Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chocolate Cake

Birthdays come and go, but Chocolate Cake... it is forever.

Simple, or some say "humble ingredients" can morph from stable pantry ingredients into tasty, mouth watering, delicious foodstuffs that dreams are made of. I am ridiculously partial to the Martha Stewart recipe for basic, never fail yumminess in the form of a chocolate layer cake and swirly melt in my mouth frosting. Now I know, you must be saying... Martha
Stewart? Well her staff is huge, they are always trying everything under the sun, they tweak everything until it hurts... so how could it go wrong? It
doesn't. It really just doesn't. I of course like to make some adjustments since my palate is a tad particular. Not big changes... but ones that add little nuances to suit my own tastes. It is my cake, so my needs rule. Just go with them, I really think you will be pleasantly rewarded. And yes, I am going to give you the link so you aren't tempted by another of her recipes. Not all of her recipes are as true to my goals as this one. This one has a little bit of wiggle room for erring or tweaking as follows (... or whatever you may want to alter).

The first part of the recipe that I fiddled with is where you cream the butter and sugar together. The butter used is never, ever, ever salted in my world. This is important, since you just have no idea how old it is. Salting butter is done to help extend its shelf life, with salt used as a preservative. Instead of using all white sugar, I like to switch out half of it for packed brown sugar. Scientifically speaking, brown sugar has a deeper more intense flavor due to the residual molasses. There is some chemical thing that happens here too... where the sugar retains more of the innate moisture in the cake. ( this is hygroscopic. here is a definition relative to cookie baking... which is pretty close to cake baking:
" Sugar is hygroscopic, which means it draws moisture or water to itself. In addition to its sweetening properties sugar helps make cookies tender and soft").

My most favorite part of altering the recipe is where the cocoa is put into a liquid form, by adding boiling water. I prefer to do this with freshly brewed coffee equal in quantity to the water in the recipe. This is subtle enough to pass the picky palate of my non-coffee tolerant brood. In fact, they admit that the addition of the coffee adds a good background flavor. I really appreciate that. I think it might be in lieu of making me a present or just to get cake back into the house. Either way,,, it is a "good enough thing".

The batter alone seems so good, you really ought to eat it all up with a spoon... and my handy assistant is willing to do just that. Her help up to this point is invaluable.

Sadly, when we had the gorgeous cakes come out of the oven, cool, rest and get frosted with "mrs. milman's frosting"... other obligations prevented me from taking a photograph of the final product.
We rushed with a slightly warm cake on a platter under a tent of plastic film to our next destination. I let it all rest in the freezer to firm up, later doing fresh dips and doodles in the surface icing.
Many children and adults snarfled this cake... leaving me with one clear, and new objective.

I need to make another cake as soon as it is humanly possible.
Clearly, It is not long lived , as long as folks are willing to partake in its delightful crumb, silky texture, delicate coffee notes and scrumptious chocolatey icing. It is good to have goals in life right?
As soon as the new prototype is manufactured, beautifully photographed pics will be provided. Until then, Martha's will have to do.

Friday, July 23, 2010

pliers for flowers...

It is Friday night live in our household. Time to figure out who, what, when, where and how much driving will be involved. I like to wait until all the members of the unit are in house. Now we can play family tetris. The older kids will be out bowling with friends. How completely wholesome.

The younger will enjoy a mass sleepover with friends from the pool.
This leaves the hubby, the dog and me to our own devices. Well at least for a few hours.
What it really does, is gives us a great chance to decompress and do something relaxing. I plan on working on a few new pairs of earrings and a revamp of a pretty silvery tangled necklace for a dear friend.
I feel the love of a few new big necklaces coming on too.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

the red bungalow

I am a new blog poster... I bet there are 12 step programs that go with that. It is quite easy for many folks to set them up. Unfortunately, I seem not to be one of them.. One of the little bloggy spaces to fill in, has a subtitle to the banner. In this case, I named it "Crafty tales of a woman and her family who live in a red bungalow". It feels wordy as all heck, and I bet it will be rewritten until it sounds closer to what I want it to say. Sometimes I can be picky that way.
In the mean time, let me show you what my industrious husband has morphed our street-side facade into. It is this compact, yet lush garden of curbside appeal. This is in a drive up and visit or cyber viewing mode. If google can take pics. I ought to do so as well. I pick the flowers from the nurseries and he plants his little heart out. We both are served well by this division of design and labor. Our own little variation on a famous O'Henry tale.

Our red bungalow is where more than a few hilarious events or funky creations have been started . It could do with a freshening, since the front steps look unstable and painting it is overdue. As much as it is needed, I don't think I can be too greedy right now.
Construction needs are being addressed in the rear of the house. My husband and son have started to rebuild the back porch ( I suspect that it will be the subject of another posting ). I really do know that I might be boring the pants off of you, but the porch construction is overdue by about 20 years. When we bought this house, it was the first thing hubby dearest wanted to update. Truly, I have been very, very, Very patient with him. I really have an obligation to show this project in progress, for those of you who have experiences with carpenters, contractors and other such clever but (ahem) frustrating artisans. It is a tribute to them saying that they will be back to deal with just one more thing on your wish list.
I am going to document when the worker bees are creating and updating the premises. Positive reinforcement is supposed to work (rhetorical knee slapping inserted here). I did what I could by drawing plans for the event 2 decades ago. Just in case the mood was right.
Perhaps, the weather and timing will hold up well over the next few days? We are all weary of taking the dog on the short trip from the front door to the backyard in the middle of the night.. He seems to hide his disappointment well ... after all he thinks he is going somewhere good, such as on a long squirrel seeking hunt, a neighborhood walkabout with a teen from our collection or in the car to see his buddies at the dog park. Sorry pupster. When this is all done, perhaps you will enjoy a fresh surface to shed on and relax.

I suppose that this is just about enough for now, but since this is my blog, surely more interesting things shall be reported in upcoming posts? It's up to you to keep stopping by....
plans for future posts include: family hi-jinxes... cooked items... baked items... jewelry created... other folks' clevernesses... and general day to day personal musings.

Thank you for visiting... xow.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

naming of the blog

In my world, there has always been some kind chaos. It is what I find normal in my day to day living. I think of it as my own little slice of karma. It started at birth and has followed me to this day. I must have been disorganized in all of my past lives. Right now, a camera crew following me around is not a bad idea to document how it falls together.
For no reason in particular, our family was never good at anything that required careful planning. It is the whole chaos thing, You know? Small stuff always seemed to go awry with inexplicably enlarged results. This is why my parents never seemed to give anyone a straight answer. And I mean about almost anything. Their default reply to most situations was consistent. If there was to be an "I don't know" or "Don't ask me now" response coming, my folks would say to me and my brothers....sure, wednesday 3 o'clock. we can do it then.
It was a reasonable answer that meant that it was never gonna happen and strangely enough, it worked for us. No one had hurt feelings and it was one of those "you had to be there" kind of inside jokes.
Our early training to apply this message was really useful. We had the power to turn away unwanted phone callers. This of course was in the days before caller i.d., e-mails, texts, faxes, and all other contemporary methods of communication employed now. The ones that introduce the message with the name of the sender in it already. We were also pretty well informed about how having a sense of humor would be beneficial.
Now, it can be a lot easier to wriggle out of those unwanted conversations by hitting a delete button or let a phone call go to message. In those days, we were expected to answer all questions and be very polite in doing so.
As things stand right now, I am often free of a good answer to much of what my kids ask me... or my husband ... or the myriad of other folks with inquiries. I guess I am not great at being on the spot without a good answer. Perhaps it is time to revisit the response that worked for so long in my childhood home. How does
Wednesday at 3 o'clock sound ?