Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers-January

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.
So my mind ran off with itself regarding this challenge. I had visions of making these tuiles and shaping them into curlicues and spirals and then using them to decorate The Businessman's birthday cake.

I was humbled. I think I spent too much time imagining the finale and didn't pay full attention to the execution.
The batter came together nicely. I refrigerated it for a few hours and then rushed to make them. I tried to pipe long lines of dough which I thought I could wrap around wooden spoon handles for the curlicues. I baked them about 6 minutes and tried to lift one up to form it while still warm. It was a little underdone, I think, and stuck to the parchment. I tried to drape the parchment over a rolling pin and the sticks cracked on me:

My kids thought they were edible.
Then I tried the stencil thing. I pulled a sheet of plastic stencils that are meant to be used for scrapbooking--there were images of palm trees, starfish, clouds, etc. This was the smartest thing I had done thus far. The stencils came out of the oven beautifully. I let them cool flat. Unfortunately, the palm tree was a little underdone and broke when I tried to lift it.
Above: Beach shapes and blobs.

At this point, I was trying to make dinner, separate fighting kids, and clean the kitchen and the charm of tuiles had worn off. The cookies were inhaled quickly and all evidence destroyed.
What I learned:
  • Stop thinking grand until I've had practice
  • Try again later--perhaps Valentine's Day
  • Refocus my DB efforts and remember this is supposed to be fun!
Following is a recipe taken from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.
Recipe:Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch
65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….

Friday, January 23, 2009


I got Deduction Pro as a free add-on last year when I filed my taxes. I highly recommend it--providing you itemize your deductions. Especially with kids who grow out of clothes on a weekly basis.

I just went through the growing pile of outgrown clothing I stash in a corner of my office. I brought up a trashbag and carefully itemized everything I stuffed in it.

One trash bag of clothing ended up being about $250.00. I would have guessed its value to be $50.00. Had I bought this software, it would have paid for itself with the first trash bag.

I feel like I'm cheating--I'm not (big brother if you're watching) but I feel like it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I hired a personal trainer.

I avoid hiring people to do jobs that I think I should be able to do. This includes housecleaning, haircutting and until now, personal training.

But I have been on my own for years now and I just haven't made it work. My gym was running a deal and I hired one. I see him once a month. Last month he gave me my exercise regime (he's really very nice but I feel better making him sound mean) and I obeyed. He also explained why all my time on the treadmill hasn't paid off and didn't even flinch when I suggested it might be because of the ice cream/chocolate and not because my body is "used to walking".

In four weeks I have lost 4% body fat. Very little weight, one inch, but 4% body fat. I also confessed that I wasn't tracking my calories at all (and promised I would do so for a month). He gave me another month's worth of exercise and kicked my butt (and arms, and back, and legs...)on a stationary bike.

I'm thinking this might have been money well spent.

Monday, January 12, 2009

There's Always a Kid Who Eats Paste

I teased you guys a few weeks ago.
Behold, the gift sent to me by a very thoughtful friend:
Doesn't this bottle look urban chic? I felt the need to reorganize my pantry so as not to have this sexy little bottle standing next to the kids' Campbell's soup. This beauty will be reserved for Daring Bakers.
There is a small iota of irony. For my birthday, my in-laws gave me the following:
Which leads me to believe I may be chatting this product up a bit (and deservedly so). This one will be rationed for "normal" baking (which just might be more frequent than most peoples').
But then, while reorganizing my pantry, I discovered:
Two full bottles and two half bottles--I have been rationing this scarce commodity.
Now I see much baking in my future. And I feel no need to ration anymore. I started my morning by drizzling it on my oatmeal--still indulgent but it helped the oatmeal tremendously!
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