Friday, April 30, 2010

The Skillet Winner!!!

As promised, I picked a winner shortly after 3:00 today (work delayed it a bit). Using, a winner was selected.

The lucky winner is commenter #5 - throuthehaze! Congratulations! I'll be in contact with you soon to get your contact info to pass on to CSN so they can be sending you your skillet! If you end up making the tarte tatin, send pics!!

Thanks everyone for entering, and a big thank you to CSN and!
I have a lot of photos to upload from the past two weeks of school, so check back soon!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Skillet Giveaway and Tarte Tatin!

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that CSN had contacted me, wanting me to do a product review from their site and host a giveaway on my blog. Anxious to remake the tarte tatin I loved in the puff pastry unit, I selected a nonstick skillet. If you're impatient and want to get straight to the details of the giveaway, scroll down to the bottom of this post.

The skillet is a nonstick Farberware skillet. It's very lightweight, but felt sturdy when I was using it. And it is certainly nonstick. This tarte has a lot of gooey caramel that usually sticks to the bottom of the pan when it's flipped over (tarte tatin is an apple tart that is baked in a skillet, upside down, and then flipped over), but when I flipped it over this time, there was no caramel left on the bottom. I think it's pretty great so far, and can't wait to use it more. The only drawback to the pan though is that the handle is metal, and it can get really hot when you use it. This is true of almost all skillets, and all the pots and pans we use at FCI, but I felt that I should point it out.

Tarte fresh out of the oven, look at how clean the skillet looks

Ok, time for the recipe. Whether or not you win the skillet, I highly recommend trying this out. It's my perfect dessert - simple, delicious, and apple. Before we go into the details, I have a confession to make...I used store-bought frozen puff pastry. I fully intended making my own, but it's a time consuming process, and time is not in abundance for me lately. If you can make your own, I recommend doing it, but if you don't have time, frozen puff pastry will work just fine.

Shhhhh...don't tell Chef Cynthia


Pastry dough, enough to cover the pan (I used puff pastry, but you could use a pate sucree or pate brisee)
5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut in pieces

1 1/4 c sugar
5 Golden Delicious apples
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Tarte covered in puff pastry, before going into the oven


1. Roll out puff pastry or thaw if you are using store-bought.
2. Peel, halve, and core the apples.
3. Put the apple halves round side down in the pan (crowd them in there together, I only used 4 apples in the 12" pan, but wished I had 1 more).
4. Put the pan on the stovetop over medium heat. When the apples start to brown, add the sugar.
5. Lower the heat and cook until the sugar caramelizes.6. Add the tbsp of vanilla extract over the top of the apples.
7. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
8. Cover the apples with the puff pastry, tucking the extra into the pan (do not allow pastry to hang over the edge of the pan).
9. Bake the tart at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is nicely browned and baked through.
10. Remove the tart from the oven and immediately unmold it onto a plate or serving dish. Be very careful - the caramel will be extremely hot. I put the plate over top the pan and then in one rapid motion (wearing oven mitts), flip it over.

Finished product!

Ok, so now the good part, the giveaway! It's very simple to enter - just leave your name and email address in the comments section, and I'll use a random number generator to pick the winner. Tarte tatin has been my favorite dessert featured on my blog, so feel free to let me know what yours has been in the comments. You have until this Friday at 3:00 pm EST. One entry per person! Good luck!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Week 15: Breads

I am so behind in my blogging! For all of you who have been anxiously awaiting the giveaway, look for that post tomorrow morning - my apple tarte tatin is in the oven as I write this! Everything has been so busy, and last weekend I went up to Boston for Marathon Monday.

Two weeks ago was the last week of breads. I'm happy to have moved on from breads; I didn't find them terrible exciting (or pretty to look at on this blog). Tuesday we baked the Danish we had made the week before, and they were really great for breakfast the next day. On Wednesday, I came into work with a HUGE tray of Danish, croissants, and other assorted breads. My brother's girlfriend Meghann traveled into the city with me that morning, and at one point in Port Authority, she was like "People are staring at you..." It happens a lot when I'm coming into the city on mornings after class.

On Tuesday, we also made an oat bread. I haven't actually tried this yet. I just took it out of my freezer today to have for breakfast toast this week.

This tarte flambe was really great. It was like a better pizza. It had a custard made with creme fraiche and fromage blanc, bacon, and gruyere cheese. Basically, how could it not taste amazing. This was similar to the taste of the quiche Lorraine I liked so much during the tarts unit.

We made the five grain rolls on Tuesday and baked them Thursday. These were a little bit too healthy for my liking. As Chef Cynthia said, it felt like work eating this roll. I felt significantly healthier after one of them though.

I'm not a huge fan of banana anything, but I'm slowly warming up to them, and these banana crumb muffins definitely helped. The crumbs are this amazing mixture of almond flour, sugar, butter, and cake flour. The recipe is just equal parts of all four and can be used on a variety of different muffins, pies, crisps, etc.

Thursday, we also made soft rolls, ciabatta, pissaladiere, and a few variations of sweet potato brioche! As you can tell it was a really busy class. These soft rolls are one of my favorite types of bread. It's an enriched bread, made with butter, eggs, and sugar. The inside was really soft (like the name suggest), and tasted great with a bit of butter. Then again, what doesn't taste great with a bit of butter?

Thankfully with everything else we had on the agenda Tuesday night, the ciabatta was really easy to make. You just mix the ingredients together, leave it on your station, and turn the dough every now and then. The result was a chewy, awesome bread.

I was about as uninterested in the pissaladiere as I could be. Made with sauteed onions, anchovies, and nicoise olives, there was nothing on this that I eat. These were way overbaked though, so the majority of the class's ended in the compost bin. This was obviously not going to be the week I started eating anchovies.

We had made a brioche dough made with sweet potato puree. I was expecting it to taste a lot more like sweet potatoes, but it tasted like the first brioche we made. We made a few different things with the dough. My favorite was a craquelin, which is made by kneading sugar cubes that had been macerated in orange liquor and orange zest into the dough. When the bread bakes, the sugar cubes melt into this delicious gooey spot.

With the sweet potato brioche dough, we also made a sweet and savory roll. The sweet had sweet potato pastry cream piped on top, and the savory was filled with sauteed shallots and blue cheese.

Saturday's class we made lemon poppy seed muffins, corn bread muffins, English muffins, and focaccia bread. Due to the hectic pace of class and trying to get out on time to make my bus to Boston, I forgot to take pictures of both the English muffins and corn bread. The English muffins were a happy surprise. I've never really enjoyed the Thomas' version. They're just so dry and boring. The ones in our curriculum though are fried in corn oil (a major surprise to me) and then baked. As with almost anything fried, I really loved these, but they were not like the "traditional" English muffins most people know.

We made a sweet focaccia with apples, cinnamon sugar, and walnuts (not on my half) and a savory one with tomato and rosemary. I only have a picture of the apple one because my partner and I "lost" our tomato one under our station - totally forgetting to put it in the oven. Oh well, the apple one was pretty good.

I went to college in Boston (go BU!) and took the bus ride between Boston and New York plenty of times. I HATE buses, and it always happens that as soon as I get on the bus, I get struck with hunger. And then, invariably, the trip takes way longer than the four and a half hours it's supposed to. I also tend to have the strangest person on the bus choose the seat next to mine. The trip last Saturday up was significantly better being as I had a bag full of muffins and my friend Vica traveling with me. I can't say the same for the ride back on Tuesday, when we were sitting next to the bathroom in the middle of what felt like a nursery school. Without a bag of breads.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stay Tuned...

I know the CSN giveaway was supposed to be this week, but my skillet is still en route, and I can't make the tarte tatin without it! There was a slight hold up because we had to switch products (the cast iron was on back order). The new skillet is a bit of an upgrade and is this Farberware Premium Nonstick Skillet:

Check back next week for the chance to win!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Week 14: Cakes Exam & the Return to Breads

Last Tuesday was our exam for Cakes I. We knew going into the practical exam that we would need to recreate the first cake we made in the unit - a genoise with pate a bombe buttercream and raspberry jam filling.

The exam went pretty smoothly. My genoise rose really nicely, and my buttercream was smooth (with only slightly visible pieces of butter in it). We also needed to create two roses out of marzipan and write "Happy Birthday" on it. We hadn't made the roses before, only saw a brief demo the class before, so we weren't being graded on them. Despite that, most of us still spent a large amount of time attempting to perfect these roses. I think my handwriting on the cake was nicer than my real handwriting.

Inside my exam cake

After the first half of the cakes unit, we moved back to breads. Our first half of the unit was viennoiserie (enriched breads), and this time we're doing lean breads.

Irish soda bread isn't a lean bread; it's a quick bread. It's made with baking soda, which is where the name comes from. This version had dried currants and caraway seeds in it, giving it an interesting taste. At first, I wasn't sure if I liked it, but by the third bite, it had grown on me. If I made it again, I think I'd go with the more traditional raisins and nix the caraway seeds.

Petit pains were the first real lean breads we made. They're like mini baguettes, or just a traditional dinner roll.

The next day I used one of the petit pains to make my usual turkey sandwich. It made for a nice upgrade from my usual boring wrap. There's definitely a satisfaction in making your own bread.

This bread is pain de Provence, made with olives and herbs de Provence (a mix of lavender, thyme, savory, fennel, basil and other herbs). When we were making this bread, my partner and I went to turn it onto the table to finish kneading, the dough was almost a soup-like consistency. We're still not sure what happened to it, but once we kneaded in some additional flour, it was fine. I'm not a fan of olives, so I mailed the extra loaf to my mom, who loves olive bread.

Saturday we made some baguettes, the traditional French bread. French Culinary Institute has a really amazing bread baking program and when I toured the school, my admissions rep gave me a baguette from the bread kitchen. That loaf of bread was so good, I ate almost all of it on my subway ride home. Very embarrassing when I realized people were staring. Our baguettes were good, but not quite the same. The bread kitchens have special ovens that release steam, and the ovens the pastry students use don't have this. Interestingly, when I read Julia Child's autobiography, it detailed her quest to develop a recipe that replicated French baguettes in American kitchens. The preliminary recipe called for dropping a heated asbestos tile into a pan of water to produce the steam. Once asbestos was discovered to be harmful to you, the recipe replaced it with a quarry tile.

Bagels always seemed like one of those things that must be way too difficult to make. These were relatively easy, and I can't wait to make them again. We made variations of plain - with seeds or cinnamon sugar on top. I was going to make cinnamon raisin bagels (my favorite) Sunday, but woke up completely exhausted and did very little but nap all day. The dough was VERY hard though, kind of like kneading a rock, and I woke up Sunday morning with really sore forearms and heels of my hands. I didn't even know those muscles existed!

While in class Saturday, Chef Cynthia set up a spread of cream cheese, salmon, tomatoes, and various other bagel toppings. I had an awesome plain bagel with cream cheese and tomato. Half way through the bagel, I turned to my partner and was like, "Know when you're eating something and it's so good that you feel sad that at some point it's going to be gone? That's how I feel about this bagel."

We made our danishes, but there was no time to bake them, so they're in the freezer awaiting baking tomorrow. We tried out various shapes including bear claw, pin wheel, and turnover. We used a variety of fillings such as cheese, fruit, pastry cream, and almond cream. I'm excited to bake these, but have a feeling the fruit ones are going to explode all over the other ones in the oven. When we bake these tomorrow, I'm going to be sure to keep those as far away as the others as possible.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mets Birthday Cake

It's been pretty hard for me to do any sort of baking outside class. When it comes to my free time, baking is low on the priority list after about 15-20 hours of class time a week. Last week, I had a friend's birthday party and knew I wanted to make a cake. I allotted myself 5 hours over 3 days to get it done. I must be getting better with sticking to a schedule because that's about all it took.

My friend Jeremy is a huge Mets fan (the type that goes down to watch them during Spring training), so I knew it had to be a Mets cake. I baked a vanilla bean cake on Wednesday and stored it in the freezer for the weekend. On Friday, I frosted the cake and started on the logo, which I made out of fondant. I ran out of powdered sugar, so I saved all the royal icing detail for Saturday.

After class Saturday, I made the royal icing and outlined the logo in white and did the lettering on the side of the cake in orange. The hardest part about making this cake was carrying it. After a week of class that had already left my arms dead, I had to carry this cake, which weighed about 20 pounds, from Hoboken to Brooklyn (albeit via subway). Jeremy was really surprised and seemed impressed though, so it was totally worth the shaky arms. I wish I had taken a better pic...the only one I remembered to snap was with my iPhone.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Week 13: Cakes, Cakes, Cakes

First of all, this is my 100th blog post!!! I can't believe I've had that much to say on the topic of cupcakes, and other desserts (although my parents probably can).

Moving on... Week 13 (which didn't feel as unlucky as the number would suggest) was a continuation of the first half of our cakes unit. The cakes we've made have been really beautiful, and pretty delicious.

At the beginning of last week, I had a lot of cakes stored in the freezer from the weekend. The fruit mousse miroir (French word for mirror) was one I was really looking forward to making. It's on the cover of the French Culinary Institute's Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts, it's definitely an eye-catching dessert. Mine wasn't quite as perfect looking as the book cover, but everyone at my Easter was pretty impressed. I also had the pate a cornet chocolate mousse cake I showed a picture of last week. In order to properly finish it, I woke up early Tuesday before work to hand whip cream to add to the top. That's dedication to my coworkers.

Fruit Mousse Miroir (made with cassis)

Completed Chocolate Mousse Cake -dark & white chocolate

Tuesday was a day of more traditional American cakes - chocolate cupcakes, carrot cake, and crumb cake.

I almost always prefer vanilla over chocolate, but these chocolate cupcakes surprised me. I mostly find chocolate cake to be just "eh." These were really moist and fudgey. Instead of a heavy frosting, we topped these with a chocolate glaze. They made a pretty good dinner that night.

I don't think I've ever eaten carrot cake. It's usually filled with nuts, which makes it off limits to me. This one had walnuts, so I had to rely on my coworkers to test the finished product and vouch for it. I wasn't a huge fan of this cream cheese frosting. I like my cream cheese frosting simple - butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. This one had some lemon zest, which I don't like in frosting. I've made my peace with it in cakes, but not frosting.

We also made tiny marzipan carrots. My classmates and I find modeling things out of marzipan hilarious for some reason, and it always make us giddy when we get the chance.

The pecan crumb cake was another one I couldn't try, but it got pretty good reviews from my coworkers. With all the pastries they're eating these past few months, they're becoming pretty critical, in a good way. I feel I can rely on them to tell me what should be on the "bake again" list and which I should start looking for a new recipe.

This was a sachertorte, which is apparently well known as being able to keep for a very long time. Like for months. You can send this sachertorte around the world and back. It's a pretty dense chocolate cake (which I found to be a little too dry...especially after those awesome chocolate cupcakes), filled with apricot jam, covered in the jam, and then covered with a chocolate glaze. Traditionally, the word Sacher is written on it, as it was created by the Sacher hotel in Vienna. The hotel actually still sells sachertortes, and you can order them online.

This Dobos torte is a Hungarian cake that is comprised of 5 layers of sponge cake (they reminded me of pancakes), chocolate buttercream, and a 6th layer of sponge cake covered in caramel and cut in wedges.

Sunken flourless chocolate cake

Can't even tell it fell

The flourless chocolate cake came out of the oven and it looked like it rose so high while baking. Just as Chef Cynthia warned us though, it immediately began to deflate, sinking in the middle. It's supposed to do this, but to "cover it up," we covered the cake with creme d'or (chocolate whipped cream), and then chocolate meringue rods we had baked. It sort of looked like a forest to me. This was one of the 3 cakes I served for Easter.

The third and final cake that was served on Easter was this chocolate hazelnut mousse cake. In order to do the outside of the cake, we had splattered some white and milk chocolate down on a sheet pan, then when that set, spread dark chocolate on top. When that was hard, we cracked it into pieces to attach to the sides of the cake.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Upcoming Tarte Tatin Recipe & Product Giveaway!!

Remember this from my puff pastry unit? It was a delicious blend of apples, puff pastry, caramel, and apple brandy, and I was lucky enough to have it in my apartment when I was snowed in during the last snow storm. It was so amazing that I ate the whole thing by myself. In one day. I'm not too embarrassed to admit that. I've been wanting to recreate that tarte tatin (upside down apple tart) since that day, but haven't had a cast iron skillet that the recipe needed. I've had my eye on one like this, but acquiring one keeps slipping my mind.

Last week I was contacted by CSN, one of the internet's largest home and office goods distributors. In addition to an awesome selection of cookware and bakeware, they have a site dedictated to home bars. I'm thinking one of the smaller ones would look great in my apartment. The best part is they want me to do a product review and giveaway on Cupcake Obsessed! I was so excited to be able to share something with my readers, and began perusing one of their sites, I was delighted and overwhelmed with all the amazing baking products they offer; it's really incredible. They have 222 results for spatulas alone!! After spending last week browsing some kitchenware stores in New York City, CSN's prices were also a major relief to me. They have a wide selection of sale items, and everything feels reasonably priced.

After browsing the incredible selection and falling in love with this, these, and this, I decided that this cast iron skillet should be the featured giveaway. It's an item that everyone needs, if only to make the tarte tatin. Fortunately, you can make a ton more in a skillet like this.

Next week I will be featuring the recipe for the tarte tatin and giving away one Universal Housewares 10.5" skillet to 1 lucky blog reader, complimentary of CSN. Stay tuned next week for your chance to enter!

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