Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD: Perfect Party Cake Cupcakes

I'll admit that I'm a brat when it comes to kitchen failures. In general, as soon as I fail at a recipe, that recipe becomes the Fredo to my Michael Corleone - it's dead to me. I don't want it near my house. I move on and don't revisit it. That's right, I'm a quitter.

Last August, I was just a wet-behind-the-ears TWD newbie when I decided to make the Perfect Party Cake for my parents' birthdays (they conveniently have birthdays within a couple of days of each other, so cake consolidation just makes good sense). I was fresh off a rousing success with Granola Grabbers, so I was sure that I could just whip up a triple layer cake and delight my family. Well, the cake was a massive flop, not salvageable in any way. It didn't rise and it tasted terrible. I'm still not sure what went wrong - maybe my baking powder was old? That was back in the day when a thing of baking powder would last me seven years, not seven weeks. In any event, the cake went into the trash. (There was a happy ending though, because I ended up making the peach galette, and that turned out to be one of our all-time favorite desserts.)

I couldn't shake the Perfect Party Cake, though. It just looked so, well, perfect, for so many of life's white cake occasions. Fast forward five months when I was trying to figure out what cake to make for my daughter's fourth birthday. She easily settled on the theme (pink and purple princess), and I went back and forth a bit before deciding to give the PPC another try. I figured that I was a better baker in January than I was in August; I'd learned so much from my fellow TWD Bakers; and I had a new thing of baking powder. The stars were all lining up.

The cake turned out perfectly! I obviously did not do a layer cake since I was constrained by the Wilton castle cake pan, but the cake was lovely. I topped it with Dorie's buttercream, which came together without any trouble, if I recall correctly (sometimes I block out trouble though).

So when I saw that Carol of Mix Mix Stir Stir picked the Perfect Party Cake for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, I wasn't sure if I was going to make it again, since we didn't really have an obvious occasion for a big layer cake around here. But I wimped out on the Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise last week (lamely using the humidity as an excuse, no less) and I didn't really want to miss two weeks in a row; plus, it wasn't yet clear which one was the fluke - my PPC success or my PPC failure - and I figured a tie-breaker was the only way to find out.

I decided to cut the recipe in half and make cupcakes. There is nothing complicated about this cake. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk milk or buttermilk (I used regular milk this time, buttermilk with the castle) and egg whites. Rub lemon zest into the sugar until the sugar is fragrant (this is one of my favorite Dorie tricks). Beat together butter and sugar, add lemon extract (I left the extract out of the cupcakes because I wanted the lemon flavor to be more subtle), then alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture. I was hoping to end up with 5 or 6 cupcakes but got 10 large ones, even with a half recipe.

Cupcakes at Dusk

I decided to try something a little different and make strawberry cream cheese frosting for the cupcakes this time. I made half of this recipe, which was very good, although I ran out of powdered sugar, so it probably wasn't as sweet as it was supposed to be. But I thought it complemented the cake nicely.

I think the Perfect Party Cake lives up to its name. It is beautiful and delicious (but not too sweet) and the perfect vehicle for any frosting (or ice cream!) It is perfect even when there is no party in sight. Now that is what I call versatile. Thanks for the great pick, Carol!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Gazpacho

Gazpacho is on the menu for Barefoot Bloggers this week thanks to Meryl of My Bit of Earth. I've loved gazpacho ever since I was old enough to be willing to try it (willingness to try gazpacho, i.e. cold vegetable soup, might be as good of a demarcation line between childhood and adulthood as anything). Nowadays I find gazpacho to be like pizza -- I think even bad gazpacho is pretty good.

I'll never forgot a couple of summers ago when we were selling our first house. The whole house-selling process was a complete mystery to me. A couple of days after we put our house on the market, the doorbell rang. When I answered it, the husband of our real estate agent walked in carrying a huge Tupperware full of gazpacho for the agent walk-through. The fact that selling a house appeared to involve real estate agent spouses feeding gazpacho to other real estate agents did not help make the process any less mysterious for me. But we sold our house, so I guess it worked.

Much as I like gazpacho, I've never made it before. Well, I suppose that I did make white gazpacho a few weeks ago, but I've never made a traditional gazpacho like Ina's before. This is super fast to make if you use the food processor as Ina suggests that you do. Each vegetable gets processed separately and then thrown together in a huge bowl with tomato juice, vinegar, oil, garlic, salt and pepper. In the Barefoot Contessa cookbook, Ina suggests that you use Sacramento Tomato Juice for superior flavor. Well, some weeks I feel like running around town looking for things like Sacramento Tomato Juice, and some weeks I don't. This was a "don't" week, so I used Campbell's Tomato Juice, and the gazpacho tasted just fine to me.

Ina's recipe also calls for 1/2 cup oil (note: I made the full recipe in the book, which is double the version posted here on the Food Network website). While I love and trust Ina, I strongly suspected that I could get away with much less than 1/2 cup oil. I decided to start with 2T and go up from there if it needed it. It didn't - 2T was plenty in my opinion. Reducing the oil makes this a really light soup.

I was concentrating so hard on my planned oil reduction that I completely forgot the vinegar. Trust me, you definitely don't want to forget that. I think poor David thought that I was trying to kill him when he took the first bite of the soup without vinegar. Once I added the vinegar it was much better.

I really thought this soup was delicious, and I ate it every day for a week. A large container of this soup will be a fixture in my refrigerator this summer. Thanks for the great pick, Meryl!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ellie: Jambalaya with Shrimp and Ham

This week's CEiMB recipe, Jambalaya with Shrimp and Ham , was chosen by Anonymous New York. This had to be one of the best all-around dinner experiences we've had in weeks around here. Despite my best intentions to prepare ahead of time, I am usually the person chopping vegetables for that night's dinner at 6 p.m. The kids are crazy, the house is a wreck, and there I am, peeling garlic.

Well, this week my older two have swimming lessons, so I've been sitting in the oppressive Alabama heat for two hours every afternoon, getting eaten by killer mosquitoes while my kids learn to prone float. The lessons are taught in the backyard pool of a woman who's taught swimming in town for years. She is truly a gifted swim teacher, and my kids have learned so much from her, but she does not have a potty available for her 3-10 year old students. Don't get me wrong -- I don't blame her. I wouldn't want 100 wet little people a week trekking through my house either, but the upshot of it all is that I end up spending at least half the time there dealing with potty emergencies. She has a longstanding "don't ask, don't tell" policy with respect to her bushes, which we moms do appreciate, but sometimes bushes just don't cut it. So I end up driving one kid or the other to the nearest real potty and then racing to get back before the other kid's lesson is over. By the time we get home, I'm mildly delirious and completely zapped of any energy that might have otherwise been used to chop a pepper.

Therefore, I actually planned ahead for a change and completely prepared all of the ingredients for this jambalaya on Tuesday night, and then just threw it all together for dinner on Wednesday. Wow, our whole evening ran so much more smoothly! I really need to get into the habit of doing this.

Start out by cooking some bell peppers, onions, and garlic, then adding chicken stock, rice, ham, diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted) and an assortment of spices, and cook covered for 20 minutes. Add some shrimp at the end and cook it for a little bit longer, and serve with hot sauce (I forgot that part).

David and I LOVED this dish. I thought it had just the right amount of spiciness - plenty of kick, but not enough to cause physical pain. If you like pain, you could always add more cayenne. I think this would also be good with smoked sausage (turkey or otherwise) instead of the ham, or with chicken instead of shrimp. This might be my favorite Ellie recipe yet -- it is definitely a keeper!


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more, to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more, to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 ounces diced, smoked ham
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can no-salt added diced tomatoes
1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
Hot pepper sauce

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over a medium heat. Add the onion, peppers and garlic and saute until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Mix in the next 11 ingredients, salt through the diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Stir in the rice, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until rice is done and most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the shrimp and cook, covered, for 5 minutes more, or until shrimp is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with hot pepper sauce.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TWD: Honey Peach Ice Cream

Everyone is familiar with the old saying "if at first you don't succeed, try try again." I remember my mother cheerfully chirping that one to me as a kid if I messed up in soccer or didn't understand my math homework. I feel like old sayings with staying power get that way for a reason - they have merit, they embody wisdom, they hold some universal truth. And so, despite my multiple failures, I have continued to try to make custard, time and time again, like the good old adage-follower that I am. But this saying does not promise eventual success. It just tells you to keep trying. There is no follow up, no instructions for what to do "if at second you don't succeed." (Although I do think that the saying implies that you should try at least twice more after your first failed attempt -- "try try again" - that's two more tries.) But I have to believe that if we could ask the author of that saying what we should do if we keep try-trying and not-not succeeding, he would say "if at fifth you don't succeed, you really need to move on."

And that's where I find myself with custard. Custard is not my friend. I can't put my finger on exactly why things tend to break down for me when I make custard, but break down they do. And since custard was required for this week's TWD selection, Honey Peach Ice Cream, you can probably guess how it turned out for me.

But first, let's discuss what did work. My peach puree.

That simply required peeling and cutting up peaches, boiling them with honey, and then pureeing them with an immersion blender. Apparently some people really hate peeling peaches and will go to great lengths to avoid it. My bloggy friend Di and I have a deal that if we ever live near each other, I'll peel her peaches and she'll make my custard. I totally get the better end of that bargain.
Now let's discuss the more complicated matter of what did not work.

I know the drill by now. Whisk egg yolks & sugar in one bowl, boil milk in a different bowl, add a small amount of milk to the eggs to temper them, add the rest of the milk slowly while whisking vigorously. But this time, we had to pour the egg/sugar/milk mixture back into the pan and cook over medium heat until it hit between 170 and 180 degrees.

Kitchen thermometers mysteriously refuse to hit the desired temperature when they are taking the temperature of custard in my kitchen. When this first started happening, I thought that maybe the cheap thermometer I bought at Target or the grocery store just wasn't reliable, so I started diverting my children's college savings to fancy Williams-Sonoma thermometers in the hopes of ending my custard temperature-taking woes.

That's my fancy candy thermometer, hanging out at 155 degrees, a full 20 degrees shy of where it needed to be. It pretty much didn't budge from there, other than to drop a few degrees from time to time.

So I broke out my fancy new instant read and double teamed the custard:

Well, I can report, in true Consumer Reports fashion, that kitchen thermometers at all price points that are used to take the temperature of custard in my kitchen will reliably register readings that are a solid 20 degrees lower than required.

So my custard boiled and boiled away, never getting above 155 degrees. In addition to the temperature test for determining whether the custard is done, Dorie describes a "spoon test," in which the custard coats the back of a spoon, and if you run your finger down the bowl of the spoon, the custard won't run into the track. Well, I tried the spoon test, and it seemed to be holding the track. But then when I'd bend down to squint and read my thermometers while holding the spoon, the custard seemed to drip back into the track, so I started to doubt that it was satisfying the spoon test, especially since the custard appeared to be way short of hitting temperature.

I finally bailed after about 30+ minutes. As soon as it came off the heat, I knew that it was way overdone, probably by a good 20 minutes. I mixed the custard with the peach puree, refrigerated, and churned the ice cream the next night.

My first thought when I tasted it was "grainy." David didn't really notice the graininess, but he did think that it tasted like there was a film on it. I think that's even worse than grainy. The flavor was okay, as copious amount of peaches, honey, sugar, milk and cream have a way of keeping things from being truly awful no matter what you do to them, but I am sure the flavor was nothing like what it would have been had I not ruined the custard AGAIN.

The honey peach ice cream was chosen by Tommi of Brown Interior. Tommi, you couldn't have picked a better June recipe than this one, and I'm so bummed that I ruined it. I know that this had to be incredible for all the TWDers who cooked their custard for 5 minutes instead of 45.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

BBA: Bagels

It is no exaggeration to say that I was probably more excited to make bagels out of the Bread Baker's Apprentice than I've ever been to make anything ever. More excited that the Cover Cake? More excited than sticky buns? Yes, because I know that somewhere in my town, I can find great chocolate cake and fabulous sticky buns even if I choose to never make them again. But I know that I can't find a truly great water bagel. [NOTE to my local friends: please correct me if there are in fact great bagels to be had here in town. I currently go to Panera when I want a bagel.]

When I think of great bagels, I think of New York style water bagels, like the kind I used to get at H&H Bagels when I lived in New York, or at Bodo's Bagels when I lived in Charlottesville. In fact, I still wear my threadbare Bodo's t-shirt to bed at least three nights a week - that's how devoted I am to the water bagel. Hubs and I ate at Bodo's so much when we were in school that to this day when I walk in there, muscle memory takes over and "my sandwich" (smoked turkey on everything with provolone and lettuce heated) rolls off my tongue as soon as the guy at the counter asks for my order.

So given how much I love water bagels, and how frustrated I've been by my inability to find them locally, I was prepared to do whatever it took to make my own at home. Even if it meant braving an 8 page recipe and mail-ordering specialty flour. You know you've crossed some kind of invisible sanity line when your doorbell rings and you run to the front door singing "it's my high-gluten flour!"

The bagels start out with a sponge made from yeast, high-gluten flour and water. Mix it all together in a bowl and let it sit for a couple of hours until it's foamy and bubbly, doubles in size and "collapses" when the bowl is tapped on the countertop. To me "collapse" is a pretty dramatic word, much more so than "recede," which is what my sponge did. Fortunately, several of us were making the bagels "together" via Twitter, so I got instant reassurance that receding was probably good enough. Once the sponge is ready, add more yeast, more flour, salt, and malt powder.

It became clear pretty quickly that my Kitchen Aid was not going to handle this thick, heavy dough, so I had to knead it by hand. It was my first time hand kneading, I think, and while I don't have anything to compare it to, this seemed like a nice dough to handle. Once it passed the windowpane test and the temperature test, Elizabeth and I began dividing the dough.

Peter Reinhart recommends 4.5 oz bagels, but several people said they were enormous, and having just dealt with huge bread last time, I decided to go with a more manageable 3.5 ounce size. They seemed perfect to me.

After the bagels are shaped, rest for 20 minutes, and pass the "float test," they get refrigerated overnight.

I woke up like a kid on Christmas on bagel baking day. I brought a huge pot of water (with baking soda in it) to a boil and started boiling the bagels, one to two minutes per side:

Then baked them:

The verdict? There is plenty of room for improvement in my bagelmaking. My bagels were on the flat side, and I don't know why. They were also on the outer limits of the acceptably chewy spectrum - I'd probably limit boiling to one minute per side next time to achieve optimal chewiness. But oh. my. gosh. This is it! This is the bagel that I crave but cannot buy here, the bagel that I thought I would only get to experience every 10 years at class reunions. I never in a million years would have thought that I could make these at home. I'm still sort of in shock.

Now, I got the feeling that I liked these more than anyone else who tried them. That could be just because I just like chewy water bagels more than most people, or because I'm so utterly bagel-deprived, or because I sweated these bagels for two days. But in any event, I loved them, and I plan to work these into my baking schedule at least once every couple of months.

Bagels are the third recipe in Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, which a couple of hundred of us are baking through as part of the BBA Challenge. Next up: brioche!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

TWD: Parisian Apple Tartlet

Jessica of My Baking Heart chose Parisian Apple Tartlets for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. When I first saw that a tart(let) was on the menu this month, I assumed I'd be hauling out the food processor, examining for clumps and curds, and panicking about over processing tart dough. So I was happily surprised when I read the recipe and realized that this one is by far the simplest TWD recipe yet. It doesn't get "made" so much as assembled.

That's right, from top to bottom we have (1) frozen puff pastry, (2) apple half (mine might actually be an apple quarter; I lost track), (3) brown sugar, and (4) butter. Bake it until it's puffy and browned. Eat it.

Dorie discusses frozen puff pastry in her book, and strongly encourages bakers to forgo the more readily available Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry in favor of all-butter frozen puff pastry available at specialty stores. Dorie recommends a version by Dufour Pastry, which she says is so good that she stopped making puff pastry at home.

Let me list a few items that I have not been able to find in my local specialty store (Whole Foods) in the past few months: green lentils, lemon marmalade, fleur de sel, 00 flour, thyme, high gluten flour, amaretto cookies, and fresh yeast. But lo!

I rubbed my eyes to make sure that I wasn't hallucinating, that I wouldn't next wander over to aisle six and see flying pink elephants. Was it even possible that I was looking at not only all-butter frozen puff pastry, but the very brand of all-butter frozen puff pastry that caused Dorie stop making puff pastry at home? The winner of the International Fancy Food Show?

I was on such a high from my unexpected find that I barely flinched at the $11.99 price tag for my one sheet of puff pastry, and whistled and clicked my heels all the way to the checkout line.

Dorie says that peaches, plums, pears and apricots all work well in this, but I just don't think you can beat an apple tart. So I baked one apple tartlet for David and served it with ice cream. I traced my 4" circle for the tartlet (my sifter was the perfect size), and sprinkled sugar and cinnamon on the scraps (for me).

David really enjoyed the tartlet. I swear that he said something really clever when evaluating the tartlet last night (besides "this is really good!"), but I can't for the life of me remember what it was, and neither can he (I just asked him). The scraps were so amazing that I almost cried. That Dufour puff pastry really is as fabulous as Dorie says it is; I totally understand why it won the International Fancy Food Show. It's so good, in fact, that I am going to stop making my own puff pastry at home, just like Dorie. It's a splurge, so I'm sure I'll continue to rely on Pepperidge Farm for my day-to-day puff pastry needs, but for special occasions, I'm breaking out the Dufour.

The Parisian Apple Tartlet simply cannot be beat when you need a simple and delicious dessert quickly. I'll make this one again and again. Thanks for the great pick, Jessica!

[EDITED 6/9 9:15 a.m.]: David must have read my post this morning, because he left me the following message on Facebook: "Had I known the damage one sheet of that magical puff pastry would do, I'm sure I would have had something very clever to say about it. Sorry, did I say "clever?" I meant "profane," something very profane." D'oh!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ellie: White Gazpacho with Grapes and Toasted Almonds

I've been looking forward to this week's Craving Ellie in my Belly recipe, White Gazpacho with Grapes & Toasted Almonds, chosen by Lauren & Paul of I'll Eat You. I'm a huge fan of tomato-based gazpacho, so I thought that Ellie's cucumber based version sounded interesting.

This is a cold soup, as gazpachos tend to be, so it's a nice option when the weather gets warm. It's also one of those "throw everything in the food processor" soups, so you could pour yourself a cold drink and sit and fan yourself while the FP handles the hard labor.

The soup is thickened by white bread that gets soaked in water. I've made Ina Garten soups that use bread to thicken soup - it's really a pretty cool trick. And it worked like a charm here. The cucumber, garlic, scallions, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, toasted almonds, salt and olive oil get processed along with that soggy white bread. Ellie does not say to chill the soup before serving, but I chilled it. I like hot soup, warm soup, and cold soup, but not room temperature soup.

The soup gets garnished with more toasted almonds, more scallions, more cucumbers, and green grapes. Sidenote: I paid $8.14 for a smallish bag of green grapes for this recipe, a fact so shocking to me that I deemed it worthy of a Facebook status update ("Cathy just paid $8.14 for a smallish bag of green grapes.") For those of you not versed in social media, a Facebook status update is a far more serious and solemn affair than a Twitter status update (at least for me, as I will tweet anything). The cucumbers were 2 for 88 cents, though, so overall I am sure this soup was still far less expensive than take-out White Gazpacho with Grapes and Toasted Almonds would have been.

The verdict? I am not going to give up on this soup yet, because I think it has lots of potential. But the cucumber/garlic ratio in the recipe was WAY off, in my opinion, and I found the soup to be way too garlicky. The problem could be that the recipe calls for "2 large English cucumbers or 3 large regular cucumbers." Perhaps measurements (2 cups? 3 cups?) would have been useful, because "large" can be subjective. My three cucumbers looked large to me, but I sure wish that I had used that 4th cucumber (they were 2 for 88 cents, remember?) to help balance out the garlic. Other than that one issue, I felt like the soup had a nice texture, and it has the potential to be great, once we get the garlic situation under control. David noted that the garnishes make the soup, and I agree - garnishes are not optional here, kids. I will try this one again with some adjustments. It is a pretty, elegant soup (although I could not make it look pretty for pictures, sorry!), perfect for those summer garden luncheons that Ina always hosts. Thanks for the pick, Lauren & Paul!

White Gazpacho with Grapes and Toasted Almonds
2007 Ellie Krieger, All rights reserved


2 large English cucumbers (or 3 large regular cucumbers), peeled and roughly chopped
3 slices white bread, crusts removed
1/2 cup warm water
3 cloves garlic
6 scallions, whites only, divided
1/4 cup white wine vinegar or Sherry vinegar, plus more, to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice, plus more to taste
1/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons slivered almonds, lightly toasted, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup green grapes, halved


Set aside 1 cup of chopped cucumber for a garnish. Soak the bread in water until soft, about 2 minutes. Place soaked bread, the rest of the cucumber, garlic, 3 of the scallions, vinegar, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of the almonds, salt and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and process until cucumbers are completely blended and liquid and almonds are almost completely invisible, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with additional salt and vinegar, if desired.

To serve, ladle 1 cup gazpacho into a bowl. Mound 1/4 cup reserved chopped cucumber, 1 tablespoon scallions, 2 tablespoons grapes and 1 teaspoon almonds in the center of the soup.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

TWD: Cinnamon Squares

Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures , my twitter buddy and baker extraordinaire, chose this week's TWD recipe, Cinnamon Squares. When I first saw that Tracey chose cinnamon squares, I was really excited, because I assumed it was a non-chocolate dessert that I could serve to my non-chocolate eating husband. I love it when my hubs loves the desserts that I make, and I've found that a critical first step to getting him to love my desserts is for him to actually eat them.

So when I read the recipe more closely and realized that the cinnamon squares did indeed contain chocolate, I was a little disappointed, because I just don't have the creativity needed to turn chocolate desserts into non-chocolate desserts. I'm not a baker so much as a recipe follower. To the extent anyone in my life has ever complimented my cooking or baking skills, I know that they really should be complimenting my reading skills, or possibly my recipe selection skills.

Fortunately, I don't need to be a creative baker, because I can just shamelessly mooch off the creativity of my baking friends. Nancy had made this cake several days earlier, and told us that she did half the cake with a streusel filling. Streusel - perfect! So obvious once Nancy mentioned it, but I never would have thought of it on my own. So I decided to split the cake into two 8.5" x 4.5" loaf pans rather than one 8" x 8" pan, and make one pan with chocolate, in strict accordance with the recipe, and the other pan using the streusel from the Blueberry Crumb Cake that TWD made a couple of months ago. I skipped the chocolate ganache topping on both versions.

The cake is really easy to make. I didn't even have to break out my beloved KitchenAid! And while I do love my KitchenAid, I love it even more when I can leave it in its home in a lower cabinet. I know that I'm supposed to bend at the knees, not at the back, blah blah blah, but I ALWAYS lift that sucker by bending at the back, and it's just a matter of time before I add "back strain" to my list of kitchen injuries. But it won't happen when making cinnamon squares, dammit, because all you need to mix up this baby is a whisk and rubber spatula!

David's uber-cool Aunt Missy was visiting us for the first time ever when I served this cake. We love Aunt Missy & Uncle Jack, and don't get to see them nearly often enough. At the end of their youngest child's wedding reception last summer, I told Uncle Jack that I wish they had more children to marry off, because David and I had more fun at their kids' weddings than we've had in like eight years. To which Uncle Jack replied: "you two really need to get out more." True dat.

So I really wanted Aunt Missy to like this. She took a cinnamon square at the table, but before biting in said "wait, have you gotten a picture of this yet?" See, I told you she was the coolest! This spared me from having to have that awkward "hey, um, just hold on for one second while I take that cinnamon square out into the shade and snap a few pictures" conversation (which just never gets easier for me, no matter how long I do this). Not only did she just instinctively GET that we food bloggers must do strange things before anyone can eat the food, but she really loved the cinnamon squares, as did David's parents, who are among my most loyal tasters, and who must be getting really tired of me pushing baked goods at them all the time.

I've got to say that I vastly preferred the streusel version to the chocolate version. I think this is just where differences in taste buds come into play. We've made several recipes with TWD that combine chocolate and spice flavors, and I always feel, as David's mother stated perfectly, that these two flavors just don't improve each other (see also chocolate gingerbread). This is strictly a matter of personal taste, as many people love this combination. But I loved the streusel version of this cake so much that I'd rank it among my top 10 TWD recipes ever. The cake was soft and just melted in your mouth, and the flavor was perfect. And the streusel itself was as great as I remembered it being in the blueberry crumb cake.

Thanks for this great pick, Tracey!
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