26 April 2010

TWD April Mega-Post: I live, and I bake. I just don't post on Monday night.

So, um, yeah.  Sorry for the unannounced hiatus.  This is a fairly hectic time for me;  I'm traveling much, MUCH more than usual for the next couple of months. In the past two weeks I've been to New Orleans, Durham, and DC, and will be in Nashville and Memphis this upcoming weekend.  Am also hoping to make it to Charleston, Gatlinburg, and Burlington very soon!  Though I've been a-wanderin', I have been keeping up with the Tuesdays With Dorie challenges for April.  I usually realize on Tuesday night that I didn't post, can't find my memory stick or don't have access to wireless or am deaddog tired, and don't get it up here.  But I shall make up for my lack, like so, like NOW:

1. Swedish Visiting Cake

As a preteen, I was obsessed with thoroughly charmed by Cheaper by the Dozen, the chronicle of the Gilbreth family of efficiency experts and their 12 (well, 11;  one died young) children.  Do not ask me why.  Anyway, one of the things I most remember from the book (written by two of the middle children) was that Lillian Gilbreth, their mother, despite having impressively produced twelve children and lived to prosper in a fantastic career, could not cook to save her life, except for a very few things.  One of the things she could make was a certain kind of apple cake, a sort of quick-fix-one-bowl operation that was her husband, Frank's favorite thing.  Sometimes when they were up late at night, coming up with more bizarro ways to streamline their chaotic home life, she would throw together this apple cake to snack on. 

All that to say, while I was making this cake, I kept thinking of that moment, which I always found really touching.  This is the kind of cake you could replicate that with.  "I'm kinda hungry."  *rummage through cabinet*  "uhhh, I can make some cake real quick.  You want some cake?"  "Ok, that'll work."  If you cook at all, everything you need, you probably have on hand.  Only one bowl and the very laziest of mixing is required.  You don't even need to have a proper cake pan.  You don't need icing or glaze or sauce.  (and I wouldn't really even bother.)  You can bang it out in under an hour from "Huh.  I'm getting a little hungry" to eating.  And IT IS FABULOUS.  

I got my lesson about those dried lemon peels when making the Honey Wheat Cookies, so real zest for the lemon sugar today.  I had decided to make only half the recipe, as I was still feeling the (pleasant) effects of eating real Southern food again for four straight days, so I thought I should have some restraint.   I still went with a whole lemon, though;  just made it a small one.  

I used both almond and vanilla extracts in the batter.  I don't have a cast-iron skillet (I know, bad Southerner, I know;  they're kind of a pain in the butt and I don't make cornbread that often, ok?)  so what to do?  Well, I figured a 6-inch pan would do just fine, so I used my favorite one and topped the cake with the slivered almonds I had in the pantry (could have sworn I had more sliced ones in there!)  and sprinkled with vanilla sugar.  Came out beautifully and smelled SO VERY GOOD.

And, I am not one to gossip, but it is possible that this delicious lemony almondy thing might have disappeared in two days.  I don't really know, though.  That's just hearsay.  It is also possible that the baker has had to restrain herself from making another every day since.  You know how people talk.

2. Sweet Cream Assortment of Real Dairy Product Biscuits

I've recounted before my biscuit making woes.  No more, those days.  This recipe was SO EASY:  mix up some dry stuff, pour in some cream till it feels right, pat, cut, bake--and SO PERFECT that I could just cry.  Ok, so they aren't buttery, but they are fluffy and flaky and tender and brown lightly and freeze beautifully, and have just the right amount of sugar to make them taste like something other than flour.  I bought more cream yesterday so that I can make more and stash them in the freezer. 

Evidence of my dedication to TWDing:

And it's not the afternoon, people.  I was heading out of town the next afternoon, but I wanted to get these done before going.  I made the dough, cut out rounds and froze them on the sheet overnight/overmorning.

They looked pretty good but I wasn't expecting much.  I had run out of cream before the dough looked wet enough, so I added half-and half and then whole milk till it seemed right.

The next day, I tentatively baked a couple.  Lo!  Behold!  

The thumbs, they are up.

3.  Chockablock Cookies

And NOW I am on schedule again.  These are some nice little "cookies,"  and by "cookie" I mean "roundish, sweet baked conglomeration of totally random stuff you dug out of the pantry held together by butter and sugar and flour."  For some reason, I kept putting these cookies off.  I'd take out the butter and an egg (I also made a 1/2 recipe here) and had the shortening out of the freezer for days, but every day I'd think "eh, never mind,"  and put them all back. 

Finally I forced myself to do my mise en place.  I wish I'd gotten a photo.  But it involved:  chocolate bars, walnuts, almonds, pecans, dried apricots, craisins, currants, coconut and oats.  Yeesh.  In comparison, there was alarmingly little batter, and what there was was very soft.  It seemed to just be there to keep the cookies together.  

The jury's still out on these.  I've eaten nearly all of them.  They get cakier as time goes on.  I don't really get all the molasses aversion out there (seriously people:  HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE MOLASSES?!  It is the Alpha and the Omega.  It is what honey wishes it had the nerve to be), so I liked the flavor of the cookie.  They are tasty. 2 things:  I already mentioned my aversion to "stuff on top of stuff" and these qualify.  Also, I would think the success of the cookie would depend heavily on the particular combination of ingredients, and that is just too much plotting possibility for a chronic overplanner such as myself.  I'm not that easygoing about my projects; and that, my friends, is why I bake.  They were very fast, though, and simple to make.  This gets a "eh, maybe revisit". 

Thank yous to Nancy, Melissa, and Mary for their selections! 

13 April 2010

la la la

*taps mic* Is this thing on?

I'm on the road yet again, traversing my beloved Southeastern US, so no TWD post today.  Still deciding whether to do so later in the week.    In the meantime, you can find other bakers here!

06 April 2010

TWD: Mocha Walnut Marbled Cake

Ok, so full disclosure: Marble cake is definitely one of my Top 3 Cake Choices Of All Time (Of All Time).  So especially after last week's disappointment, I was again looking forward to this week's TWD challonj, though perhaps my enthusiasm was a mite more measured than last.  This time, I decided to only do a half recipe rather than get carried away and do a whole.  I can only take so much kitchen sad.

Desperate Housecats agree.

So I proceeded onward!

The steps to make this cake seemed unnecessarily cumbersome to me for some reason.  First there was grinding walnuts (which as usual for me was more like "chopping" walnuts.  Maybe I should start using the coffee grinder.)

Then melting chocolate for chocolate batter.  But wait!  I need to make coffee for it!  Shoot!  And heat water to melt over!  You want the pan buttered AND floured?!  I'm gonna be UP ALL NIGHT!  This cake is already FAIL!

(Though I know I could probably do it just as effectively in the microwave, I get a little suspicious when that isn't mentioned in the recipe). 

Now batter must be made.  I don't know what to think about the instructions to "beat 3 min at medium speed but don't really like cream it or nothin'" stuff.  Mine still came out pretty light and fairly fluffy, not pasty at all.  I kept it movin'.

Now half goes to make chocolate batter and half to make vanilla.

And to go in pans.  As much as I love marble cake, getting it to actually...you know, MARBLE is often tricky, so today I sez, "eh, I'ma do it MY WAY" and checkerboarded the batter before swirling.

It worked pretty well, I think.

I baked the little pans on the sheet for about 40 minutes.  They puffed a bit but popped right on out of the pans:

And they were actually MARBLED!  Lo!

I made Dorie's Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce to go over.  I ran out of heavy cream and had to sub half and half.  The texture was a little bit odd--it looks like unset pudding--but it tastes very good and compliments the cake well.

Really, there isn't too much to say about this but YUUUUUM.  It wiped away all my sadness.  This is, I think, hands down the best cake we've made since I joined TWD, and possibly the best cake I've ever made from this book (though the Black and White Cake, when it actually works, is mighty effing rad.)  It is fluffy and buttery and melty and full of flavor.  Perfect marble cake.  Loves it!  WILL make again.  Most def.

Thanks to Erin at When in Doubt...Leave it at 350 for picking this one!  *hugs*

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