July 31, 2010

Have a Ball!

Cake balls/pops/truffles/etc. seem to be all the rage these days. People have been asking me for some time what the next big thing after cupcakes will be, and I think this may be it. Bakeries all over the country have started offering them because they help make use of "cake droppings," as I like to call them. These are all the cake crumbs you're left with after a week of leveling cakes for stacking, filling, and frosting.

Basically, you take a 9" x 13" cake pan full of crumbs, add about 2 cups of frosting (perhaps less, depending on how moist your initial cake recipe is), squish it all together, and make balls about 1-2 inches in diameter. Freeze them individually on a sheet pan for 20-30 minutes and dip in tempered chocolate or chocolate coating. They're really cute on miniature cupcake liners, all boxed up and ready to go for party favors, hostess gifts--you name it!

Bakerella has made cake pops a worldwide phenomenon through her blog and now soon-to-be published book. These take a lot more effort but are probably worth it in the end. I can imagine the reaction you'd get from your crowd! Check out her site and view her amazing gallery of cake pop artistry. The first time I made them, it was more of a deliberate effort. The client wanted them to start with, so I had to bake a cake from scratch (because that's how I roll), crumble it up, make the frosting (because I just don't do canned frosting of course), and mix it all up for the ball "batter." It seemed like a lot of labor to basically have something mini-cupcake-sized anyway. I didn't quite get what the hubbub was about, but knowing its the best way to make use of "cake droppings" these days helps you feel more sustainable in today's waste-conscious society. You can even freeze your cake crumbs for up to 3 months and use them as needed.

I recently made a bunch of cake balls and debuted them at my book club. For years, these wonderful folks have been my test kitchen, and I have soooooo appreciated them for that. Everyone loved them and thought they were one of the best desserts I've brought to a meeting. One longtime clubber actually came up with the name I'll be using to add them to my menu: Bomb-bons! Very sassy and the perfect thing to call something that packs that much of a sugar punch!

So if you're interested in Bomb-bons a la Pomegranate Sweets & Savories, give me a call or visit my site to order some. I'll be posting the available flavors each week. This week, I'm featuring Grandma's Chocolate, Carrot, and Vanilla Buttermilk. And maybe, when Bakerella's book comes out, it might inspire me to work on a pomegranate-shaped one I can call my signature Bomb-bon!

July 19, 2010

Cool Tools: Butter for Brains

I have discovered the whimsical world of Worldwide Fred. Talk about pan addiction! I recently purchased a few pans that have me so excited about what I can do with them, I can't stop thinking about them...

For example, the Brain Freeze set at left, first and foremost for ice, can also double for Jell-O jigglers, panna cotta, and butter! Imagine that served up with your daily bread! I'm even going to try them with melt-and-pour soap base this week and see how those turn out. I could call them Smart Soap...

I also recently purchased the Worldwide Fred Cakewich pan. I haven't made anything yet, but the possibilities are endless, even on the savory side. It comes with a recipe for a vanilla pound cake, peanut butter frosting, and berry compote. But I'm thinking you could even do your favorite white bread recipe with just about any kind of fixings and serve up a big sandwich for the cutting!

All jokes aside though, it's good to always investigate all the possibilities of your novelty pans. I have a fetish for them, so goodness knows I don't always follow this rule of thumb. But I do have a dozen-cavity miniature egg pan from Williams-Sonoma from years ago that not only makes good eggs (no pun intended), but bumblebees, ladybugs, and hedgehogs too. (Wilton makes one too, with only eight cavities though.) The Nordicware baby Bundt pan can make pumpkins, apples, and all sorts of round seasonal shapes (see right). Heck, Bundt pans in general do a lot of things besides your average Bundts. Try this caterpillar cake design some time!

July 1, 2010

S'more Than Enough

I think there's an undeniable fascination going on with the graham cracker + marshmallow + chocolate thing. I have seen s'more options for making s'mores-type goodies this summer than ever before. Having been a Girl Scout who enjoyed my fair share of camping trips and campfires, I adore them! What is it about oozy, chocolatey goodness with a rustic whole-grain crunch? And now, s'more than ever, there are so many ways to work this ooey gooey equation into summer desserts. (OK, I'll stop with the s'moring now...)

Here's a little background on these goodies... The term s'more comes from the phrase "some more"--a typical request when the treat became a regular around the campfire. This article details some history on the s'more, indicating that the first real recipe was cited in a Girl Scout handbook in 1927. Marhsmallows were an easy-to-transport item along a hiking trail and warmed up nicely over a campfire. Chocolate bars and graham crackers were also just as portable, and so all these items came together in a sticky sweet treat that became synonymous with the great outdoors.

Lately, more varieties of desserts have oozed onto the scene, using these three elements, only in different ways. This cookie recipe from Martha has me wondering whether a "graham-like" cookie would be more satisfying than a graham cracker. They sure are cute little buggers and would make a great presentation at a winter tween slumber party, when you need to fake a campfire with your good ol' gas oven. (Pretend the pilot light is your open flame.)

Or if you really wanted to go all-out Martha, you could seriously impress your friends by putting together one of these for a weekend getaway: the S'mores To-Go Box! Real homemade marshmallows are included in Martha's version. I must admit, once you've had a homemade one, it's hard to go back to ye ol' store-bought Kraft marshmallows. There is some sort of melt-in-your-mouth madness going on with homemade versions that beckon you to their side. You've got to try it at least once before you knock it. It's not a time-consuming task, but without the preservatives that store-bought ones harbor, just remember that homemade doesn't last as long. The major plus though is that you can flavor them any way you like. I put strawberry Nestle Nesquik or cocoa powder in mine and sometimes mix them up for holiday gift-giving in a sort of Neapolitan pack.

But so far, my favorite rendition of this classic treat has been the s'mores brownie with marshmallow ice cream concoction I put together a few weeks ago for an impromptu dinner party with friends. It starts with this brownie recipe from the Food Network, topped with chocolate buttercream, and accompanied by a scoop of marshmallow ice cream. I eliminated the marshmallow topping in the brownie recipe and served a chocolate-frosted brownie with a scoop of marshmallow ice cream on the side. Of course this one can't be passed around a campfire on a camping trip, but it sure can make a rather metropolitan spread feel like a campsite. Just play your nature sounds alarm clock in the background while you plate it up!

August 10 in National S'mores Day, so you have some time to experiment on which of the above you'll treat yourself to that day. That's s'more than enough time!