Friday, July 5, 2013

Wible-Storey Wedding Cake

Approximately a year ago as I was making my own wedding cake, my friend Heather came to help me out a few days early with all those fun little wedding details that need to be done. And the whole time she talked about this great guy, Evan, and I knew something was definitely happening there. So, here we are, a year later, and I was honored to go to Cleveland to make their wedding cake.

There were a few challenges with this one that were new, and there were a few moments when I was terrified that it wasn't going to work out. But I showed that cake who was boss.

First, I mailed all of my baking supplies to Heather's house in Cleveland so they'd be waiting for me when I arrived. She was kind enough to buy me all the ingredients I'd need to make cake for 150 people, which included 5 dozen eggs and 8 pounds of butter. (People kept walking through the kitchen, marveling at the amount of butter that was on the counter. In the end, I only had a stick and a half left.) Heather was kind enough to pull every bowl, measuring cup, spoon, and spatula she had for my use. Her wonderful gas oven was at my disposal, and once I had some extra coffee in me, I got to working.

I started with a lemon curd and a raspberry filling for their cake. I'd never done either of these before, but they came out well, or so I felt on that Wednesday afternoon. I then went to buttercream mode, and made 4 batches of the buttercream, equalling about 25 cups of buttercream. That was a lovely sight to behold.
I can't ever pass up the chance to take a picture of beautiful buttercream.
Around 5 or 6 pm on Wednesday before the Saturday wedding, I started on the cake itself. My first batch did not look like it was supposed to, and the fact that I was in a strange kitchen, had been up since 5 am, and had flown on a plane started to get to me. My first worries about this cake cropped up, but I realized my butter was over soft from the too-warm kitchen, so I stuck everything in the fridge to keep it from all out melting. I made one more round of cake and called it quits for the night.

The next day, I got to it and finished making cake for the display cake and made a rectangular cake to serve when the display cake ran out. I started to assemble and my first group of cake with filling slid everywhere. I immediately stuck it in the freezer (allowed) and told Heather that I apologized in advance for the fact that I was anxious about her cake and wasn't sure it was going to work out. The other tiers slid a little as well, and I'm not sure if it's because the cake was incredibly fresh (usually I've made it two weeks in advance and kept it in the freezer), the filling was too soft, or what, but by Thursday evening, I was very worried. I held off on frosting for Friday and would do assembly on Saturday before the 2pm wedding.

On Friday, I moved the whole thing to the wedding site, which was in a lovely house where the family was incredibly kind and let me get buttercream all over their kitchen. (I did clean it up). They also let me take over an extra fridge in their garage to store the cake, and after Friday's frosting, I started to feel much better about how things were going to come out. Heather and I planned to do sugared raspberries and lemons as decoration, and two of the bridesmaids, Chiara and Allison (thanks, ladies!), helped me out with that on Saturday.

Come Saturday, I assembled, thankful that the cake had sorted itself out and stayed upright. The cold helped it. I decorated it, enjoyed a lovely wedding and, then served it up. I've never actually cut a cake to serve before, and it was a little sad to tear apart my creation. But it was worth every bite.

And thanks to Jennifer Van Elk for these fantastic photos of the cake and Heather and Evan enjoying it! Congrats Heather and Evan!


Monday, July 1, 2013

Rosemary Focaccia

A couple of things came together for me to make this tasty, buttery (olive oily?) airy bread (about a month ago because I've been bad about updating, apologies!) --

First, a co-worker gave me some beautiful fresh rosemary from her garden, and I wanted to use it not just in an herb rub on a meat (my usual go-to for fresh herbs), but in a way to bring out that earthy, piney, fresh flavor.

Second, I wanted to make popovers on Saturday, but didn't have any milk because I'd not yet gone to the store.

So, I flipped through my America's Test Kitchen Baking Book (what else would I use?) and settled on focaccia since I'd never made it before. I did end up having to wait until I got back from the store to make this, since there is a potato (yes, a potato) in this recipe and we don't keep potatoes around. Garlic and onions, of course, but no potatoes.

That's the shredded potato in the measuring cup on the bottom right.
I do think it's weird that there is a potato in this recipe. I think that next time I try this, I'll use a recipe from someone with a slighly more Italian background than ATK. Their reason for the potato is a more tender crumb, which this bread has, but I think that if they had you mix by hand rather than in a stand mixer, you wouldn't need to worry as much about this problem.

And now it's time for Gloria's Crackpot Cooking Feelings: I don't think you should use the stand mixer to make breads. Yes, the mixer comes with a dough hook, and maybe if you're making a bread with a very wet dough, it is easier to handle, but the times that I've made dough in the stand mixer, the final product comes out too tough. I think if you're new to bread, then sure, go for it, but it is so much better if you get a feel for dough, and what a dough that has been perfectly kneaded looks and feels like. Plus, I heard this lady on a podcast, and she's firmly in the "by hand" camp.

Back to the bread.

It's just flour, yeast, the potato water from the boiled potato, 1 cup of the boiled potato grated, salt, and olive oil. It's a pretty easy dough and it comes together quickly. Just a few quick kneads, and it was in the bowl resting.

After about an hour, the dough was ready to go and be spread in the baking sheet. More olive oil and then I gently pressed the dough out. It went pretty easily to the corners, but I did give it a few minutes to rest to really get it all the way to the edges.

An hour and a half later it was risen to size and I got to do the fun part of digging my fingers into it. The book doesn't tell you to get rough with it, but Anne Burrell on her show said that you can be pretty tough with this bread. I really dug in there, and the holes will come together if you happen to get to the  the bottom of the pan. Then I sprinkled the fresh rosemary all over and popped it in the oven.

Twenty minutes later, I had crispy, beautiful focaccia. I had to wait 10 minutes before I sprinkled it with sea salt and could dig in. It was definitely tender, flavorful, and amazing. I've been oversalting my food lately, so I held back on the salt, but I would say next time that I could really go for it. And I will definitely try a more traditional recipe next time. Nevertheless, this was worth it and I will make it again.