Monday, October 19, 2009

homemade butter

It seems like lately, every blog I follow has been writing about the joys of making butter from scratch and as someone who thinks $12 is a reasonable amount to spend on butter and currently has 6 different varieties in her fridge, it got me thinking that it was about time I give it a try for myself.

Let me go on record and say that all the hype is true. Homemade butter really is that good and I cannot believe I waited this long! From start to finish the whole thing took about 10 minutes and I think I might never buy store-bought butter again. If you haven't tried this yet, do it right now! Don't have a stand mixer? Angry chicken has a great tutorial using a food processor which I haven't tried myself, but plan on testing, once I polish off my current stash.

A few notes to consider:
*Amy Karol of Angry Chicken recommends leaving the cream out to get to room temperature before beginning, which I didn't because I was impatient. While it didn't seem to make too much of a difference, I might do that step next time and see if I get different/event better (hard to imagine) results.

*Most of the recipes I read called for unhomogenized, unpasteurized heavy cream but given that I live in NYC, and not near a farm, that was pretty hard to come by. After trucking over half the city, I did manage to find unhomogenized, low-pasteurized heavy cream from Evan's Farmhouse Dairy at Murray's Cheese and it looked pretty great to me. There was a thick layer of solid (clotted?) cream at the top of the bottle, and below that layer it was quite viscous. Reminded me of the heavy cream I used to get when I was a kid in Melbourne and you could get you milk delivered to your door in glass bottles with foil caps.

*Many people skip adding ice water after straining and kneading it, but from what I understand, it really makes quite a difference in getting all the excess buttermilk out, which ultimately means a longer shelf life for your butter. The idea of adding water into the very thing I was trying to remove excess moisture from, freaked me out a bit at first, but if you think about it, it really does make sense. The key is that the water has to be cold - thus the ice - as it helps to solidify the fat that has been warmed during the whipping process. Water repels from fat, so that act of beating them together will help dispel the remaining buttermilk you couldn't squeeze out without the water absorbing into the butter.

In a stand mixer, with the whip attachment, beat the heavy cream.

Beat until you pass the whipped cream stage, and curds start to form - yes, the thing you've always been taught never to do, now you get to do it! Keep beating, but watch closely as the next step happens quickly. When you see the buttermilk separate away from the solids, stop beating (see above).

Tip out of the mixing bowl and into a fine meshed strainer to remove the buttermilk.

After straining out the buttermilk, gather up the butter in your hands and gently squeeze out the excess moisture. It will look something like this - which, admittedly it kind of not so pretty looking. But keep going, soon you'll have gorgeous looking, delicious tasting butter. When you have squeezed as much liquid out as you can, remove the whip attachment from your stand mixer and replace it with the paddle attachment. Add the butter back into the mixing bowl. At this point, if you like, you can strain the buttermilk remaining one more time and set aside for future use (or consumption).

Here is the buttermilk you'll be left with. Prepare some ice water to add to your stand mixer with the butter mixer and pour about 1/2 cup in.

Turn stand mixer onto low and beat with the ice water and butter to remove the remaining buttermilk - about 1 min. Using a silicone spatula, press the butter to the side of the pan and drain the water. Repeat this process until the water runs clear (see above). Using your spatula, press all the water out of the butter thoroughly. Add any flavoring elements you'd like (sea salt, honey, cinnamon etc.) and you're done....

Voila - homemade butter!
Sweet cream butter (foreground); Sweet cream butter with grey salt (background)
Here's a useful You Tube video tutorial:
The Wednesday Chef has a great post on making butter. She also links to another blogger, The Traveller's Lunchbox, who has a recipe for Cultured Butter, which I think I need to add to my recipe to-do list. It sounds awesome! Oh, and there's also this article that the New York Times just ran.
Now go enjoy some of your own and tell me all about it! mmmmmm....

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thanc yu for Lumpi

you are most welcome, sweetheart!

I received the above letter all the way from Berlin, written and illustrated all by himself - I'm such a proud auntie! Lumpi is sewn using Anna Maria Horner's fabric with soft purple felt for the ears and pink buttons for the eyes. Lumpi is actually sitting on top of a quilt I recently made for Cade - photos to come soon...

The pattern comes from a book I'm loving these days called S.E.W from the Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp. She's such a cool lady, and the book is filled with really simple and very wearable designs (mainly clothing patterns with a sprinkling of other items such as bags, and the above cute elephant). Diana offers sewing classes, which I've taken and they are great! Which reminds me that I owe her a photo of the pencil skirt I made in her class. I also made a dress from her book recently in a soft, cottony green and pink plaid. Photos to come soon...promise!

Monday, May 25, 2009

memorial day yard sale scores and winner of book giveaway

vintage marimekko pillow cases 2 for $.75 ea.

hand embroidered packard '48 coupe for my nephew who is obessed with all things train and car related- $1

cool drip-glaze mugs - $1
glass bead necklace from the 40's - $2

I also got a very cool vintage steamer trunk pet carrier with little holes cut out of the side ($2). While I think Crumpet - who is a tad on the, um, stocky side, would likley fall out of the bottom of it, I think it will make a great place to store my stash of scrap fabric.

And now, onto important matters...the winner of this week's book giveaway is Ravenhill!! - send me an e-mail, or DM me on Twitter with your contact details and I'll get the book out to you - hope you enjoy : )

Thank you to everyone who entered and shared their knitting project stories. I enjoyed reading them all. Lots of inspiring stories and cool projects going on.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

memorial day knitting book giveaway

Aviara - ruffled surplus top by Marnie MacLean

Haleakala - Beach Chair by Heather Broadhurst

The Book!
Knitting in the Sun - 32 Projects for Warm Weather by Kristi Porter (Wiley, 2009)

To celebrate the warm weather that seems to have finally arrived, and because the long weekend is so nearly, nearly here, I'm offering a giveaway of a cool new favorite knitting book made specifically for warm weather. The top two images are projects from the book - I'm particularly digging the beach chair. There's also a bunch of sleeveless and short sleeved tops, some summer-weight cardigans, and even a few skirts. A really cute beach hat uses wire in the rim to keep it stiff (so smart!), and a bathing suit that is knitted with cotton-lycra to give it stretch, and encased elastic with criss cross straps, so that you can actually venture into the water without fear of flashing someone inadvertently!

So if you want to enter, post a comment telling me what knitting projects you're working on right now (or procrastinating on, or hoping to do, or wishing you knew how to get the idea).
I'll announce the winner next week!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Women complain about premenstrual syndrome, but I think of it as the only time of the month that I can be myself. - Roseanne

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. - Mark Twain

Monday, April 13, 2009

Coffee Crunch Bars

Coffee Crunch Bars

(recipe from Molly Wizenberg in the Bon Appetit Magazine, March 2009 issue)

These are totally delicious, seriously crisp and ridiculously easy. Read the story behind them here


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (firmly packed) dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds


  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Whisk first 3 ingredients in medium bowl to blend.
  • Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another medium bowl until blended, about 2 minutes. Add espresso powder and almond extract; beat 1 minute. Stir in flour mixture in 3 additions, mixing until just absorbed after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips and almonds (dough will be thick).
  • Turn dough out onto ungreased rimmed baking sheet. Using hands, press dough into 12-inch square. Pierce all over with fork at 1-inch intervals.
  • Bake until edges are lightly browned and beginning to crisp, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on sheet 1 minute. Cut into 48 bars. Immediately transfer to rack; cool (bars will crisp as they cool). DO AHEAD Can be made 5 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go. - Oscar Wilde

Friday, April 3, 2009

E-book Aerosol Enhancer

This website is hilarious. I just had to share. Scents range from
"New Book Smell"to "Classic Musty Scent". Genius.

Bad backs and kitchen clean outs

We've officially bursting at the seams in the kitchen, and as I was home nursing a certain someone the other day, bedridden with a bad back from rough housing too much over the weekend (perhaps throwing your nephew upside down over your shoulder wasn't such a great plan... ; ) so I decided to tackle the storage space issue and clean out the fridge, freezer and cupboard and see what I could turn into a nice meal to cheer Steve up. On hand, amidst many other things, was a quarter of a canister of risotto from god knows when, some truffles from a trip to Italy that seems like a lifetime ago that I can't believe we haven't used yet; an open quart of chix stock; some aged gruyere (I'm embarrassed to admit how long that has been languishing in our fridge), and half a bag of frozen peas. Risotto! All I had to buy was some fresh parsley, which I probably could have skipped, and some nice salad greens - which I'm sure Steve would tell you I should have skipped ("who needs salad when you have risotto"), but it was a nice touch.

Below is a shot of the finished dish, which was really yummy, if I do say so myself. Not so shabby at all.

Truffled Mushroom Risotto with Peas
2 cups uncooked risotto
6 cups chicken stock (I used the college inn white wine type and it worked really well)
1 tsp. saffron threads
2 Tblsp butter, plus 3 Tbsp for end of cooking
2 Tblsp olive oil
6 shallots, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
2 tsp. truffle slices from a jar (optional)
1/4 cup aged Gruyere (Parmesan is typically used, but I had Gruyere), plus a bit more for topping
3/4 cup peas
salt and pepper
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, plus a bit more for topping

In a medium sized saucepan, heat chicken stock to a simmer. Crumble in the saffron threads. Heat a shallow, heavy-bottomed saucepan (I like a wide one with a lip of 3 - 4") over a medium flame. When warm, add 2 tblsp. butter, and oil and shallots. Stir 1 min. and add mushrooms and garlic. Saute until translucent, about 5 -7 min. Add rice and stir, until the edges of the grain start to turn translucent, about 4 min. Add wine and stir until absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of stock to the pan and stir well. Continue to stir until it has nearly been absorbed. Continue to add stock, 1 ladle at a time (approx. 1/2 cup), stirring continuously, with each addition of stock. As Susan says, you want to keep the rice thinly veiled with stock at all times. It should bubble evenly and gently, never boiling and it should not dry out or be flooded with stock either. When you sense you are a few minutes away from being done, add the peas and truffles with the next ladle of stock. Cooking time is approx. 18 - 20 min. When the grains taste done but still have a little tooth to them (al dente), turn off the heat and stir-in the cheese, 3 Tblsp butter, and parsley.

Serve topped with a sprinkle of parsley and cheese, and a bit of freshly ground pepper.

Microgreens salad with pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette

The pomegranate molasses (a little goes a long way, so be sure use just a few drops) adds a really lovely tangy and subtle sweetness to the balsamic.

equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I used 1/3 cup ea.)
2 drops pomegranate molasses
salt and pepper to taste
Micro Greens or any type of salad greens

Shake oil, vinegar, and pomegranate molasses together well. Season with salt and pepper to taste and toss on salad greens before serving.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

If women dressed for men, the stores wouldn't sell much -- just an occasional sun visor. - Groucho Marx

Monday, March 23, 2009

Thursday Thoughts - on Monday...

"Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes."
- Oscar Wilde ('Lady Windemere's Fan' 1892)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Waiting for warm weather

Having gotten a taste of warm weather this past weekend, it's made me realise how much I've gone into hybernation. This winter seemed sort of endless and I cannot wait for spring to arrive.

Until then, I'm sharing a few photos I took last summer from ingredients in my folks backyard in Shelter Island. It was their first year of having a proper veggie garden and this next summer promises to be even better. We planted fruit trees last year (fig, pear, plum, peach and 2 varietals of apple) that should start bearing good quality fruit this year and I'm so excited! Having been put on a canning hiatus due to jam and chutney overload the last two years, we've finally cleared some space in our cupboards. This year I'm going to try some of the recipes from Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber in addition to my old favorites. I'll definately be making my Peach Raspberry and my Peach Plum.

And while it'll be a while until summer arrives, I've also been thinking that I'd like to get into pickling and Spring (which is almost, almost here...) seems like is the perfect time to get started. David Chang has some awesome recipes for quick pickles, korean style - ramps, asian pear, cucumber etc. Maybe I'll try that first....

Thursday Thoughts

On Love & Marriage:

"A happy marriage is a long converation, which always seems too short" - Andre Maurois

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Quote of the Week:

"No oyster ever profited from its pearl".

-James Grover Thurber

Friday, February 27, 2009

very berry


Probably the easiest and quickest winter crisp ever. I prepared a batch of my favorite crisp topping (oats, flour, butter, some chopped nuts, a pinch of salt, granola if you have it on hand is a nice addition) and set it aside. Turned the oven onto 350F and buttered a baking dish and mixed a packet each of frozen raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and peaches with a bit of sugar to take off the edge and dumped them into the baking dish. Crumbled crisp topping on top and popped in the oven for a hour. I probably would have done well to toss the peaches in a bit of flour before mixing with the berries since it was pretty juicy. But I have to say, everyone seemed to be sopping up the juices. Yum. The whole thing took me under 10 min. to pull together and it cooked while we ate dinner.

Winner of the V-Day book giveaway....

Thank you to everyone that took part in the Valentine's Day book giveaway! I loved reading your stories. The winner of the cookbook goes to mcogdil - how on earth was I to keep you racking up library fines for a book you already love so much :)
Send me a DM on twitter so that I can get the book out to you (and you can return yours to the library - LOL).
Cheers! Promise to let me know when you try those sticky buns.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Quote of the Week:

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer."

Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

reuse, repurpose, recycle

A few weeks ago, after much convincing, and cajoling along with promises that if we got a bigger bed, it wouldn't mean less time cuddling, I relented and agreed that it was time we upgrade our 10 year old bed to a new king size. And I'm here to tell you that it is A-Mazing! It's like we are on vacation every day in a fancy hotel (minus the part where someone else changes the sheets and makes your bed every day). It feels so plush, so utterly luxurious. And there's no more fighting for foot space - even the dog's happier now that she isn't getting accidentally shoved in the middle of the night. I can't believe I waited this long.

At any rate, after the new bed purchase we were a bit low on cash but had no bedding that fit, so I set about seeing what I could do with our old bedding. Low and behold, it turns out that a queen sized flat sheet is just about the same dimensions as a king duvet and as we hardly use our flat sheets since we sleep with duvets almost all year round, they are in almost-new condition, I got the bright idea of using a flat sheet topped with some pretty fabric from Anna Maria Horner to make us new bedding!

I think came out pretty well and cost me nothing since I used fabric that I already owned. I even added fabric edging to a pair of white pillow cases I owned, to make matching pillow, see below!

Seems like someone is a fan...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lan Zhou Handmade Noodle - C-town dumpling face-off!

Having lived on the cusp of Chinatown and the Lower East Side for 3+ years now, my husband and I frequent the many great dumpling stores in the area regularly. In fact, I think it's safe to say that Steve survived law school and the Bar exam due in no small part to the daily lunch of "2 orders #1" at North Dumpling on Essex. That's 10 juicy, meaty pork and chive dumplings for two bucks! I like Vanessa's but preferred it before the expansion and all the media hype. At any rate, we were feeling pretty confident that we'd tried a lot of the great dumpling places around and settled on our favorite.

So it was with some degree of surprise (and perhaps a degree of embarrassment) that I have to admit I had no idea I was living literally 1/2 a block from possibly one of the best dumpling restaurants this side of China. My friend, Justcooknyc, turned me onto the place and I"m forever indebted. It is a tiny blink-and-you'll-miss-it whole in the wall where they make noodles by hand all day long in the back of the restaurant. The dough makes a HUGE slapping noise on the stainless steel table as they stretch it out to make the noodles, which makes it a bit tough to carry on a conversation, but I found it hard to talk anyway, as I was totally hypnotized watching the noodles get made. Since my first trip about a week ago, I've now been back 5 times, and it's awesome every time.

The dumplings at Lan Zhou is definitely of the thinner variety, which I really like. If you lean towards the slightly thicker, toothsome dumpling style, I'd recommend North Dumpling. But, hey, given that they are about 30 meters from one another and you'd only be dropping one or two dollars, I say come hungry and try them both!

A quick word on the noodle soups: the noodles are fantastic. However, in my opinion the broth is a bit over salted and a bit murky tasting, kind of like they don't skim it enough in the broth making phase. The star anise flavor is quite pronounced, which I like, but the broth is lacking the clarity and clean flavors that I love in a well made noodle soup.

Lan Zhou Handmade Noodles - 144 E Broadway(between East Broadway & Pike St) New York, NY 10002(212) 566-6933

North Dumpling - 27 Essex St, New York, NY 10002 (212) 529-2700 - home of the "ugly dumpling" according to Serious Eats and Jean Trang!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Watch Paula Deen's Pants Fall Down at South Beach

I just found this link on Serious Eats' twitter feed - not for the faint of heart, but it's pretty funny. Paula's pants fall off during a presentation at South Beach Food & Wine Festival.

frenchie madness at thomkins sq. park

It seems all of a sudden everywhere I turn, there are more and more frenchies popping up around NYC. Last week at the dog run, there were 8, this week 7 -and there were only 7 dogs in the small dog run! I managed to catch a photo of the three brindle and white frenchies all playing together.

homemade bread goodness

Like everyone else in the online world it seems I, too, am a huge fan of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe that took the online world by storm about a year ago. I made the loaf above over the weekend. It doesn't seem to matter how many times I make this, I'm always amazed at how good the bread comes out, for how little effort I put in. Super crust, and a wonderful, chewy interior - the kind it always used to seem impossible to create at home. The only bit I don't like is the long waiting time - which is something I'm pretty awful at. But seriously, if you don't live near a good bakery, or even if you do, this such a ridiculously great way to make an artisanal quality loaf of bread at home, you'd be crazy not to try it at least once.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Quote of the Week:

"The profession of book writing makes horse racing see like a solid, stable business"

- John Ernest Steinbeck

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread - mission accomplished

So here are the final results of my attempt at bread baking! While the photo looks kind of funny (that's sugar on the top, in case you were wondering), the taste was really good! Lots of chocolate chips in each bite. It definitely has a bread taste to it, more like a savory bread that has sweet chocolate in it. I spread a slice with butter and it was totally delicious. It was also pretty fantastic for breakfast the next day. Who can argue with chocolate for breakfast.

Valentine's Day Book Giveaway!

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'm doing a giveaway of one of my favorite book of sweet treats (Red Velvet Cake recipe from the book to follow momentarily). To enter for a chance to win, post a comment and share your favorite Valentine's Day memory.

My all-time favorite Red Velvet Cake recipe

Recipe and photo reprinted with permission from The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Dupree (Wiley, 2008)

To win this book - leave a comment sharing your favorite Valentine's Day memory.

Amy’s Bread Red Velvet Cake
Yield: one 9-inch double-layer cake Equipment: two 9 x 2-inch round cake pans

This is our version of the dramatic red and white cake that is much loved and familiar to anyone who was raised or has lived in the southern United States. When someone asks us to describe how it tastes, we can only say, “It tastes like red velvet cake.” It has its own very unique flavor. It doesn’t taste at all like chocolate, though it does have a little bit of cocoa in it. We use Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting to finish this cake. At the bakery we love to dress this cake up for holidays.

We feature it at Christmas by decorating the snow white frosting with green rolled fondant holly leaves, with the holly berries piped on in red frosting. For Valentine’s Day we bake thinner layers in a sheet pan and cut out heart shapes with a 5-inch cookie cutter. Then, using a pastry bag with a star tip, we pipe decorative concentric outlines of either pink or white frosting around the top of the heart until it’s completely covered with a frilly blanket. For the Fourth of July, we sprinkle it generously with confetti made of little red, white, and blue stars.

Sour cream, full fat 120 4.23 1/2 cup
Valrhona cocoa powder 12 0.42 2 tablespoons
Baking soda 1 teaspoon 1 teaspoon 1 teaspoon
Christmas Red food coloring 16 0.56 1 tablespoon
Boiling water 226 8 1 cup
Cake flour, sifted 342 12.10 3 cups
Kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon
Baking powder 1 1/2 teaspoons 11/2 teaspoons 11/2 teaspoons
Eggs 250 8.82 5 large
Vanilla extract 11/2 teaspoons 11/2 teaspoons 11/2 teaspoons
Unsalted butter, slightly softened 170 6 3/4cup
Dark brown sugar 542 19.12 21/2 cups, firmly packed
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting 1 recipe (see below)

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease the cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of baking parchment then dust them lightly with cocoa powder or flour. Shake out the excess. Or use Baker’s Joy baking spray that contains both oil and flour so you don’t have to flour the pan. With Baker’s Joy, put the parchment liner in after you spray the pan.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, cocoa, baking soda, and food color until it is a smooth paste. Very gradually add the boiling water, whisking until it is fully incorporated. In another bowl, combine the cake flour, salt, and baking powder and whisk them gently for even distribution. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla.

3. Using an electric mixer, with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg mixture gradually, mixing well after each addition, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl often.

4. Lower the mixing speed to medium-low and add the fl our to the butter in 3 parts, alternating with the liquid mixture, also in 3 parts, beginning with the flour and ending with the liquid. Mix until it is evenly incorporated. There should not be any lumps or dry pockets of flour remaining. This is a fairly thin cake batter, so there is not much danger of overmixing it, but don’t go above medium-high speed.

5. Divide the batter equally between the 2 prepared cake pans. Weighing the batter into the pans is the most accurate way to do this. This ensures that both layers will be uniform in size and will finish baking at the same time. You’ll have approximately 820 g/29 oz. of batter per pan. The pans should be about ½ full. Place the pans on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake them for about 35 minutes or until the cake is almost ready to pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs. Rotate the layers carefully from front to back after 20 minutes, for even baking.

6. Cool the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a wire rack that has been sprayed with cooking spray and lift off the pans. To prevent cracking, carefully right each layer so the top side is up and the parchment-lined bottom is down. Cool them completely on the rack. Before frosting, be sure to remove the parchment from the bottom of each layer. While the cake layers are cooling, prepare the frosting.

To assemble the cake:

7. Place one layer, top side down, on a flat serving plate. Cut several 4-inch-wide strips of parchment or waxed paper to slide under the edge of the layer to keep the plate clean. Using a thin metal spatula, spread the top of this cake round with a ½- inch-thick layer of frosting, leaving a ¼-inch unfrosted border around the edge. Place the second layer top side up on the first, aligning the layers evenly. Spread a generous layer of frosting around the sides of the cake, rotating the plate as you work so you’re not reaching around the cake to frost the other side. Try not to let any loose crumbs get caught in the frosting. If you can, let the frosting extend about ¼ inch above the top of the cake.

8. Starting in the center of the cake, cover the top with a generous layer of frosting, taking it all the way to the edge and merging it with the frosting on the sides. Try to use a forward-moving, circular motion, not a back-and-forth motion, to avoid lifting the top skin of the cake. Rotate the plate as necessary. Use the spatula or a spoon to make decorative swirls. Slide the pieces of parchment paper out from under the edge of the cake and discard them. Store the cake at room temperature, preferably under a cake dome, for up to 3 days.

If you can’t find Valrhona cocoa powder, try another premium-quality brand, but be sure to use the volume measurement of 2 tablespoons, not the weight. Cocoa powder brands vary dramatically by weight. When we weighed 5 tablespoons of three different brands, the weights we got were 12 g, 20 g, and 30 g, so the safest thing to do is to use the tablespoon measurement for anything other than Valrhona cocoa. This is one of the few times we recommend using a volume measurement instead of a weight.

Be sure to use full-fat sour cream in this recipe, not lowfat or nonfat. Fat is a flavor carrier. Whenever naturally occurring fat is removed from an ingredient, much of the ingredient’s flavor is also removed. Fat also is a key factor in the texture of baked goods.

In the bakery, we buy gallons of Christmas Red food coloring. We chose this particular red because the baked cake comes out a nice, dark red color instead of the pale orangey-red that often occurs with other shades of red food coloring. In the Ingredients and Equipment section at the back of this book.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
Yield: enough to fill and finish one 9-inch two-layer cake

This elegant buttercream is the frosting we chose for our Red Velvet Cake (see page 165) because it reminds Toy of the fluffy white frosting on the Red Velvet Cake she ate as a child. The small amount of shortening in this recipe is just enough to stabilize the frosting so it can be left at room temperature indefinitely without melting. It’s not as sweet as a traditional confectioner’s sugar buttercream, and it has a softer, smoother texture that won’t develop a thin sugar crust. This smooth texture makes it a perfect frosting to use with a pastry bag and tip to pipe swirls on top of cupcakes or Red Velvet Cake hearts.

Unsalted butter, slightly softened 312 11 1⅜ cups
Shortening 84 3 ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon
Sugar 300 10.58 1½ cups
Egg whites 150 5.30 From 5 large eggs
Light corn syrup 40 1.40 2 tablespoons
Kosher salt ¼ teaspoon ¼ teaspoon ¼ teaspoon
Vanilla extract 1¼ teaspoons 1¼ teaspoons 1¼ teaspoons

1. In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and shortening together for 1 to 2 minutes, until they are light in color and texture but not too soft. Scrape this mixture into a different bowl and set it aside to use later. Clean the mixing bowl to use for the egg whites.
2. Combine the sugar, egg whites, corn syrup, and salt in the top pan of a double boiler. Heat over simmering water, stirring frequently, until the sugar granules have dissolved and the temperature on a food thermometer registers 140ºF. Transfer the whites to the clean mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer with a whip attachment, whip the whites on medium to medium-high speed until the mixing bowl feels just cool to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes. The mixture should be white and fluffy and very thick.

3. Add the butter mixture and the vanilla to the egg white mixture and whip again, on medium speed, until the frosting has a smooth, creamy, spreadable texture, almost like stiff whipped cream, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. The frosting can be used immediately or stored in an airtight container at room temperature, but it should be used within 3 days. You may have to stir it briskly to re-fluff it if it’s been sitting for a long time

You will need to have a candy thermometer or a digital kitchen thermometer to measure the temperature of the egg whites and sugar as they’re being heated.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Quote of the Week:

"The power that created the poodle, the platypus and people has an integrated sense of both comedy and tragedy".

-James Grover Thurber

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

French kisses at Thompkins Square Park

The weather was incredible this weekend, the sun was shining and it was the warmest its been in months. Judging by the dog run, we weren't the only ones who thought a romp in the park was a good idea. There were 8 french bulldogs in the small dog run on Sunday - crazy! - but Miss Crumpet only had eyes for one ; )
Lollygagging around...
Who said the English and the French couldn't get along!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Crumpet's many coats of different colors - part 1

Isn't part of the joy of getting a new puppy that you get to play dress up and make lots of cute outfits? Well maybe it isn't for everyone, but for a girl who likes to sew and knit and make stuff in general, I was counting on it. So of course, I ended up with the dog that HATES wearing anything other than her own skin : )
Witness the morose looking canine in the camo outfit I knit for her with such happiness and love. Photos of an equally uphappily outfitted pup to follow soon with two dog jackets I sewed a few weeks ago for her. However, given the frigid weather we've had these past few months, I think it's safe to say that upon leaving the apartment she's been willing to reconsider her reservations and might actually be grateful for the added warmth. At least that's what I like to tell myself...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday brunch with the fam

Had a really nice brunch today with my brother and his wife and their little girl, Orly, who is now about 9 months old. I still feel like she was born yesterday, but she's already onto solid foods and learning how to walk! Here are some quick snapshots of Orly at the restaurant- what a cutie! Look at those cheeks : )

We decided to check out this newish place on our block called Cafe Petisco at 189 East Broadway on the corner of Jefferson. We've been meaning to go here for some time now and since my brother gets up early and this place opens for brunch at 8:30am - a rarity in the LES - it seemed like the perfect day to go. While the dinner and lunch menu is decidedly more eclectic, the general trend is towards a Mediterranean menu. Brunch offers lots of omelet combinations, the standard yogurt and granola, a nice oatmeal loaded with fresh berries and diced apple. I had scrambled eggs served with a chopped tabouli style salad and greek strained yogurt topped with zatar and a dash of olive oil served with a side of pita. It was really lovely, I have to say! I was initially skeptical of the yogurt and egg combo, but it all went together surprisingly well. The cafe has nice a quiet ambiance with soft background music and a family friendly atmosphere. All in all, I think we all agreed we'd come back here. Only downside is the service is pretty slow, but they are very friendly and accommodating, so it makes up for it. There aren't that many options in our neighbourhood that open up before 11am and don't involve a two-hour wait for brunch, so this was a good find.