Tag Archives: Sculpted

Barnum & Bloomfield & Bon Voyage

March 2010

Hi !

I’m forwarding the Facebook invite info over email just in case some of you didn’t get the original invite, you’re not on facebook, we’re not fbf, or you aren’t reading the updates (I wasn’t either).  Someone created a FAQ (??)…

If you haven’t rsvp’d, or aren’t on facebook, just let me know if you’re coming.

<3s and cotton candy.

Thiago

……………………………………….

Step right up!

Face-painting, Foto-booth, Fortunes, Fun, and a Freak-show!

Jumping Castle, Jugglers, and Joyous Jyrating!

… and Adult Snow Cones!

Come one, come all for for a bevy of birthdays and to bid bon voyage to Thiago.  Come dressed as your favorite circus performer (or animal) – clowns, carnies, contortionists, all are welcome!  Bring booze, bring friends, but be costumed. If you come plain, we will dress you up as our favorite circus animal (or, worse, we’ll make you Thiago’s Siamese twin).

Details :

Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 9:00pm
Barnum & Bloomfield
5020 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA

FAQ:

Q. Is this a costume party?
A. Yes! Costumes make everything more fun and we highly encourage creativity. Any circus/carnival character is appropriate (e.g. carnies, clowns, animals, freak show freaks, etc.) But, costumes are definitely not required, and we’ll have face paint and a few other accessories at the party if you decide to come unadorned.

Q. Is there really going to be a jumping castle?
A. Definitely.

Q. What should I bring?
A. In addition to the previous mentioned jumping castle, there is also going to be a snowcone machine.  If you’d like to bring something, please bring your favorite snow cone flavor (e.g. manhattan snowcones, mudslide snowcones, whiskey snowcones, you get the idea – like with the costumes, creativity is appreciated here too).

I couldn’t send off my good buddy Thiago with just a snowcone flavor, and it’s no circus without an oppressed animal, sooooo….

Peanuts…Get Your Peanuts [in a lion cake]!

The Recipe

Ingredients

3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup (generous) organic creamy peanut butter
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup local wildflower honey
4 large local eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Swirl Ingredients
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 package)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 Tbs organic creamy peanut butter
3 local eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and line 2 rectangular, 9×13 pans with parchment paper.

Thoroughly stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together butter, peanut butter, both sugars and honey.

Beat in eggs one at a time.  Beat in vanilla.

Add flour mixture gradually, stirring until incorporated.

For The Swirl:

Blend butter, peanut butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat until melted and mixed.  Remove from heat.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Spread the peanut butter mixture into two prepared pans.  Add the chocolate as a top layer.  Use a knife to cut through the batters and swirl to create marbling effect.

Bake on center rack for 30-35 minutes or until edges appear brown and center appears set.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

Tired dancing feet.

Danced dirty floor.

That carpenter in the corner.

A resting accordeon.

An inspired painting.

All signs of a very good circus!



The Wrath of the Shadow: Chocolate Peanut Butter Groundhog Cake

February 2010

Having already attended the festivities at Gobbler’s Knob last year, I was content to sleep past the historical moment when Punxsutawney Phil predicts the fate of the season.  Instead of the real groundhog event, I created my own occasion by bringing a peanut buttery facsimile to work for the day.

What happened after that varmint saw his shadow?

Snowpocalypse!

Snowpocalypse, the winter that nearly caused me to have a personal breakdown.  This was the winter in which I would walk for one hour to work because biking was too cold and bussing was too much of a hassle.  The snow would fall at what I call “the special Pittsburgh angle,” which hits directly in your eyes regardless of the direction you are walking.

On one particular walk to work, my feet were wet and cold, and the poster I needed to bring with me was collecting snow despite my efforts to protect it.  All I wanted to do was sit in a snow mound and cry.  I was so thoroughly, mentally and physically exhausted from hiking uphill, over snow mounds to and from work everyday.  Oh how I longed for a snow day!  At least the dogface had some fun in the snow, and the dashing carpenter was in driver’s heaven on the abandoned, snowy roads.

Cake Ingredients

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup old-fashioned (natural) chunky peanut butter
1 pound golden brown sugar
4 large, local, free-range eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup local buttermilk


Frosting Ingredients

1 package of cream cheese (8oz), at room temperature
1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup old-fashioned (natural) peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 package of dark chocolate chips, melted using a maria bath.

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x13 glass pan.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and peanut butter until blended.

Beat in brown sugar. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk, starting and stopping with the flour.

Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Set aside to cool.

For the Icing

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and whip until well combined and creamy.

Buche de Guinness

My dashing carpenter loves two things (things being inanimate objects and not me):  wood and Guiness.

He has an uncanny ability to find old wood and old wooden fixtures and add them to his collection.  I imagine his ideal day would be:  sleep in peace, wake up slowly, drink a strong mug of percolated coffee whilst listening to a flea market record find and reading the NY Times.  Face the day.  Go to the flea market.  Find many treasures and bargain them below their already cheap prices.  Spot a pile of scrapped lumber on the drive home.  Rescue the scrapped lumber.  Return home.  Eat a pot pie baked by the lovely lady friend.  Eat a dessert by the lovely lady friend.  Drink a Guinness (by “a,” I mean several, well poured Guinness) while lady friend sips on one alcoholic beverage for hours.  Watch Curb Your Enthusiasm.

In the baking world (especially in the francophile baking world), the Buche de Noel is a rite of passage.  At some point, you just have to don an apron in the pursuit of a Christmas yule log and warm the hearth through the stomach.  It only made sense to make this wood inspired cake for someone who would really appreciate it:  the dashing carpenter!  Since I had decided he would be the recipient of my Buche de Noel effort, I went one step further- a Buche de Guinness- to combine in his two [inanimate] loves in one delicious dessert present.

How does a carpenter cut himself a slice of cake?

Usually with a knife just like the rest of us.

Merry Christmas Carpenter!

The Recipe:  Buche de Guinness

Ingredients

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons salted Irish butter (so very bright yellow in its color!)
2-1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 Tbs pure cane sugar
1/2 cup local wildflower honey
3 ounces unsweetened Baker’s chocolate, melted
1 Tbs organic vanilla extract
1 cup Guinness, flat

Directions

To make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease two 9-inch cake pans with the 2 tablespoons butter and dust with 1/4 cup of flour. Shake out and discard any excess flour, and set the pans aside.

Mix together the remaining 2-1/4 cups flour with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat the egg whites with 2 tablespoons of the sugar until stiff peaks begin to form.

With an electric mixer, cream together the remaining sugar with the 3/4 cup butter until light in texture.

One at a time, beat in the egg yolks.

Add the honey and mix to incorporate.

Stir in the melted chocolate, the Guinness, and then gradually beat in the flour mixture.

With a rubber spatula, fold in the egg whites.

Scrape half the batter into each of the cake pans, and bake in the middle of the oven 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the pans from the oven and let the cakes cool while you prepare the frosting.

*Note:  Since the beer and the rising agents make for a springier cake than a typical Buche de Noel recipe, I went about the assembly in a more sculptural fashion as opposed to the typical roll-up process.

For the Icing
Chocolate Chip and Guinness Cake Frosting

1 pound semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons salted butter
5 tablespoons Guinness
5 tablespoons milk

Directions

Soften the chocolate chips and butter in a double boiler.

Remove from the heat.

Using an electric beater, beat the chocolate and butter until smooth, about 1 minute.

Beat in the Guinness and milk, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is soft and shiny.

Baby’s First Competition

April 2009

A Slice of Explanation…
By Quelcy T. Kogel

The cardboard cover of my composition book defines Sus-tain-able as of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged; of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable method. This term is more and more relevant as we come to understand the weight our “progress” has bore on the earth.  Temperatures are rising, resources are decreasing, and agricultural varieties are disappearing, so on and so forth.

Organics offered a new opportunity to vote with one’s purchase and reclaim more sustainable farming practices, but organics are not a simple solution.  The costs to be certified organic often exclude the smaller farmer, and even “organic” goods are allowed to slip in more conventional ingredients than previously stipulated.  The result is a grocery store filled with a passport’s worth of food and a growing consciousness of the importance of local commerce.

Aside from traveling less and costing less, local ingredients usually taste better.  That a Midwife Center would propose “going green is a piece of cake,” is very fitting in two ways:  Sustainability is finding the balance between the needs of today and the needs of the future generations and because cake is a symbol of people coming together and celebrating.  We do not have to forfeit the festivities of today, but we can partake conscientiously.

Anyone can make a cake that looks good.  There are enough chemicals and sugars out there to achieve even the most fluorescent of 3-D culinary creations.  A lot of people can make a cake that tastes good.  Sugars and flours can easily convert to comfort foods and second helpings.  But, how many can make a cake that looks and tastes good while still maintaining nutritional and ecological integrity?  This is always my goal in baking a cake, supported by the mantra, “fondant free is the way to be” because who really likes fondant anyway? So here is another whirl at this game of cakes I play.

Dry Ingredients

2 1/2 cups + 3 Tbs Organic Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 Tbs Organic Potato Starch
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Organic Sea Salt
Cinnamon
Ginger
Nutmeg
Flax seeds (Purchased at the Pittsburgh South Side Farmers Market)

Liquid Ingredients

8 oz Sour Cream from B.L. Cream Co, Pittsburgh, PA
2 Tbs Heavy Whipping Cream from Turner Dairy Farms, Inc, Penn Hills, PA

“Turner’s cream is produced fresh by local family dairy farms located within 70 miles of our facility who pledge not to use rBGH growth hormone on their cows.  We’re proud to bring the freshest, highest quality milk from local farms to local families.”

1 cup Pure Maple Syrup (Milroy Farms, Somerset County, PA)
1 cup Apple Butter Received with CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) subscription
1 Tbs Amaretto
1 Tbs Whiskey
1 Tbs Rum
1 1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

Creaming Ingredients

2 sticks Pure Local Butter Received with CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) subscription
1 1/4 cups + 1 Tbs Organic Pure Cane Sugar
1 1/4 cups Pure Local Honey from Sunstream Apiaries, Mars, PA
5 Eggs + 1 Large egg yolk from Champion Chicks, Champion, PA

“Farm fresh, free-range eggs.  Hand picked, washed and packed.  No antibiotics, hormone free, vegetarian diet.”

Icing & Glaze

Local Butter
Pure Maple Syrup
Pure Local Honey
Black Strap Molasses
Lemon Juice
Carob Powder
Organic Vanilla Extract

“Globe” Ingredients

Fresh Mint
Grown in Virginia
Cake Crumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350˚F

Mix dry ingredients, add flour, whisk.

Measure liquid ingredients in a separate bowl.

Cream together butter, sugar and honey.

Add eggs, one at a time, to creamed butter, followed by the yolk, fully incorporating after each addition.

Add dry ingredient mixture to the egg mixture, alternately with the liquid mixture, in 3-5 additions each.  This should take about 60 seconds total.

Bake 40-45 minutes.

Sculpt.

Compete.

Lose.

I was competing against fondant (ie:  playdough), and I didn’t stand a chance.  I was disheartened by the irony of chemical colors representing “green” initiatives, but I should have known my baking views would be extreme in comparison.  All in all, I still counted it as a worthy cause and a good experience for my first competition.  My style was just different, and I could accept that.

The best part was when I met a judge, who was finally able to reveal his identity as a judge once the winners had already been declared.  My name tag indicated I was in the amateur decorating competition.  He asked which cake I had contributed.  His response was, “Oh yeah?  That one was quite controversial!  Congratulations.”  So I gladly walked away from the competition with a verbal award:  The Controversial Cake Award!

Six More Weeks of … Crazy!

February 2009
Six More Weeks of…?

I had never conceived of coming to this place.  I was aware of the event but not of its spectators.  Maybe because my mother’s adamant position against cable television never fostered a zombie-like affinity for the weather channel (although, incidentally, she probably would have really enjoyed the weather channel had she ever wavered on her cable creed) with its full coverage of weather history in the making.

Groundhog shadow.  Six weeks of winter or six weeks of spring?  Punxsutawney.  These were words in my lexicon and wintry ideas in my head, but the visual that came to mind was zoomed in and focused on the groundhog and his entourage.  I even fabricated a snowy igloo inspired covering over a little black hole, solidly black like in rodent-centric cartoons.  That’s what I had in mind.

Thus, when my friends invited me along for the February 2nd tradition, my first reaction was, “People go there?” quickly followed by, “I definitely want to go there!”  So we went there, and we went on very little sleep- no big deal!

I had been accustomed to waking at 3:50am which gave me just less than enough time to stumble around a bit, occasionally hit my head on something or walk into something, layer myself in enough warm clothing to resemble a tire mascot and pedal to a happy corner bakery where my friends (Mike included) and I sliced and slung bread into semblances of whole sale invoices.  The job entailed no uniform, lots of people watching (once the rest of the world caught up to us) and a free daily loaf of the best bread in Pittsburgh!

So it was that on my day off, when I would have slept to a decent hour, I continued to greet the day at an ungodly hour.  Mike and Laura’s Honda Civic arrived at my street, and we went on a quest to find out how much more winter would we have to endure?

I came to as we faced flashing lights, police barricades and directing batons contrasting against the pitch-black sky.  Would we miss the groundhog’s big moment because of an accident or roadwork?  No, this was Punxsutawney!  I began to lament sleeping through the “Welcome to Punxsutawney, Home of Phil” sign we surely had passed.  My friends assured me they hadn’t seen one.  When Mike rolled down his car window to receive instructions from the traffic cop, it became clear that a missed or nonexistent “Welcome to…” sign would be inconsequential in comparison to what we were about to see.

“Just follow this road until Groundhog Plaza and then you’ll take the [Punxsutawney Area School District] bus to Gobbler’s Knob.”

Parking entailed inventing a space.  At close to 6:30am, we were the latecomers.  The grocery store, with the brightly lit, smiling groundhog was the first necessity.  When nature calls, you enter the fluorescent glow of aisle upon aisle of food excess, sprinkled with groundhog paraphernalia:  t-shirts, groundhog cakes and a live radio broadcast of unfolding events on the “Knob.”  Even the Russians were covering the event according to the live grocery store coverage.   Our 77+ mile journey was clearly insignificant in the grand groundhog scheme of things.

Loudspeakers rushed the “stragglers” to the queue of school busses.  A $10 family rate and three paw print stamps put us on the big, yellow Punxsutawney path to the looming six-week question.  From the back seats, a woman deemed her conversation humorous enough to broadcast to the entire bus.  “So and so, this was such a bad idea because it was your idea [lack of laughter].  If it [were] (grammatical intervention) my idea, it [would have been] a good idea.  I’m going to do this, and tonight I’m going to buy me some chicken wings.”  At that point, I diverted my attention from the fireworks display to the complimentary bus comedian.  It didn’t take a groundhog to see that she didn’t need six more chicken wings this winter.  Meanwhile on the broadcast, another bus driver put out his plea, “can someone tell me where there’s a McDonald’s, please?”  It hurt me inside a little.

Inclined roads and wintry curves led us to the fireworks finale, a crackling campfire and a growing crowd.  “Shake, shake, shake señora” booming from the loud speakers inspired us to start a conga line.  What began as three latecomers, transpired to an impressive line with an early morning beer (or a Steelers celebration continuation?) and a groundhog suit in the dancing procession.  The conga line did wonders to warm us and distinguish our dancing abilities in comparison  to the daughters/granddaughters of important Punxsutawney people serving as the dancing “entertainment” on stage.  The girls may have been useless but one of the younger top hat men (one of Phil’s entourage) owned the stage with big arm and coordinated hip movements and the ol’ downward stepping deception.

The sky progressively grayed to the wintry version of daylight while a yellow-capped lung capacity blew at incessant “intervals” on his black and gold “trumpet” (the kind that used to drive the entire neighborhood crazy from my friend’s horseshoe-shaped driveway).  The crowd grew progressively verbal in its horn intolerance, but it was not until his sounds risked interference with the ceremony that he stopped, well, that he blew one more time and then stopped.

Daylight encroached, and a parade of important people filed down a barricaded path to the stage.  The forced high notes of the Star Spangled Banner solidified this as a patriotic point in history (and a good back story for the next American Idol auditions?).  One of the top hats held two scrolls- the fate of the season.  The top hats hovered over the little wooden house on the stage.  From my position, or more correctly, on account of my distraction from a woman’s seizure-inducing camcorder footage of the transpiring events, the nittier-grittier logistics escaped me, but the important announcement did not.

“On this day, Febrary 2nd, 2009, the 123rd commemoration of Groundhog’s Day, Punxsutawney Phil, prognosticator of all prognosticators, has seen his shadow therefore prognosticating six more weeks of winter.”

With that, the crowd quickly began to disperse, ready for return school bus rides to Groundhog Plaza, hot chocolate, funnel cakes and plane trips to warmer places with warmer prognostications.

For those with a shred of patience, the top hats answered some questions and repeated some answers for those who failed to follow proper Q&A listen-before-you-ask conduct.  Why February 2nd?  Why…and eluded other questions…How many ‘Phils’ have there been?

The patient waited while news crews focused on the varmint meteorologist wiggling in the arms of a top-hatted handler.  If I had seen this previously, this is what I had seen- the view of these reporters, on stage, in furry groundhog hats, zooming their cameras on the star of the show, whose flat but “fluffy” [fat] body recalled the 3lb Russian Corn Rye of my day job!

When the cameras had recorded enough coverage, the patient crowd gained access to Phil via a photo next to his cylindrical, plastic capsule of a cage.  The top hats flashed cameras from all angles and made announcements to “persuade” more of the crowd to seek encapsulated Phil at his 10am park appearance.  Meanwhile, a woman appeared to have escaped a protective, institutional capsule of her own.  For a long time she stood on the stage steps persuading what seemed to be a non-existent group of friends or family members to join her for the photo op.  Whether they were linked through blood, amity or just pity, a group finally joined her around the little, upright, clawing-for-freedom Phil.  This woman’s delay of the well-oiled efficiency and the inherent downer of an encapsulated groundhog exasperated our patience.

Over a snow mound, into a line, onto another yellow Punxsutawney school bus and the return journey began, but this time with visible scenery:  stark cornfields, harder core pedestrians, capitalizing neighbors selling hot chocolate, stained glass and weathered wood on an old farmhouse, a for sale sign that began to hold a certain appeal and snow everywhere.

Better get used to it, according to Phil.

Whatever, Phil!

Punxsutawney Part Deux:  The Revenge

While Mike and I were gallivanting about Punxsutawney, our third musketeer was holding the bakery fort.  We held a post-Punxsutawney celebration to include Chris in the adventure.

Faced more with winter there was only one thing to do:  Watch Groundhog Day for my first time ever, which Chris just happened to own on LASER DISC!  and eat that little groundhog…well a cake version of that little groundhog.

We really meant no harm to the original Phil, but Pittsburgh winters can really mess with your head!

The Recipe

The Snowy Landscape


Ingredients

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
maple syrup

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.

Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks.

Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or two teaspoons.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Cool and serve.

The Body

Ingredients

2 cups pure cane sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder + carob powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Golden raisins
2/3 cup organic chunky peanut butter
3 cups organic oats
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg
Flax seeds

Directions

Place a piece of wax paper or foil on cookie sheet. Combine sugar, butter, milk and cocoa in medium saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to rolling boil.

Remove from heat; cool 1 minute.

Add peanut butter; stir to blend. Add oats, peanuts and vanilla; stir to mix well. Quickly drop mixture by heaping teaspoons onto wax paper or foil.

Cool completely. Store in cool, dry place- no big deal because there’s more WINTER for ease of cool storage!

Superball

February 2009

It feels like a holiday but without the closure of an established greeting.  There’s an acknowledged sentiment after a transaction of twenty-four cracked-wheat rolls, twenty-four Kaiser rolls and three baguettes.  Party.  Excess eating.  Lots of soppy foods, but does a bakery worker turn that acknowledgment into something more than “thank you” and “goodbye?”  A few customers gave it a go.

“Good luck to our Steelers,” one says.
Another throws in the accent for good measure, “Go stillerz!”
In less than twelve hours, this city will be a ghost town.

Say “God is dead” or “there is no God” and one could escape Pittsburgh unscathed.  Say “the Steelers are dead” or quite simply, “I don’t care about the Steelers,” and one surely risks a hot metal death for those words are blasphemous in this steel town!  This is Pittsburgh, and the Steelers are a red, yellow and blue trinity, a sixth return of the messiah.

Reverence for this game and for this television program matches, if not exceeds, the storefront sign reverence for major holidays.  “We will be closing early on Sunday, February 1st, so our staff can cheer on the Steelers.”  This is the management’s pep rally way of saying, “It would be more profitable to throw money down the drain than pay multiple employers to be here after the entire city divides and conquers house parties or bar monopolizing (bar “hopping” would risk a missed xx yard run or whatever critical events one misses in changing bars).

Had I passed multiple churches, I venture I would have found at least one night service shortened or cancelled so parishioners could seek other “fellowship opportunities.”  Sermons may have centered on the witnessing opportunities one encounters during four quarters and several expensive commercial breaks.  Good luck convincing the die hard to convert from the Ward to The Word, especially when one might later thank “Hooked on Steelers,” rather than phonics for the gift of reading in the first place.

“Mommy what’s that word?”
“You tell me, honey.”
“S-T-E-E-L-E-R-S.”
“Good!  Sound it out.  What does it spell, honey?”
“Ssss-tee-llll-ers.  Stee-lers.  Steelers!”
“Good honey, and what does Grandma’s hat say?”
“Steelers.”
“Excellent.  And what do Billy’s mittens say?”
“Steelers!”
“And what do ALL of daddy’s shirts say?”
“Steelers!”

And just like that, little Jenny has learned to read everything in Pittsburgh (until hockey season), a real Superbowl miracle!  While she begins her education, pre-pre gaming begins to diminish educated decisions in the rest of the city and surrounding suburbs.  Terrible towels wave from windows, horns honk, jerseyed men and women shout at other jerseyed men and women.

Admittedly, this is ridiculously entertaining, nearly contagious.  I have caught this spirit but in a way that could still get me killed were I actually to converse at any length about this game.  It’s all just a giant theme party, and theme parties are my greatest past time!

Whereas the Steelers cake customer heckled my coworker for his choice of plaid, a pattern that weaves multiple colors together, but unfortunately, none of his plaid’s weavings were acceptable Steelers colors based on her judgment.  On the other hand, I slipped under the radar.

A diagonal striping of mustard, ketchup and two shades of blue with a scoop neck and cap sleeves; a hand knit skirt of sunflower yellow and hints of an orangish gold; red and black legwarmers; a craft fair interpretation of a terrible towel in felt and puffy paint, pinned to my waistline and the cherry on top- a Steelers bandanna I found on the sidewalk and washed to make it mine.

Mike crafted the golden twist-ties into the letters S-T-E-E-L-E-R-S and used packaging tape to attach them to his plaid, which the woman added, was not only “not Steelers” but dangerously close to Cardinals colors [cardinal sin]!  The new Steelers accessory only lasted momentarily before we attached it to the bread slicer, and Mike concluded he wasn’t too concerned with being the only person in Pittsburgh not dressed in Steelers colors.

“Don’t look at me,” I said.  “I don’t care about your lacking fanaticism.  I’m just busy acting out my own personal color theme party.”

All I wanted from the Superbowl was more class, less polyester, more creative, edible food options, less food colored by yellows and reds from a numbered series.  What I wanted was a Superball, and that is exactly what I proposed to the friend who was game for avoiding the game with me.

We were so busy crafting black bean and golden corn meatballs, a yellowy cheese and black olive plate and oven baked fries (because French fries are ubiquitous in PGH), we blissfully missed the entire game.  Our only interaction with the bowl was the cheers and cries of my loyal fan and neighbor.

Said neighbor went running into the street, to light a mini firework, after the loudest of cheers.  This was our indication of victory.  A familiar face came running from the darkness at the end of the street, cleared the glowing victory embers and continued running to the real stupidity in the collegiate center of town.  While the world changed focus to burning couches and flipping cars, we quietly raised our glasses of wine and moved onto the dessert course.

Black & Gold Polamalu Cake
The Recipe


Ingredients

1 cup Golden Honey
¼ cup Black Strap Molasses
¼ cup Maple Honey
1 cup unsalted butter
2 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
chocolate chips
Golden Flax seed
Golden Raisins
Candied Ginger

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish.

Mix butter, honey, molasses and maple syrup in a sauce pan over low heat until butter is melted.

Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

Beat the eggs and vanilla into the sugar mixture. Add the flour mixture a bit at a time and mix until a smooth thick batter forms. Fold in the chips, as desired.

Spoon the batter to the prepared dish and spread to evenly fill the dish.

Bake until the blondies are light brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Invert onto a rack and cool completely.

Icings

Butter + Cream Cheese + Lemon Juice + Maple Syrup + Vanilla

Butter + Cream Cheese + Lemon Juice + Maple Syrup + Vanilla + Coffee + Molasses

“Quelcy, Like the Pretzel”

January 2009

This is Ken.

I met Ken at a party at 239 Brown Street in Philadelphia, or if you recall, what I like to call “Quelcadelphia!”  I only knew three people at the beginning of that party, but I didn’t want to be a babysitter’s burden.  I scanned the room.  Ken had a cool t-shirt, the kind of little boy, well-worn, well-laundered, soft cotton t-shirt you score on a heavenly ordained thrifting trip.  I overheard him and his friend discussing a stakeout of a white supremacist, so between a t-shirt and a white supremacist, my friendship with Ken began, or so I thought.

It took a little longer for Ken to be convinced about me.  I later found out that Ken initially mistook me for a crust punk, only cleaned up in a polka dot shirt because I had come from a professional family portrait.  It was only a matter of time until I would don a uniform of cut-up carharts and a tattered, patched black t-shirt.  He quickly figured out that I was far enough from a crust punk and cliches.  I had to return to Pittsburgh, but I extended an offer to him to visit the ‘burgh should he be passing through on a road trip he was scheming.

Ken did come to Pittsburgh, and he brought Mike too.  We quickly became birds of a very quirky feather.

It was during our Pittsburgh adventures, a couple months since we had met, that Ken finally sought clarification on how I introduced myself at that party.  “Why did you say, ‘my name is Quelcy, like the pretzel?’”

I assured him I had never said such a thing, as my name has nothing to do with pretzels.  I attributed it to the volume of the party when we met.  Ken still seemed convinced I had mentioned a connection to the baked likeness of a child crossing his chest in prayer.  I was convinced Ken had convinced himself!

The “Quelcy like the Pretzel” joke continued on my next visit to Philadelphia.

Ken’s next visit to Pittsburgh was right around the time of my 25 years and 25 cakes.  Ken was quite brave and brought a cake gift for the picky cake maven!  It was quite perfectly themed!  Butterscotch and white chocolate “salt.”

While we were adventuring through Pittsburgh, we did some food wandering too.  We went to the Cafe at the Frick Mansion as an extended celebration of my birthday.  It was my first time AND my birthday lunch, so went big…wine-AND-dessert-with-lunch big!  Everything was delicious with layers of flavor, layers of flavor that kept us full for hours!

Pilgrims vs Indians vs Martha

(Just as politically incorrect as it sounds)

November 2008

I remember seeing Magali around campus.  Her personality contrasted against the Pittsburgh gray.  There was something so unique about her, and it was evident even from afar.

We became acquaintances at her vegan baked goods table at the I Made It! Market.  There were a few more encounters in the small Pittsburgh scene, but shortly after that I left for France to spend my days with a 3 year old and Barbapapa.

On a sunny Parisian afternoon during the nanny stint, I had a rare midweek opportunity to take a stroll through the city instead of ironing little boy sweater vests.  It was a fanciful day, and I was following my whims wherever they led.  On the same day, Magali was also in Paris, walking a different route than her normal routine.  There was a bright orange coat, and with disbelief, I questioned, “Magali?”  Our paths had crossed, and it was a pleasant surprise.

Magali was studying abroad in Paris, and her semester was nearing a close.  We made plans to picnic and wander, wander and picnic.  I was so relieved to learn vegan friends had inspired her vegan cupcake sales, but her own diet included a healthy dose of roasted chickens, café crème, fromage, croissants, etc.

On a rainy Parisian afternoon, we made a beautiful pear, honey and blue cheese tartine on crusty, rustic bread and finished with hand pies oozing with red fruits fresh from the oven.  In French copain is the word for friend, but the word derives from co- (with) and pain (bread).  Through sharing bread with each other, on a rainy Parisian day, on picnic cloth on the floor, Magali and I really did become friends.

In Pittsburgh, we celebrated our friendship, our foodie sides and our love of the ridiculous by throwing a Thanksgiving potluck.  The goal was to channel the First Grade Feast in which half the class dresses up as “Native Americans” (but really, how politically correct is a paper bag cut into a “Native American” vest?) and the other half dons the conservative apparel of the Pilgrims.  We threw Martha Stewart into the mix also.  Had she been at the first Thanksgiving table, we really thought Martha would have been responsible for the survival of the expats and the unison of both parties in a craft hour to design the place settings.

We sent the ridiculous invitations and began the ambitious plan to roast a turkey!  Our spirits were high when I received a coupon in the mail for turkey!  We layered in mittens, hats, scarves and snarky excitement for a trip to the fancy “Giant Eagle” super market.  All coupon hopes were dashed when we saw the price tags on the specified turkeys:  $95!  The coupon laughed in our faces.

The next best turkey was still a free range bird, raised naturally.  It just hadn’t been raised with $95 worth of daily hugs, massages, yoga, caviar and love.  We accepted the difference and carried the frozen bird to the checkout. The cashier passed the bird over the scanner.  Nothing.  Once again, she passed the bird over the scanner.  Nothing.  She looked for a sticker.  Nothing.  She asked us if we saw a price.  Nothing.  She called for a manager.  Nothing.  Repeated nothing.

“How much do you want to pay?”

“$19.99,” I said sarcastically.

“$19.99 it is.  Paper or plastic?”

Blank stares.  “Was she taunting us?”

The groceries were ready at the end of the conveyor belt, and she printed the receipt.  We had a natural bird for at least half the price?!?!  Only one thing to do…

Ruuuuuuun before a manager realized!

Such a special turkey deserved a special dessert finale, and I had one vision in my mind:  a “roasted turkey” cake made from seasonal, Thanksgiving flavors.

It was a huge baking and sculpting endeavor, but the side-by-side comparison proved a success.  The cake played with people’s senses.  The eye saw a turkey, but the mind tried to process dessert flavors.

The Harvest Palette

The Recipes

I had conceived of this cake creation long ago.   As I see each cake as a fresh start, I only intended to do a turkey cake once, so I went big- four cakes big!  Each recipe was Thanksgiving themed in its ingredients and included local harvests wherever possible (squash, cider, eggs, milk, etc).  I used icing to stack the different cake layers and coat the surface.  I added the glaze for a more lifelike texture.

Butternut Butter Cake

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup cornmeal soaked in 1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter
3/4 cup raw cane sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 cup baked and pureed squash (butternut, acorn)
1 Tablespoon rum
1 Tablespoon Bourbon Whiskey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 °F.  Grease the pan of choice.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a medium bowl.

Cream together the butter, sugar and salt in food processor until light and fluffy.  Add and mix the honey.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl once or twice.

Pour the mixture into a bowl.  Add one-third of the flour mixture.

Whisk together the vanilla, sour cream, squash and alcohols in a separate bowl.

Alternate mixing the flour mixture and the squash mixture into the sugar mixture, ending with flour.  Scrape the sides of the bowl.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake about 30 minutes, until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.

Place on a rack to cool.

Magali and I danced with the excitement of a successful Thanksgiving dinner party, with our feathers and face paint all a whirl.  Funny thing about those feathers and the face paint all a whirl.  As we were putting the final touches on the party scene, I said, “wouldn’t it be funny if we were the only ones who dress up?”  Funny thing about those feathers and face paint all a whirl.  When the guests showed up, we were the only ones dressed up.  That’s why you plan ahead with extra feathers and face paint!

Spiked Cider Cornmeal Cake

Ingredients

1/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon potato starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup apple cider
2 Tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions

Combine the buttermilk and the cornmeal in a small bowl; let the mixture soak for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, potato starch, salt and spices in a small bowl.

Cream together the butter, brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Beat in the vanilla, cider and rum.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the moistened cornmeal, stirring until batter is evenly combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake 40-50 minutes.

Place on a rack to cool.

King of the Harvest Cake

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups whole yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon potato starch
1/2 cup unsalted buttermilk
1 package cream cheese
1 c raw cane sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon rum
1 Tablespoon bourbon whiskey
1 cup finely chopped boiled beets
1/3 cup chopped almonds

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease the pan of choice.

Soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk for thirty minutes.

Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and potato starch in a medium bowl.

Beat together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition, until no lumps remain.

Add the sugar, molasses and honey gradually.

Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the beets, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Stir in the bourbon, rum and almonds.

Pour the mixture into a prepared pan.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean.

Place on a rack to cool.

Pumpcorn Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted, softened butter
1/2 cup olive oil
4 large eggs
15 ounces baked, pureed pumpkin
1 Tablespoon bourbon whiskey

Directions

Soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease the pan of choice.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl.

Mix together the brown sugar, butter and oil in a large bowl until thick and mayonnaise-like in consistency.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice to be sure everything is evenly combined.

Add the bourbon.

Stir in the pumpkin, then the dry ingredients.

Mix until evenly moistened.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake 30-35 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched and the edges of the cake pull back from the pan.

Remove from the oven to a cooling rack.

Icing

(Just eye it and taste it; you’ll be fine!)

Cream Cheese
Baked Squash puree
Pure Maple Syrup
Pure Vanilla Extract
Honey

Glaze

Organic Powdered Sugar
Water
Local Apple Cider
Molasses
Honey

Grab Dessert By The Horns

October 2008


There was a professor who had a Dodge, and that Dodge was well known around the Architecture school.

There was a student of the Dodge professor who liked to prepare Japanese food.

There was a roommate of the student who liked to prepare Japanese food.  The roommate liked to bake in a conceptual way.

The Dodge Professor threw a party.

The student prepared a Japanese meal.

The roommate offered a Japan-meets-Heart-of-America inspired dessert.

How did she do it?

She used Gourmet as inspiration.

But she added macha powder to the condensed milk for an earthy Eastern flavor, sculpted the mixture, baked, released the ram to the party and told them to, “Grab dessert by the horns!”

 

Crockpot Luck

September 2008

When Mitch and Gloria invited me to their Crock Pot Luck, I mentally brainstormed some potluck dishes to bring, but I concluded that such a clever party theme deserved a playful contribution:  an edible crock pot!  Better yet, why not fill the edible crock pot with boozy pears made in a real crock pot?

(Click on my sketch/notes to see a larger version)

I used Cake Love as the base for my recipe creations, but I added a lot of Quelcy touches.  As I sculpted early in the morning before work, the cutaway pieces made a delicious and energizing breakfast!  My bike ride across the city had an extra cake-fueled zip to it!