Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Upside Down

My mother is pretty much the best mom ever. Now that I have a big kid AND a little baby in the house, I really don't know how she worked a (more than) full-time job, made all of our food at home from scratch, and took care of us with my dad working an hour away (ie, he got home late and left early).

Not only that, but when we went to people's houses, had meetings, etc (both of which seemed to have happened a lot - or at least that's how I remember things), she BAKED stuff to take.

There are two things in particular my mother used to bake. Both from her copy of The Joy of Cooking. Butterscotch Brownies, and Lightning or Whipped Tea Cake. Both recipes are only found in the form I know and love in the 1975 edition, and both are awesome. I highly encourage you to try them. They are dead simple and so tasty!

And forget about Christmas. We would make 3 - 5 different kind of cookies, decorate them all (just to put it in to perspective the last year we lived in the US and did this on a large scale, we were 10, 5 & 3 years old. And food coloring was involved. You do the math), package them (with ribbon!) and distribute them to friends, neighbors & colleagues.

While I always made me own cakes on my birthday (as soon as I was old enough to... which was pretty young. I don't remember when it was...), every year on my Dad's birthday she makes a Pineapple Upside Cake. And ohmygod it's the best thing ever.

I went through a phase of craving my mother's pineapple upside down cake. I have the 1946 edition of the book (blue cover) here with me (the 1997 edition I left in storage. It sucks) in NC, and so excitedly made the Pineapple Upside Cake.

It's probably a good thing I accidentally left the camper door open for less than a minute while I got something from the fridge outside said door.  The chickens swooped in and ate it (they respectfully left the pineapple rings on the plate). But it was obvious from the batter and the way it baked up that this was NOT my beloved cake.

I humbly asked my mom how hers was so good... and here it is folks. The secret to her amazing AMAZING cake.When she was here with me after the bebe was born and I FINALLY could manage to get out of bed - the craving for this cake kicked in. Full force. I made the cake.

The topping is a la the true recipe, and the cake part is the aforementioned Whipped Tea Cake. Whoa. Mind blown. Alas, it does not exist in any other edition that I have found, and so she scanned her recipe page and sent it to me:

Original page
I made the bottom cake portion true to the recipe - I happened to have cake flour on hand, and we needed to buy sugar anyway.  In Japan cake flour was not easy to come by, and we never had white sugar in the house. Only light brown (my mother does not pack her brown sugar when measuring. Ever.) My mother never had cake flour - and this recipe never suffered from substitutions.

It was exactly what I wanted needed, and was amazing.

Yesterday I craved it again. I didn'/t have any pineapple in the house, but I have a whole bunch of frozen fruit. I happened to have an open bag of cranberries, so used those. Awesome.

Soft cake. Crispy edges. Gooey nuts. Ohmygod.

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup walnuts
8 slices of pineapple*

1 3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 1/2 teaspoons milk**
1/2 cup room temp butter
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Make Topping:
  1.  Melt butter in a 9-inch (you know, the regular size) cast iron pan.
  2. Add sugar. Stir until all the sugar is wet. 
  3. Turn off heat.
  4. Mix in nuts
  5. Lay out the slices of pineapple in a ring with one slice in the middle on top of the topping.
Make Cake:
  1. Sift cake flour, salt & sugar into a bowl.
  2. Add eggs, milk & soft butter.
  3. Beat the hell out of it with a hand mixer. You're aiming for light and fluffy here.
  4. Fold in baking powder.
  5. Pour on top of pineapple & topping
  6. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes, or until done. You don't want to overcook it - the sugar topping will burn
  7. Let cool - but only kinda.
  8. Flip the cake out onto a plate when the cake is cool, but the topping is still a bit warm. If you let it cool all the way down, you'll leave the topping behind in the pan.
  9. Hide somewhere alone and eat the whole damn thing.

Cranberry version:
I did the same as above but substituted one cup of cranberries (what was left of the bag) for the pineapple. If I were to do it again (and I will) I would do a whole bag (2 cups) of berries and add a dash of cinnamon. I did not adjust the sugar level - with the berries being frozen they stayed in their berry form and I liked the tart pops in the sweet topping. If you don't, you could always cook the berries a bit in ONLY the butter (until they burst) and then add the sugar. You don't want to cook the sugar as it'll get too hot when it bakes and you get grainy topping. It's ok if you're into that sort of thing. I like it gooey.

*most of a can. Leaves enough pineapple juice for a cocktail with a slice or two for 'garnish' :)
** Yes. It seems silly. But you have to have the 2 1/2 tsp milk. Trust me on this.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Number Two

No. This post is NOT about poop. Regardless of the fact that my life revolves around poop. (Did he? When? What color? How much? Is he working on one now? Oh get over it. Someone's days revolved around your poop at one point, too)

No. Now that the baby chickens have been out of the brooder for almost six weeks now, we have yet another Australorp that has gone broody. Many people find this to be an annoying trait in a chicken - they have to be sequestered and so take up space, they don't lay during this time, they're often nasty as hell... but I am super excited about it.

For one thing it means I get more chickens this year. I had wanted to add meat chickens and a few more easter eggers (especially now that Road Runner is no longer with us... *sob*). We decided not to this year due to the arrival of the bebe... But I got the 3 baby chickens, and now Pancake Chicken Part 2 is sitting on 4 eggs.

...and it means that we will have more babiness to ooh and ahh over soon. Love it!

The Redneck and the Acorn moved them into the conveniently now available brooder coop yesterday, and that will be PCNT's home for the next several weeks. We have hopefully learned from our mistakes and this time around *should* go smoother.

Pancake Chicken #2

Pancake Chicken, the original

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

(almost) wordless.

This sight does leave me wordless.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to the BESTEST Mom!

My mom. You inspire me, mom. Love you!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Not Another Baby Blog

This is NOT going to turn into a baby blog. I promise. Not like when I promised that this wouldn't become a chicken blog. No. This is for realsies. Hence you haven't heard a lot from me. The Little Squeaker is taking up all of my time and energy... and will continue to for a little bit longer. Can't help it. I will be going back to work in a few short weeks and I want to drink him in while I can :)


Zonked out bebe. I know that I should put him down and nap myself, but it's too hard to resist the little snuggly guy
However, we have managed to get out into the look. Haven't planted a damn thing this year. (thank goodness for volunteers!) But it's nice to know it's *resting* (sure. 'resting'. Let's go with that...) and waiting for me for next year!

Irises! Thanks to the best Godmother, ever

Could be a bumper crop!

Rosemary and Sage are choking out the mint. Really.

Last year this was the strawberry bed...


The wild grapes are thriving, too.