Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bacio con Biscotti

The bad news is, I've had to give up teaching Wilton Cake Decorating classes at Michael's. I've loved meeting so many amazing women, learning new things myself, and kvelling with pride as each student has mastered buttercream roses.

The good news is, I have a new, full-time job at Chronicle Books, a fabulous local publisher of stunning books on art, design, cooking, craft, entertainment parenting, and amazing books for children. Also games, kits and fantastic stationery. I'm thrilled!

The best way I know of to make an impression (and OK, I'm not proud, kiss up) to my new co-workers is to bring in a basket of homemade bakies. So at the end of my first week, I came to the office bearing a couple of batches of biscotti.

These crunchy little cookies are not too sweet, and are cheap and easy to make. Almond Biscotti is my go-to recipe, but I only had enough for one batch. I had lots of cashews in the freezer leftover from a recent pesto project, so I threw in those with some lemon zest (love having a lemon tree in the backyard!) and pumpkin pie spice (I would have used ginger if I'd had it, but I didn't...)


2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a baking sheet with foil and grease well, or use a silpat.

Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale, about 2 minutes.

Beat in the flour and baking soda and continue beating until blended. Mix in the

With floured hands, form half of the dough into a 12-inch log. Place on
the baking sheet and press down to flatten to a width of about 3 inches. Repeat
with the remaining dough.

Bake the cookie loaves for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, leaving the oven
on. Let the loaves cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove them to a cutting board.

Slice each loaf diagonally with a serrated bread knife into 12 slices.

Put the slices back on the cookie sheet, laying them on their sides. Return them to
the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

Cookies will keep for about a week in an airtight container, or for up to 3 months
in the freezer.

Makes 24 cookies.

Cashew Lemon Spice Variation

Add the zest of 1 lemon with the eggs and sugar
Replace the almonds with 3/4c. toasted, unsalted cashews
Add 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or pumpkin pie spice with the flour

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Friday, July 17, 2009

We all scream...

... when we try to make Ice Cream Cupcakes. At least I do. Until now.

I've made these a couple of times with mixed results. The come out top-heavy, the cone gets soggy, and they're really hard to transport from home to a party. Turns out I was doing it ALL WRONG!

You DON'T bake the batter in the cone, you bake the cupcake separately and pop it into a cone. And you fill the bottom of the cone with candy or gumballs to keep the little yummies from toppling over - brilliant. You can also add a mini cupcake on top for a tall, soft-serve look. Yum!

Check out this short, helpful video from Betty Crocker:

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Love, Loss and What I Baked: Rice Krispie Wedding Cake

My mom never made Rice Krispies Treats (RKTs) when I was a kid (she doesn't like them) and it never occurred to me to make them until I the boy was around 5 or 6. And now, I kind of can't stop. They're so much fun! You can color them, shape them, mold them, put them on a stick, add M&Ms or peanut butter - or both!

The idea of a tiered RKT cake had been playing around in my head for a while, and when I was invited to a friend's informal BBQ wedding reception in a park, I not only RSVP'd, but offered to bring an RKT cake that would feed the crowd.

The cake had a 12", 9" and 6" layers and took a LOT of cereal and marshmallows (and real butter, natch) I don't remember how much, but there were several trips to the store. I piped a simple design of vines, leaves and a star border with buttercream, but if I had to do it again I'd use royal icing. I also studded it with gold dragees from my contraband stash.

I've since learned that these are a pretty popular wedding cake option - and have been featured on the Today Show and Martha Stewart. Oh well, so I didn't invent the RKT Wedding Cake, but I'm happy with my version.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Marla Can't Be Stopped (Yay!)

Marla was one of the first students to take my classes back in April. At the time she was a novice baker - she didn't even own a mixer! Now just look at the lovely cakes she's making. I'm so proud :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

And the winner is...

.... me!

I got first place at the Marin County Fair! I'd like to thank the the fine folks at Wilton for the tools, techniques and access to cheap styrofoam, Silke and Local Flora for the inspiration and John & Max Starr for giving me the psychic and physical space to work on the cake.

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Baskets of Flowers

The ladies completed their Course 2 "Finale" cakes last week - and the results were beautiful!

Unlike Course 1 where the students complete 3 cakes over four weeks, in Course 2 students make lots of different flowers that are used to complete one, grand, beautiful cake on the last night of class.

Magaly and Susana work on their basketweaving

Made-ahead royal icing flowers are added to the cakes

Justifiability proud - the cakes are beautiful!

Susana made my heart sing when she said, "When class started and I looked at the cake we were supposed to make I said, 'Yeah, right' but look at this!"

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