March 24, 2009

Hello, Goodbye

This will be quick today (baking takes a lot out of me), but I wanted to drop in and say hi to you anonymous readers that I recently discovered are invisibly perusing this seemingly barren space. (Speak up, why don't you.) This is especially for the few in particular who say I don't update enough - you know who you are. Welcome and thanks for reading! Pour yourself a cup of coffee and here's some cake.

This isn't any ordinary cake, mind you. I've come to the conclusion that it's a big fudgey brownie disguised as a cake. Don't be fooled. It's from a new book that my new Seattle friend, Molly Wizenberg, wrote. She served several of these little rounds of heaven at her wedding a few years back. For me, the book was more of an indulgence than the cake - I must say.

I have a signed copy of it coming from Seattle by way of another Seattle friend, Mi Ae, who will be promoting her cookbook. On my way to a Lynne Rossetto Kasper event, I realized daylight savings time threw me off an hour, and as I drove by Borders - I just couldn't help it. Mi Ae's visit wouldn't come soon enough. I found the last copy they had, managed to scrounge up the exact change for the thing, and sat in the parking lot for an hour reading until Ms. Kasper's event started.

And now that exact book sits half-way across the world the apartment kitchen in 'Spictytown' (translated, of course) - a charming city in Bavaria. It is the college-town of my German sister, Tanja, who baked this cake with me for the first time (for our Aunt RoseAnne's birthday) while she was visiting with her brother over my spring break.

Since we had such a good time baking it (and eating it) we decided we'd let the book connect us through our kitchens. Tanja would take my copy and when I get mine in a few weeks, we will start cooking for ourselves and friends out of it together, sharing our triumphs and failures. I knew there was a reason I had to get my hands on this book so early. Waiting until April would have made this plan impossible.

Although I imagine her European ingredients are far superior to their American counterparts, which I will be forced to use, I anticipate good stories being shared in our future via these recipes. Although the simultaneous occurrence of driving away from the airport after dropping them off and Sarah McLachlan's Angel playing on the radio made my eyes welled with tears (usually, I am not a crier), it was a little less painful saying goodbye, knowing that we have future experiences together in the book, our kitchens, and our hearts.

Now it's time to put away the Kleenexes and pull out our aprons. You may know that baked goods are not commonplace around here, and even more foreign are recipes for them. But given the celebration of new readers and the new sentiment attached to it, I'll give it a shot. If you forgot already, I don't actually have the book with me, so I don't have the recipe. Nor did I have it this morning when I baked it a second time. But that's suffice to say how easy it is. 5 ingredients, FIVE.

(This is from memory, be patient. And send me the remnants if it's a flop.)

Molly's Wedding Cake and Our 'Hello, Goodbye' Cake

7 ounces 60% bittersweet chocolate - I used Ghirardhelli chips
7 ounces butter ( 1 3/4 sticks)
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
1 Tbs flour (you read corrently, 1 Tbs)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cube the butter and combine it with the chips (or roughly chopped bar) and place on top of a double boiler. (I don't have a double boiler so I heat up an inch of water in a saucepan and place a heat-proof bowl over it. Place the butter and chocolate in there.) Stir until completely melted. Add the cup of sugar and thoroughly combine. Take the chocolate mixture off of the heat and let cool for a few minutes, until you know the eggs won't curdle once you crack them in. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the 1 Tbs of flour.

Line an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper and butter the sides, as well as the paper. Pour in the batter. Bake for 25 minutes. Since there are so many eggs, 25 minutes might give you a jiggly center. That's ok, just work with your oven and adjust the time as needed. When you take it out it should be mostly set, but it's fine if there is some movement. The book, of course, has a detailed description about when you know it is done or isn't done - but I forget.

Let the cake hang out in the pan on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes. To get the cake out of the pan, right-side-up, there are two flippings involved. First put a plate over the top of the pan and flip it. Remove the pan from the cake. And then put another plate (or the serving platter) over the 'top' (which really is the 'bottom') and flip again.

March 18, 2009

The Next Course

Here it is! My new Web site - the result of many painstaking early mornings and late nights. But so worth it. Enjoy!

March 10, 2009

Small world after all

I've never taken this blog too seriously as it was created to document dirty, sweaty farm experiences, written from a solar-powered cabin in the sticks, that miraculously picked up a wireless signal from a neighbor up the gravel road. And being on the last leg of my college education (the middle of one's last semester emotionally feels like what I imagine the final birthing push to feel like- immensely painful, rich with anxiousness, knowing that the life to come is worth the temporary discomfort) has me immensely focused on my studies. Needless to say, I'm on reserve energy when writing for Sprout. That said, it floored me when I found out somebody, besides my family and circle of friends, is actually reading it. Not only reading it, but blogging about it - Seattle blogger, Robert Raketty, recently blogged about my Seattle entries on Sprout. This Web thing sure is a crazy beast.

Humor me: MN Blogger on Seattle

I've read a lot of food blogs because... well... I REALLY like food. No, REALLY like the stuff. My size reflects my passion. However, I think Minnesota blogger Melinda Feucht stands out in her posts about her recent visit to the city. Funny, descriptive and unpretentious.

Check it out:

Oh, Seattle. I wish I could taste you.

The most unimaginable, abominable, atrocious thing happened to me my first day in Seattle - I lost my sense of taste. I lost my sense of taste. Something makes me think that the holiday goodies have gotten the best of me by weakening my immune system, another part of me blames the blasted -6 degree Minnesota winter I left with great anxiousness. And you'd think a foodie would know how to treat something like this. Ginger? Tried it. Pickled onions? Yup. Wasaabi? You betcha, alot of it. All with no avail.

That's quality.

If Seattle were a coffee shop, it would be the one that rarely advertises, has minimal store signage on its fa├žade, yet somehow manages to find a line of customers that extends its doors, where people wait ever-so-patiently for a simple croissant and drip, whose customers pride themselves in the quiet knowledge that they’ve found the best spot and wish to keep it a secret. Sorry Seattle, the secret’s out.

March 3, 2009

All by myself

You know that feeling you got when your training wheels came off and you were finally able to petal without those intruders on your back tires? That's what I feel when I cook without a cookbook. I admit that I take extreme pride in the fact that I am now able feed myself without one. Not only do I not get help from Chef Boyardee or Betty Crocker, Julia Child and Molly Katzen have also been strangers to my kitchen lately.

I must say I owe much of my limited kitchen knowledge to a couple chefs I dearly admire at Heartland restaurant, who also give me family meal leftovers to savor between my boring salads and generic stir-fry. The restaurant has slowly given me confidence to attempt making a roux-base for a soup or to ambitously attempt Coq au Vin for my family. Of all the things I'm learning, I've found the most difficult to be dicing vegetables. Attention to detail is never more paramount in the professional kitchen than when it comes to this task -exactness, precision, and consistency are all required.

(Don't mind the smudge on the stovetop, I cleaned it up.)

Since I was all diced-out, this week I decided to make something that only required a rough chop - kale. I could nearly feel the kale limping as I grabbed the bunch out of my veggie drawer. It sure is durable in the soil, but it tends to take on a finicky nature once in storage. There aren't many things that make me more happy in the winter than kale. It's a food that's got all the qualities that I like in people - adaptable, strong, robust, and elegantly sophisticated. Blanching the kale and sauteeing it with onions has proven to be one of the best culinary marriages my trusty cast-iron has seen.

This past year has been a food-obsessed whirlwind for me, bringing me from digging potatoes to dicing them and learning from the people involved. I've learned that farmers and chefs are just as fascinating to me as food in itself, if not more. I admire their ability to take joy in their creations and their passionate nature. My experiences with food and foodies are starting to come full circle, enabling me confidently sustain myself and having fun doing it.

And you want to know what else I did by myself? The dishes.