Monthly Archives: August 2012

Basil Pesto

First impressions are a funny thing. I remember, as a freshman in high school, hearing one of the most beautiful girls in the school proclaim that she bases all her friendships and any potential relationships on first impressions. “I don’t care if it’s unfair. If I don’t like you from first talking to you, I’m never going to talk to you again.” I still remember these words. While harsh, I actually wondered whether she had a point. All our lives we are judged on first impressions, including dates and interviews. Interactions that decide the most important parts of our lives are truly governed by the first impressions. So, was there any truth to what she said?

After 30 years of life experience, I call B.S. on her theory.

According to Binks, if he had judged me based on his first impression, he would not have talked to me ever again. I obviously thought differently of our first interaction. I was so shy and nervous that when he called me, I sat on the phone quietly for most of the conversation. Me being quiet is not the normal if you have ever met me. But, I did. And if it was anyone else, he wouldn’t have called again. But, because Binks would be the last person to judge a person from a first impression, he called again. And, six years and a baby later, the rest is history.

Less importantly, I hated pesto the first time I tried it. That’s what happens when you try to make pesto out of a powder mix from a “pasta creation” box. Disgusting. Extremely pungent (not in a good way), bitter and salty. After having some basil left over from making pizza sauce, I decided to give it a second try.

Controlling the levels of the different ingredients, I was able to create a product that was creamy yet bold, without any harsh flavors to distract from the bright basil. Since making it, I have been using it on everything I can find. Ranging from pesto pasta with vegetables and roasted pesto potatoes, I’m in love with this pesto.

Basil Pesto

adapted from Simply Recipes

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (or walnuts), roasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups basil leaves, packed tight
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • pinch of black ground pepper
  • pinch of salt, more as required

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, add minced garlic and pulse about 2-3 times to break down the garlic further.
  2. Add pine nuts (or walnuts) and process until finely ground.
  3. In a thin stream, slowly incorporate half of the olive oil while the food processor is running.
  4. Add basil and puree until smooth.
  5. Slowly pour in the remaining olive oil until incorporated.
  6. Add the cheese, pepper, and salt and process until fully blended.
  7. Test for salt and add if required.

 

9 Comments

Filed under Pasta, Sauces, Uncategorized

Turning 30 Turned up Rainbows [Cake]

All I wanted for my birthday was to bake my own cake. I picked out and planned my cake for a whole month. Meanwhile, Binks was planning a surprise party right under my nose. As I have been talking his ear off about my cake, he assembled a party planning to build a party around the cake.

I decided on the rainbow cake for my 30th birthday.
While I’m not one for the colorful, for my 30th birthday, the idea of having a plain-white-frosted cake, sliced to reveal bright layers of cake, enhanced further by white frosting, somehow spoke to me as I embark in this new decade of my life. Well, it was a show-stopper.

There were a lot of oohs and aahs once I cut into the cake to remove a slice.

I prepared the cake layers the night before, stored them in the fridge and frosted the next day. The cake layers hold together much nicer and produce less crumbs when I frost this way. I also cut my work time in half so I can focus on one aspect of the cake at a time.Oh and the frostings? It’s white chocolate buttercreams. Yes, I meant frostings. I made two types for this cake. While I love love Swiss meringue buttercream, I wanted something sweeter as well. So, the cake is filled and crumb coated with Swiss meringue and frosted outside with the traditional buttercream. It worked beautifully. the sweetness of traditional buttercream complemented the rich subtle Swiss meringue. The original recipe uses lemon buttercream, but I wanted white chocolate buttercream. A divine choice.

I’m still in love with this cake. Aside from being beautiful, it was delicious, as well. Completely light in flavor and texture, this cake did not feel heavy. Rather, the use of Swiss meringue buttercream throughout the layers made it subtly sweet where you can finish a whole slice without feeling like you might go into a sugar shock. But, just when you think you figured out the cake, the outer layer flavors hit and the sweetness mixes in with the same white chocolate flavors carrying through. I could not have been prouder of a cake – and from my 30-year-old-self, that’s saying a lot!

The whole party was wonderful. My friends and family truly came through and pretty much made a party around my cake.

With rainbow-themed photo booth area and colorful flowers and balloons, I felt a happiness that I remember as a child during birthdays.

The photo booth was a hit with all the guests. We had some younger guests who were having a ball with all the props.

My creative friend made Oreo truffles and packaged them away nicely in these cute little boxes as favors.

*The outside of the cake looks a little wonky because I was rushed out of the house to go run an errand. I thought I would come home to finish it, but walked into a wonderful surprise!

Rainbow Cake

recipe by Whisk Kid

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
  • 2 and 1/3 cup white granulated sugar
  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cup milk, room temperature (just warm for 30 seconds in a microwave)
  • Food coloring*

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour six 8-inch pans. I only have two pans so I baked two layers at a time.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale. Add the egg whites gradually. Add the vanilla until fully incorporated into the batter. Then, starting with the flour, alternate between adding the flour and milk, adding in two parts.
  4. Divide the batter between six bowls. Add food coloring to each bowl’s batter. Remember, the cake will cook to be the same color as the batter. Add the amount of food coloring you expect to see in the baked cake.
  5. Pour into prepared baking pans.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes. Once baked, remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Then, turn over onto wire rack to fully cool.
  7. I kept them in the fridge overnight but you can frost once fully cooled.

My food coloring: (All of them are Americolor gels)

  • Red: Super Red
  • Orange: Egg Yellow mixed with a bit of Super Red
  • Yellow: Lemon Yellow
  • Green: Electric Green
  • Blue: Electric Blue
  • Purple: Electric Purple

White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream for filling layers and crumb coat
adapted from Whisk Kid

Ingredients:

  • 9 egg whites
  • 1 and 3/4 cups white granulated sugar
  • 4 sticks butter,
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate, melted and cooled

Directions:

  1. Take your butter from the fridge and cut it into cubes and set aside on a plate on your counter – just not in your fridge.
  2. Wipe down a large (preferably steel) bowl with lemon juice to ensure that no trace amounts of oil remain. Oil is danger to meringue.
  3. Add the egg whites and sugar to the mixing bowl and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), stirring constantly with a whisk. Be gentle but consistent with the stirring. Keep whisking until you get a temperature of 150F for the mixture using your candy thermometer. Another way to check is to dip your hands in the mixture and rub it between your fingers. It should be completely smooth, with no grainy-ness. If there is any grains of sugar, keep stirring/whisking. you want the sugar to be completely dissolved and the egg whites to be hot (and cooked).
  4. Once it gets to be 150F, attach the bowl to your electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high heat until the meringue is thick and glossy. You know you are done when the bowl is also room temperature to the touch, and not at all warm. It cannot be warm at all.
  5. Once you get stiff thick peaks with your meringue, switch from the whisk attachment to the paddle attachment.
  6. You are going to start adding the butter, one cube at a time. Your butter should be cool, not cold, at this point.
  7. With the mixer on low-speed, mix until you get a smooth rich texture. The mixture will look curdly at some point, just keep mixing. I promise you it will come together.
  8. Add vanilla and salt, and continue to mix on low-speed until everything is combined.
  9. Add the melted white chocolate until fully incorporated and well blended in the buttercream.

White Chocolate Buttercream

adapted from my Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate, melted and cooled

Directions:

  1. Sift together the salt and powdered sugar into the bowl of your electric mixer.
  2. Add butter and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl to ensure that there are no unincorporated parts.
  3. Whisk in the cream and vanilla extract until well blended.
  4. After you get a good buttercream consistency, add the white chocolate and beat on medium-high for another 3-5 minutes.

11 Comments

Filed under Birthdays, Cake, Life, Uncategorized