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! 


cindy said...

Wow, you have been busy! What a great month at TWD. We enjoyed these cookies, every bite had a new surprise.

Romaine said...

My goodness girl! You went all out. Nice job.

chocolatechic said...

I love molasses, but I was afraid that the marriage with chocolate would end up in divorce, so I used brown sugar instead.

Pamela said...

Whew! What a time you've had in your kitchen. Everything looks great.

Maura said...

I'm totally making that swedish visiting cake. It is beautiful and it sounds delicious. I need a heart-shaped cake pan. And huzzah for Burlington plans!

Becky said...

you go! love all these, especially the heart-shaped visiting cake and the inside the bowl shot of the chockablock cookie dough!

Jayne said...

Wow, what a post! Everything looks great, and I know - what's wrong with molasses??? It's fabulous stuff!

Jessica of My Baking Heart said...

Wow! Great post - hope you've had fun traveling!! :)

Tia said...

your mix-ins look a lot like mine!

miss kate said...

Thanks, y'all!

@Cindy: I know, right? This has been a banner month; fab picks. Not a dud in the bunch.

@chocolatechic: lol.

@Maura: You should go make this cake RIGHT NOW. And you should make another tomorrow. And the next day. and I am SO AMPED to see your new digs in person! And, of course, you too :-) but perhaps I will see you in a couple of weeks, no?

@Jessica: are those air quotes in your avatar? If so, I LOVE IT. Although if it is a "Little Bunny Foo Foo" I LOVE THAT TOO.

Teanna DiMicco said...

I can totally see why the visiting cake was done in 2 days! It was so good! The cookies look great, too, but I'm sorry you're not crazy about them!

Carol Peterman said...

Whew, you can relax and feel good now that you are all caught up. I still have missing posts from November. I like molasses, just didn't care for the chocolate/molasses combo in these.

Criollobylisa said...

Those colors look beautiful in the bowl. Apricots sound wonderful. I did reduce the molasses....

Marthe said...

Love the heart-shaped visiting cake: super cute!!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

you have been a busy bee, with all that traveling & baking! everything looks great, and i am so envious of your lovely biscuits!


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