Happy 4th!!!

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That’s one way to celebrate the Stars and Stripes….
Whatever way you chose to celebrate the holiday, I hope your day is fun and relaxing

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Nuts!

Hazelnuts are seriously under appreciated. I’ve found a lot more baking recipes that use almonds instead of hazelnuts. But hazelnuts make for really delicious desserts, too. For example, as hazelnut macaroons or as a lovely nut cake. Then there all those ice cream versions that include hazelnuts – incl. gianduia – and of course best of all, Nutella. Oh Nutella, how I love thee… Btw, there are also savory recipes that include hazelnuts, such as Mario Batali‘s gnocchi in salsa di nocciole. Or they may be used as a nutty component of salads.

But really, this is supposed to be a post about my love for hazelnut cakes. You’ll find a lot of cakes containing hazelnuts in Germany. Hazelnuts are also a classic in Christmas cookies. But a good, moist nut cake is always appreciated here, especially when coated with chocolate ganache. So deliciously good!

hazelnut cake

Hazelnut cake, with chocolate. Mmmm!

This is one of my favorite cake recipes. It uses milk to make sure the cake stays moist, which is really important since nut cakes can easily become dry. If you’re not sure about the chocolate ‘icing’ – it does help to keep the cake from drying out. Here’s the recipe:

Cake:

250g butter
200g sugar
4 eggs
a pinch of salt
4 tsp of baking powder (for you Germans, that’s 1 package of Backpulver)
250g ground hazelnuts (you can substitute almonds)
1/8 liter of milk

Nusskuchen, pt 1

Chocolate ganache:

~ 350g dark chocolate
1 cup of cream

Beat sugar and butter until fluffy, then add eggs and sugar until entire mix is fluffy, too. Mix flour with baking powder and sift the mix, then add to sugar-butter-egg mix. Then add hazelnuts and milk alternatingly, starting and ending with the hazelnuts. Pour the finished dough into a buttered and floured loaf pan, and bake at 350 degrees for approx. 60 minutes.

Let the cake cool, then glaze with chocolate ganache: Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Heat cream seperately, until it’s almost boiling. Remove chocolate from double boiler, add cream and beat mix until you have a glossy mix. Let the mix cool, then cover the cake to glaze it. Depending on how much the ganache has cooled you’ll have a thicker glaze. Once the chocolate has set completely, feel free to cut a slice and enjoy!

Nusskuchen, pt 2

The squirrel holdup design is from the Nuts! T-Shirt is from Threadless. I love their T-Shirts

Spring is green

spring is green shawlette

green on green – not my best photography idea

This gorgeous Cedar Leaf Shawlette is, I think, my fastest shawl project to date. I got the idea for a last minute gift – and it had to be ready within 5 days. While I was still busy with everyday life. And I made my own life harder by deciding to knit it up in lace instead of worsted weight, as the pattern suggests. The construction is quite nifty – you knit the main part of the shawl and shape it through short rows. Once the main part is completed, you add the leaf pattern by knitting along the side, from one end to the other.

I finished this spring shawlette in time, and quickly steamblocked it. It took just over half a skein – 282 yds – of Malabrigo lace, wow.  It was a gorgeous gift – I liked it so much, I was tempted to keep it for myself. But I know it went to a good home.

spring shawlette on a statue

Wednesday = Yarn Along

Pink Grapefruit Cowl knit in MadTosh merino light in Oxblood

my “p[u]rrrple” grapefruit cowl

And I’m yarning along again after a break. Not that I’d planned a break but life got busy, as it tends to. I’m figuring out that I a) need to plan out time for blogging in my day b) schedule posts ahead of time and c) set up some kind of posting schedule so you guys know when new content will go up.

MadMay 2013 badgeBut back to knitting. As I’d mentioned during this year’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, I’m multiple wip kind of person. I cast-on to keep my knitting mojo going – plus there are always requests, and gifts, and so on. Plus, this is my MadMay – Madeline Tosh May – project.

This is really a fun project. It’s Julie’s Pink Grapefruit cowl and fingerless gloves pattern (her website is Knitted Bliss). Right now I’m only planning to knit the cowl, albeit in a larger size. I love how the star cluster sections look – and the way you create them really isn’t too complicated so it’s easy to memorize the pattern. I’m curious and nervous how the final project will look – you drop the stockingette sections between the star clusters, creating this dropped stitch – pattern effect. I hope it’ll be long enough.

Btw, my nephew asked me why his Mom and Dad can’t knit and that I should teach them so they could teach him so everybody would be able to knit. Lol. Toddler logic.

Now for the blog hop part: I’m linking up with this week’s Yarn Along, this week’s Tami’s Amis WIP Wednesday and Frontier Dreams’ Keep Calm and Craft on (KCCO) blog-a-long. Check out some of the other awesome wip posts.

Cake! Cake! Cake!

I don’t think this was what Marie Antoinette had in mind when she suggested that they (the French peasants) eat cake, nom nom. Actually, the original quote is probably misattributed and apart from that, it’s supposed to say: “Let them eat brioche.” Oh, and did you know that there is a House episode titled “Let Them Eat Cake?”

I have a favorite birthday cake. I love love love it – well, if I didn’t love it, it wouldn’t be my birthday cake. The cake? It’s a Mocha Cake. It’s actually my Gran’s specialty. She used when my Mom was a little girl. Well, the cake was distributed among the entire family including the bunch of cousins, and everybody got a teeny sliver. A teeny sliver that everyone savored. And it was a treat – there were no mixers, no KitchenAid so all the mixing and beating of the dough was done by hand. I’ve beat whipping cream by hand, which already was a lot of work so I can’t imagine how much work that was. And since they didn’t have an oven, they had to take the cake to a bakery to have it baked there.

I didn’t take any pictures of the entire cake because it was just too tasty to take the time to photograph it

Gran doesn’t really work off recipes. Neither her cooking nor her baking is full of precise direction. Her Indian food recipes are something like “when the oil begins to pearl but not too quickly” or “when it smells right” or “depending on the meat.” Yeah, not so helpful. You need to really have a lot of experience for those directions to make sense. And my Indian cooking is nowhere on her level that I have had enough practice making those dishes. Whenever I cook something in that direction I end up being disappointed because it’s just not up to her or my Mom’s standards. Which means that I don’t get the practice in to get more cooking experience. I also don’t like going out for Indian food since it’s never as good as Mom’s. A catch-22.

I’m not making fudge, but since Gran fudges her recipes this was very appropriate. And darn it, now I want ice cream

Anyway, Gran has always fudged her proportions, which is pretty contrary to baking since it so based on chemistry – change the balance and you might end up with a cake mess. In fact, the last time I made a Mocha cake with her, she basically asked me dump 1 lb of butter in the bowl, plus a bunch of sugar – just based on her sense of proportion. And a bunch of eggs – I’m not sure how many since it’s a been a long time since we baked together, but it was at least 8 eggs. The mixing bowl was already full with that mix, so we separated the mass, and then she added flour and nuts and coffee according to her judgement. We ended up with 3 and a half cake ‘loaves’ – our neighbors and friends loved us. In fact, one of our friends always hopes that there’s some leftover mocha cake when she stops by for a meal.

The cake is basically a modified sponge cake, with less sugar than normal (so many cake recipes call for too much sugar). Apart from the usual suspects, it als consists of ground nuts, either almonds or hazelnuts, and mocha. The mocha is very concentrated coffee – instant coffee dissolved in very little water. I guess you could also use a very very strong espresso. Once the cake is in the oven you make your frosting. It’s a mix of butter, powdered sugar, more concentrated mocha and ground nuts, whatever you used in the cake. Once the frosting is done you stick in the fridge to keep it cool.

Then it’s time for the best part of the cake – apart from eating the cake of course. The completely cooled cake is carefully cut in half . If you’re ambitious, you can cut the cake into 3 layers rather than two. Just make sure you whip up some extra frosting. Now you’ll frost the bottom layer of the cake before adding the top layer. If your frosting is too, well, buttery and warm, stick it in the fridge til the frosting is cool and spreadable, not too solidified. Then you’ll frost the remainder of the cake. At the end, when you’re done you’ll add walnut pieces, preferable walnut halves as a decorative element. Stick the cake in the fridge to solidify the cake. Make sure to also store the cake in the freezer.

Mmmm, frosting (sorry for the blurry pic)

And then, then it’s time to eat! The end pieces are the ones everyone battles for, but the rest is just as tasty. Plus you savor every single bite since it’s made only once a year.

Star Wars party invitations

But – I think I want a Star Wars kind of cake too. I mean, how creative. And the geek in me would have so much fun. And can you imagine Star Wars cupcakes? You know, headshots as cupcake decorations? I think I need to tinker around with that. I probably will need to make the cake covering out of fondant, or if I really want to be decadent, I could also make them out of marzipan. Mmmm, marzipan.

I’ll also take a Star Wars party – the geek in me would have so much fun, plus it’s so much more practical than a Stormtrooper outfit, or Darth Maul or Leia slave costume. Tasty cake vs uncomfortable costume, hmmm, which one would win… Although, it is pretty awesome to see the costumes that people create. Plus there are apparently many Star Wars themed weddings – not my cup of tea, but I’m sure it’s a great wedding party. (Click on the images for more pictures from the different parties).