Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wedding Cake and why I haven't posted lately...

 When one of my best friends got engaged I let her know that I would help out in any way she needed. Little did I know that she would ask me to make the cake, something I have never done before. At first I was nervous, since cake is one those things that can fail spectacularly.  After months of worry and not as much practice as I would have liked, this was the final product. 

 I am pretty proud of how it turned out. 

The first and bottom layer were red velvet. Since it isn't a cake flavor I necessarily like, but one that has a huge following, I found a recipe on that had tons of great reviews, Red Velvet Cake . It turned out pretty good (remember I don't really like this flavor, to me if it is going to have chocolate in it then it should taste like chocolate) and was dense enough to hold up.

For the middle layer I did a white cake with a raspberry buttercream filling. I tried an America's Test Kitchen recipe for white cake and while it tasted amazing, it was way to light and delicate to hold up in a wedding cake. I settled on using the Wilton Butter Cake recipe since I knew that theirs would be tested for wedding cakes. It turned out to be a nice pound cake that complimented nicely with the raspberry butter cream. To make raspberry butter cream, simply add a few tablespoons of good quality raspberry jam to two cups of plain buttercream frosting. Depending on the water content of the jam, you may need to add more powdered sugar to firm up the frosting enough to not ooze out of the center of the cake.
Finally, I hate the taste of premade fondant. Plus it is also expensive. I heard that you could make your own and so I experimented with it. You would not believe how easy, cheap, and better tasting homemade marshmallow fondant it.

Marshmallow Fondant
2 lb powdered sugar
1/3 cup shortening
2 tablespoons water
16 oz white mini marshmallows

Pour the marshmallows and water into a large glass bowl. Melt in the microwave, stirring every thirty seconds. It should take about 90 seconds to two minutes.  Pour 3/4 of the powdered sugar on top of the marshmallow mixture and pour onto a surface generously greased with the shortening. Grease your hands and then knead in the powdered sugar (add more, but I never used the whole two pounds). You want a nice firm texture, but not too firm that it is cracking. This will take a few minutes to accomplish. You can use immediately or refrigerate for about a month.  It is best to let it cool at least overnight. After being  refrigerated  it will take quite a bit of kneading to bring it back to a pliable consistency.  Roll it out  on a greased surface until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Make sure that the it doesn't stick to the table by rotaing and flipping the fondant often while rolling it.  For easy transfer to the cake you can roll the fondant, adding powdered sugar on all sides, back on the rolling pin and then simply roll it over the frosted cake. Trim excess and let it set up. 

Overall it was a really fun experience and I would love to do it again. Thanks for letting me learn how to do this Laurie! I could be more excited for you and Devin!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Noodles and Company Asparagus & Lemon Linguine

My absolute favorite fast casual restaurant is Noodles and Company. Last year they had a dish called Asparagus and Lemon Linguin, which was absolutely delicious. My husband found the recipe on the company's website and I immediately saved it in my pile of recipes to try. As soon as asparagus came back into season, this was at the top of my list.  It is full of nice crisp vegetables and unique flavor. Once you have assembled and prepped  all the ingredients, this dish comes together in a few minutes.
This is definitely on our list to try again. While the original recipe calls for shrimp, which we don't care for, I used chicken.

Noodles and Company Asparagus & Lemon Linguine
(from Noodles and Company)
1 lb of linguini pasta
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 bunch (about 1- 1 1/2 pounds) aparagus
1/2 a red onion sliced
1 cup snap peas
1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
kosher salt (to taste)
crushed red chilies (to taste)
3 chicken breasts, cooked and sliced ( I used a Forman grill)
2 tablespoons basil chiffonade (thinly shredded)
4 tablespoons crumbles feta cheese
3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Cook the pasta to al dente (make sure there is still some chew to the noodles or they will turn to mush later). Drain and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, set aside.

Snap off the ends of the asparagus stocks and throw away the ends. In a pot of boiling water,  blanch (cook) the asparagus for 1 minute, remove the stocks and shock them in ice water to stop cooking. Drain, cut each stock in half, and set aside.

Take a large- 14 inch- saute pan (frying pan will work) and heat it over medium heat. Once the pan is hot add the rest of the olive oil. Toss in the garlic, red onions, and mushrooms and cook until slightly caramelized and brown. Add a pinch of the red chilies and the chicken. Add the noodles and stir. Then deglaze the pan with the stock. When this begins to sizzle, add the balsamic vinegar, snap peas, asparagus, and basil. Toss and stir. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Place on a platter and top with the crumbled cheese.  Serve with lemon wedges on the side, I liked it with a fresh bust of lemon on top as well as the lemon flavor in the dish.