20 January 2010

Quick Bits

Holiday madness came and went. I baked and ate and cooked and ate and ordered takeout and ate and dined out and ate some more (and drank alot of ginger tea to remedy the indigestion).

And now day-job madness beckons, as do trips to the gym to work off all that eating.

But I've been feeling remiss in blog posting and had so many things to share over the past month. It's time for a quick rundown!

-Composed a gorgeous red-velvet-ish peppermint cake for Christmas dinner with my wonderful sis-in-law, Eleanor. Santa's Favorite Cake is a 3-layer creation of swirled white-cake and yellow-cake (loaded with Super Red food coloring) sandwiching peppermint-oil infused cream cheese frosting. Surprisingly easy to make (though watch the swirling; a couple of our layers turned out more pink than candy-cane). Ridiculously rich (have a glass -- or two -- of milk on hand to wash it down). And minty-fresh -- even better on day two once the flavors meld. In the process of crafting this cake, I also discovered a gem of a local retailer: Home Cake. It's literally steps from my house. How I have not visited this wonderful secret in nearly 7 years of living here mystifies me.

-On the mint tip, I recently discovered what may be *THE* Frango Cake recipe that my dear friend Lourdes has been seeking for 18-odd years since the closing of the last Frederick & Nelson. It calls for 4.5 sticks -- sticks! -- of butter in the frosting alone. And courage. And a run.
-I made another recipe out of Molly Wizenberg's book A Homemade Life: The Winning Hearts and Minds chocolate cake, found in the closing chapter. I wanted to make this cake for L (a fellow Orangette fan and foodie) on her 40th bday and bring it to the office. Trouble is, cake isn't oft an easy item to share at work, especially among flu-fearing folk. Cupcakes are a better answer. After a quick consultation with Molly about whether she'd ever tried making this into cupcakes (she hadn't, but predicted they'd turn out more like brownies), I crafted a small batch. Half I nudged into cupcake papers; the other half I spooned straight into the greased muffin tin. The result? Molly was right -- they were dense, fudgy, brownie-ish. And amazing. (Tip: Instead of timing for 20 mins + 2-min bursts as one does for the 8" cake, I set the timer for 10 minutes and tested every 1-2 mins after. Waited for the telltale crackling and barely set (aka still jiggly) center. Pulled them out of the oven about 15 minutes in, all told.)

-It's not all baking around here, I swear (though as I last professed, Kate McDermott's pie-baking class has liberated me from my baking shackles). Anyhow, I had some buttermilk left in the fridge post-Santa cake and used it to whip together a garlicy-good ranch-like dressing for a salmon & arugula salad. (The Penzey's spices given to me by my in-laws are the secret touch, methinks.)

-But I did eat alot of these peppermint "Oreos" from Trader Joe's. One word: Trouble.

-When it was time to ring in 2010, I shook together a Moonwalk cocktail pre-festivities. It may be my new favorite: champagne, grapefruit juice, Grand Marnier, and a touch of rose water.

-Last week I took an inspirational and engaging food-writing workshop led by Rebekah Denn. Loved revisiting the craft of writing and learning (heaps of) techniques to continually improve. Also flattered beyond words that Rebekah enjoyed my piece on Poppy!

-Finally, I am super-excited to tell you more about my lovely friend Rebecca's ventures into jam, jelly, chutney, and sauce making. More on this later; for now, sign up for her newsletter and/or Twitter feed at http://www.deluxe-foods.com/

That's it for now. So much in so little time that I've worked up an appetite.

Catch you soon!

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