February 27, 2013

Peanut Butter Birthday Cake (or: Oh, Yup!)

Now I just *know* that I have mentioned this cool-beyond-cool lady before, right? Right?! I love her. I love her blog. I love her podcast with Tracy from Shutterbean.com. All of it. It's like I'm in the kitchen with her and she's talking to me while she's making food which gives me those warm fuzzy feelings because it reminds me of being in the kitchen with my mom and sisters and talking about *everything* while we did whatever.

 When I found out that the library had her cookbook I was so excited! It is currently in my kitchen with a good dozen or so sticky-note tabs marking recipes that I want to try. The first recipe that I got around to making simply blew me away. It was so tasty!

Peanut Butter Birthday Cake
It really did taste as good as it looks! The peanut butter cream cheese frosting was so tangy, and the cake itself tasted like a spoonful of peanut butter. Yum.

Peanut Butter Birthday Cake

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I used light brown)
3 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans.
     In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
     In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together peanut butter, butter, and sugars until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
     Add eggs, one at a time, beating at medium speed for 1 minute between each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary.
    With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Slowly pour in all of the buttermilk. When mixture just starts to come together, add the remaining flour mixture, beating on low speed until mixture just begins to come together. Remove the bowl from the mixture and finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula.
   Divide the batter between the 2 baking pans. Place on 2 racks in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the cake pans to alternating racks and continue to bake for 15 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean.
   Let cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.
   Frost cakes with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting. (Cake will last, wrapped, in the fridge for up to 4 days. If you let it!)

This cake would not be the same thing without the frosting, so I've typed up that recipe as well.


Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
pinch of salt
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

   Place cream cheese in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the cream cheese for about 1 minute, ensuring that it is soft and pliable. Stop the mixer and use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the batter to the bowl. Beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed for 1 minute until thoroughly combined.
   Add 1/3 cup of peanut butter to the cream cheese mixture. Beat for 30 seconds on medium speed, until well combined. Turn the mixer on low and add the salt and powdered sugar followed by the vanilla. Beat until almost incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat on medium speed until all of the powdered sugar has disappeared and the mixture is velvety soft. 
  If using immediately, dollop 2 tablespoons of peanut butter into the finished cream cheese and fold in with a spatula. Don't completely mix, leave streaks of peanut butter throughout the frosting. Use immediately to frost a cake or cupcakes.
  If storing for later use, spoon frosting into an airtight container, add peanut butter, swirl into the frosting and store in the fridge until ready to use. Bring the frosting to room temperature before frosting a cake or cupcakes. Frosting will last, in the airtight container, in the fridge for up to 7 days.

I highly recommend planning on having company, or scheduling yourself to go to a party where cake would be welcome at, reasonably close to the time you make this cake/frosting combo. It's much too dangerous to keep in the house with you, and your peanut butter loving self, for any extended period of time.

Even if you don't make this cake, go check out Joy's blog. She's awesome. (Joy, if you ever read this, I want to be your friend!)

Happy Wednesday y'all, get to cake makin'!

February 20, 2013

Yours, Jack

I picked up a wonderful book of letters written by C.S. Lewis recently, it's titled, "Yours, Jack". I'm only just  starting it (it's been a busy week) but I'm already feeling greatly administered to. Here is an excerpt that I really liked.

   "As to the business about being ‘rooted’ or ‘at home every where’, I wonder are they really the opposite, or are they the same thing. I mean, don’t you enjoy the Alps more precisely because you began by first learning to love in an intimate and homely way on our own hills and woods? While the mere globe-trotter, starting not from a home feeling but from guide books and aesthetic chatter, feels equally at home everywhere only in the sense that he is really at home nowhere? It is just like the difference between vague general philanthropy (which is all balls) and learning to first love your own friends and neighbors which makes you more, not less, able to love the next stranger who comes along. If a man loveth not his brother whom he hath seen – et cetera. [John 4:20] In other words doesn’t one get to the universal (either in people or in inanimate nature) thro’ the individual – not by going off into a mere generalized mash."
 -   C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves: on the necessity of charity beginning “at home”, through one’s own friends and neighbors.

(The table at our book group this week in honor of Gr'ma's birthday which was on the same day.)

February 15, 2013

Book Love!

Alright, so you know that moment when you got home late and dinner is behind schedule so you prep your broccoli for steaming and put it in a pan with a lid on it and think, "I'll remember to put water in that!" ? That moment? Yeah.
I had that moment tonight.
One scorched pan later, I was out a vegetable for dinner.
Determined to serve *something* green, I opened the vegetable drawer in the fridge. There was a cabbage. And I'm all like, "A cabbage? I don't know what to do with a cabbage... How did that even get there?" (I do actually know how it got there, but I forgot to use it the way I had planned to.) I panicked. Then I remembered that I had checked out this book from the library that seemed like it might be helpful. And ladies, it was amazing. Let me introduce you to "The Flavor Bible" by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.

It's laid out sort of like a giant index. Under each entry there's a nifty list with information you ought to know like Season (fall and winter for cabbage, in case you were wondering), Function, and Techniques. Then there's a spectacular list of other ingredients and flavors that pair well with it, some in varying boldness/capitals indicating the better or more popular choices. For example, under "Cabbage" they have:
apples and apple cider
bay leaf
bell peppers, red
etc. etc.
The list is much too long to type up in its entirety, they have 76 items all lined up for the choosing. I ended up sauteing thinly sliced cabbage in a healthy spoonful of coconut oil, crushed in a clove of garlic, added a splash or two of apple cider vinegar, and just a bit of chicken stock to help deal with the acidity of the vinegar. (All of those flavors are in that extraordinary list by the way.) It was so tasty! And I felt so cool! I cooked cabbage, in an entirely new-to-me way without using a "recipe" at all. I've already added this book to my to-own list.

Happy Dinner-Rescuing, Y'all!

February 11, 2013

Brimming With Good Things

I'm forging on! This week I made "My Mother-In-Law's Madeira Cake" (not *my* mother-in-law, rather Nigella Lawson's). I didn't get it to make it *quite* as the recipe called for it, I accidentally used up my only lemon making a dinner this week and forgot to replace it. So! I had to skip the lemon zest, and use a blend of lemon and lime juices. (Different, right?) It still turned out pretty tasty though! And it was lovely to look at; always a plus! Though I'll admit, I had to shave off some "too dark" spots when it got out. I'm still dealing with the whole pan-isn't-quite-the-right-size issue so it had to stay in a few minutes longer that was good for it's appearance.

"This is baking at its simplest and most elegant. There's no folderol or fancy footwork: you just feel humble and worthy and brimming with good things" - Nigella Lawson

Recipe From "How To Be A Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson

My Mother-In-Law’s Madeira Cake

1 cup softened unsalted butter
¾ cup sager, plus extra for sprinkling
grated zest and juice from 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cups self-rising cake flour
½ cup all-purpose flour

9x5-inch loaf pan, buttered and lined with parchment paper or wax paper
Preheat the oven to 350F.
          Cream the butter and ¾ cup sugar, add the lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour for each. Then gently mix in the rest of the flour and, finally, the lemon juice.  Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with sugar (about 2 tablespoons should do it) as it goes into the oven, and bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove to wire rack, and let cool in the pan before turning out. 
          Makes 8-10 slices.

Variation: Add the juice of another half lemon and a tablespoon or two of poppy seeds.

Since it wasn't very lemony I made a lemon-blueberry sauce to go over it. So tasty!
I have been reading other books, one of which I am *super* excited about and I will hopefully be able to share a review with you soon!

Happy Domestic-ing,

February 5, 2013

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School [Book Review]

Y'all, I devoured this book. Admittedly I was pretty sure I was going to like it because I had already enjoyed Mrs. Flinn's first book "The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry", but I didn't know that I would be unable to put it down. It's funny, packed with great information and instructions, and I love her attitude about food. I started reading this book on Sunday, and was so pumped about it that I tried one of her recipes (Leek and Potato Soup) for Monday night's dinner. It was delicious! I wish I had taken a picture of it because it was very pretty for being a soup, but I had three hungry guys waiting and I didn't want to hold everything up.

 I don't know if I can pick out a favorite thing about this book; I was inspired by so much of it! I actually bought a whole chicken, and I'm determined to get at least two meals plus some stock out of it, I'll let you know how that goes. Oh wait! now I remember the thing that was the most helpful to me was her cheat sheet for seasoning veggies! I have always relied very heavily on things like butter and cheese (yum!) for vegetables because I was so terrified to try seasoning them with spices and herbs. There are a lot of flavors out there, how could I possibly pick the right one? I didn't want to choose the wrong things and end up with yucky food that no one would eat. But this book has totally changed that. Now, I am an empowered vegetable eater, with a nifty sheet of tasty (and quick!) ways to boost/enhance the tastiness of my food in a myriad of ways! How exciting is that? (I'm pretty excited.)

After powering through this book, I did a quick Google search to see if Mrs. Flinn had any cooking classes available (I desperately want to take one from her!), which sadly, she doesn't. But, she has the next best thing; this website!


There will be new lessons uploaded every month for a whole year! The lessons that are already up are the basics, stuff like knife holding and reading nutrition labels. (Haha, if there was anything that could chase you out of the store and into your own kitchen it would probably be those labels! "Partially hydogenated soybean oil" in a cake mix? Yikes!)

So, go! Read! Cook! And have a blessed Tuesday.


February 4, 2013

Cake: Take Two.

Well, I did it! I made that chocolate loaf cake I talked about. The first time there was a bit of a learning curve; my loaf pan is a 8.5x4.5 instead of a 9x5 (I know, right?) which is surprising smaller volume-wise. Which meant that even though I followed the recipe to a 'T', the baking time wasn't quite enough for the depth of the batter. So the when that last timer dinged, even though it looked delicious, it was still very very raw at the bottom/middle.  But I was not going to give up that easily! I asked Kaitie what she thought about it (she is a master baker, y'all, in case you didn't know) and she said it would probably be fine just to extend the baking time, so that's what I did. I just added five minutes on to each baking section (there's a temperature switch in the middle) and it turned out *perfectly*. See?
My Cake

The photo in the cookbook
Not too shabby, huh? Here's the recipe in case you're tempted to try it for yourself.

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

1 cup soft unsalted butter            1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar        1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs, beaten                   1 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract            9x5-inch loaf pan
4 ounces best bittersweet
    chocolate, melted.

Preheat the oven to 375F, put in a baking sheet in case of sticky drips later, and grease and line the loaf pan. The lining is important as this is a very damp cake; use parchment or one of those loaf-pan-shaped paper liners.
   Cream the butter and sugar, either with a wooden spoon or with an electric hand-held mixer, then add the eggs and vanilla, beating in well. Next, fold in the melted and now slightly cooled chocolate, taking care to blend well but being careful not to overbeat. You want the ingredients combined; you don't want a light airy mass. Then gently add the the flour, to which you're added the baking soda, alternately spoon by spoon, with  the boiling water water until you have a smooth and fairly liquid batter. Pour into the lined loaf pan and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325F and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. The cake will still be a bit squidgy inside, so and inserted cake tester or skewer won't come out completely clean.
  Place the loaf pan on a rack, and to get completely cold before turning it out. (I often leave it for a day or so; like gingerbread, it improves.) Don't worry if it sinks in the middle; indeed, it will do so because it's such a dense and damp cake.
  Makes 8-10 slices.

I highly recommend getting this book from your library if you can, it's really lovely. (Or you could just snag it off Amazon, here.)


February 2, 2013

Saturday Morning In Pictures

Grinding Coffee Beans

Waiting For The Kettle

Frozen Pancakes

Slice Of Chocolate Loaf And Coffee