Thursday, January 8, 2009

YUM-YUM-YUM! I heart cake!

Hey all!

I am so-so-so excited!!!! I'll not go too far into the history of why, but the Nino decided that a cake for the neighbor's little 6 year old girl would be perfect. One thing led to another, and somehow, we ended up with a red velvet cake with the most amazing yummy, whippy fluffy light frosting EVER! And I have never been a whippy frosting fan... but it's AMAZING!!!!

And I am a frosting expert. I used to eat it out of the bowl like salsa.... so I should know.

So the Red Velvet recipe is delish... I will post the link *here* when I am at a reliable internet connection. I am *this* close to plunking down the cash for an AT&T modem... at which time my soul will be owned by wireless.

Anyhoo, you wouldn't know it, since you can't see me, but I am covered with splotches of this lovely frosting, some of which is appropriately located on my belt. Another splotch is located on my thigh :) If anything, this jobless-ness will be good for you (especially if you live close by- more on that later) since I have a new resolve to explore lotsa yummy-nums while I have the time.

This cake recipe had lots of alterations. Almost every Red Velvet cake recipe I saw involved 2 ounces of food coloring and shortening. Then someone had the idea to mess with tradition subbed in oil... WAIT! It's coming to me... the RECIPE!!!

1 cup buttermilk or (scant cup of milk plus 1 Tablespoon white vinegar)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 ounces of food coloring
2.5 cups flour all purpose flour (sift *after* measuring)
1.5 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare two 9" round pans by greasing them and putting rounds of parchment at the bottom. Then grease that parchment. those cakes will pop out perfectly once you run a knife around the edges... trust me.

2. Put your cocoa in a cup. Dump in 2 oz. of food coloring... you can buy a single color in an extra large bottle at the grocery store. mix into a paste. If t ends up a dry mix, feel free to add a spoonful of water at a time untl it makes a nice, thick, paste.

3. Pour the oil and 2 cups of sugar into your final mixing bowl, and beat together. Add both eggs and mix until shiny and thick. Then put the food coloring paste in, and mix throughly, scraping down the bowl once and awhile.

4. Mix together your buttermilk or milk mixture, the vanilla and the salt together in a small bowl

5. Sift the flour with the baking powder in a medium bowl.

OK... about the flour thing... there is a magic flour out there that is WHOLE WHEAT and light enough to make brioche out of! King Arthur Whole Wheat White Flour is a godsend for folks that love the idea of whole wheat and the light fluffy-ness of their fave cinnamon roll. Another suggestion is whole wheat pastry flour... again, less gluten. Basically winter wheat has more gluten, spring wheat is better for pastries.

6. Alternating, add the milk and flour mixtures a little at a time until it's all incorporated.

7. Pour into your prepared 9" pans (I filled mine about halway, and it was perfect... mine were 9"x2" pans) and bake for a good half hour. Test with a knife or toothpick... it'll come out clean when it's done.

8. Set cakes on a wire rack to cool and get to work on the frosting.

And that frosting using milk and flour? YUM! Here it is...

It only *looks* like pink mayonnaise :)

1 cup milk
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of butter

9. Whisk flour in milk in a saucepan. Put over heat and cook until it thickens. It'll be kind of like pudding.

10. While it's cooling, cream the butter and sugar together. Cream the dickens out of it. Like forever. Until you think it's just about as creamy as creamy gets. Seriously... beating the living daylight out f this is key. I think I whipped mine for over 5 minutes.

11. Once you get it so it's soft-soft-soft, you'll need to wait for the milk. make sure it's 100% cooled. I tucked mine in the freezer for just a bit to make sure. Once cooled, whip it into the butter mixture, until you can't taste the sugar granules. It'll look like whippy frosting.

YUM-YUM-YUM!!!!! This stuff is gold!

12. When you are done making the frosting, the very first thing you want to do is brush all extra crumbs off of the cake. This cake has enough sugar that it's easy to get the boogs off the cake (plus they taste like BROWNIES!)

13. When that's done, take a good 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of frosting and frost your "bottom" cake. Set the other cake on top of it.

14. Now it's time for the crumb layer of frosting. This is kind of like sanding down a piece of furniture and priming it. Do a final brush-off of those crumbs. Take a butter knife and run a *very* thin layer of frosting on the top of the cake. don't worry about it if some seeps over the edges... Then put a thin layer around the edges, and neaten up all the edges so that you can see the base shape of the cake. Don't worry about slight dips and wobbles... we'll take care of that in a half hour.

15. Put the cake in the refrigerator or freezer for 15-30 minutes.

"And it's done!"

16. Pull it out again, and put a nice, 1/4 layer of frosting on the top. Then work your way around the sides of your cake. Go back and spread a little more along the bottom of the cake. The frosting recipe above had enough left over to do a bit of decorating too :)

17. Eat, or refrigerate or freeze for later (I prefer mine a little chilled)

The final product of our efforts...

P.S. Thank you dozens of times over for that artichoke dip, Lauren.... It came in handy when the munchies hit.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Victory Gardens for We, The People!

Hey all,

We may not be asked to ration our food with coupons at the grocery store... for that I guess we can be grateful, even in this dearth of the economy. But with many folks on unemployment there are a ton of people with just enough income to pay bills and little else. Therefore, if you have the room, may I strongly encourage you to grow a Victory Garden?

Only this time we'd be growing them for a true victory, our victory at overcoming adversity by creatively coming together to help each other. Even a 10' by10' space can contribute a ton to your monthly budget, allow you to cheerily bring something over to a friend in need... Somehow it doesn't seem like charity if it's presented as a home-grown gift of stuff you "can't use" or grew "just for you" instead of "I know times are tough." Who knows, maybe you'll inspire someone to put out a couple of container pots with some potatoes on their fire escape? Beauty AND the Feast!

Many community gardens run a coop program... if several folks on your block are interested in pooling together, you can each concentrate on one or two plants, and rotate them every year to keep the ground fresh. Thisis especially useful for corn, which like growing in large plantings, or squash varieties that tend to ramble

The following heirloom site has a Victory Garden Package, with 75 plant types (two of some types of veg) for a large garden, for $95. It sounds like a lot of money at first, but these seed packets typically plant quite a bit. 4 people could easily split a pre-planned victory garden, with delicious and very pretty veg, for $25 each. For 75 types of veg, that is quite the deal (average seed package is around $1.50 per package, and heirlooms typically run $2 or more, so it's a steal of a deal) They also have a basic chart on what to plant when based on out frost date (I typically pick early May for mine, but you can adjust the calendar if you want to get fancy with it and use the local cooperative exchange date for your elevation and area.)

If anyone would like help designing a garden, whether traditional, space saving, or a container garden (if you only have a patio) I would be more than happy to lend my knowledge and help you design it. I have a few seeds I can swap as well :) There is also a program in the Denver area that gives out free seeds for those in need. Deadline for applications is Feb 2nd, and no exceptions are made for late arrivals! Check out the Denver Urban Gardens site for more info on community garden sites as well their Delaney Farm Shareholder Program. Yep, for less than $30 a week, you and three others can eat a bounty of fresh, sustainably grown veg, free of pesticides and other crud put in our regular food supply. Plus you can also go and pick your own herbs and flowers, and there are a ton of volunteer acitivies and classes (free for shareholders, suggested $5 donation for non-members) .

So check it out, and gimme a holler if you'd like to know more about any of this stuff.

Ciao Loves!