Monday, February 21, 2011

Birthday Cake!!! (My first fondant cake)

Happy belated birthday to me! I just had a birthday last week, and while I wasn't too thrilled about turning one year older, I was happy about having an excuse to make this fabulous cake.  I watch a lot of cooking/baking shows on tv, and the bakeries are always using fondant to cover cakes. They always look so amazing! This was my first attempt at using fondant, and I think it turned out pretty good. It was delicious, which is the most important thing, and looked even better than I expected.
There were five basic parts to this cake, the cake, the filling, the frosting, the fondant, and the adhesive. The cake itself was made from a box, it was golden vanilla flavored, which I guess is another name for yellow (I thought about making it from scratch, but after making the fondant and knowing that I was going to make the frosting and the filling as well, I decided against it. Maybe next time). The filling was raspberry, and the frosting was a vanilla buttercream. The fondant was marshmallow fondant, which tastes as delicious as it sounds. I've heard of people peeling off the fondant and tossing it because it tastes gross, but this was not that kind of fondant, trust me. The adhesive is a hot sugar "glue".
For the cake: Prepare one box of cake mix according to package directions, bake in two 9inch round cake pans. Let cool for five minutes in pan on cooling rack(s), then remove from pan and let cool completely on racks.

For the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup frozen raspberries, 1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves, and 2 T white sugar. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for about five minutes. Strain mixture through a fine meshed sieve, scraping underside as necessary to get the most pulp. It will thicken as it cools.

For the frosting: In a large mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup (one stick) of softened butter, 1 T vanilla extract, 3 1/2 to 4 cups of confectioners sugar, and 2 to 3 T of milk. Beat until smooth.

For the fondant: You will need, 16 oz of marshmallows, 2 T water, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 lb of confectioners sugar, and cornstarch.
Grease a large, microwave safe bowl with shortening (unflavored). Add marshmallows to bowl, along with water and vanilla extract. Microwave on high in 30 sec intervals, stirring each time, until marshmallows are completely melted. Meanwhile, in another large bowl greased with shortening, add half of the confectioners sugar and make a well in the center. When marshmallows are melted, pour them into the well in the sugar. Mix with shortening greased spatula or spoon (this stuff is sticky!). Grease a rolling mat with shortening, and turn mixture onto it. Grease hands with shortening, and knead remaining sugar into mixture. Regrease hands as necessary. Form dough into ball, coat lightly with shortening, wrap, and place into refrigerater to rest for at least one hour but ideally overnight.
When ready to use fondant, microwave for 10-15 seconds to soften, the knead on cornstarch-dusted surface until pliable. Color as desired by adding coloring and kneading until a smooth, even color is attained. Roll out to between 1/8 and 3/8 of an inch thick, then drape over cake, or cut out shapes for decoration.

For Sugar syrup: Combine 1/2 cup white sugar with 2 T water. Heat over medium heat until sugar is melted and mixture reaches a syrupy consistancy, about five-ten minutes. Reheat as necessary.

Cover bottom layer of cake with a thin layer of frosting, then spread the raspberry filling evenly. Cover with second cake layer. Frost top and sides of cakes with frosting, then let rest for at least 15 minutes. Cover cake with one large peice of fondant. Cut excess from edges. Decorate with fondant shapes as desired, adhering with sugar "glue". Enjoy!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Crispy Lemon Fish

A while back I tried making crispy oven baked fish. I dipped the fish in beaten egg whites, dredged them in crushed cracker crumbs, and sprinkled them with homeade "lemon pepper seasoning" ( a blend of salt, pepper, and lemon zest...that's what the bottled one is made of, right?). They were ok. The texture was absolutely perfect, but the taste was a little bland. The lemon flavor didn't come through AT ALL, and I immediately started thinking about how to improve the recipe. I changed the crackers to panko just to change it up (also, I had run out of crackers), added the juice of the lemon for a punch of flavor,  made a few changes in the procedure, and can I say, WOW! This fish was amazing! The panko was a perfect choice, the texture was light and crispy. The lemon was present but not overpowering. It was ready for the oven in a matter of minutes, delicious, and healthy to boot! This recipe is a winner. I used whiting, but any whitfish should probably work. I used panko, but crushed cornflakes or buttery crackers would give a similar crispy crunch. I added a bit of dried rosemary because I happened to have it, but I could see some dried italian seasoning or probably any number of fresh herbs working as well. The possibilities are endless (figuratively). I served it with honey glazed carrots and baked macaroni and cheese.

Crispy Lemon Fish
1 lb frozen whiting filets, thawed
2 egg whites
2 T water
1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (approx)
1/4 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
zest of one lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T butter, melted
salt and pepper to taste

1) Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a cookie sheet (Foil is optional, but I recommend for easy cleanup. Even if you use it, please spray)with nonstick cooking spray.

2) Season whiting filets on both sides with salt and pepper to taste, set aside. Add egg whites and water to large bowl/dish, beat until frothy, set aside. In a seperate large bowl/dish combine panko and rosemary. Season to taste with salt and pepper, set aside.

3) Dip fish into egg white mixture, let excess drip off. (You may need to rebeat egg whites for a few seconds between filets) Dip into panko mixture, press panko into fish on both sides and then place onto cookie sheet. (It doesn't want to stick, but it will for a minute, and if you move it quickly onto the pan there will be very few crumb casualties)

4) Sprinkle remaining crumbs on top of dipped fish filets, pressing lightly (use your judgement, if there are a ton of crumbs left over, just toss them).

5) Sprinkle lemon zest, then lemon juice, evenly over whiting filets (well, as evenly as possible). Drizzle butter evenly over all.

6) Bake filets in 400F oven for 20 minutes, or until fish is opaque and flakes evenly with fork. Serve hot.