Saturday, August 29, 2009

My first daring bakers challenge!

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful
of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos
Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite
Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

I had my parents and Nick's parents over for dinner to officially meet for the first time and I decided that this would be the perfect dessert for such a meeting. I, personally, had never heard of a Dobos Torte until this challenge but I was so excited to give it a try. While the 6 layers seemed daunting, I was determined to get it right. My eagerness paid off because the end results were absolutely fantastic!

The dobos torte is a multi-step process. First you start with thin sponge cake layers. My first attempt at making the sponge cake layer was a dismal failure. I tried to interpret the directions the best I could but having never made a sponge cake before I wasn't sure how long I was supposed to beat the eggs. Needless to say, I severely underestimated how "frothy" they were supposed to be and the first attempt resulted in something more resembling crepes than sponge cake.

In frustration, I decided to youtube how to make a sponge cake. After watching a few videos I felt a little more confident about what the batter should look like so I tried again. This time I was highly successful! Another trick I used was instead of making a circle on parchment paper and filling in said circle, I just covered the bottom of a springform pan. It was easy and resulted in even circles.

I made the buttercream frosting and top caramel layer just as stated in the recipe. However, when putting all the layers together, I brushed a thin coat of hazelnut liqeuer on each of the sponge cakes and I used ferrero rochers to hold up the caramelized pinwheel layer, as opposed to a plain hazelnut. YUM!

Verdict: HUGE SUCCESS! It was amazing. Both my dad and my BFF said it was better than Sweet Life (an amazing local patisserie that my family frequents religiously). Nick's parents, who typically eat less than the average four year old ate a generous portion of lasagna, salad, bread, and zucchini (Nick's dad even had seconds!) and still managed to eat all of their serving of Dobos Torte. Which is especially amazing because 1. they aren't big on desserts 2. the servings were twice the size they should be since I couldn't cut in to the caramel layer.

I will definitely be making this again sometime. It requires a lot of time and effort but if you find baking therapeutic and/or fun I definitely recommend trying it. Next time I am going to follow Audex Artifax's brilliant idea of making chocolate sponge cake layers soaked in coffee with alternating coconut and chocolate buttercream frosting. Mmm...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The County Fair

I am very happy to announce that while I didn't win a first place ribbon at the fair, I did win two second place ribbons and a third place ribbon. I also won a $25 gift card to Kabuki's and Molasses and Honey from GloryBees. I think I was pretty successful, especially considering it was my first time entering anything in the fair. I'm already thinking about what I can enter next year. :-)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tapping in to my animal instincts

Let me share with you my newest fashion obsession: Animal prints. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for all things leopard but in the past week and a half I have managed to acquire three new animal print pieces.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What is a cake without a cake stand?

Nick and I have one regular, reoccuring fight (well, I wouldn't really call it a "fight" so much as an "argument") and it has to do with my obsession with cake stands. I absolutely love them. They are my crack. We have a very little house with an even smaller kitchen and not much room for my ever growing cake plate collection but whenever I see a cute cake plate I can't stop myself from buying. Here are a few I'm jonesing for right now:

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Rose By Any Other Name...

There are many things I have grown to love in my lifetime. The crisp chill of fall, the flavor of onions, a really good cry, and my name rank at the top of the list. It wasn't until I was of an adult age that I started to appreciate the joy these things can bring to a person's life. Of course, my name is unique to me and, therefore, wouldn't necessarily bring joy to anyone else. But I have come to appreciate it through the years.

My name is Brandy Rose. I get irrationally upset when complete strangers spell my name "Brandi"...I am especially outraged when good friends and even family members do it (and yes, they have). Part of me wishes that I could go back in time and have people call me by my first and middle name instead of just my first. Brandy Rose. It has such a nice ring to it. It conjurs up pictures of a southern woman sipping sweet tea on a wrap around porch. I'm not southern, I don't have a wrap around porch, and I've never had sweet tea but I want to be that woman.

Just for the fun of it, here is a picture of another "Brandy Rose":


I completed my first daring baker's challenge. It's too early to reveal it so I can't say much except that I am so excited about being a daring baker. I love the concept of being given monthly baking challenges. I'm sure it will help me build on my baking repertoire.

Speaking of baking, I have decided to enter a few choice items in the upcoming Lane County Fair. I have never entered anything in the fair before and I'm a little nervous. I don't care about prizes but I really want to win a ribbon. Nick says that I shouldn't feel pressured to win anything because I've only been cooking for about two years now. However, I'm in it to win. I'm going to be entering my carrot cake, cheesecake, chocolate cake, and cupcakes. And if I don't win anything this year, I will come back with avengence next year. :-)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Here On Earth by Alice Hoffman

I am in love. Okay, I was already in love but now Nick has some competition. A few months ago, Nick and I decided to take a trip to Bandon, OR because his Aunt and Uncle own a beach house there which they let family members use for the lovely price of nothing. :-) Anyways, in preparation of being at the beach for several days with no television, no computer, no real forms of entertainment besides looking at the glorious ocean and visiting gift shops in the vary quaint "old town" district, Nick and I decided to pick up a couple of books from St. Vincent DePauls. I decided to dedicate that weekend to Sula by Toni Morrison.

However, this post is about another book that I picked up during that trip: Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman. I finally started reading it a few days ago and despite only being on chapter six, I'm on pins and needles wondering what is going to happen next. It's one of those amazing books that you know has the power to break your heart. I've started reading it at the most appropriate time, too. Despite being the middle of summer, the weather for the past week has been rainy and cold with a constant gray haze very reminiscent of fall...which perfectly suits the tortured love story. Anyways, I'm going to cut this blog short so that I can read another chapter.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I Don't Have a Thing To Wear: A guide for organizing your closet

I picked up a book called "I Don't Have a Thing to Wear" by Judie Taggart and Jackie Walker about a month ago and I am completely smitten with it! I feel like it's a 7-step program for clothesaholics such as myself. The book is absolutely brilliant in its simplicity. The information in the book is all common sense but it really made me think about my closet and my shopping habits. I have a very full closet. VERY full. I run out of hangers on a regular basis. However, I spend more mornings than I care to admit searching for something to wear only to throw my hands up and exclaim in tears "I hate all my clothes!" Why?! Why has this happened? Nick thinks I'm insane and, honestly, so did I until I read this book.

The first step in the book involves some math. Figure out how much of your day is spent doing certain tasks. For instance, if you work 5 days a week and on the weekend you go motorbiking, approx. 70% (5/7) of your closet should be work appropriate clothes and the remaining 30% (2/7) should be motorbiking attire. Makes complete sense, right? Well, after you do that go to your closet and separate your clothes into the categories you made up and see how close they come. My closet was completely out of line with my life.

The next step is to determine what is your personal sense of style. The book warns you about allowing yourself to get sucked in to your friend's style. I'll be the first to admit I am guilty of this. One of my best friends has a very cute sense of style. She is very trendy and tends to buy all of her clothes in the junior's section. I have a classic sense of style with a hint of romantic, and I prefer clothes that are more mature (verging on old lady). Why, then, do I have half a closet full of denim mini skirts, tank tops, and bright floral prints (all purchased from the junior's section...and all of which I hate to wear)? Because my BFF looks so great in those styles. When I go shopping I buy things that remind me of the things that she looked great in. Only, I don't feel great when I wear them because they are so not ME. So, I spend every morning scouring my closet for something to wear only to find that I hate basically everything I own.

If you find yourself frustrated with your lack of a cohesive wardrobe, I highly recommend you get this book. The authors give practical advice on everything from figuring out which proportions work best on your body, shopping in outfits instead of individual pieces, and how to stop making the same mistakes over and over again.

I am proud to say that after reading this book, I have finally changed my shopping habits. And while I, unfortunately, don't have the money to invest in a whole new wardrobe (Stacy and Clinton, where are you when I need you?!), I am making smarter choices every time I go shopping and now I have multiple pieces that create a variety of looks all of which are uniquely me. You can do it, too. Just remind yourself of what your style is before you go shopping and while you can admire things that don't fit your style, don't buy it unless you think you can integrate it with your style. Otherwise, it will forever live in the back of your closet.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lovin' life

I feel so blessed right now. I've had a great life. Sometimes I forget that, especially in a moment of stress or anxiety. I wish that I could be happy 100% of the time but I suppose that's a little unrealistic. Truth be told, my life really couldn't be any better right now. I'm getting married to a man I absolutely adore. I own a house outright and am having the best time fixing it up. I have an amazing family and caring friends. I have a college degree. And I weigh the same amount as I did when I was in high school! Life is pretty good.