Monday, April 5, 2010

In the Kitchen with Mountain Man (and Adventures in Cake Decorating)

Food is something that is very important to MM and I... we are both very passionate about all that is food and love spending time in the kitchen together cooking, eating and even baking. It's great to be able to share those kind of things with someone and it makes meals a lot more fun when it becomes a team effort. 

The more I got to know MM as we first began our relationship the more the kid intrigued me.. already totally not "my type" it was never a dull moment as we were getting to know each other.  It was one lazy Saturday in particular when I realized once and for all that this was the guy for me... we hadn't been dating too long and like I said I was always learning something new about him. As we laid around this particular afternoon, MM started getting ancy (surprise surprise) and insisted we do something, 'Let's make something,' he said, 'Make something? like what?' I retorted (It was Saturday afternoon, all I wanted to do was hang) 'Yeah,' he said, 'Let's make some pies.' [Insert record scratching and music stopping here] Of course, I was intrigued.. a guy who wants to make pies on a Saturday afternoon? Let me rephrase that.. a good looking, normal, cool guy who wants to make pies on a Saturday afternoon? Shortly there after we made our way to the grocery store to get ingredients and baked pies for the afternoon... cherry and apple to be exact. Did I mention he latticed the top and made the crust from scratch? sans recipe? out. of. control. 

In addition to the wonderful pies, MM bakes a mean bread. While he was telling me about some loaves he was making the other evening it dawned on me- what a perfect opportunity to get him involved, do some explaining and be included in this lovely blog! When I ran the idea by him he was totally on board- guest appearances by my MM complete with personal narrations (with a few witty comments by yours truly) I mean, he is an integral part to the bakery we want to own one day... so making his first, but most certainly NOT his last appearance... ladies and gentleman... all the way from Georgia...

Welcome to this addition of 'In the Kitchen with Mountain Man.' 

Sourdough Baguettes and a Loaf

Sourdough is a LOOONG process, but well worth the wait! This project was started on Tuesday when I put together the "starter mixture" and let it begin to sour. Friday afternoon rolled around and I knew by the pleasant beer smell that the starter was ready to be placed into action (this starter takes 3 days to get ready so plan accordingly- recipe is below) . I got this simple recipe from but unlike my girlfriend, I like to have a little freedom with recipes so I tend to deviate. (he was trying to be funny here and he knows this is crap, since I often change things up and even create my own recipes... we're going to have to work on his blog wit) The recipe began with some of the starter, then I added a little more warm water, a little salt, some whole wheat flour and a lot more bread flour. For those of you that really like specifics here are the exact amounts:

2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 tsp yeast

Mix all ingredients and let sit for 3 days. If you don't want to use it right away, place in an airtight container and put in the fridge.

Sourdough Bread
1/4c starter
2 1/2 c warm water
2 tsp salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
5 1/2 c bread flour
After mixing in the top four ingredients, add the rest of the flour one cup at a time until it was too thick to stir and turn it out on the counter.  This is my favorite part!  Kneading the rest of the flour into the dough takes some time and effort, but I absolutely love this part of the process. 
The way it feels under your hands, the way you can be rough with it, and the fact that the more you knead the better it will be (most of the time) is awesome.  After kneading the bread for about 10 minutes, most of the flour should be incorporated into the dough.  At this point the dough should be elastic and springy, rebounding if you poked it with your finger. Then, let it rest for half an hour.  
Bread in general is such a waiting game and timing is crucial.  All of the pauses and rests are so important in the baking process so if you get impatient, you could end up with some disasters (or really flat bread).  After the rest, I went ahead and formed it into 2 smaller baguettes and half filled a loaf pan.  Then again I waited... this time 12 hours!  When I woke up the next morning they had grown and doubled in bulk, so I popped them into the oven.  
375 degrees for 45 minutes was all it took... along with a little steam to give them that awesome golden brown crust and beautiful slash that is characteristic of baguettes.   


And there you have it folks.. Mountain Man's first blog spot.

I mentioned my Easter cake in the title and I apologize for the length of this post,
 but I didn't want to have to post more than once this evening so I figured I'd just consolidate it all into one. In the future, MM's posts will probably be their own post.

Adventures in Cake Decorating
This past Friday concluded Lesson 3 in my cake decorating class. Lesson 3 was devoted to learning the art of royal icing flowers, so we didn't have to come with a completed cake till the last week of class which just happened to be Easter. I knew I would be joining my friends down in Austin for Easter Sunday Dinner and it was my task to bring the dessert (obviously). In this last class we were supposed to use all the flowers we had been making for the past few weeks in addition to learning to 'basket weave.' 
I went with a Neapolitan Cake - layers of vanilla cake and chocolate cake with a strawberry buttercream filling and of course covered and decorated with vanilla buttercream.
The flowers were all made from royal icing, making them very edible (Steph and I ate at least half of them after dinner) and the basket weaving was actually not as difficult as it might appear. The Easter Bunny's butt was inspired by the geniuses behind 'Hello Cupcakes' although mine is a little different in regards to where he is and how he was decorated- but I still must give credit where it's due.

Neapolitan Cake
Adapted from Epicurious 
Oven: 350 Bake time: 30minutes

Vanilla Cake
1 cup oil
2 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBS baking powder
3/4 cup milk
4 TBS sour cream (If you don't want to buy sour cream, you can just use 1 cup of milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
4 eggs

Chocolate Cake
1/4 cup cocoa 
2 TBS milk

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl mix milk, sour cream and vanilla extract.
Beat oil, sugar, and add eggs one at a time. Reduce speed and alternate adding flour mixture and wet mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. 
Once all is combined, pour half of batter (about 2 and a half cups) into separate bowl and add 1/4 cup cocoa and milk.
Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and transfer to cooling rack.
After cooled, slice each cake in half. 
Fill cake with strawberry buttercream, alternating layers: chocolate and vanilla.

Strawberry Buttercream
1 cup crisco
6 frozen strawberries (defrosted, drained-save 2 TBS of juice- and mashed)
4 cups powdered sugar

Beat crisco and saved strawberry juice until combined. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Fold in strawberries until incorporated.

Happy Baking!!