Bzzzz October 18th, 2007

Thanks to the happy twist of fate that I finally have some breathing room on my work calendar I was able to spend most of yesterday preparing for Harry’s birthday dinner. It’s yet another step toward my slow lifestyle.

And, as my friend Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”

For his birthday cake, I made one of our family favorites, Italian Cream Cake. I first found this recipe years ago in Bon Appetite magazine. Since then, the recipe has morphed somewhat, but it essentially remains the magazine’s version. I tried valiantly to find the original in the Bon Appetite repository that is now at one of my favorite website, Epicurious, but I suppose this recipe was published before the invention of the Internet. (Don’t laugh. It’s entirely possible that I have recipes from the Stone Age.)

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As an added bonus to being a superhero wife and all-around star party-maker for my hubbie, my house smells fabulous—better than those wanky candles you buy at the mall. And if you need to know what “wanky” is, visit Urban Dictionary where you can learn all sorts useful expressions such as “jackass o’clock” (time to be a jackass) or “e 40” (a Bay Area rapper).

This weekend, why not slow down and make a fabulous dessert—or how about make THIS fabulous dessert?

Italian Cream Cake

Ingredients:

¾ cup butter, softened

1 ¾ cups sugar

4 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ¾ cups cake flower

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup half and half

4 ounces flaked coconut

4 egg whites

1 recipe for cream cheese frosting (see below)

Additional coconut, as desired

Directions:

In a large mixer bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and vanilla and beat well. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder and baking soda. Gradually add this mixture to the egg/butter mixture, alternating with the half and half. Stir in coconut.

In a small mixer bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Stir in about a third of the whites into the cake batter. Then gently fold in the remaining whites.

Pour the batter evenly into three buttered and floured 8” cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Do not overcook!

Cool for 10 minutes and then turn onto wire racks to finish cooling. When cooled, place the first layer on a cake plate and frost with the cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle on coconut and add the second layer and repeat, finishing the frosting all around. Pat coconut onto the crème cheese frosting for a decorative finish.

Store any leftover cake covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days (if it lasts that long).

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

12 ounces cream cheese

6 Tablespoons butter

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

6 cups sifted powdered sugar (maybe a bit less)

Directions:

In a mixer bowl beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth.

Enjoy!

Posted In: Food and Recipes

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Bzzzz October 12th, 2007

I am happy to report that, so far at least, mushrooms grown intentionally seem to grow as rapidly as those grown unintentionally, i.e. those that grow in your lawn.

Remember how I just started my mushroom patch a couple of days ago? Well, lookee here.

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That shiitake mushroom is about the size of racketball!

Take another look. (This is the beauty shot.)

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I mist the mushroom patch about twice a day, although the instructions tell you to mist it “several times a day.” I do keep the humidity tent in place. And although you might think that the mushroom patch should reside in a dark closet, the instructions say that you just need to keep it out of direct light. So that I don’t forget it and accidentally kill all those precious mushroom spores, my mushroom patch is living on the floor of the kitchen next to the cabinets. So far, the little dogs have taken no interest.

In other news about pet projects…

Remember Steve Martin in the movie The Jerk excitedly yelling, “The new phone book is here!!! The new phone book is here!!!”

I did my own Jerk impression the other day, yelling “The new cheese press is here!!! The new cheese press is here!!!”

The little dogs were confused, but unimpressed. I think the UPS guy was just a wee bit curious about why I was skipping back to the house with the box.

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I waited about three or four months for this cheese press from the New England Cheesemaking Supply, which was having some vendor issues getting these made. They were excellent about communicating the difficulties and I decided to hold out for this cheese press. I have been working my way through Ricki Carroll’s book on Home Cheese Making with excellent results, so I trusted the source. In fact, we have become addicted to all sorts of homemade soft cheeses thanks to Ricki. My friend Angela said the neufchatel is like crack and she can’t stop eating it.

Off to adventures in cheese making now!

Ciao!

Posted In: Cheese Making

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