Monday, April 21, 2014

The Cake Slice Baker's April Cake: Coconut Strawberry Trifle

        

                  Here we are again...time to showcase our next cake we all voted on to bake. And who are we? Glad you asked..we're The Cake Slice Bakers and we're baking from Great Cakes by Carole Walter. Each month a selected cake has been picked and we all bake it..and then discuss.

I went out on my own with this one. It was supposed to be a layer cake but we're not a frosting family. I decided to bake it in a 13x9 pan and freeze it to use on Easter..which by the way, I hope you all had a wonderful one! Anyway, I turned it into a trifle and layered plump chopped up strawberries in between the layers along with whipping cream. It was delicious I must say.

Here's what I know about Carole Walter. The woman loves sugar and she enjoys giving you step after step with each and every recipe. Sometimes I'm ok with that but mostly I ignore it all and do myown thing..which I've done with all of her recipes. I cut the sugar back,added a small amount of coconut extract,and watched it bake up beautiful in the oven. The cake is moist with just a hint of coconut. Would I make this again? I totally would. I still have a small stash of cake in the freezer to be enjoyed once the kids head back to school tomorrow. I feel no guilt about this.

Check out what everyone else made!      







Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Take A Peek Wednesday: Tulip Time!

                    

             Everything is coming alive over here in, The Netherlands. When I first moved here I was in shock with the amount of tulips I spotted..and then was equally shocked by all of the colors I didn't even know existed and then even more shocked by how cheap they were to buy. Dirt cheap. Like so cheap you can get them for free once a year in Amsterdam and then buy bundles and bundles for next to nothing.
                 
 
                 I love Spring time here..We spend so much time dealing with long grey winters that the first shot of color makes your heart leap. You can drive around and see a sea of color from the tulips and other flowers they grow here and all the garden centers are flush with the latest color and design.
                 


               Tulips aren't even my favorite flower..the Hyacinth is. I fill my house with those the first chance I can and wished they would come out with a candle in that scent..or have they already?
                         


                     But even still..the tulip holds a special place in my heart now. It means Spring is here and everything is made new again. The trees are blooming, the farm animals are giving birth and proudly walking around with their new addition. The seeds I planted are all popping up and fighting to grow bigger and stronger each day.
                       

  
                  Yep..Spring has finally arrived!







Monday, April 14, 2014

Orange-Glazed Bunny Buns

                

                   Easter is almost here! Do you have plans? if so, what are they? Do you eat a large meal or something small? brunch or dinner? This year I have decided to take it easy. For one, I couldn't find a ham that was worth the price and for two, I decided that by keeping it simple it gave me time to enjoy everything as well. So we are doing a brunch type deal. I'm baking various rolls and breads this week, I'll be making my Sonoma Chicken Salad,deviled eggs and I put a package aside of peanut butter eggs that I picked up during my trip back home.

These bunny buns are also on the menu. They taste just like a baked donut and can't tell you how much that makes me happy. The dough is mixed with orange juice and zest but I've already decided a maple version is in order!
                     
              
                The dough is very easy to work with and they come out as cute as can be. You twist the dough and add a tail and it resembles the back of a bunny..sounds easy right? well mine kinda got big..like I had giant bunny booties..which is just fine in my book because big bum bunnies just means a better bun in my opinion. Then I discovered that if you don't firmly place the tails inside the bottom area, they will in fact pop off during baking and then look like big bunny droppings. If you don't want to take the time to shape the dough into bunnies, you can make twists if you like. The dough is really easy when it comes to switching out the shapes.

Orange Glazed Bunny Buns

2 pkgs Active Dry Yeast
1/4 cup Warm Water
1 cup Warm Milk
1/2 cup Shortening..I used Butter
2 Eggs
1/3 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Orange Juice
2 TBS Orange Zest
1 tsp. Salt
5-5-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour

Glaze:
2 cups Powdered Sugar
1/4 cup Orange Juice..plus more to achieve the consistency you want..You can make it thick to spread on or slightly thinner like I did to resemble a glazed donut.

In a large bowl,dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk,shortening (or butter),eggs,sugar,orange juice,orange zest,salt, and 3 cups of flour; beat until smooth with a wooden spoon. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic,about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl,turning once to coat the top. Cover and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size,about one hour.

Punch dough down,turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 13 pieces. Shape 12 pieces into 12 inch ropes. Fold each in half;twist top half of the open end twice to form ears. Place 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or greased with nonstick spray. Shape remaining dough into 12 balls. Place one on the loop end of each roll to form a tail;slightly open the loop part if you can and firmly place the ball inside the loop ( it will help to keep it in place and not fall off during the baking process).
         


              You can tell in this photo that I needed to place the balls more inside the loop area firmly..most of these fell off during baking. The buns are ginormous once they come out and they were close to touching after they were done baking..give them plenty of room!

Cover the buns and allow to rise until doubled,about 30 mins.

Preheat oven to 375 or 190. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. 

In a small bowl,combine glaze ingredients and mix until smooth..adding in more juice if needed. Spread or drizzle onto the bunnies.

Yield: 12 Bunnies
Source: Taste of Home







Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Take A Peek Wednesday: Chicken Lessons

                    

                  Time for a much needed update on the ladies! I've gotten some questions recently about the status of the bare bums and if I was able to stop the one who decided all bums were fair game. The short answer is yes.
                   
   
                  The truth of the matter is, I failed basic chicken keeping 101. I failed the most basic step of properly checking them over. I was one day away from giving two of them up because I thought I wasn't going to be able to stop the constant plucking of the feathers.
                          


                  The most important thing I can tell you about owning chickens is..give those ladies a total body scan. Pick each and every single one of them up and look them over from head to toe. Had I done this eons ago they wouldn't be where they are at right now. What they had was poultry lice and I should have caught this ages ago. It never ever should have gotten to the point of them being so uncomfortable that they were going at each other constantly. My husband picked one of them up as we were deciding what to do when it happened. A teenie weenie bug fell onto my husbands shirt. We leaned in,looked at it,put the hen down, and did the creepy get it off me dance. We looked the image up and knew what it was right away.
                          
    
                 We bought a simple spray and started treatment right away. The bickering stopped and the feathers are rapidly growing back. I felt so guilty about missing the basic step of checking them over and being a new owner is no excuse. Check your hens over..and check again if the problem doesn't stop. No more bum pecking,no more bickering,and no more laziness when it comes to their upkeep. They are doing just fine in every sense of the word. They never stopped laying or eating or anything else. They were just grouchy and I don't blame them. They are getting extra protein,tons of looking over, and they are getting so used to me now that they all run up to me like dogs..in fact one of them literally leaps up and down like one.
                  


                      The only thing that's been different with their egg laying is,one morning I collected this teeeeeenie weenie egg. The 20 cent euro coin is similar to the American 5 cent coin. It was so adorable and contained nothing more than an egg white. Then about a week or so later someone was feeling extra ambitious and laid two eggs that day..a total of 8 eggs in one day :) The ladies are fine and happier now and I'm happier because of it.







Monday, April 7, 2014

Banana-Chocolate Chip Drop Biscuits

                 

                Hello Monday! I don't know about you, but I totally wasn't ready for it. We did the time change over here a week ago and I'm still trying to catch up on my sleep. I constantly feel like I'm trying to catch up and the alarm clock goes off way to early and the hens are asking for food way to soon. There is no time for sleep these days.
                               
                       
                      Thank goodness there is always time for drop biscuit baking! This is a super quick and simple recipe that you can pull together at the last minute. You simply mix,drop,wait,and enjoy these delightful morsels of happiness with a cup of coffee and warm sunshine.

Banana-Chocolate Chip Drop Biscuits

2-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
1 TBS Sugar
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/3 cup Cold Butter,diced
2/3-1 cup Mini Semisweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup Chopped Ripe Banana
1 cup Buttermilk
2 tsp. Turbinado Sugar (Raw Sugar)

Preheat oven to 400 or 200 celsius. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl,combine the flour,sugar,baking powder,baking soda,and salt with a whisk. Cut in butter,using your fingers,fork,or pastry cutter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in chocolate chips ( I went with 2/3 cup and felt like for us,that was enough) and the banana. Stir in buttermilk and mix until dough leaves the side of bowl.

Drop 2 tablespoons worth of dough onto prepared pan about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar.

Bake 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for a few minutes before removing to wire rack. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 Drop Biscuits
Source: Betty Crocker The Big Book of Bread