Over the Shoulder Boulder Holders (and Cake!)
The warm weather is upon us, and if you’re anywhere near my time of life then sunshine and springtime almost always preclude just an ass load of weddings and all their tangential celebrations.
Now, I am not a fan of weddings in general. I like the idea, but the execution tends to be so stressful, money burning and time wasting, I just don’t think it’s worth the fancy photograph album you keep around to show your grandkids. Better they should see their happy grandparents and parents, who’ve saved all those tens of thousands of dollars for things like houses, college educations, and life saving operations.
Granted, the occasions when I’ve been a bridesmaid have mostly been the exception to the rule. I like dress up and cake too much to demure the experience entirely. I was a standup bridesmaid and last summer when my sister got married we threw her what may have been the coolest bridal shower known to womankind.
There is something that happens when old and young women get together around a couple of hot glue guns, glitter, and several pounds of underwear. Somehow the combination of crafting and alcohol served to make the event a tribal right of passage. Although, the only war whoops were shouted by my mother when she was well into her cups.
So yes, we threw my sister a bra-themed bridal shower (bra-dal shower?) I have included instructions and recipes below. Although it is to be thrown only for those most beloved (or at least beloved enough that they’ll let you borrow their underwear.)
Bra-Themed Bridal Shower
Crafting and Games
3 hot glue guns
3 different shades of glitter
A wide assortment of buttons, figurines, beads, plastic jewels and other ‘bedazzling’ items to be found cheaply in any crafts store.
Bras (lots and lots of them, go for fifty. You’ll need some for room decorations as well as the crafting table.)
1.) Set up your bra bedazzling table. Cover a table (the one you won’t be eating at) with newspaper. Set up the hot glue guns and the crafting materials.
2.) Towards the end of the party, once all your guests have decorated a bra, string them across the room on display and have the bride award the bras prizes (“Best Detail,” “Best Bling,” “Best Skill,” “Most Glitter,” etc). Prizewinners, on receiving their certificates may choose to put on their prize-winning bras over their clothes.
3.) Once all the bras have been awarded certificates I recommend putting on music and dancing, preferably to something familiar to both the old ladies and the young.
Limes and lemons
1.) Run lines of string across the ceiling (our string was feathery and covered in glitter, FYI). Hang the bras on the string using the clothespins. They should be low enough that people can reach up and take them down to decorate.
2.) Alternate your bra strings with streamers and balloons. Create a magical tent of color and lacy under things.
3.) For the table, you’re going for boozy tea party, so be sure to put down big paper doilies beneath everything.
4.) Adding just a touch more juiciness to the occasion, slice up a bunch of limes and lemons and put them in a vase with some seasonal flowers.
Now, our menu for the bridal shower was elaborate. We had five cooks and divvied up the preparation. I recommend only your most expert baker making the petits fours. Each item should serve about 25 people.
Chocolate covered marshmallows
Pink champagne punch
Macedonia di Frutta
(Adapted from Emeril Lagasse at The Food Network)
I love dainty pastry. Just love it to death. And there’s no pastry better suited to a bra-themed tea party than the petit four. That said, they are a bit of work and the assembly is difficult and can be frustrating if you’re not used to handling large sheet cakes. Remember, this is a huge cake. It makes about 30 petits fours and I had plenty of leftovers after the shower. I froze a bunch and we were eating tiny leftover cakes all summer. These are a bit crumblier and slightly less perfect looking than the kind made with royal icing or fondant, but the orange syrup and almond pastry cream makes them three times as delicious.
For the cake:
1 half-sheet pan
1½ sticks butter, plus 1 tablespoon
3½ cups sugar
2 naval oranges, zested and juiced.
3 eggs, brought to room temperature
2¾ cups cake flour
1-tablespoon baking powder
1½ cups whole milk
For the almond pastry cream:
1-tablespoon almond paste
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1-cup almond pastry cream, cold
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup fresh orange juice
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted and crushed with a rolling pin
1.) The almond pastry cream needs to be cold when you use it so make it first and allow it to chill while you’re baking the cake. In a saucepan, combine almond paste, 1-cup heavy cream, and sugar. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Over medium heat, bring liquid to a simmer.
2.) While cream is simmering, in a separate bowl, combine egg yolks, cornstarch and remaining ¼ cup heavy cream. Whisk.
3.) Take cream/almond paste/sugar mixture off the heat and add some of the hot liquid to the egg mixture. Whisk thoroughly. You are tempering the eggs so they don’t scramble when placed over the heat.
4.) Now add the entire egg mixture into the cream mixture and place it over the heat. Bring it to a boil and cook a few minutes, constantly whisking.
5.) Remove it from the heat and stir in the butter. Pour into a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap directly over its surface to prevent a film from forming. Allow it to cool and then place it in the fridge to chill thoroughly.
6.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, line your half sheet pan with parchment and butter the pan with 1-tablespoon butter.
7.) Using an electric mixer, cream together 1 ½ sticks butter and 2 ½ cups sugar.
8.) With the mixer still running, add the orange zest and eggs to the creamed butter and sugar.
9.) Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.
10.) Add flour mixture alternately with the milk to the batter in the mixing bowl. Add vanilla and pour into the prepared pan.
11.) Bake until top of the cake is golden and it is springy to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool a few minutes.
12.) Place parchment paper over a cooling rack and carefully invert the cake on the rack. Cool completely.
13.) While the cake is cooling make the orange syrup by combining the orange juice with 1-cup of sugar. Bring to a boil and cook a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely. Brush the top of the cake with syrup and allow cake to sit for 10 minutes.
14.) Cut the cake across its middle. Spread almond cream over one side of the cake and then carefully place the other half on top. This is tricky. You want to make sure it is completely cool. Do it quickly and with confidence. Hesitancy will cause the cake to fall apart in your hands. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
15.) Trim edges of the cake so it is an even rectangle. Cut into individual petits fours, about 1 ½ by 2 inches. Place your wire racks on top of the half sheet pan and place the cakes on top of the racks, spacing them apart.
16.) Combine powdered sugar, orange juice and ¼ cup milk. Whisk until smooth. Pour the frosting over cakes and spread to coat. Sprinkle the tops with the almonds. Refrigerate two hours to allow the frosting to set.
Chocolate Covered Marshmallows
(Adapted from David Lebovitz)
Homemade marshmallows are a shocking confection. The sort of thing you had no idea you could reproduce at home while still maintaining the springy consistency of the store-bought variety. But, lo and behold, the marshmallow turns out to be our friend. Infinitely pliable and adaptable, subject to a myriad colors, flavors, and toppings, and a great deal easier to make that you’d imagine. After you get over your candy thermometer fear, they’re no more difficult than cheesecake. This recipe makes about 30 marshmallows, depending on how small you cut them.
17g powdered gelatin
½ cup plus 1/3 cup cold water
1/3-cup light corn syrup
4 egg whites (110g) brought to room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-cups powdered sugar
8 ounces dark chocolate
1.) Mix together 1 cup each of cornstarch and powdered sugar. This is the marshmallow mixture. After mixing them together dust a baking sheet with mixture using a sifter, making sure to leave absolutely no bare spots. The dusting will make a complete powdery mess of your kitchen.
2.) Sprinkle gelatin over ½ cup cold water and dissolve to soften.
3.) Fit a saucepan with a candy thermometer. In the saucepan mix the sugar and corn syrup with remaining 1/3 cup water. Place it over medium heat.
4.) In an electric mixer beat the egg whites until frothy and add the salt.
5.) When the syrup in the saucepan reaches 210 degrees Fahrenheit, turn back to your electric mixer and turn it to high. Beat the egg whites until they’re thick and fluffy.
6.) Once the syrup reaches 245 degrees Fahrenheit pour the hot syrup into the egg whites, pouring slowly and carefully, making sure the syrup doesn’t fall on the whisk.
7.) Spoon the gelatin and water into the pan you’ve just used for the syrup and swirl it in the still-hot saucepan until it dissolves. Pour the gelatin into the whites as they are whipping. Add vanilla and continue mixing for 5 minutes, or until the outside of the mixing bowl feels cool.
8.) Spread the marshmallow in a smooth layer on your prepared marshmallow baking sheet and leave to dry overnight, uncovered.
9.) Dust top of the marshmallows with a sprinkling of leftover marshmallow mixture. Put the rest of the leftover marshmallow mixture in a bowl. Using scissors dusted in marshmallow mixture cut the marshmallows into squares. Toss the squares in the marshmallow mixture and shake off the excess powder in a wire mesh strainer.
10.) Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Dip the tops of the marshmallows in the melted chocolate, one at a time. Set them to dry on cooling racks. Decorate them with nuts, shaved coconut, etc. and set the cooling racks in the fridge to allow the chocolate to set.
Macedonia di Frutta
This is a boozy Italian fruit salad. Not completely sure of the origin of the name, but I know it has something to do with an adulterous Byzantine empress cutting her servant’s tongue out for revealing her infidelity. The tongue was cut into pieces and flung into the sea. The servant’s name was Macedonia. Yum yum…delicious sea drowned bits of Byzantine tongue. While this salad can be made with almost any fruit, I’m very particular on the aesthetics of the fruit salad so I’ve used only red fruits here.
2 cups pitted cherries
2 cups strawberries
2 cups raspberries
2 cups sliced, pitted red plums (from about 4 or 5 plums)
½ cup fresh orange juice
½ cup sugar
¼ cup grappa or brandy
Zest of 1 lemon
Put all ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
Pink Champagne Punch
(Adapted from Bon Appétit)
If, like Shelby in Steel Magnolias, your bride’s colors are “blush and bashful,” then this is the right punch for your shower. Feel free to make just half of this recipe if your guests aren’t as dipsomaniacal as ours were.
4 740-ml bottles champagne
3 cups white rum
2-½ cups pomegranate juice
1-cup pomegranate seeds
Bunch of fresh mint
2 lemons, sliced
1 ice block
1.) Make an ice block the night before by filling a bundt cake tin or similar object halfway with water. Feel free to float lemon slices or pomegranate seeds in the water for decoration. Allow it to freeze overnight and unmold it just before serving the punch.
2.) Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan and stir until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes and then cool the syrup completely.
3.) Combine champagne, rum, and pomegranate juice in container or punch bowl. Add syrup to sweeten to your taste. Mix in lemon, pomegranate seeds, mint, and ice block.
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)
For the cucumber sandwiches:
8 ounces cream cheese (brought to room temperature)
½ cup roasted red bell peppers, drained if using canned.
Juice of 1 lemon
1 hothouse cucumber, sliced paper thin
12 slices white bread
12 slices whole wheat bread
1.) In a food processor combine cream cheese, peppers and lemon juice.
2.) Spread cream cheese mixture and a thin layer of cucumber slices on white bread slices. Top with wheat bread slices. Cover with plastic wrap and chill sandwiches in fridge 1 hour, until firm.
3.) Cut off sandwich crusts and quarter the slices. These will serve 12.
For the smoked salmon:
3 sticks unsalted butter, brought to room temperature
1 ½ -tablespoons chives, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 loaves whole grain bread, thinly sliced.
1 1/2 pounds smoked salmon, thinly sliced.
1.) Combine butter, herbs, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl.
2.) Spread mixture on all the bread slices. Top half the slices with smoked salmon. Lay butter-only slices on top of the salmon slices. Refrigerate under plastic wrap until chilled and firm, 1 hour.
3.) Trim crusts from sandwiches and quarter the bread slices.
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Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/su-lin/249303864/”>su-lin</a> / <a href=”http://foter.com/Food/”>Foter.com</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-ND</a>
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