Thursday, February 23, 2012

Baking Lessons

**WARNING: If you have given up sweets for the next 40 day, you may want to skip the pictures**

I've always had some Julia Child-esque aspirations to be a master in the kitchen. To me, being able to create something delectable is a practical skill, and of course a bonus to kitchen mastery is the effective ability to “whip something up” to keep everyone from starving. (I know, a chronic issue in middle-class American homes…)

Ok, so really I just want to be a good cook because I like good food and like to be able to prepare it for others.  This hankering has kicked itself into high gear since taking on the term “wife” and the installation of my long-anticipated KitchenAid stand mixer. Free time these days is often spent rifling through Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything,” Southern Livings’ “1001 Ways to Cook Southern,” and some favorite Davis cooking sites: and

With all that said, let’s get down to what this post is really all about: some of my very latest and greatest BAKING adventures.

A few weeks ago our dear newlywed friends, the DeBries, hosted a superb Super Bowl party despite the less than extraordinary teams (Chris, if you’re reading this, sorry.) Thus, with the gentle nudging of my culinarily* adventurous husband I landed upon making mini desserts to honor each team, though certainly unworthy of honor.  That’s why you can find pictures and recipes below for BOSTON Cream Pies and NEW YORK Cheesecakes.  I think of the desserts that night, the cream pies had it.
*Sometime I like to pretend I'm James Joyce.

You can find the recipe for the Boston Cream Pies here

My biggest tip, for with anytime you are dealing with sugar, have the pot hot and your liquid and spoon ready.. sugar burns quickly and makes custard, well... not custard.

The mini cheesecakes were much simpler, and I took a shortcut by topping them off with canned dark sweet cherries.. if I had more time and resources I would have remade Joe's home brandied cherries and added a little whipped cream garnish. Whatever your preference, you can find the recipe here. I chose to be somewhat healthy and use neufchatel cheese.

More recently, I took on the task of making a from-scratch King Cake to celebrate Mardi Gras.  This would have been the first pre-Lenten season without one, and just because my proximity to New Orleans and the splendid Gulf Coast has changed does not mean traditions have to. It was quite an undertaking, but I’m admittedly proud of the result!

Had lots of fun trying to wrangle the filled dough into this guy... but I think he's looking pretty yummy, even pre-oven!  
Colored sugar crystals can be expensive and I already had food coloring so I just dyed my own!

So gooooood!

If you're thinking of making one next year, I recommend this one! Tips: check for doneness before 30 minutes. Mine came out just a few minutes too late. Also, basic confectioner's icing was fine, but there are tons of varieties to experiment with including a bourbon icing! Finally, I let my dough rise overnight with a damp cloth over the bowl... definitely worked out.

Hope I got your taste buds tingling!

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