Welcome to the new and improved Carano's Cucina. I make a lot of kick ass food and go out to some amazing restaurants. Take a look around and make yourself at home :)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloweeny Cakey Blog!

Now this is far more my style.

Several years ago I was at a garage sale and found a set of skull cake pans.

I had to have them. They were just too fun to pass up. Well they sat in a box for the next few years. But when I came up with an idea on how to ice them a few days ago, I decided to give them a try.

Because I wanted to make them edible, I decided to use my favorite chocolate cake recipe. This recipe makes two very big layers or four smaller layers. The skull pans are kind of small so I decided to make cupcakes with the leftover batter. The very cupcakes mentioned in the previous blog that hit the ground! Thank goodness it wasn't all of them though. I did keep about 10 at home, which Nick ended up taking to work. Aren't they cute!?

So, skull cakes. I used Crisco cooking spray on the pans and that was a mistake. The cakes stuck to the pan and basically were ruined.

Poor skull on the right totally had his face eaten off. The one on the left was OK... but still not great. If I had some actual talent I could have made this a zombie cake with it's face eaten off, but I really had no idea how to pull that off. And I still wanted to implement the idea I had so I baked another cake. I didn't use the original recipe though because I didn't have all the necessary ingredients now. Instead I made a mayonnaise cake because I did have all the ingredients for it. And this time I buttered and floured my cake pans. I melt the butter and brush the pans with a pastry brush, and then sprinkle the pans with flour. I'm not taking any chances for another sticking disaster!

It worked! The cakes came out of the pan perfectly and all the detail was showing. So here's my idea. I would cover the cakes with a white chocolate ganache (12 oz white chocolate, 1/2 cup of heavy cream - heat cream, pour over white chocolate, let set for 3 minutes, whisk until all the chocolate is melted, stir in Tablespoons of softened unsalted butter until smooth). While the ganache was still warm, but not hot, pour it over the cakes so it makes a glaze, covering the cakes in white chocolate.

Refrigerate and let the ganache set. Then, using a store bought black icing, because black is just too hard to make, fill in the detail. I started with the eyes.

From there I did the mouth. To do the mouth I squirted some of the icing out into a bowl and used a toothpick to fill in the teeth.

I don't have the steadiest hand, but I was honestly quite impressed that I did this well!

I contemplated not filling in the nose, but it looks a bit too much like an alien without the nose so I went ahead and did the nose too. But honestly, if you make green icing, this would be a pretty good alien.

Happy Halloween Everyone!!!! Oh and don't worry about the skull cakes that stuck to their pans. See all that ganache glaze in the bottom of the pan above? That was salvaged and gets melted down and poured over delicious hunks of chocolate cake. YUM.

Course Two Final Exam Cake - Don't Judge Me!

Onward and upward to Wilton Cake Decorating, Course Two. If I thought Course One was hard, that was a walk in the park comparatively!

Each class is an exercise in frustration, learning more and more flowers, more and more borders and working with vile buttercream. We were to make flowers each week, keep them and store them and then bring them all back to the final class to assemble our final exam cake. So first up was the chrysanthemum. That was met with absolute failure. So much so that I didn't even keep any. I kept telling myself I would make more later, but later never arrived. Rosebuds were also met with failure. Yeah, I really do suck at cake decorating.

Week two we were using royal icing which is basically just water and powdered sugar with a little meringue powder thrown in. Again, nothing I'd actually want to eat. Speaking of which, a few days ago I was watching Ina Garten on Food Network and she made a buttercream icing for her cake. Let's discuss that she did not use shortening. She did not use meringue powder. She did not use butter flavoring. Hell she didn't even use powder sugar! Nope. Ina's buttercream is made from real egg whites, sugar and water made into a simple syrup and five.... I repeat FIVE sticks of actual butter. That's a buttercream I can get on board with. But I digress...

Royal icing and color flow icing are both used in class 2. Color flow icing is basically royal icing but instead of the meringue powder you use color flow powder. What's the diff? No clue other than another way for Wilton to make more money. We started out making birds where you trace a bird design onto a board using Tip 2 to outline it then filling it in with color flow icing. I didn't take any pictures during any of the classes other than the last one, so you'll see my bird on the final cake picture.

Using Tip 101, we made Apple Blossom flowers. I actually did OK with those. That is until we had to change over to Tip 1 and put the little dots in the center. I don't mind telling this, I hate Tip 1. Tip 1 is evil. You need to be the Incredible Hulk to squeeze Royal icing out of the bag with Tip 1 on it. From Apple Blossom's we moved on to Violet's, using Tip 59 and, yep, you guessed it, that blasted evil Tip 1 reared it's ugly head again. After Violet's came the Violet Leaf using Tip 103. And that brings us to the end of Class 2. So in two hours we did birds, apple blossoms, violet's and violet leaves. That's a lot to cover in two hours.

On to Class 3 again using Royal Icing. We started out making the Victorian Rose. How it's different from a regular rose, I'm not quite sure. The technique is pretty much the same. After the rose came the daisy. After the daisy came the daffodil. After the daffodil came the pansy. After the pansy came the primrose. Seriously! All these flowers were covered in the 2 hours of class 3.

Class 4, the final exam is approaching. Now we need to bring in a cake made in the pans provided with the Course 2 kit. Knowing damn well that this cake would meet with an unfortunate demise when all was said and done, I opted for a box cake mix as I have with previous class cakes. The pans provided are oval shaped but quite frankly, the cakes came out of the oven looking like a couple of footballs. Thank goodness I have that wonderful cake leveler!

Cake... check. Leveled... check. Iced in vile buttercream.... check.

On to class armed with my cake, my flowers from previous weeks, a big bowl of craptastic buttercream and I'm ready! I'm ready to learn basketweave and put this bad boy together. And let me just say, I was in an extremely pissy mood on this particular day. Everything went wrong before I even got to class! But that's another story for the next blog. I will say however, that I decided to bring everyone a little Halloween treat and made cute spider web cupcakes with delicious chocolate cake. Upon arriving and opening my car door to retrieve everything I had to carry into class, the cupcakes hit the ground! No cupcakes for anyone :(

And because I was making a bunch of things that day, I only got one coat of icing on my cake and yes, it's all full of crumbs. I know better. I know to do two coats. I didn't have time and anyway, I was going to be loading this cake up with all kind of craptacular flowers. So in the end it didn't much matter. So here we go. Basketweave is tip 47 and I have to say, once you get a rhythm going, it moves quicker than I thought it would.

There is a specific problem that arises often in class and that is that the vile buttercream gets softer and softer from the heat of your hand as the class moves along. So while my basketweave is not perfect due to hand heat softening and my own less than stellar abilities, I'm actually pretty happy with how that part of the cake turned out. This is on half an hour of practice!

After the sides are completely weaved up, it's time to start placing flowers. There isn't really a rhyme or reason to this. Just make it look good. Hmmm.... yeah, I'll work on that. So I started placing flowers on the top.

I'm sure you've had no trouble distinguishing that the purple flowers on the sides are primose, the yellow flower is a daffodil and the purple flower in front is a daisy.

And here is the final product in all it's sucktastic glory!

I don't think Ace of Cakes or Cake Boss will be calling me any time soon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

O.M.G. Nutella Crepes!

After a morning of shopping at the Howe Meadow Farmer's Market my friend Lynn and I decided to go get some breakfast. We decided to try the Golden Goose on the corner of Broad Blvd. and State Rd. in Cuyahoga Falls.

In the seven years that I've lived in Akron, that restaurant has been several things. It was Leipply's when we first moved here, then it became Chuck and Diane's, and now it's back in the Leipply family and called the Golden Goose. And most recently they've added a bakery to the establishment.

On this particular morning we were just looking for a good cup of coffee and a something to eat. Little did I know that this German owned restaurant would be offering one of my favorite things as part of the daily specials... Nutella crepes! And I didn't even see the specials board but Lynn mentioned it while we were looking over the menu. Game over... that's what I'm having! Lynn decided to get it too. For $3.95 you get one crepe, which was perfect. One crepe with Nutella filling, strawberries and bananas on top and a little whipped cream and powdered sugar.

I have one word to describe it... heavenly! OK, two words, heavenly delicious! *sigh* It was perfect. The crepe was tasty, the filling...well come on, it's Nutella for goodness sakes! And the fruit was a perfect compliment. And the cream balanced it all out. It was not too sweet for breakfast and was just enough quantity. Perfect with a nice cup of coffee. Yum.

Remember though, if you decide to go to the Goose to give this a try, it was a special and might not always be available.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What is That? Celery Pie??

For followers of my blog, you probably already know how deeply I was affected by the loss of my Grandma a year ago. As the anniversary of her death approached, I was suddenly given a great gift by my former neighbor Joanne. A big bag of rhubarb! I know what you're saying.. rhubarb?? This time of year? Well as she explained it, she has a big patch of rhubarb in the yard at her new house and she cut it all down only to have it all grow right back! So with more rhubarb than she knew what to do with, she brought it to me.

In past years when Joanne lived right across the street from me, she had rhubarb in that yard too and she would give me tons and tons of it so I could give it to Grandma. Grandma made jam and cobbler, and pie and anything else she could think of to make with rhubarb. But now, it's up to me. Last year I made a cobbler that Nick and I both loved. But this time I decided to make pie like Grandma's.

I've gone over pie crust before, so if you need that recipe it can be found here. The recipe is either doubled or made twice because this pie has a top and a bottom crust.

You will need one pound of fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled and cut into pieces. Basically I just cut them in half since they are a lot softer than rhubarb and will break down more when baked.

You will also need a pound of rhubarb, cleaned and sliced into about half inch pieces.

Mix the strawberries and the rhubarb together with the juice of one lemon (if it's a drier lemon, use two).

In a small bowl, mix together 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, 1/4 cup corn starch and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

After you get your bottom crust in the pie plate, sprinkle about 2 Tablespoons of the sugar mixture on the bottom of the crust.

Then mix the rest in with the strawberries and rhubarb.

Pour the whole mixture into the pie crust. Dot the top with little pieces of butter. About 2 Tablespoons total. All you do is take little pieces of that butter and scatter them around the top of the fruit. You don't have to do this, but hey why not!? Everything is betta wit butta.

Now lay the second crust on top. You're going to have to vent the pie on top so steam can escape so if you want to be decorative, do that before you put the crust on top of the pie. I used a little star cookie cutter to make my vent.

As you can see, my fluting of the edges ability has not improved.

Brush the top crust with cream or milk and then sprinkle with sugar. Now this is imperative. Place the pie on a cookie sheet. DO NOT FORGET THIS STEP or you will have strawberry rhubarb molten lava in your stove.

Place the pie on the sheet in a preheated 400 degree oven. Bake for 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes the crust is getting too brown, then cover the edges with foil. Bake another 15 minutes. I didn't have a "too brown" issue with mine. It baked just fine. In fact, I ended up leaving it in probably for more like an hour total.

Maybe it sounds corny but I felt Grandma with me when I was baking that pie. All the years she tried to get me to eat hers and I was ascared of rhubarb. I have no idea why. But now, Nick and I love it. The pie came out perfect!

Can you see why we call it Celery Pie? =)