Thanksgiving Recap

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving – and that you fell into the same food coma I did come Thursday evening.   I had a great time visiting with my family and counting all of my many blessings.

There are a lot of us so we do Thanksgiving “family-style” with all the food set up in one spot…or, as you can see, on every available inch of my mom’s counter.  Covered in copious amounts of tin foil.  Underneath was a turkey, a spiral ham, a pork roast, a tray of stuffed shells, and a tray of veggie lasagna.  Plus sides. 

We are Italian.  The phrase “too much food” doesn’t exist.

My mom and Arthur had me as their guest for 2 nights and took great care of me.  They are terrific.

Arthur used to wake us up on Thanksgiving morning by “making the turkey dance” before it went in the oven.  This consisted of coming into our bedrooms with the turkey like a hand puppet and waving it over our heads while we hid under the covers, shrieking.

Thankfully, he now just sticks to basting and carving.

Our Community Servings pecan and pumpkin pies were both delicious…especially the pecan.  I could have eaten it with just a spoon.  Dangerous.

 

Sadly, one thing I was not thankful for was the batch of Italian Meatball cookies I ruined when I forgot to add the baking powder.  Not a proud moment, but it happens…and I will admit it!

In need of dessert one way or another, I grabbed a lemon cake mix and a brownie mix and doctored them up with the help of some trusty Bundts.

Lemon Pound Cake Bundt:

The side of the cake mix box told me I could turn it into a pound cake by adding a box of instant pudding mix and tweaking the egg, water, and oil extras.  My mom didn’t have lemon pudding so I used vanilla.  I also added vanilla oomph by poking 2 dozen holes in the baked cake with a toothpick and then pouring a vanilla glaze of powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract over the top to drain down into the cake.  A dusting of powdered sugar added class.  I love how powdered sugar accentuates the lines of a good Bundt.

This pan is my mom’s, one of the few styles I don’t have, so it was fun to try it out.

Also on the menu was a Thanksgiving edition of Brownie Bundts – this time with sprinkles:

I used a Ghiradelli brownie mix (the best of the mixes) and made a quick glaze using a little melted butter, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and milk.  Some autumn sprinkles made them holiday-ready!

And of course, I couldn’t forget to include these 3 boys from my visit.  They are very clean.

My favorite Thanksgiving Day treat was a new appetizer my sister Courtney made.  I will be sharing that recipe next, so stay tuned!

Chocolate Chip Castle Cake

I wanted to make a cake for a coworker’s birthday, and a chocolate chip cake just seemed appropriately fun.  And since I was going for fun, I also decided to go with my much-neglected castle Bundt pan. 

Bundts have so much to offer visually, before you even get to the taste.

You don’t cover these babies with frosting.  You glaze.  You ganache.  You dust.

And then, if your cake is a castle, you add some flair. 

Would you enjoy entering your office and being greeted by THIS on your birthday?

Chuck was! 

The almond extract in this recipe is absolutely noticeable (heads up, non-almond lovers) and lends a grownup flavor to what is otherwise a very simple, dense, and delicious yellow cake, studded with chocolate chips.

Covering the cake with the chocolate glaze adds polish and texture, and the dusting of powdered sugar covers up any blemishes – like the crack I accidentally put in mine when I tipped it out of the pan improperly.  The cake basically wore a girdle of plastic wrap overnight to keep it together…but you’d never know that, would you you?

You know…unless I told you?

Oh well.  This is a place of honesty.

Happy Birthday, Chuck!

Click for the full recipe

Apple Streusel Bundt Cake

It wouldn’t be fall without apples, and since fall is now in its final month I figured I had better get moving on my apple baking! 

For apple picking this year I went to a familiar orchard, but with a new face.  Jessica O. was in need of her first apple picking experience, which kind of blows my mind because she is from West Virginia, meaning she participated in 4-H and knows how to knit, sew, and make a mean batch of pepperoni rolls.  It seems like apple picking would have fallen in there somewhere.

Determined to correct this, we hit up Russell Orchards in Ipswitch for the following reasons:

Hot and greasy Cider Donuts at $4 for a half dozen.

The Biting Pig…click on his picture with caution.  I warned you.

Gorgeous leaves and apples…including the 2010 “Twilight Apple”.

Lovely Jessica.

We had a great time, but onto the Bundt cake!

As you may know, I love Bundts.  My mom gave me the official Bundt Classics cookbook from Nordic Ware for my birthday last summer and I finally cracked the spine with this recipe. 

I actually made 2 of these this weekend.  John and I went to a birthday party Friday night, and then to a pre-wedding celebration for Greg and Courtney last night.  I enjoyed the cake so much the first time that I wanted to make another one, and since I knew we’d be seeing Greg and Courtney and they just bought their first home a few months ago, I thought it could double as a housewarming offering.

Greg and Courtney are getting married next month.  Greg and John lived next door to each other growing up, and he is one of Greg’s groomsmen.  They are one of those couples that just makes you happy – the second you meet them you feel right at home.  It was so much fun seeing them last night and meeting their extended wedding party – I can’t wait for their big day! 

Awesome, right?  They totally are.

And so is this cake!  The alternating layers of golden cake, sliced apples, and streusel crumbs is seriously delicious, and would go great with your morning coffee.  Or anytime, really…  It’s also incredible easy.

The one thing that’s tough about a cake is that you can’t cut it open for a picture before you give it away without people noticing, so you have to take a picture of your slice with your (amazing) new phone’s camera.

Then you eat the whole thing. 

Click for the full recipe

Bundt Pans

Bundt pans are the 1950 Nordic Ware creation designed to pay homage to traditional ceramic molded baking pans of Germany, Austria, and Hungary.  The traditional style is a fluted ring shape and works well for pound cakes and coffee cakes.  In 1966 a Bundt pan was used in a Pillsbury baking contest, and the cake (the famous “Tunnel of Fudge” cake) won 2nd place.  After this, the pan became the most popular baking pan in America, and in the 1970’s Pillsbury put out a line of baking mixes exclusively for Bundts.  Other manufacturers began to create their own fluted tube pans, and Nordic Ware (still the best) began issuing new and even more elaborate molds. 

Bundts have become such an iconic cake in American culinary and cultural history, that some of the original pans are now in the Smithsonian, and you can celebrate National Bundt Pan day on November 15th.  Probably with a Bundt cake.

I officially have an obsession with Bundt pans.

I can trace the evolution of how this came to be, if I really think about it.

A few years ago I made a jokey New Year’s resolution to make 500 cupcakes before the year was over.  I didn’t quite make it…nor did I make it the following year, when I tried it again “for real this time”…but somehow during that foolishness I started to become known for cupcakes, and began to enjoy the art of flour and eggs and mixing and frosting and (mostly) feeding other people.  That led to an interest in cake decorating (uhm, those roses are hard)…which led to signing up for a 4 week baking series class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts…which led to new worlds of breads and pies and tarts and pate a choux.  Wonderful worlds.

The ironic thing is, I don’t really like cake, and I am utterly unmoved by chocolate.  Women that love chocolate embarrass me a little.  What I do love is bread.  Quiche.  Savory Gruyère and scallion pate a choux.  Cheddar jalapeno cornbread.  And, it turns out, cakes in flavors of lemon and vanilla and coconut with fruits and nuts.  Thin glaze encouraged.  And if I can have these cakes, and ALSO have them look lovely in fluted shapes…or cathedrals, chrysanthemums, evergreens, or kugelhopfs with no overly-sweet frosting…well that’s a cake I can be friends with.

Also, the colorful vintage Bundt pans I have been stockpiling from thrift stores, yard sales, and a certain internet auction site are going to look great on my new kitchen wall when I finally take the time to hang them up….and I will…when I am done buying them. 

I had some overripe bananas recently and decided to make Banana Bundt Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s marvelous “Baking: From My Home to Yours”.  Traditional Nordic Ware 12 cup fluted Bundt pan.  No nuts.  No fuss.

My plants supported this cake.