Nectarine Cardamom Vanilla Pie – for a Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday J.! To celebrate J. birthday, I was asked to make a fruit dessert.  Well hello peaches. Or nectarines. Or apricots.

Millions of peaches, peaches for me.
Millions of peaches, peaches for me.

J. is kind of an old soul stuck in a young body. Or as he puts it, in an old body. What is it with men and feeling older than they are? Isn’t it better to feel young and spry? It’s a mental game people! J. is also a longtime fan of The Unappreciated Baker (thanks!) and a lover of all things fruity desserty. And so, for his birthday – fruit dessert! Coincidentally, I love fruit desserts as well :).

Nectarines!
Nectarines!

Going back to nectarines.  I like to bake with nectarines as opposed to peaches because then I don’t have to worry about peeling them.  While I don’t mind the fuzzy peach peel in my desserts, others do. So if I bake with them, I need to peel them.  Due to the special occasion, I broke out my mini pie plates so that everyone could enjoy their very own peach pie.

Pie crusts ready to be filled.
Pie crusts ready to be filled.

I thought about going with my tried and true pie recipe, but then I thought about changing it up a bit – after all, isn’t that the point of this blog? To try new things. I found a recipe that flavored the peaches with vanilla and cardamom, not a combination I have used before with peaches. Testing time!

One pie all filled up.
One pie all filled up.

I did stick with my tried and true pie crust recipe, because, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. With my regular double crust recipe I had enough dough for eight crusts and seven lattices. One ended up being a snack on Friday afternoon :).

The Little Rocker and I snacked on the sample and we enjoyed it a lot.  She was a little disappointed that she did not get her own pie to sample, but I told her that at the party she would have her own so it was okay to share this time.

And the others follow.
And the others follow.

On a related note, Squeaker just started eating solids and while she is not such a fan of the peas and sweet potatoes, she loves her some peaches. I mixed the peas and peaches and wham – at the whole bowl. Peach season for everyone!

The finished product.
Ready to be

I didn’t really feel the cardamom in the pie, maybe increase it next time?

And here we go!
And here we go!

We know what J.’s birthday means – Rocker Dude’s birthday! Amazing how close friends can have their birthdays so close together. Rocker Dude asked for a plain sheet cake for his birthday – can you see what I am working with?? A plain yellow cake??? With icing!! I hate working with icing. I am not talented in that way – drawing was never my forte, and the icing is always so sweet. It is always the part of the cake that I take off so that I can eat the actual cake.

So here is the cake that I made. My friend M. was kind enough to lend me a guitar shaped cake pan so that I didn’t have to try and cut out a guitar shape from a rectangular pan. That would have been disastrous. The Little Rocker had such a fun time watching the cake take shape, especially putting in the food coloring. I didn’t make the icing that bright as I hate putting in more than a few drops of food coloring. It may be weird but if I do then I feel like I am coloring my insides.

Happy Birthday Rocker Dude!
Happy Birthday Rocker Dude!

I have included the recipe for the cake because I thought that the cake was delicious on its own – with a bright citrus flavor. It’s perfect for birthday cakes and cupcakes.

And speaking of summer (weren’t we?), there are a few things that are ubiquitous to summer – baseball and ice pops. Here is a picture of Squeaker in an NY Yankees outfit that we originally got for the Little Rocker.

Yankee Fans!
Yankee Fans!

My father is a lifelong Yankees fan and if there is one thing I learned as a kid, it was that you root for the Yankees, or you’re not a real Schachter. Lucky for me, Rocker Dude is not into sports so I don’t have to keep up with his favorite team stats and stuff.

And ice pops! The Little Rocker remembered this picture of her “eating” my ice pop when she was a year old or so, and so she asked me to do it with Squeaker as well.

Eating ice pops.
Eating ice pops.
Squeaker tries to eat an ice pop.
Squeaker tries to eat an ice pop.

This time I just gave her a closed ice pop of her own, but she knew better. She still kept trying to grab my ice pop.

Nectarine Cardamom Vanilla Pie (makes 8 4-inch pies)

Recipe:
Crust:
A double crust recipe of this recipe, prepared through

Filling (based on this recipe from The Pastry Affair):
6 large (7 medium or 8 small) fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar, packed
1 vanilla bean, halved with the seeds removed (or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg white
2 tbsp. sugar for sprinkling

Whipped Cream:
250g whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Prepare the dough through the refrigeration stage.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine all the ingredients for the filling and set aside while you roll out the dough. Roll out one disc of dough to a 1/8 inch thickness. You don’t want to leave the dough too thick as the pies are small. Cut out circles that are slightly larger than the circumference of the pie plates. Gently place each circle in the pie plates and trim the edges. Refrigerate the pie crusts as you make them to keep the dough cold. Then add filling into each of the pie plates and return to the refrigerator while you roll out the lattice top. Roll out the second disc to a 1/8 inch thickness. Slice into thin (about a finger’s width) strips with a very sharp knife or a pizza wheel. Carefully weave the lattice strips onto the tops of all the pies.

Brush egg white onto the tops of the pies and sprinkle with sugar. Place the pies in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the filling is bubbling. Let cool on a rack.

To serve, beat the whipping cream with the confectioner’s sugar and dollop a generous spoonful on top of each pie.

Yellow Cake (From The Kosher Palette):

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the a large mixing bowl and stir until well blended.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the oil, orange juice, eggs and vanilla. Beat until lightened in color. Add the dry ingredients in one shot and mix until just blended. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

This cake also freezes well.

 

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Happy Birthday Little Rocker!

The Little Rocker turned two on September 15th (I know this has taken a while to post).  We waited until Sukkot to do the party for her because then we had vacation from work.  There is nothing the Little Rocker likes more that Elmo, except for maybe Winnie the Pooh.  So I decided to be really organized and I bought an Elmo shaped cake pan off Amazon.com while we were in America this summer.

Because we were going to be at the in-laws in Jerusalem for the holidays, and they don’t have a kitchen-aid, I knew that I was going to have to prepare all the components of this cake a week ahead of time.  So while Rocker Dude was off doing his radio show (www.rock4rookies.com) I made a basic yellow cake and a whole batch of white buttercream icing.  In order to make sure that I had enough of each color I decided to tint the icing right before using.

The pan came with recipes for both the cake and the icing (Wilton’s standard recipes for yellow cake and buttercream icing), but I decided to use recipes that I had used before and was successful with.

So with everything successfully transported to Jerusalem on a bus with the Little Rocker (not an easy feat I assure you), we were ready to begin.

The party was planned for Monday evening.  So on Monday morning, I took out my Elmo cake and put it on a tray.

Then I took some white icing and covered the eyes.  Then added two mini-York Peppermint Patties for eyes.

 

Elmo's eyeballs

 

Next step, the nose.  I mixed a small amount of icing with two orange drops of orange gel food coloring and one drop of red gel food coloring.

 

Elmo's eyes and nose and mouth.

 

The mouth was a little harder because I had to use a lot of black food coloring to get it so dark.  It was only afterward that I remembered that the best way to make black icing is to start with chocolate icing and then tint that with the black food coloring.  I decided to pipe in the mouth instead of spreading it with a spatula because I wanted to make sure to get the detail of the fur around the edges.  Smile Elmo!

 

Getting there, it's hard work.

 

Then the hard part – little red stars all around the cake.  This icing was tinted with three drops of red gel food coloring and one drop of orange gel food coloring.  It was a bit tedious and my hand started cramping in the middle, but as the icing warmed up a bit, it flowed a lot easier and it moved faster.  There was an option to just smear the icing on top of the cake with little peaks to represent the fur, but as I have not done a lot of cake decorating, I wanted to push myself all the way.

 

The detail

 

And then it was done!  Into the fridge for a few hours until the party, and out it came again.  We sang “Happy Birthday,” though the Little Rocker was too amazed by an Elmo cake to really care, and then we had to cut into it.

 

This is the song, la la la la, Elmo's song...

 

It kind of makes me think about the transient nature of so many things in life, here one minute and gone the next.  It was good though, and everyone was suitably impressed.

Basic Yellow Cake (from The Perfect Cake by Susan G. Purdy) makes 2 8 or 9-inch round pans or one sheet pan:

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

2 cups sugar

5 large eggs

1 1/4 cups milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Coat the cake pan with nonstick spray (if you are using a shaped pan, then do an extra coat).  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until soft and smooth.  Add the sugar and beat until light and smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

With the mixer on a low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour.  Stir in the vanilla.

Pour the batter into the pan(s).  For the Elmo size cake pan, bake for about 80 minutes.  Cool the cake on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.  Even off the top of the cake so that the shape won’t fall apart when you invert it (this is only for the Elmo pan). Invert the cake onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

This cake freezes really well.

All Purpose Frosting (from The Perfect Cake  by Susan G. Purdy) makes 3 cups frosting:

1/3 cup unsalted butter or margarine

pinch of salt

1 tsp. flavoring extract (I used vanilla)

4 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

5 tbsp. milk, or as needed

In a mixer, cream the butter or margarine really well (this is really important).  Beat in the salt and the flavoring.  With the mixer on the lowest speed, beat in the sugar and milk.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat on high until creamy.  Add more milk as necessary to achieve a spreading consistency.

This icing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Bring to room temperature and whip smooth before using.

To make Elmo:

Tint 1/2 cup icing black.

Tint 1/4 cup icing orange/red (small amount)

Leave 1/2 cup icing white

Tint whatever is left red/orange (small amount)

Using a spatula, cover the eyes with white icing.  You can either use chocolates as the eyes, or use some black icing.

Also with a spatula, ice the nose with the orange icing.

Using Wilton tip 3 with black icing, outline and fill the mouth (and pupils).

Using Wilton Star tip 16, cover the rest of the face with little stars of the red icing.

Rest your hand often.

Daring Bakers do Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies!  I haven’t made these in a long time, not since this post in March.  I have a recipe that I like a lot, but I have never iced them.  Icing and frosting or whatever you want to call it, is just not my forte – it’s a bit intimidating.  So I decided that I had to do this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge so that I would force myself to learn how to use it.

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.

In preparation for this big feat, I emailed my friend S. of The Cookie Cutters fame as she is an expert in the cookie decorating field.  I know that the challenge was to use royal icing, but I wanted to try using fondant, something that I have never used before.

Fondant
The necessary tools - 100 cookie cutters!

Conveniently the Little Rocker’s birthday was on September 15th, sheturned two years old!  So I decided to make these cookies for the birthday party that we were hosting over the Sukkoth holiday.  As we were at the grandparents’ we are doing the party in their Sukkah.  Check it out:

Sukkah entrance
Inside the Sukkah - the Little Rocker helped me make some of the chains that are hanging from the roof.

So I spent a three nights making these cookies – one night to bake, one night to cover in fondant and one night to add the details.  My darling daughter is obsessed with Elmo and Sesame Street, so I made Elmo and Big Bird cookies (if you use your imagination a little – but isn’t that what Sesame Street is all about – oh wait, that’s Barney).

The Little Rocker helps roll out the dough.

I got the Elmo one more or less down, until I realized that I didn’t have anything to make his fur look fluffy.  It was already 11:30 at night, and I just did not have the energy to make another batch of royal icing to make little tufts of “fur”, so Elmo has lost someof his hair.  The Big Birds were okay until I remembered that Big Bird has a yellow beak and not an orange one…

Rolling out the fondant

I ended up using fondant for the eyes, noses and Big Bird’s mouth, because I thought it would be easier, and I only used the royal icing for Elmo’s mouth and the pupils in the eyes – it definitely added.

Eyes on the cookies

Oh well,  the Little Rocker knew right away that they were supposed to be and as soon as she saw them she said “Elmo!” Okay that was after she said “Cookie!!”

Royal Icing
Don't they look just like Elmo and Big Bird? 😉

We are having a bunch of people over this afternoon to celebrate – pizza, Elmo cake, the whole kit and kaboodle.  Hope she enjoys!

Elmo! (Sorry the picture is a bit blurry, bad lighting!)

Here is the recipe from the Daring Baker’s site:

Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4″ Cookies

200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Directions
• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during
baking, losing their shape.

• 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.
Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid
flour flying everywhere.

• 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.
Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an
hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and
then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.

• 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.
Tip: 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 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.

Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated
cookies can last up to a month.

Royal Icing:

315g – 375g / 11oz – 13oz / 2½ – 3 cups Icing / Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
10ml / 2 tsp Lemon Juice
5ml / 1 tsp Almond Extract, optional

Directions

• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and
grease free.

• Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
Tip: I’ve 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.
• 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.