Tuesday, December 21
For her birthday, Cate selected the elephant cake from my handy dandy Cakes for Kids book. Honestly, I think the main reason she picked the cake was because it was pink. I was happy to oblige – it was a straightforward design and super cute. And I could make cupcakes for all the kids, topped with Circus Peanuts to tie it all together (see photo near the end of this post). The cake and the cupcakes were a hit!
Like I mentioned on Sunday, Cate’s elephant cake tasted light years better than Anna’s ghosty cake. And not just because chocolate cake will kick angel food cake’s patootie any day of the week. But the icing I used for the elephant cake is to die for. The book had suggested frosting the cake with a recipe that uses shortening, because it’s easier to handle and would work for creating texture on the elephant’s skin. But, uh, hello? Shortening? Blech. I promptly picked up the phone and called my good friend Faye, the pastry chef in my life. She suggested I whip up a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, which would also be easy to work with and have the added benefit of actually tasting like food.
I’m not exaggerating. Swiss Meringue Buttercream is the creamiest, smoothest, most flavorful frosting I’ve made. I don’t even usually like frosting that much. I love this stuff.
And, sure enough, I was able to gently press a sieve into the surface of the icing to create a super cute texture that every pretty pink elephant aspires to.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
As described over the phone to me by my friend Faye Stein
- 4 egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
- 15-20 ounces butter (american style, the regular stuff you get at the store), room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
Combine the egg whites and the sugar in a KitchenAid bowl. Place over a pan of simmering water. Whisk thoroughly until the temperature reaches 165 degrees (which actually happened faster than I was expecting). The mixture will be shiny and the sugar dissolved. Remove from heat, place on mixer.
With the whisk attachment, whisk at high speed until it’s a meringue, stiff peaks forming. Stop whisking, let mixture cool until bowl is cool enough to touch and the mixture is room temperature.
Whisk at medium high speed, breaking off pieces of butter and adding, mixing after each addition. The mixture will stay quite soupy and you’ll think there’s no way that this is going to turn into frosting…and you’ll get ready to grab your phone to call me and find out what you’re doing wrong even though I told you it would work (that’s what I did with Faye)…but you just keep whisking and whisking, and then all of the suden it’s right. It suddenly turns into creamy frosting wonderfulness. (I added about 15 ounces of butter total the first time I made it, 12 ounces the second time I made it). At the point that it looks like actual frosting, add your vanilla and any food coloring and whisk again for a few minutes.
Leftover frosting can be frozen for future use. Once you’ve refrigerated or frozen the frosting, if you want to mix it in the mixer again you should use the paddle attachment, not the whisk attachment.
For the cupcakes, I stuck with my usual buttercream frosting, which is also very tasty and delicious.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
From How to Cook Everything
- 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 6 tablespoons cream or milk (cream is better)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Use a fork or electric mixer (I use my KitchenAid with the paddle attachment) to cream the butter. Gradually work in the sugar, alternating with the cream and beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. If the frosting is too thick to spread, add a little more cream, a teaspoon at a time. If it is too thin (which is unlikely), refrigerate; it will thicken as butter hardens.
Tuesday, September 21
Menlo Park Week was oodles of fun for me, but I’m a little happy it’s over so I can finally share this honey goat cheese pizza with you! It’s divine. I can’t take credit for the idea of this pizza…that goes to my dear friend Faye. Yet another reason I’m grateful Faye is in my life.
Here’s why I love this pizza. The sweetness of the goat cheese and the caramelized onions balances perfectly with the saltiness of the parmesan cheese and the salt that you sprinkle on the pizza. And the texture of the mozzarella cheese balances out the goat cheese oh so nicely. It’s perfection on a pizza crust.
Honey Goat Cheese Pizza
From Jane Maynard, inspired by Faye Stein
- Honey goat cheese from Trader Joe’s (If you don’t have a TJ’s, then I would recommend using regular goat cheese and drizzling some honey over the pizza before baking – you gotta get that sweetness in there)
- Caramelized onions
- Fresh mozzarella cheese (or shredded if that’s what you have in the fridge, but the fresh is just so yummy)
- Fresh parmesan cheese (sorry, this one has to be fresh, folks)
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- Pizza crust (Obviously! Click here for the recipe I use.)
Make your crust. When it’s ready to be topped, drizzle some olive oil on the crust and spread around with your fingers. Sprinkle salt all over the crust, and a bit of pepper. Top with the caramelized onions, mozzarella cheese and fresh parmesan cheese. Like I mentioned in the ingredients list, if you can’t get your hands on the Trader Joe’s honey goat cheese – I would just drizzle a bit of honey over the pizza before topping with the cheeses and onions.
Bake on a pizza stone at the highest heat your oven can put out until cheese is bubbly and the crust is browned (or bake your pizza how you normally bake it).
Tuesday, June 15
Remember this Spanish-inspired nut tart?
I am finally sharing the recipe with you! This one is pretty gourmet…which means I didn’t actually make this recipe…I just ate it. But it was delicious, so I have to share it with you just the same. I had the pleasure of enjoying this nut tart about a month ago when my friend Faye, the pastry chef, made these tarts for her son’s elementary school class (lucky class, eh?). This tart is based on a Spanish (specifically Catalan) treat. Faye was nice enough to sit down and write the recipe out for us, which is quite the task actually. Everyone tell Faye “Thanks!” next time you see her.
Faye’s Catalan Nut Tart
From Faye Stein, Pastry Chef and Friend Extraordinaire
The dough (pate sucree)
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 Tbs sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 1 stick butter, cubed
- 1 yolk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 Tbs cream
Mix the last three wet ingredients and place in the fridge so that it’s cold and ready to go. Prepare the butter and refrigerate also. In a food
processor, pulse the dry ingredients. Add the butter and pulse to crumble. Add the wets and pulse until you have a cohesive dough, like a cookie dough. Smoosh into a disk in plastic wrap, and allow to rest for at least 1/2 hour.
- 4 oz dried pears
- 4 oz dates
(could do any combo, such as; apples/dates, apricots/figs, cherries/figs, etc.)
- 1/3 cup pear juice (or juice to your taste)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
In a sauce pan, allow the juice and sugar to dissolve. Add fruit. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Then process the mixture to form a thick paste. cool.
- 6 Tbs butter
- 6 Tbs sugar
- 3 Tbs corn syrup
- 6 oz total of dry roasted nuts of your choice. I used 2 oz pistachios, 2 oz cashews, 2 oz almonds.
- 1 1/2 Tbs cream
Preheat the oven to 400. Roll out your dough , fill your tart shell, and blind bake for 15 to 20 minutes. It should be fully baked. To blind bake, place a piece of parchment in the tart and fill it with beans. This will keep it from bubbling up. Remove the parchment and beans at the end and put it back in the oven for a few minutes. Now its ready to fill.
Cook first 3 ingredients in heavy large saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil. Boil vigorously 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add nuts and cream.
Spread fruit filling in crust; smooth top. Set tart on cookie sheet. Spoon nut topping over. Bake until filling bubbles, about 20 minutes. Transfer tart to rack and cool 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, loosen tart pan sides but do not remove. Cool tart completely in pan. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.) Remove pan sides. Cut tart into wedges.
Lucky me…a few friends are getting together on Thursday and Faye is bringing goodies. What deliciousness will I be ‘subjected’ to, I wonder?
Sunday, May 23
This weekend was all about my friend Faye, which is a very good thing. Faye is an amazing pastry chef who creates wonderful delights like this nut tart.
Yesterday I attended Faye’s artisan bread workshop at my local Sur La Table, which I am going to have to share more of with you in a separate post. As for the nut tart, it was awesome and I’m going to hopefully share the recipe with you in yet another post…although I’m pretty sure it’s one I’ll just let Faye make for me rather than attempt myself! I may as well let the artist do what she does best, right?
I need to confess, my menu pretty much didn’t happen last week. I’m too tired right now to even remember what DID happen! Anyway, that explains the multiple repeats from last week. Forgive me!
- Baked stuffing-coated chicken with a nice veggie
- Eat out
- Creamy Potato Leek Soup (without any cream – it’s a fab recipe!)
I want to take a moment to THANK YOU for your menus every week! They are wonderful! The blog wouldn’t be what it is without them! THANK YOU!!! Can’t wait to see what you’ve got this week! (Good job to me for using exclamation points at the end of every sentence in this paragraph!)
Thursday, November 26
Have a happy thanksgiving, filled with great food and even better company!
And, no, I did not make this beautiful pie. I happily handed my money over to my friend Faye the pastry chef. Word on the street is that she has perfected the pumpkin pie. We can’t wait to dig in later today!
(If you live in Silicon Valley and are interested in buying one of Faye’s pies sometime, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The apple pies she was baking yesterday I swear were 10 feet tall and unbelievably scrumptious looking. Aren’t I lucky to have Faye in my life?)