Friday, April 09, 2010

Sweet Spots of April -- a List of Likes

1. Kiwi Berries (or baby kiwi).
Have you ever heard of these? I never saw them in DC, but here they appear in the market for about a month each spring. The skin is smooth and their taste is soft and sweet, between a kiwi and ripe blueberry.

2. New wines:

Trader Joe's Chook Shed Shiraz (their bottling of Layer Cake) and Sauvignon Republic (far right -- clean and perfect for summer)

3. Time
I seldom make time for working in art journals these days but love when I do. Here are some place cards for a celebration:

4. Chocolate Cake.
A good cake is one of my favorite foods -- breakfast cakes, tea cakes, birthday cakes, cakes with custard, berries, chocolate, jam. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

For my birthday yesterday, I made a chocolate cake. A moist, rich, and intensely chocolate cake. And today I discovered that the day-old version is even better. I wish I had taken a picture to show you because the color of the cake, itself, is nearly black. The cake is sumptuous, one to savor in slivers.

The recipe makes a lot of batter, so I made a few cupcakes for Silas and Eden as well. I was planning to pipe marshmallow fluff into the center but I lost momentum only making two so used the fluff as frosting instead (a VERY sticky frosting -- not ideal but cheery with sprinkles). Turns out the cupcakes would have been GREAT with marshmallow centers -- the simple sweetness with the slight bitterness of the chocolate -- next time.

note: The ganache I made using Giradelli semi-sweet chocolate, and it was nearly too dark for me, though I preferred it the second day. Next time I think I'll try 2/3 semi-sweet and 1/3 milk.
The cake we all died for:

This recipe makes two 10” layers, three 8” layers, or roughly 36 cupcakes.

3 oz fine-quality semisweet chocolate, such as El Rey (my preference) or Callebaut
(I used giradelli semi-sweet bars here -- great)
1 ½ cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process; I use Ghirardelli)
2 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
¾ cup canola oil
1 ½ cups well-shaken buttermilk
¾ tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. If you’re making cupcakes, line the wells of your pans with fluted paper liners, or grease and dust them with flour or cocoa. If you’re making larger cakes, grease pans and line bottoms with rounds of wax paper. Grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another (very) large bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer until thickened slightly and lemon-colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed, bracing yourself against puffs of cocoa-and-flour dust, until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans. Bake in middle of oven 20 to 25 minutes for cupcakes, or 50 to 70 minutes for larger cakes, until a tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool cakes completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and remove cupcakes, or invert larger cakes onto racks. If making larger cakes, carefully remove wax paper. Cakes may be made one day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Ganache Frosting

1 lb fine-quality semi-sweet chocolate, such as El Rey or Callebaut
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs light corn syrup
½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter

Finely chop chocolate. In a 1 ½- to 2-quart saucepan, bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.

Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable. You may want to place the bowl in the fridge for a bit, but stir it now and then until it cools to your desired consistency. Spread.

5. Tree Pose
It's been a week of waiting. And waiting -- the every-fiber-of-your-being-bent-toward-something kind of waiting: waiting to find out if you're pregnant, if you got the job, if your book was accepted, what the diagnosis is -- is intense.

As I was talking with my mom about the waiting process earlier in the week, I pictured standing in tree pose. Tree pose is like waiting -- if you focus on the center line of your body and engage your muscles, you can wait there, but if you flail and lean to either side, you'll fall.

This week, each time my heart started racing and I felt my edges squiggle out of control, I closed my eyes and gathered my self in tree pose until I could picture myself there, centered, held to that middle line, letting God hold me as I waited.

6. A Cheese Party Menu:
-favorite cheeses
(manchengo, blue, goat with herbs, mimolette, ST PAT wrapped in nettle leaves)
(sun dried tomatoes for the goat, thick honey for the soft nettle-wrapped, a sweet Sauterne for the blue)
-radishes served with unsalted butter and coarse salt
-salad of mixed greens, roasted beets, avocado, and pine nuts
-wine and, of course, a little champagne

7. Ranunculus, loose and fully bloomed

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