Tuesday, January 25, 2011

CARAMEL CAKE - Gourmet Magazine

Who's up for caramel cake?  This is a simple moist yellow cake that becomes worth the calories when drenched in caramel.  I poked a lot of holes in the cake before covering it with the hot caramel and served it with a little whipped cream on the side. 

For cake
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For caramel glaze
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Equipment: a candy thermometer
I did not use a candy thermometer and cooked the caramel a full 14 minutes.  Worked out just fine.

Make cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8-inch square cake pan and line with a square of parchment paper, then butter parchment.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.
Make glaze:
Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil until glaze registers 210 to 212°F on thermometer, 12 to 14 minutes, then stir in vanilla.
Put rack with cake in a shallow baking pan and pour hot glaze over top of cake, allowing it to run down sides. Cool until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.

Recipe from Gourmet Magazine.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Given the endless possibilities of choosing a book to read it is a flat-out miracle that any decision is made. As I've written before, it is terribly exciting to finish a book and then start thinking of what to read next, not just what is perched on the nightstand but all the choices floating around out there in one's head and on one's bookshelves.  So, I made firm decisions 34 times last year and was happy with most all.  Then I started thinking that 34 wasn't really that many so I must do better this year (that sounds like a New Year's resolution, doesn't it?)

Here is what I read last year:


  • The Red House Mystery - Milne (a quick, fun read)
  • The Provincial Lady in London - Delafield (laugh out loud)
  • The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday - Smith (I love Isabel Dalhousie)
  • The Paperwhite Narcissus - Riggs (well-written mystery)
  • The Lost Art of Gratitude - Smith (Isabel Dalhousie again)
  • The Making of a Marchioness - Burnett (nice little Cinderella story)
  • A Moveable Feast - Hemingway  (better than I expected)
  • Some Country Houses and Their Owners - Lees-Milne (interesting if you've traveled around England)
  • Here's Poison - Heyer (not as good as I hoped)
  • The Diary of a Nobody - Grossmith (good, understated British humor)
  • Jeeves and the Mating Season - Wodehouse (laugh out loud to the point of ridiculous)
  • Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain During its Darkest, Finest Hour - Olson (excellent)
  • Stiff Upper Lip - Wodehouse (really, who is funnier than Bertie Wooster?)
  • To Serve Them All My Days - Delderfield (beautiful)
  • How Right You Are, Jeeves - Wodehouse (I wish Bertie would stop by for a visit)
  • Louisa May Alcott Biography - Reisen (very good)
  • Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas & Found Happiness - Browning (good)
  • Strong Poison - Sayers (excellent)
  • Gaudy Night - Sayers (one of my all-time favorites)
  • Cranford - Gaskell (sweet)
  • Garden Open Tomorrow - Nichols (witty)
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard - Heath (very good, worth reading)
  • Sense and Sensibility - Austen (wonderful, of course)
  • The Bag Lady Papers - Penney (good)
  • Whose Body? - Sayers (love)
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Barbery (really liked)
  • Deadly Nightshade - Riggs (entertaining murder mystery)
  • Game Change - Heilemann and Halperin (depressing)
  • Tough Choices - Carly Fiorina (I have a new found respect for Fiorina)
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Bradley (excellent, I want to read more of the series)
  • Miss Hargreaves - Frank Baker (a little Twilight Zone but fun)
  • Crashing Through - Robert Kurson (a real eye-opener)
  • Real Food - Nina Planck (good)
  • The Johnstown Flood - David McCullough (scary, sad, but worth reading)

Monday, January 17, 2011


I'm looking at this picture and wishing I had a pot of this soup simmering away right now.  It is filled with all sorts of yummy things--cannellini and red kidney beans, sausage, potatoes, spinach, garlic, fresh basil, cayenne pepper and more.   You can spice it up by adding more cayenne and hot Italian sausage.  Or choose a milder route as I did combining chicken and basil sausage with the hot sausage and using a 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

It should freeze well but no chance to find out--it was gobbled up too quickly.

Portuguese Bean Soup 
1 med onion, chopped
6 crushed garlic cloves
1 lb sausage (I used a combination of chicken and basil sausage with hot Italian chicken sausage)
Olive oil (I used a few tablespoons)
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 carrots, diced
2 diced med. red potatoes
1 med. can stewed tomatoes
1 tsp. thyme
2 cans chicken broth
1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach (or kale would work great)
dash of red wine vinegar
8 large basil leaves, chopped
1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (one teaspoon makes the soup very spicy)
One bunch of parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute' onions, garlic, sausage in olive oil until sausage is lightly browned. Add the remaining ingredients except parsley to mixture. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 1 hour, allowing the flavors to mix. Place a few sprigs of parsley in each bowl before ladling the soup.

Recipe adapted from Jani S.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Partial Pile
A group of friends and I gathered together the other night for our annual discussion of favorite reads. I love this night and look forward to it every year.  A very comfortable group of women which, when combined, offers an eclectic selection of books.  Rarely is there any overlap of books presented, but those who have read the book certainly jump in with their opinion.  Occasionally, there will be opposite opinions of one book which is great fun.  But usually everyone is madly scribbling down books to add to their own reading queue.

This year, the following themes emerged: perseverance through hard times; Sweden; art museums, and dogs.  Here is the list:

Top 12

Me - Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in its Finest, Darkest Hour  - Lynne Olson
Liz - Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption - Laura Hillenbrand
Darcey - Still Me - Christopher Reeve
Lori - Look Again - Lisa Scottoline
Tammy - Rogue's Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art - Michael Gross
Alicia - The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Cassandra - Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems - Billy Collins
Jennifer - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life- Donald Miller
Dawn - Desiree: The Best Selling Story of Napoleon's First Love - Annemarie Selinko
Pam - The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon  - David Grann
Sheli - The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel - Kathleen Kent
Leslie - North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

We do a few rounds, one book at a time (usually), so here is a list of those books that were in the second and third round:

To Serve Them All My Days - R. F. Delderfield
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley
The Madonnas of Leningrad - Debra Dean
Perfectly Imperfect - Lee Woodruff
The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton
The Swan Thieves - Elizabeth Kostova
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy - Stieg Larsson
Elegance of the HedgehogMuriel Barbery
Service Included: Four Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter - Phoebe Damrosch
Little Bee - Chris Cleave
The Imperfectionists - Tom Rachman
Composed - Roseanne Cash
The War of Art - Steven Pressfield
Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout
A Dog's Purpose - Bruce Cameron
Omniover's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
The School of Essential Ingredients - Erica Bauermeister
South of Broad - Pat Conroy
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks
Half Broke Horses - Jeannette Walls
The Life of Our Lord - Charles Dickens
Mariana - Monica Dickens
Our Mutual Friend - Charles Dickens
The Case of the Missing Servant - Tarquin Hall

All in all 36 books recommended.  Some inspiring, some entertaining, a few will carry you off to another time and that may be all you need. One should certainly grab your fancy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


My sofas (2) needed a freshen-up.  What to do, what to do. New slipcovers? Hmmm, no, more money than I wanted to spend.  And, besides, I'm not totally in love with the sofas. The arms are a bit too high for my current taste.  So, a little refresh was in order.  I peeled off the two back cushions and replaced with this little ensemble of down-filled pillows.  What do you think?


I never liked the back cushions of my sofas (see pic below).  They were too stuffed and I was always beating them back into submission.  I even had them refilled but it didn't do the trick for me.

I purchased some fabric at the ill-named Calico Corners during its recent sale (see middle pillow). Had two pillows made filled with 50/50 down and feathers. The other pillows are a combination of pillows I picked up on my recent trip to Belgium and the local Pottery Barn (always good for home accents).

I am so happy with my "new" sofas.  Just a little tweaking and it has changed the look and feel of the room. Hooray for simple changes!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I had read about this book on Jenclair's blog but I was more familiar with   E.M. Delderfield's book, God is an Englishman.  Both Jenclair and my friend Leslie's dad cited this book as their favorite Delderfield book so this jumped into my reading queue.

To Serve Them All My Days takes place just after World War I. This is the book I was reading while traveling through Belgium last summer and seeing the names of villages mentioned in the book added to my reading experience.

Welshman David Powlett-Jones is just returning from the war, shell-shocked and without any confidence. His neurologist recommends a small community in the fresh upland air for healing.  Specifically, a small boys school, Bamfylde, in the English countryside.

Read the following passage as Powlett-Jones sits outside the village train station waiting to be picked-up by the porter for his interview with the headmaster, "Here you could almost reach out and touch the quiet.  It was a living thing that seemed to catch its breath up there in the hanging woods and then, at a wordless command, slip down the long hillside and gust over the rails to lose itself in the wood opposite.  Its touch was gentle and healing, passing over his scar tissue like the fingers of a woman. "

Powlett-Jones rebuilds his life in this tiny, caring community of young boys and teachers.  Delderfield quickly brings you into Bamfylde School with his diverse characters, action, and a bit of heartbreak.  In fact, it is the first time I can remember crying over a fictional work.  To Serve Them All My Days was my favorite fictional book for 2010.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Elizabeth Bennett's Inbox

Elizabeth Bennet's inbox

I never do this, you know, copy and paste another's post.  But, really, this is laugh-out-loud funny.

Cleverly created by Mark Brownlow, at Famousinboxes.com.
Thank you, English Muse.