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Crack Cake

The proper name is Fresh Apple Cake, but we don’t call it that anymore. One might think the name comes from last Thanksgiving, when I traded Kerri a cake for a batch of her insanely delicious homemade rolls. We met in a deserted parking lot early on Thanksgiving morning to make a trunk-to-trunk transfer, giggling all the while about how sketchy it looked.

But that’s not where the name came from. That came from Kerri, who texted me later saying “Is there crack in this cake? I can’t stop eating it.” So crack cake it is. But only to us and the people at our office. Which, since I work at a Christian company, is mildly hilarious, especially when people wander by asking plaintively, “Is any of that crack cake left?”

So crack . . . er, Fresh Apple Cake . . . is a mixture of fruit and nuts with just enough flavorful cake to hold it all together. It was my father’s favorite cake but I never really appreciated how delicious it is until recently.

You can serve it with cream cheese frosting—mostly because you can pretty much serve anything with cream cheese frosting—but I generally eat it straight. It’s not really a ‘frost and decorate’ kind of cake . . . more of a ‘rip into it with your bare hands’ kind of thing. To me, it always tastes like fall. Recipe follows – but beware: it is addictive.

Fresh Apple Cake

1 cup Sugar

¼ cup Shortening

1 Egg

1 cup Flour

1 tsp Soda

1 cup Nuts, chopped (I generally use pecans, but walnuts also work well)

1 tsp Cinnamon

¼ tsp Nutmeg

¼ tsp Salt

2 cups chopped raw Apples

½ cup Raisins or chopped Dates

Cream shortening and sugar together. Add beaten egg. Sift dry ingredients together and mix with shortening/sugar/egg mixture. Add fruit and nuts, stir well to combine. Pour in 9×9 pan and bake in 350-degree oven for 45 minutes.

Daily Bread

Well . . .

I was going to show you one of the fun projects I’ve been working on lately, but my camera has gone MIA. And since my semi-intelligent phone is smart enough to take photos, but its semi-intelligent owner can’t figure out how to get the photos off said phone, I’m having to go illustration-free until the camera comes out of hiding.

So I thought I’d chat about this bread I’ve been baking. When I saw the recipe on Facebook, I looked it over and showed it to my friend and fellow-baker, Kerri. “That won’t work will it?” I asked. “I don’t see how it can…it wouldn’t have any flavor,” she replied. So we blew it off.

Until Vikki started bragging about how she’d made the bread and how delicious it was. So I tried it. And it really is yummy, even with only four ingredients. It’s a soft bread with a chewy crust that makes excellent toast. It’s super-easy to make, too, it just takes some time. Between the easy-peasy-ness of it and the limited ingredients required I’ve pretty much stopped buying bread. Why spend all that money when you can stir up a loaf of this goodness with almost nothing in almost no time? Now that I’ve got the regular version down I’m going to try different flours; I have a bag of oat flour from Bob’s Red Mill that’s crying out to be used.

So with many thanks to the anonymous baker who created it, here’s the recipe. I’d show you a photo of my latest loaf, but since I can’t you’ll just have to try it.

Crusty Bread

3 cups unbleached flour
1 ¾ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon Instant (or Rapid Rise) yeast
1 ½ cups water

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and yeast. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap (unless you have a bowl with a lid, in which case use that) and set aside for 12-18 hours. Overnight works great, or you can mix it up in the morning and go off to work looking forward freshly baked bread at dinner.

12-18 hours later . . . Heat oven to 450 degrees. Once oven is hot, place a cast iron pot with a lid (like a Dutch oven) in the oven and heat (both pot and lid) for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, flop dough onto heavily-floured surface and shape into a soft ball with your heavily-floured hands. Cover it with the upturned bowl and let rest while your pot is heating.

When pot is hot, remove lid and place dough inside. [My pot is heavy, so I generally pull the oven rack out with the handy wooden pot-rack-puller-outer I got from my friendly neighborhood firemen, carefully remove the pot lid, and flop the dough in the pot. The dough is too soft to worry much about the shape.] Cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes. At this point you may remove the lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes, but I never remember to do that and mine to come out just fine. Thump on the bread’s crust if you want to check—if it sounds hollow, it’s probably done.

Remove bread from oven and place on rack to cool. Try to restrain yourself from tearing it apart and slathering hot chunks of bread with butter for at least 15 minutes, it’s better for the bread’s texture if you do. I generally leave the room at this point to keep temptation at bay.

After bread has cooled, slice (or rip apart with your bare hands if you prefer) and enjoy! You’ll need a serrated knife to get through the chewy crust, but the inside is pillow soft. It toasts like a dream, makes fabulous garlic bread, and is perfectly appropriate for sandwiches. In my Dutch oven it comes out in a round loaf, but I’ve never been picky about the shape of my sandwiches.

I guess it just goes to show that sometimes you have to “taste and see” to find out that something is good!

NOTE: I have now tried it with half wheat flour / half white flour and . . . not so fabulous. It makes the bread too heavy. It was edible but didn’t have the light texture and tangy taste of the original. But you never know until you try, right?

A Dresser Reborn

After years of languishing in storage, this lovely dresser came to me by way of my friend Paula. It wasn’t quite so lovely when I got it, and it had a few problems…like a broken mirror. So I fixed it.

Dresser mirror in clamps

A little glue (and stuff) and it’ll all better soon.

Then I sanded it, stained it, painted the knobs, and put it back together. And . . .
drawers sanded drawers
04 Dresser

drawer knobs

Paint makes so many things look better


I didn’t like it.
dresser

Finished?


It was boring. It didn’t want to be boring. So with inspiration from Miss Mustard Seed, a tester pot of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (in Duck Egg), some fun French fooferah from The Graphics Fairy (I used pieces from this one), and a little dark wax, I added a little flair.
Mirror frame, painted

Love the combo of painted & stained wood!


mirror frame
painted dresser
Now the dresser is no longer boring. And we’re both much happier.
finished project

Finished!


The wax gives it more of a greenish tint, which is just fine, but it’s not as green in real life as it looks in this picture. Either way, I now love it.

The End.

P.S. I apologize for the messy state of my bed, which unfortunately shows in the mirror. Even though I’m not a fan of this quilt anymore (someone left a hairball on my down comforter, ruining it forever, so this had to come out of storage), I do normally make my bed. I just wasn’t in the mood that day.

7-Up Cake (Revisited)

Since it’s midsummer, hot as blazes, and this is just about the best dessert I know of on a hot day…

Since I messed up the last time and left out a major ingredient in the recipe…

And since…well, just because. Here’s a (corrected and updated) recipe for…

7-Up Cake

CAKE
Pineapple Cake Mix
1 package Vanilla Instant Pudding
8 oz 7-Up
¾ Cup Vegetable Oil
4 eggs

Mix all ingredients with mixer. (I beat it on medium about 2 minutes) Pour into 2 8-inch pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted near middle comes out clean.

ICING
1 stick Butter
1 ½ Cups Sugar
4-5 Tablespoons Flour
2 Eggs
1 can Crushed Pineapple

While cake is in the oven, mix all ingredients in top of double boiler and cook until thickened. (This will take some time. Probably longer than you think.) Once it’s thick, let it cool. (This will also take some time, which is why you start immediately after putting the cake in the oven.)

Once both cake and icing are cool, assemble the two together. I like to make a 2-layer 8-inch square; it cuts neatly into little square pieces that are much easier to deal with than the triangles you get with a round cake.

Store in refrigerator. On a hot day, a chunk of this cold cake is perfection on a plate.

Backsplash Redo

After surviving performances in seventeen (17!) Christmas concert events of one kind or another, I had to nap…but after a few days I crawled out and decided it was time to deal with my outdated kitchen backsplash. Here it was:ImageVery late 80’s/early 90’s, no? Ah, hunter green. I loved you then. But that was so very then.

Someday I’ll change several things about my kitchen, not least those horrid orange cabinets, the countertops, and of course, the boring tile backsplash. But until that day comes, I decided ditching the green would be a happy interim solution. What’s the worst that could happen? It could look atrocious and then I’d have to chip out that section of tile and replace it with mosaic or something. I figured that was worth a $6 gamble (cost of paint & brushes). And indeed it was. Here’s the after: ImageThat’s Martha Stewart’s multi-surface paint in Tartan Red. I cleaned the tiles, wiped them down with alcohol, then taped and painted. I found the best method was to get paint on the tile with a small foam brush, then run over it with a foam roller to smooth it out. Once dry I applied a coat of sealer and there you go. My Williamsburg pub sign is attached with those Contact adhesive strips, everything goes better with the new color, and I’m a happy camper.ImageWill it hold up to heavy cooking & cleaning? We’ll see. If not, well, that will be an excuse to do a little tiling.

Next project: writing down everyone’s phone number–you know, the old fashioned way, with pen and paper–just in case I lose my phone and want to talk to anyone ever again. What’s next on your project list?

My apologies for the slow giveaway results, I’ve been sitting in a puddle of sheep urine. Not the whole time, but long enough. (Trust me, it doesn’t take long for that to be long enough.) But never mind, that’s a story for another day. For now, it’s all about who gets the fun wine book.
book cover
So raise your glass for…

Andrea Leech!

Andrea voted for Riesling—a little sweet for my taste, but whatever pops your cork.

Congratulations, Andrea! I’ll put your book in the mail tomorrow. No, really, I will. There are no sheep scheduled in my immediate future.

So go eat your food and enjoy it; drink your wine and be happy, because that is what God wants you to do. (Ecclesiastes 9:7)

While I get the impression the writer of Ecclesiastes may have written that line a wee bit sarcastically, I do enjoy both food and wine and reading about both. So when I got the chance to review The Curious World of Wine by Dr. Richard Vine, I jumped at the chance.

As far as I know, “Vine” is his real name. I have no idea if that contributed to his career choice as a winemaker. He does have impressive credentials: 50+ years in the industry, 21 of them as the wine consultant for American Airlines. Heck, Purdue University named a wine library after him.
book cover
If you have wine-lovers on your Christmas list, this would make an excellent gift. It’s hot off the press, so they probably won’t have a copy. Thanksgiving is in two weeks, people. Two. Weeks. Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye after that. It is not too early to shop.

About the book: it’s highly amusing and informative, packed with (as the subtitle says) “facts, legends, and lore about the drink we love so much.” It’s the sort of book one can pick up and put down, absorbing little sips of knowledge each time. It covers everything from the history of wine to “legends and lore” and “charming wine characters.” Did you know Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about Napa Valley? If you’ve been to the California state park named after him, you probably did, but I haven’t and didn’t. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island, and Napa Valley…quite the variety of topics.

Patriotic as I am, I would, have appreciated more attention to Texas wineries. Still, there is reference to the time Texas saved Europe’s vineyards…it’s true! Read the book to find out how it went down. While you’re in there, you’ll learn the history of phrases like “three sheets to the wind” and “the bitter end.” Then there’s that whole thing about how wine glasses came to be shaped that way. Let’s just say it’s there were molds involved, it’s anatomically based, and theoretically goblets could come in sizes A, B, and so on.

There’s a lot of information about wine, too. And vineyards. And stories about the people who founded and run vineyards. And, oh, lots of interesting stuff. You should read it! Which brings me to…

The Giveaway
The publishers sent me a copy of the book, which the delivery person thoughtfully hid behind the scarecrow on my porch. It was so well hidden, I couldn’t find it, which resulted in my being sent another copy which I received shortly after I found the first one. Ahem. So now I have two—but not for long! If you’d like a copy of The Curious World of Wine, leave a comment below about your favorite kind of wine. I’ll put all the names in a bucket and poke a corkscrew in there to draw one at random. The winner will get my extra copy of the book.

Ready? The contest will be open until midnight next Saturday, 11/17. Just post your favorite kind of wine below—in the blog comments, please, not on Facebook, so they’ll all be in one place. Winner to be announced next week. Good luck!

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