02 April 2011

Progressive Dinner!

My dorm house prepares a Progressive Dinner every year. "Progressive?!", you exclaim! Doesn't that sound pedantic? Is this dinner some kind of ceremony involving juniors progressing into seniors? Or, did some professor in this school donate a ton of money to a dinner fund (I wish) in his/her name? Contrary to the typical nomenclature here at Penn (every festival, building, public area, and urinal is apparently In Memory Of or In The Name Of), the name "Progressive" simply means that you start off on the first floor, with salads prepared by the people/RA/GA on the first floor, and move progressively up each floor to scavenge for food! The second floor is soup, the third floor is pasta, and the fourth floor is desserts. And desserts galore! GALORE! You know why it was desserts galore? We made a lot! Myriad! We didn't just stop at two or three varieties of baked goods; we flipped the fridge inside out, along with flipping some crepes!
Since the fourth floor was in charge of making desserts, and since I honestly have not been able to focus on academic subjects (exam in 24 hours...), I decided to devote my afternoon to mixing and decorating desserts. In all honesty, we made way too many chunks of sugary dough; the other floors didn't have multifarious dishes (I'll get to that later).

Since my Victoria sandwich cake was already in the oven when I went to the kitchen, the GA asked me to start making a white chocolate and hazelnut (well, walnut, because we didn't have any hazelnuts) cake using a recipe that TM had submitted, in which the ingredients were listed with the metric system. This was alright, because I had submitted a Victoria sandwich cake recipe which was originally in grams. By approximating everything through comparison (mathematics!), I managed to get a pretty thick cake batter (much like the Victoria sandwich cake batter, actually, although fat-free yogurt was used instead of butter). While I was debating whether or not the chocolate chips should be melted, TM came in and we finished making the cake together. He actually was going to make it himself since he had emailed only the ingredients and no method (and no amount of baking soda either...). We did melt the white chocolate chips in the end, and the cake turned out dense, not too sweet, tasty, and had a rather gluey texture.
The one failure adventurous part of this baking event was the German chocolate cake icing. I used a recipe from online, but it called for three raw egg yolks. Since this didn't seem like a good idea, I just decided to make the icing without it. Unfortunately, there was too much milk in the mixture (I suppose the egg yolks would've made everything thicker), and the butter was melted. In other words, I ended up with a fatty sugar soup, with coconut and pecans as garnish. After adding 2+ cups of confectioner's sugar, I poured half the "icing" on the cake to see whether it would dry and glaze.
It didn't. It just made half the cake soggy.
I didn't to waste the other half of the icing soup, so I decided to stick it on the stove, and hopefully evaporate some of that liquid. After a bit, I realised that I could make caramel! However, I've never successfully made caramel before; somehow, I always end up with something like the image above: a sugar crumble. It's delicious, yes, and a great cake topping (I ended up sprinkling this on top of the German chocolate cake and it looked really pretty. I also used it for the macaroons. I'm telling you; people loved this! People ate it! Fast!), but it isn't caramel. This summer, I WILL make legit caramel. I think it has something to do with the time I add the baking soda; as soon as my sugar mixture started to caramelise, I poured in a LOT of baking soda. Since it didn't look like it was going to set, I dumped in A LOT MORE baking soda. Then, it looked like the mixture was turning into custard, so I poured it into a pan...
Then, I tasted some, and it tasted bitter and salty, so I was upset. I started to stir the "custard" to hopefully allow the CO2 to escape (?) from the mixture. The "custard" then started crumbling, and shrivelling...and I ended up with a crumble. I will definitely go more in depth with caramel-making when I actually get to make caramel this summer...anyway, digression.
My GA made almond cupcakes with amaretto poured into them. I decorated them. I also ate one; there definitely was an almond taste, and it was really moist. Technically I'm not supposed to consume alcoholic substances. I'm not sure what amaretto tastes like, so I really can't say whether it enhanced the flavour of the cupcake. People actually seemed to like the German chocolate cake more than these cute cupcakes, which is saying something about how plating doesn't really matter for college students, haha.
Banana cupcakes (above) and banana bread (below). The ones on the left are decorated with my glaze icing, and then topped with my awesome-crumble-icing.
Cakes decorated by someone else. G4! That's where I live.
We also dipped delicious, moist coconut macaroons (that were really irregularly shaped) with melted chocolate, and the crumble-topping. They are beautiful!!
And finally...here is my Victoria sandwich cake! I didn't bake it, but I jammed it and added powdered sugar. Someone else added the strawberries. I suppose the point of this post is that the Progressive Dinner is about teamwork.
As a side note, this Victoria sandwich cake was less rich, with more evenly shaped holes in the sponge part. I think this is due to the fact that the butter was melted (read = completely liquid) before being mixed. The one I made before was made with solid butter, and the uneven globs, spread throughout, perhaps created a more homemade/less uniform texture while baking. This one was still delicious, though.
Cookies made with leftover toppings, some in muffin pans! That's why they are so round and/or irregularly shaped!
Now to talk about the actual dinner! I started off on the first floor, with the salads. There was pasta salad (with two types of pasta), which was pretty oily, and not really salty, which was nice. The leafy salad had tangerines inside, which was pretty neat.
...And then there was potato salad! FIVE huge containers of potato salad! It was absolutely amazing! I've decided to fall in love with paprika now.
The second floor was soup, and the only vegetarian one was creamy tomato soup, and I got literally 750ml of it. It was only a bit creamy, which was wonderful because I've had a really negative experience with the too-creamy-it's-almost-weird-it's-sour way like the one made by Pacific Natural Foods (you know, the one in the carton).

The third floor included many trays of pasta. I don't have pictures of these because the lighting was terrible, and, although the pasta and soup were delicious, they weren't that exceptional or photogenic. The main focus = dessert!!

1 comment:

  1. All of those desserts look amazing! I can't wait to eat, I mean participate and EAT next year!!!