Catering: Can’t Afford it? You can do it!

I have always wanted to host a  formal cocktail party with tons of tiny, beautiful hors d’oeuvres. This past weekend, I got my chance! Three weeks ago we got a new place in Berkeley (with enough space for a craft room!) and we used the opportunity to properly warm the place in high style. As someone with no steady income, buying catered food was out of the question, but I have a lot of time, which means it’s DIY time! The product of my toils was 72 Chocolate cupcakes with raspberry buttercream frosting, 30 mini apple-onion quiches, 36 mini bacon-apple-onion quiches, 24 mini broccoli quiches and one baguette’s worth of bruscetti. Below are some of the recipes I created or adapted for the event.

The cupcakes were made using Orangette‘s Far-From-Disaster Cake, by far the most delicate and moist chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever come across. A half recipe made 72 miniature cupcakes which I frosted with a Raspberry Buttercream adapted from Mommy23Monkeys.

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed raspberries (Don’t worry about bruising them.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp citric acid granules
  • 16 oz. powdered sugar
Directions: Blend together wet ingredients and citric acid. If you like your frosting sweeter, leave out the citric acid. They will not emulsify perfectly because the raspberry seeds will leave lumps, but get as close as you can. I like smoother frosting, so I strained out most of the seeds before blending these ingredients. Slowly add powdered sugar until the frosting is stiff and smooth. If you use lemon juice instead of citric acid granules, you will need extra powdered sugar, or meringue powder to give the frosting enough hold.

I dont own piping bags but I still wanted a consistent and beautiful finish for my tiny little desserts. I got a single piping tip for under $2 at Sur La Table which I inserted into the cut off corner of a ziplock bag. That saved me the $8 piping bag and still let me give my cupcakes the “professional” look I wanted for my swanky party. They got the stamp of approval from several foodie friends.

As for the quiche, I actually tried several crust recipes before I found one I was really happy with. In all cases, the key seems to be the temperature of the butter. The colder the butter is at the start of the process, the more flakey and tender the crust will be in the end. I ignored the baking instructions given by this recipe and used a three-inch circle cutter to stamp out little crusts. I dropped them into the tins by ruffling the edge and pierced the ever-loving heck out of the bottom of the crust to keep them from bubbling and deforming. I prebaked them at 350°F for 7 minutes the day before the party and stored them under plastic wrap. Then, in the hour before the party, I filled them and gave the filled quiches their second bake.

Mini Quiche Recipe

Ingredients:
Crust (makes roughly 24 minis)
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 to 8 Tbsp ice water
Filling (makes roughly 48 minis)
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 1 onion
  • 2 strips thick-cut bacon
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F

1. Combine dry crust ingredients in a Cuisinart using the chopping blade. Cut in butter just enough to distribute it evenly then begin adding in the ice water one tablespoon at a time until the dough begins to clump using the pulse setting. To test if the dough is wet enough pinch a 1cm ball and try to flatten it. If they crumbled add a little more water. If only the edges crack, your dough is perfect!

2. Roll dough into sheets approximately 1/4 in. thick and cut out 3 inch circles. Gently drop circles into the mini cupcake tins, pushing in the ruckled edges at regular intervals. Use a toothpick to poke holes all over the bottom of the crust. This will keep bubbles from deforming your crusts. If you want shiny crusts, you can brush them with egg, but I didn’t bother.

3. Bake crusts for 7 minutes at 350°F. This shouldn’t be enough time for them to brown, only for them to become firm and start to crisp. Allow them to cool on a rack before filling them.

4. While crusts are cooling, prepare the filling. Chop onion, apple and bacon into 1/4 in cubes then saute until onions and apples are caramelized and bacon is browned. Whisk together the eggs and half and half. Fill 1 tsp of sautéed filling into each quiche shell then carefully pour the egg mixture over it being sure not to spill over into the tin. If you do overflow your shells, wipe away the excess and bake the overflowed ones anyway. I had no problems with the overflowed quiches sticking to the tins so you probably won’t either. I baked my quiches for 18 minutes, but start checking them at 14 minutes to be sure you don’t burn them.

5. As soon as you take them out of the oven, sprinkle shredded cheese on top. The heat from the quiches will melt the cheese without burning it. Then cool them on racks again. Serve them hot immediately or at room temperature, both are delicious!

I made two other versions of the quiches which were both vegetarian, one with apple and onion and another with only broccoli.

All of these made for an impressive and beautiful spread, perfect for the classy cocktail party theme. The last thing we needed was a signature drink!

The house drink was invented two summers ago when Colin and I were camping at the Lost Coast and wanted to make Cosmopolitan. Thinking we had all the ingredients covered, we trekked through the wild-fire fraught coast from Ashland, OR to the teeny tiny town of Honeydew, CA. The night we decided to have our campsite cocktails, we discovered that we only had one of the necessary ingredients to make the drink we had intended. Black Cosmos were the result of our desperate experimentation. It’s a full-bodied fruity drink that isn’t sweet like most cocktails and therefore appeals to almost anyone.

Black Cosmos
  • 2 oz. unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • 1 oz. dark rum
  • 1 oz. triplesec
  • 1 oz. sweetened lime juice
Mix ingredients in a shaker with ice and serve up. Garnish with a slice of blood orange.

I hope you enjoy the recipes and put them to good use!
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K11 Craft Sale Recap

The Craft Sale at Knit-One-One in Berkeley this past weekend was a success. We had a great spot outside the studio across from Bag It Designs who we met at the Louden Nelson Winter Fair  in Santa Cruz last year.

I debuted my single-ply worsted weight hand spuns and they were well recieved. I sold a couple hanks to the lovely owner of Bubbles and Boo who plans to use them in her product photos before knitting something beautiful for herself. I’m pleased they turned out so well, and I think I’ll be doing many more of them in the future.

During the sale, I set up my spinning wheel and answered questions from dozens of curious folks about the mechanics of the spinning wheel. Many were most surprised to find out that my wheel was not antique at all, and that the company that produced mine is still doing so. Though spinning yarn is a craft associated with times of yore(Remember sleeping beauty?), the skill has been passed through families and friends and has grown so much in popularity that many yarn shops now also sell spinning fiber and some even host classes.

Though sales were not as high as we’d hoped, we did meet a lot of lovely local crafters and I discussed the possibility of teaching such a drop-spindle workshop at Knit-One-One in the future. While a spinning wheel is a major investment, costing anywhere between $300 and $700, drop spindles sell for closer to $15 and are a great way to start learning without having to make a huge dent in your savings. In fact, that’s exactly where I started in 2007, and since I was given a wheel by my aunt, I spend much of my free time at home consumed by this hobby.

I’m still dreaming about someday making it a full time job. For now, occasional fairs will do just fine.