton" in my family  due to how many of his recipes and methods we have adopted, and his coconut cake is the best I've had. The only amendment I made was that I used two coconuts, just to be sure I would have enough.

Coconut Cake with Fresh Coconut and Seven Minute Frosting

Homemade Coconut Milk, Cream, and Extract


For the milk:

2 ounces freshly grated coconut, approximately 1/2 cup
1/2 cup boiling 2 percent milk

For cream:

4 ounces freshly grated coconut, approximately 1 cup
1/2 cup boiling 2 percent milk

 Heat 1 cup milk (whole milk is best here) until boiling. 

In separate containers, portion out 4 ounces of coconut for the cream and 2 ounces for the milk.

Divide boiling milk in two. Pour 1/2 cup each milk over coconut in first two containers.

Cover all three containers, and let milk and cream stand for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, process the milk in a blender for 1 minute, then strain through a clean towel, cheesecloth, or paper towel.

Aaaand: lobster. Or in this case, coconut milk and cream.

For the extract:

1 1/2 ounces freshly grated coconut, approximately 1/3 cup
4 ounces vodka

Combine vodka and coconut in a glass container (yes, that's plastic. I goofed.)

Place in a dark place for 5-7 days, shaking every day to combine. 

And on the seventh day, rest. (After you've strained coconut and returned vodka to either original bottle or jar, to be kept for up to 1 year.)

Use with Alton Brown's Coconut Cake with Seven Minute Frosting. A true Southern Favorite!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The One With No Pictures

Look, we need to talk.

The first thing I'd like you to know is that I debated even writing this, because I know it's controversial and one of the things I try to avoid with this blog (and in real life, though that is much, much harder) is offending anyone. Lord knows I do try to keep it light. But it feels like I've been holding my tongue more and more often on an issue that really gets under my skin, and I believe that I must address it in order to be true to the title and description of this blog. Not to mention to myself.

Ladies and gents of the rest of the country, we Mississippians know that we don't live in the most ideal setting, with the most progressive people and culture. We know that - insert all evil things here - run rampant in our state. That maybe the last stand of truly conservative, ignorant, and backwards Americans is being made here. So, dammit, you don't need to remind us all the time. Unless you are here on some act of goodwill: bringing charity, nutritional awareness, sex education, or something else that demands frank talk, what business is it of yours to constantly point out our faults? We call that "acting superior," and when you do this (I confess I can't believe I'm explaining this to an adult) you are being rude.

Dang. Now I feel rude. Which is precisely why I've let it go for so, so long. But every outsider's sneering jab about some sub-par aspect of my home - that's right, that's my home you're self-righteously bitching about - is like sandpaper on my sensitive skin. And I'm just too raw to endure it any longer.

The only reason you've gotten away with it this long is because one thing my state's culture does teach is good manners. So rather than jump all over the first offense, I've forced a smile and hoped it was just a passing and forgivable act of thoughtlessness. Unfortunately, it happens now with too much regularity to be dismissed. 
Mississippi is, for me at least, something like a very difficult and perhaps disabled relative. One who embarrasses me in public. It is sorrowful and exhausting to observe this person's struggle of one step forward, two steps back, and yes, I lose my patience more often than I am proud to admit. I can and have numbered said relative's faults openly, and at times I grow weary of defending him. But it has never crossed my mind that I don't love this relative. Fiercely, protectively, and unconditionally. And god help you if you, an outsider, who has never put in your time with him, presume to throw him under the bus in my presence.

Look, if you don't like it here, no problem. Plenty of other states to choose from. No offense taken. But if you do make the choice to stay, do keep in mind that we're people, and this is our home. 

Please: mind your manners.

Monday, April 9, 2012

(Blue) White Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate ganache is typically made from pouring warm cream onto room temperature (and good quality, please!) dark chocolate. Unfortunately for this recipe, the silky, glossy, utterly drinkable result of this confectionery alloy is decidedly brown. And as my Pantone-savvy readers know, brown is not easily coaxed into blue. So? Enter white chocolate ganache.

Now, a word of caution: white chocolate (because it's not "true" chocolate) does not behave like dark or even milk chocolate. High temperatures and overmixing are extremely offensive to Madame la Blanc, so you'll have to find your inner patience. You can, in theory, nuke the chocolate, but I wouldn't, because you have so little control over the process. But if you're feeling adventurous, get on wit yo' bad self.

No recipe credits here; I learned to make ganache when working at a fabulous but now sadly out of business restaurant called ConFusion in my hometown.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Vanilla Buttercream

Let us have a moment of silence in the name of buttercream frosting.

It is the fluffiest, most decadent, and most forgiving cake topping I have ever run across. And by forgiving I mean: stick it in the freezer for 6 months, haul it out, mix the hell out of it, add any color or flavor you can think of, and it complies. Willingly. Happily. There is no overmixing this stuff.

Buttercream frosting and good dogs possess a level of charity to which we mere humans can only aspire.

Now, I warn you. When we get going on the actual process of making the buttercream, you're going to hate me. And you're going to think I'm insane for ever singing such praises. But just wait.

One note: it's pretty crucial you have a stand mixer for this particular project. Try and use a hand mixer, and both your arm and the machine will be pretty much useless forever.

Two note: we're making about four times as much as we actually need for this project. I took the advice from the writer at Brave Tart (from whence my recipe cometh) and went ahead and made enough to store for future use. The process is pretty involved, so you might as well make as much as possible at one time.

Vanilla Buttercream, dyed blue for the filling of 
my K-shaped Basic White Cake
Recipe and method taken from the Swiss Buttercream recipe at Brave Tart

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How to Make Wax Paper Circles

How to make fitted wax paper inserts for baking pans

First, cut enough wax paper to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Fold in half.

Fold in half again, along folded seam. Repeat, creating a triangle.

Line point of triangle up with center of pan, and cut off excess at edge of pan. Unfold, and voilĂ ! Eet feets.

Eat Cake!

Recently, my designer friend and coworker approached me with a baking idea for a photo shoot for an ad she was designing. She says: Michal. I need you to make a 5 layer white cake with pale blue frosting and dark blue chocolate ganache dribbled off the top.

Says I: No problem. Easy as pie. Er...cake. And I set about assembling the necessary ingredients.

But OH-she remembers-It has to be in the shape of a K. It needs to be able to stand on its own.

I said: 


 Very well. 

Challenge: accepted.

Note: I'm doing this in a three-part installment because I'm long-winded and it got a bit ridonkulous.

The mission