Friday, November 16, 2018

Skating Fridays

Axel Contest


Skating Friends - are you familiar with iCoachSkating.com? If not, you need to go there immediately and subscribe! I have been a dedicated reader for many years and have learned SO MUCH from these world-reknowned coaches.

This website is organized very well, with topics broken down by element or by coach. While there is a monthly fee to subscribe, it costs less than most half hour lessons with your regular coach!

Anyway, I was excited when I saw that the website was sponsoring its first-ever Axel contest! Skaters are encouraged to submit a video (less than 10 seconds in length) of a single Axel. There are several age groups, including one for adults!

Each video is going to be judged by a panel of 3 experts for 75% of the skater's score. Then, a select group of finalists will be chosen for a public vote, which constitutes 25% of the total score. Each age category will win cash prizes of up to $100 (2nd place receives $75 while 3rd place gets $25)!

I went ahead and submitted a video (it's the second one from the video you all saw last week). Several hours after emailing my entry, the organizer replied back with this note:

Hi! We got Eva's Axel video! IT IS AWESOME!! WHEN DID YOU LEARN THIS?? AS AN ADULT OR A KID?? IT IS BEAUTIFUL!!
When I replied back and let them know that I truly learned this as an adult and took another 8 years to learn how to cross my feet, this is the reply I received:

That's awesome! WHAT A FAB STORY! SUPER IMPRESSIVE EVA! We are totalllllly impressed!

Oh my goodness - you can bet that these comments made my day. Fingers crossed that my video gets chosen to be one of the finalists in the adult category!

If you are an adult skater with an Axel or coach someone (or know of someone) who has a beautiful Axel video, please encourage them to go to iCoachSkating.com to submit an entry! Contest ends on November 19.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Opera cake

A truly show-stopping 9 layer opera cake that serves a crowd! Yes, this cake is a labor of love, but the harmony of the multiple layers makes this totally worth it. Your mouth will be doing a happy dance upon the first bite!

I'm not going to lie here. This cake is time-consuming. There's a reason why this is on my baking bucket list and why I haven't gotten around to it. Otherwise one look at the ingredient list and directions is enough to give anybody a headache. But trust me, this cake is worth it.

Not only is this cake worth it, but I'm worth it. My birthday was approaching and I didn't have a dessert recipe picked out yet. So why not tackle something on my bucket list? As I do every year, thanks to a tradition from a genius former coworker of mine, I take my birthday off at work. I spend the day doing the things I love. Typically, it involves baking, skating and walking around at the mall (sometimes buying something but not always). That's pretty much a perfect day for me.

Since there are so many layers to prepare for this cake, I made sure to block off a significant amount of time to tackle this. Go in the order below and you'll be fine. It definitely helps to have all your ingredients measured out and ready to go so you won't lose your place. Go slow. Breathe. You can do this. And make sure you account for the chilling time in this cake. You'll want to assemble this at least a day before you want to serve this because it will need to chill - twice - before you should slice into it. Then you'll need some thawing time too so bake that into your timeline.

And honestly? The cake actually wasn't as difficult or time-consuming as I had anticipated. Sure, there are 5 different components to put together, but they aren't very hard to do. The hardest part for me was putting the cake layers on, but only because my cakes were slightly underbaked and therefore very difficult to transfer (so take note - better to bake these a little bit longer, and if they are more "done" than you like, just soak them in the coffee syrup to soften them up).

You'll want to be careful when you transfer the assembled cake too. I kept it on a sheet of parchment paper so I could slide it around and lift it to a container. Then I trimmed the parchment before taking the photos.

This is an absolute show stopper of a cake. I mean, with 9 layers, you can't go wrong!! My family and I were blown away by how rich and decadent it was. I know you'll enjoy this one if you make the time for it.

Opera cake
Jaconde cake layer
  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 2 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Ganache
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (13.2 ounces) dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
Coffee buttercream
  • 8 large egg whites
  • 6 sticks (1.5 pounds) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 1 Tablespoon boiling water
Coffee syrup
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon instant coffee powder
Chocolate glaze
  • 1 cup (5.3 ounce) dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (1.7 ounce) milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or peanut
Directions
Make the jaconde cake layer: Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Grease and line a 13"x18" rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. If you have two of these pans, line both of them. If you only have one, then cut a second piece of parchment paper to match the first. You'll need to use the pan twice. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, powdered sugar and flour together. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, mix together the egg whites, granulated sugar and cream of tartar on high speed until you achieve stiff peaks, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer this to a separate bowl (no need to wash the mixing bowl, as you will use it in the next step).

With the same bowl that you used to whip the egg whites, mix together the almond flour mixture along with 3 of the eggs and the corn syrup on medium speed with the paddle attachment. The batter will be a bit sticky, and that's OK. Add the remaining 5 eggs, one at a time, and then mix for another 4-5 minutes or until the batter appears to be light and airy. Turn the mixer off and fold in the melted butter. Then fold in the reserved meringue (whipped egg whites) from earlier.

Transfer half of the batter into your prepared baking pan, making sure to spread the batter into an even layer. Bake in your preheated oven for 5-7 minutes or until the top turns golden brown. Once the cake is done baking, flip it over onto a clean towel (but do not remove the parchment paper yet).

Repeat this with the remaining batter, making sure to add the second piece of parchment paper before baking.

Allow the cakes to cool completely.

Make the ganache: In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chopped chocolate, heavy cream, and butter in the microwave for 1 minute. Allow it to sit for another minute and then stir vigorously. The chocolate should be smooth. If lumps remain, return to the microwave and heat for another 15-30 seconds or until the chocolate fully melts. Set the ganache aside and allow it to come to room temperature. It will thicken, which is what we want.

Make the Swiss meringue buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites and the sugar together and mix with a whisk. Place this bowl over a pot or pan of simmering water. The goal here is to heat the egg whites and sugar enough so the sugar melts. You do not want this mixture to boil. Once the sugar has melted, turn the heat off and move the bowl over to your stand mixer and fit it with the whisk attachment. Turn the mixer to high and beat until the egg whites are fluffy and they are room temperature (about 10 minutes).

Turn the mixer down to low and then start to add the butter, about 4 Tablespoons at a time. Make sure each batch of butter is fully incorporated before adding the next. Once all the butter has been added, add in the vanilla extract.

In a small bowl, melt the coffee powder into the boiling water. Turn your mixer down to low and then add the coffee powder mixture and mix. Then turn the mixer to high and beat until the buttercream is light and fluffy. Set aside.

Make the coffee syrup: In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix together the sugar and water until it comes to a boil. Stir in the coffee powder and heat for another minute. Remove the saucepan from the stove and set aside.

Assemble the cake: Get a large rectangular plate, cutting board or cookie sheet ready. Cut one of the cakes in half, crosswise, and place it on the plate. Make sure you peel off the parchment paper. Brush the top of the cake with a generous layer of coffee syrup. Place about one third of the coffee buttercream on top and spread it all the way to the edges of the cake (using an offset spatula here is helpful).

Add the other half of the cake on top, and brush it again with the coffee syrup. Then all of the ganache on top (minus a few Tablespoons for decorating), making sure to spread it all the way to the edges.

Repeat with the other cake. You'll want to place the first half of the new cake on top of the previous cake (on top of the ganache layer). Brush with the coffee syrup, add about 2/3 of the remaining buttercream on top (making sure to spread all the way to the edges), then add the final cake layer. Add a thin layer of buttercream on top. Save a few tablespoons of the coffee buttercream to decorate the top.

Chill the cake in the refrigerator for about 4-6 hours.

Make the chocolate glaze: In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolates and butter together in the microwave. Heat it up about 30 seconds at a time until the chocolate completely melts. You don't want to overheat the chocolate or else it might melt the buttercream once you pour this on top.

Allow the ganache to cool slightly and then pour directly onto the middle of the cake. Using an offset spatula, spread it all the way to the edges of the cake (don't worry if it dribbles down the ends - we'll clean this up later). Make sure the top of the cake is as smooth as possible. Place the cake back in the refrigerator so the glaze sets (about 1 hour).

After the glaze has set, remove the cake from the refrigerator. Using a long serrated knife, carefully trim the edges off so you get nice, neat cuts on all 4 sides.

Transfer the cake to a clean plate, cake board, or serving platter. Decorate the top with the remaining ganache and buttercream.

Make sure the cake sits at room temperature for about 4 hours before slicing and serving. Otherwise the ganache will be too hard to cut into.

Leftover cake should be stored in the refrigerator.

Yield: 20-24 servings

Source: My Evil Twin's Kitchen

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Cream cheese swirl brownies

Love cheesecake and brownies? Then put the two together with these cheesecake-swirled brownies! Get the best of both worlds in this tangy and chocolate-y treat!

One thing that stresses me out on a daily basis is what I'm going to eat for lunch. Sounds silly, right? Well, I get tired of eating the same old things every day. One thing that I always look forward to is getting free lunch at work. There are times when I have lunch meetings, and if I'm lucky, the organizer will get lunch catered for us.

If we're really lucky, the in-house catering team will bring us a plate of cream cheese swirled brownies. They are huge, fudge-like and go very quickly. In fact, one of my coworkers has even attempted to get the recipe from the catering team to no avail. I guess it's one of those secret recipes that they're not willing to share.

While I wait for my coworker to stalk the catering manager (kidding), I'll make these at home and won't have to worry about these getting eaten up by hungry coworkers. Well, except I have a hungry husband and daughter... so that just means I need to do a good job hiding these from them! Mwahahaha!

The brownies here are thick and fudge-like and the cream cheese layer and swirl are similar to a cheesecake - they're a little on the tangy side because of the Greek yogurt. So if you're a fan of both brownies and cheesecake, then you will fall in love with the mashup of the two here!

Cream cheese swirl brownies
Cream cheese filling
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 (5.3 ounce) container plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
Brownies
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped finely
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease or line a standard 8"x8" baking pan and set aside.

Make the cream cheese filling: In a small bowl, melt the cream cheese. Add in the Greek yogurt, sugar and flour and mix well. Set aside.

Make the brownies: In another small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In another small bowl, melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave and mix well. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs and vanilla until well blended. Pour in the melted chocolate mixture (do not wash the bowl) and mix well. Then fold in the dry ingredients. Transfer about 1/2 cup of the completed batter back into the bowl that held the melted chocolate and set that aside.

Transfer the brownie batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top. Add the cream cheese filling directly on top and spread it out into an even layer.

Heat up the reserved brownie batter in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds or until it's more liquidy. Dollop about 6-8 mounds of the heated batter on top of the cream cheese filling. Swirl with a toothpick or a knife to create a marbled pattern. You don't want to do it too much or else the batter won't swirl - a few strokes going parallel and perpendicular should do the trick.

Bake in your preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Allow the brownies to cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.

Brownies should be kept in an airtight container and stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: About 16 brownies

Source: Ever so slightly adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Friday, November 9, 2018

Skating Fridays

An Axel Update


It's been a while since I've posted an Axel video so I wanted to show you where I am in my journey. It took me about a year of doing all the preparation exercises before I landed my first one, and I've been tweaking it ever since.

In fact, it took me 8-9 years to finally learn how to cross my legs, so making these little improvements has not been an easy feat.

Since working on my double salchow, I believe my Axel has improved as well. It's benefitted from the tight air position I've been attempting in the salchow. And my legs are finally crossing so it looks less "adult-like" with the storked, side-by-side legs.

Take a look and let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Toasted pecan torte with butterscotch pecan topping

This gorgeous toasted pecan torte with butterscotch pecan topping is a mash-up of pecan pie, sticky toffee pudding and a butterscotch sundae. What's not to love?

I find it unbelievable that Thanksgiving is just around the corner. We didn't have any solid plans this year but just confirmed that we will be spending it with my family. I'm thrilled to see my parents, brother, sister-in-law, nephew and brand new niece. Plus Addie loves playing with her (only) cousins. She's a great big sister to them.

While I'm not quite sure what I will contribute to the feast yet, I did want to try this toasted pecan torte at home before deciding if I should bring this. My husband found the recipe in this month's Bon Appetit magazine and was proud that he chose such a fancy dessert.

Although I am not a fan of nuts, I did appreciate and enjoy the toasted pecan aroma wafting from my kitchen. It made the house smell homey and just like fall. This torte includes the toasted nuts in both the torte itself and in the butterscotch topping.

And you know what? I liked this torte a lot. While I didn't eat any of the pecans on top, the rest of the cake was fantastic. It really was like a cross between a pecan pie, sticky toffee pudding and a butterscotch sundae. What my husband liked about this was the texture and nuttiness of the torte. He also said it wasn't too sweet.

I hope you enjoy this!

Toasted pecan torte with butterscotch pecan topping
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups pecan halves
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoon baking power
  • 1 and 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 4 Tablespoons rum, divided
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease and flour a 9" or 10" springform pan and set aside.

Place the pecans in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in your preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool.

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, 3 cups of the toasted pecans, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) of the butter, sugar, and orange zest on medium speed for about 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg and egg yolk and continue to mix for another minute. Add in 3 Tablespoons of the rum. Stop the mixer and add in the dry ingredients. Mix on low until everything just comes together.

Transfer the batter to your prepared springform pan, making sure to smooth the top. Bake in your preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The torte should be golden brown. Allow the torte to cool.

Meanwhile, make the butterscotch topping. In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix the brown sugar, 1/2 cup of the cream, the remaining 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter, and remaining 1 Tablespoon of rum to a boil. Stir often and continue heating until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. Then fold in the remaining 2 cups of toasted pecans and stir until the mixture has cooled down but is still spreadable.

Top the torte with the butterscotch pecan mixture. Make whipped cream with the remaining cream by whipping the 1 cup of heavy cream in a large bowl (using either a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment). Top with whipped cream if desired.

The torte can be baked 1 day ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature. The butterscotch (without the pecans) can be made up to 3 days ahead. Gently reheat it over low heat until pourable, then add pecans.

Leftovers should be covered and stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.

Yield: One 9" or 10" pan; about 8-12 servings

Source: Bon Appetit, November 2018 issue

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Strawberry cornstarch pudding

This thick and rich strawberry pudding is made from fresh strawberry milk from a local farm and uses cornstarch to thicken up. You can change this up by turning it into chocolate pudding if that's your thing!

You know how you go to the grocery store (or even those warehouse stores) and there's the tables that have samples? I often wonder how effective that type of marketing is. There's always a group of people who will always stop for a free sample regardless (*raises hand*) and those who actually want to try something new to purchase.

A little while ago, we were stopping by our grocery store for our weekly shopping trip when we saw a cow in front of the store. Yes, a real live cow. The farmer was there to promote his dairy farm and also allowed us to meet one of his cows. While I can't remember the cow's name, it was neat to be able to see where his products came from. They offered samples of 3 different types of flavored milk - strawberry, orange cream and chocolate.

Ever since that day, we've been buying the flavored milk. It's thick, creamy and has a nice natural flavor of strawberry, orange or chocolate.

My husband was in charge of grocery shopping one evening when he picked up a container of the strawberry milk. He had forgotten that Addie wasn't a fan of the strawberry milk, so it pretty much did not get consumed. Rather than waste this (expensive) milk, I made the decision to turn it into pudding. After all, we are big pudding fans in this family so it was a great way to showcase the fresh milk.

I opted to make a cornstarch pudding rather than one with egg yolks because I always get scrambled eggs from not tempering the eggs correctly. Plus, I hate having leftover egg whites in the refrigerator because I tend to forget about them.

I loved how rich and creamy this pudding was, and the fresh milk made a big difference. If you want, you can turn this into a chocolate pudding by simply adding about 3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder in the beginning and using plain milk.

Strawberry cornstarch pudding

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 and 1/2 cups strawberry milk (can substitute with plain milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions
In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Pour in about 1/2 cup of the milk and mix well. Then turn on the stove to medium heat and keep stirring while you pour in the remainder of the milk.

Continuously stir until the mixture thickens up to pudding consistency and can coat the back of a spatula or wooden spoon. Take the saucepan off the stove and stir in the butter and vanilla.

Transfer to individual bowls or ramekins and cool in the refrigerator. Serve with fresh fruit and/or whipped cream if desired.

Leftovers should remain in the refrigerator and will keep for several days.


Yield: About 8-10 servings

Source: Barely adapted from Allrecipes

Friday, November 2, 2018

Skating Fridays

Single versus Double Salchow Comparison


I had a very insightful lesson last week with my jump coach. I've still been struggling with the double salchow and thought that I knew where I was going wrong. But during this lesson I had another "a-ha" moment that helped me pinpoint an issue that I believe is the main root cause of the problems I'm experiencing.

I know that I tend to open up at the end of the jump. I thought I had fixed the entry so I'm taking off later. But something still wasn't right.

My coach videoed my single loop and calculated the air time: 0.35 seconds. It was definitely enough for a double salchow (where minimum air time is typically 0.30 seconds). He asked me to attempt a double and surprisingly, my air time on that was exactly the same as the single - 0.35 seconds. So theoretically, I had enough air time to accomplish the jump.

When we dug even further, we compared my jump entries. He videoed both and shared this gem with me:



I don't know how difficult it is for you to see in this video, but my initial setup for both jumps is the same (the double attempt is in the top video). Then, my approach before the takeoff is different. The timing is not the same.

My coach realized that I was bending my knee too much in the double attempt so I'm losing momentum and cheating myself of rotation. He asked me to watch the video of the single to see how much knee bend I had there - it's barely bent in that jump.

So the big takeaway for me is to not anticipate the double, and to treat it like a single with little to no knee bend. I think, psychologically, I am thinking that I need a big knee bend so I can "load and explode" into the air. But in reality, I don't need that at all.

I found this to be a great insight about myself and will attempt to make the corrections moving forward. This lesson was a great example of how powerful video can be.

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