Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lemon Orange Pound Cake

Buttery and rich, yet tender and golden, a truly good pound cake recipe can be hard to find.  I've found two so far, and this one, from Moosewood Restaurant Classics, is my all time favorite.  Not only does it turn out perfectly every time, but it's easy to customize it to suit the flavors you want, or the ones that you happen to have on hand. 

I often feel that the beauty of a pound cake is in it's very simplicity, so I've never gone too wild with the flavor combinations, but by substituting the lemon juice in the following recipe for whatever liquid you have on hand (milk, yogurt, sour cream, any flavor of juice, or liqueur.  You can also add any flavor of extract you wish, brown sugar instead of white, chopped nuts, dried fruit, etc.

Lemon Orange Pound Cake

(Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics)

2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
2 tsp pure orange extract
6 eggs
4 cups unbleached white pastry flour or cake flour
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tsp baking powder
zest from 1 or 2 lemons

Lemon-Orange Glaze:
1 tsp pure orange extract
2 to 3 Tablespoons orange juice
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
zest from 2 or 3 lemons

Preheat the oven to 350 deg.  Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan (be sure that the pan will hold at least 12 cups -- if it is smaller, put a few cups of batter into a miniature loaf pan or make it into a few muffins).

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar.  Beat in the orange extract and the eggs.  Add 2 cups of the flour and beat well.  Add the lemon juice and zest and beat.  In a separate bowl, or measuring cup, stir the baking powder into the remaining 2 cups flour.  Add to the batter and beat well.

Spoon the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 60-75 minutes.  Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes.  Invert onto a serving plate, leaving the pan on top so the cake holds it's shape.  Cool for another 10 or 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.  Stir the orange extract and the lemon juice into the sugar with a fork, adding the lemon juice a tablespoon at a time; use just enough to produce a thick, smooth mixture.  Spread the glaze over the cake with a pastry brush while the cake is still warm, or drizzle it on in a lazy pattern.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Helmet heads

These pictures are from Tuesday, spent at Poppy and Nana's.  I think there was some sort of a fashion statement being made with the helmets.

On our way home in the car, Andrew was commenting on how the trees looked brown.  "That's because the sun is going down," he explained to me.  Then he thought about it for a minute, then said "It's just like a fist-fight.  'You're goin' down, boy!'"
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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thick Mint Brownies

For whatever reason, I've been having a mad craving for chocolate mint lately.  As in, I've been willing to drive the half-hour to the store for mint-chocolate chip ice cream, etc.  Naturally, when I saw this recipe on Culinary in the Country, there wasn't even a choice about it.  I had to make them.  Since I'm sometimes hasty about reading through recipes, it took me a while to manage getting all of the ingredients together in the pantry and fridge, as well as having time to assemble it all, but happily, everything finally came together.

This is an insanely decadent dessert.  Two layers of deep chocolate brownie, studded with chunks of bittersweet chocolate, sandwich a thick layer of buttery peppermint.  To top it all off a thick, rich ganache is spread all over the top.  It's a lot of work, but when you take that first bite, it's all worth it.

The recipe calls for creating a mint (essentially peppermint buttercream) slab on the bottom of the pan and refrigerating it.  I decided to freeze it for easier handling the next day, and it worked out well.  Also, I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chips instead of the "chocolate chunks" in the brownie batter, and melted down bittersweet chips for the ganache.

I made a double recipe, and baked one in a glass Pyrex dish and the other in a metal pan (I didn't realize until after I'd started that one recipe makes a big 9 X 13, so we had A LOT of brownies)  Something strange happened to the batch baked in glass though.  There are supposed to be distinct layers of brownie and mint, but the ones in that pan had the filling melted into the brownie, which was a little dissapointing.  I mean, it still tasted fantastic, but after spending all of that time on the separate layers, I at least wanted the satisfaction of being able to see the contrast of the white against the deep brown chocolate.  The metal pan turned out perfectly though, so that was good.

Make sure that you note that this is a TWO DAY project.  The mint filling is created the day before (or really it could probably be done even a week before if you're planning ahead) and frozen.

Thick Mint Brownies (Adapted from King Arthur Flour, this version from Culinary In The Country blog)


4 cups confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons spectrum organic shortening
1 1/4 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons heavy cream


16 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 very full and packed cups brown sugar
1 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chunks

2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

To create the filling

In a large mixing bowl, beat together confectioners' sugar, butter, shortening, peppermint extract, flour and heavy cream until completely combined. To make the slab, cover the back of a 9x13" pan with saran wrap. Lightly coat with nonstick spray.

Evenly spread the filling on top of the wrap to form a rectangle just a touch smaller than the bottom. Cover with more saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350

To create the batter

In a large saucepan set, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add brown sugar and stir until combined. Leave on stove and heat the mixture until very hot - but don't let it simmer or boil. Keep stirring until it becomes shiny and pretty smooth.

Remove from heat and mix in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Combine the flour with the chocolate chips, then add that mixture into the batter. Mix until combined.

Lightly coat a 9x13" pan with nonstick spray. Scoop half of the batter into the bottom of the pan. Remove the filling slab from the refrigerator and peel off the saran wrap. Gently place the filling in the pan, on top of the bottom layer, and finish covering with the remaining batter.

Bake for roughly 35-45 minutes, until a toothpick placed in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To create the ganache

In a small saucepan, heat cream until very hot, but not boiling, over medium heat. Remove from heat and add the chocolate to the cream. Stir until it becomes thick and spreadable. Frost on the cooled brownies - let set up before cutting.
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Saturday, August 16, 2008


Last week, Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Bob were able to come up for an afternoon and see the new little dude!

Isaiah liked Aunt Mary Ann a lot.

As I've mentioned before, my children go to their Poppy and Nana's twice a week to visit.  Last Tuesday, I took Joel and Christopher with us too, and my brother's had a fun and exhausting day, exploring the paths that my father-in-law has built through the woods, swimming and boating in the pond, visiting a nearby farm (complete with tiny new kittens and puppies), jumping on a huge trampoline, etc.  Here are some pictures from that visit.  (Mostly all taken by Jill -- I was at the house spinning wool, reading, and pretty much doing nothing, which was incredibly lovely.)

(Elijah and a new friend, Nicky, holding kittens)

(Lavella, sporting her new "slightly snotty & superior" look)

The canoing included my boys at first, but they moved on to something else pretty quickly.  A little later, Joel and Christopher were still out there, but in two separate boats this time, and it ended with them stealing each other's paddles, leaving the other with nothing but their hands to direct the boat around.  Pretty funny to watch.

What a great day!

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Jams and dresses

Has anyone heard about Winnie the Pooh turning into an attack bear?

Greg's cousin Sara has been making fruit preserves this summer.  It seems that I dropped by her house on the right day, because after we visited, she handed me these:

(Peach, plum, and strawberry -- she gave me these last week, and they're almost entirely consumed already!)

Of course I had to test it out (again and again) on my mom's handmade artisanal Italian bread. that's a good breakfast.

Cuddling on the couch with a good book:

A toad that my boys and I found outside (to their horror, I caught it, and offered to let them hold it, which they soundly refused.)

The latest stage of the brand new wood-powered boiler: settling it onto it's concrete slab.

Lavella was running around with this shirt slung over her neck all afternoon, so my mom finally put it on her.  She was able to walk with some difficulty, and only with her arms high in the air to lift the hem up a bit.

I offered to take it off, but she freaked out and threw a fit, so apparently she didn't mind the hassle.

And speaking of Lavella outfits, it has been amusing me greatly to dress her in rediculous confections on occasion:

She looks like a little cupcake to me, and managed to keep it pretty clean all day (minor chocolate smears on the back -- not sure how that happened or who was feeding her chocolate, but such is life.)

She did, however, find it offensive that Christopher was using "her" (my) camera to take this particular shot:

Lavella's favorite things: clothes, shoes, and talking on the phone.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Babes and puppies

When the puppies were tiny, we had to protect them from Lavella, since her favorite hobbies included dragging them by the back legs into her lap and picking them up by the head to kiss them.  The other day, Lavella realized the tables had turned on her.

(It gets pretty cold at night here, and Lavella rolls out of her blanket every time I tuck her in, so I've started putting a pair of Andrew's long socks on her as thigh-highs to keep her toes toasty.  It works surprisingly well, and her fat little legs look a good deal like sausages.)

A rare photo of Rambo as an infant:

(Photo styling courtesy of Joy)

Puppy and baby:

No matter how many times Lavella eats chalk, she always goes back for more.  I don't understand the draw.

Puppy "James Brown" takes a stroll.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Church at the park

Last Sunday, we decided to have church at a nearby state park.  One of the girls in our church wanted to be baptized, so we decided to combine it with a picnic/potluck.

Here are some random photos from the day:

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