Saturday, November 10, 2012

Bake Sale to benefit Food Bank of NJ

Bake sale to benefit Food Bank of New Jersey today at The Well. So many of my friends in Brooklyn, New Jersey and Manhattan were touched by hurricane Sandy, it was a no-brainer to participate in this event.
Come on down and grab some sweet tea shortbread lovingly baked by me.
What's better than goodies for a good cause?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Tale of Two Cakes

It all started so innocently.  It always does.  
My Mother-in-laws  birthday was last week and the only thing she wanted from us was a caramel cake.
Done!  Like anyone needs to twist my arm to make a dessert.
I had been eyeing the recipe for Commitment Caramel Cake in Screen Doors and Sweet Tea for quite some time.  The picture in the book is so lovely and I love how cheeky Miss. Martha is in the sidebar: Caramel icing can sense fear.  Do not psych yourself out and it will be perfect.
Maybe that should've been my first clue that perhaps I was getting in over my head.
But, as I so oft tend to do, I just plowed right ahead.
I gathered my ingredients.  Butter (lots of butter), many many eggs,  vanilla extract, almond extract--ah, the batter smelled so divine!!  I carefully poured it into my cake pans and gently set them into the oven.  20 minutes passed.

Wow, this batter seems awfully, well, batter-y.  Lemme give it another 5 minutes...10 minutes...30 minutes.  By this time I was getting a little irked.  WHY IS MY CAKE NOT BAKING???
I turned to the Internet, and looked up other peoples blogs who had made this cake.  HUZZAH!  I was not the only who had cakes that wouldn't bake!  Maybe Miss. Martha used a convection oven and forgot to add that into the directions?  Who knows.  I was a little irritated.  And Jake was done watching Tinkerbell and wanted to play.  I threw the cakes on the counter and said to heck with it.  After the cakes and I cooled down, I took stock of my ingredients and realized I was not going to be able to make another Commitment Caramel Cake.  So I bid adieu to Miss Martha and turned to my other obsession, The Southern Foodways Alliance Cookbook. In it, is a recipe for Revelatory Caramel Cake, and lo and behold I had just enough eggs left to make the recipe.  I did not, however, have any cake flour left.  So I did a little all-purpose flour + cornstarch magic.  I also recruited my sous chef who makes anything an adventure. I took some liberty and added a little almond extract to the batter since it smelled so good.  Popped the cakes in the oven.  30 minutes later, perfectly done cake.  A perfectly white moist cake (no yolks in this recipe).


Now, since I abandoned Miss. Martha once she did me wrong with the cake, I decided to go ahead and make the caramel icing that went along with the SFA recipe.   Easy enough, it's caramel right?  I'd made Cracker Crack a million times--how much more difficult could it be?  Well...
pouring caramel on a cracker is a lot, A LOT different than trying to frost a cake with it.  It hardened almost instantly as I poured it on.  Then I dropped the bowl I was using ONTO THE CAKE.

Many expletives.

By this time I had been making cake (or cursing making cake) for about 4 hours.  We were to meet the family for a birthday dinner in approximately 15 minutes.  PLENTY of time to make another batch of caramel, right?  Despite the fact that you are supposed to let the caramel rest for 15 minutes before you whip it into icing.  I hurried through the steps and just poured the whole thing over the cake.  Resulting in the cake plate running over with caramel.
I said a little prayer that it would harden into a beautiful shell, and we ran out the door.
After dinner we headed back to the house for cake and presents.  The cake was...

Not photogenic.

I cut into the cake, or rather sawed through a relatively thick layer of caramel into a fluffy white cake.  Despite the homely appearance of the cake, it tasted pretty good.  
My ever-gracious father-in-law (who honestly declares everything I cook as the best thing he's ever put in his mouth) declared it the best caramel cake he ever put in his mouth.  
For me, the icing was a little thick and maybe diabetes-inducing sweet.  But the cake was moist and perfumed with vanilla and almond.
I'm of the opinion that it's going to take me a few more tries to perfect my caramel cake technique.  And I'm sure I'll adjust and tinker, that's just what I like to do.  I'm definitely going to try Miss. Martha's icing recipe, as she incorporates marshmallows and I imagine that helps keep the icing fluffy and smooth.
Ultimately, the cake ended up in the trash the next day.  
But PattyCake (my son's nickname for my Mother-in-law) arrives home from Charleston today, and there just might be a Caramel Cake waiting on the kitchen counter for her.
Here's a link to the recipe for Revelatory Caramel Cake.

Friday, June 1, 2012

First day of June

First day of June.
The magnolia tree and the crape myrtle are commingling.
It's a grey, cool day.
Today we are making sour cream chicken enchiladas and peppermint ice cream to take to a dear friend who is very ill.
And I am reminded of what is most dear:
A blonde headed boy snuggling in my lap,
A man who manages to love me even when I don't,
Friends near, friends far,
My family.
Tomatoes growing in the garden,
Lightning bugs at dusk.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


It was my 34th (!) birthday not too long ago, and as a gift to myself I bought two cookbooks I'd been coveting for awhile.  It wasn't enough just to borrow Screen Doors and Sweet Tea from my Mother-in-law, I needed it in arms reach at all times.  Right now it's sharing space on my bedside table with my other FLAT OUT OBSESSION: The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.  I'm so smitten with the SFA right now, I've devoured all 5 of thier Cornbread Nation anthologies, and I just picked up Cornbread Nation 6 hot off the presses!

What's next? Strawberry cupcakes courtesy of Martha Hall Foose. Off to the farmers market!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Honey & Blue

Lots of baking--indeed a cake baking disaster on my husbands birthday!  Pepper vinegar and cracker "crack" over the holidays, cookies, cookies, and more cookies.  Banana bread and quinoa-carrot bars.  Coconut cake, caramel cake, pb &j tartlets.
But it's Spring in middle Tennessee:
(strawberries soon)!
Screen doors and daffodils.
Honey & Blue.
Coming soon to you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

If you give up New York, I'll give you Tennessee

And that's just we did, folks.  It's been a crazy, whirlwind summer (and here it is, almost October!).  After a summer spent in The South, we had a reality check.  And our reality was that while our wonderful Brooklyn neighborhood is like Sesame Street (really), it's cost of living is like, well, New York City.

Our stoop in Brooklyn.
The kiddo and his friend C.
The kiddo and his friend E.
So we decided to fly south for the year.
And so far our decision has been a good one:
We have a house!  With a YARD!
The kiddo goes to a great school!  And it's not $500,000 a year (hyperbole is my strength).
I have a great job, the hub has a great job.
Music City is treating us well.
There are pangs of regret, of uncertainty, of loss.
Especially when in meltdown mode the kiddo screams that he doesn't like Nashville and can we please go back to Brooklyn.
Oh, my heart.
The one good thing about Brooklyn, it's not going anywhere.  We can always visit.
Heck, we can always move back!
But, despite the heartache of missing Brooklyn, there is a peace we are finding here.
My husbands gentle southern lilt is revealing itself a little more everyday.
We are surrounded by a musicality that we had been missing for quite some time:  the cadence of soft vowels and consonants, birds chirping, breezes in the trees.
We are settling into a halcyon rhythm.
And our kitchen is a place of comfort as well.
Now that we are settling into our home, I am ready to fill the house with the warm Fall smells of baking bread and cakes, simmering stews and sauces, roasted vegetables and meats.
Stay tuned:
Sugar. Butter. Salt. is back!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mayo #1 aka Traditional Homemade Mayonnaise

I've never been a fan of mayo.  I always preferred mustard, or oil, or butter.  Mmmm, butter butter butter.  Mayo was always jiggly goo.  Squishing out of sandwiches, congealing in tubs at subway.  Not to mention my Dad slathering it on peanut butter sandwiches (no, really).
But mayonnaise is a popular condiment, especially down south.  Heck, you can't make a good tomato sandwich without it, and I do love a tomato.
Let me say, making mayo is perhaps the easiest thing I've made in a while.  The food processor really is a thing of wonder--grating cheese, making breadcrumbs--and now, mayonnaise.
AND, I actually got a request for mayo from a friend of mine from college (Hi Joe!).
So, Mayonnaise.  Ridiculously easy to make, like so easy I have to wonder why everyone doesn't just make it themselves. Okay, well there is that little thing where homemade mayo only lasts for about week, versus store bought which lasts about two months.
The great thing about mayo is how versatile it is--you can just make a classic plain version--or flavor it any way you like.  Really, add more lemon for a better zing, throw in some fresh herbs,  add some Dijon mustard, or stir in some horseradish or sriracha for a little kick.
Now, I used the food processor for this, but if you really want to get crafty (or you're not bunking at the in-laws and have access to all of their fancy kitchen tools) you can just use a whisk or blender.  If going the way of the whisk, you may need to wrangle a friend to help pour the oil while you whisk wildly.
One other note, mayo is made with eggs: raw eggs.  If you are a bit squeamish or just worried about salmonella you can use pasteurized eggs.
Homemade mayo is dreamy.  Creamy, light and fluffy.  It really was a thing of beauty.  Did I love it?  Mmmm, I think it needed a bit more cayenne (we were out of cayenne and so I substituted crushed red pepper) and probably more lemon.
Truth-be-told, I think I'm probably more of an aioli fan.  So for my next post, I'll be working on a Lemony Mayo recipe and then for Friday I'll make an aioli from John Besh.
For now, happy whisking!

Homemade Mayonnaise inspired by  Martha Hall Foose

1 large egg  (the eggs used should be at room temperature)
1 large egg yolk
juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 iced tea spoon dry mustard
1 iced tea spoon salt
1 packet sugar
a couple shakes of crushed red pepper
2 cups vegetable oil

This will keep in the fridge for about a week, maybe two, in a airtight container.

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade attachment, combine the egg, egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt, sugar and red pepper.  Whir a few times to combine.
With the processor on high speed, slowly drizzle in the oil until completely combined and emulsified.
Slice up some tomatoes, break out the Sally Lunn Bread and slather on some mayo.