Minnesota State Fair Day One: Winding Down

We visited the shopping area under the grandstand.  There were many ways to part with your money, including some ice cream, spread thin, and then rolled up.  Sara and I opted for this photo. You can see Shawn and Sara also took pictures here when they visited the fair a few days before I arrived.  

At this point, I was very thirsty, and Shawn and Sara decided to partake of some roasted corn. We first visited this ticket booth (right next to the gator on a stick) to get tickets that would allow us a “pop” (me) and sweet corn (Shawn & Sara)

Then, it was a matter of getting to the front of the large conglomeration of people all headed in the same direction.  There was no “line.”  I used my skills–moving through crowds is one of my secret talents–but got stuck for a long time in front of a woman who had a technique going.

All of those kids in the picture below new their jobs. One or two people pulled corn out of the oven into bins, bunches of people pulled back the husks (leaving them on–they served as holders.) Then other people would grab an ear of corn in each hand and walk up to the counter.  People would hold up their ticket, and exchange it for an ear of corn, usually stopping to pour salt or a cinnamon sugar blend (?) on their ear, or wrap it in foil.  Every once in a while, someone would squeegee off the counter.

The woman in front of me was getting perhaps 10 ears of corn. But she would look at each ear going by and only hold up her ticket if it was a particularly big ear.  So it took forever for her to clear out and for me to step up to the counter.  Once I got my drink, I just had wiggle back out of the crowd.

Corn eaten, pop drunk, we headed for the shuttle buses.  There was a long line (as with everything at the fair) but it gave me a chance to get some photos of the changing lights on the Ferris Wheel.

When it was time for our shuttle we were ferried home in “choir bus” luxury.

Day One at the Fair was a grand success!  I was so glad to attend with seasoned fair-goers.  I would have been overwhelmed without them there to show me the ropes.

Vintage Cakes: The Classic

I have long wanted to make this cake as the yellow cake with chocolate frosting is my favorite cake combination. And the Easter/Greek Easter celebration seemed to be the perfect opportunity.

Perfect opportunity to decorate with Peeps, that is!  And some other sundry Easter candy.

This cake was divine.  The cake was just the right level of moist.  The frosting was easy to make and also delicious.  Not surprisingly, no one opted for a Peep with their cake.

Vintage Cakes: Lemon and Almond Streamliner Cake

I forgot to take my traditional cake-with-Vintage-Cakes picture, but this one is more fun.

As you might guess, it was Deborah’s birthday.  I offered to make a cake.  She mentioned she liked lemon, so I found this recipe.

I’m a chocolate girl, so I never would have made this for myself.  But it is a-mazing!  The Almond cake (which introduced me to almond paste) is delicious and joins perfectly with the lemon curd on top.

This is also a fairly forgiving cake, as I put it in the wrong sized pan (9×1-inch is not quite the same as 9×2-inch) and it spilled over onto the bottom of the oven.  Turns out that aside from the extra-crispy bottom, that spillover was very tasty too.

I also didn’t put all the lemon juice called for in the lemon curd, but it was still divine.

I’ve learned from Julia Child not to tell everyone your cooking/baking mistakes, so I kept mum about my cake baking trials.  No one noticed anything amiss and the cake was very well received by all.

I’ve also learned that when you freeze a piece the lemon curd becomes something like sorbet.

Another Vintage Cakes winner!

The mysterious case of the bagged legumes

For years I’ve been buying beans (and also rice) at Fred Meyer that came in a one-pound bag of thin plastic that flopped around.  This was fine by me.

Then, one day Fred Meyer’s bean (and rice) bags all got thicker, until they could stand up.  They also developed a zip-top closure.  This seemed excessive for me, as I usually either make the whole batch of beans in the bag, or pour extra into a mason jar to store.  But it wasn’t actually a troubling thing, so I rolled with it.

Today I went to grab a bag of black beans, and *poof* all the beans had been converted back to the original thin-plastic floppy bags.

What gives? File this under: changes I don’t know about and will never know about.

Vintage Cakes: Lovelight Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Whipped Cream

It’s time to celebrate Mom’s birthday so I whipped up this confection.

This cake also happens to be on the back of the book.  Hers looks a lot better.

I find that I’m not a huge fan of cakes with whipped cream.  I think maybe I don’t whip it long enough, but there’s always this dire warning about whipping it too long, because it will curdle, so I get nervous.  Plus, everything slides with whipped cream. I should have skewered the cake to keep things in place.

It tasted good, though.

Mediocre chain restaurant is now gone from the Pearl

At my previous job, it wasn’t unusual to end up at Noodles now and again, just because it was so close.  The food was always so-so.  It seems that others in the area might have felt the same.  I can’t say I’m too broken up.

Also, I’m amused that “not far” to them means Washington Square.  By my reckoning, they are very far away.

Now, let’s not be naive. This is not a 5 minutes active-type meal.

I’m not sure when they start the timer on the “5 minutes active” portion of this recipe.  Chopping the onion, garlic, carrot and celery take far longer than that.  I would estimate 25 minutes of active time, and that’s with me buying bulk sausage, and not having to remove the casings.

It was a good soup though.

2016 Harvest Report

The good:  my many squash plants produced!  I enjoyed having a trombone zucchini and I even got a beet!

The bad: two of My Oregon Sweet Meat squash split, which meant they wouldn’t keep.  I cut out the rotted part of one squash and the rest was fine.  The other I gave to someone at work.  He and his housemates ate it for a long time.

I had saved seed of delicata squash and it didn’t grow true.  Perhaps it was a hybrid.  A goodly number of my delicata squash look like delicata-shaped acorn squash.  Also, of my two trombone zucchini plants, one of them seemed to be more yellow squash than zucchini squash.

Pine Street Market with S&S

Sara and Shawn came back through town and we went to dinner at the new Pine Street Market, which is where a bunch of gourmet-type restaurants all banded together to sell their wares and share a big seating area.  You might recognize the concept from the mall food court. But this has better quality food.

My food was good, but I didn’t love the noise level or the fact that some places had table service and some did not.

What I did love was the Wiz Bang Bar, which is Salt & Straw‘s foray into soft serve.IMG_5672

I got salted caramel with chocolate dip (which is more magic shell than dip–although I guess they are probably the same thing) and it was delicious!

I did not take any photos with Shawn and Sara.  Perhaps when they get their posts up, there will be pictures.

Making a Baskin Robbins-style Ice Cream Cake

I make cakes.  From scratch.  With homemade frosting.  It’s what I do.  I’ve been changing people’s mind about cake for years now.  (I think most people think they don’t like cake because they’ve only experienced grocery store cakes.  A real cake from scratch is an entirely different thing.)

But the boyfriend likes ice cream cakes.  And it was his birthday.  And so I did some research (thank you internet) and made him a Baskin-Robbins-style ice cream cake.  Here’s how I did it.

I found a recipe for cake in my America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.  The recipe I used was for Pantry Chocolate Cake and was designed to be baked in an 8×8 pan.  I baked it in a cheesecake pan (I think that’s a 10-inch pan?  It might be 12-inch.) and watched it carefully so it didn’t burn.  Then I froze it.  I happened to freeze it for a week, but a few hours would probably be fine.  If I do this again, I will cut the cake down a bit.  Maybe to an inch in height?  I feel like a smaller layer of cake would not be so solid.

When I was ready for the ice cream layer, I set out the ice cream to soften for about 30 minutes.  While it softened, I prepped my tray, which was some cardboard with aluminum foil taped to it.

I removed the cake from the cheesecake pan bottom and set it directly on top of the tray. Then I replaced the cheesecake ring around the cake as if the bottom was still there.IMG_5612

In went the ice cream.  I smooshed it out so it was even, and even got out my dough scraper to level the top.  That was an unnecessary thing as there will be icing to even things out, but I wanted a totally flat surface.  At this point everything went back in the freezer for several hours.  Like maybe eight.IMG_5613

What the internet research turned up was that the “icing” on Baskin-Robbins cakes is just softened vanilla ice cream.  A-ha!  So I set out vanilla to soften for about 20 minutes and then removed the cake from the freezer and the cheesecake ring from the ice cream.  (A hot knife helped with this.)

The frosting part was difficult.  I found that I had to work very quickly and a thicker layer was better than a thinner one.  Like normal icing, I did the sides first and then the top. It was not as smooth as I wanted it to be, but it was also getting melt-y, so I put everything back in the freezer where it stayed overnight.

Once the icing was rock-solid, I made a ganche (I use multi-purpose chocolate truffle sauce which was from the early-to-mid 2000s Oregonian Food Day section and which does not seem to be in their recipe archive.  Boo!) and put it in the refrigerator until it was solid.  Then I got out my decorating tools and did my best to decorate. (I’m more of a baker than a decorator.) I found myself wishing I could work IN a freezer, so the icing wouldn’t melt as I was attempting to garnish.  It ended up messier than I wanted, but I knew no one would really care.IMG_5621

The finished product was happily consumed by many.  This is not a cake you can whip up in an afternoon, but if you plan out the time, it’s several short steps over several days and isn’t too taxing.