Saturday, 6 May 2017

Apple Rose Vanilla Custard Tart

Home is not necessarily where you are from, but where you feel like you belong. Some search everywhere and endlessly to find it. But for some, they find it in a person. To find home within a person, to find a person that makes your heart whisper in confidence "I am here, I will be here, and I am with you." Finding the person I can call home is when I learned that home is where the heart is. 

Lately I have also found a sense of home in creating and I hope it abides as a constant from now on. Whether it is creating a simple white cake adorn with delicate stems of garden roses or creating an image, not necessarily of a cake, but of simple quotidian things from which I find joy and comfort, I have found a renewed and complete sense of home. I have tried to incorporate more of the latter on a daily basis — capturing unorchestrated scenes of my 8am coffee, diaphanous florals and each of their petals, and places that made me wish time would remain suspended for just a moment longer. This has really allowed me to step out of my vapid routine of taking photographs of a cake staged on my white marble table. Cake layers, overly familiar white marble table, the same cake stand, and a vein of discontentment running through it all. In the last few months I have really struggled with the direction of this blog and my photos — everything felt too predictable, too routine. I resonated with this sentiment even outside of the blog as well. I found a routine and I got comfortable. And this type of comfort is not necessarily the type I yearn for. It is a comfort that is a little too much intertwined with indifference, in that quiet little fear that manifests itself slowly.

Recently, though, I have found a new meaning to 'home is where the heart is' and it has necessitated what I feel now. I never thought much of that phrase in the past. That adage seemed as much prosaic as everything I have been aimlessly doing. Now, this renewed sense of home seems much more clear and concrete — I have found my heart situated in unexpected spring blossoms, in the quotidian I use to look past, and in all those quiet coffee-soaked mornings spent with the right person that I wish would last much, much longer. I have learned that not everything has to be orchestrated, that the placement of each baby's breath on the cake does not have to be overthought, and that there is perfection in imperfection. And more importantly, that everything will eventually fall into place and that the sense of home can be found in places and people in the most unexpected and unpremeditated ways. 

Originally this apple rose vanilla custard tart was made with the intention of being shared on Valentine's Day. My good friend Anna and I made and photographed this tart back in January. I spent quite a bit of time editing the photos and actually had all the photos ready a week before Valentine's Day. I somehow lost all my edited photos that I spent countless hours on and that really deterred me from finishing up the post.  I posted a champagne cake for Valentine's instead. This tart was something I really enjoyed making with my friend (and eating as well!) so I knew I still had to post it, even if it meant dedicating some extra time to it. So after some delay, here it is. Apple rose vanilla custard tart, possibly some of the most beautiful flowers blossoming this spring. 

Apple Rose Vanilla Custard Tart

Pâte Sablée
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Beat the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy.

Beat in the egg yolk and mix until fully combined.

With the mixer on low speed, beat in the salt and flour just until the dough comes together and there is no more visible flour. Careful not to overmix. Remove dough from the bowl and press the dough into the tart pan, making sure it is evenly distributed (watch out for the edges of the tart pan!). Using a fork, prick the bottom of the tart shell to prevent the bottom from puffing up when baking.

Wrap the pan loosely in plastic and chill 30 minutes.

Bake the tart shell at 410F or until the crust is golden brown (approximately 15 minutes). Remove carefully from oven and let rest on a wire rack. Let cool completely before filling with vanilla custard.

Vanilla Custard
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1 vanilla bean 
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon granulated sugar

Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan. Using a sharp knife, split vanilla bean in half lengthways and scrape out seeds. Add bean and seeds to milk mixture. Place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until hot (do not allow to boil). Remove saucepan from heat.

Whisk egg yolks, cornflour, and sugar in a heatproof bowl until well combined. Remove vanilla beans from milk mixture. Pour hot milk mixture over egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.

Return mixture to saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 -15 minutes or until custard thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon.

Apple Roses
7 - 8 large red apples
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter

Over low heat, combine orange juice, sugar, and butter in a medium-size pot.

Slice apples with mandolin.

Place the slices apples in the sugar, butter, and orange juice mixture. Leave apples to soak for 10 minutes until they are pliable. 

Start with the smaller apple slices first, roll apple slice so that both ends of the slice overlaps a little. Taking a slightly larger slice, build a second petal on the exterior of the first rolled slice. Continue until you have a fully "bloomed" apple rose. 

Arrange apple roses into the custard-filled tart.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

On Change & Turning 26.

Hello. Remember me? I have been a little MIA lately, both on the blog and other forms of social media. Though unintentional, I am really glad I took a brief break. Do not worry, I am okay. Oh, and I turned 26 yesterday. This year came and went by so quickly. It was also a year of many changes. You know that cliché-ish saying, change is the only constant? The one that most of us resonate with deep down inside? This quote, cliché or not, felt extra relevant this year. Around the same time last year I was finishing my last course for my Master's degree. At that time I was pursuing something completely different than what I am doing now. I was happy then but deep down I knew it was not the right fit. I decided to not continue with my PhD despite not having a back up plan. I had no idea what I wanted to do and to some extent, one year later, I still feel like I am trying to figure out what it is that I truly want to do. Relationships also change. It can happen passively in indifference. It was not intentional but you start to care a little less and less, day by day. It is not as though you meant to, as if you're hoping to bring something to a close. Things run their course whether or not we're done with them. Roads bend and sometimes they end. And sometimes what we thought in absolutes turn out to be conditional.

Change definitely happens. Have happened. Will happen. Changes start slowly, the way things often do. It will not feel slow though. In fact, it will seem sudden. You wake up, fix your gaze across the room, and think that something must have snapped in the night. But you refuse to believe that it happened there. It could not have. The thought of anything happening that rapidly while you were asleep is a thought you have long abandoned.

One of the changes I have appreciated the most is the growing ability to appreciate beauty in the mundane and the prosaic. Finding joy in early ink-stained mornings spent writing and reading in a cafe. Finding solace in a failed cake recipe. And finding unparalleled happiness when coming across the perfect rose to top a layered cake.

The luck I have been having in meeting people who are genuinely passionate about creating is one thing I hope never changes. Kelsey is someone that embodies that. Just over a week ago, Kelsey drove to Vancouver to celebrate my 26th birthday early with me. She baked a cake, made the perfect swiss meringue buttercream, and brought it all over to my home. We decorated the cake together with the most perfect stems from Celsia Florist and Victor was there to capture all the moments. I have always struggled to take my own photos when I am around Victor and Kelsey. They are both such talented photographers that I often feel quite intimidated when I am around them. But this time I made a promise to myself that I will at least snap a couple of photos myself - for practice and because the more photos the merrier. Besides, this was such a lovely set up that I knew I would have regretted it if I did not take photos to preserve the memories. This change in self-confidence is also something I hope I will be able to keep up.

Here are my photos from our lovely weekend. Kelsey will be sharing the recipe for the cake and buttercream on her blog soon and I will share some tips and tricks on decorating a cake with fresh flowers real soon along with Victor's beautiful photos. Until then, happy baking and do not be afraid to embrace change.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Matcha Cake with Red Bean and Whipped Cream

It is not a naked cake, I know. It is not excessively decorated with flowers, I also know. We are just taking a small break from your regularly scheduled programming. Do not worry. We are still in a place where butter usage is highly encouraged and cake is extremely delicious. I emphasize the word delicious because matcha is used. AIYA Matcha is used and there is a sweetened red bean paste. There are also matcha Pocky sticks you can munch on while you are decorating the cake. Not too terrible of a disruption from regularly scheduled programming, right?

Matcha has always been one of my favourite flavours. I feel like everyone has a flavour they always gravitate towards - whether it is vanilla or chocolate or salted caramel, mine has always been matcha. It is the complex flavour of matcha that keeps me going back for more. It is vegetal, it is clean, it is bitter, but it also has the most unique sweetness that balances the aforementioned flavours out. Previously I have combined the flavours of matcha and black sesame but this time I am using the classic combination of matcha and red bean. There are two layers of buttery matcha cake. Just matcha, because we want to let it shine. The two cake layers sandwich a smooth and lightly sweetened red bean paste. It is the covered with a simple whipped cream to lighten it up. And matcha Pocky...because Pocky is always fun. If you are not a big Pocky fan, you can always skip it, but you might just get some slight judgement from me for not liking these coated biscuit sticks.

Matcha Cake with Red Bean and Whipped Cream
Yields one two layer 6-inch cake

3/4 cup 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 tablespoon AIYA cooking grade matcha
200 ml milk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sweetened red bean paste, store-bought or homemade
1 cup whipping cream
3 packets of Matcha Pocky or any matcha biscuit sticks

Matcha Cake with Red Bean and Whipped Cream
Preheat oven to 350F and prepare two cake pans.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, matcha, and salt.

With the mixer on low, add half of the dry ingredients while gradually pouring in half of the milk. 

Add the remainder of the dry ingredients and milk. Mix until just combined. 

Divide the batter into the two prepared cake pans and bake for 35 - 37 minute, or until skewer comes out clean when inserted. 

Let cakes cool before assembling. Prepare whipping cream while cakes are cooling.

Level cooled cake layers if necessary. Place first cake layer down.

With a spoon, spread an even layer of the red bean paste from the centre of the cake outwards. Leave the edges of the cake clean.

Fill a pastry bag with whipped cream and pipe a border around the red bean filling.

Place second cake layer on top. 

Using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of whipped cream on the sides of the cake. You can be more generous with the whipped cream for the top. The thin layer of whipped cream will serve as "glue" for the biscuit sticks. You don't want too much whipped cream on the sides of the cake or it might show ooze out in between the biscuit sticks.

Place pocky sticks, dipped side down, around the cake until cake has been covered. Tie a ribbon around the cake.

Place strawberries or any berries on top to create a dome of fruit. Decorate with small flowers.

Thank you AIYA Matcha for collaborating with me on this post and supporting Constellation Inspiration!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Rosé Cake with Strawberry & Vanilla Buttercream

Happy Valentine's Day! Remember how I posted a sneak peek of this cake on my Instagram sometime around New Year? Yes. I intended this festive rosé cake to make it to the blog in time for New Year celebrations. I had the best intentions. But since I am incompetent in the realm of time management, it did not make it to the blog. But I am presenting it to you now (recipe perfected and the works) in time for Valentine's Day. Or Galentine's Day, whichever one you rather celebrate. This cake would be the perfect pièce de résistence at a Galentine's Day brunch in my opinion.

The real reason why I did not post this sooner is because I kept playing around with the recipe. The first few times I made the cake I did not love it. I liked it but did not love it. One version of the cake tasted too boozy while another version tasted quite bland. After a few more tries playing around with the amount of rosé to other wet ingredients, I got it down. I would love to say that you can use any type of rosé or sparkling wine but I cannot say that for certain. If it is any help, I used something affordable and of an alcoholic content of 5%. I tried the recipe using a sparkling rosé that was 12% and it tasted very boozy. A bit too boozy for my liking. If you want it to have a stronger rosé flavour, feel free to sub the one-third cup of milk for rosé as well. If you are using anything stronger, I would recommend keeping the rosé and milk ratio as is. 

This rosé cake is much like a classic vanilla cake, a perfect canvas for adding other flavours. I paired my cake with strawberries - in the form of jam, buttercream, and the actual fruit. The cake layers sandwich a strawberry jam, is frosted with a vanilla and strawberry swiss meringue buttercream, and is topped with fresh strawberries and blackberries. I would love to make a mimosa version of this cake with champagne and have it sandwiching a vibrant and dreamy orange curd. I would then demand for it to become a requirement for weekend brunches from then on. Why drink a mimosa when you can eat it?

Baking with alcohol is interesting. It is definitely teaching me lots. I have been (partially) subbing different types of alcohol in cake recipes I trust and love and seeing what happens and how the flavours change. I am currently on a mission to make the perfect red wine chocolate cake. I have seen red wine chocolate cake recipes online and in cookbooks but I want to adapt my favourite chocolate cake recipe into a red wine chocolate cake recipe. I currently use coffee in my chocolate cake recipe to strengthen the chocolate flavours but apparently you cannot just sub wine for coffee in a cake recipe. So far I am not having too much luck with the wine. My first red wine chocolate cake tasted so bad I almost promised myself I would give up on the idea of it. Seriously though, it was one of the worst cakes to come out of any kitchen. Hopefully one day you will see a red wine chocolate cake recipe on this blog - you can be proud of me then because that will be a complete accomplishment for me.

Rosé Cake with Strawberry Vanilla Buttercream
Yields three layer 6-inch cake

Rosé Cake
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup rosé or sparkling wine
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

Strawberry jam or jam of choice

Vanilla & Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter, cubed, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon freeze-dried strawberry powder (optional)

Rosé Cake
Preheat oven to 350F and grease three cake pans.

In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar together. Gradually add in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk to combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large measuring cup, combine the rosé and the milk.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture and mix on slow to combine. Gradually pour in the wet ingredients and add in the remainder of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared cake pans and bake for 30-32 minutes. Check for doneness a few minutes before the 30 minute mark by using a toothpick - if the toothpick comes out clean, you're good to go. You can also test for doneness by gently pressing your finger on the cake - it should spring back up.

Vanilla & Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Place egg whites and sugar into a stainless steel or glass bowl, and place the bowl over a sauce pan of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water. Continuously whisk the egg whites and sugar together until sugar has melted.

Remove bowl from heat and beat mixture on high until the egg white and sugar mixture is white and fluffy.

Once the mixture has cooled a bit, start adding butter gradually. Add vanilla. This is the part where you have to trust that the buttercream will turn out. It might look kind of lumpy and not buttercream-esque, but just keep on mixing.

For the strawberry buttercream: take a bit of the vanilla swiss meringue buttercream (roughly 1/3 cup) and fold in the freeze-dried strawberry powder with a rubber spatula. Fold until powder is evenly distributed and does not leave streaks.