Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stupid Stove!

I've been having trouble with my oven lately.  It's been refusing to cook the center of cakes.  I'm sure you can see how that could be frustrating.  I've been forced to throw out perfectly good ingredients, and even worse, I had to pass off, what was supposed to be a flourless chocolate cake as a 'pudding cake.'  Luckily, I have a very supportive family, and everyone managed to polish off their slice with compliments to the chef.  After the 'pudding incident,' as I've begun to call it, I've decided not to bake anything bigger than a cupcake until I solve the problem.  It pains me to throw, what could have been, perfectly good food into the garbage.  I decided to use cake mix to test out a few possible solutions to my baking conundrum.  (By the end of my testing, I had two batches of 'brownies' sitting in front of me that I couldn't, in good conscience, toss.  Thus, the cut-and-paste cake portion of my icing project was borne).  I have a thermometer inside my oven that always reads the same temperature as my oven setting, so I know it's not that the temperature is off.  I tried moving my cakes to the bottom rack and placing them on a baking tray, this yielded properly baked brownies with a slightly burned taste, but not a visibly burned bottom.  The problem is, I suspect that the burned taste is just the actual flavor of inherently crappy boxed-brownie mix.  My solution to the burned flavor was putting two baking sheets under my brownies to further insulate the bottom and prevent burning.  This turned out to be too much insulation and I was back to an uncooked center, ARGH!, that still had a burned taste which I now wholly attribute to my $1.38 boxed brownie mix.  At least that's one problem solved.  I guess that makes my next move another test, but with real ingredients this time.  Fingers crossed that the single-pan-on-the-bottom-rack theory works.   Wish me luck!
Any special requests?

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Here it is.  Drum roll please.......the results of my icing project:

Monday night, after I posted to the blog, I sat myself down to have a little chat.  'Enough is enough!' I said.  'No more procrastinating and no more projects until this one is in the bag'.  This is one project that I was feeling a little nervous about because it was going to take me outside of my comfort zone.  I never really work in such a sterile, stark lighting environment.  I'm usually drawn to more natural lighting conditions and a homier atmosphere.  I decided to listen to myself, and first thing Tuesday morning I pulled out my lights and whipped up some icing.  Once I got down to work, I kept wondering what had possessed me to shoot such a stark, white-on-white project, seeing as this is not usually the kind of look that attracts me.  After some thought, I realized that there was just something about the shape, sheen and starkness of white piped icing that made me feel the need to display it on a crisp white background.  My original plan for the second shot (the cake slice) was to keep it crisp and clean and as white as the piping.  Well, that obviously wasn't my final decision.  Two factors played into my reason for smushing the cake:

1. Apparently it's really hard to cleanly mask a single piece of cake that is built out of pieces of box-brownie stacked together to appear as one. (It's a bit of a long story - I'll get into it another time.  I do think I deserve some creativity and resourcefulness points for this one though).
2. Everything was looking a bit too 'hospitaly' for me and I just wanted to make a bit of a mess: a well thought out and organized mess, mind you, but a mess none the less.  There is just something about imperfection that really interests me.

All in all,  I'm happy I tried out this new approach.  I may even shoot a 'part 2.'

Monday, February 8, 2010

Geting there....

Last week kind of got away from me.  Between work and family, personal projects sometimes end up taking a back seat.  My big plan for the weekend was to start playing around with the little icing project I have in mind.  Of course, one thing led to another and BLAMO! It's Monday morning and I have not pulled out a single light.
I know, I know.... Boo! Hiss!  Not to worry, I wouldn't dream of leaving you photo-less, especially on a Monday.  Here is a quick snap of the burger that had the potential to be the best I have ever had!  As I have mentioned before, (and will most likely mention a hundred times again) I am on the search for the perfect burger.  I won't keep you wondering for too long.  No, this was not the best burger I have ever had, and sadly, it didn't even rank.  I was assisting on Thursday and we found ourselves in Scarborough, not being familiar with the area and ready for lunch.  We could have hit one of the many corporate joints that line Markham Rd, but then we saw 'The Markham Station."  A 24 hr dive of a diner that made both of our eyes light up.  Admittedly, a bit of a dicey move on our part just before heading off to shoot a job, but I'm happy to report that we both made it out alive.  To my dismay, the burger was far more fabulous looking than it tasted but, I'm ok with that.  It's all part of the process.  Let the search continue!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Inspiration has struck again!  Ok, ok, it struck on monday night, but sometimes these things need a little room to grow.  My baking class exercise this week was piping and masking (masking, I have learned, is fancy pastry-chef talk for putting icing on a cake).  I was really excited for this class and walked away with a great lesson on technique.  I don't usually find icing particularly inspiring, as it's way too sweet and often gives me a toothache.  I do, however, find the artistry of delicately piped cakes and pastry items to be an object of beauty and measure of skill.  Before this class, I've piped a few cupcakes and masked one cake (not exactly masterfully, I might add) but, until now, I've basically been piping by the seat of my pants.  No more! I say.  From this day on I will pipe with more skill than ever before (not sure how much skill that means I've acquired, but I can reassure you that's it's more than I had on Sunday).  My new found love of icing has led me to a fun little project that will allow me to test out a new lighting look that I have been thinking about lately.  I'm not too sure how this project is going to come together.  To be honest it could be a total flop (conceptually and visually) but, it could also turn out to be pretty cute.  I've been doddling a bit on getting started because, as I've mentioned before, I'm not really a big fan of working on a project where the prospect of failure is looming.  I like to have every minute detail planned out before I shoot, whenever possible.  The truth about this project is I just won't know until I pipe some frosting, turn on my pack and point my lens.  As difficult as it is, I'm coming to grips with the fact that not everything I touch will turn to gold, but If I give up without trying I'll never know and I'll never be able to improve upon it next time.  For me, testing is just as important as executing well planned-out projects.  It's all a part of the process.  Let's just call this one a test and 'giver!  

Here is an iphone shot of my beautifully (if I do say so my self) piped and masked cake dummy.  I can't wait until there is cake under all that icing (that I will most likely scrape off and put on my husband's plate).