Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Bakers September 10: Decorated Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Whew, it's been a while since I've been able to participate in a Daring Bakers' Challenge!  This summer was just so crazy that I'd conceptualize and start a challenge, but then fail to follow through.  But this month, since it is actually the anniversary of my membership in the Daring Bakers' and also the birthday of this blog, I made especially sure to complete the challenge. 

I have to admit, though, that I was a little disappointed when I initially read about the challenge.  Royal Icing and I have had quite the relationship and I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be doing something "new."  But, then, I realized that I simply needed to stretch myself  and do something I hadn't done before.  I decided to paint the royal icing after it was piped and glazed.  I used gel food color (Wilton brand is what I had) and I used a little alcohol (Kirschwasser to be exact because I had it on hand) to liquify the color when needed.  See, I've learned from previous experience that water and royal icing really do not mix (the icing won't harden), but alcohol will work better. 

We were challenged to decorate the cookies in whatever "September" means to us (or should it be "we," hmmm).   Regardless of what is gramatically correct, "September" brings different visions to me now living on the East Coast than it did when I lived in the Midwest.  I'm used to the leaves starting to change to briliant autumnal colors during September.... to the weather cooling off....  I'm feeling a bit nostalgic for what I consider "Fall."  Fall, how I think of it, doesn't happen here until more around Thanksgiving, and even then, it doesn't seem quite as dramatic.  I know that if I was to go to the upstate, I'd get the traditional Autumn feeling that I'm use to.  But I probably won't get to take a trip like that this year, at least.  So I've painted "Fall" instead.  

And I flavored my sugar cookies with some of the same spices I think of when I think of Fall.  Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Ginger.  All "pumpkin pie"-ish spices.  Oh, and I threw in a little cardemom as well, but you've got to be careful with cardemom because even 1/8 tsp is noticable in these cookies!  Plus, I added a little salt to help open the taste buds to help taste these autumnal spices. 


Basic Sugar Cookies:

200g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g All Purpose
200g Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Cinnamon, to taste
Ground Ginger, to taste
Freshly Grated Nutmeg, to taste
1/8 tsp Cardamom 
Pinch of salt 

• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
• Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour. It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 350°F
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.

Royal Icing:
315g – 375g Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar
2 Large Egg Whites
2 tsp Lemon Juice

• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
• Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
Tip:  There are listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need. (LV Note: Add more egg white instead.... it will dry much faster. 
• Beat on low until combined and smooth.
• Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Charleston Restaurant Week: The Ocean Room, Fall 2010

This past week, the fall edition of Charleston Restaurant Week occurred.  After drooling over many of the featured menus from restaurants at which I normally cannot afford to eat,  a couple of friends and I decided to visit "The Ocean Room."  Ironically, I did a stage at "The Ocean Room" before I worked at the "Jasmine Porch" restaurant (both within the Kiawah Golf Resort Sanctuary Hotel) this passed summer; however, I had never eaten at "The Ocean Room."

Note, please forgive the quality of the images.... My normal camera has been away for cleaning and my backup camera just doesn't have the same capabilities I'm used to.....

looking back at just a portion of the Sanctuary hotel

So we made the long trek from Charleston all the way out to Kiawah.  And, WOW, it was worth it!  As part of the Restaurant Week promotion, we had three courses for $30. We added a few things on to our meal, but still, for the caliber of restaurant, it was quite a deal.

To start, we shared with an additional appetizer: Southern Caviar (smoked trout & roe, mascarpone, dill, corn brioche, corn blinis).

Then my appetizer arrived: Farmer's Fall Salad (greens, honey vinaigrette, marcona almonds, kadota figs, cornbread croutons, camembert cheese) Delicious!

My two companions had a Golden Corn Soup (sweet shrimp, avocado, charred corn), which was poured tableside.

We all chose the same main course: 130 degree Prime Beef Tenderloin, (creamed silver queen corn, foraged chanterelles, black summer truffle jus).  I'm not usually a beef eater.  In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've eaten beef in the past 12 years.....  But this was some of the best beef I've eaten.  Sous vide style is truly the way to go.  The dish just melted in my mouth!

And then why not just add an order of "Truffled Pomme Frites" for the table to share!  Mmmmm.

And next comes dessert.....  I'm not exactly sure of the official name for this chocolate dessert, because we never saw the menu, but it featured a rich chocolate souffle cake with vanilla ice cream and an isomalt garnish.  We shared this dessert as a table.

My two companions each had the Goat Cheese Cheesecake (walnut crust, candied walnuts and wild huckleberry sauce.)

And I had the Banana Pudding (vanilla wafer tuile, roasted banana ice cream, caramelized bananas, toasted meringue). I thoroughly enjoyed all our desserts (and the rest of the food, for that matter), but I think I like my dessert best of all the desserts!

It was a great, memorable meal with good friends, good wine, good conversation.  Charleston Restaurant week will happen again this winter, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of the amazing promotions that happen.  I know I'll be saving up for future experiences :)  

If you're interested in finding out more about Charleston restaurant week, please visit here.  

If you're interested in dining at the Ocean Room, here's their website as well.  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Absence & Palmiers

I've been terribly, terribly absent lately.    Being a teacher is much, much more time consuming than even I thought!  But it also is just as rewarding.  I really love it!

I promise, more posts are in the works.  But please be patient :)

In the mean time, here's a picture of some GORGEOUS (and delicious) Palmiers made in the "Laminated Dough & Viennoiserie" class that I'm assisting with this semester.  Puff pastry & Sugar. What could be better?  (especially when it's puff pastry made with european butter....)