{Baking} STRAWBERRY & VANILLA BEAN MASCARPONE CAKE … PINK for Pinktober

“Almost all words do have color and nothing is more pleasant than to utter a pink word and see someone’s eyes light up and know it is a pink word for him or her too.”
Gladys Taber

Yes, it’s the PINK month of the year again, PINKTOBER, or October as the calender says it. October is officially known as the Breast Cancer Awareness month, and this pink ribbon flies its colour. I support the cause and do my little bit to chip in towards social awareness every year, October being kicked off pretty early {on the 3rd} by Mr PABs birthday. { I got an early morning groggy picture of him and junior below}.

Year after year, he gets a cake with some, or sometimes a LOT, of PINK! He is a  good sport, and doesn’t mind the PINK at all. There was a time over the past years that the kids would question the pink? “Why is Papas cake pink? That’s a feminine colour. Why don’t we make it blue“… etc, etc! I’m glad to say they learnt the cancer awareness message, and now enjoy the pink with the rest of the PAB bunch, no questions askedPINK rules October in my mind!

October 1st marks the beginning of breast cancer awareness month all over the world. American Cancer Society uses this time to boost their campaign to raise awareness to breast cancer and to inform people that there is now a 98 percent rate of survival if the cancer is detected early. October is the month where you will see pink ribbons everywhere, which has been the national symbol for breast cancer awareness since it was first introduced back in 1991.

I picked some pink off my blog today! I have to admit I was never a pink person by any stretch of imagination, and steered clear of the colour for as long as I remember. White, black, beige, blue are more me, and I almost hated the very sight of pink.  So much so, that my daughter was hardly seen in pink in her toddler years. As time went by, I began to soften my attitude to many things in life, and my first Pinktober experience had me warming to the colour. It’s strange how rigid and stubborn one can be, and then comes along a different perspective, through blogging as in my case, and teaches you how to accept things more easily. Dislike for a colour seems so  trivial, especially when there are so many serious issues around.

Of course I had grand plans, with PINK and frozen strawberry reduction syrup etc for the cake, but my plans went very wrong. A new oven, new baking tins,  and a new recipe are not the perfect combination, and before I knew it I was in a corner, cooling my heels. My baking prowess took a larger than life beating, and I sulked as I looked at the two flat as pancakes strawberry genoise cakes. It was a horror of a day, and even though I thought hmm, trifle pudding, the cakes looked no good, so sadly were binned. I was quite relieved I had made the mascarpone two days ago.

Soon it was late evening, and with the next day being a busy one, I just whipped up my tried and tested old faithful sponge recipe. Things looked more PINK and happy soon, but no time for pictures of the making of course. Old recipe, single baking tin and new oven worked better. But the sink full of dishes, and next days lunch preparation made me over-bake my sponge slightly. Had I taken it out 5 minutes earlier, it would have been the perfect one! Yet nothing that some vanilla mascarpone filling couldn’t fix! Pictures taken in a hurry as we had folk over for lunch … huff puff!

As you can see, it was pink all the way. I had dried strawberries for the top, which I forgot all about and they still lie in my fridge. I barely had time to hurriedly pipe on squiggles on the top, but the strawberry flavours and the vanilla bean mascarpone combined well and saved the day! In the end I was just glad I was able to go PINK!

Strawberry & Vanilla Bean Mascarpone Cake
Sponge
The sponge recipe is based on the weight of the eggs. Each egg weighs approx 50gms.
6 eggs {300gms}
125gms sugar(little less than half the weight of the eggs)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
150gms flour {half the weight of the eggs}
1tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 tsp strawberry extract/essence
2-3 drops red food colour
Filling/Topping
600gm mascarpone (homemade recipe here)
200ml cream, chilled (25% fat, that’s all we get here)
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 cup icing sugar for filling { adjust if required}
50gms dark chocolate ganache, optional
Method:
For the sponge
Preheat the oven to 190C. {I reduce it to 180C after 10 minutes of putting the cake in} Grease and line a 8″ spring form cake tin.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt thrice. Reserve.
Beat the eggs and sugar well with hand beater till very thick ribbon falls and holds in place for at least 5 seconds {beat for approximately 10minutes}.  Add vanilla extract and strawberry extract and beat for another minute.
Gently fold in the sifted flour; mix lightly so that air doesn’t escape.
Turn gently into tin and bake for 35-45 minutes till done. Don’t over-bake it or the sponge will be dry.
Once done, remove from tin after 5 minutes and leave on rack to cool completely. Cut horizontally into 4 layers.

Filling:
Whip the mascarpone with almost all the powdered sugar and the scraped vanilla bean until thick and holds peaks. Divide and keep 1/3 for topping.
Sandwich the layers with the remaining 2/3rds of cream.
Topping:
Whip the chilled cream till it holds peaks, and gently fold into the reserved beaten vanilla mascarpone cream.
Reserve 1-2 tbsp for piping designs on top. Frost the top and sides, pipe some designs on top {see video here} and drizzle some dark chocolate ganache down the edges if desired. Chill well before serving.

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

{Baking} PUMPKIN POTS de CREME – LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow – Heart Series.

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”
Louisa May Alcott

It’s the time of the year again that makes me walk towards the oven in a hypnotic trance and want to bake all day long. Its warming and comforting to have the oven on, to fill the house with warm flavours that give you joy. The nip in the air, the apples flooding the market, the big yellow {& green}  pumpkins all beckon you. Even though the pumpkin sits there all the year round, it’s once the weather begins to get nippy that I like to roast it.

The ‘make my own pumpkin puree’ madness hit me last year when I made my first pumpkin pie, the Praline Pumpkin Pie from a fabulous cookbook that I reviewed, Park Avenue Potluck CELEBRATIONS. It was the best pie ever, and one that I need to revisit soon this year. My enchantment with this rather under-rated vegetable also showed up in Pumpkin Panna Cotta, and in a less guilty pumpkin pie, the Simple Pumpkin Pie.

I’ve had Pumpkin Pots de Creme on my mind ever since I made Chocolate Cherry Pots de Creme in September, and I thought it would be a wonderful way to use pumpkin puree. So I got this HUGE slice of pumpkin and roasted it, with some unpeeled garlic thrown in to the oven alongside, because  I wasn’t sure I’d use all the puree the sweet way. Savoury pumpkin soup was tugging the strings of my heart too, after a rather wonderful one my twin sistah Jamie and I shared at the FBC in London. What I made wasn’t exactly that, but  it was darned good.

The amount of puree I finally got ensured I went every which way! Here’s the first thing I made from the puree, dessert which was loved, and screamed everything warm, filling and flavourful. One ramekin later, the lad said ‘Err, can I have another pot please? No? Maybe tomorrow? Well it was yummy!He tried pushing his luck, but it didn’t work!! The daughter was a bit iffy about it initially because she inadvertently had a go at the yellow bowlful of pumpkin puree and almost fainted when I enlightened her. A spoonful of dessert later, she forgot all about the pumpkin puree & dug right in!

I made these pots specially for Barbara @ Winos and Foodies for her LiveSTRONG With A Taste of Yellow event, an annual event held each year. This is my fourth year at the event. The food blogger community is a tight knit, supportive community. Most of us have been inspired by Barbara and her fight with cancer. She is an amazing lady, and a source of inspiration to many, including me. Her story is moving, frightening at times, but a lesson in life ; a must read.

October 2nd has been announced as LiveSTRONG Day 2010, and this year the event has a new theme. Throughout 2010 Barbara has been posting a heart each Saturday. She thought it might be fun to incorporate the hearts in this years LiveSTRONG Day event. I ♥ the idea. She called for everyone to create their own heart photo and post it to their blog on October 2nd, 2010. If you want to join in, you still have time since she’s accepting entries through the week.

Here’s a picture of the roasted pumpkin soup; ’twas certainly a comforting and delicious bowlful. Will post that recipe later.  I did intend to put that up today too, but the shift to WP means that each post takes a little longer than before, as I learn the ropes. I did oven bake some heart shaped, turmeric yellowed croûtons out of brown bread too! I still have some pumpkin puree in the freezer, and am debating what not to make with it … there are far too many options I’ve found!

Pumpkin Pots de Creme with Candied Walnuts
Inspired by Canelle et Vanille
250ml low fat milk milk
200ml low fat cream {Amul 25% fat}
1  1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded
1 cup vanilla sugar {as the pumpkin wasn’t sweet}
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup candied walnuts {recipe follows}
Method:
Bring the milk, cream, vanilla bean and half of the sugar to a simmering boil.  Put off  heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes for the vanilla bean flavours to mature.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 160C.
Add the pumpkin puree, pie spice and cinnamon to the vanilla milk  / cream mixture, and whisk with a balloon whisk.
In another large bowl, whisk the eggs, yolk and the other half of the sugar. Add the warm pumpkin mixture into the egg  mixture, whisking constantly. Strain the custard through a fine sieve.
Pour the custard into the ramekins and place them on a sheet pan and bring this to a preheated 160C oven.
Place the sheet pan in the oven and pour hot water in the sheet pan. Bake the pots de creme in the water bath until the center is set; mine took about 45 minutes. Refrigerate once cool. Chill completely, preferably overnight.
Serve with unsweetened whipped low fat cream and a sprinkling of candied walnuts.
Candied Walnuts
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
2-3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp butter
Method:
Place all ingredients in a small heavy bottom pan, and simmer until the sugar begins to melt.
Swirl around so the melted sugar coats the nuts. Simmer until the sugar begins to caramelize and turns a golden brown, Don’t let it get dark, else the nuts will taste bitter.
Immediately turn the nuts onto a lightly greased platter and allow to cool.
Break up into pieces, and store in an airtight container in a cool place. I keep mine in the fridge for 5-7 days.

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

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