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!