Jun 29, 2010

Pina Colada Sangria

Put the "wine" in the coconut and shake it all up...I said, "Docta".....

Which is what I feel like I need (a strong drink AND a Doctor) now that I've caught up on all of my gardening followed by a nightmare my hubby and I endured opening our pool for the summer. (long story) On a lighter note, nothing says summer like Sangria! Which is exactly what we've all decided over in the virtual wine club on bakespace.com. If you're interested in joining us, you might want to check out the "community wine tastings forum"

Normally we choose one wine varietal/type per month to try out. However, we decided to combine a few months and for both June and July, explore the endless possibilities of Sangria. If you didn't know, Sangria is simply a wine punch, made with fruit, sometimes other flavorings or alcohol, and sometimes soda. Typically, traditional Sangria is made from red wine, but it is becoming more and more common to include white wine varieties. So our challenge this time was simple, create your own Sangria and report back with a recipe. No rules, no worries.

I had immediately thought of a "Tropical Sangria" in which I was going to use white wine, pineapple, mango, and brandy. Well a friend of mine, Spryte,  was apparently on the same wave length (this happens a lot on bakespace) and beat me to the punch (ha ha, get it? "punch"?) You can check out her tasty "tropical" version over on her blog "Spryte's Place"  

So, I had to come up with something that was a bit different and I decided I wanted to try a Pina Colada type Sangria and add a little coconut flavor. Crazy idea you say? Wine and coconut? Let me tell ya, this stuff totally rocked and screamed summer! Originally, I was going to use some sort of coconut milk or cream of coconut...that is until I found this stuff in the cocktail isle. "Real Coco", which is a thick condensed coconut cream. You may use fresh or canned fruit. I went with canned only because of time constraints. (I was having a pool party and needed to throw it together quick) 

Pina Colada Sangria 

2 Bottles Riesling 
1 C canned pineapple chunks, drained, juice reserved
1- 10oz jar maraschino cherries, drained
1 mango, peeled and diced (how to video here)
1 C Bacardi light rum
1/2 C pineapple juice (more if you'd like)
1/4 C + 2 Tbsp Real Coco Cream of Coconut

Poor wine into a pitcher. Strain the pineapple, reserving the juice and set aside. Strain the cherries and add the cherries and pineapple to the wine. Add in the mango, rum, and 1/2 C pineapple juice. Lastly, add in the cream of coconut (you may need to run the bottle under hot tap water just to loosen it up a bit) Stir vigorously until all is mixed. Let set for several hours in the fridge, or, overnight is even better. The cream of coconut will separate, so just stir again before serving. Serve over ice with a straw or drink stir stick.

A few notes:
1) You can use any white wine, but after creating this recipe for the first time I've decided that if you are using fresh pineapple and cherries (which are way less sweet than canned), go with a sweet wine (like Riesling, Moscato, Muscat, or Gewurstrameiner)
2) If you are using canned fruit however, you may want to go with a dryer wine, perhaps a Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc, or even better yet, a Pino Grigio (that sometimes has pineapple notes). This Sangria was a bit on the sweet side, which is totally OK, if that's how you roll.
3) I will definitely try this one again...as good as it was, I think I will maybe go with my original thought and use coconut milk instead of the condensed cream of coconut. I just didn't care for the "separation" thing, ya know? (even though it stirs down easily, but then hey, it goes down FAST and easy too, I'm just sayin')

OK, so one down, several Sangria ideas to go....I have a few more up my sleeve that I'll be posting in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, if you want more Sangria recipes, come on over to bakespace and check out the Sangria topic in the forums! 


Jun 4, 2010

Instructions for the Fondant Gerber Daisies

Last post I gave you the recipe for the strawberry butter cream that I created for the cupcakes that I made for a graduation party. I'm back today, as promised, with the detailed instructions for the fondant Gerber daisies that I made as toppers to dress them up. For the daisies, I used my favorite home made MMF recipe and I used piped melted chocolate bark for the centers. Not exactly botanically correct (gerber daisies have wider flatter centers) but they did turn out pretty cute, don't you think?

These were very easy to make and would be a great flower for beginners to try. The key is having the right tools. Now, if you've read any of my previous posts, you know that I'm a big fan of using cutters, tools, and materials that I already have, or items that I have re-purposed for fondant/sugar work. However, in this case, I broke out my Wilton Gum Paste Flower cutting set which includes almost everything you need to get started making a variety of flowers. (a fondant ball tool is also handy, but not necessary) It includes a detailed instruction booklet that gives you step by step instructions for using each individual cutter, most of which serve double duty for making multiple types of flowers. At just under $20 (on amazon.com), it's a deal, and of course, I've used the cutters in many other situations besides just making flowers. (you're only limited by your imagination)

So the very first thing that I did was make a mold that would hold the assembled daisies while they dried. This gave them shape and also kept them safe until the cupcakes were ready to be decorated. I used regular sized muffin tins and formed some heavy duty aluminum foil over them, creating deep, rounded pockets in order to get a nice shape. Then I dusted the forms with cornstarch so that the fondant wouldn't stick. I was making 36 and only had 2 tins, so I just made one form, dusted it, then removed it and with it being heavy duty foil, it held it's shape beautifully.

Next, I rolled out the fondant to about 1/8" thick. Then I used the largest daisy cutter to cut out only enough sections for two flowers at a time. I used two cut pieces for each daisy. Of course, real Gerber daisies have more petals, but because I was making so many, I decided just to go with two rows, or layers, of petals. It's also important to point out that the thicker your fondant is, the bigger the daisy petals will be in the end result. Just like cutting out sugar cookies, you want to occasionally dip the cutter in cornstarch to keep it from sticking. Once I used the cutter, I had to use a fondant tool to gently coax and push out the cut piece.

Next I placed a piece on a thin styrofoam mat (included in the kit) and used my fondant ball tool to roll each petal thinner. Starting in the middle and working outward, roll each petal individually. Notice that I cover both the (unused) rolled fondant and the cut pieces with plastic wrap while I work with the petals. This keeps the fondant from drying out between steps. (hint: you can click on any of the pics throughout to get a closer look)

I rolled out the first petal, using a bit more pressure as I reached the outside, making it thinner on the tips. Then I moved to the opposite side to roll out the next one. This helps to keep the petals symmetrical and keep the flower even all the way around. If your petals stick to the mat, just dust it with some cornstarch. Also, instead of trying to turn the flower each time, give the mat a turn instead when working your way around.

While I was able to roll the ends of the petals pretty thin, I left the middle just a bit thicker. This gave the flower more stability when I adhered another piece to it. Also, it made it more stable when it dried overall. This is extremely important if you are airbrushing or dusting with petal dust later. I continued to work around the flower in the same manner, alternating opposite petals until all were rolled out. Don't be afraid to go back over some of the petals if you need to make a petal match the length of the others.

In this next step I give each petal a little more definition. I used a wooden point tool (also included in the kit) and holding it almost parallel to the petal, dragged it across making a straight line impression. Again, I started from the middle and worked my way outward. Be sure to use a light touch, especially if your petals are thin, else they may tear. (ok, I ain't gonna lie, it will happen, but practice makes perfect LOL)

In the process (what you can't see) is that I rolled out one piece, then the other, then I defined them with the stick. Now in this pic, you can see that I used a drop (literally, probably LESS than a drop) of water, to act as the "glue" for holding the two pieces together. Careful, because if you get too much water it will dissolve the fondant and eat a hole through it. I use a soft flat brush for this, dip it in the water, then dab on a paper towel being sure to remove any excess. Then just lightly touch the center of the flower.

Next I dry off my brush and use it to move the next piece over to the top of the first piece. I keep it away from the wet dot in the center until I get it positioned just right, then lay it down on top. Make sure the you "stagger" the petals so that all will show.

Slide the now completed flower off of the mat or surface onto your hand and gently place in the dusted form. You can see by the pic how thin and soft the fondant is. I let them dry for about two days before doing anything else. You want to keep them in a cool, dry place, uncovered. I have a fan over my dining room table so it serves as the perfect place for the drying process. Once they are completely dry they will be harder, but still fragile, handle with care.

The next step was to airbrush them with food coloring (which is a whole other tutorial that I'll do soon, I promise!) I carefully removed each one from the form and with a completely dry brush, gently brushed any remnants of cornstarch from the bottoms and from the petals. I then placed them on paper towels and actually picked one up at a time airbrushing only the outer edge of the petals. I just thought they needed a bit more color interest and more definition. While I waited on a set to dry, I used a pastry brush to dust off the rest of the cornstarch left in the form. Then I returned them to their "form" home for the next step.

The next step was to add the centers. Now, I had made fondant centers for them (that were more botanically correct), but they ended up being too big and covered up too much of the petals (stuff happens) so I decided just to pipe in some melted chocolate bark instead. Which ended up being a great move, because everyone seemed to love them. After that I waited until the last minute, just after frosting the cupcakes, before topping with each daisy. You don't want to do it too soon because the longer they sit on there, the softer the icing will make the fondant. (this is another reason for the thicker centers) So do this right before packing up and heading out the door. Also, it's important to point out that you'll want to keep them as cool as possible. Some of the extras that we had sitting in the cupcake carrier got really soft and the thin petals drooped because of the moisture inside. Here they are finished in the cupcake carrier/holders ready to go!

Jun 1, 2010

Strawberry Butter Cream and Gerber Daisies for a Sweet Girl

I know I haven't blogged forever (in spite of my promises) but I have been busy trying to get all of my spring cleaning done, gardening, working on some art pieces, a wedding, a graduation, yadda yadda yadda. This past week, my bff's oldest daughter graduated from high school and I offered to do the cupcakes for her open house.

In this case, the guest of honor, Danee (isn't she gorgeous?), had requested chocolate cupcakes with strawberry frosting. Because this isn't always a popular combination, I decided to bake both white and chocolate cupcakes (box mix), then make both a vanilla butter cream and a strawberry butter cream in order to have more of a variety of flavor combinations. For the vanilla butter cream I used my tried and true recipe, you can find a printable version here. In this case, I did omit the butter flavoring and substituted the clear vanilla extract for my homemade real vanilla. (I only use the "clear" extracts when I want to achieve a really "white" icing)

As for the strawberry butter cream, well this was experimental. I wanted to use fresh strawberries but I didn't have enough ripe yet in my own patch, and I wasn't happy with the look of the ones in the stores, so I just used frozen. I let them completely thaw, then simply pureed them in the food processor. Next I drained them through a fine mesh strainer to remove most of the seeds.

Strawberry Butter Cream

Prep: defrost strawberries overnight in fridge. For best flavor, prepare this frosting the day before and refrigerate until ready to use. Bring to room temp before spreading on cake or cupcakes.

4-6 oz frozen strawberries
½ C (1 stick) unsalted butter (not margarine), softened
¼ C shortening (may substitute with butter)
1 tsp real vanilla extract
4-5 C powdered sugar
Pinch of salt

Puree thawed strawberries in a food processor or blender until completely smooth. Using a mesh strainer or sieve and a rubber spatula, drain puree into another container, removing any lumps and most of the seeds. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment or hand mixer, beat butter and shortening until soft and well combined. Add in ¼ C of the strawberry puree, the vanilla and a pinch of salt and beat until well combined.
Gradually add in half of the powdered sugar. Then add in more powdered sugar until desired consistency is achieved.
You may add more of the strawberry puree, a couple of tablespoons at a time, followed by a bit more powdered sugar until desired taste and consistency is achieved.
Chill in the refrigerator overnight but bring to room temperature before icing cake or cupcakes.
Store any leftover icing in a plastic bag in the fridge or freezer.

The cupcakes turned out very well and everyone raved about them, but I think I might tweak it just a bit more by adding less fat(s) and more of the strawberry puree. As you can see, I used butter and shortening in this recipe. The butter for flavor, the shortening to give the icing more body and stability. With as well as it turned out and as good as it was, I think next time I'll try using only the butter amount, omit the shortening all together, and increase the strawberry puree by maybe 2-4 more tablespoons. I also want to try this with fresh strawberries (they're almost ready) For that version, I'll probably slice them up and sprinkle with sugar and let them macerate overnight in the fridge before pureeing.

I topped all of the cupcakes with airbrushed fondant Gerber daisies which were very easy to make, just time consuming. Stay tuned later this week for the step by step instructions on how I made those.

Lastly, CONGRATS (and a big wooohoooo) to Danee for your accomplishments! It's been an honor and privilege to watch you grow from a pretty, little, wide-eyed girl into a beautiful (inside and out) young woman.  Good luck in your future endeavors, I have no doubt that you'll be successful in your chosen vocation. Make us proud girl!

Hugs and Kisses.....Luv ya man,