gaah, where has the time gone? recipes in a bit (maybe after xmas if you'll forgive me--'tis that time of year after all)!
yeah, well, there's really no hiding it. i can't even claim it's not like a traditional cake made with all fresh or dried fruit, or some sort of pierre herme creation. it's not lightweight, it's not soaked in tequila--it's a number-one-bona-fide-brick of butter, sugar, eggs, and fruit. i adapted a recipe from jeffrey steingarten--the other one who ate everything--that was adapted by annie over at bon appegeek; she is a hardcore fruitcake fanatic, so if she liked the recipe, and if jeffrey steingarten liked the recipe, there's a pretty good chance that i...might not. hey! like i said, i'm not a big fruitcake fan. i don't know why i wanted to make it, maybe it's some sort of sick manifestation of holiday spirit or something. (you know what? it probably is. i mean, i've been watching straight-to-basic-cable holiday movies all week--diva whose ghost of present is the bass player for duran duran? seen it. sabrina the teenage witch kidnapping the cha cha king for a family dinner? seen it. also, who's been scanning the FM dial for a chance to hear mariah carey for the fifteenth time? that day? nyahh. say what you want, it's teh awesomeest.)
so anyway. i've never read steingarten's book, don't really know the exact mods that annie did to his cake, and there's talk of some sort of "fatal flaw" in the crust. i wasn't worried too much about it, though, because the ingredients list reads like a french pound cake recipe with the addition of a lot of stuff--i can do that. the french pound cake--quatre quarts, literally "four fourths"--is made with equal amounts of four ingredients: flour, eggs, butter, and sugar; only a little variation on that, and some advice taken from one of the dozens of googled fruitcake recipes i've looked at for weeks: the addition of 3.5 pounds of fruit. yeeeeeeahboyyyy. can't mistake that for anything else then. i used a mix of dried and candied fruits, chopped them up to 1/4-inch anonymity to protect the innocent, which made the cake more like a jammy poundcake than dough studded with sugary unidentifiable lumps. walnuts added some needed texture, and like annie and jeffrey, i didn't bother to liquor it up. didn't need it. also didn't get the hard crustiness as described by both, but i baked them in smaller loaves, so the cooking time was reduced significantly; what i got was a beautifully golden, sugary-coated shell that made the cake irresistible directly out of the oven. of course, all that fruit and sugar makes it molten-hot, so perhaps you'd like to wait for it to cool completely, or even refrigerate it for easier slicing.
3 1/2 lbs of any combination of dried fruit and candied fruit you like--i highly suggest using a lot of citrus peel in the mix (i used 8 oz each of candied orange peel, lemon peel, and pineapple, golden raisins, chopped dates, 4 oz of finely diced candied ginger in syrup, and made up the rest with a dried fruit blend, then chopped down to 1/8"-1/4" pieces)
1 lb of nuts, your choice (i used roughly chopped walnuts)
1 lb of flour, sifted
1 lb of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 lb of white sugar
2 teaspoonfuls of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoonful of salt
preheat oven to 325˚F.
in a large bowl, combine all fruit and nuts, mixing well. set aside. cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. add vanilla and salt. fold in flour until completely incorporated. mix fruit/nut mix into batter. transfer batter into well greased pans. bake until golden, and toothpick inserted in center comes out relatively clean (roughly 35 minutes for small muffins, 1 hour for small loaves, and 2 hours for large ones).
i am at the tail end of a cookie baking marathon--mexican wedding cookies, an odd hazelnut chocolate cookie with which i was experimenting, and chocolate chippies. new to this year's lineup: bill clinton's oatmeal cookies, from chef sherry yard's "desserts by the yard." i make a lot of oatmeal cookies, and even though they don't look like much (when do oatmeal cookies ever do?), they might be some of my favourite--possibly the only favourite anything i share with the former president. they are crispy on the outside, but chewy with oats, brown sugar, and wine-soaked golden raisins (i added some dried cranberries as well) on the inside. you can futz about with the temperature and time if you want a softer, chewier cookie, but imho, they don't turn out quite so well. stick to the plan, stan, and enjoy.
it's (eeeep!) only tweeks away from the 25th, and i'm still trying to decide what my christmas cake gift will be. truth be told, i'm not entirely sure anyone around here appreciates gingerbread, spice cakes, or fruitcake, but i so want to do one. or all. or, in the case of this ludo recipe, a spice and fruitcake rolled into one.
pain d'épices--"bread of spices"--is a specialty of the bourgogne/burgundy region of france, possibly adapted from a chinese honey cake in the middle ages to satisfy marguerite de france's penchant for honey cake, depending on what you read. a combination of ideal geography and shrewd calculations gave the burgundian dukes control of the spice trade through europe, which accounts for the exotic, redolent spices found in pain d'epices: anise, cloves, cinnamon, sometimes ginger. since chef lefebvre is from burgundy, i thought, what better source is there? (of course it has nothing to do with the fact that the cookbook is at my bedside, no not at all.)
it is a simple recipe, despite the 20 item ingredient list; the majority of those are spices, and only in small quantities. rather surprising to me, though, is that ginger is not one of those ingredients, but with fresh orange and lemon peel, star anise and cloves among them, who needs it? also unnecessary are eggs and fat--this is a dairy-free dessert. unlike many of the other pain d'epices receipts i have found, this one has candied fruit in it, making it very much a fruitcake. i substituted traditional glacé fruits with a dried fruit blend to great effect--the candied texture is still there, but with much less sweetness. there is also a bounty of pistachios, hazelnuts, and almonds within. once all the ingredients have been assembled--dry items in one bowl, wet in another, nuts and bolts to the side--it really comes down to just mixing them all and baking, in the easiest possible way. whoo!
the cake is dark, dense, moist, intensely aromatic and flavoured; a thin slice is better than a thick one to savour all the flavours going on within it. i find it exotic and appealing, very we-three-kings frankincensey and jewellike. however, the gingerbread jury thought otherwise: "omg, is that a fruitcake?! bleurgh" or "blarrgh! wtf? is there cumin in this?!" pfftpfftpfft. why, ho ho ho, yes, there is cumin in there--a mere fraction of a teaspoonful--but apparently enough to make staunch cuminyfruitycake-haters fuel up on haterade (who knew there would be so many). *sigh* i could leave out the cumin. or, get new friends. but do i really want to do either?
back to the books.
about a year ago, i bought a little fig tree cutting from a local growers' market. i was surprised to see it there, because i didn't think figs grew in tropical places, mainly because i never saw fresh figs in the market, nor any recipes utilizing them. the grower really didn't know anything about it, except that he had always had trees on his family's land; however, he had never actually tried the fruit, and wasn't sure if it was the same as any of the varieties sold in mainland markets or if it was some sort of asian variation.
so, i took it to my parents' house and my dad planted it in the backyard. i didn't hold much hope for it, but it grew steadily, and even managed to produce a couple of fruit sporadically over the next couple of months. i didn't really think about it much, but lately i've realized that in the past year, the tree is now over ten feet tall, and is finally yielding enough fruit to actually use in a recipe. whee! i figured it was time to actually look up what kind of fig tree it is.
i still don't know, but found another surprise: fig trees--Ficus carica--are believed to be native to western asia, distantly related to breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis Fosb.); jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.); and chinese mulberry (Cudrania tricuspidata). it is a deciduous tree that is typically ten to 30 feet in height, but can grow up to 50 feet. the branches are soft, twisty and vine-like, spreading wide rather than tall. the leaves are bright green, fuzzy, have an easily recognizable shape and grow out to nearly a foot in length. the fruit has a thin peel of varying colours (from green to dark purple), with and interior white rind holding in a mass of gelatinous seeds. they must be left to ripen on the tree, but once picked they only last for a few days.
perhaps this fragility, along with the fact that there aren't many birds on island to spread the seed are the reason why i haven't seen them before, but i'm still surprised i haven't seen it as an ingredient in asian recipes. perhaps a little more research is in order.....
upon some reflection, i've realized i don't really like meringues all that much, but i do like aspects of them a lot--fat freedom and texture mainly; that they are overly sweet and not particularly flavoured with anything, not so much. also, i wasn't very good at making them. however, with a little patience, a vat of egg whites, and some help from baking 911, i've learned some tricks for success in a humid, tropical kitchen. the main thing, of course, is to try to keep the humidity at bay, but making a swiss meringue--which cooks the egg whites and sugar before beating--allows for the sugar to melt thoroughly (no graininess or weeping--on the meringue's nor cook's part), and stabilizes the mix more for a lighter, fluffier texture. also, in more humid climates, longer oven times are necessary, but at a lower temperature--lower, slower. whoo. barry white meringues!
still working on flavour. vanilla is nice, but want more variety. for these i simply whirred some freeze-dried strawberries in a food processor to make a ruby red dust for decoration and a bit of tartness. holiday gorgeous, certainly, but if anyone has any other flavouring suggestions, please let me know!
big baked meringues, humid weather formula (aka barry whites)
2 egg whites (from large eggs)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoonful vanilla extract
pinch of salt
preheat oven to 300˚F. over a pot of simmering water, stir the egg whites and sugar together until the sugar melts and the mixture feels quite warm (but not hot!). add vanilla and salt. take the mixture off the heat, and whisk (or use a mixer) until thick, glossy and doubled in volume. plop big blobs of the stuff onto a parchment lined baking sheet, then bake in oven for 1-1 1/2 hours. drop the temperature to 250˚F, bake for another 1-2 hours, then turn off oven. leave the meringues in oven overnight to continue drying.
makes 4 to 6 big bazonking meringues.
During Hanukkah, Jewish people celebrate the miracle of the tiny bit of oil that miraculously burned for eight days. This miracle is remembered by lighting a menorah for eight days and eating fare cooked in oil or laden with cheese.um, i think there might be more to it than that. but hey, food is important in religious holidays--that a celebration should include deep fried dough and dairy goodness can only be a good thing, right?
this isn't fried in oil, but it is definitely laden with cheese: a dark chocolate chocolate chip cheesecake from the whimsical bakehouse by kaye and liv hansen. the recipe was adapted from this mocha chocolate chip cheesecake--just omit the espresso. also, all the fiddly decorative bits and chocolate glaze are nice but unnecessary--this cake is good enough on its own. it is creamy, not too sweet, rich, but not too heavy. a lovely addition to any holiday feasting.
if you don't have the powdered milk, you can leave it out. if you don't have an ice cream maker, just pour the mix into a zippered freezer bag, then place in the freezer; squish it about every half hour or so until it has a soft-serve like consistency. to make the chocolate rice crispies, melt a bar of milk chocolate (i find leaving it on my car dashboard to be the most effective method--if that's not in your plans, try one of these methods), add approximately one cup of puffed rice cereal to the slightly cooled chocolate, mixing gently until coated well. spread out onto wax paper or silpat sheet to cool, then fold into the prepared ice cream.
i recently had a very memorable meal at an event called ludobites in los angeles; i highly recommend it to any readers in the area, as chef ludo lefebvre's stint at breadbar ends in a mere four weeks. one of the highlights of the meal was an apple cake with mashta ice cream--a cool wedge of slowly cooked, beautifully layered apples slices served alongside a snowy white quenelle of ice cream barely flavoured with mastic, a resin from a mediterranean evergreen. i knew i couldn't go back to have this again, but needs must when the devil drives, so one way or another i had to recreate this dessert myself. [rant] because of an ongoing battle with the post office, i have yet to receive my copy of lefebvre's cookbook "crave: the feast of the five senses". i would complain louder and longer about it arriving on island not once but twice, yet never making it to my office directly across the street and instead returning to some random book returns warehouse in ohio. however, the postal workers know where i live and frankly, some of them scare me. so, i've made do with a borrowed copy whilst i await a third try. [/rant]
i suspected the apple confit cake found on soul fusion kitchen was what i wanted; it is from lefebvre's cookbook, as adapted by the la times. 8.5 pounds of granny smiths sliced on a mandoline, and five hours of cooking time. um, sure, i can do that. i followed the recipe as written, only to find that it didn't quite match up to the dessert in my experience. it was much paler, and not as compact and yielding as i recalled. the flavour was very close, but i wanted the texture--soft but not mushy--as well. it only took a little bit of tweaking to get it right--actually, all it really took was a lot more time. i kept the ingredients the same and borrowed time from both pierre herme's 24 hour apples and jean-georges vongerichten(ichtenichten)'s own apple confit recipes: after coating the pan in a sugar caramel then layering 1/8"-sliced apples with sugar and a citrus confit, i covered the 17-18 layers of apples and left it to sit in the refrigerator for 12 hours. after baking it in a bain-marie water bath at 250˚F for 12 hours, i covered it again, weighted it down with heavy dish, then refrigerated it for another 12 hours. seriously, if you think about it, there is very little work involved, considering 36+ hours go into it-- just a lot of slicing (disguising obscene gesturing) and a little crafty arrangement. the apples, despite the baking time, still manage to retain a freshness of fragrance and texture i do not expect from preserved foods; the flavour is still subtle, despite its concentration.
the mastic needed for the ice cream is native to greece, and is still an uncommon ingredient. i thought procuring it would be difficult, esp. considering my usps troubles; but no, two minutes on ebay and ten days later, i received the pale golden crystal nuggets in the mail. i could not find an ice cream recipe from chef ludo on the 'nets, but stumbled across harold mcgee's article that featured dondurma, a turkish ice cream which relies heavily on mastic, which led me to a concurrent article by mark bittman on cornstarch ice cream. bittman says that ice cream made with cornstarch as a thickener instead of eggs is lighter, and the eggs do not impede the flavours added in--exactly what i was looking for. i didn't really know how much mastic to add, so i tried a scant 1/2 teaspoonful, ground in a food processor with some sugar. perhaps it was too much; i think the mastic added some elasticity to the ice cream that wouldn't have been there otherwise, but it bordered on tasting like exterior latex paint. although i have yet to try it again, i suspect 1/4 teaspoonful of the mastic crystals (before grinding) should be enough to get a that lovely greeny taste without going overboard.
and the recipe makes a lot of confit. i used some of the leftover for another lefebvre recipe, this one for a citrus marmalade. again, not as congealed, bitter nor sweet as one normally expects. this is a marmalade for marmalade haters: lots of fresh grapefruit, orange, and lemon segments mixed in with the citrus confit, a spoonful of good, fruity olive oil and a sprinkling of fleur de sel and freshly cracked black pepper to taste, then served warm. the olive oil seemed an unlikely yet obvious pairing with the citrus--the fruitiness obvs complemented the citrus, and also added extra depth. seriously, you could eat spoonfuls of this stuff--i did.
you can purchase the book from the usual suspect.
the food is more refined and maybe a little modernized than what you would actually find in the province, but the taste generally remains the same. there is a nice mix of vegetables, seafood, and meat on the menu; there is also a good mix of filipino standards, dishes for people who are trying filipino cuisine for the first time, and those for diners with a more...adventurous palate.
some of my most favourite items on the menu are the vegetables. the pako rainforest fern salad with tomatoes and salted eggs are every-so-lightly dressed in a palm vinegar dressing and garnished with a just as lightly pickled red shallot. crunchy, salty, fresh. the bicol express is a mix of various vegetables--okra, long beans, sweet peppers and chili peppers sautéed with onion and garlic and simmered in coconut milk. the vegetables were just south of al dente, with the tiniest bit of give without being overcooked. bicol express is considered to be a spicy dish, but i have yet to find a restaurant version in the philippines that registers as such to me. adobong puso ng saging is shredded banana blossom stewed in palm vinegar; it tastes not too much unlike a freshly marinated artichoke or a palm heart. the lumpiang picapica is not a regional speciality but a family recipe from the author gilda cordero; it is a fried spring roll with a lightly spiced, cooked garbanzo bean/chickpea filling which, truthfully is a little bland, but not as heavy as one would think. i don't know exactly what flavours it, but i reckon it's a little onion, garlic and turmeric--combined with the vinegar dipping sauce that is sharp with raw garlic and fresh chilis, it makes an interesting appetizer.
i like the adobo at abé's a lot; it is made with lamb, stewed in a rich vinegar, garlic and onion sauce, and covered in deep-fried and cracked cloves of garlic. this along with mounds of white rice could sustain me for months. i don't know about my blood pressure, but i'd die happy, i reckon. and thirsty.
the thing is, i could probably make that at home if i thought about it and took a little care. there are a couple of things on the menu that i know i couldn't make, and of these, i give big love to the camaru (káh-mah-roo), or mole crickets (Gryllotalpa orientalis Burmeister). the crickets live in rice paddies and feast on the young grasses and rice husks (okay, okay, and probably the occasional larvae). they are collected from the fields, cleaned, then sautéed with tomatoes, onion, and olive oil. abé's are great because they are still quite small and some unlucky sod in the kitchen has already removed the head, legs and wings--no woody exoskeletons and furry barbed forewings to deal with. heeee.
g/f serendra circle,
fort bonifacio, taguig
i'm still blogging at third and fairfax, but i've actually left the big city, and went to another big city :) i did spend some time in the province, though, as i hadn't been since...well, since the last time i blogged about it. i am constantly surprised with how much the province has developed in the last few years, but remain delighted that life in our little town pretty much remains the same.
our families in the province do not have very big refrigerators nor freezers; almost everything is bought fresh from the markets for cooking that day. whenever we need ice, we have to go to the ice house in the center of town--thankfully for my cousin minky, it is a very short bike ride away. it is a small, open-fronted shop (without electricity) lined in galvanized steel, with giant blocks of ice covered in rice hulls for insulation, stacked on the floor. the blocks are hand-sawn down to these manageable blocks to take home, where we further chisel them down with an ice pick into jagged rocks to cool off our drinks. i know they are essentially the same as premade ice cubes, but somehow the quartz-like chunks do seem to make our drinks taste better than the ones that required so little effort.
4 cups/1 qt. of green mangoes, peeled, de-pitted, and cut into spears (note: you'll want unripe ones, not immature ones, which will be too acidic)
1 pint vinegar (i use apple cider vinegar for something more piquant, rice wine vinegar when i want it mellow)
1-1 1/2 cup sugar (white or brown, your choice)
1/4 cup of kosher salt (you can omit the salt if you want, and use less sugar)
*optional spices, to taste:
fresh chili peppers (i use green arbol or serranos)
slices of fresh ginger
whole star anise
pack mangoes into clean, widemouth jars. tuck a couple of chili peppers in with the mangoes. set aside. mix vinegar, sugar, salt and any spices you'd like to use in a saucepan; bring to a boil. stir constantly, until all the sugar and salt has dissolved, and the mixture becomes a bit syrupy. pour evenly over mangoes (if they are divided between jars, put equal amounts of syrup in each jar). fill the jars with enough water to just cover the mangoes. seal tightly, shake to mix, then refrigerate for several days, turning bottles intermittently. three days seems to be fine, but can take up to a week. keeps for an indeterminate length of time.
2 cups/1 pint of green mangoes, peeled, de-pitted, and cut into spears (you can also use partially ripe or ripe but sour mangoes)
1 packet unsweetened kool-aid® drink mix, preferrably red--tropical punch, cherry, strawberry and 1 cup white sugar
1 cup hawaiian punch concentrated syrup or generic fruit punch syrup
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup water
*optional li hing mui powder, to taste
pack mangoes into clean, widemouth jars. mix drink mix and sugar (or fruit punch syrup), vinegar and water until completely mixed and dissolved. add li hing mui powder, stir. pour mixture over mangoes, add extra water if needed to completely cover fruit, shake to mix. seal tightly, and refrigerate for several days, turning bottles intermittently. when mangoes turn a radioactive red, they are most likely ready to serve.
i have some ideas in mind, but i don't think i'll ever get as fancy as my friend veronica gets (albeit, she makes her fabulous cake creations for a living). she made this great tokidoki/le sportsac-inspired cake for my birthday, isn't it fab-yoo-luss?
the figurine is made with coloured fondant and a zillion toothpicks, whilst the cake itself is wrapped in rolled fondant (the hearts and crossbones were made with piped royal icing). her harry potter-inspired mandrake cake featured a sculpted fondant root embedded in milk chocolate, on top of a base of devil's food cake and cake crumbs.
way cool. and now equipped with a cheap and tasty fondant recipe, you too can try your hand at such decorating wizardry.
even though i grew up on a tropical island, the elementary school i attended was run by a southern colonel and his colourful wife. they were a social couple who enjoyed organizing events for the children and their families, including a headmaster's tea at the beginning of the school year, where he would formally introduce himself to "the troops." i have to say, i enjoyed these rather genteel events, which passed for exotic in our world, and absorbed all the details of finery and frippery that were presented to us.
so, i was rather excited to learn that the headmaster's tea was to be resurrected, decades after the colonel and his wife retired, with some of the trademark confections to return, including the petit fours that were the precious jewels of each of the silver platters of assorted cookies and biscuits that were served during the tea. they were nothing more than bite-sized cubes of sponge cake covered with fondant, but they were gaily coloured in easter pastel colours, with a tiny piped rosette on top, like a lovely little gift, just for you.
petit fours are typically small decorated cakes that are served at the end of a meal, but can also be any number of diminutive pastries. the name is french for "small ovens," and they were created as a way for bakers to use up leftovers at the end of the day, as the ovens were left to cool for the night. i've only tried making them a couple times previously, one of them being a white chocolate sponge creation for miss deborah. they turned out tasty, but i had difficulty in covering the cakes with something that could withstand the humid weather and remain adhering to the cake. although many petit fours can be quite elaborate, i knew i had to make 12 or more dozen, so i decided to go with a very simple iced cake confection, with a minimum of steps.
deciding what kind of cake was easy; i went with a pound cake, as it is sturdier than sponge, and with the amount of sugar in the icing, i thought the buttery, eggy cake would be a better balance. i used flo braker's recipe for apricot pound cake (obvs without the apricots), from her book, "the simple art of perfect baking." the cake was excellent--a beautiful, fine crumb, dense but not too heavy, fragrant with vanilla, and not too sweet (even if you do not make the petit fours, this turns out a great loaf ).
these petit fours are easy to make, but there are quite a few steps; i've broken it down into three sections: cake, icing, assembly. once you get these down, it will be a breeze. you can add more (layers of jam, chocolate, sugar syrup laced with liqueur, more decorations, whatever), or substitute cake or icing to your liking; the possibilities are endless, and the product almost always charming.
simple petit fours
semi-special equipment you will need:
rectangular baking pan (9"x13" or thereabouts)
drying/cooling rack set on top of baking sheet lined with silicone mat or wax/parchment paper (for easy cleanup)
mini-muffin/cupcake liners (optional)
for the cake:
1. bake cake (here's the recipe for flo's pound cake) in rectangular baking pan that is greased, floured, and lined on the bottom with parchment. top tip: pound cakes will rise and crack in the middle; you can minimize (but not completely eliminate) the dome--in both a sheet cake and in a loaf--by pushing some of the batter towards the sides, or creating an even, shallow well in the center with a spatula (same difference).
2. after cake has cooled down, put in refrigerator or freezer for at least three hours, or overnight--a cold cake is easier to cut, with less crumbing and crumbling. you can level the cake if doming on the cake is significant; if you are not too worried about the difference in the height of your cakes, then don't sweat it. i almost always ice my cakes bottom side up because it is a smoother, more even surface.
3. use a ruler as a guide to cut your cakes to size. i can't really recommend the best knife to cut cakes; i use a cheap OXO chef's knife because it has quite a thin blade which i find helpful. petit fours are about one inch square and 2 inches high, but feel free to cut them to whatever size with which you are most comfortable. my petit fours were 1 1/4-inches square and about 1 1/2-inches high, just because.
for the icing:
you will need:
lemon juice (optional)
other flavourings or extracts (optional)
food colour (optional)
1. make or purchase rolled fondant--i made mine (that'll be covered in the next post), as well as the simple syrup. cut the fondant into one ounce pieces. note: the difference between simple syrup and sugar syrup is the ratio of sugar to water--simple syrup is 2:1, whilst sugar syrup is 1:1. use the simple syrup for this fondant icing recipe (sugar syrup can be mixed with liqueur or juice or any flavouring to brush on top of the cake for extra flavour if you want). i don't really know how much icing you'll need, but i made approximately one quart of icing for six dozen cake pieces (with quite a bit to spare).
2. heat simple syrup in a microwave, on high for 2-3 minutes in a microwaveable bowl. the syrup should be bubbling slowly. add fondant pieces, 1 or 2 at a time, stirring after each addition, until the fondant melts, and the icing reaches a sort of school glue-like consistency. you will use roughly one ounce of fondant for every 1/4-cup of simple syrup. if the icing is too thick, thin it out with warm water or lemon juice--added a teaspoonful at a time--until it reaches desired consistency. if it's too thin, you can add powdered or icing sugar to thicken it.
3. tint the icing with food colouring and/or add any flavouring; mix well.
1. skewer cake pieces onto a bamboo skewer, or fork, or use your fingers if the icing is cool enough for this next step. dip the cake into the fondant icing; one plunging dip works better than a couple of shallow ones. allow most of the excess to run off the cake before placing it on a cooling rack fitted on a baking pan to dry. don't worry if you don't dip the cake completely or if it runs down too gloopily; once the petit four is in a decorative paper sleeve, you won't really see any blemishes on the sides.
2.while the cakes are drying, place any decorations you may want on top of the cake. non-pareils, sugar sprinkles, and candy work well, or you can cut out shapes from tinted rolled fondant. if the icing has already dried completely, brush a tiny bit of water on the surface of the cake so the decorations will adhere.
3. after the icing has set, place each petit four in a mini-cupcake liner. pack away in a clean, dry container.
in the united states, boiled peanuts are still considered somewhat of an oddity, and yet boiled edamame soy beans can be found quite regularly. there is quite a similarity in taste, although i find the peanut to be sweeter and a little more complex. perhaps one of the reasons why they aren't as popular as they could be is because it does take quite a bit of boiling time to get the peanut tender; however, with a slow cooker, you can pretty much get away with dumping some raw peanuts and salt into the pot, cover with water, set it and forget it. have a good night's sleep. clean the garage. take the dog on a long, long, long walk. return to a tasty and relatively healthy gem of a snack.
boiled peanuts, slow cooker method
(for a 6-qt. slow cooker/crock-pot)
1 qt/4 c. raw peanuts
4 qts water
1/2 c kosher salt
*optional: star anise, cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger, szechuan peppercorns, dried whole chilis (for a little asian flair, use at your own discretion. personally i prefer to add just a few whole star anise for a lovely licorice tinge)
dump everything in the pot, cover, and set on 'high'. ignore for 6 or 7 hours. sleep, go to a movie, clean your room. return to tender p-nutty goodness.