A Fresh Start

29 Jul

A lot has changed since my last post! James an I welcomed a baby boy on May 20. I am now chronicling our adventures at ovenandbun.wordpress.com/. I hope to see you there!

Homemade Rainbow Wedding Cake

20 May

When James and I got married last summer I knew I wanted to make my own cake. We had a smallish backyard wedding, and I love to bake, so I knew I could handle it! I’m not sure what made me decide to have a rainbow cake, other than that it’s so pretty! I thought it would be helpful to write down the details in case anyone else wants to do something similar.

I first saw Martha Stewart’s Rainbow Layer Cake Recipe, but knew I would have to modify it to make a large enough cake. I did a lot of research, including poring over Smitten Kitchen’s wedding cake posts, and ultimately decided to use the Butter Cake recipe from the Wilton Cake website. (Their website and forums are a treasure trove of great cake information!) I used their Wedding Cake Data Chart to figure out what size pan to use and how much cake batter to make so I would end up with a 50-serving, 6-layer cake. It was a lot of math! I used two 10″ square cake pans (Wilton brand, bought at Joann’s), and used 3 cups of batter per layer.

I didn’t have my stand mixer in California so I did two batches of 1.2 times the recipe. I told you it was a lot of math! And a lot of butter and eggs.

This batter was beautiful! And delicious too. I love that the recipe uses almond extract. It makes a very moist, dense cake that was perfect for making sturdy layers. It was almost as rich and dense as a pound cake.

I used Wilton brand gel food coloring, which I also bought at Joann’s. I hoarded coupons for weeks to save money! It is described as icing color, but it worked beautifully in the cake batter. For each layer I measured 3 cups of batter into a smaller bowl and then colored it.

The first batch is cooked!

My mom was there for moral support. Thanks, Mom!

All  baked and ready. I made the cake layers about a week before the wedding.

For frosting I decided to use Smitten Kitchen’s Swiss Buttercream recipe. This is a beautiful frosting with a lovely shimmer, and it tastes delicious too. It has all the buttery flavor of a buttercream without the heaviness. It apparently also holds up better in the heat, which was important for an outdoor wedding in July in central California! This is definitely my new go-to frosting recipe. It is a little tricky, like the recipe describes. I made it with a hand mixer and it would be much easier with a stand mixer. There is a point where it looks like a soupy mess, but you just keep adding butter and it finally comes together.

I made the frosting the day before. It got hard in the fridge so I just let it sit out for a bit.I can’t find my notes for it, but I think I made twice the recipe for a 9″ cake. I do know I ran out when frosting the cake the morning of the wedding, and had to frantically make more. The layers weren’t completely flat, which became obvious once I stacked the layers. Oh, well. (Here is my sister-in-law, Paige!)

It’s finally time to cut the cake! Here is James’ mom, Sally, and her friend Carol looking on. Plus my Dad/videographer’s hand.

Not bad! (I made my wedding dress too.)

Beautiful! This was really one of the most delicious cakes I have ever eaten, though I say it myself.

Butter Krak

16 Mar

Driving through Pennsylvania the other day, going from Baltimore back to Massachusetts, I came across this alluring item at a Rutter’s station on the outskirts of York.

The Zitner’s Butter Krak. Of course I had to buy it.

Little did I know it is a Philadelphia-area delicacy, and only available for a few months each spring.

The Zitner company has been making cream-filled chocolate Easter eggs since for decades. The coconutty Butter Krak flavor was invented by Annie Zitner in the 1930s.

It took me a few days to test the Krak.

The outside is unassuming.

The inside is incredibly sweet, with a creamy coconut flavor mixed with short coconut shreds. The dark chocolate coating also contains bits of toasted coconut.

It’s tasty, but very, very sweet. I think I can wait until next spring for my next one!

Naan and Chana Punjabi

12 Feb

This Chana Punjabi from The Wednesday Chef has become a favorite of mine, especially in these bitterly cold days of late winter. It’s hearty, spicy, and so satisfying.

I usually serve it with brown rice, but recently decided to attempt naan.  I love bread in all forms, but particularly love soft and chewy naan. I used to be able to get takeout naan to eat with my homemade Indian food, but now I live in the country about 15 miles from the nearest Indian restaurant. Now that I have this recipe I’ll never be without naan!

I adapted my recipe from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. This is an amazing book–a must for anyone who loves Indian food! I looked at naan recipes online and they were all extremely complicated, with yeast, eggs, multi-hour rises, etc. This recipe is very simple, and very delicious. I don’t have a pizza stone or a griddle and had to improvise a bit. They turned out perfectly, especially since I burned them a bit under the broiler! That added a little authentic tandoori-style char!


3 cups all purpose flour (mine was a mixture of white and wheat flour), plus extra for dusting
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt (once I only had vanilla and it tasted fine!)
1 cup warm water
Canola oil
Melted butter or ghee

1. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl.

2. Combine the warm water and yogurt in a measuring cup. Pour over the flour mixture, and mix. It will seem too dry but will soon come together into a soft, sticky ball.

3. Using your hands, gather the dough and knead it into a smooth, soft ball. You may need to dust your hands with flour, but don’t add too much.

4. Cut the dough into four equal portions. (I use my digital kitchen scale to make sure they are perfectly equal!) Lightly grease a plate with oil. Shape one portion of the dough into a bun-shaped round and put it on the plate. Repeat with the remaining dough.

5. Brush the tops of the dough with melted butter, cover with a plastic wrap, and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

6. Pre-heat broiler in your oven. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on a heavy cookie sheet. I use commercial steel half sheet pans.  Put the pan under the broiler and heat for about 10 minutes. When the pan is nice and hot take it out of the oven and put the dough pieces on it, letting them stretch into long ovoid shapes. Put the dough back under the broiler for about 5-10 more minutes.  Keep an eye on them, because the dough will puff up!

7. You can top them with more melted butter if you want, but I don’t.

8. Devour.

Shalom Cardigan

11 Jun

I actually finished this a few weeks ago. This is the Shalom cardigan, which is very popular on Ravelry.

I need to put a button on it, so no pictures of me wearing it yet. I didn’t size it up at all, so it’s kind of too small, but still wearable.

I doubled two types of yarn together, so it’s quite thick and heavy. I think it will be nice for winter, when I want something cozy on my back but don’t want to wear a shawl.

Chicken Mughlai

10 Jun

My favorite restaurant in Baltimore–actually my favorite restaurant ever–isCafe Spice in Towson, north of B’more. It is an Indian restaurant, and the best food I have eaten in my life! My friends Jacob and Stephanie took us there last summer, and we have gone a few times since then. They have a dish called Mughlai, which the owner recommended because Stephanie really likes tikka masala. It is sooooo tasty, and I wanted to try re-creating it at home. I found this recipe online, which is very good but not the same as Cafe Spice. I modified the recipe by adding brown sugar, and fresh chopped cilantro right at the end but it isn’t as good. I found an amazing recipe book called 660 Curries, which has at least two recipes that look similar to Cafe Spice’s mughlai, so I’m going to give those a try too.

I have been reading a fascinating book called Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerers by Lizzie Collingham. It is an account of the history of Indian food, and shows how each common Indian dish is a result of invasions by, or trade with, other groups of people. The Vindaloo chapter is about the Portugese influence in India, and the Biryani chapter is about the Mughals. They are the ones for whom the mughlai sauce is named, so I was very interested to read this chapter. The Mughals came from Persia, and ruled India from around 1550 until they lost power in the mid-19th century. Because they were the royalty of India, their food is very rich and contains a lot of spices. Collingham’s book is history interspersed with recipes.

I think this is going to be the summer of Indian food!

Chana Punjabi

8 Jun

I cooked a bunch of dried chickpeas a while ago, and they have been sitting in my freezer waiting to be used since then. I came across this recipe on The Wednesday Chef and knew I had to make it. It is definitely one of the tastiest dishes I have ever made, and very easy though it has to cook for about an hour. This made enough that we had it for dinner and lunch the next day.

It is nice and spicy, and the lemon juice gives it a freshness that is so addictive. You can use two cans of chickpeas, but I recommend cooking your own from dried. They taste so much better, and their texture is better too. They are firm, and a little bit nutty.

Chana Punjabi

1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt, or as needed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cups of cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
rice or naan for serving.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low. Add onion and cook until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and chili, and cook until soft but not browned. Add tomatoes and 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook until tomatoes are very soft, about 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

2. Puree with an immersion blender, or in a blender or food processor until smooth. Put back on heat. Add paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, coriander, the garam masala and lemon juice. Add chickpeas and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.

3. Cover and simmer until sauce is thick and chickpeas are soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Stir in cilantro, adjust salt as needed and serve with cooked rice, if desired.

Strawberry banana frozen yogurt

8 Jun

It was very warm here last week, and I wanted some tasty frozen yogurt to cool off. I had some strawberries, and a very ripe banana so decided to make strawberry banana frozen yogurt. It was loosely inspired by this Strawberry Daiquiri frozen yogurt from Thursday Night Smackdown, but without alcohol.

I only had whole milk yogurt in the house, which I don’t think I would use again! It was a bit too creamy.

Strawberry Banana Frozen Yogurt

1 lb ripe strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup plain yogurt
Juice and zest of 1 limes
1 ripe banana

Hull and quarter the strawberries and place in a bowl. Add sugar, mix, and let macerate for about an hour. This will draw the water out of the berries and make them nice and juicy. Stir occasionally.

Put the berries, yogurt, lime juice and zest and banana into a blender. Puree until nice and smooth. Pour the berries, yogurt, lime juice and rum into a blender. Blend until smooth. Chill in the fridge for about an hour, or stick in the freezer until you just can’t wait anymore.

Freeze in ice cream maker, according to manufacturer’s instructions. You can eat it right away if you don’t mind it being slushy, or move to a freezer-safe container and freeze for about 30 minutes. It will be really hard so you’ll have to let it sit for a few minutes before it will be scoop-able.

This reminded me of the smoothies my aunts used to make when I was little. It’s super tasty and refreshing!

Burgers with feta mint sauce

22 May

I didn’t take a picture of these burgers, but they were so tasty I want to remember the recipe!

I took this recipe for lamb burgers and modified it a bit.

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3 green onions
Greek seasoning
salt and pepper

Feta sauce
4 ounces crumbled feta
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Leaves from 3 stalks fresh mint, chopped

I think I would double the feta sauce recipe, because we ended up using almost all of it on two burgers. This was super fast and easy, and very delicious.

A new dress

20 May

I actually made this a while ago, but haven’t had a chance to post about it until now.

James’ department party was a couple of weeks ago, and I really wanted a new dress to wear. I was in Baltimore and went to Anthropologie with some friends looking for one, and realized that I could just make a cute summery party dress and not spend $100+. With two weeks to go before the party, I had to work fast. Luckily I stopped in Ikea and found this crazy bird fabric. Crazy in a good way, right?

I decided to use a pattern for a dress that I have already made before, with a view slight modifications. I made the straps long so they could be tied, instead of attached. I also didn’t use the skirt pattern, I just used the rest of the fabric to make it as long and full as possible. I used a self-fabric lining, which was actually kind of cute because the birds peeked out from the under layer. This fabric is pretty thin, and I think I will make a lining for the skirt. I made most of it in one evening, and then finished it the next morning. I love this pattern because it’s so fast and easy, and the result is so cute and comfortable.

The dress was a hit and I got a lot of compliments! The woman working the bar at the party asked if I made it, and said she knew because she recognized the fabric from Ikea!

I wore it with a black camisole underneath, and a grey short-sleeved cardigan. A perfect summer party outfit!