Since the food safety sessions and test ended yesterday, we were given our real textbooks! The books are filled with hundreds of recipes and how-tos and color photos and baking history and famous bakers and... I wanted to skip class to just sit and read through it. And that's not all. The publishers use some type of scented magic on the cover of the book so that it smells. It's like a scratch and sniff book from the children's section, which is totally appropriate because I was smiling like a kid - the kid in the candy store and the kid on Christmas all in one. (Sybil?)
But there's more! We also got our pastry kits today! It's a little like a soft toolbox, only it looks more like a laptop bag from back when laptops were thick and heavy. It's big and full of all sorts of shiny new kitchen tools. It also has a calculator which I didn't expect.
The books and kits are great, and I don't think we could have been any happier if Oprah herself had been in the room screaming, "You get a car, and you get a car, and..." Today the knives, icing tips and thermometers were like gold and all we needed for contentment. We still have at least another week before we hit the bake shop and use the stuff, but excitement is already building. We have our bowl scrapers. We're official. Bring it!
The final reason that today was so good is because we (the class) seemed to relax and come out of our shells more. It could just be that I'm relaxing and getting over my own introvertedness (is that a word?), but I thoroughly enjoyed the day. Each of my classmates brings something different to the table, and many of them are straight up hilarious. I was also introduced to a catchy little number instructing me to 'blame it on the alcohol'. For one who prides himself on his knowledge of lyrics (I knew 'Blame It On Texas' and 'Blame It On the Rain'), I knew nothing of blaming it on the al al al al al alcohol. Hours later my head still bobs just thinking about it.
Finally the cake balls. For those who may be wondering, making a cake ball is not as simple as using a melon baller to scoop out a baked cake. I must admit that I tried this months ago before doing any research on the matter and failed miserably. Since then I've done some reading and experimenting and know that I've still a ways to go, but here is some information on how to get started.
Bake a cake, any cake, and let it cool. Prepare the frosting for said cake, but don't frost it. Instead break the cake into pieces and put it in the mixer. Add the frosting to the cake and blend well. Scoop this cake/frosting mixture into balls and freeze. When the balls are frozen, dip them in your choice of chocolate or almond bark. Pretty simple in theory.
One of my struggles is determining how much frosting to add. Some cake recipes seem to produce bigger cakes than others. A YouTube video instructed to use two cups of frosting. When I used two cups, it didn't work. The ratio of cake to frosting was too low, and the balls wouldn't retain their shape because of all the frosting. This time I started with 3/4 a cup of frosting and slowly went up from there until it looked right. It varied based on the cake, but I don't think I used more than a cup and a half in any of the five cakes that I tried. Still the chocolate was too mushy and the banana too dry in my opinion.
Another issue for me is the dipping. How do you completely dip something without making a huge mess? A few weeks ago I tried using toothpicks, and they worked okay until it came time to remove them. It then became a disaster involving a second toothpick to hold the ball in place while the original pick was removed. Between the two picks, the just dipped and still warm chocolate coating was damaged. This time I tried using skewers and letting the chocolate/bark coating dry before removing them, and it was much better. Yes, the skewers leave bigger holes in the top of the balls, but they also provide better leverage which comes in handy when trying to cover the top of the ball in shallow melted chocolate. The holes can be hidden with drizzle or piping. Not a perfect plan but one that works for an amateur like me. I'm open for suggestions. Anyone?
One more thing about the balls. Remove the skewers after the chocolate/bark covering has dried and only when the balls are at or close to room temperature. Removing the skewers from refrigerated balls caused cracking in the chocolate coating.
All in all the cake balls aren't too bad - time consuming, but not difficult.
The pictures are playing hard to upload, and I'm ignorant of such things, so they'll have to wait until tomorrow. There will be two pictures. One shows the cake balls from last night's bridal shower before they were plated. Left to right, top to bottom: Red Velvet, Banana, Chocolate and Cinnamon with Pecan. The fifth (not pictured) kind was Wedding Cake.
The other picture shows the very first cake ball attempt from a few weeks ago, another take on Red Velvet.
So... Check your recipes, head to the nearest grocery store for ingredients, hit Bueno's drive thru on the way home and have a ball making cake balls.