I actually haven’t been cooking much these past two weeks – for lunches I’ve been subsisting mostly on pots of my two favourite soups, while dinners have been had out of the house. That said, in the last week, I did have to make a dish to contribute to a potluck at work, and did some Christmas baking as well.
My team was once again responsible for treating the rest of the staff at the office to lunch to celebrate the holiday season. With turkey, bread and root vegetables taken care of by my colleagues, I knew I wanted to contribute some sort of salad that could be served cold (so I could avoid the reheating rush).
Paging through cookbooks desperate for inspiration, I came across Trish Magwood’s recipe for Asian slaw in Dish, the colourful, eye-catching cover shot. I had always wanted an opportunity to give it a try, and this seemed like the perfect time to do so (a similar recipe can be found here).
I’m not sure why I haven’t yet learned my lesson about starting new recipes early for good measure, but I really didn’t think it would take me as long to prep the vegetables as it did (surprisingly, it was cleaning the bean sprouts that took the most time).
A rainbow combination of julienned carrots, sliced red cabbage, bell peppers and green onions, slivered baby bok choy and chopped cilantro and peanuts (I omitted the mango), with a spicy-tangy vinaigrette of chili sauce, fish sauce, sugar and vegetable oil, it was a vibrant, crunchy counterpoint to some of the other foods on the table. I particularly like that it is a salad that can be prepared nearly year-round primarily with locally-sourced vegetables. It’s definitely a dish that I will make again!
For some reason, when thinking about what I wanted to make for my work colleagues this year, I latched on to the idea of cake pops. These dainty cake bites served on sticks have been popular enough to appear in the pastry case at Starbucks, and the queen of cake pops herself, Bakerella, released her first cookbook this year.
For something so popular, however, it was difficult to locate a start-to-finish cake pop recipe. Although the guidelines are straightforward (crumble a cake, mix in some icing to bind the crumbs, roll into balls, chill, secure on a stick, dip in chocolate and decorate), I was hoping to be able to follow something more concrete the first time around (especially with regards to how many pops I would end up with). However, at least I was able to determine, between Bakerella’s video and the FAQ on Vernoica’s Cornucopia, what not to do.
On the web, it seemed most people used cake mix and prepared icing for their cake pops, but I decided to make both from scratch. I made Ina Garten’s pound cake for the base, and a quarter of Magnolia’s recipe for frosting. I used one loaf for the cake pops, saving the other one to gift on its own. This recipe made 20 medium-sized cake pops.
The upside of using pound cake as the base is that it wasn’t very sweet to begin with, so the addition of icing as a binder wouldn’t make it too sweet. That said, because the cake was comprised of a drier crumb, we probably needed to incorporate more icing than other cake recipes to ensure the balls would form easily. Mack was a great help in forming the cake balls – he had to be firmer with them to make sure they could hold together. After fifteen minutes in the freezer, we pierced each ball with a lollipop stick.
We melted the chocolate wafers using a double boiler. We probably could have been less stingy with the amount, as we didn’t quite have enough depth in the bowl to make dipping an easy task (we had to do more swirling than recommended to fully coat the balls). Immediately after dipping, we dressed the balls with festive sprinkles and stuck it in a piece of styrofoam placed in the fridge to harden.
In the fridge
The next day, I wrapped them up individually with some cellophane and ribbon – given it was our first experiment with cake pops, I was really happy with the results! They were pretty sweet, though this mostly had to do with the chocolate coating and sprinkles, rather than the cake itself.
It’s really neat to see what’s possible with cake pops (just take a look here). Though it’s not likely I’ll tackle any of the more complicated designs, I’d definitely consider making them again for a special occasion again in the future. Thanks again to Mack for all of his help with this project!