Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Milan Cookies

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

I was very excited to log in to the Daring Bakers forums this month to discover that the July challenge was cookies. I LOVE cookies. Although my intention was to make both cookie recipes, I was a little busy this month, and only got around to making one of them: the Milan cookies.

These cookies were fun to make, and they flew off the plate at the July 4th potluck I brought them to. The cookie part was nice and delicate, and the chocolate wonderfully rich! I loved the sophistication that the hint of orange in the chocolate lent to the cookies.

These cookies get their shape by piping the batter/dough onto cookie sheets and baking. Apparently my piping skills need work, because I had a hard time getting them all to be uniform in size and shape. So...when it came time to "sandwich" the cookies, it was kind of like a puzzle to find two cookies that would fit well together. But all in all, this was a fun challenge, and a great new cookie technique. I still do intend to make the marshmallow cookies too, but between these cookies, a test birthday cake, and a real birthday cake, I just ran out of time.

Thanks for a great challenge!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Munchkin!

It's hard to belive it's already been a year! We celebrated the Munchkin's birthday this weekend, and in addition to reflecting on what a wonderful son we have, marveling at how he's grown and changed this year, and pondering our own evolution from childless couple to parents, it provided a great excuse to make a cake!

The Munchkin LOVES dogs, especially Thea, I decided to try to make him a puppy cake using Thea as my inspiration. Here's Thea:

And here's the Munchkin's birthday cake:

I was really happy with the way this cake turned out. I used Rose Levy Beranbaum's Perfect All American Chocolate Cake recipe, with Chocolate frosting. The face was carved from a 15" square cake, while the ears and tonge came from a 12" cake.

Once the cake was baked, carved, and assembled, it was time to decorate it. After talking to a cake decorator at another first birthday party a few months ago, I decided to try my hand at making marshmallow fondant. It was surprisingly easy! It came together very quickly and rolled out really smoothly. The only real problem I had was in dyeing the black fondant. For whatever reason, the amount of black dye I needed to add to the fondant to get such a rich black color seemed to affect the texture of the fondant. It tore really easily, and was just much more difficult to work with. I'll have to see if I can figure out why that was. I didn't have the same trouble with the red and brown dyes, but I didn't have to use nearly as much of those to get the color I wanted. But despite that, I'm really proud of this cake. There was a huge sense of accomplishment in coming up with the design, executing it, and having it come out the way I wanted it to.

All of our guests thought the cake looked amazing, and tasted even better. The Munchkin got his own cake, shaped like a bone.

He wasted no time digging in, not wanting to wait til we were done singing to grab his first fistful and shove it in his mouth. Once we set it in front of him, he went to town! It didn't take him long to decide he likes chocolate cake! I had a lot of fun working on this cake, and I loved seeing my guests (and my son) truly enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Happy Birthday Munchkin!!