#TBT: Craving the Comforts of Fall

August 2014

Last night I had pumpkin for dinner.

PUMPKIN FOR DINNER!

I’m digitally shouting this statement, not because of pure pumpkin excitement (though making pumpkin & sage gnocchi for the first time is shout worthy!), but because I had pumpkin for dinner in August! This was a real pumpkin, from a local garden, not from a can. There it was, making its spherical, orange August debut while kids were heading back to school, pools were being drained, and I was reaching for a hoodie at night.

Though I am attempting to cling to August and hold to the last moments of summer ever so tightly, that first taste of pumpkin has me craving the comforts of a constantly warm oven. High on that list of craved comforts is fresh baked bread, so before too long, maybe I’ll be pulling one of these varieties from the warm oven…

IMG_0754_bread varieties

#TBT (Throw Back Thursdays) glimpse into the vintage visual feasts in my personal collection of food and entertaining books.

Single-Grain

Happy Summer to Fall!
-Quelcy

Wedding Whimsy: Almond Vanilla Layer Cake with Lavender & Dried Flowers

August 2014

Every now and then, I delude myself into thinking I’m not an extremely opinionated person. On one such delusional bout, I arrived at our floral studio space with my blank canvas of a cake. Triumphantly, I passed the proverbial torch to my styling partner, ie: the Floral King, ie: #thommyoftoday.

Cake and Florals

“OK, add flower magic,” I said.
“Do you have any visions?” he inquired.
“I defer to your expertise,” I conceded, and with that, he began to gather dried flowers and approach the cake.
“Oooh…but what about this wine color? Maybe it could cascade a bit?” With that, my comments began to flow quite freely.
“‘I defer to your expertise,'” the Floral King repeated sarcastically.

Layer Cake

Fiiiiiiiiiiiiine. I’m opinionated. I can’t help but add my two cents, but that’s why our collaborations work so well! This we know. This cake collaboration in particular was for a whimsical wedding shoot for Roxanne’s Dried Flowers, with a floral crown and bouquet by lady Roxanne herself.

Cake Top View

Whole-Wheat Almond Layer Cake with Whipped Cream

Note: If you’re adding dried florals to your cake, make sure you’re using food grade florals (ie: edible/organic), or line the top of the cake with a coffee filter, cut to size, to make flower removal easier when the time comes to dig in.
 In this case, the lavender added a lovely faint flavor to the cake, so I recommend a sprinkling if you can source an organic variety.

Ingredients

2-1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder

4 organic, cage-free eggs
2 cups organic cane sugar

1 cup organic almond milk
3/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two 9-inch round cake pans or one 9×13-inch rectangular baking pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper and the sides of the pan well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and eggs together until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

Add milk, oil, vanilla and almond extracts, and beat for another minute, just until the batter is smooth and creamy.

Add the flour mixture. Don’t over beat.

Pour batter into the prepared baking pan(s).

Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick poked into the center of the layer comes out clean. (A single rectangular pan will take longer to bake than two round ones.)

Loosen the sides of the cake from the pan with a thin knife, then turn out onto a rack and peel off the paper. Let cool completely before assembling.

Single-Grain

Whipped Topping

Note: I typically use maple syrup for my whipped cream sweetener, but I wanted this topping to have a little more structure, so I used powdered sugar.

Ingredients

1.5 pints heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup organic powdered sugar

Directions

Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the vanilla.

Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form.

Add the powdered sugar, and continue to mix until combined. Keep chilled until ready to use.

Single-Grain

Assembly

To assemble the cake, cut each cake in half (preferably using a long, serrated knife and a lazy susan).

Place the first layer on your serving plate. Scoop a large spoonful of whipped cream onto the cake, and use an offset spatula to smooth into an even covering.

Add the next layer of cake and repeat until you reach the top layer. Add a smaller quantity of whipped cream to the top layer, just enough to cover the center.

Top with decorative flowers if so inclined (see note above about flower selection).

Single-Grain

Opinionatedly Yours,
Quelcy

P.S: You can see the full Summer Wedding Story here.

Instagram Lately: Be Good To Each Other

August 2014

With each sunny, sandaled walk I take with Julep, I feel one step closer to sherpa-lined boots and layers upon layers. Is this a glass half empty sort of approach? Maybe. Does the fading daylight motivate me to eat pizza outside with a best friend? Yes. Does the idea of cold motivate me to hike through a park chasing the flickers of light through the thick greens?  Yes. Does the evening chill motivate a feast followed by a fire pit sit? Yes.

Italiana

Let’s cling to August and eek out all the summer we can!

Single-Grain

Cheers,
Quelcy

Baked Almond French Toast with Lemon Curd & Rhubarb Compote

August 2014

“Verily, the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.” -Kahlil Gibran

I wrote down these words in the midst of a to-do list. I nearly buried them, but in leafing through the little book, they stopped me in my tracks once more. In order not to lose them again, I wrote them on their own page, bigger, harder to miss…

“VERILY, THE LUST FOR COMFORT MURDERS THE PASSION OF THE SOUL, AND THEN WALKS GRINNING IN THE FUNERAL.”

Cocktails and Syrup

Comfort is that steady paycheck I once had, the one that afforded travels and frequent dinner outings. However, that comfort came at the price of dreading each and every day and the mind-numbing tasks ahead of me. It came at the cost of supporting others’ passion while I struggled to determine my own. Then life intervened, uprooted my path, and I went with it.

Brunch on the Deck

I took a very deep-dive plunge into uncertainty. I chose the gamble of pursuing beauty, and in doing so, I stress, I frenzy, I freak. I also brainstorm, ideate, debate and create. Somewhere in between stress and satisfaction is the ideal sort of comfort, the earned comfort, the much needed, Sunday-brunch-on-a-deck-with-good-friends sort of comfort.

Baked Rhubarb French Toast

These Sunday brunch comforts include:

Muddled mint tipsiness.
The scent and taste of bacon.
The happiness of my pup when she scores a piece of said bacon.
Kitschy pinks and turquoises.
Helping a friend embrace his sweet tooth.
The emphatic praises from my friend as she takes her first bite.
LAYERED French toast.
Feasting, Feasting, Feasting!

Whipped Cream

Final French Toast with Whipped Cream

Baked French Toast with Lemon Curd & Rhubarb Compote

Ingredients

6 slices of stale country wheat bread + 6 stale brioche hot dog buns

Lemon Curd
Rhubarb Compote

3 cups plain coconut milk
3 large, organic eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
50 mL Disaronno Liqueur (amaretto)
1-3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste

sliced almonds

Directions

Generously grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with unsalted butter or coconut oil.

Arrange bread in a tightly packed layer in the pan. Use chunks from an extra piece to fill any gaps.

Spread an even layer of lemon curd over the bread, followed by an even layer of rhubarb compote.

Arrange remaining bread in a top layer, using smaller chunks to fill in any gaps. Sprinkle with slivered almonds.

Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt, Disaronno and maple syrup. Pour the mixture over the bread layers, being sure it seeps into the top.

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight in order for the bread to absorb the liquid.

Bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes, until puffed and golden.

Cut into generous squares and serve with maple syrup (optional, this French toast is good on its own) and homemade whipped cream.

Single-Grain

Rum Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons spiced rum

Directions

Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the vanilla and maple syrup.

Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form.

Add the rum, and continue to mix until combined. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Single-Grain

Here’s to the Necessary Comforts & Passions!
-Quelcy

#TBT: A Perfectly Styled Picnic

August 2014

As one who has had to add salt to beer and stir like crazy, I humbly bow not only to the notion of this picnic, but to the perfect layers of foam atop those icy deck beers. This scene harkens from the days of film no less! Meanwhile I bask in the the luxury of digital forgiveness.

IMG_0790_picnic 01

I could contemplate this scene and its story for hours!

IMG_0791_picnic 02

#TBT (Throw Back Thursdays) glimpse into the vintage visual feasts in my personal collection of food and entertaining books.

Single-Grain

Digitally Yours,
Quelcy

A Wednesday Wander: Love Advice from Porto

From a Wander in Porto, Portugal in February 2007

Lately the internet has been pushing many an article about love and coupling my way- “10 Ways To Know You’re With The Right Person” or “10 Things Happy Couples Do To Stay Together,” etc. While the timing of these articles is just a little too coincidental to be coincidental, these articles do proffer their fair share of good advice- let your fella know you’re thinking of him, kiss for a full six seconds, prioritize communication and more!

Stacked City

As helpful as it can be to spell out love advice, sometimes the most helpful advice emerges quietly, through wandering and observing. In a city of colorful houses stacked on severe inclines, it helps to have a hand to hold and someone with whom to share the Port views of passing boats and ever changing bridge shadows.

Hand in Hand

ie: Hold hands and let your love flag fly!

Single-Grain

Happy Sappy Trails!
-Quelcy

A Wednesday Wander is a way to revisit journeys past and work my way through my many photos and journals that might otherwise collect proverbial dust. Thanks for wandering with me!

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Layer Cake with Roasted Plums

August 2014

My name is Quelcy, and I am prone to perfectionism.

I fully admit this is a problem, but rather than acknowledge a higher power and 12-step my way through this issue, I just seek constructive friends to indulge my need for critiques. I am also prone to perfectionist tantrums, in which I want to hide my work and/or start over.

Chocolate Cake Layers

This cake was one of those tantrums. I set out to impress, obviously. One doesn’t just layer cake for the sake of any ol’ Monday. I wanted to contribute to a group and announce, “oh hey, did I mention I bake?” I did not want to announce, “Oh hey, did I mention I bake, but the texture of my baking is a complete failure?”

Roasted Plums

My decision to be amenable to a crowd, and therefore gluten free, resulted in a grittier texture (second issue with this batch of almond flour, so maybe it was a milling fluke?). Perhaps I was rushing as well, and I didn’t allow the cake to bake or cool long enough. As always, there are several factors and several ways to beat yourself up.

The result was a very rich, chocolatey fail in my mind. However, the cake was chocolatey enough, and I had all the right toppings to gussy it enough, so I just decided to offer my cake with a humble apology for the texture, and you know what happened?

That friendly crowd ate every last morsel, and in the words of Life cereal, they liked it! They really liked it!

Is there a moral to this cake? Sure. The moral of this cake story is: eat more chocolate and don’t hate on yourself too much.

Chocolate Plum Cake

Gluten-Free Almond Chocolate Layer Cake with Roasted Plums

Ingredients

2 cups organic almond flour, spooned and leveled
1 1/2 cups organic raw cane sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened, pure cocoa powder
1/2 cup organic light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup organic, unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into pieces, plus more for the pans
1 cup red wine

2 large organic, cage-free eggs
1/2 cup organic ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Heat oven to 350º F. Butter two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter and red wine, and bring to a boil. Add to the flour mixture and, using an electric mixer, mix until combined.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the ricotta and vanilla.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Single-Grain

Whipped Cream Topping
Note: I typically use maple syrup for my whipped cream sweetener, but I wanted this topping to have a little more structure, so I used powdered sugar. 

Ingredients

1 cup organic whipping cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup organic powdered sugar

Directions

Chill the cream in a mixing bowl in the freezer until the cream just starts to freeze. Remove from the freezer. Add the vanilla.

Use a mixer, on medium speed, to beat until peaks begin to form.

Add the powdered sugar, and continue to mix until combined. Keep chilled until ready to use.

Single-Grain

Balsamic Roasted Plums

Ingredients

4-5 organic plums
organic unsalted butter
balsamic vinegar
organic light brown sugar
cinnamon
nutmeg
cardamom

Directions

Cut plums in half and remove pits.

Arrange in a baking dish, cut side up. Brush each plum surface with melted butter and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with sugar and spices.

Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes.

Single-Grain

Assembly

Transfer one of the cakes to a platter and spread with ¾ cup of the whipped topping.

Top with the remaining cake, and spread with the remaining whipped topping.

Top with roasted plums (I threw in some gooseberries also). Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with thyme or the fresh herb of your choice.

Single-Grain

Here’s to Chocolate Failures!
Quelcy