Green mirror glazed Christmas Cake and other baking distractions

Green mirror glazed Christmas Cake and other baking distractions

Cake can be very distracting. Here are four recipes I discovered this year and couldn’t resist baking.

1) Neapolitan-style Bavarian Cake

cake2neopolitan-bavarian-cake

For Easter I made a Neapolitan-style Bavarian Cake. I used strawberries, instead of the raspberries like the original recipe.

Find the recipe here: Chocolate-raspberry Bavairan Torte

2) Raspberry Vanilla Cake with Mascarpone frosting

cake-july

I made this for an early birthday party in July. Look at this gorgeous cake!

Find the recipe here: Raspberry vanilla cake with mascarpone frosting

or watch how to make it.

3) No Bake Chocolate Pie

chocolate-pie

Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate. Gooey and silky smooth. I made an Italian Meringue for the top, instead of a regular meringue. We toasted it using my Dad’s propane torch. Not exactly a kitchen torch, but it worked beautifully.

Find the recipe here: no bake chocolate pie

4) Evergreen Christmas Cake

Green mirror-glazed vanilla cake with caramel mousse.

 

christmas-mirror-cake-2

The mirror glaze makes for a fantastic looking cake, doesn’t it?

I cobbled the recipe together from various places, my sources are at the bottom. It is a 6 step cake and I took three days to make it.

 

Step 1 Cake

Vanilla Cake
3 cups (375g) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp (2g) salt
3 tsp (12g) baking powder
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-2/3 cups (335g) sugar
5 eggs
2 tsp (10g) vanilla extract
1 cup (240ml) milk

Directions
1) Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
2) In a medium bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
3) In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar. Beat mixture until it’s light and creamy yellow. Incorporate eggs one at a time. Add vanilla extract.
4) Gradually add flour mixture while alternating with milk. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
5) Bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let pans cool on a cooling rack for ten minutes, and then remove from pans and allow to cool completely.

Step 2 Rich praline-cream filling

Praline powder
For Caramel sauce
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/8 tsp cream of tarter
Toasted pecans, 1/3 cup pecans finely chopped or finely ground

1)Making the Caramel sauce: Combine sugar, water and cream of tarter in heavy sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. (Check this by rubbing some of the sauce between your fingers. If you don’t feel any sugar grains its dissolved.)  Stop stirring
2) Bring sugar to full boil, and continue to boil until it turns a dark amber color. This may take a while.

tips:

  • You can swirl the pan to help it caramelize evenly, but don’t stir it.
  • The sugar may crystallize on the edges of your pan. You can use a pastry brush and water to melt these off, or just leave them.
  • The cream of tarter helps stabilize the caramel, and that keeps it from crystallizing. So I usually just leave the pan alone.
  • Watch the caramel carefully once it starts to turn an orangey color. Keep cooking  until it reaches a deep caramel/amber. Use your nose and smell it. If it gets too dark, and smells burnt then you have to make a new batch.
  • Test your caramel color by putting a small amount on a white plate.
  • Hot sugar/Caramel is very hot, don’t touch it, or let it splash you. You will get badly burned.

3) Prepare a cookie tray, or jelly roll pan, covered it in tinfoil. Once your caramel reaches a a deep amber, or dark caramel color, remove it from heat and pour in a microwavable bowl. It will be very hot, but starts to cool off quickly.
4)Quickly pour hot caramel onto your tinfoil-covered tray. If caramel gets too hard to pour, you can reheat in microwave. Allow caramel candy to cool. Then break into pieces
5)Grind cooled caramel in food processor, or crush into a fine powder. (Keep extra caramel powder in your refrigerator)
6) Toast pecans in oven, at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool. Use these for the cake garnish and to make the praline powder for filling.
7) Combine 1/3 cup of caramel powder and 1/3 cup finely chopped or ground pecans
Rich Praline-cream filling
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks (or 1 egg slightly beaten)
1 Tablespoon butter
2/3 cup praline powder

1) combine sugar,cornstarch and pinch of salt in small bowl.
2) Add milk to top of a double boiler, and bring to a simmer. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and cook for 15 minutes until thickened.
3) Pour a small amount of hot milk mixture into a bowl of egg yolks and stir quickly to combine. (So you don’t cook your egg). Then transfer egg mixture to the double boiler. Continue to cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
4) Add the butter, and praline powder and stir until combine. Pour through a strainer into a small bowl and allow to cool completely.

my notes: This was more of a sauce, which was great for soaking into the cake. If you want more of a thick fluffy filling modify the recipe to just 3/4 cup milk. Once the filling is cooled, gently fold in 1/4 cup of cream, that’s been whipped to stiff peaks.

 

Step 3 Caramel Mousse

Caramel Mousse
1-1/2 teaspoon unflavoured gelatin
2 Tablespoons water
1-1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 Tablespoons water
1/8 tsp cream of tarter
2 cups whipping cream (35%)
1/2 cup butter cubed
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

1) In small saucepan, add 2 Tbsp water; sprinkle gelatin over top. Stir to combine and set aside.
2) Making the caramel sauce: In a separate saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar, 5 Tbsp water and cream of tarter to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Then stop stirring. Continue to boil, without stirring, until dark amber in color. This takes a while.
3) Once you get a deep ambery/caramel color, carefully add 1/2 cup of the cream, along with the butter, vanilla and salt. It will sputter and bubble up, so step back from stove-top as you stir these. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Pour into a large bowl.
4) Cook gelatin mixture over medium heat just until dissolved, about 30 seconds. Add mixture to the caramel sauce and stir until combined. Let cool to room temperature.
5) In separate large bowl, beat 1-1/2 cups of the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Stir one-quarter of the cream into cooled caramel-gelatin mixture until combined; fold mixture back into cream just until no white streaks remain.

Step 4 Assemble cake

8″ springform pan with removable bottom
serrated knife
off-set spatula

1) Your cake layers need to fit inside an 8″ springform pan leaving about 1/4″ around the edges. Level the cake, cutting off the top so it’s even. Trim to fit inside your 8″ pan. (I used a paper plate as a guide and cut the cake edges off, until it fit inside. The cake pieces will be a tasty snack. or maybe a trifle)
2) Place first cake layer on bottom of springform pan, with cut side up.
3) Spoon on praline filling  and allow it to soak in. (or spread an even layer of filling)
4) Add caramel mouse over the filling, and spread all around the edges.
5) Add second cake layer with cut side down. (The flat bottom faces up) Cover completely with the rest of the caramel mousse and level off. (Tap your cake pan on the tabletop to get out any air bubbles. You want to fill the springform completely and evenly, so that you get a smooth edges all the way around and on top.)
6) Freeze until firm. (You can make the cake and assemble ahead of time and keep in the freezer until you’re ready to glaze.)

Step 5 Dark Green mirror glaze

Mirror Glaze
4 teaspoons (16g) Powdered Unflavored Gelatin
7 Tablespoons (100ml) Water
3/4 cup (245g) Corn Syrup
1/4 cup (60ml) Water
1 cup (200 g) Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup (140g) Sweetened Condensed Milk
8 oz (220g) Good White Chocolate, broken into pieces
Green Gel food coloring (I used Wilsons Green-leaf gel food coloring, and added purple to make it darker.)

1) Add gelatin to 7 Tablespoons of cold water; stir to combine and set aside.
2) Combine the corn syrup, 1/4 cup of water and sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan and bring to a full boil.
3) Add the bloomed gelatin and the sweetened condensed milk and whisk smooth.
4) Place white chocolate in medium bowl. Pour the entire hot mixture over the chocolate and whisk smooth, add food coloring.
5)Slowly pour glaze through a strainer into a medium bowl. The goal is to get rid of any air bubbles.
6) Allow glaze to cool until 90 degrees F, before you pour glaze over the cake

STEP 6 Final Garnish

mirror-glaze

Jelly roll pan
small bowl (just make sure it’s smaller than the cake bottom)
Powdered sugar
Sprig of evergreen, also dusted with powdered sugar
toasted pecans

1) While the glaze is cooling off: unmold your cake from the springform pan, and smooth edges and top. (Get it as smooth as you can. Because the glaze is very transparent and will show any bumps or rough edges. But make sure cake is still very cold when you glaze it.)
2) Place your frozen cake on the small bowl, and then pour cooled glaze over the top, allowing it to drip off the edges.
3) Allow glaze to cool completely. Carefully scrape off the drips from bottom and move to cake plate.
4) Use sieve to dust powdered sugar over the top, garnish with sprig of evergreen and toasted pecans.

my notes: The mirror glaze is a sticky gooey mess. It stays gooey, even if you freeze it. I glazed the cake and let it rest for an hour, then scrapped off the drippy edges and put the cake on the cake plate and kept it in the freezer. Then just before serving I added decorations.

Enjoy!

christmas-mirror-cake

 

Sources: The Vanilla cake was the same as the one I made in July, from Home Cooking Adventure . The filling I made from an old Fanny Farmer cookbook, the Caramel Mousse from Canadian Living, and the mirror glaze from Gretchen’s Bakery.

Youth


“Youth is a writhing thing. It squirms and wriggles in the mud. Youth is considered to be the “springtime” of one’s life… But spring is not always some fanciful fairy-tale time. It’s also the season when all the bugs and squirming things that people hate come crawling out of the earth.”

Durarara!!, Vol. 5 (novel) by Ryohgo Narita

 

“Sometimes it is the process of doing that makes things clear. If we don’t start, we never know what could have been. Sometimes the answers we find while searching are better or more creative than anything we could have ever imagined before.”

— Lynne Cox, Grayson

triumphant

 

Rare encounter with a Tanuki ( and other stories about Japanese Yokai)

Rare encounter with a Tanuki ( and other stories about Japanese Yokai)

When I visited Japan several years ago I had a strange encounter. I saw a mysterious creature, a yokai.

It was during a walking tour. My sister and I were climbing up a long set of stairs toward a temple gate. Ahead of us we noticed some Japanese girls taking photos and exclaiming excitedly. What was this about? We climbed faster.  In the bushes just off to the side, less than three feet away, we glimpsed a Japanese tanuki.

japanese tanuki

Continue reading “Rare encounter with a Tanuki ( and other stories about Japanese Yokai)”

The Unexpected Words that move me

Some books I love from the moment I start them, others grow on me, so that by the end I love them.

I have four  absolutely-perfect-best-ever books, and Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux  is one. (I’ll try to talk about the others later.) My love for The Tale of Desperaux began at the very beginning, when the mother mouse declares, “All that work for nothing… It is so sad. It is such a disappointment.” She is a french mouse, and disappointed that her newly born son is alive. Oh my heart. Then she gives her son his name, “Despereaux, for all the sadness, for the many despairs of this place. Now where is my mirror?”

The book only got better from there. It was perfect. It was everything I ever wanted in a story, and more than that – it was everything I never realized I wanted.

I love to discover such unexpected words.

Continue reading “The Unexpected Words that move me”

Mini review: Finn Fancy Necromancy

Finn Fancy NecromancyFinn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I did not know I needed more sasquashes in my life. I was enjoying the book plenty before, but when the sasquashes showed up, then it really got my attention.

I hope its not too much of a spoiler to mention them, because they are kind of a surprise early on, but the sequel has the name Bigfoot in it, so it can’t be too spoilery. There are all kinds of unexpected surprises in this book, in the descriptions, in the characters and the crazy things they get up to.

I tried to explain what the book was about to someone at work today, and it took me a moment to grasp its essence. It’s good, yeah, but what is it about? Well, it’s about a guy who was exiled to another realm and is now returning to our world 25 years later. (It’s our world, but with magic. Sometimes, I believe our world does have a kind of magic.)

Finn is a fish out of water in this modern world, with its fancy cellphones and thin computers and ‘google’ – which he assumes is a children’s game when his niece suggests he ‘google’ something. Poor Finn is two decades behind everyone. Cue some amusing ironic situations. Plus, someone’s trying to send him back into exile.

I only sorta grew up in the 80s -so, I’m just barely kinda familiar with 1980s pop and geek culture – but if I ever needed an expect, then Finn’s got me covered. From Goonies to Star Wars, Star Trek, Prince and Pac-Man, he makes such classic references.

The family dynamics feel real, and I like how the brothers are struggling to relate to each other after all this time, and how their mother’s ghost still lingers around the house. For all the fantasy, and the sasquashes, having the family drama and Finn’s love situation, makes the book easy to relate to.

In the beginning Finn suspects his brother is out to get him, and the big reveal about who the ultimate-arch-enemy is, doesn’t happen until the very very end, which I found frustrating. I wanted Finn to know who his enemy was sooner. It would have been more dramatic. But everything comes together in such a satisfying way at the end, that I was okay with it. Plus, so much fun happened getting to that point. Like when Elvis showed up.

But I won’t say anything more, because I don’t want to spoil that part.

View all my reviews

February’s Distractions

February’s Distractions

I feel so unproductive, unaccomplished, and very overwhelmed, but in a good way. The distractions are getting to me. (Curse you Korean manhwa.)

cooking-rabbit-300pxThe Donut Making Game

I started a new job at a bakery last October, and about two months ago became an actual baker. That was my goal since last summer, after I took off to California and spent June and July figuring out what I wanted with my life. So, I’m pretty proud of getting a job as a baker, even if that means I’m the bottom of the totem – the donut fryer.

OK, let’s begin. Game start.

  1. First, you make the french-style cruller
  2. Then comes the regular cake donuts
  3. And then the old fashioned (and if you finish up fast enough you get a break.)
  4. Around 5:30 am you start on the raised donuts.
  5. What kind? We’re talking bars, rings, fritters, persians, and bismarks. They come glazed, sugared, or frosted – with maple, chocolate, or white buttercream -also bavarian-cream-filled, jelly-filled, or german-chocolate-on-top.
  6. You need to one type of each donut as fast as you can, and then extra maple bars, because everyone loves those maple bars.
  7. The tricky part about this game? The customers, you can never quite guess what the customer will snatch up, or how quickly donuts will disappear off the shelf. (We’re out of maple bars! Already?)
  8. Fry some. Frost some. Glaze some.
  9. This is happening in real time.

Is it intimidating? Yes, but I had an idea how to conquer it. Instead of getting overwhelmed, I treated it like a game. I made myself a strategy guide – one for weekdays and one for weekends (Friday/Saturday/Sunday). Every day I get a little better, a little faster. The bavarian-cream-filled don’t look as pathetic as they used to. The chocolate rings aren’t swimming in chocolate.

I play the donut making game every morning. My shifts start at 3:30 am, and it’s pretty non-stop until about 7:30.

The last two months, I’ve also been living on bakers hours, about 5 hours ahead of everyone. (Or if you want to think about it this way, I’m living in Brazil’s time zone, instead of the mountain time zone.)

On my days off I still wake up around 4 am. What exactly do I do with myself?

Anime

Ah, Nodame Cantabile,  an anime from 2007 that I first found on-line in 2011 and finally imported the DVD collection from Australia in February 2016. Now I legally own it and can watch it whenever I want. (I also own two of the Japanese DVDs.) This is one of my all-time favorites. As soon as I got it I had to test it out to make sure it worked. (Thank you cheap DVD player for becoming region free.)

nodame 3I can report, that it is still a fantastic series. I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in a quirky- romantic-music anime, except its hard to get a copy and it’s no longer streaming anywhere. Such a shame.

The story follows two college music students, uptight and proud, Shinichi Chiaki and the goofy, yet talented, Megumi Noda, aka Nodame. They happen to be neighbors, attend the same school, both as piano majors, and make a surprising connection playing a Mozart sonato for two pianos. The music is a highlight, so many great classical pieces, and the main characters are amusing, especially how they influence each other over the coarse of the show. There are some dated parts, the show is nearly ten years old, and some annoying characters, but most of that is confined to one or two episodes.

24 episodes on DVD available in English if you import it from Australia. There is a Korean drama version of the story available on hulu called Tomorrow’s Cantabile.

Erased

 

erased

A more recent anime that I’ve fallen hard for is called Erased. It’s a winter 2016 season show, a sci-fi thriller about twenty-nine year old Satoru, who has a unique ability. He calls it Revival, a phenomena where he repeats about 5 minutes, or so, in time. In that short space of time he has the opportunity to prevent something terrible from happening – such as a truck running over a grade schooler, or a someone kidnapping a young child.

Everything changes when his mother is killed, and suddenly he’s framed for the murder.

Luckily, Revival kicks in. However, he ends up back in 1988 when he was ten years old. He has a chance to relive his grade-school life, and try to prevent a terrible series of abductions that is somehow related to his mother’s murder. Poor Satoru has it rough, and I can’t wait to see how the series plays out. The manga it’s based on is finishing up this March, so I suspect the anime will have a complete and proper ending.

It will have a total of 12 episodes, find it on Hulu or Crunchyroll, Funimation. Visit their website.

Manhwa

I recently discovered some manhwa available for free. There’s an app, or you can go to Webtoons.com, which features both amateur and professional comics. The company started in Korea, before going international, and I’ve been reading the popular Korean manhwa. Well, devouring them is more like it.

Nobelesse by Jeho Son, and Kwangsu Lee

raiThere is an anime version on crunchyroll. It’s a short but decent introduction to the characters and the world.

But what about the story? Nobelesse is about a vampire attending high school in South Korea. He is the nobelesse, the most noble of noble vampires.

This is all action, with a bit of comedy. It features ridiculously overpowered vampires, modified humans and innocent teens who have no idea who their new classmate really is. This is fluff, action fluff: enemies become allies, buildings explode, powers collide, one of the characters is named Frankenstein, but (gasp) it actually works with his backstory. The main character Rai says very little, and drinks a lot of tea and eats ramen all the time, but he’s not so bad. My favorite chapters are the ones where Rai walks into a room of people who have never met him before, and they all gasp because of how utterly gorgeous he is. Their reactions are hilarious. Read chapter 201. I love it.

Currently there are about 395 chapters.

Winter Woods by Cosmos and Van Jiwinter2

Winter Woods is a contemporary fantasy with a bit of romance. This one is more focused on character drama than action.

Winter was created hundreds of years ago by an Alchemist, and doesn’t have emotions, or a heart that works properly. He doesn’t know how to be human. The experiment begins when he is dropped off with a young woman named Jane and begins living with her and experiencing the world.

Slowly we meet the occupants of Jane’s apartment building. One man named Zoe is not who he seems, but someone who kills people for a living. Zoe also has a surprising connection to Winter – he was created by the same Alchemist, and suffers from the same lack of heart. However, Zoe once rescued a blind girl from prostitution. Their “love” stands in stark contrast to the “love” blooming between Winter and Jane.

winter
The alchemist who spent his days in tears

The story unfolds piece by piece, some chapters devoted to Winter, and some to the other characters, like the blind girl.

 

There is not an excess of words in this story (except one which features Jane’s story. She’s a struggling unpublished writer.) It’s stunning how the blind girl is drawn, and how the comic shows visually how she perceives the world as only sound. Everyone here struggles. Winter tries to to understand things like kissing and grapples with emotions like sadness and despair, and the scientists meanwhile continue to observe. As a reader, we’re kind of like those scientists peering into the intimate lives of these broken, yet resilient humans.

 

Currently there are about 61 chapters.

 

Tower of God by SIU

bam

How can I even explain this one? It’s a video-game fantasy, but it’s set in a secondary world and the characters don’t even know they live in a video-game world. No, that’s no good.

Tower of God is a character driven story about a young boy named Bam who just wants to be reunited with the girl he cares most about. Rachel visited him when he was all alone in darkness, when he knew nothing. She taught him how to speak and about the world. Then she left to climb the tower.

In order to find her, Bam must climb the Tower, but he was not chosen. He is an Irregular, talented and strong, and there are powerful people who want to use him for their own means. Will he be a pawn in their game? What awaits poor young Bam in the Tower? Friendship? Hope? Or betrayal and despair?

The story follows Bam’s journey floor by floor up the Tower. The art is rough in the beginning, but improves. The world is vaguely familiar with its video game elements: ranks are given to certain people, they have a “pocket”, weapons can be put away inside the pocket, and each floor has tests and games in order to get to the next one. Each floor is like a separate world, a different dimension with different creatures and rules.

The characters make the story vibrant. They are flawed, complex people. Each with their own desires and struggles. A fake Princess seeks revenge, a girl wants to see the stars at the top of the tower, a giant bipedal crocodile wants to hunt “turtles”. (Did I mention the other races? There are more than just humans in this world. There are lizard-girls and bunny-eared creatures and bunny-girls, horned people, bee-people and whatever alien-like creation the creators want to draw. Gender can also be a bit confusing, but that might be due to poor artwork designs in some of the early chapters. Don’t let that stop you.)

This story is utterly compelling. Addictive. The readers are passionate, and that excitement and energy is very contagious.

Currently there are about 241 chapters


 

What I find most refreshing about the manhwa? They’re missing a lot of the Japanese cliches and tropes that fill so many light-novels and manga.

Some words of caution if you’re interested in these. The translations are sometimes iffy, and the art in the beginning of the really long running series is rough, but that does improve. They are not short series either. Chapters take me about 6 minutes to read, and there are hundreds available right now. Thank god.

If I find other good ones, maybe I’ll let you know. Such dangerous distractions. I should have put a disclaimer somewhere.*

* Warning: the above anime and manhwa may distract you from doing anything productive, such as dishes, other housework, like ironing or putting away laundry, writing, eating a proper lunch, or going outside.