Monday, May 5, 2014

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake with fresh Lemon Curd:: For Ally's Virtual Baby Shower

There are some amazing bloggers in the state of Iowa. I had the opportunity to meet up with a handful of them a few months ago in Iowa City. Ally organized the entire thing and from that point on, a community was created, a community to share ideas, ask questions, and create opportunities not only for growth, but a great platform to meet some quality people and build networks and friendships.

This community is growing by one more soon as Ally is expecting a little one soon! So a group of us are getting together to host a virtual baby shower for her. Obviously getting together would have been the first choice, but when you have a network of bloggers from across the state with jobs, families and so many other things to juggle, scheduling a get together becomes a challenge. So this is the next best thing!

My contribution to Ally's shower is a fresh lemon poppy seed pound cake with lemon curd. My go to dessert usually involves chocolate, but now that Spring is finally here, I thought something fresh and light would be the perfect contribution.

I haven't made lemon curd before I made this recipe, but now am absolutely smitten with the curd and have made it three times in as many days. The second and third attempts turned out better, thicker, than the first which was great - as I served it with a variation of this cake at the Brewery on Friday and Saturday. Selling out both nights, I knew this would be the recipe to share to celebrate Ally's newest addition to her family.

See all of the contributions to Ally's baby shower here:
Blissfully Delicious & Been There Baked That

Enjoy!



Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with lemon curd

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
Adapted from "Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake", The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum

3 tablespoons milk
3 large eggs
1.5 teaspoons vanilla
1.5 cups cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon loosely packed lemon zest
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons salt
13 tablespoons room temperature butter
1/4 cup sour cream

Mix the milk, eggs, and vanilla in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, poppy seeds and lemon zest. Add the butter and half of the egg mixture. Mix on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and gradually add the remaining egg mixture in two batches. Fold in the sour cream

Pour into a prepared loaf pan, or two six inch cake pans and bake at 350 for 55 - 65 minutes (loaf pan) or 25 - 35 minutes (6 inch cake pans). Cake is down when a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, poke holes all over and brush with lemon simple syrup (below). Cool in pans for 10 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack. Poke holes on the bottom and brush with simple syrup. Reinvert onto the wire rack and let cool completely before wrapping in plastic wrap and storing in the fridge for 24 hours.

Lemon Simple Syrup
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine sugar and juice in a small saucepan and cook just until sugar dissolves.

Lemon Curd
Alton Brown does it again with his recipe. I followed this one to a "t" and it came out nicely. 

Lemon Poppy Seed Icing
Combine 2 cups powdered sugar with a few tablespoons of lemon juice and enough water to create an icing that will freely flow over the top and down the sides of the cake. Add 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds if desiered.

Putting it all together
Carefully level one of the cakes and place on cake stand. Spread a thin layer of lemon curd all over the top. Place the second cake on top of the curd and then spread icing over the entire cake.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

dinner on the farm (chocolate sheet cake)

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Eight years ago, I moved to a small town in Iowa, never thinking that my roots would have grown so deep so fast. I thought I would have high tailed it back to Minneapolis within a year, two at most. I can hardly catch my breath when I count the years that I haven't lived in Minnesota (12!), and wonder what life would have been like if a quick decision I made after college had been any different.

Life in Washington has been nothing short of amazing. Nic and I grew together as an engaged couple living in our first apartment together above a funeral home (best apartment ever!) into a mostly happy married couple, we have grown professionally, we have left our professions to pursue passions, and we have dreamed many dreams about what path we will travel next and what future it will lead to.

Perhaps it is the effect of living in a small town, perhaps it is just in my blood, but one dream that never fizzles is my desire to buy a chunk of land and farm on a very small scale. I often tell people I am one generation removed from the farm - my mom grew up on a farm, and moved to the cities to raise our family. The farm is in my blood though, and I fondly remember many weekend trips and summer vacations spent on my Grandma and Grandpa's farm.

Visits to the farm were never the same. We might spend the entire day playing in the old shed that was barely standing in the small woods, digging up beads of a broken necklace in the mud just outside the door that had belonged to my mom or one of her sisters, thinking of course that we were unearthing some old Native American ceremonial bracelet. We might spend an afternoon walking with the cows down to the big woods, keeping a safe distance as stories of Mom being chased up a tree by a bull remained fresh in our memories. In the winter, we would bundle up, gather all the sleds we could find and Grandpa would give us a ride down on the tractor to our favorite sledding hill where we would spend hours sledding in to the woods and trudging all the way back up to do it all over again. The corn crib on the corner, near the gravel road, would become our home base, scaling the sides to see who could climb the highest, sweeping out loose corn kernels and emptying them out for the cows on the other side of the electric fence (and only getting shocked once).

As varied as our visits were, a few things always remained the same. Saturday mornings I would be lured from sleep by the smell of blueberry muffins in the oven and coffee brewing (a combination of scents that will always bring me back to that upstairs bedroom, in that twin bed in the corner, on the farm), Sunday mornings were for church and children's time with the Pastor, followed by coffee and donuts (and old ladies) in the church basement.

And then, always, Sunday dinner back at the farm. Just the thought of it, and I swear I can smell my Grandma's kitchen. A roast with potatoes and carrots in the oven, mashed potatoes and gravy bubbling away on the stove, and maybe some fresh bread cooling on the counter...nothing can top this combination of scents. A smell that nearly every farm family, and every family in the Midwest is familiar with. A smell that can comfort the soul. If someone could figure out how to bottle up that specific smell, I am sure it would be a best seller to people in the Midwest and those who have moved away, but still crave the memories of Sunday dinners on the farm.

These dinners would be followed by naps in the recliner (Grandpa) and walks in the woods. Really, these were just moments to create a little more room for the pots of coffee and dessert that followed.

This cake, a humble chocolate sheet cake with the most incredible coconut topping, is the kind of cake that we would dig in to, with those multiple mugs of coffee. It is one of those cakes that would be served after church in the basement. Best served with a mug of weak Midwestern coffee, with family surrounding you.

Chocolate Lazy Daisy Sheet Cake

The recipe is from Amy Thielen's The New Midwestern Table cookbook, that captures the real food of the Midwest. She should know - she is a Minnesotan, who after a stint in the Big Apple, moved back to Minnesota in 2008. She won a James Beard journalism award for her work appearing in The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Men's Journal and Saveur. Amy is also the hostess of Food Network's Heartland Table.

Chocolate Lazy Daisy Sheet Cake
From Amy Thielen's The New Midwestern Table, available here.

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon baking soda
9 ounces salted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup cold coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cups flaked or shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Sift flour, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a small dish, pour the boiling water over the baking soda and stir to combine.

Melt 10 tablespoons of the butter and pour into a large bowl. Whisk in sugar, buttermilk, eggs, coffee and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, whisk until smooth, and then stir in the baking soda mixture, scraping the dish to get all of it.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake until a thin tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool.

Turn on the broiler and position an oven rack 6 inches below it.

For the topping, combine the remaining 8 tablespoons butter, brown sugar and the coconut milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to cook until the grains of brown sugar melt, about one minute. Stir in the flaked coconut and remove from heat.

When the broiler is ready, spread the coconut topping gently and evenly over the top of the cake. Broil the cake, keeping watch and rotating as necessary, until the entire surface has browned, about three minutes. Cool before cutting the cake into squares.

Enjoy with aforementioned weak coffee and family, or in a church basement with your grandparents friends.


Source: Thielen, Amy. "Chocolate Lazy Daisy Sheet Cake." Recipe. The New Midwestern Table. New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers. 325. Print.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

a winter's walk

Like the rest of the midwest, Iowa has been hit with a brutal winter. A brutal winter that I have been able to take full advantage of now that I work in education. High schools have had so many late starts and snow days that no one can possibly keep track (except for all of the teachers and administrators who keep watching their summer vacations dwindle one day at a time...), and even Kirkwood has had its fair share of late starts and snow days - yeah for me.

Monday was the latest snow day. We slept in just a bit, enjoyed an extra cup of coffee during breakfast and then all chaos ensued as we attempted to make our house shine for an 11:15 showing. An 11:15 showing that arrived 30 minutes early, leaving me to corral the dog, throw on the closest winter gear and hightail it out of the house, leaving the cat behind to fend for himself.

The roads were blanketed with five fresh inches of the most beautiful fluffy snow, hiding a thick layer of ice. This made it impossible for me to load Maia in the car and go for a drive, so we walked instead.

We really trudged. But it was fun trudging through all that snow, on roads that were completely covered, no cars ruining the perfect blanket of white.

Just me and Maia.