Victory Flowers (and Fruits!)
Two angels in the Ninja Baker's life,
Sandalphon, allegedly the tallest angel in Heaven, is the seraph in charge of fulfilling the prayers and wishes of earthlings. His height apparently helps him easily deliver the requests from this planet to the folks upstairs. Perhaps he’s like a basketball player who shoots prayers into the Divine’s inbox. And, maybe his brother, Metatron, assists him in writing down the wishes. According to the Kabbalah, Angel Sandalphon’s sibling is known as the celestial scribe.
Anyway, whether you believe in angels or ascribe to
12- Step Program philosophies that God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, a power greater than a Ninja Baker may have answered my not-so-secret prayers.
On August 12th my position at a prestigious Japanese company was terminated. It was an answer to my prayers because my dream job had become a nightmare. Originally, I was hired to be the executive assistant to the CEO of the Americas. After three years, he was moved to New York. I was left in Los Angeles and soon became all the executives’ secretary. Then the company went to the Japanese government for a bailout and was told to declare bankruptcy and lay off 60, 000 people.
So, in the last few years, as people were laid off and more work and stress were piled on, my politically incorrect fantasies increased. My fantasy? Being a 1950s Betty Crockerish housewife who spends her leisure time pursuing creative activities.
And voila, now I am a stay-at-home wife who has a long to-do list of household chores and creative projects. When I’m not sending out resumes, my husband has enlisted my help to launch a new business selling art and photography prints to television and movie set designers. I’m also leaning into following the advice of many to start a side business selling sweets!
The Ninja Baker with her always ready assistant by her side.
Subsequently, our apartment is filled with Betty Crockerish aromas these days. David especially liked my three apple pies. Unfortunately, the first one set off the smoke alarm because it was dripping barley malt. (David wanted me to use the syrupy stuff as a substitute for sugar.) As I was scrubbing the oven it occurred to me that pies should probably be baked on cookie sheets to catch any drips. Also, for future apple pies, a top crust is probably a good idea.
Anyway, the next two came out of the oven with golden crusts and cute cutouts. (This is truly a victory for one who has never made the American tradition without supervision.) The success of the desserts probably had something to do with adhering more closely to the recipe of stellar baker, Jeanne. She is one those baking maestros who concocts her divine creations with “a little bit of this, a pinch of that.” So we are blessed to have her write anything down!
The Ninja Baker's version of Jeanne's Apple Pie
Note: Granny Smiths are the hubby’s faves so no Fujis were used. But I did sprinkle in some brown sugar. And glad I did. The tangy spike of the green apples, to my taste, does need a little sweetening. Last but not least, I discovered whether you use organic pastry flour or all-purpose, the following produces a perfect crust.
Jeanne’s Apple Pie
3 cups flour
2 1/4 sticks butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons Crisco
1/3 - 1/2 cup ice water
Add salt to the flour. Cut in butter and Crisco until it is the size of small peas. Add enough ice water for the dough to hold together. Divide in half. Wrap in plastic and chill overnight. Roll out dough to desired thickness.
12 Fuji apples
(The Ninja Baker needed only 5 Granny Smiths for each pie.)
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Peel and slice apples in a large bowl. Toss with other ingredients. Pour apples into a prepared pie crust. Cut vents in the top crust for venting. Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes.
I'd hold three thumbs up if I could for Jeanne's apple pie recipe!
?Time away from corporate life had lead me into classes for cake-decorating. And fun with dance classmate Betty's Fruit Tart.
Betty’s Fruit Tart
1 cup butter or margarine
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup nuts (The Ninja Baker substituted wheat germ for those who have allergies. And it worked out just fine.)
Blend all of the above ingredients in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (Betty likes to increase the measurements for the above ingredients for her tart pan.) Press the mixture into a 9” by 13” pan or an 11” tart pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes.
2 packages of 8-ounce cream cheese (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
If you only have one package of cream cheese, cut the above measurements in half. Rest assured your creation will still be beautiful. (Betty whips up half the recipe above and her tarts are always gorgeous.)
Mix the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and eggs until well blended. Then, pour the cream cheese mixture into the crust. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Before placing the tart into the oven, decorate the top of the filling with sliced canned fruit (such as peaches and pears.) Fan the fruit into a circular pattern. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar (equal parts of spice and sweet) on top.
This time I practiced my sunflower decoration and used fresh blueberries. But the cinnamon topping on peaches and pears sounds great!
To practice my drop flowers, I made bite-size lemon cupcakes. Click on this link for cupcake-creations.com to see the recipe. The site’s frostings are fantastic, too. However, if you are planning to do any decorating, choose a buttercream… After much experimentation I realized my cake-decorating instructor was right. Recipes containing actual butter is not ideal for piping…Hear me whisper the name of the magical substance which helps flowers keep their form: Crisco! Maybe Minny, the renowned cook in the bestselling book and movie, The Help is right. Crisco is a wondrous substance. After all, “Crisco ain’t just for frying. You ever get a sticky something stuck in your hair, like gum? Crisco. Spread this (Crisco) on a baby’s bottom, you won’t even know what diaper rash is. Shoot, I seen ladies rub it under they eyes and on their husband’s scaly feet. And after all that Crisco will still fry your chicken.”
The Ninja Baker's mini orange cupcakes with orange and chocolate frosting circle almond toffee cookies.
However, for non-decoration frosting, background color as it were, light not-so-sweet icings like Martha Stewart’s lavender-spiked variety is a perfect choice. Certainly, FOX TV’s Bones’ peerless prop people, Ian Scheibel and Andy Amicangelo (pictured above alongside a photo of the cupcakes) seemed to delight in my vanilla cake avec lavender, adorned with buttercream flowers.
If you are a purist, however, and can easily survive without buttercream decorations, Julia Child’s (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) orange cake recipe (adapted by the Ninja Baker into cupcakes) was a hit with my friends Masuno-san and Akio-san. The frosting (from allrecipes.com) and the cake both call for quite a bit of fresh orange. (I also topped off some of the cupcakes with chocolate frosting. I used the recipe off the Ghirardelli cocoa container.)
Akio-san picks up an orange cupcake with Ghiradelli frosting while
Life does have its shares of twists and turns but as my Salsa teacher, says, “Dance into the stretches.” And as I chassé down the hall of the unknown, mostly, I’ve enjoyed heavenly flowers and fruits.
The Ninja Baker