Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Celebrating: Easter and the Cream Pie

Easter is approaching faster than I can say "peep", and I am rapidly planning my Easter menu. We all have our "must haves" for certain holiday meals. And for some unexplained reason, I have to have cream pies on Easter. Doesn't Easter always seem like a creamy day to you? Spring is in the air (or at least it should be), all the children are dressed in non-threatening pastels, and the smell of baked ham fills the air. So, in addition to the usual potatoes, ham and salad, I am fixated on cream pies. Last year I made key lime. This year, I will be doing chocolate cream with a graham cracker crust, followed by banana cream with a nilla wafer crust. Both will be easy, both will be yummy, and both will be devoured by 4:00pm this coming Sunday. What are you fixing for Easter Dinner?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Baking: Baker's High

I love to run. I have been running for 20 years now, and it is has been and always will be one of my most cherished pastimes. Having written that, I am not a real runner. I am quite slow (ten minute mile on a good day), I have limited distance (eight mile Saturdays are my specialty, but I've never gone farther than that), and simply put, I don't have any ambitions to run a marathon. Half marathons are my favorite races, and I'm content with those accomplishments. During the past 20 years, I can count on my hands the number of times I have experienced the "runner's high." They were glorious moments and I will never forget them. But last week I believe I experienced my first "baker's high". I set out to make a complicated cake for HS's 40th birthday. I got the recipe from Regan Daley's book, "In the Sweet Kitchen". I am hesitant to recommend cookbooks, because there are so many out there, but this book has been interesting, challenging, and as tasty as ever. On page 399 of "Sweet Kitchen", Daley writes about a S'mores Roulade. After reading the recipe several times (D had to pull the book from my hands as I fell asleep on the recipe in question), I set out to gather ingredients. The only random ingredient called for is graham flour--used to make graham crackers. I sent D to our local Whole Foods where he could not find graham flour. After researching on Wikipedia, I learned that graham flour is also called "whole wheat pastry flour". D went back to Whole Foods, and lo and behold, whole wheat pastry flour is in their bulk section. The roulade is comprised of four parts: sponge cake base, chocolate ganache filling, marshmallow filling/frosting (painstakingly homemade, not from a jar as one friend accused), and chocolate shavings. I won't bore you with the intricate details of putting everything together, but I will say that it was a culinary challenge. As I finished rolling the cake, I frosted it with the remaining marshmallow fluff, then threw the homemade chocolate shavings on top. When I saw the finished product, I screamed in delight. I did it! I made a seemingly difficult cake. I could not have been happier with the outcome. An unfortunate friend called the minute I screamed, and I had to gush and gush about the delightful concoction sitting on my kitchen table. She patiently listened as I worked through my exuberant baker's high. I have always struggled as a baker, and my baking skills are not impressive. But, the only thing better than knowing I have added a notch to my baker's belt was the appreciation from HS when I took the cake to her house.

What is the hardest thing you have ever baked? Did it turn out well? Have you experienced this sought after "baker's high"?