dinsdag 12 mei 2009

Maternity leave

All of the sudden (or so it seems) I found myself facing the last day of work before my maternity leave. And I thought it deserved a festive touch. My collegues deserve a sweet token of appreciation now that hey have to do their work *and* mine for the next 16 weeks. So I planned a little cake get-together. Of course, there had to be some token that would remind everyone of the occasion. I found the cutest image of a pregnant lady (in the form of a decorated cookie) on nancy's fancy cookies, which you will find in my links list, and I copied the image in royal icing to form a plaque.It worked out okay, even though Nancy's were nicer :o).

I decided I needed something that was both easy and decadent, and then the first thought is usually choclate. So I picked our favourite cheesecake recipe, that features an lb. of white chocolate, is absolutely divine and never fails. THe combination of the cheesecake with the strawberry topping is simply perfect. Find the recipe at www.epicurious.com, try it and never look back ;o).
HEre's the result:

Second, I decided on Rose Levy Beranbaum's 'Chocolate oblivion truffle torte'. This extremely impressive yet very easy to make recipe is a treat for the true chocolate lover. Just never tell anyone the only ingredients are chocolate, butter and eggs ;o). I decorated with fresh raspberries and chocolate curls:

Last but not least, I added my personal favourite of all times into the mix: a strawberry pie, made out of a cookie tart shell, vanilla custard and loads of strawberries. Again, I used some pregnant lady picks to liven it up:

Now that we're looking at a C-section next week, it will probably be a while before I'm back in the saddle again. But I hope to finish some cookie treats before the big event, and will post some pictures if I can manage to actually finish them in time.
See you on the other side of delivery!!

zaterdag 7 maart 2009

Apricot custard streusel pie

This pie is a modified recipe that I found in a Good Housekeeping dessert book. I have made it several times with different kinds of fruit, and it is a nice all-occasion pie that keeps well and appeals to many.
Originally, it is made with a regular pie crust (and Good Housekeeping tells you you can buy ready made, which of course you don't want to ;o)) and fresh peaches.

I substituted the crust with my favorite paté sucrée from the get-go: 50 grams of beaten egg,100 grams of sugar, 200 grams of butter, 300 grams of flour and a dash of salt. You can make this in your mixer, preferably with the paddle attachment, or by hand. Mix butter and sugar, just intil incorparated, you're not looking to aerate the mixture here. Add the egg, mix shortly, add flour and salt until a dough forms. Shape into disk and wrap in saran wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour, up to three days ahead. Let the dough warm up slightly before rolling it out on a floured surface.
Transfer dough to buttered pie pan, and just patch up any tears. It will all be fine in the end. You will have some dough leftover if you use this quantity for lining a 9-inch pie pan (I also use it for tarts that go up to 12 inchis in size). In the summer, I use this dough to make (blind baked) tart shells that I fill with custard and fresh strawberries.

Cover the dough in the pie plate with any fruit you like, sliched fresh peaches (you'll need about 4 ripe peaches), apricots (I use canned in winter), cherries, just use your favourite. In a bowl, whisk together 8 oz of sour cream with 1 cup of sugar (I use less, depending on the fruit I only use 1/2 cup, but never more than 2/3 cup), 1/4 cup of flour, 1 tsp vanilla and and 3 large egg yolks. No beating is necessary here, just whisk until homogenous in consistency. Pour custard over fruit and bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven.

While the pie is baking, make a streusel topping by rubbing 4 TBS of cold, cubed butter (no margarine, please) into 1/2 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar until crumbs form. Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over custard, then bake for another 10-20 minutes, until custard is set (you can check this with a knife or by slightly jiggling the pie pan. You'll see whether it has set or is still awfully jiggly). If the crusts browns too quickly, cover it with a ring of foil when you sprinkle on the streusel.

Remove pie from oven, and let cool completely. You can store the pie in the plate at room temperate, where the custard will stay softer and slighlt creamier, or in the fridge where the custard will firm up a little more. In the fridge it will keep for up to four days. Just decide for yourself which you prefer :o). If you want, you can put on some slices of fruit on top of the pie prior to serving.

And here is what it looks like (although the picture is not great!)

If you look closely, you'll detect my fabulous new high-heel cake server in the background ;o)

woensdag 25 februari 2009

I promised pictures...

And just to make sure I will post them, I might as well do it today. First of all, the new kitchen and the cake curtain:

Then, the cake for my sister who turned 40! Please don't pay too much attention to the figurine's head, because I made three and still didn't like the outcome. I blame hormones ;o)

The text on the cake reads '40 and fabulous'. It was a 6 layer chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache. It looks a little smallish in the picture, but it was actually very high and extremely heavy. I do think it held at least 2 lbs of chocolate.

Then, the cupcakes for my nephew. I actually cheated and bought the chocolate Santas. I was desperate to find something 'quick' that would still look nice and this fit the bill. I still spent 6 hours in total making them, but J. loved them and that made them worth it :o).
The cupcakes are Elinor Klivans' Hi-hat cupcakes and the kids just loved the frosting (as do I!)

So there, two posts in a day and pictures to boot! I will try and keep this up :o)

Alive and .....kicking

Hard as it is to believe, I haven't fallen off the side of the earth. I've just been eh, preoccupied, to say the least.
I've blogged about the progress on the new house, and now we've been living in it for almost six months already. We moved September 6th of last year, after a weeek of frantically painting the whole house on a reduced time-schedule. At that point, I finally realised the house was *really* a lot bigger than old one. In spite of my plans for a really cool and bold colour scheme, and mixing textured wallpapers with paint, the house turned out to be just painted white, top to bottom. I just couldn't decide on what colours I actually wanted, let alone find the courage to start wallpapering for the first time in my life. So instead, we bought 30 buckets of white primer and 30 buckets of white paint and had a go at it. Colours can come later (or not, LOL!) We moved in with the paint barely dry, but hey, we made it and that's what counts, right?

Then came moving day. We rented a truck, got much welcomed help from family and friends and started loading up the truck and tractor my BIL brought. It was total chaos, to say the least. I think we had about 100 boxes in the living room, because the guys brought them in quicker than I could read their destination labels and I finally just gave up and let myself be buried in them. I sorted through our belongings twice in the past year and was still amazed at all the STUFF we had. We schlepped and hauled and worked and unpacked until I could no longer distinguish left from right, and I was determined not to rest until the house was finally feeling like home with things in their final place as much as possible.

So the week after the move, we bought two new HUGE closets, put them together (IKEA was our friend) and unpacked as many boxes as we could manage. and then, with the house still feeling 'bare' and empty in spots, the BIG fatigue set in. Luckily, we had two weeks of vacation time left, and decided sleeping was a first priority. After a week, I got suspicious because I got more tired by the day. And then, the reason came out:

(drum roll.....) I was pregnant. PREGNANT! Actually, I still am :o).

It was a very welcomed and happy shock, but a shock it was. And I spent the first 16 weeks of pregnancy trying to keep my head above the water. I dragged myself to work, longing to take naps on the floor under my desk during office hours. I got into my car to drive home, wondering if I'd still be awake for the whole drive. I ate, slept, worked, slept, and that was basically it besides feeling awful. I wanted to slap everyone who told me this was completely normal and it could last the whole pregnancy (gee, thanks!), but lacked the energy to do so. Let's just say that baking was the farthest thing from my mind. I could cry. Here I was, I had this wonderful, shiny new oven, a glorious pink cake in front of my window, and all I could manage was stay awake long enough to force down a sandwich. My sister turned 40 and I made her a cake (it took me a three-day weekend), but that was IT.

By Christmas, I started to feel a little better and managed to make my nephew cupcakes for his birthday treat. I also managed to make some cookie dough, that I froze and baked one sheet at a time whenever I could manage :o). I promiss to download the pictures from my camera and post them soon.

Now my belly is proudly sticking out (dare I say 'think hippo') and I'm starting to plan and look forward to making treats for the birth, treats for saying goodbye to my collegues when my pregnancy leave starts, I'm making birth announcements and I'm basically trying to get my 'oomph' back :o). My energy is still extremely limited and temperamental, but I'm doing the best I can and will try to bring the blog back alive as well. It will be a great incentive for me to push myself and start the baking routine back up :o). So yes, I am alive, and the baby is kicking me :o).

I hope to see visitors and comments return as well!

woensdag 23 juli 2008

Counting down...

It seems we're entering the last 6 weeks or so before we can move in to our new home. Needless to say, we still think that it is a loooooong time ;o). But anyways, as we speak, ceilings are being plastered, tiles are being placed, the heating systems is being tested and we are making progress in general. Last weekend, we slowly dove into the project of painting the house by starting with the stairs. After deciding on the colour, we starting painting and decided we totally hated it. New colour, new brushes, new start, and now the job is done. It will look good once the actual nice steps are being installed. The ones we have now look more like driftwood, but who cares as long as bags of plaster are still being hauled up and down, right? So we almost go over there daily to look at the progress (or really in an effort to try and make things speed up by *looking* at the things that still need to be done, heh). I even washed windows for the first time because I decided I simply needed to see what it would like like without all the mud and various other stray materials ;o). I pretended to have forgotten that the house is still bare and has no kitchen or anything else, and I caught a glimpse of an image of us happily roaming around in our kitchen, with the new shiny oven burning ;o). I could almost smell the scent of cookies ;o).

In the meantime I've been busy making curtains for the kitchen (with help of my mom, who is a true wizzard when it comes to fabric and needlework) and I stitched a gloriously pink, three-tiered cake on one of them. I couldn't think of anything more fitting and am very happy with how it turned out. Pictures to follow! You see that even in spite of being cut off from baking, cake still rules my life ;o)

I'm hoping that in a few short months, I'll beback full-swing into baking many new and exciting recipes and will be able to bring this blog back to life!

woensdag 7 mei 2008

Finally, an update!

I know, I know, I've been a horrible, non-existent blogger. But being basically cut off baking, I find it hard to keep up. I know things will improve once we move into the house and have that brand new, shiny oven installed.

In the meantime, builders have kept plowing along at the house, and it's really starting to look great. They have moved to the inside of the house now, which means that nothing much will change on the outside anymore, which makes me feel as if nothing were happening, but the contrary is true. Construction workers are coming in and out, hauling loads of pipes and electric supplies into the house. THey are hammering the whole stuff into the newly built walls, that are starting to look slightly deformed because of it, but we have been reassured that everything will just turn out fine in the end. At this point we're looking at a move-in date around the end of August, possibly early September.

Just to show the progress, here is the house in its latest glory (notice the front door we *loved* the minute we laid eyes on it ;o)).

zondag 30 maart 2008

My dad

March 1st, my dad very unexpectedly died at the age of 69. He hadn't been in good health for the past few years, but this was not to be expected. Our small family that now consists of 6 people total, is trying hard to come to terms with this loss, and all other things just seemed less important the past few weeks.

My dad was a carpenter in his working years, and being involved in many a building project himself, he followed the building of our new house with great interest. He always knew what was coming up next, told us about the time when he was still involved, and how things had changed over the years. Not only did he show great interest, he was also proud and a great supporter.

When we felt the world had to stand still for at least a few moments, time just passed us by as usual, and the builders kept going on as if nothing had happened. Which was hard, but a blessing at the same time, because it makes you realise you have to go on.
So in the past few weeks, we saw the house 'grow' fast. The highest point has already been reached, the roof is half done, windows have been ordered, and all in all things are just progressing rapidly.
The pictures below show different stages of progress.
Ceiling in the living room:
Bedroom without roof:
Brick walls:

Wish you were here to share it with us dad!