Feasting on Art…

March 28th, 2010

… I love art!  On our first date, Juan asked me what I considered Art and why I loved it so much.  I remember it threw me at the time because a). it is so rare to have someone ask you a serious question on a first date (bonus points for Juan); and b). I had never thought really thought about it- it just makes me happy – it is a feeling.

My father is a painter and has always encouraged my interest in art.  He would take me to art exhibits and ask me questions about what we saw.  He would buy me canvases and let me play with acrylics, watercolors or pastels.  I have always liked that it is something we share.  Even now, when I find a new artist I like, I tell my Dad.

After college, I realized how important art was in my life as I was always in DC at a new exhibit.  I would miss it and crave it.  Then I stumbled across a discipline called Art Law- suddenly, I knew my calling.  Telling someone that ultimately I want to be an art attorney tends to lead to one question- What is that?

Well, it is many many different things from representing artists, dealers, art insurers, and museums to prosecuting art theft and archeological destruction.  I am still figuring out how I would like to work art into my legal practice but… I love learning about it and it keeps me motivated at school… This summer, I will be working in DC in a very awesome art related legal internship.  I’m very excited!

I made this cake for Feasting on Art‘s Birthday Blog Celebration.  I really enjoy reading her blog because it is wonderful intersection of art and food- two things I love.  I decided on Gattina’s Lemon Cake with sliced strawberries. She also has a beautiful blog worth checking out. The cake turned out good but I did not like the consistency. It may have been my mistake though because I added the flour mixture to the lemon juice… as the daughter of scientists… baking soda + lemon juice = a flat cake… but it was devoured quite quickly…

An Ode to Joy! Part II

April 21st, 2008

I have become the unofficial birthday cake baker at work. When everyone started finding out that I was going to law school, I believe they were more concerned about missing my cakes than me. I enjoy baking the cakes. I love being able to try new recipes and coming up with something to wow the birthday recipient.

This past weekend we threw my co-worker a party and I volunteered to bring the cake. He really likes chocolate cake so that was my only guideline. Now, I will admit that when I know there is going to be a keg at the party, I will go buy a cake mix, make some homemade icing, come up with a fun decoration and call it a night. Why should I slave over a cake when everyones’ taste buds will be dull from beer? On Saturday, I woke up itching to bake but too lazy to go to the store. So I took inventory of what we had and did some research on chocolate cake recipes. I stumbled across this recipe Nana Edie’s Devil’s Food Cake that looked amazing. I had everything needed except for the semi-sweet chocolate. I just had unsweetened. Well, I broke out my trusty friend the Joy of Cooking and figured out a conversion. Unsweetened chocolate + sugar = semi-sweet chocolate! It turned out great!!! In talking with a friend, he recommend filling it with strawberries so I filled it with strawberry jam and iced it with my mom’s chocolate frosting. It was quite delicious!

Devil’s Food Cake with Strawberry Filling
(adapted from Nana Edie’s Devil’s Food Cake)

1/2 cup milk (not nonfat)
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups + 7 teaspoons sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup strawberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Butter 2 (8- by 2-inch) round cake pans and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
3. Stir together milk and vinegar and set aside to “sour” (mixture will curdle).
4. Melt chocolate and butter with water in a saucepan over low heat, whisking until smooth. Cool slightly.
5. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
6. Beat sugar into chocolate mixture with an electric mixer.
7. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla.
8. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed just until combined.
9. Add soured milk and beat on high speed 2 minutes.
10. Divide batter evenly between cake pans.
11. Bake in middle of oven until tops of layers spring back when touched lightly and edges have just started to pull away from sides of pans, about 35 minutes.
12. Cool layers in pans on racks 5 minutes.
13. Run a thin knife around edges of pans, then invert layers onto racks to cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting
6 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
6 tablespoons cocoa
1 box confectioner sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk

1. Cream the butter and cocoa together.
2. Mix in vanilla.
3. Slowly add confectioner sugar and milk until it creates a frosting. Add the milk slowly because sometimes you do not need the whole amount.

Assemble cake:

1. Warm the jam in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make it spreadable.
2. Pour over the first layer and spread.
3. Place second layer on top of the first layer.
4. Spread the chocolate frosting on the top and down the sides.
5. Decorate as you please.

P.S. Do not forget to enter my Dollar Dish Duel!!!! More details here.

I have a crush…

March 31st, 2008

P “Did you see…”

G “…Tartelette’s Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Pie!”

P “What’d ya think?”

G “Well, you know me, I don’t like fruit desserts that much. I’d rather make the chocolate coffee tartelettes.”

P “mmm…I think I’m going to have to try them.”

P and G (in unison) “I love Tartelette!”

It may be slightly apparent from this small snippet of a probable but fictional (and slightly overdramatized) conversation with my co-worker that we have a bit of a crush on Tartelette. It was the first blog, I started reading regularly and began my path into the foodie blog world. I love the way she presents her delicious and inventive desserts through interesting witty prose and beautiful photography. I soon became hooked on the Daring Bakers, branched out into many other blogs and then ultimately started my own. Thank you Tartelette for your inspiration! and for my new cookbook!

A few weeks ago, I had the luck and honor to win The Sweet Melissa Baking Book from Tartelette’s random drawing. This book is excellent. I have flipped through it a number of times. In fact, it was on my night stand for a little while so I could read it before bed and hope for some sweet dreams… Each time, I discover something new that I am dying to make. Recently, work has been a little rough and everyone is very stressed. So, I decided that a cake would cure everything or at least give everyone a wonderful sugar rush. After some debate, I settled on the Hazelnut Raspberry Layer Cake because I was intrigued by the Hazelnut cake layers. It is true, I always gravitate towards chocolate desserts. If I order a dessert at a restaurant, which is rare because I normally walk away feeling like I could do better, it tends to be chocolate. Lately I have been trying to grow as a cook and a person by branching out of my chocolate comfort zone. I’ve even made a few lemon cakes and loved them…trust me I did not like lemon before at all. I thought a hazelnut cake with fruit would be a wonderful new thing to try. When I saw the gorgeous, fresh, and less expensive strawberries, I decided to substitute them for the raspberries.

The cake is phenomenal. The layers were light and fluffy. The buttercream to die for. Cake decoration is not my strong point…I tend to cover all mistakes with more icing. This cake is very forgiving as the buttercream covers all problems and looks great in the process. I am going to enter this into Mike’s Strawberry Seduction event because doesn’t it just tempt you..mmm…maybe its time to break into the extra buttercream!

Hazelnut Strawberry Layer Cake
(adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book)

1 2/3 cups hazelnuts, toasted and cooled (See P.S.)
2 cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 large egg whites, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 350ËšF.
2. Butter and flour to 9in cake pans. Line each pan with a 9in round of parchment paper.
3. In a food processor, combine the hazelnuts with 2/3 cup sugar and pulse grind until it is a coarse flour.
4. Transfer hazelnut flour into a large bowl. Add the all-purpose flour, an additional 2/3 cup of the sugar and the baking powder, and whisk to combine.
5. Have ready a fine-meshed strainer (I used a sifter). In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, brown the butter over medium heat. When the milk solids have reached a nutty brown color, immediately remove from heat. Using the strainer, strain the butter into the flour mixture. Stir to combine. Discard butter solids. Stir in vanilla.
6. In a clean bowl of an electric mixer with a clean whip attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks (I used my hand mixer and it worked but took a while). In a slow steady stream, with the mixer on medium speed, add the remaining 2/3 cup of the sugar. Increase the speed to high. Beat until they are firm, not dry, glossy peaks of meringue.
7. Using a rubber spatula, briskly fold on-third of the meringue into the batter to lighten it. Add the remaining meringue and gently fold until just combined.
8. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 20 minutes before turning the layers out onto the rack. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

Strawberry Buttercream

2 cups chopped strawberries
2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 water
3 egg whites, at room temperature
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cup strawberries sliced for decoration and filling

1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the 2/3 cup of sugar and the water and cook to 240ËšF on a candy thermometer, about 7 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in another bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the 3 tablespoons sugar and beat until there are medium stiff-but not dry-peaks of meringue.
3. When the sugar syrup reaches 240ËšF, decrease the speed of the mixer to medium, and immediately but slowly pour the hot liquid sugar in a steady stream down the side of the and into the meringue. Beat together until stiff glossy peaks form.
4. With the mixer on medium speed, add the butter in pieces to meringue. The mixture will break, but just keep beating and it will come together beautifully.
5. Pour the strawberries into buttercream and beat until combined.

Put it together:
1. Spread buttercream over one layer of cake. Cover with chopped strawberries.
2. Place the second layer onto the first layer. Ice the sides and top. Check out this for tips.

P.S. Toasting Hazelnuts:
Preheat oven to 350. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 7 minutes. Halfway through stir the hazelnuts.