Monday, May 30, 2011

I'm knitting on Ravelry

I've gone into a knitting phase again. And I've joined Ravelry (it's THE Website for knitters!) I'm BungalowBarbara over there, too.

Right now I'm working on a knit-along for a ruffled Moebius scarf called "Lattuga." Mine is blue and has beads, but it is not yet finished. Here's what it looks like:

I think it's going to be really pretty! You can learn more about the pattern at the designer's blog, or at the Ravelry page for this design.

All is well here. Hope to have some garden and cat pictures to post soon.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cat Gallery

It's time for a update on the kittens.

But first, our oldest cat Bella. She hasn't even had her picture on the blog yet! It's way past time.

She's very large, very fluffy, and very sweet.

You can see why our neighbor Dave calls her "Camouflage Kitty."

OK, kittens, now it's your turn.

When you last saw them, they were just a few months old.

Now they're about 9 months old. Amazing how fast kitties grow!

Amelia is lively and up for anything (especially trouble).

Shadow is more of a mellow fellow.

He blends in well with the autumn leaves.

And here's our "middle cat" Annie.

Her nose was seriously out of joint when the kittens arrived. She wouldn't even stay in the house with them.

But lately they've been getting along better.

Something smells interesting down that storm drain...

Still, ya gotta keep an eye out for those little beasties...

They just love to get into a tussle.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

HCB: Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake

Though I'm no longer a member of the Heavenly Cake Bakers group, I still bake along from time to time. This week's choice was the Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake, from pages 58-60 of "Rose's Heavenly Cakes."

It looks like a plain Bundt cake on the outside.....

...but inside you find a layer of almond cream (it's that darker, moister-looking area at the top) with tender thin slices of pear.

The cake is Rose's favorite yellow sour-cream butter cake, almost exactly as on her blog (see this link), except it uses 1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks instead of 4 egg yolks. I didn't have quite enough sour cream (Jim used it in his traditional Sunday waffle), so I made up the remainder with a mixture of yogurt and heavy cream. It seemed to work just fine.

All was going well until I turned on the oven light at 40 minutes into baking to see how it was doing. Without realizing it, when I turned off the light, I also turned off the oven! At 60 minutes it should have been done, but wasn't even close. That's when I realized my mistake. By that time the oven had cooled down to about 275 degrees. Oh rats! I turned the oven back on to 350 F and gave it another 10 minutes, and it was done. The top was too dark, but heck, that ends up on the bottom anyway when you serve the cake. And the cake part was just a touch overbaked and dry -- but by the next day, the moisture from the pears had taken care of that problem as well. You gotta love a cake that forgives your mistakes!

"This is a 'tea cake,'" said Jim. I agree -- it's the sort of simple and delicious cake that cries out to be part of your "afternoon tea." If you don't have afternoon tea (we usually don't), then it's wonderful any time at all.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

TWD: Tarte Fine

Hello, blog! I'm back with a Tarte Fine for Tuesdays with Dorie. Thanks to Leslie of Lethally Delicious for choosing this recipe. You can find it on page 190 of "Baking: From My Home to Yours," by Dorie Greenspan.

 Start with a frozen, left-over 8-inch square of  Quickest Puff Pastry (from Nick Malgieri -- scroll to bottom of this link to find it).

Thaw it, sprinkle with a little sugar (I used a mix of white and brown sugar, plus a touch of cinnamon & allspice). Arrange thinly sliced apples (homegrown!) over the top, brush with a little melted butter, sprinkle with sugar again. Bake at 400 until nice and brown. Brush with a bit of apple juice concentrate (no apricot jam or apple jelly in the house). Sprinkle with a touch more sugar. Let cool briefly.

Cut into 4 pieces. Serve a piece each to husband and self. Both say "Yum!" Look at each other -- and serve up a second piece each. Well, that went away fast!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I'm back -- with kittens!

Hello blogging world! I haven't been keeping up with this blog for a couple of months. Everything is fine here - I just lost interest in blogging for a while. But I have been baking, and even taking pictures once in a while, so you'll see some catch-up posts coming soon.

Right now I want to introduce you to the two newest members of our household -- our two new kittens!

They are brother and sister. The calico girl is Amelia...

...and the boy is Shadow. He is a most unusual color, like an orange tabby dusted all over with gray.

They love to play together...

and sleep together.

Monday, March 1, 2010

HCB: Lemon Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake

This week's recipe for the Heavenly Cake Bakers group was the Lemon Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake from "Rose's Heavenly Cakes."

Lovely! This one is a keeper. Light for a bundt-style cake, fluffy, with lots of lemon and the crunch of poppy seeds. I thought it was a bit crumbly and could have used more syrup, but I might have overbaked mine just a little bit. Notes for next time -- watch it like a hawk towards the end of baking. Oh, and maybe use a bit less sugar in the syrup. But those are just minor tweaks. This is a great cake!

The recipe (sorry, we don't post the recipes for this group) makes enough for a 10-cup Bundt pan. I made half the recipe, which was just right for a 4.5 cup Kugelhopf pan plus two cupcakes.

I used a mixture of half bleached cake flour and half bleached all-purpose flour, and frozen lemon peel from my stash. The batter came out very thick, smooth, and fluffy, almost like frosting -- which I've found to be typical for Rose's recipes. It rose beautifully and for a few moments I thought it might overflow the pan. Fortunately it didn't, and settled a bit after cooling.

I'm always nervous about unmolding cakes, but this one came out of the Kugelhopf pan looking great. The cupcakes, though, stuck to the wrappers something fierce. Next time I'll have to grease the wrappers.

The cake is finished with a lemon syrup while it's still hot. Once again I went to my stash, this time the one of frozen lemon juice cubes. But when I tasted the syrup, I began to wonder if perhaps I'd put some lime juice cubes in with the lemon juice. OK -- I stirred in a bit of my frozen lemon zest and let it steep. Ah, now it had a nice lemon-lime flavor, sort of like 7-Up or Sprite, only a zillion times better.

Part of my freezer stash - lemon zest and lemon juice cubes

Now, Rose says this cake is best made a day ahead. I'm sure she's right, but I have to tell you that the cupcakes were absolutely fabulous still hot, only 10 minutes out of the oven and oozing with warm syrup. Very crumbly, but fabulous. They made me think about making this in small ramekins and serving them syruped and hot, still in the ramekins. I'm sure it would be great.

messy but delicious, still hot

This recipe appears to be based on the "Sour Cream Butter Cake" recipe from Rose's earlier book "The Cake Bible," which was also published on her blog as "Rose's Favorite Yellow Layer Cake." The new HCB recipe is based on the original recipe times 1.25. Lemon zest and poppy seeds are added for flavor, but there are some other changes as well. The new recipe uses a mixture of eggs and egg yolk instead of all yolks, and the total amount of egg is a bit more. It has a bit less butter and more baking powder.

total eggs
93 grams
118 grams
   whole eggs0100 grams
   egg yolks93 grams18 grams
sour cream200 grams200 grams
pure vanilla extract1.875 teaspoon1.75 teaspoon
sifted cake flour250 grams250 grams
sugar250 grams250 grams
baking powder0.625 teaspoon1.5 teaspoon
baking soda0.625 teaspoon0.5 teaspoon
salt0.3125 teaspoon0.5 teaspoon
unsalted butter
   (must be softened)
213 grams200 grams

I miss the Understanding sections from The Cake Bible where Rose explains these recipe tweaks. My best guess about them is this: butter increases tenderness and makes the cake heavier. Egg yolks are more tenderizing than whites. So the "less butter" and "more egg white" changes both tend to decrease tenderness and strengthen the cake structure. To offset this, the baking powder has to be increased so the cake stays level.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

TWD: Honey-Wheat Cookies

This week's recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie was Honey-Wheat Cookies, chosen by Michelle of Flourchild. You can find the recipe on her blog or on page 81 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours."

These remind me that the word "cookie" comes from a Dutch word for "little cakes." They are soft, puffy, and very cake-like when they come out of oven. After a day or two, they are still soft but more chewy, and the honey flavor comes to the fore. At first bite they are home-style, unassuming cookies -- very nice, but nothing to scream and moan about. Watch out, though, because they sneak up on you. Next thing you know you are coming back for another one...and then another...

Here are my unbaked cookies, about to be frozen and then stored in freezer bags. It's a great way to have cookies on hand when you want them! You can bake them right out of the freezer.

I didn't make any changes to this recipe at all -- unusual for me. Since we usually have only raw wheat germ (stored in the refrigerator so it doesn't get rancid), I toasted the wheat germ lightly in a pan before using it. That was a good idea and next time I might toast it even a bit more. Also I might reduce the sugar slightly and experiment with different flavors of honey.

I do like cookies with more "crunch," though, which led to the following idea for an adaptation -- honey-almond. Substitute the wheat germ in the dough with toasted almond meal or finely ground almonds. Roll the cookies in chopped toasted almonds, or for a deluxe version, chopped honey-glazed Marcona almonds. Maybe flavor with a combination of orange and lemon zest, or some Fiori di Sicilia flavoring. What do you think?