Tuesday, September 18, 2012

wedding cake take 1

Alright, so I haven't been around for a few weeks. But trust me, I've been mad busy. One of the reasons, was a 9 day trip to Montreal for two weddings. Yup, two. And not only that, I was making the cake for one of the weddings. My very first wedding cake project.

In the week leading up to our departure, I figured out a plan and tried a few recipes. I decided on a three tiered cake as follows: 12 " chocolate cake, 9" vanilla cake, both three layers with fillings of dark chocolate mousse and white chocolate mousse, and a 6" half chocolate and half vanilla cake with dark chocolate mousse for the bride and groom to keep. The whole cake would be iced in a white chocolate buttercream. For my first cake, I was certainly not going with fondant and, besides, who even likes the taste of fondant anyway!

Luckily Deb Perelman, the genius behind Smitten Kitchen, already jumped into her own wedding cake project, making it easier for the rest of us. You can find her whole story as well as both the chocolate and vanilla cake recipes here. I must note, however, for the chocolate cake I added half the cinnamon and a few extra tablespoons of cocoa. i like my chocolate rich! In order to maximize our time, the cakes were baked two days prior. After they got brushed with a syrup of vanilla, sugar and Galliano for the vanilla cake, and coffee, Kahlua and sugar for the chocolate, they were wrapped tightly in plastic wrap,and refrigerated til the big day.

The chocolate mousse was adapted from an Alton Brown recipe on the Food Network but I did make some changes: I substituted Kahlua for the rum, used 2/3 extra dark chocolate and 1/3 milk chocolate, and added some brown sugar to adjust the sweetness plus a good pinch of sea salt. The result was rich and chocolatey with great coffee undertones. For the white chocolate mousse, I simply used white chocolate in place of the chocolate, vanilla for the Kahlua, but added more whipped cream to account for the sweetness. It was a fluffier, lighter tasting mousse that complimented the dark nicely.

As for the buttercream, I simply went for it. Butter, icing sugar, clear vanilla, lemon juice, cream, and some white chocolate. I made two batches, giving the sister-in-law's KitchenAid a run for its money, and adjusting the taste as I went. Yes, it was mad sweet but when combined with the cake and mousse, it totally worked. I kinda ran out of time and was icing the cake the morning of the wedding. Yup, shit got real. But luckily, I have the world's best boyfriend and he helped me every step of the way. We delivered the cake in layers before the wedding, doing the final assembly and decoration before the reception.

TA-DAH!

awesome plating by the hotel staff
even better plating for the bride
While it wasn't perfect (we were a tad rushed!), it was both beautiful and delicious but, most importantly, the happy couple loved it. If that's not a success, I don't know what is. Oh, and sorry for the iphone pics. Did I forget to mention both Brent and I were in the wedding party?!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

local love: Hutten Family Farm cherry tomatoes



It's that time of year in the Maritimes. The time when the markets are abound with loads of local produce and one of our favs right now are the fresh local tomatoes. There's just so many varieties to choose from. Big small, red, orange, green, yellow. Then there's these lil' beauts, the cherry tomato. I have only recently started enjoying the cherries, always being somewhat freaked out by the inevitable burst. Now I'm all 'bring on the cherry tomatoes'.

We got these bad boys from Hutten Family Farm, a fixture at the Historic Brewery Market. This weekend we opted to change up the Saturday morning market routine and instead went back down memory lane at the old market, the original. Honestly, it was a little sad to see it so empty. Well before the Seaport was built, The Brewery Market was slammin'. Always packed and so unique with its maze of a layout. Cool little corridors leading to cool little rooms. All filled with anything you could want. Loads of produce, fish, meat, coffee, bread, herbs, endless food options, and let's not forget the quintessential market breakfast, the cinnamon roll from Mary's Bread Basket. Oh yes, we were also there for the cinnamon rolls. Always somehow still warm, these may very well be my favorite cinnamon rolls. Although my girl Georgia's got some mad cinnamon roll skillz too. Anyway, the rolls were, as always, incredible. Delicious buttery gooey nostalgia. I admit there were few market visits where I didn't make a visit to Mary's and even now every bite brings me back. I'm glad the Brewery Market lives on.

What's also cool about the Brewery Market now is the number of farm stands and the variety of produce. The Hutten stand alone had so much so choose from like little kinds of eggplant, potatoes, plums, corn, melons (a kind of small yellow watermelon that was ridiculously juicy and delish), onions, greens, peppers, you name it. And, of course, loads of beautiful tomatoes. These tomatoes were destined for a salad as part of a backyard BBQ. We also got some Hutton corn to grill as well as spinach and garlic for the salad from another vendor, Four Seasons Farm. With a visit to our girl Jessi over at Storehouse Butchery, dinner was complete. The all local all delicious Saturday backyard BBQ: steak with blue cheese butter, grilled corn, and cherry tomato salad with maple bacon dressing. Shit yeah. And for once I actually measured something!

Cherry Tomato Salad with Maple Bacon Dressing


2 slices of thick cut bacon, cubed
2 cloves garlic
2 T. balsamic vinegar
3 T. maple syrup
3 T. olive oil
2 t. dijon
salt and pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 c. spinach
handful of basil, the more the better

To make the dressing, fry up the bacon on low to really render that delicious fat. We used Brother's bacon which I generally love, being so very smokey. However, this time the bacon was-get this-too meaty! A bacon with a bit more fat would have been perfect. (Please note: with a fattier bacon, you could likely use less olive oil.) Add the garlic and saute a few minutes. Feel free to drain off the fat if that's your thing but I simply whisked the remaining ingredients right in the frying pan and seasoned to taste. This dressing is thick and tangy and sweet and salty but, like always, feel free to adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. For the salad, simply chop up that spinach, chiffonade (oh, fancy word!) or, rather, thinly slice the basil, halve the cherry tomatoes, and toss with the dressing. This salad was killer. I swear basil and tomatoes may be one of the best food combos out there. So freakin' perfect for each other. Like chocolate and pb but that's another post all together... It would also be amazing with lil' cubes of boccaccini or some goat cheese. Or, if you're a veggie lovin' kinda person-I'll easily eat your share of bacon!-omit the meat. Vegan salad dressing. It's that easy.

So how easy is it to eat local here in NS? Pretty damn easy I'd say. One visit to a market and you're set. And doesn't it just feel right? Like the way things used to be. No million ingredients with chemical names. No factory farmed meat. No traveling millions of miles to get to your plate. Just real food grown by real people. People you can actually meet and form a relationship with. In fact, Sunday, September 16th in Nova Scotia is Open Farm Day. I can't believe I'm away for this one but it's your chance to visit one of the numerous farms, and believe me there are loads, to meet your farmer and literally learn where your food comes from. Amazing I know. So load those kids into the car (because how important is it in today's world of convenience foods to teach our kids about real food), pick a farm, and enjoy an awesome day exploring your Nova Scotia.

And if all goes to plan, I will continue to regularly feature recipes using seasonal local produce. Let's see if I can keep it up. Suggestions always welcome. I'll see you at the market.