Wednesday, May 28, 2008


To those of you stopping in by way of the Wall Street Journal, welcome! Mondays with Maida, which Lee Gomes referenced in his column today, is a project I finished last November. Here are links to the full archive for the project, the cookie panel's top ten, and nutrition data for the recipes. You can always find these links in my sidebar as well. I can't recommend the book highly enough - Maida is great and her recipes are delicious. The book I used (which I refer to as the "old book") is out of print, but still available through Jessica's Biscuit. Nearly all the recipes from the book were also reprinted in a later compilation (the "new book") which is still in print and available at Amazon. I'm partial to the old book for sentimental reasons and because of the charming drawings by Maida's daughter.

To my old friends... I was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal!! I still think there was some mistake :) The other bloggers mentioned in the article are tackling some truly challenging cookbooks including The French Laundry Cookbook and the Gourmet Cookbook. A weekly batch of cookies seems quite modest in comparison!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Happy Birthday Catelynn!

Catelynn turns one in a few days so family and friends gathered this past Saturday to celebrate. Catelynn was in good spirits all day and was happily passed from mom to gram to auntie to friend needing a "baby fix"...

I volunteered to make cake and cupcakes for the party. The theme was turtles and I got my inspiration from the invitation which had a cute stylized turtle on it. I decided to use marzipan this time (the gum paste I used for the decorations on Cassidy's first birthday cupcakes was tasteless - bleh!). I used chocolate jimmies for the eyes and little white non-pareils to decorate the shells.

David and Stephanie had beautiful springy shades of green and pink for the plates, cups and flatware which coordinated perfectly with the gorgeous tulips brought by Bob and Chuck. Even the green in my little turtles fit in nicely with the display!

Happy first birthday my dear little Catelynn!!!

No excuse...

So I tell you I'm going to post twice a week and then I disappear... completely... for a month. Sorry. I have no excuse - just an unexplainable reluctance to sit down and write lately.

So no more promises. Please keep me in your reader and I'll be here when I'm here. Though I'm having trouble getting the words down, you and this blog are often in my thoughts. I've toyed with the thought of quitting the blog altogether, but there's really no need to be that rash - Blogger is cheap. Even though the writing is harder than usual right now, I still enjoy being part of all this and there are still times when I have something I can't wait to share through my blog.

So what about State by State? I've obviously been having trouble getting going with it, but it is still a project that interests me very much. I'm not going to set a schedule - we'll just see what happens. There's still more to come on Maryland, but eventually (I hope) I'll get to the next state. We'll see :) In the meantime, I have a birthday party to tell you about...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

State by State - Maryland: Smith Island Cake

I'm afraid you might begin to think I should have called this series State by State Sweets, but let me regale you with one more sweetie from Maryland - the Smith Island Cake. On Smith Island, these cakes are simply called layer cakes. They can come in just about any flavor, but they're stacked 8, 10, or even 12 layers high - perfect for those who want a little cake with their frosting ;)

Since I have no photo, before we go any further, you must click on over here to get a sense of the proportions. While you're there, take a look at that frosting recipe - doesn't that add up to four pounds of frosting?? Actually, other photos of Smith Island cakes I've seen look more like the tortes they're sometimes compared to, with relatively thin layers of frosting between the cake layers.

Tom Horton's, An Island Out of Time, describes life on the island and introduces the reader to some of its inhabitants, including Mary Ada Marshall. With Smith Island Cake currently in the running for Maryland's state dessert, Mary Ada and her 8-layer cake traveled to Baltimore for a spot on yesterday's morning news. I was thrilled to find this video of the segment - Mary Ada is charming. When asked how long it takes to make one she says, "Some women it might take an hour. I can make one in about 25 minutes." She's not exaggerating either - Tom Horton says he timed her and she could bake and ice an 8-layer cake, wash the pans and put them away in 20 minutes. I wish!

No word yet as to whether the legislature will bestow the title of State Dessert on the Smith Island Cake, but I promise I'll keep you posted!

Monday, March 03, 2008

State by State - Maryland: Berger Cookies

A Berger cookie begs the question, is there such a thing as too much chocolate icing? When my mail-ordered boxes arrived several months back, I wasn't so sure the answer wasn't yes. The dark chocolate icing certainly was enticing, but the size of the cookie was intimidating. Despite my initial skepticism, I had no trouble eating every last crumb of my Berger cookie and my officemates quickly polished off two boxes of them. Too much icing? Phhhhffft!

I barely remember the cookie itself, which is overshadowed in every respect by a generous half-inch of that dark fudgy icing, but it was a firm, cakey cookie. It much resembles the familiar black and white cookie from New York, but it has lots of black and no white.

I had not heard of them until I started hunting around for a cookie that hailed from Maryland, but they apparently have legions of fans. They have been made in Baltimore since the 1800's and according to DeBaufre Bakeries, which makes them today, the recipe is little changed from the original.

My attempts to find a recipe for the cookies were less than successful. I found a recipe for Suzanne Laubheimer's Version of the Famous Berger Cookie (scroll down - it's the second recipe), but the icing clearly wasn't right (just melted chocolate chips) and I was suspicious that the cookie wasn't close either when I read the instructions to shape the dough into one-inch balls and flatten with a glass. I decided to use a black and white cookie recipe for the cookie and the fudge icing recipe from a half moon cookie recipe. I ended up with a cookie in the spirit of a Berger cookie (lots of icing, though I didn't have the guts to pile it on to the degree you find on a Berger cookie), but just not the same. If I try this again I would use a cocoa-based fudge icing for a darker flavor and color.

Next time - A state dessert for Maryland?

Friday, February 29, 2008

State by State - Maryland

Well, I promised I'd be back in February to begin State by State... and I've only got a few more minutes to make good on my promise! We'll see how things evolve, but right now I'd say my plan is not to try to be comprehensive, but for each state to talk about a few food-related topics that catch my fancy for one reason or another. As I ease back into this blogging business, I'll probably be keeping the posts rather short... but I plan to post a couple times a week.

I'll be focusing on Maryland during the month of March. I've lived here since 1964, but I feel that I hardly know the state. When you think of Maryland, what comes to mind? I expect it is probably something to do with the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland's vast coastline (over 7000 miles - can it really be?). I've only visited Maryland's eastern shore once and my only memories of it are sailing on a friend-of-a-friend's rickety trimaran, and stopping at a McDonald's that was across the street from a Perdue plant (feathers EVERYwhere). So this area that is so quintessentially Maryland is almost completely foreign to me. I hope to remedy that someday.

Oh my gosh... three minutes until March... must post!

Anyway, for this evening I'll leave you with this - a story I heard on the news the other day. It pleases me no end to hear about something like this happening where I live... Maryland :)

Next time - Baltimore's famous cookies

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Out damn spot...

As you can see, my blog has a new look - no more spots. I have been wanting to update my template for a very long time and finally took the plunge. At the moment what I have is a bare bones template, but I'm planning to maybe add some color and certainly to do something about the header. At the moment, I'm just happy to finally have full use of labels!

If something looks funny or doesn't seem to be working right - please let me know. So far the switch has been relatively painless, which leaves me thinking that disaster will strike soon.

update: question - do you all see the little tools link below each page element in the sidebar? I thought they would go away when I signed out from Blogger, but they didn't.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

101 Things in 1001 Days

This idea has been around for a while, but when I saw another mention of it on the Pink of Perfection along with the thought that we should put some fun into our resolutions, I was sold. I've got a good start on a list, but I'm not quite up to 101 things. I hope this isn't too much information, but my list is mostly about making and cooking, so it seems appropriate to put it here. Most importantly, posting it will (I think) help make it so - if I just made a list and didn't tell anyone about it, I could just as easily throw away the list and not tell anyone.

So here it is so far. With my cooking "things", I want to push myself to try techniques or foods I've been avoiding (though I haven't worked up the courage to put mushrooms on the list). With books I hope to make a dent in the unread piles in my house and similarly with sewing and knitting, I'd like to make some headway in the stash I've accumulated over the years and finish projects started long ago. That fuzzy beige sweater you see listed below? I started it 28 years ago - yikes! I'm not fooling myself that every single thing is really going to happen, but if even half of it does I'll be thrilled! I have 23 more "things" to add to the list - any suggestions?
  1. Try tempering chocolate
  2. Try canning dried beans (I’m getting a pressure canner)
  3. Start building a pantry for the winter by canning some summer produce
  4. Cook with artichokes
  5. Cook with avocados
  6. Cook with tempeh
  7. Cook with seitan
  8. Make puff pastry from scratch
  9. Find a tofu recipe I really like
  10. Weave napkins for myself
  11. Weave a simple blanket with doubleweave
  12. Weave a project using 8/2 cotton from stash
  13. Weave another project using 8/2 cotton from stash (I have LOTS of 8/2 cotton)
  14. Weave and sew a project using 20/2 cotton from stash
  15. Try rep weave (sampling)
  16. Try summer and winter (sampling)
  17. Weave a gift for someone
  18. Get up to speed with Fiberworks PCW (which I’ve had for years now) and design/document all of the projects above with it
  19. Read Breathless in Bombay (and review for LibraryThing)
  20. Read Sitting Practice (and review for LibraryThing)
  21. Read Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
  22. Read The Omnivore’s Dilemma
  23. Read The Amateur Marriage
  24. Read Iris Origo: Marchesa of Val d’Orcia
  25. Read Happiness Sold Separately
  26. Read The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
  27. Read The Blind Assassin
  28. Read The Known World
  29. Read The Poisonwood Bible
  30. Read The God of Small Things
  31. Read Drowning Ruth
  32. Read The Pilot's Wife
  33. Read Back When We Were Grownups
  34. Read Animal Vegetable Miracle - finished 1/30/2008
  35. Finish Catelynn’s stocking - finished 1/18/2008
  36. Finish fuzzy beige sweater
  37. Make another felted critter (maybe an original design this time?)
  38. Make Sock Monkey hat for Cassidy
  39. Make Flower Power hat for Catelynn
  40. Knit socks for myself
  41. Make a sweater using yarn from stash
  42. Make a felted purse or tote
  43. Make Christmas stockings for Waldo and Kitty (no angora Santa beards though!!)
  44. Knit at least one item to donate to charity from my stash
  45. Make a sock monkey for Catelynn
  46. Make a Cathy original - now that I’ve made a Christina original :)
  47. Try creating a pants pattern from my favorite (and best-fitting) pants
  48. Sew some more with Christina
  49. Sew a garment with fabric from my stash
  50. Sew a little gifty thing with fabric from my stash
  51. Make a miniature teddy bear
  52. Switch to new Blogger template - done 1/22/2008
  53. Customize template with my own header, etc. - done 2/3/2008
  54. Launch State by State (will check off once Maryland is done)
  55. Post belated review of The Breakaway Cook
  56. Post belated review of Educating Peter
  57. Post belated review of Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
  58. Post about three “last chance cookbooks”
  59. Purchase floor lamp for study
  60. Clean and organize the basement
  61. Get dryer vented to outside
  62. Paint inside
  63. Finish bedroom curtains
  64. Window treatment for study
  65. Clean up and plant herb garden
  66. Make a list and get that nice handyman to come back
  67. Set up TreasuryDirect account - done 1/6/2008
  68. Switch payroll purchase of savings bonds to TD account - done 1/21/2008
  69. Convert paper savings bonds to TD account
  70. Form 2803 (too boring to explain)
  71. Wisdom teeth on left side extracted in 2008
  72. Start exercising again (twice a week for at least 8 weeks in a row)
  73. Get my yarn stash inventoried on Ravelry
  74. Get my hooks and needles inventoried on Ravelry
  75. Reduce my average water consumption in 2008 by 5 gallons per day
  76. Reduce my average electricity consumption in 2008 by 2 KWH per day
  77. Switch all regular-sized incandescent light bulbs (except for my reading light) over to compact fluorescent bulbs - finished 2/4/2008
  78. Try needle tatting (thank you Santos!)
  79. Get my genealogy stuff organized
  80. Take and post to flickr 10 photos I’m proud of
  81. 101 things for the next 1001 days (which will start 9/29/2010)