Showing posts with label products. Show all posts
Showing posts with label products. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Have a Half Birthday Cake

Today is my half birthday. The 6 month mark. That is worth celebrating, right? I was thinking of baking myself a half birthday cake. But what exactly does that look like? Does it mean I bake a whole cake and toss out half or give away half? Or do I only bake half the recipe? But in a round cake pan so it looks like a whole cake? Or do I bake a cake in a cake pan that looks like half a round cake? DING DING DING!

My friend Jan sent me a link to this half-round cake pan. It's perfect for celebrating half birthdays! Let me know if you have a different interpretation of how to bake a half birthday cake. I'm very interested. Particularly because I love finding excuses to bake. Not that I need excuses...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Facing My Fear of Silicone Bakeware

Wilton's silicone bundt pan -
just like the one I so bravely used

Last night, for the first time ever, I baked a cake in a silicone bundt pan. GASP! Yup, I faced one of my biggest baking fears, bit the bullet, and used a flimsy, flexible, hard-to-keep-lint-out-because-it-sticks-to-the-pan red Wilton silicone pan.

Here's how it started.
I went to a friend's to bake a cake and even brought my conventional metal, fail-proof pan with me. It's heavy-duty, and I've used it enough times to know it does my cakes justice.

But when my friend presented me with her silicone alternative, all feelings of safeness and ease were chucked out the window and a sinking feeling overwhelmed me. Should I use the pan I brought that I know works? Or should I try this wobbly thingamabobber some people swear by but I have yet to trust?

While never having tried it myself, I'm not unfamiliar with silicone bakeware. Between testimonials from friends and plenty of reading on the Internet and in cookbooks, I have valid concerns about the adequacy of said bakeware and what it does to the integrity of my cakes.

Here are just a few things I've heard about silicone bakeware that have freaked me out (NOTE: These are rumors and should not be taken as fact):
  • It's actually more difficult to remove the cake from the pan and you can't use a knife to cut the cake away because you'll tear the material
  • Since it's a thinner material than metal, it burns the cake and you have to watch the cooking time carefully
  • It doesn't produce crusts or edges on your baked goods
  • It's difficult to wash and dry
  • Lint sticks to it
  • It's a challenge to take the cake out of the oven because it's not sturdy. As you're lifting the pan out, you might tear the cake as it wobbles around because it hasn't cooled and set yet.
So now that you see what's been going through my mind, you can appreciate my queasiness when my friend presented me with her silicone bundt pan. At the same time, I was extremely curious to try it and break the ice already. What if it turned out to be earth-shattering, life-changing, and produced amazing cakes? I decided it was worth the risk.

I do have one confession to make.
As with plenty of scary things in life, baby steps are useful and make it easier to handle the challenge you're facing. So instead of diving right in and embracing the silicone pan for all its alleged goodness, I took the supposedly unnecessary measure of greasing and flouring the pan. Please don't mock me!

The Result

My cake baked evenly in the pan, so that's relief #1. It also didn't stick to the pan one bit: relief #2 (though if you recall my confession, I may have tampered with the test a little). But on the downside, when I inserted a toothpick in the center and it needed about 10 more minutes to bake, it already looked done on the outside. I think it ended up overcooking the outside a little, just as I feared. The solution to that is to cover the cake with foil partway through baking so the outside doesn't burn while you give the inside a chance to finish baking. So while that downside is annoying, it's not a deal-breaker.

I think the biggest problem I have with the pan is its flimsiness. As suspected, it wobbled when I took it out of the oven, even as I took extreme care to keep it still. The super hot cake is in a very fragile state immediately out of the oven, and its structure continues to set during the cooling. I almost broke the cake in half as I lifted it out of the oven because the silicone pan it was in was not supporting its still-setting delicate state.

If I use this pan again, I will absolutely place the pan on a cookie sheet and bake it like that. Not only does using a cookie sheet make it easy to lift the cake out of the oven, but the double thickness of having two pans will help prevent burning on the bottom of the cake. But the key here is if. If I will use this pan again. The fact that every time I use it it's going to give me butterflies is not good! But then again, last night's cake worked out, so maybe I'm panicking over nothing? At least now I can cross "using silicone bakeware" off the list of things to do before I die. Phew!

Have you ever used silicone bakeware? Are you a fan of it? Any disaster stories? Do tell!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Making Waffles on the Stovetop?

I just opened up an email from Williams-Sonoma advertising a new product, and it did what it was supposed to do! Caught my attention! What is this Nordic Ware Waffle Pancake Pan all about?

It seems like a great idea since pulling out the waffle maker can be a pain in the rear, not to mention cleaning it afterward. But does the pan really replace tried and true waffles made in a waffle maker? A stack of these breakfast goods made in the pan sort of resemble pancakes, and they're certainly cooked similarly, that is, on the stovetop, but maybe they magically taste like waffles instead. I am interested to find out!

The pan is $39.95 and you can make 7 mini waffles at a time. I was reading a 5-star review of the product by a Williams-Sonoma customer who tested out the pan, and she nicknamed the edibles "paffles." That is just genius. Paffles they are!



Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why You Need a Microplane

The short answer is: Because Gourmet Magazine says so.

Long Answer: At the very least, you should know what a microplane is. Avoid embarrassing yourself at a dinner party and get familiar. But let's put aside the issue of protecting your fragile reputation. A microplane is a very handy kitchen tool. It grates or peels your fruits, vegetables, cheeses, roots, etc... all with ease! It's easy to clean and store. I swear by it when a recipe calls for the zest of a lemon, or grated fresh ginger, or even shaved chocolate. You can get one for under $15.

But what's really interesting to me is that Gourmet Magazine would have you think the microplane has gone mainstream. I was reading the old Thanksgiving 2007 issue the other day, and I found a recipe with an ingredients list that called for something to be grated on a microplane. Gourmet just assumes you know what it is as they go about their business of sharing the recipe. They don't pause for a second to help you poor unfortunate (naive, ignorant, uneducated) souls who aren't familiar with the term. Or maybe they figure it's fine to say microplane in the ingredients list because you'll look it up in the dictionary. And speaking of the dictionary, it's not officially added, though it does have an entry in Wikipedia and it's been reviewed all over the internet including on non-food sites, to rave reviews.

It's basically the Kleenex of graters, the only one with a household name. I mean, who asks for a face tissue when you could ask for Kleenex instead?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Foodie Fight: A Trivia Game

I need this. A trivia game designed just for foodies. You see, I play Trivial Pursuit on occasion, mostly when there's arm twisting involved (my arm). That's because the only questions I can really answer in Trivial Pursuit are food-related. Otherwise, I stink.

So imagine how my eyes bugged out (see below pic) when I heard about Foodie Fight! It's a deck of cards with over 1,000 foodie questions. Topics include culinary science, celebrity chefs, food history, exotic cuisine, and more. Check. Check. Check. Check. And check. I can handle all that.

My eyes bugging out

Now for the fun part...
Let's try a card. Answer these:

Now check your answers. How'd you do?

I did (surprise surprise) well. 5/6 and the one I missed was the SNL question, which obviously belongs more in Trivial Pursuit. This is my kind of game.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Mother of All Cupcakes

Today is my cousin Jessica's 28th birthday. Happy Birthday, Jess! Translate that to: Another excuse to bake! W00t! (please tell me you know that very 21st century was named 2007's Word of the Year by Merriam-Webster Online)

My mom recently gave me a giant cupcake pan and all kinds of fun accessories to dress up the final product. Today, it was time to premiere it. What's cool about this pan is, you've got your top and you've got your bottom. Slather a little frosting between the two parts, assemble, frost the top, and voila! The mother of all cupcakes!

A couple of tips: Be sure to grease and flour your pan well, or you might end up with a headless horseman of a cupcake, or a bottomless one. Neither is a good scenario. Also, you'll probably need to use a bread knife and cut off the rounded top of each of the two parts so you have flat surfaces. You need the spiral top to lie snug on the bottom. Finally, be sure to select a cake recipe that is sturdy enough to withstand so much weight. Having a top resting on a bottom requires a firmer cake. I had to forgo the chocolate cake I usually make for birthdays for fear it would sink when I placed the spiral top on it. I opted for a devil's food cake by Lori Longbotham. Her Luscious Chocolate Desserts cookbook is one of my all-time favorites. I am working my way through the entire thing.

Divine Devil's Food Cake
Recipe by Lori Longbotham in Luscious Chocolate Desserts
Serves 8.

2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2/3 cup natural cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

7 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9x2 inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with aluminum foil, and butter the foil.

To make the cake: Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Stir together the buttermilk and water in a small bowl.

Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the cocoa mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture in 3 batches, beating just until well blended. Transfer the batter to the pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Carefully invert onto the racks, turn right-side up, and let cool completely. Remove the foil.

To make the frosting: Melt the chocolate with the cream in a heatproof medium deep bowl set over a saucepan of about 1 1/2 inches of nearly simmering water, whisking until smooth. Add the butter and whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered, for 15 minutes.

Beat the frosting with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for about 8 minutes, until thick enough to spread.

To assemble the cake: Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate. Spread about 1 cup of the frosting evenly over the layer. Top with the remaining cake layer and frost the top and sides with the remaining frosting. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until the frosting sets.

Serve cut into wedges.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Middle Shmiddle, We Want Edge

I've seen it everywhere, in The Baker's Catalogue, Kitchen Krafts, on Amazon, written about by fellow food bloggers, AND YET, I mention it to my brownie-loving relatives and they've never heard of it. So this goes out to them. They're the ones still fighting over who gets the edge.



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