Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy Birthday!

My best friend, Casey, moved away a few years ago, and I missed her horribly. She would visit once in a while and we'd have the best time traipsing around the city, eating lunch alfresco, exploring places we had never been. It was on one of these visits that I found out her favorite fruit was watermelon.

I never much cared for it and couldn't really enjoy it. It seemed like a really messy way to eat water. Then one day, when I was 8 years old or so, I was able to put off homework by eating slice after slice of watermelon. That made it that much more enjoyable.
But the best way to make me really like something, is to see someone I love enjoy it. There we were, Casey and me, sitting under the summer sun in our city, eating lunch, and she had a big bowl of watermelon and a smile. After that, I made sure we got watermelon every time we hung out the rest of that summer.

Then, after she went back out of state, I found this recipe over a year ago and I saved it for her return. Finally, this year, I was able to make some for her birthday.

I made some modifications, of course.
I cut the sugar in the watermelon syrup and didn't strain it.
I increased the amount of watermelon in the curd and left out the dye.
Though yummy, the curd won't taste much like watermelon immediately once it's made. After a night in the fridge, however, the flavor becomes much more apparent.
I chose an entirely different cake recipe: Genoise.

Watermelon Syrup
Equal parts Watermelon juice and Sugar.

Liquidize watermelon flesh in blender. I made 3 cups. Pour into a container with an equal amount of sugar- so I added 3 cups of sugar. Give it a good stir and let sit covered in the fridge as least 6 hours.

Watermelon Curd
5 Tbs Butter
1 cup + 2 Tbs Sugar
2 Whole Eggs
1 Egg Yolk
5 Tbs Watermelon Syrup

Cream the butter and sugar then add the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add the yolk and cream until smooth. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly. Once thick like pudding, remove from heat and continue whisking for a few minutes. When the curd has reached room temperature, add watermelon syrup one tablespoon at a time, fully incorporating with a whisk after each addition. Spoon or pour into jars and refrigerate.

Genoise Cake (From Williams-Sonoma Mastering: Cakes, Frostings & Fillings)
4 Tbl Unsalted Butter
1 1/2 cups Cake Flour OR 3/4 + 3/8 AP Flour and 3 Tbl Cornstarch
8 Large Eggs
1 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla

A small sauce pan
A Sifter
A double boiler
A whisk
A large bowl
A small bowl
A hand held mixer or a stand mixer
A rubber spatula
2 9 inch round cake pans
Butter and flour for dusting the pans and parchment
A testing stick
A sharp serrated knife

Now don't let that scare you.

Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare the pans by lining them with parchment, greasing them, and then sprinkling with flour.

Sift the flour (and the cornstarch, if using). This is very important.
Melt the butter in your small sauce pan. Set up the double boiler- the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl- and bring it to a simmer.

Whisk the eggs and the sugar in the double boiler until well blended. Keep whisking over the simmering water for about 3 minutes until sugar is dissolved and the eggs are warm. Use an instant read thermometer if you want to be detail oriented. It should read 120F.

Pour the warmed egg mixture into a stand mixer, or remove the bowl and start running your hand mixer. Beat the eggs on medium high until they reach the ribbon stage. They'll be thick, pale yellow, and it will fall back on itself like a ribbon when you lift the beaters.

Hold the sifter over the eggs and sift a third of the flour in. Gently fold the flour in, making sure not to deflate the eggs. Repeat with the rest of the flour.

Drizzle in the butter (re-melt, if need be) and the vanilla. Gently fold them in.

Pour the batter evenly into the two prepared pans and bake for approximately 18 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.

Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pans.

Watermelon Cake, Assemble!

Trim any ragged edges from the 2 cakes using the serrated knife. Cut each cake horizontally into two layers. Brush the cut side of each layer with watermelon syrup, let it soak in, then brush again. Repeat as many times as you like, just let them dry a bit before each application.

Optional: Take one of the layers and cut out three to four circles from it to make a mini cake.

Place one layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Plop on a generous dollop of watermelon curd and pipe watermelon cream in a thick circle around the edge. Place a second layer on top and repeat with the curd and the cream and the cake until you've used all the layers. Slide wooden skewers into the cake for a bit of stability and to keep the whole thing from sliding. Do the same with the mini cake layers, if you choose.

Plop a whole lot of cream on top of the cake and spread it gently over the surface with an offset spatula, evenly coating the cake. Coax the cream down the sides and add as much a you want as the need arises. Do the same with the mini cake.

Mini Cake Bonus: Cut a heart out of the scraps you used to cut the mini cake and set it on top of the assembled cake, pink side up.

Pop the whole thing in the fridge to let the cream firm up before serving.



Thursday, June 5, 2014

Blogger Spotlight ~ Anna MacArthur

I like watching people grow.
Before you assume I'm a really slow creeper, let me explain.
There's a young woman I've known since she was a younger girl, and that whole time she's been developing her talent for art.
I've mentioned Under the Bear Hood before. The blogger over there is Anna MacArthur, artist and author. I've known her since I was 15. So that would be... (20ish subtract the 15...hmm) 9 years.

She displays her art online through devinantArt as Eightcrows and as TheBookof-thePeddler, and on her own blog.

The drawings and paintings that she's released usually feature characters from the books she is writing or important characters from another's story.
Her pictures range from cheerful to creepy

TT Reports 3 picture by eightcrows

Viva el Papa by eightcrows 

What an empty house you have... by eightcrows

The Hanging Tree by eightcrows

Hollow childhood by TheBookof-ThePeddler

And there's this: my favorite of her stylings

I love the use of pen, lines, and proportion. I can't help but think this would a good way to illustrate an old world fairy tale where too many things go wrong.

In addition to all that, she regularly draws little comic strips about her own life. They are simple and boldly honest. I love that about them.


So, please, go visit Anna MacArthur and have a gander. It'll be fun.