Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Repainting a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

Here's yet another "I'm not dead!" message.  No, I'm not dead.  Yes, I disappeared for a year plus.  And yet again, things are very different.

First off, I bought a house.  (WHAT?!!!)  I originally started this blog back in 2011 when I bought my first house, but then I hadn't bought a house because the seller had committed fraud.  That's why most of the blog entries are about baking.  For the first couple of years, I was settled in a nice house that I was renting and things were fine.  Then I started moving every year into different apartments and my commute got longer, so it became more difficult to find the time to blog.  Now that I've actually bought a house, I'm trying to start blogging again.  The blog will have a lot more DIY content than baking content for 6-10 months, simply because there isn't a really functional kitchen right now and I'm at the beginning of the remodeling process.  Hopefully I will have a lovely, complete kitchen at the end of this and will go back to baking posts as well as DIY.

This post is half and half baking and DIY: how to repaint a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

I received one as a present several years ago and I love it, but the color was not my favorite.  It was also the reason that the price had been dropped.  (I also love finding great deals so it made the present even better to me that my mother found it on super clearance.)  Kitchen Aid had made a deal with the pink-ribbon-for-breast-cancer group where they donated some amount of profit for every stand mixer in the pink-ribbon color that was sold.  But that pink color is really bright and not the best for a small kitchen appliance, so they didn't sell well.  My mother found this stand mixer for something like 50% off.  Awesome!

There were two blog posts about repainting Kitchen Aids that I used as guides:  Apartment Therapy and reality day dream.  They were both very helpful and made me think that I could actually do this project, but they were also a little bit light on the details.  The most important thing I can say about my experience is this nugget of wisdom: don't be stupid like me.  In this case, "stupid" means deciding that something small can be fixed and making an even bigger problem out of it.

This project should have taken about a week, but it took me about 2 weeks due to a combination of things that I ran into that weren't mentioned in the blogs I looked at and me doing stupid stuff.  I also used just about an entire spray paint can of color and clear coat due to the number of repaints and touch-ups that I did.  The good news is that even with all of the mistakes I made, the results look great.  If I can do this, anybody can do it.

This entry is very image heavy because it's easier to show some of the details using pictures rather than with a description.

Materials for repainting a Kitchen Aid stand mixer:

  • good quality cleanser + rags
  • paper towel
  • rubber gloves
  • painter's tape
  • phillips head screwdriver (plus a flathead screwdriver if you take out the carbon brushes)
  • small, angled-head paintbrush
  • plastic sheeting or a tarp
  • two small wooden blocks (or something else to elevate the stand mixer off the ground)
  • sandpaper or sanding block (180 to 220 grit)
  • good quality spray paint
  • good quality clear enamel gloss spray paint

Part 1: Preparation

The preparation is really important for this project.  Before you do anything else, make sure to thoroughly wash the mixer with a good quality all-purpose cleanser to get any grease and food particles off of it.  Anything that's left will be painted over.  Next, take off the parts of the mixer that are easy to remove.  Apartment Therapy recommends taking pictures of the mixer with all parts attached so that you know where to put things back on.  I did not have any problem remembering where all of the parts went because I didn't take very many parts off.  I put all of the screws and the feet into a sandwich baggy which kept me from losing anything important.  Also, don't take the machine head off.  You'll be tempted to but it's a real pain to get the alignment and balance right when you put it back on.

The attachment screw and plate at the front of the head are easy to remove: unscrew the big black screw handle until it comes out of the mixer and pull off the plate that's embossed with "Kitchen Aid".  To remove the back hood, unscrew the small silver screw at the top back of the mixer.  To remove the skinny silver strip that runs around the top body of the mixer, unscrew the two small silver screws that hold it in place at the back of the motor.  You must remove the back hood first to get easier access to these two screws.  This strip will have grease build-up on the inside of the strip and the machine head.  That's a normal by-product of using this in a kitchen and doesn't mean that anything is broken.  Clean the grease from the mixer head and the metal strip.  The bowl clamping plate has 3 larger silver screws holding it in place to the base of the machine which are easy to remove.

The back hood screw is at the top left (dark blue arrow), the silver metal strip is held in place by two screws at the back (white arrow), the bowl clamping plate is at the bottom of the stand mixer (dark blue arrow), and the attachment screw and plate are at the front of the mixer (dark blue arrow).  If you're removing the carbon brush, carefully unscrew the two large, flat black screws in the middle of the body of the mixer (one on each side) and catch the springs and carbon brushes as they come out.

After removing the bowl clamping plate
After removing the attachment screw and plate and the skinny silver metal strip that runs around the mixer.  Clean the grease off from under the silver metal strip.
Clean off the grease that's on the inside of the silver metal strip.

I ended up removing the carbon brush screws (the two large, flat black screws on either side of the mixer) but you may not need to do that for your color.  The pink was so bright that is was still visible on the inside of the screw holes, so I decided to remove the carbon brushes to paint the holes.  If you decide to remove the carbon brushes and screws, be careful when unscrewing the brushes.  There is a strong bronze spring that is held in place by each of the screws, and the carbon brushes are on the end of the springs.  When you unscrew the carbon brush screws, the springs will try to pop out with a lot of force.  Make sure that you don't loose the carbon brushes because the stand mixer can't work without them.  (See below for more details on the carbon brushes.)

To remove the feet, turn the stand mixer upside down.  My mixer has 5 white rubber feet that easily pull off and on.  I stored them in the baggy with the rest of the screws while I painted the mixer.

Once you have removed all of the parts that you want to, gently sand the stand mixer.  The goal is to remove the glossy top coat without removing the paint.  You do not want to sand through to the metal.  I used a 180 grit sandpaper block, and cut out small pieces of 220 grit sandpaper for small, hard to sand places.  The sandpaper block is very useful for this type of project and is worth the money.  Sand the mixer in a gentle circular motion.  You will see white dust accumulating and the mixer will lose some of its shine.  Wipe all of the dust off the mixer with a damp paper towel or rag.  Make sure to get all of the dust so that it doesn't end up glued to the mixer with paint.

It's a big difficult to see in this picture, but the mixer has been sanded and is not as shiny as it originally was.
The sanding is easier to see.  I had to sand some of this in straighter lines rather than in circles because of the shape of the mixer.

You want to be sure that you have completely taped up any part of the stand mixer than you don't want paint to get on.  Feel free to use more than one layer of tape.  To cover screws, put a piece of tape over them, trace the outline of the screw with your fingernail, and either cut the tape with your fingernail or with a box cutter to lift off all of the tape except what's directly over the screw.

Put a large piece of tape over the screw, find the outline and cut around it, and remove the excess tape.
With the screw covered and the motor and power cord taped off.

Make sure to cover all parts of the motor.  I covered the motor with a small sheet of plastic drop cloth, and then taped over the entire motor.  To keep the cord clean, I taped halfway down the cord and then put the rest in a plastic bag, which I taped in place to keep it from sliding.  Make sure to put the bag far enough down the cord that it's easy to move the cord out of the way, and that the bag isn't hanging straight off the top of the cord or it will fall into the wet paint on the neck.

I taped over the control knobs and then taped down the control arms as far as I could until they went into the machine.

Control knobs and arms are taped.  Next, I taped up all of the remaining metal parts.  Note that I did not sand the rotating underside of the machine head.
The most awkward parts to tape are the small metal parts that are in the rotating underside of the machine head.  It's important to not push the spring upwards when putting tape on the attachment coupler or the tape will get pushed down by the force of the spring.  Don't miss the two small screws that are behind the rotating part.  To tape the circular metal band that runs around the rotating machine head, I used small pieces of tape that were short in length because they were easier to place accurately.

When you tilt the head back, you will see a large silver screw head in the neck.  This is an adjustment screw for the height of the rotating head relative to the bowl height (i.e. you use this to adjust the height of the whip if it's hitting the bottom of the bowl).  You don't have to cover this if you don't want to but the end result looks better if you do (IMHO).

The height adjustment screw is inside the neck.
Overall, it took me about 30 minutes to clean and sand the mixer and remove the parts, and then about 2 hours to tape up everything.  Each time I thought that I was finished taping, I noticed another little screw.  Take your time with this part and do it right!  This will really help the end result look crisp and sharp.

Don't forget to put tape in the attachment hole to seal it up.  You don't want to fill that with paint or it could cause problems when using attachments in the future.  I balled up a piece of tape and used that to fill up most of the hole, and then put a flat piece of tape over the hole and gently pushed it in using my thumb.  It filled up the hole and sealed it up to the inside edges.

With all parts taped and ready to go.  There is a big piece of tape in the attachment hole.
All taped up and ready for painting.


Part 2: Painting

This is where I made all of my mistakes.  So again, my helpful advice is to not be stupid like me!

Based on my previous spray paint experiences, I use Rustoleum products.  They spray well, cover well, are glossy and shiny when they should be, and the sprayers don't clog up.  I was really tempted to paint the stand mixer teal (one of my favorite colors) but I decided to go with traditional navy blue because I haven't made any color decisions about my kitchen.  Navy blue goes with many color schemes and I didn't want to take the time to paint it only to end up deciding to change the color because it clashes with the backsplash.  I used a paint+primer product that works on metal (and other materials).  You should only be spray painting metal in this project.  The top coats were done with Rustoleum clear enamel gloss.  This product is nice and shiny, and you will want to put on 3 to 4 top coats.  Make sure to follow the specific instructions on the paint can!

Navy blue and clear glossy, ready to go

First lesson learned: do the painting with the mixer elevated off of the plastic or tarp, or pick up and move the mixer before the paint really starts to dry.  In this case, the issue isn't that the paint will stick to the plastic and start to peel off when you pick the mixer up, it's that the paint will puddle at the bottom of the mixer and you will end up with a thick, lumpy edge of paint at the bottom.  I put the mixer on a couple extra blocks of wood.

Just after spraying on the first coat of navy blue.  I haven't moved the mixer to the block and flange yet.

Second lesson learned: turn the mixer over and do the first coat from upside down.  This sounds strange, but it's very difficult to paint some parts of the mixer when it's right-side up, like the rotating part of the machine head.  Do the upside down coat first, and only worry about painting the areas that are obviously only easy to get to when the mixer is upside down.  You don't need to do a full paint job on the mixer when it's upside down, you just want to hit the parts that you would need to turn the paint can upside down to hit when the mixer is right-side up.

Once the first coat was cured (24 hours), I turned the mixer upside down and got the rotating machine head part and the base of the mixer.

Third lesson learned: don't try to spray paint every nook and cranny.  Both of the tutorials that I followed just said that they spray painted and then the whole mixer was done.  That was not my experience at all.  In fact, I made things harder on myself by trying to spray paint every inch.  The paint ended up getting very thick in some places and then the thickened paint got scraped off by the movement of the mixer parts.  Specifically, the speed adjustment knob arm and head locking knob arm (one on each side of the mixer) kept scraping off the paint and it took me days to figure out that I had sprayed on the paint so thickly that moving the knobs was what was removing the paint.

Instead of spraying every inch of the mixer with paint, use a thin, angled paint brush to get the parts that need only a thin layer of paint.  To get the paint out of the can for the brush, hold the can a couple of inches away from the plastic drop cloth and spray out a small amount of paint.  The paint will puddle up and you can dip the brush into the pool of paint.

In my case, the area directly under the two control knob arms (not on the side of the machine but towards the interior, directly under the arms) were seriously problematic.  I ended up cutting out a small square of sandpaper, sanding off all of the paint that I put on, and then lightly painting on a thin layer with the paintbrush.  That was the only thing I tried that worked really well.

To sandpaper under the arms, I took a small square of 220 grit sandpaper (maybe 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch), wiggled it under the arms so that it laid flat with the gritty side down against the paint and with a decent sized part of a corner sticking out, and then rubbed back and forth to get the old paint off.  It's tricky but you can do it if you need to.

There were also some smaller areas in the neck that were difficult to spray paint because the head had to be tilted back to access them so I couldn't paint them when the mixer was upside down, but I also couldn't get a good angle with the paint can because the neck didn't go back far enough.  That ended up being another "super thick paint causing issues" area, and again I used a small square of 220 grit sandpaper to clean it up, and then used the little paintbrush to apply one thin coat of paint.

I recommend painting with the paintbrush before doing the first full right-side up coat of paint.  This will make it easier to have the paintbrush-applied sections blend with the sprayed-on sections.  Not that there is any obvious difference to the eye - I only know where they are because I painted them.

The first time I saw this, I thought it was because I hadn't moved the knob between coats of paint.  That was true, but it kept happening after every repainting coat.  I eventually sanded off the paint and redid it with a thin paintbrush.
The actual paintbrush.  It's hard to see in this photo, but it's an angled brush.
For some reason, the area right around the adjustment screw in the neck didn't take the spray paint very well.  I ended up sanding it down and painting with the paintbrush.
Because I was tilting the head up and down while the paint was wet, some paint got on the neck rotors and made the smooth tilting motion more sticky.  I scraped most of the paint off with my thumbnail.

Fourth lesson learned: only do very light coats of paint.  It's tempting to do several thicker coats instead of 3-4 very light misting coats of paint.  Don't do it!  I had several drips that weren't visible when I was painting but once everything was dry, the outlines of the drips were obvious.  There were several large drips on the neck that I ended up sanding back down to the original pink paint and then spraying again with navy blue and then clear.

Mentally prepare yourself for how long the painting part will be.  When you're applying the new color, do several very light misting coats and don't rush things.  Follow the instructions for drying times and curing times.  I decided to let the navy blue paint cure before applying the glossy top coat, so that added 24 hours to my painting time.  The curing time may be different depending on what product you use, so always follow the instructions for your paint.

The same lesson is true for the glossy top coat.  Don't rush!  Putting on a thicker top coat made the mixer so shiny and pretty, until I looked at the other side and there were big drips running down it.  I tried to fix it by painting them out with the paintbrush but it was too late, and I had to wait until the paint had dried and then sand the drips off and repaint both the navy blue and the top coat.  Don't be stupid like me!

And whatever you do, don't use the mixer until all of the paint is cured.  Curing is different from drying - paint that is dried to the touch hasn't completely bonded chemically to whatever object it's on and can still be messed up.  Generally you need to wait 24 to 48 hours for the colored and clear paint to completely cure.  A good way to test if the glossy top coat is cured is to press on it with the edge of your fingernail.  If that leaves a small indentation, then it hasn't finished curing.

Fifth lesson learned: natural light is best.  I did the original two coats of navy blue in the basement with fluorescent lights because it was raining (ah, the Pacific northwest) but on the second day it actually got sunny.  That's when I moved the mixer outside to the front porch and the drips in the navy blue paint were suddenly really obvious.  If it's at all possible, do the painting part in natural light, next to a window or outdoors.

Sixth lesson learned: most mistakes are fixable.  With a fancy shmancy project like this, it was surprising how easy it was to fix stupid painting errors.

The first big mistake I made was that I dropped the mixer when I was carrying it upstairs.

The big ding is right below the screw.
The mixer ended up with a big ding right below the screw on one side of the neck.  I tried to fix it by spraying on more paint, which did not work:

Big bubble of paint
I added too much paint too quickly and while I covered the ding, I ended up with a paint bubble above the screw and a thick paint edge at the base of the machine head.

If you make a mistake, wait for the paint to dry (about an hour or so), sand off the mistake, and repaint.  The sanding block and the sheet of sandpaper were both useful for this.  I used the sanding block for the larger mistakes and the sandpaper for the hard to reach mistakes.

This is actually a different mistake in the same spot caused by me trying to fix yet another, different mistake.
If you end up getting paint on something metal, you can literally scrape it off with your fingernail once the paint has dried.  Don't try to get the paint off when it's wet because you'll just end up smearing the paint around.  Once it's dry, gently scrape it off with your fingernail.

Due to the truly ridiculous number of mistakes that I went back and fixed, I ended up using the entire can of navy blue paint and glossy enamel paint.  If you're more careful than I am, it will take less paint and less time (because I had to wait for the paint to dry after each mistake).  It should take about a week total for the entire project (including the curing time) but it took me a good two weeks.

My mixer has gotten a lot of use and has accumulated some decent nicks and bumps.  There are some small areas where the paint isn't quite smooth and not quite as shiny due to the bumps but I'm probably the only person who'll notice.  It's okay to repaint an old mixer that gotten banged up.  Just do your best to sand out the paint scrapes and bumps as much as possible.

Because it was so easy to fix mistakes, it was also easy to decide to paint an area that I originally wasn't going to paint.  This is the carbon brush screws areas.

The large, flat black screws on both sides of the head of the mixer are the screws that hold the carbon brushes in place.  These guys:

You can still see the pink around the inside edges of screw holes so I decided to take out the screws and paint the holes blue.

Neither of the two blogs that I used as guides mentioned anything about these screws and all of the final pictures look great, so I suppose they didn't have any issues with them.  But on my machine, the bright pink paint on the inside of the screw holes was blindingly obvious.  So after I finished the entire paint job, I decided to remove these screws, paint the holes with the paintbrush, and put the screws back in.  These screws hold the carbon brushes, which are on long springs.  One end of the spring pushes against the inside of the screws and one end has the brushes which are pushed into the carbon holes:

With the screw removed.  I've also sanded down the problem area below the head tilt arm and I painted the screw hole and that small area at the same time using the paintbrush.
Be careful when you unscrew the screws because the springs are pressing on them and will literally try to spring out of the holes if you just pull the screws out like they were normal screws.  When you've got the screws loosened, slowly pull them straight out the holes.  The end of the springs sit inside a small circle on the interior end of the screws.  Once you slowly remove the screws, you can slide the springs out.  The carbon brushes are on the end of the springs:

These keeps your machine running
Although the carbon brushes look like they're square shaped, they actually not.  Three of the four corners are 90 degrees, but one of the corners is actually 45 degrees and that side of the carbon brush is visibly flattened compared to the other three.  You can kind of see it in the picture above.  This is important because the carbon brushes have to be reinstalled correctly or the motor won't turn on (if you're lucky).  Here are a couple of links about people who have removed the carbon brushes and what happened when they didn't put them back in correctly: question 1 and question 2.  Don't be intimidated by these stories but do remember that the orientation of the carbon brushes is important.

To put the carbon brushes back in correctly, look down the holes for the carbon brushes using a flashlight.  You'll see that three of the corners at the ends of the holes are ninety degrees and that one corner has a small bump shape in it.  This bump doesn't run the length of the hole - it's only at the end in the inside of the machine head so that's why you need the flashlight to see it.  If you know what you're looking for, it's easy to find.  The motor shouldn't turn on if the rotation of the carbon brushes are wrong.  So if you think you've got them in correctly but your stand mixer doesn't turn on, double-check them.

If you're lucky, the springs will stay in place when you remove the screws and you can carefully paint around them.

If you're really lucky, you've got an original color that doesn't show through and you can just skip this.

Part 3: Reassembly

Hooray, you've made it!  

Once the paint has completely cured, you can put all of the parts that you took off back on.  With the exception of the carbon brushes, there isn't anything complicated about this part.  The screws on my bowl clamping plate, skinny metal strip, and back hood were all slightly different sizes so I literally couldn't mix them up.  It took about 5 minutes to reattach everything.  Make sure you put the skinny metal strip back on before the back hood.

It turned out so pretty!
One everything was put back on and I was ready to celebrate, I discovered the gross amount of adhesive left on the power cord from the painter's tape.  Glue is a pain to remove, but fortunately I had a bottle of gojo:

I adore this stuff
I've always kept a bottle of gojo around ever since my high school days when we used it in auto shop.  It's a very serious exfoliator and it smells good, like oranges.  I used a green scrubber pad (like for washing dishes) with gojo and it removed the adhesive from the power cord and all of the paint from my hands (which is why I've got rubber gloves listed in the materials section).

At the end of this, I absolutely love the way my stand mixer turned out and I'm not sorry that I tried this.

Classic navy blue goes well with stainless steel

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Matcha Mother's Swiss Roll (Vanilla, Green Tea, and Chocolate Swiss Rolls)

I apologize for the terrible post title but I couldn't resist the urge to make a stupid pun.

Usually I start a post with a story or an explanation of how I decided to try making the recipes covered in the post.  But this time there's nothing special about it: I just googled recipes that use matcha (green tea).  I was in the mood for baking something that was matcha flavored, found a recipe for a green tea Swiss roll, and liked the look of it.  Nothing fancy.

Swiss rolls apparently aren't Swiss at all.  They come in a variety of flavors and the filling (usually whipped cream) can also have pieces of fresh fruit in it.  It turns out that I spent my childhood eating the "Hong Kong" style of Swiss rolls from the Chinese bakeries in San Francisco without realizing that the European versions are much sweeter.  I prefer the less sweet style, especially when it lets the taste of any fruit in the filling come through more (mango!!! yum).

The green tea Swiss roll recipe I found by googling comes from KitchenTigress's blog, and she is from Singapore.  I got lucky and happened to find a recipe that is in the Hong Kong style without knowing it.  I tried three different cake variations (vanilla, matcha, and chocolate), and two different filling variations (flavored whipped cream only or whipped cream with fruit).

While looking up Swiss roll facts for this blog post, I also found out that most people have trouble with the cake cracking and splitting when they roll it.  I did not have any of these problems when using KitchenTigress's recipe as the base for my experiments.  This is because Kitchen Tigress designed her recipe to produce a cake that is 1) moist and 2) stretchy and flexible.

The Pioneer Woman's post on Swiss rolls shows an excellent example of the cake cracking.  This is not a criticism of the Pioneer Woman, it's just the reality that most people face when making Swiss rolls.

The other major difference I found while googling is that people recommend rolling the cake while it's hot and letting it cool down, then unrolling it to fill it and then re-rolling it back up again.  I let the cake cool down completely before spreading on the filling and rolling and didn't have to rush through any steps.

This was the result of my first attempt at a Swiss roll using Kitchen Tigress's Vanilla Swiss roll recipe:

Vanilla Swiss roll with whipped cream filling and mandarin orange slices
The little black square is where a piece was when I dusted with powdered sugar but I ate the piece before I took this picture.
It was great.

The hardest part of the green tea recipe was remembering to double the ingredient quantities after converting from metric to imperial units.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The Injera Experiment: Mildly Successful

This post is a little bit different from the other posts because it's not about baking desserts, but it is about experimenting in the kitchen.  In this case, I tried making Ethiopian food.  If you've never had the chance to try Ethiopian cuisine, you are missing out!

There are several wonderful things to enjoy about Ethiopian cuisine, including the fact that it has a lot of vegan and vegetarian options and that injera (flatbread) is gluten-free.  I've gone out to Ethiopian restaurants when I know that I'm going to be eating with people who have dietary restrictions.  The main Ethiopian meal of the day generally has several different types of vegetable stews and may also have a spicy meat dish, which are served on large pieces of injera.  You rip off smaller pieces of injera and use it to scoop up mouthfuls of food.  The injera also absorbs the flavors of the food that's on top of it, so when you're done eating the stews there is flavor-infused injera left to finish off the meal.

There are several cities in the US with large Ethiopian and Eritrean populations, and I ended up living in three of them: Washington DC (largest Ethiopian population in the US), Los Angeles, and Oakland.  While my Ethiopian cooking skills may be lacking, I have extensive practice at eating in Ethiopian restaurants.

After a really nice dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant several weeks ago, I was lying on my bed in a food coma and googled Ethiopian recipes to see how difficult it was to make what we had had for dinner.  To my surprise, all of the recipes looked very easy.  The biggest problem was that I was missing two major ingredients: teff flour and berbere spice.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Macaron Madness: 10 Batches in 2 Weeks

Everybody describes making macarons as difficult.  Everybody also has a set of rules for making macarons: the egg whites must be aged! the egg whites must be at room temperature! you must sift the powdered sugar and almond mixture at least three times! the French meringue method is better!  no, the Italian method is better!

I took two week off work for the holidays at the end of December and made lots of plans, of which I actually did none. What I ended up doing was lying in bed and binge-watching the Great British Bake Off.  This is a fantastic show and I recommend that anybody who is into amateur baking should give it a try.  It is literally just about baking, and the judges' comments are very helpful.  One contestant made a quick comment while making macarons, which got me thinking about how all of my macarons came out perfectly in DC and failed miserably in SF.  So I decided to fix the problem.

An important point to know is that macarons (mah-kah-rohns) and macaroons (mah-ka-roons) are not the same thing.  They're derived from the same word which is why the names are similar, but the cookies are not:

This picture is supposedly from I Do Believe I Came With A Hat but I got it from this Pintrest page.
If you're Ashkenazi Jewish like me, you are mostly likely unfortunately aware of macaroons because they don't contain any flour and are commonly served as dessert during Passover, straight out of the Manischewitz tin.  They are terrible.

Macarons, on the other hand, are small sugar bomb sandwiches that have a softer filling and a crunchy outer shell of meringue.  It's these shells that have the reputation for being so difficult to get right.

This blog entry is a little bit different from the others.  It only has one recipe and details all of the various things I did to get these suckers to come out right.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

California Cottage Food Law: Cardamom Cupcakes with Plum Swiss Meringue Frosting and Pomegranate Seeds

In one of the more "San Francisco" things that's ever happened to me, a couple of guys showed up to my last baking potluck and hustled us for their new baking internet start-up.  Yes, you read that correctly: a baking internet start-up.  Ah, the joys of living in SF.

Their basic business plan is that they have arranged all of the pesky non-baking details, like setting up a secure online payment system, contracting out with a delivery business, etc.  This leaves bakers with only thing to worry about: baking.

They've got several bakeries signed up and using their website but they specifically came to my potluck because they're trying to get home bakers who want to have their own from-home baking business to use their website.  They wanted to get some of us interested and to essentially be the from-home baking beta testers.

This is where the California Cottage Food Law comes into play.  As of January 1 2013, cottage food business became legal in the state of California.  A cottage food business is any food production business where the food product is manufactured in a non-commercial cooking space (i.e. a home kitchen).  Commercial food production facilities are monitored by the state for health and safety and food production business are licensed.  Before the Cottage Food Law was passed, all cottage food production was illegal.

So these guys are aiming for this new business area.  Leaving aside issues such as if it's worth it to run a cottage food business and if it's really possible to make money from a cottage food business, there's one major problem: frosting is not legal.

As odd as that sounds, there's a very logical reason for this and it's codified in the law.  "Baked goods, without cream, custard, or meat fillings" and "Flat icing" are legal, as is "Buttercream frosting, buttercream icing, buttercream fondant, and gum paste that do not contain eggs, cream, or cream cheese".  Now if you're wondering exactly how it is that you're supposed to make frosting that doesn't contain eggs, cream, or cream cheese, the answer is that it's very difficult.  I suppose you could make something vegan but I have yet to try a vegan version of buttercream or Swiss meringue frosting that doesn't taste like a gigantic sugary mess.  The law specifically excludes eggs, cream, and cream cheese because of problems with refrigeration.  Eggs especially can be vectors for bacteria and the state cannot inspect and license non-commercial food production facilities, so the compromise is to allow cottage food businesses to make and sell food types that aren't well known for spreading illnesses and food poisoning.

Basically, the start-up guys didn't do their homework.  If you want to (or already are) run your own cottage food business, do your homework!  Check your state laws and make sure that you're not accidentally breaking any laws.  I had no idea about the restrictions in the California law until I looked it up.  Ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law.  If you have a cottage food business and make somebody ill by selling any illegal food types, you are going to be in serious trouble.

The theme of the potluck where I got hustled was "autumn spice".  Although Americans seem to be obsessed with pumpkin spice, I decided to use cardamom, which is a spice that I ate a lot of when I was kid and we lived in the Middle East.  It's a standard spice in the Levant but for some reason it hasn't really got any traction in the US.  I don't know why - it's fantastic.  I also made the Swiss meringue frosting again for practice and I think that I've finally got the piping figured out.  Check out how pretty this cupcake was:

Then I accidentally washed the piping tip down the drain when I washed up.  Oops.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Nectarine Peach Cupcakes with Mango Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting (aka Still Alive!)

It has been roughly 15 months since my last post.  If anybody is actually following this blog, I apologize for disappearing.  There are lots of reasons for not updating but they all boil down to the same idea: life happened.  My job got very busy, I moved, traveled to other countries, got a lung infection that knocked me out for 3 months, my father got meningitis, my sister had a baby, I got called for jury duty, my sister had a baby, and various other stuff.  Unfortunately the jury duty was not for anything even remotely resembling My Cousin Vinny.

When I am stressed out or low on time and/or energy, I end up baking the same set of trusted recipes over and over again.  Last month I decided that it was time to start trying new recipes again so I signed up for a cupcake potluck with the theme of "Summer Cupcakes".  This summer has been very bad in the Bay Area: for all intents and purposes, we are out of water.  There are large wildfires all over the state and the Pacific Northwest, to the point where sometimes the air looks like the smog back in LA in the 1970's.  We are supposed to get a massive El Nino this winter but I'm not putting any faith in the weather predictions.  I did not make "on fire without any water" cupcakes but I was tempted to.

My new kitchen is large but old and very run down, so there's no counter space and very little storage space.  The oven is so old and disgusting that I have to remove the battery in the smoke detector every time I turn it on since it produces enough smoke to set the stupid thing off.  I've cleaned the oven numerous times but nothing can remove the build up due to 40 years of use.  I get a real sense of accomplishment when I produce anything from this oven that looks good, tempered with some serious frustration about how gross and difficult to use it is.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Portmanteaus: Canmoneesecake and Doffins

Portmanteau recipes have become really trendy in baking circles ever since the cronut became so popular.  Ridiculously popular, really - the wikipedia article for cronuts says that people were selling them on the black market for $100.  A black market for upscale New York City bakery items.  My mind is officially boggled.

Now that I'm going to a monthly potluck (thanks, M and S!), I've got a regular schedule for experimenting.  This time I scrolled through my enormous collection of untried recipes and selected the first two that caught my eye: candied lemon cheesecake and sugar doughnut muffins (aka doffins).  I hadn't tried any portmanteau recipes before this so I figured I'd jump on the bandwagon.  Who doesn't want a sugar doughnut muffin?

I've also been making lots of cheesecakes lately.  Although I don't really like cheesecake that much, I do enjoy making cheesecakes.  It's a win-win: I make it and somebody else eats most of it.  This recipe was intriguing because it included candied lemons, which I've been wanting to try making for a while.  It also has a crust that isn't made out of graham crackers.  The question of what to use instead of graham crackers if you're outside the US has been discussed by lots of people (1, 2, 3, 4) so I figured I'd give that a try as well.

With the exception of the candied lemons, both of these recipes were very easy to make (almost).  I put together the doffin batter while the cheesecake was baking and still had time to wash the dishes.

The cheesecake had a really nice, light texture.  I'm planning to use this recipe and swap out the lemon zest for other flavors (matcha green tea, cocoa, vanilla).

The only snag was that the ingredient list for the cheesecake didn't list the amounts of the ingredients very clearly.  The crust is made with biscotti, and the recipe said "12 biscotti".  How much is 12 biscotti?  I had mini-biscotti instead of full-sized biscotti and I started off using 24 biscotti and then kept adding until there was enough crust to cover the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.  I have fixed the recipe so that it has volume, mass, or weight measurements.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Organization! Bitter Orange and Blueberry (Blackberry) Tart

Second post in a month!  Even though I wrote the last one in February but didn't hit the "publish" button until March, it still counts!  I am an organized and responsible adult!  Right?  *crickets*

First off, the internet needs a sarcasm font.  Second, I really am trying to be organized and get new recipes written up in a timely fashion.  As strange as it sounds, being sick all of last week has been helpful for this because I've been compiling a very long list of all of the things that haven't gotten done while I've been lying in bed, awake and not hungry and on drugs.

My doctor gave me ephedrine (edit: actually pseudoephedrine) to help with the sinus infection.  Holy crap is that stuff a strong upper!  I was up all day Tuesday and part of Wednesday, about 30 hours total.  I was so completely exhausted but I could not fall asleep.  I lay in bed and watched the sun rise on Wednesday morning and couldn't figure out what was going on.  I also didn't eat for a couple of days because I just wasn't hungry even though I could feel literal hunger pains in my stomach.  And I was still pretty congested.  So I ended up with a very detailed list of everything that I needed to do as soon as I was better.

Blogging isn't very high on my priority list but to me it is symbolic of organization, probably because it isn't necessary for my life to keep functioning and therefore if I have time to blog then it means that I have finished all of the truly important items on my life to-do list.  At least, this seems to be what my subconscious thinks.  In reality, there are an infinite number of important items on my life to-do list that are breeding with each other and spawning more important items when I'm not looking.  But at least I'm blogging.  Priorities!

I've made this recipe twice, once to try it out and which I completely forgot to take pictures of, and the second time because lots of people liked the first attempt and to take some photos.  The original recipe is from Nigella but isn't on her website.  Food.com has it, complete with automatic US/metric conversion.  Unfortunately the automatic converter is literal so it doesn't convert mass to weight (maybe I should do a post on the different measurement systems...).  This means that the recipes ends up with ingredients like "0.39 pounds plain flour".  The recipe below is from the American version of How To Be A Domestic Goddess and has more useful measurements.

Although the recipe title says "blueberry" and the recipe calls for blueberries, I used blackberries.  This doesn't have anything to do with what's in season.  The first time I made this tart, I saw the recipe and thought, "orange and blueberry sounds like a great combination!", wrote down blackberries on my shopping list, bought blackberries, made the tart, made the blackberry topping, and was putting it on the tart before I realized that I was using the wrong fruit.  I liked the result enough to make it a second time.

This tart is not as sweet as most fruit tarts, so it's perfect to make if you or a friend don't like desserts that are too sweet.  If you want more sweetness, whipped cream or ice cream is a nice topping with the blackberries.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Second Time's the Charm

Edit #2: oh my god it's March.  At this point, there just isn't any excuse for how long this has taken to write up.  The good news is that I have made several other recipes since the Super Bowl potluck.  Hopefully each of those won't take a whole month to get finished.

Edit #1: This used to be a wonderfully amusing write-up of what I made for K and B's Super Bowl potluck. I saved it multiple times, got the pictures exactly the way I wanted them, and even bothered to spellcheck the post.  And then, for some unknown reason, everything except the first couple of paragraphs disappeared.

So the entire post is gone, never to return.  Instead, I will leave you with the best part of it:

That is the team with possession of the ball for the first play of the game loosing control of said ball and then everybody running crazily after it.  It set the tone for the rest of the game.

K and B had a potluck at their new place to watch the Super Bowl.  B was interested in watching because he's from Alaska and the Seattle Seahawks are the closest football team to Alaska, so he grew up rooting for them.  The rest of us were just there to have a potluck and hang out.  Luckily, the Denver Broncos played so badly that we all sat around and laughed at them for 2 hours.  It's nice to have something to bond over.

The "second time" in the title is actually a reference to the fact that I used the potluck as an excuse to fix a couple of recipes that hadn't turned out well the first time but which had promise (and to try something new, of course).  In January, I had tried making a nutella cheesecake and Nigella's gooey chocolate stack.  The cheesecake never solidified but tasted great and the chocolate stack melted but tasted great.  My course was clear: get the great tasting desserts to have the right consistency.  I also made a batch of cookies just in case things didn't work out.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Everything's New But The Recipes

The original draft of this entry had a very long and complicated explanation of what happened after I moved, but I deleted it because a) it was boring and b) it can be summed up in one sentence: my new commute is much longer than my old commute.  It really has taken me 5 months to get my work/life balance sorted out, and even that isn't really done yet.  I will be transferring to a different office that is much closer, hopefully in the spring.  (I have also been procrastinating and have not gotten myself organized, which wastes most of my free time.)

The other thing I'm missing is a potluck group.  Right now I don't bake very often because there isn't anybody to eat the results.  As I meet more people and make some new friends, I will also acquire new guinea pigs.

Because I haven't had that much time to bake, I've been falling back on old recipes that I know like the back of my hand.  I've blogged about some of them before (my mother's hallah), thought I blogged about them but apparently didn't (pavlovas), and blogged about something similar (pumkpin souffle) that I then combined with yet another recipe that I thought I had previously written about but which also doesn't have a post (sufganiyot).  I posted pictures of pavlovas and sufganiyot on facebook but never got around to making blog entries for either one.  Did I mention that I'm disorganized and procrastinate a lot?

So this post has 4 months worth of experimentation: 3 new recipes, 2 explanations of things that I haven't written about but should have, and 1 success.

The three new recipes are apple stuffed cardamom hallah, pavlova with raspberry-pomegranate topping, and pumpkin sufganiyot.  These are all adaptations of recipes that I really like, so I've posted the original recipes and the changes I made.

Moving takes weeks longer than just the actual act of moving physical things from one location to another.  Usually I spend the first two weeks unpacking things and then wandering around the apartment, vainly trying to remember where I put all of my stuff.  My apartment is from the 1950's and hasn't been updated since then except for the oven and fridge.  Things it doesn't have: lots of electrical outlets, muted color schemes, a dishwasher, or a garbage disposal.  This is the kitchen:

Lucy Ricardo would have loved this place.

Check out the bathroom:
It would be so classy if it was tiled in black and white.
I always laugh when anybody says that the 1950's were so glamorous, people knew how to dress and decorate, etc.  No.  Some of the worst color schemes ever showed up in the 1950's.  While I'm living here, I pretend that I am a time-traveling anthropologist who is studying how the natives live in their pink-and-maroon habitat.  This is a very nice apartment with the exception of the color schemes (one for every room!).