Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dia de los Muertos & Calavera Cake Balls

Dia de los Muertos Calaveras
You've never had so much fun with death ... 

When I took Spanish for the first time in 7th grade,  I completely fell in love with calaveras, Catrinas and Dia de los Muertos.

In fact, I started to collect calavera figures in high school. And, I take my collection very seriously, only buying them on special occasions.  My favorites are a stripper girl I picked up in Sacramento and a journalist from Austin. I used to have a Frida* 
from New Orleans, but she got lost in a move :(

My collection makes my bookshelf a fiesta everyday. 

Growing up in New Orleans, famous for Mardi Gras, voodoo and graveyards, I like a good satire or something dark. So, the extra zest in the Dia de los Muertos celebration was something I could hop on board with. 

But, getting back to my collection ... Calavera Catrina, an upper class woman minus a layer of skin, was designed by the artist Jose Guadalupe Posado as a social satire. But, she is now an icon of the holiday. And many people, like myself, collect her in different likenesses. 

Sugar calaveras are also traditionally eaten on Dia de los Muertos.  And while I have not mastered this art, I did create my own variation ...

Calavera Cake Balls
Not sugar skulls but still good ... 

Bake a regular white cake. A box cake is ok (But here is my white cake recipe)
Combine with one can of vanilla or white icing (Here is my favorite homemade icing recipe
Roll into balls and freeze for about 20 minutes
Dip in melted white chocolate or almond bark

*And Speaking of Frida ... 
She is a huge hero of mine ... so I dressed up as her for Halloween! 
Oh and Robert was the again topical Lance Armstrong. 

Like my instagram pick? Follow me for a photo-a-day throughout November. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Blaukraut & Oktoberfest

My Second Request: Shanna over at Baby Eliza Boutique has been friends with my sister for years.  I remember a family bbq Shanna came to – I guess about eight years ago :) – where my grandma served blaukraut. Shanna remembered the delicious German dish after all these years and a couple weeks back requested the recipe, perfect for Oktoberfest. So here you go Shanna. Prost!

Oma's Blaukraut 
Is it even blue?

1. Quartering the cabbage (See Rasco?). 2. Slicing the apple.
3.  Shredding the cabbage. 4. All done.  

2-3 pounds head of red cabbage
2-3 tablespoons bacon fat or butter (I used the bacon)
1 tablespoon sugars
1 apple peeled, cored and chopped
1 onion minced
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt to taste
1 to 2 cups stock as needed (or water)

Cut cabbage into quarters, wash, remove ragged pieces. Shred cabbage on cutting board. DON'T DO WHAT I DID. CUT THE CABBAGE INTO STRIPS! That's how my Oma does it, but I forgot. It ended up tasting OK, but the texture would have been perfect had I not screwed up this step.

Add apple, onion and sugar to fat. Saute to golden brown.

Add shredded cabbage and toss with fat. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and broth. Let braise for 2 hours until cabbage is tender.

Add the bacon you used for fat. Toss and let simmer about five minutes.

Serve. Prost!

It's not easy being purple?  
But Blue and Red make Purple ... 

So blaukraut translates to blue cabbage in German. In America, we call it red cabbage. But, in actuality, the dish is purple.  Just one of life's mysteries.

Another fun German to American cultural discrepancy is that Oktoberfest is not celebrated in Bavaria in October. The festival is enjoyed in late September and actually ends the first weekend of October. The 16 day celebration dates back to the 1810 wedding celebration of Bavarian Prince Ludwig to Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.  While the legend is still revered, the reunification of Germany is celebrated on October 3, German Unity Day, and has given the festival new significance.

In honor of Oktoberfest, here is picture of my Bavarian great grandpa in lederhosen. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gingerbread Cake and Oma & Opa, Julie & Andrew

Gingerbread Cake for Opa

With my grandparents wedding anniversary and late grandfather's birthday this week, my mom was inspired to make his favorite cake. My mom and Oma sat down together and reconstructed the recipe they hadn't made in years. There was some trial and error, but this is what they remembered. 

And it tastes great! 

Gingerbread Cake, Opa's favorite. Photo by Robert Giglio. 

2 cups sifted flour
1 2/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup LIGHT brown sugar
1 to 2 tsp ground ginger (to taste)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground clove
1 cup shortening (unsalted butter is best)
1 large egg beaten
1 large egg, separated
1 cup molasses

Pre-heat oven to 350.
Sift together regular flour and a cup of the cake flour. Reserve the 2/3 cup cake for later.
Sift together blended flours, salt, soda, baking powder and dry spices.
Cream shortening with brown sugar until misture is open and fluffy.
Beat the yolk from the separated egg into the large beaten egg. Reserve extra egg white for later.
Mix the beaten eggs and molasses together until well blended.
Add the flour mixture gradually to the creamed sugar. Blend in flour.
Add the molasses mixture to the creamed shortening and beat thoroughly. If mixture is too thin, add some of the reserved cake flour. Try 1/3 cup first, slowly. Then add more, if needed. If mixture is too thick, add some of the reserved egg white to thin it. The mixture should be pourable.

Pour into greased/floured pan and bake at 350 for the first five minutes.
Lower the temperature to 325 and bake another 10 minutes for 1/2 inch layer of batter and another 20 minutes for 1 inch layer of batter.
Test for doneness with a toothpick. Makes one 9x13 cake or one 10x5x1 inch jellyroll pan.
Cool and Frost ... or enjoy with whipped cream or ice cream.

for the frosting ... 
the following is a praline-like, soft fudgy topping

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1.5 oz. (1 square) white chocolate or almond bark
2-4 tablespoons butter: depends on desired end consistency
2 egg yolks*
2/3 cup pan toasted, flaked coconut (can increase to 1 cup)
1 cup shelled, pan toasted pecans
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flavoring (coconut or vanilla or arak or combination)

Toast the coconut and pecans in a sauté pan on a medium fire. Set aside. Beat 2 eggs yolks. Melt butter in large frying pan and let it brown slightly. Pour in ½ of condensed milk and stir on low heat. Add other ½ milk to egg yolks and beat thoroughly. Pour yolk and milk mixture gradually into pan, and mix thoroughly over low heat. Mix in salt. Add square of white chocolate to pan, stirring milk mixture until all is melted and blended together. Raise heat to medium, and bring mixture to boil. Stir and cook 8 minutes at boil.  On low heat add cinnamon, coconut and pecans. Raise mixture to boil one more minute. Take off heat and stir in extract or extracts of choice. Pour immediately over cooled cake. It will set very quickly.

To reheat: add a little water to soften, and stir until thoroughly heated.

*Thank you to my mom's hens Tina and Fey for the lovely eggs. 

Tina by Robert Giglio.

October is for Lovers ... 
Two special anniversaries on one autumn day 

To some people, October 15 may not be very romantic. But, in our family it is a very special date.  My grandparents, John and Charlotte (later known as Opa and Oma), were married on this date in 1949. Sixty-two years later, my sister Julie married her husband Andrew on the same date.  Monday was their one year anniversary.

October 15, 1949

October 15, 2011

Opa passed away just before I was born in 1989, and it is a shame I never got to know him. But with his anniversary and birthday this week, we are all thinking of him —which is why my mom baked the gingerbread cake, it was one of his favorites.

I would like to take a moment to remember Opa and share some things about him.
- His name was John J. John and he was very handsome.
- He loved my grandmother dearly, even when she did silly things like this.
- He loved his LSU Tigers. He and Oma had season tickets.
- He was a Korean war hero who would give village children his food, even if it meant going hungry.
- He is missed every day.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chai Pear Pie and Dancing the Horah

 A very lovely couple, who are dear friends of my sister and brother-in-law, were married this weekend. The wedding was gorgeous, thoughtful and perfect. In lieu of a tiered wedding cake, they opted for dessert table and asked close friends and family to bring pies.  I helped my sister Julie bake an elegant Pear Chai Pie for the autumn, outdoor event.

You must Chai the Pie ...  
We were inspired to bake this pie because Louisiana is most beautiful in the Fall (specifically October) and it would only be natural to honor the weather and date with a seasonal pie.  We found the recipe here at Fork This. But we varied it ever so slightly — adjusting the recipe for a spring-form.

For the Crust:
I used my favorite pie crust from Oma. You may remember it from this post, and this post.

-       3 cups all-purpose flour
-       ¾ cup sugar
-       3 egg yokes
-       1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
-       1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
-       1 ½ teaspoon lemon zest
-       9” bottom, 3” high spring-form baking pan (no smaller)

Grease sides and bottom of a spring-form baking pan.  Remove side of spring-form pan and set it aside.  In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and lemon peel.   Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and cut the butter into small pieces and into the well.  Add the egg yolks and vanilla to the well.  Quickly mix all ingredients with fingertips until it holds together and you have a smooth ball of dough. Break off a small piece and roll it with your hands into a long strip that will fit the circle of the spring-form: set it aside. On the bottom of the spring-form pan, roll out dough to cover the bottom of the spring-form pan, right to the edge of pan (the thickness of a cut-out cookie, about 3/8 inch).  Bake this for 6 to 8 minutes (do not over bake: it will be baked again with filling).   Cool on rack.  Pat the rest of the dough all around rim wall of the pan (3”high).  Assemble spring-form rim piece with the cooled bottom piece.  Take the reserved strip of dough and press it as a leak-proof seal all around the edge of where the rim dough meets the bottom crust.  Set the spring-form pan aside.  Any dough not needed for crust can be saved & baked into cut-out cookies.

Chill crust for thirty minutes in spring-form pan (we used the spring-form to make it a little more elegant).

For the filling:
We used this recipe, but did not use fennel. As we used a spring-form pan we had to be very careful to keep the pie from burning the second time it was in the oven with the walnut crumble.  Robert placed a cookie sheet on the lower oven rack to better distribute the heat and we checked it every 10 minutes.*

2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 lbs Bosc pears
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoons ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1 tablespoon cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped 

My sister and me reading the recipe from Fork This.
We have Julie's husband chopping pears and my boyfriend taking pictures.
Photos by Robert Giglio.
Julie measuring the ingredients.
Combine the filling and put inside of the dough after it has chilled.
Add small chunks of butter.
Bake for 30 minutes at 425. (Crumble is chilling.)
Lower to 350, add crumble, check every ten minutes so rim does not burn.*
Bake 50 minutes.
Cool for 2-3 hours.
All dolled up for the wedding with our pie.
Please excuse my shaky iPhone pic of the dessert table.
Photobooth fun at the wedding!

P.S. I added some brie to my piece of pie at the wedding and it was amazing! 

Served a la Tradition: The Horah
AKA the Jewish Wedding Chair Dance

Mazel Tov Adam and Leah on your fabulous wedding!

This was my first Jewish wedding and I was very excited to witness all of the traditions from Charlotte York Goldenblatt’s wedding in real life.

The dance, which begins as a circle dance around the bride and groom (or honoree at a Bar or Bat Mitzvah), symbolizes the interconnectedness of the Jewish people.

The circle then breaks apart.  Dancers stay on the outside circle, but the bride and groom are hoisted above the crowd on chairs. The origin of the circle is easy to find, meaning community and is common to folk dance. But, it is harder to know where the lifting of the bride and groom comes from. Many hypothesize that this is symbolic of lifting royalty and signifies the importance of the milestone the honoree(s) are meeting.

This tradition actually did not originate in the Jewish faith … It is said to have originated in Romania and travelled to Palestine in the early 20th century where its choreography was adopted by the Jewish people. The dance is also performed at other joyous Mediterranean celebrations in Greece, Bulgaria and Macedonia, to name a few.

The last component of the Jewish Horah (or Hora), when danced at weddings, is the connection of the bride and groom by handkerchief. This facet of the Horah was harder to research than the chair-lifting.  Apparently, it stems from the seperation of male and female dancers at Orthodox Jewish events.  This way the bride and groom are connected without touching. 

The Jewish Horah, is usually danced to the song Hava Nagilia, but Adam and Leah decided to choose something a little less mainstream for their Horah. It should also be noted that my non-Jewish brother-in-law who helped hoist the bride, took his job and yamaka very seriously.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Happy Birthday Robert and Surprise Cheesecake

Birthdays and Boyfriends
Robert can't escape my love of birthdays

So, you know I don't like to get mushy on this blog. But in honor my boyfriend Robert's birthday, I would like to give him a special shout out. Since he doesn't love celebrating his birthday, I will be brief.

Thank you for ... 
1.  Taking pictures for my blog, oral history project, articles and of Rasco
2.  Driving through torrential down pours and telling me it wasn't that bad — even though it was
3.  Stirring the roux 
4.  Switching to whole wheat and grinning through it for me
5.  Fixing things around my place and my computer 

Happy Birthday Robert!

Robert and me when we first started dating. We met because he was editor of the LSU Gumbo yearbook and I was editor of LSU Legacy magazine.

Cake is the only thing that matters! 
In fact, it means "alot" to me ...

Last year for Robert's birthday, he wanted "alot" of cake. Yes, I know that a lot is spelled with two words.  The error is intended because it is a joke from one of Robert and my's favorite blogs, Hyperbole and Half.  There is an awesome post making fun of people who throw all spelling and grammar rules out the window online.  The cutest example, in our opinion, is a mythical monster, the Alot.

The blog describes the Alot as follows:

The Alot is an imaginary creature that I made up to help me deal with my compulsive need to correct other people's grammar.  It kind of looks like a cross between a bear, a yak and a pug, and it has provided hours of entertainment for me in a situation where I'd normally be left feeling angry and disillusioned with the world.  

Whenever the author reads the word "alot" she doesn't correct it as a lot, she instead pictures this adorable beast doing the described activity. It is just fantastic. You should read it.

So, I did make an alot of cake, simply carving it out of a chocolate box cake and decorating with googly eyes, sprinkles, frosting and candy corn.

 Alot of cake. The card is a joke from another great hyperbole and a half post

With such an amazing cake last year, I had to outdo myself ... So, I asked Robert what he wanted.  He said he wanted me to make the mini cheesecakes my best friend Haley made once before. Some had oreos at the bottom and he liked the "surprises."

I found the recipe she used on Pinterest.

But I made a few variations.  First of all, I didn't use raspberries.  I added treats: candy, cookies, strawberries. I also cut the recipe and used half Greek yogurt, half cream cheese.  I've been experimenting with Greek Yogurt as a substitute lately.

Here is the recipe as I made it ... 

Robert's mini cheesecake with Oreo surprise. The different wrappers in the background denote different surprises. Photo by Robert Giglio

For the crust:
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp. sugar

Combine in bowl.  Line muffin tin with cupcake liners (I used four different kinds so I would know what treat was in which, good for a party where people have allergies.) Pat down one tablespoon spoon of graham mixture at the bottom of every liner. Bake for 5 minutes at 325. Allow to cool.

Now, I placed each treat in its respective color coded  liners. Zebra = Oreo; Tiger = Reese's; Balloon Design=Robert's favorite, Hershey's with Toffee and Almond; Solid Pastel = Strawberry. 

An iPhone shot of how I arranged the treats atop the crusts.

For the Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. Greek yogurt
3/4 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Combine in large bowl. Pour two tbsp. of mixture over treat and crust. Bake at 325 for 22-25 minutes, rotating the pan once and using a toothpick to check doneness. Cool and Enjoy! 

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