Sunday, May 31, 2015

On Why I don't Like Pie.

Okay, there, I said it. I don't like pie. Well more specifically, I don't like cooked fruit pies. But that's really what we think of when we think of pie right? Apple pie, cherry pie, blueberry pie? No thank you. I will make an exception every now and again for a fresh strawberry pie, but that's even pushing my pie-tolerating limits. I know it's un-American, un-fathomable even. Really when it comes down to it, I am just not a big fan of cooked fruit in any form, which by default, rules out pie.

I also have an issue with the crust to filling ratio in pies, which is why I prefer tarts, but that category of neurosis is better left to another post.

That being said, I do, however, LOVE pie crust. You know what else I love? Caramel. Chewy, salty caramel is the food of the gods right? I am pretty sure we learned that in Greek Mythology 101 in college. I may be getting my bachelors degree and my pastry degree mixed up, but it has to be correct.

So, long story short, I had an extra disc of my favorite pie crust just hanging out in my freezer, as I am sure most of us do (kidding), and it was just begging to be made into something delicious. Taking inspiration from one of my favorite blogs, Sprinkle Bakes, these bad boys were born.  I must confess that these pictures were from last fall, I just haven't gotten around to posting them until now. That will explain the secret and oh so delicious ingredient, apple cider.

To sum things up, pie crust + apple cider caramel + sea salt = amazingness. I rolled out my pie crust and fit it into the bottom of a square cake pan, and baked it until beautifully golden brown. Topped with a chewy caramel and flaked with crunchy sea salt, these squares are satisfying and decadent, any time of year.

Apple Cider Caramel Squares
Makes 64 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inch squares

Pate Brisee Crust

400 grams (14 oz) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
100 grams (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup water, chilled
665 grams (1 lb 7 1/2 oz) all purpose flour1 teaspoon salt

Remove butter from fridge 20 minutes before mixing.

In a small bowl, combine sugar, water, and vinegar, stir to aid the dissolving of the sugar. Set aside in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Then, stir again to completely dissolve sugar.

In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt together a few times to combine. Add the butter, and pulse in one second bursts about 3-4 times until butter is cut in and evenly dispersed. You should have visible chunks of butter in your flour mixture, this is where the flakiness comes from.

Pour mixture into a large bowl and make a little well in the middle of the flour. Pour the vinegar water mixture into the well, along with the almond extract, and gently mix liquids into the flour with a fork. When liquid is evenly dispersed, dump dough out onto a clean surface and knead gently a few times, just until dough comes together in one cohesive ball. It may be a bit shaggy or falling apart, but that's okay, while it is resting the moisture will bind everything together.

Cut ball of dough in half and shape each half into a disc about 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick. (use one for this recipe, and you can freeze the other half for later use) Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours, or overnight. Take dough out of fridge about 10 minutes before you roll it out. Place one of your discs of dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out to a 1/8 inch flat disc. Always start in the center of the disc and roll outward, turning the disc 30 degrees after each roll to get an even thickness throughout.

 If you are using a square or rectangular pan, you will want to roll out your dough to fit your pan instead of a round circle. Line your cake pan neatly with parchment paper, so that the paper extends up the sides of the pan, this will aid in removing the bars once the caramel is poured in. Pan spray under the parchment will help keep it in place. Carefully move the dough to your pan and cut off excess. For this recipe I just cover the bottom of the cake pan, and just about 1/4 inch up the sides to catch the caramel.

Dock with a fork (meaning poke a bunch of tiny holes in the bottom of the tart crust with a fork) and freeze for twenty minutes. Preheat your oven to 400 F. Place a piece of tin foil over your tart shell, pressing it down to fit the form of your tart, and fill with beans or rice or pie weights. Blind bake your tart for 20 minutes, flipping the pan front to back halfway through. Remove the pie weights and tin foil and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and cooked completely. Let cool while you make the caramel.

Chewy Apple Cider Caramel

1 - 1/2 gallon apple juice
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 cups heavy cream
8 oz. butter
2 tsp. salt

Over medium-low heat, reduce apple cider to 1/2 cup. Be sure to keep a close eye on it when it gets close to being done, it will basically turn to caramel and can scorch quickly. Let cool.

In a small saucepan heat the cream and butter until butter is melted, then set aside and keep warm over very low heat.

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water, making sure all the sugar is evenly wet and that the sides of your pan are clean and free from sugar.  Cook over high heat until caramelized to a dark amber color. Do not stir. When sugar reaches the color you want (I prefer a dark caramel, but a lighter color is fine also), carefully whisk in the heavy cream/butter mixture one ladle-ful at a time. Insert a candy thermometer and cook caramel, whisking constantly until it reaches soft ball stage (238 degrees F). Quickly whisk in the cider reduction and pour over prepared crust. Let caramel cool at room temp for at least an hour, then transfer to refrigerator to chill completely.

Once chilled, gently remove from pan by pulling up on your parchment and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 1 1/2 inch by 1 1/2 inch squares and top with sea salt.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cake-a-palooza Day 6

Three weeks and five posts later, I am finally back with the last cake. I have had the chance to design and create so many cakes in the past few months, it is hard to pick a favorite but this one is definitely up there. This is one of those cakes that makes me so excited for wedding season to get into full swing, and even though we may not be making cakes like this every weekend, there are some great designs lined up for the summer.

For now though, we have been getting in lots of practice with our window displays. We decided to go for a theme for the main window in the shop this time around, a modern spin on a midsummer nights dream. Succulents, muted purples and greens with a touch of metallics, plus a suggestion of lit vines dripping down from above, all come together in this 4-tiered stunner.

March is here, April is on the way, and then wedding season will be here before I know it. Stay tuned.

***Cake made by Bria Helgerson for Sugar Fixe Patisserie***

Friday, February 27, 2015

Cake-a-palooza Day 5

Day 5!

Friday is here, which means my work week is almost over. Almost. At the bakery, we've been preparing all week for a big gala downtown, and tomorrow is the big day. My boyfriend is taking a state licensing exam tomorrow that he has been preparing for for months. Needless to say we are all going to be happy when Sunday comes.

For now though, let's just talk about this cake. I've done ruffles, in fondant and buttercream, I've done them vertically and horizontally, and I've done them in ombre tones, and pretty pastels. I wanted to try them in a way that I'd never done before. Something a little more refined and clean. Soft and romantic, but clean and modern all at the same time, these ruffles are just a bit different than the typical ruffled wedding cake. Paired with soft pinks and grays, and stylized Juliet roses, this cake can make a statement without being over the top.

Tomorrow we do the opposite. Stay tuned.

**This cake designed and made by Bria Helgerson for Sugar Fixe Patisserie**

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cake-a-palooza Day 4

Well, I made it three days before I gave up on daily cake posts. I give props to all those bloggers out there who have time to post daily, or even once a week! I can barely throw a post up once every few months, but like I said, I am trying to make up for lost time!

Up next, another petite wedding cake, this time in mint green with frilly white ruffles. I kind of thought the cupcake trend was on the down-spiral, but it seems that I was wrong. As I am getting more involved at the bakery with wedding consultations, I am finding that cupcake-mania is still alive and kicking. The reason is this: cost effectiveness. Brides are seeing that a three dollar cupcake per guest is cheaper than a wedding cake at five dollars (minimum) per guest, and opting to save some money. However, they are still wanting that photo-op of cutting their cake, the beautifully displayed creation, perfectly matching their decor and theme. Enter: the petite wedding cake.

A miniature version of the show-stopper, perfectly sized to cut and share with the wedding party, or save for the first anniversary. This particular one is a little more on the modern-but-romantic side, with a mint green background, and a delicate white gardenia.

Two more cakes to come, so stay tuned!

**This cake designed and made by Bria Helgerson for Sugar Fixe Patisserie**

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cake-a-palooza Day 3

I'm gonna make this short since it has been a VERY long day and there is a glass of wine calling my name. So let's talk about this cake, which I have so lovingly named 'big blue'. This isn't a cake for the traditionalist, or the romantic. This cake is for someone who likes a little quirk, a little mod, maybe even a little hint of southwest flair. All of those things go together right? 

Right. This cake allowed me to practice one of my new favorite mediums. I have long been a user of petal dusts and luster dusts, but up until recently have only been using them by themselves, or mixed with alcohol. I may have been a little late to the game, but mixing dusts with a small amount of cooking oil, produces a much different, silky smooth finish. It also allows for a much more fluid brush stroke, which is how I created the pattern on the bottom two tiers. 

The feathers were also a first for me, and they almost became the death of me. Gum paste flowers have nothing on feathers when it comes to fragility, but the statement they make on this cake makes all the breakage and heartbreak worth it. 

**This cake was designed and made by Bria Helgerson for Sugar Fixe Patisserie. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cake-a-palooza Day 2

Day 2! Today we have a three-tiered beauty with gold leaf and watercolor panels.

I am an avid follower of fellow cake designers whether it be through blogs, Pinterest, twitter, or Facebook, or creeping in the windows of cake studios here in Chicago. Most of my time online is spent looking at wedding cakes, checking out whats new and trending in the industry, and gathering inspiration for designs of my own. 

I have always been a huge advocate of creative integrity, and of giving credit where credit is due. I try never to copy another cake artist's design, because that isn't fair to me, to said cake artist, or to the client who is expecting a custom, one of a kind cake. That does not mean that I don't get ideas from other cakes, but I always try to put a twist on them and make them my own. This cake includes some techniques and styles that were made popular by JessieCakes and AK Cake Design, but with my own spin. 

The dahlia is a flower I have been working on recently and there are so many types of dahlias that the variations and possibilities are endless. So you can probably expect to see many more from me in the future. 

*This cake was designed and created by Bria Helgerson, for Sugar Fixe Patisserie. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cake-a-palooza Day 1

I am about to make up for some lost time here. Get ready for a cake-a-palooza. 6 days, 6 cakes. Things are about to get real crazy at the bakery, so I figured I better post these pictures now, or they will sit on my hard drive for all eternity. Seven months after starting a new job at a bakery, I find myself once again in a management position. I realized I really missed bossing people around, but more importantly I missed being able to share and implement new ideas to help improve and grow the business. So here we go, let the madness begin once again.

It is almost March and we are quickly approaching wedding season. A few recurring trends you will see throughout the next few days are: metallics applied in new ways, intricate gum paste flower sprays, unexpected pops of color, and the merging of romantic and modern aesthetics.

First up a small but striking cake. The bottom tier is brushed with a metallic copper petal dust and is adorned with gum paste poppies, leaves, and berries in peach and copper hues. The top tier is left blank to showcase the detailed arrangement.

Stay tuned, more to come tomorrow.

*This cake was designed and created by Bria Helgerson, for Sugar Fixe Patisserie.

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