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

Learning to dye

On Monday, I took a little "field trip" with my fiber friends to a nearby farm for a dyeing day/class.

For some reason, dyeing has always intimidated me (what if I get it wrong?  What if I waste material?  What if I don't like my results?  What if I just suck at it?)  Plus, it's fun to be a consumer and buy pre-dyed things just because they're pretty.  However, after spending an entire day with these ladies, fearlessly dunking pound after pound of wool into the dyepots, I think that I could get used to it.  Really, it's pretty fun!

We had such a great time that we decided to make this coming Monday another dye day!  While I'm there, I'm also going to use my friend's drum carder to make up some batts with what we produced from last week.  I'm feeling glitzy, so expect to see lots of sparkle.  (Does anyone remember how I was feeling all earthy and organic with Daisy?  Well, with this baby, it's a tiny bit of a different story...)
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Today I'm spending a quiet, relaxing day at my in-laws. They've taken the children for a hike outside, so I'm at the house enjoying some much needed peaceful alone time.

I've brought my Le Fleur Golding spindle with me today, and I can't think of a better way to spend a meditative, lazy afternoon than with my tiny spindle, and a bump of merino-silk-angora. Mmmmmm.....

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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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fresh Handspun

My latest handspun has been washed, dried, and photographed for your viewing pleasure.

This is what I did with the latest Spunky Club, Solar Eclipse.  It's Romney wool, which, even though it's not something I'd want right next to my skin, is fun to spin.  The staple length and general toughness lends itself well to softly spun, bulky singles.  I find that spinning Romney this way also reduces the harshness of the wool, and the final yarn manages to actually be appealingly squishy.

These two skeins (8 oz) total about 190 yds.

I have no idea at all what I'll do with it, but for once, I don't even care.  I just love the yarn for what it is right now, and I'll worry about it's usefulness later.

These two little skeins were spindled on my Golding Celtic Ring.  (My first completed spindle project!)

I plied them on the little wheel that I'm borrowing from my neighbor from the two ends of a center-pull ball.  Honestly, I don't know what all the fuss is about *not* plying from a center-pull.  I didn't have any trouble with it, and I can't see any difference in the finished yarn.  (I did keep one finger inside the center of the ball to make sure it didn't collapse with the energy of the new singles, but besides that I didn't do anything different than I normally would, plying-wise.)

This was spun from a 3 oz Hanks In The Hood batt from Paradise Fibers, colorway "Moss".  This measures out at approximately 165 yards of sport/worsted weight 2-ply.

I'm thinking of a simple, lacy scarf with this.

Sparky wanted to be involved with the photography, so he snapped off this shot of me styling the yarn before the shoot.

Next up on the wheel is a purple/green novelty yarn experiment.

Here's a cute baby, fresh from the shower.

(My sister Grace is holding him)

Before he was born, he was dubbed "Chazz" by my sister Joy, so we've decided that name will serve as his blogable tag as well.

On a completely different note, has anyone read the story about Winnie The Pooh's attack?

Next post -- a recipe for obscenely decadent brownies.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Reading and wool

Recently picked up from Barnes & Nobel:

I totally have to knit this hoodie from Vogue.
Favorite project in the current Vogue Knitting

The texture on the back of that makes it a must-have. I should be able to wear it in two winters from now, and I already have yarn that would probably work for it (Beaverslide Dry Goods Fisherman Weight in Prairie Aster).

Lately, I've been mostly spinning and reading.  Currently I've been working through works by Candace Bushnell -- her characters are so unlikable, yet I can't seem to put her books down.  I'm currently in the middle of Trading Up, which I love and hate all at once.

My trouble with actually finishing any project lately has been partially because when I'm at my parents, there is just no end to the distractions, and I can't seem to get any alone, personal time with which to complete my endeavors.

Another problem is that, since I've become pregnant with this baby, I just don't feel like knitting all that much.  All that I want to do is spin and read.  And with my current frustrations with my Hitchhiker, I often can't bring myself to work on anything wheel-spun, because it's just not that enjoyable. 

My friend down the road lent me one of her extra wheels -- a tiny, single-treadle with a bicycle wheel (I'll have to take a picture of it tomorrow; it's so cute), so I have started to spin again this week, and of course my Golding spindles are always a joy to work with, although much slower than my Lendrum.  Ah, how I miss my lovely Lendrum, parked all by it's lonesome in my German living room.  ~sigh~

I have realized my main difficulty with the Hitchhiker -- it's not the inherent construction of the wheel (although it doesn't have the smoothest treadle action around, it is cute and portable, and does operate as it was intended).  The problem is with me.  I am left-handed.  I foolishly ordered a right-treadle wheel, not understanding the way the wheel was engineered to work.

When I draft backward with my left hand in a long draw, it pulls the orifice slightly to the left, which causes the rubber gear on the maidenhead to loose traction with the wheel, thus causing the twisting action to stop.  I'm going to talk to Paradise fibers about it and see if they can perhaps trade me for a left-treadle or even just a different wheel altogether (an Ashford Kiwi, perhaps?), but we'll have to see what happens.  As it stands, I cannot enjoyably use this wheel.

I have a few skeins of yarn that need to be wet finished before I can photograph them.  

All eight ounces of this was spun up on Saturday:
(Spunky Club "Eclipse" in Romney -- my favorite wool of all time.)

Today I'm at my in-laws, and, as they're entertaining the children for the day, I'm going to try to finish up the Moss batt that I started spindle spinning a while back. 

Hopefully I'll have some of handspun ready to be photographed in a day or two!


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