Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Aloha Musubi!

One of my friends recently picked up a can of Spam. I think the discussion was what to do with a can of Spam. I remember my Mom would use it occasionally in Kimchee Fried Rice.

My first encounter with Musubi, or Spam Musubi to be specific, was in Tucson at Lani's Luau - a small Hawaiian restaurant. I heard of Musubi while visiting Hawaii, but never tried it! It was a simple seaweed roll with rice and spam.

So, when it rolled around to the friend's birthday, it was time to make some Spam Musubi!

It's pretty simple and I didn't really measure, so try at your own discretion...

Spam Musubi
2 cups of Sushi Grade Rice (short grain)
Seasoned Rice Vinegar
Toasted Sesame Seeds
Toasted Nori
1 can Spam

Cook the rice in rice cooker as directed on package. Once the rice is finished, scoop into large bowl and add a little bit of the Rice Vinegar and sprinkle some sesame seeds. Mix the rice together.
I have one of those bamboo rolly dealies...They are hard to clean, or I should say, I never feel like they get clean - so I wrap mine in saran wrap before using.
Have the bamboo dealie flat. Put a piece of nori on the bamboo. Then take some rice and spread it on the nori.
When cutting the Spam, I cut it horizontal to the can shape. Take two of these pieces and put them in in the center of the rice. Take one end of the bamboo and roll it over the Spam. Then take the other end and do the same. Squish down securely. Once the roll is formed, place onto a separate plate, fold side down. Cut the roll into pieces.
Makes about 5 rolls.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Yeah. So the cake story continues!

There was mention of fondant when talking with the friends. I've never made fondant in my life, and I personally have never had tasted fondant that did not need to be scraped off the cake before eating the rest of it. It was a challenge though, and why not?

And it's a good thing. Seeing the "buttercream" recipe from the Throwdown was horrible, fondant was my last chance at salvaging this cake.

I found a recipe on Allrecipes for Marshmallow Fondant. Now, I've never really thought about what Fondant is other than disgusting. (Wikipedia entry here: Fondant) But marshmallow was sure to make it better. At least in my mind.

The recipe seemed somewhat involved, but not too bad. Then I ran across the first comment of the recipe. Some brilliant woman used chilled marshmallow cream! This is what I was going to do.

Put the chilled marshmallow cream into my Pam'd mixer with paddle attachment, and poured some powdered sugar in. The mixer did all the work, and boy did it work. It started making noises and I was scared for my precious mixer! Luckily it went from powdery crumbs to solid ball of fondant. I took the fondant out of the bowl, mushed it into a ball, put it in saran wrap and froze it for about 30-40 minutes.

After being in the freezer, I littered the counter with powdered sugar and started rolling it out. (I watched some YouTube videos to figure out how to do this beforehand.)

The Big, Important Tips:
1) Roll out the fondant to be at least the diameter of your cake plus the sides.
2) Use your rolling pin to fold the fondant over and flip or roll over the cake.
3) Smooth the fondant up on the cake, not down. This will prevent ripping.

I was so happy with my first fondant attempt! It was actually tasty - but we'll see how it all tastes together with the rest of the cake.

...also, MMF = Marshmallow Fondant, if you haven't already guessed :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Almost defeated by the Throwdown

Two of my new friends are getting married end of March! I'm trying to woo them with some different wedding cake possibilities, and after talking to them it sounded like they wanted something with coconut - since their favorite cupcake at The Steeping Room was the coconut cupcake. Having never baked with coconut before, I thought I'd sniff around for a decent recipe.

I came across Bobby Flay's Throwdown Coconut Cake from the Food Network site. I read through it and it seemed pretty good, essentially a white vanilla bean cake, using coconut custard in between the layers, and a coconut simple syrup. There was even a recipe for coconut infused buttercream. Yippee, let's do it.

There were a few steps that required chilling ahead of time. For me, it's easier to break these up to the night before so I'm not slaving away in the kitchen all day. However, the simple syrup is all I had steam for.

The next day, first thing was the coconut custard. Making the custard reminded me of when I had made vanilla bean ice cream. You have to delicately mix the heated milk mixture with the egg mixture and hope it doesn't turn into scrambled eggs before your eyes! Both times I've done this, I've been lucky and came out unscathed. After the custard had time to cool and spend time in the refrigerator, it was time to make the cake.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like baking the cake is the easiest part. I love using vanilla bean. You cut the bean open and scrape all the seeds out. The scent is so fragrant and it's amazing how it all breaks down to little dots. Maybe it's the simple things...but I love vanilla bean. Ok, so basically this cake recipe is a white cake with vanilla bean and egg whites. It seemed to be light and fluffy.

Once the cake was done and cooled, I began to make the coconut cream and the buttercream. The coconut cream was a cinch, no biggie, and went back into the fridge. The buttercream, however, I would not recommend to anyone. I had my doubts as I was mixing it together. 3 sticks of butter. 1/2 of the coconut custard. A smidgen of powdered sugar. NOTHING ABOUT THIS WILL FLUFF INTO MAGICAL BUTTERCREAM! Mixing and mixing, and realizing I was about to be late to my dance class, I called it good and was stuck with a major decision. This stuff was basically pure butter. If I left it out, it could melt further and not be usable. If I put the buttercream into the refrigerator, it'll rechill and not be usable. I decided on the latter, hoping to make it work.

I get home an hour later and sure enough, the buttercream is harden back to its butter form. I put it back in the mixer and try to salvage something of it. I almost scream defeat at this point because it looks horrible. I do what I can to make a crumb coat on the cake, and decide the rest is better off in the trash.

This means all my eggs are in a basket for my first fondant attempt. I couldn't take anymore baking disappointment that night, so I decided it's best left for the next day.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What the eff is Red Velvet anyways?

Seems like Red Velvet flavored anything is all the rage these days. I know I got sucked into it when Coffee Bean Tea Leaf featured their Red Velvet Cocoa. I couldn't explain the flavor to you other than tasting really sugary and artificial, but I was hooked. Leaving Austin and visiting Tucson, where there are no Coffee Beans, I was having Red Velvet Cocoa withdrawals. The dessert hangout, Something Sweet, had a red velvet cake to offer...and even in shake form (they make a shake combining the cake with ice cream and milk, or something to that effect). I went with the plain ole cake.

Even with the cake, I can't tell you what it actually tastes like. Most red velvet cake I've experienced has been dense, dry, and tasting of red food coloring. I think I keep trying it everywhere in some sort of search for the Holy Grail of Red Velvet. Somewhere out there has to be the most delicious Red Velvet Cake that will extinguish any thought of this cake being anything but delightful!

So, when a friend's birthday party came up and the request was for red velvet cake, I thought it was fantastic! Immediately, I started looking up recipes online. I couldn't find one that didn't have at least 2 tbsp of red food coloring, and I didn't want that taste. Finally, I remembered I had a cupcake book, Cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski, that was gifted to me from Mrs. B, and I wanted to try the Red Velvet Cupcake recipe that it had.
Her description of Red Velvet Cupcakes is as follows:

"The origins of red velvet cake are a little hazy, but it's widely recognized as a Southern creation. The cupcake version of the extra-mild chocolate cake is topped with a cream cheese frosting that's laced with buttered pecans, a decidedly Southern ingredient."

Ok, so the flavor is supposed to be extra-mild chocolate? I suppose I could buy that, seeing that cocoa is one of the ingredients.

As far as the color, red food coloring is added, although in this particular recipe it didn't have me adding two bottles of red food coloring - Thank Goodness! According to some article on the internet (so surely, it must be true right? ;-) ), the red colored cakes were due to a chemical reaction between unprocessed cocoa and the acid in the sour milk. I think if I were to have left out the red food coloring, the cakes would have come out a lighter chocolate color.

Anyhow, the recipe was fairly easy to put together, three bowls of ingredients, and by the power of the mixer, the batter was formed. I was a little put off by the batter, as it seemed awfully thick. Loaded up the cupcake liners, and to my dismay, the recipe that claimed to make 12 cupcakes only yielded 8. Not a problem, doubled the recipe and finished off my cupcakes.

Taking them out of the pan to put on the cooling rack, these things felt like bricks. Very dense. My panic mode ensued. What else could I do? Try another recipe and make more cupcakes? Run to Hey Cupcake and buy a dozen? Then the words, or word, of my Grandmother hit me..."whatever!"

The Cream Cheese Frosting recipe came from the same book, and it was an absolute hit!
The cakes did come out a little dense, but they did have a nice "extra-mild" chocolate flavor. The color was more of a rosy pink rather than the traditional bleeding red. Overall, it was an ok recipe...and our birthday guests of honor seemed happy.

Now that I have a small idea of what Red Velvet is...I might have to experiment more to find the damn Holy Grail of Red Velvet.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and is ready for all 2011 has in store :)
Of course there was some holiday baking/cooking/crafting, but I didn't seem to keep up with the pictures.

Snickers cupcakes were a success from Gram's 90th bday!

Babka, an annual Christmas tradition for my family...and my first experience with failed yeast.

Martinis and gingerbread house/tree assemblage...who knew that building a gingerbread house takes hours?

Sous chef to Mrs. B's baking extravaganza...she had the cookies already finished by the time I got there, and I got to help with the cheesecake.

Fresh pesto and veggie pasta for Christmas extra dish instead of Thanksgiving's extra five.

Here's to the New Year! :)