Blues Clues

Oct 20th, 2014 by GemmaAdd Comment

We’re always thrilled when people return to us for more cake. That means we made them happy, and that makes up very happy indeed. That’s what we’re here for after all. This cake was a 9″ bottom tier and a 6″ top tier. The Blue on the top is modeled from rice crispy treats so he’s completely edible too, if you can bring yourself to eat him!

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Pickled Beets

May 21st, 2014 by Michael

 

Pickled beets are delicious!

Hey, don’t give me that look… I’m not talking about the canned variety that live out their lives in grocery store purgatory, red and flat flavored, tasting as much of the can as the beets. I’m talking about homemade pickled beets here, jarred alongside red onion and rosemary in tasty tarragon wine vinegar. They’re bright flavored, tangy, multi-dimensional, and fairly straightforward to make.

We get a weekly CSA box from Johnson’s Backyard Garden, and beets have been in abundance this year. Being a fan of pickled beets in my youth (yes, the canned ones from the store, as that was all I knew as a kid), I thought it would be nice to take our bounty of beets and convert them into a tasty treat I could enjoy long after they were out of season.

I’m also an unabashed fan of Alton Brown, and many moons ago he had an episode around pickling beets. After a quick review of the episode and hunting down the recipe on the web, I decided to give it a go. I’m including the recipe below, slightly modified to reflect my own experience and notes. I’m also making a much larger volume than the recipe calls for, but it scales well.

The first step is to start with good beets. Get the freshest you can find, preferably with the stalks still intact (it’s difficult to disguise an old beet when the stalk is wilted), and even better you should source them locally… peruse your nearest Farmer’s Market for a really nice selection. They should be relatively smooth and firm and as uniform in size as you can manage for even preparation.

Next, cast an eye toward beet variety. Red beets are fairly common and will give you the sweet earthiness and deep ruby color you would associate with any beet dish. The chioggia with its red and white concentric rings are strikingly beautiful and tasty as well. I used a mix of these two, not the least reason being that they were what was available to me.

Preheat your oven to 400° F.

You’ll need to par cook the beets before pickling, and there are several ways to accomplish that. The most obvious way is to boil them, but you’ll end up leeching flavor and color from the beets unnecessarily. An excellent alternative is to roast them, as the dry method will preserve internal moisture and color, add a level of flavor as the beets cook, and we can infuse some other flavors as well by adding a few items to the roasting pan.

Remove all but an inch of the stalk — which will become a useful handle later for slicing — and cut the root tip from the bottom. Wash and dry the beets then place them in a large bowl. Peel your shallots and place them in the bowl, along with stalks of rosemary. Drizzle olive oil over all and toss to coat… to be honest, just use your hands as they are more efficient at getting the oil over every surface.

Transfer the beets to either a tightly sealed foil pouch, or more practically an appropriately sized oven-safe pot with lid. The pot is a reusable resource, is easier to manage, and can be used as your ‘bowl’ in the step above making for one less item to wash later. Roast for 40 minutes or until the tip of a knife can pierce to the center of the beet with slight resistance. A larger volume of beets will take longer to roast, so adjust your time accordingly.

While the beets roast prepare the rest of what you’ll need. Peel and french-cut the red onion — french-cut will yield uniform slivers of onion that will stack and fit into the jars nicely, as well as portion out well when serving. If you are canning for long term storage, prepare the water bath and boil your jars and lids to sanitize. Combine the tarragon vinegar (apple cider vinegar works well if tarragon is unavailable), salt and sugar — but not the water — in a pan and set aside.

When the beets are done roasting allow them to cool slightly so they can be safely handled. You’ll need to peel the beets. One method is to take a clean dish cloth and rub the beets vigorously to abrade the skin off. When this actually works, it’s like a magic trick, but when it doesn’t it ends up being a frustration (red beets are particularly stubborn). Another method is to use the dull back-edge of a paring knife to scrape the skin off without removing much, if any of the beet itself. A peeler is ineffective once the beets are cooked, and strips too much good beet from them when they’re raw. Cooked beets are generally easier to peel at any rate.

Set the shallots and rosemary aside to add to the jars later (a shame to just throw them away at this point!). Strain out any beet juice remaining in your foil pouch/pot, and use this toward the volume of water you’ll need for the pickling liquid. Top up to the full water volume then add to the pickling liquid and begin bringing it to a slow boil.

Cut the beets into thin, uniform slices. Add the shallots and rosemary to the jars, then add the beets and red onion in alternating layers. Once the pickling liquid comes to a boil, add it to the jars, topping up as necessary to within .5″ from the top.

If you are canning, add the lids and rings to the jars and return them to the water bath then bring to a boil for 35 minutes. Remove the jars from the water bath and allow to cool, checking to ensure the lids have sealed properly once cooled, then store appropriately. If you aren’t canning, lid tightly and allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator.

Allow 3 to 7 days for the flavor and color to develop. Serve chilled as a side dish or accompaniment to any entree, or add to a salad to punch up the flavor and color — the pickling liquid is all the ‘dressing’ you’ll need.

These beets and red onion are packed with great flavor and add bulk, taste and texture to a dish for relatively few calories (~ 50 calories per 4 OZ portion). They’re also a good source of folate, manganese, and betaines.

Well… for all that, they just taste good. Give ‘em a try!

 

Alton Brown’s Pickled Beets
6 medium beets (cleaned with 1-inch stem remaining)
2 large shallots (whole, peeled)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 TSP olive oil

1 large red onion (frenched)
12 OZ tarragon wine vinegar
2.25 TSP Kosher salt
.75 C sugar
12 OZ cup water

2 1-QT mason jars with new lids and rings

Temperature: 400° F

In a large bowl toss the beets, shallots and rosemary with the oil to coat well. Place into a foil pouch or lidded oven-safe pot of sufficient size and roast in the oven for 40 minutes, or until a knife tip can pierce the beets with slight resistance.

If canning, boil jars and lids to sterilize.

Remove the skin from the Roasted Beets and slice thinly. Arrange in 1-QT jars, alternating layers with the onion… don’t forget to add the shallots from the roasting pan as well. In a small pot boil the rest of the ingredients and pour over the beets. If canning, lid the jars and return to the canning pot and boil for 35 minutes to seal. Allow to cool and store appropriately. If not canning tightly lid the jars and place in the refrigerator.

Allow 3 to 7 days for flavor to develop before serving.

Yields 2 QT.

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Mardi Gras 2014 Comes To A Close

Mar 4th, 2014 by Michael

Thank you all for a stellar King Cake season… it was better than last year, and here’s hoping next year is better still! We sincerely appreciate being allowed to be a part of your celebration.

Happy Mardi Gras, be wonderful to each other.

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Station Identification

Feb 19th, 2014 by Michael

I feel it’s good to post a reminder now and again of who we are, what we do, and where we can be found. So, here we go:

We are Curious Confections LLC, a small Cottage Bakery in Austin, TX. We are built upon the finest traditions of English and European pastry and patisserie, with a dash of Southern Louisiana sensibility, and a hint of Texas charm.

We produce a wide array of baked goods, candies, and confections of all types — while we offer a menu, it is a starting point, not the be-all end-all of our capabilities (just ask if you don’t see what you’re after!). We make everything from the simple and elegant, to the elaborate and spectacular. The majority of what we produce is made-to-order as we do not have a public storefront or maintain prepared stock, but this ensures everything is at the peak of freshness for you.

We do, however, operate a stall at HOPE Farmer’s Market on East 5th every Sunday from 11am til 3pm, where we offer a rotating selection of our wares for immediate purchase. Come by, say hello, and have a fresh baked croissant to start your Sunday off right.

We maintain an internet presence here at our site, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where we post interesting tidbits, things that amuse us, and pictures of what we’re working on. We do the occasional contest or giveaway, announce seasonal specials, and post our weekly Market menu on Saturdays. Please follow us to keep up-to-date on what’s happening at the bakery… be warned, we’re likely to make you hungry quite often.

We also have a Yelp! page, and we encourage anyone who has enjoyed what we have made to please let the world know. Making people happy is our goal, and word of mouth is our best advertising. Go ahead, don’t be shy… make the internet jealous at your good fortune.

We can be reached by phone at 512-465-2879 or email at info(at)curiousconfections.com for information, quotes, or to place an order.

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Voodoo King and Queen Cakes

Jan 16th, 2014 by Michael

We’re expanding our already delicious lineup of King Cakes by adding two flavors of a new style this year… this time, there’s chocolate to be had!

It is my pleasure to introduce you to the Voodoo King and the Voodoo Queen.

The Voodoo King Cake features a coconut cream cheese filling, a rich chocolate ganache icing, and it is topped with crisp toasted coconut.

The Voodoo Queen Cake is filled with raspberry cream cheese, chocolate ganache icing is it’s crown, and it is finished with flaked chocolate.

The Voodoo Cakes are styled in honor of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, a very long-standing New Orleans carnival krewe and parade that is known for its humanitarian contributions and outstanding social work in the African American and other New Orleans communities. The Krewe of Zulu is one of the oldest, and most respected carnival krewes still rolling a parade down the streets of New Orleans, equal to the Krewe of Rex. Both roll back-to-back on Mardi Gras Day to kick off the festivities.

The Krewe of Zulu is widely known for their very tongue-in-cheek wearing of blackface, grass skirts and leopard skins during the parade (considering they are predominantly African American), and are most well known for their prized throw… the painted coconut. The coconut and chocolate of our cakes are a loving tribute to their styling.

Voodoo King Cake – Small: $14, Large: $28
Voodoo Queen Cake – Small: $14, Large: $28

All King Cakes are made-to-order to ensure that they are fresh and tasty for you, so as a result we require that you please order at least 2-3 days in advance of need. Pickup or delivery by arrangement, or you may pick up your cake from our stall at HOPE Farmer’s Market on any given Sunday.

Call 512-465-2879 or email info(at)curiousconfections.com to place an order for your King Cake.

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King Cake Season 2014

Jan 6th, 2014 by Michael

Today is Twelfth Night — Epiphany — and that marks the beginning of Mardi Gras, and more importantly to us here at Curious Confections, that ushers in King Cake season. As a New Orleans boy it would be a crime against man and nature if I didn’t insist that we offer King Cakes… not that there is any argument, as Gemma is a big fan as well. This will mark our third season providing them to Austin aficionados (to natives, NOLA ex-pats, heck… to anyone who knows and cares about yummy King Cake), and we’re looking forward to another banner year!

Mardi Gras is nice and long this year — Fat Tuesday is March 4th – providing ample opportunities to place an order, several in fact (I insist!). We’ll be taking orders for fulfillment all through the season, but if you want yours for Mardi Gras day, you’ll need to get your order in before Sunday March 2nd to receive it in time.

We offer two sizes of New Orleans-style King Cake: a small that will give 8-12 portions (depending on how polite you are), and large that serves 16-20. We have several flavors/fillings to offer as well:

Traditional (cinnamon sugar) – Small: $10, Large: $20
Cream Cheese – Small: $12, Large: $24
Lemon Curd - Small: $12, Large: $24
Apple - Small: $12, Large: $24
Pecan Praline - Small: $12, Large: $24
Chocolate Hazelnut - Small: $12, Large: $24

New this season!
Voodoo King Cake – Small: $14, Large: $28
Voodoo Queen Cake – Small: $14, Large: $28

Additionally we offer King “Cup” Cakes with the traditional filling only. These are generously portioned individual mini-King Cakes that come baked as a large muffin — the same great cake in a smaller size! They are 6 for $18. We will also have these available every Sunday at our stall at HOPE Farmer’s Market, but don’t wait too late to stop by and get yours as we’ll only have a limited supply on hand every week — when they’re gone, they’re gone!

All King Cakes are made-to-order to ensure that they are fresh and tasty for you, so as a result we require that you please order at least 2-3 days in advance of need. Pickup or delivery by arrangement, or you may pick up your cake from our stall at HOPE Farmer’s Market on any given Sunday.

Call 512-465-2879 or email info(at)curiousconfections.com to place an order for your King Cake.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

P.S. – We’ve received some lovely mentions the last two years (in the Austin Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman respectively) about our King Cakes, and as a result have been able to share our love of making them with a wider audience. We would dearly appreciate any food writers, bloggers, journalists — heck, pretty much everybody — within the sound of our text, please mention that we are a local source for King Cakes in the Austin area. We’re a small bakery with a tiny voice, but we offer a tasty King Cake made in the finest tradition that not even the bakeries in New Orleans respect any more, and that’s too important not to share. Thanks!

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Rapunzel

Dec 18th, 2013 by Gemma

With a design based off of a fairy tale this is a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. The tower had a pvc base so it could be a keepsake after the party.

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Zita the Spacegirl Cookies

Dec 9th, 2013 by Gemma

While we make sugar cookies regularly for the market we keep them pretty simple. These were the first truly custom cookies we’ve done.

Based off of the childrens’ graphic novel Zita the Spacegirl, about a young girl who’s best friend is abducted by an alien cult. Off she goes to save the day ending up as an intergalactic hero.

We found the pictures we wanted to use as our cookies and printed them out onto card. We turned the card into stencils and used them to cut out the cookie dough.

Once baked they were all decorated with royal icing.

We’re happy to say the birthday girl loved them.

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Mon, HOPE Farmer’s Market Birthday Cake

Dec 6th, 2013 by Gemma

Being vendors at HOPE Farmers Market we were thrilled when asked to make their 4th birthday cake. We decided to use Mon as the inspiration. He’s the subject of their very first poster and their mascot, a Jamaican monster who looks like he could use a little love.

But it’s a birthday party, so we gave him some balloons and a party hat to keep him happy.

He’s made of carrot cake and filled with cream cheese icing. Then he’s covered in white modelling chocolate and we piped on all that fur with royal icing.

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