Archive for May, 2011

Can you believe I made this?

So, those of you who know me well know that I am a foodie, but not necessarily a great cook or baker.  Since I am a mediocre cook/baker I often do crazy things that refined cooks know not to do.  Like….try out brand spankin’ new (often complicated and far above my skill level) dishes I have never cooked before at parties.  (Hubby loves it when I do that).  Something you should also know about me is that when I cook I must follow a recipe to a tee (Even if this means that my oven is hotter than the oven of the cook who wrote the recipe and I burn the entire dinner or dessert.  And, yes, hubby loves that, too). 

Now, that being said, I will take you back to last Saturday when it was…oldest girl child’s First Communion dinner/lunch.  I was pretty sure I could manage her request of lasagna with salad for “linner”, but her dessert request was a little more tricky.  She requested lemon cake.  Huh?  Lemon cake?  After thoroughly questioning her:  Lemon?  The tiny, yellow things?  Are you sure you like them?  They smell like floor cleaner?  They are typically used in lemonade?  What about chocolate?  I thought you liked chocolate?  It was clear she did indeed want lemon cake.  So, being the great mom that I am <insert sarcasm> I frantically started to google “lemon cake” the night before her party at around 9:00 p.m. 

Now, I’ve already said that I am no baker, but seriously?  I don’t need Google to tell me how to make LEMON CAKE FROM A BOX.  I was looking for an actual real lemon cake from actual ingredients that don’t come in boxes and that I could find in my kitchen.  And, here’s what I came up with:  http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Lemon-Cake-with-Lemon-Filling-and-Lemon-Butter-Frosting/Detail.aspx?prop31=4

With recipe in hand, I began my Making of the Lemon First Communion Cake.  It’s titled like a novel because that’s kind of what it turned into in terms of time, research, trial runs, do-overs, running it by various “experts,” etc.  I can trace my downfall back to my desire to modify the original recipe by putting it into a 9 x 13 pan rather than two round 8 inch cake pans.  Bakers of my skill level should never stray from the original recipe.  That’s how (at about 9:40 p.m.) I came out with a cake that smelled like……bleach and was about one inch high.

9:42 p.m. – I was starting to panic.  So, I did what I always do when I am panicking – I googled lemon cake……..again.  I was really worried about the size of the cake and the smell of the cake.  After much indecisiveness and turmoil I decided to bake the exact same cake again with less lemon (to cut the bleach smell).  That’s how I ended up with two one inch 9 x 13 decisively lemony cakes.

Now, I’m no dummy and therefore while I was baking the second cake I realized I would need a way to put the two thin cakes together.  So, back to google where I found this delightful blog and cake recipe with a delicious looking filling.  http://calminthekitchen.blogspot.com/2009/02/lemon-cake-with-berry-filling-and-lemon.html  I could tell by the picture alone that this cake was WAY above my skill level.  But, I thought I could manage the filling.  Problem:  I only had strawberries.  So, I used fresh strawberries for the filling. 

I managed to “turn my cakes out” and put the filling in the middle.  THEN I managed to make a yummy glaze for the top by modifying the recipe for glaze above with milk instead of butter and a little less lemon.

Now, my hubby is a fantastic cook and fairly great baker, too.  He is my polar opposite when it comes to cooking, so I consulted him many times during this process (mostly he just kept saying, “Are you STILL making the cake?  How many are you making?  You do know the party is tomorrow, right?”).  When the finished product was sitting on the table (round about midnight), he reminded me that good cooks always taste their food before serving it.  Which leads me to a question I am still not sure I have a good answer to:  How do you do that with a CAKE?  Serve a cake at the party with a piece taken out of it?  That just doesn’t seem polite.

So, I served the cake the next day.  Untasted.  I had no idea whether it would be a huge hit or an utter disaster.  Ironically I was confident in the fact that I am familiar with utter disasters!  BUT, to my pleasant surprise it was a HUGE hit.  It was lemony, rich, had a texture of tres leches cake, everyone (especially my sweet baby girl) loved it, and the fruit in the middle was a lovely touch.  I even took a picture of it so everyone would believe that I actually made it.  And the fact that photographing food to actually look edible?  Yeah, that’s another post.

If you are lucky, I will make it again for you someday on your special day.


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And the time that I have spent away from you melts away like snow in hot sun when I hear your first words on the phone.  As I chatter incessantly and you “uh-huh,” and “yeah,” and reminisce to pacify my irrational need for this – I am somehow calmed and soothed and lulled into an “I’m okay,” which is propelled forward by the ebb and flow of conversation. 

It is the time after we hang up that is the most difficult.  It is the time that I am in my own house and you are somewhere in your own house that it is hard for me.  It is then that I realize that the “I’m okay,” is only resting water and that at any moment it can be disturbed by any feeling that falls into it.  It is then that my mind wanders to what could have been.  I wonder what you will think about us when you are a grown man.  I wonder what you already think of us.  I wonder if you know who we are.  Do we know you?  I wonder if you pity us.  I wonder if we pity you.

So, I allow myself a few moments of thinking about how different things could have been.  I fantasize about a life so different from my own that it is difficult to recognize myself or you.  Then I stop.

I go into my kids’ rooms and kiss them in their beds as they sleep.  I ground myself with the life that I have. 

Time heals all wounds.  But then I am not sure.  How much time?  How deep the wounds?

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Yes, I have been gone a LONG time.  No, there is no excuse.  I can only say, “Sometimes life gets in the way of my other pursuits.”

So, since January 1 I have been in search of the perfect biscuit.  My family loves biscuits (as much as one can love something light, flaky, and buttery) and it has been a personal goal to deliver to them something close to what I have eaten in restaurants and thought, “Wow.  This biscuit is amazing.”  I was looking for:  the flakiness of canned biscuits, the flavor of homemade, and something easy enough for a Non Cook/Baker (that would be me). 

We love biscuits and gravy, biscuits in a recipe we call “rechargers,” biscuits with chicken, and biscuits with just butter and honey.  I used my mom’s recipe for a good 10 years (it was “not great”), then I had three kids one right after another and used Bisquick for at least 5 years (worse than “not great”), then I spent at least all of last year and this year until today modifying recipes I would find in various places (this mostly ranged from “worse than not great” to inedible).  I learned a lot about making biscuits and what I don’t like in a biscuit (buttermilk, “healthy” biscuits – it’s just wrong – biscuits which exchange height for flavor).  I might add that it’s a good thing I make really yummy sausage gravy which could basically disguise the taste of any awful biscuit.

You may recall I made a new year’s resolution to eat LESS processed food.  I found that canned biscuits and Bisquick would have to go.  (And no, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that this recipe, when doubled for my family, contains an entire stick of butter.  All I can say is:  It gives me peace of mind to know how to spell and say all the ingredients and  know where they come from.).  So, that brings me back to my pursuit of the Biscuit.  This morning, success was found.  And, yes, I will share (the recipe).

2 cups flour

4 t baking powder

3 t sugar

1/2 t salt

1/2 cup cold butter

1 egg

2/3 cup of milk

Combine the dry ingredients and cut in the butter.  Leaving a FEW larger pieces of butter and the rest about the consistency of cornmeal makes for a yummy flavor.  Beat the egg with the milk and stir that into the dry ingredients just until moist.  I have learned in my “biscuit research” not to knead the dough too much because it makes the biscuits tough.  So, I basically just moistened it, and turned it out onto a floured surface.  I gathered it and then almost immediately started patting it out.  I didn’t roll it so the biscuits were a little oddly shaped, but super flaky.  I used whole milk and real unsalted butter.  I doubled the recipe and padded the dough down to about 2 inches.  This allowed me to make 12 biscuits.  Right before popping into the 450 degree oven for 12 minutes I brushed the tops with milk.  The result:  perfection.  The tops came off in flaky layers (JUST like canned biscuits) AND the flavor was amazing.  If you love biscuits, I highly recommend this recipe.

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