Saturday, February 6, 2016

Colin Eastland ~ Dandy Goods

My friend Colin Eastland, who happens to be a reader of the blog, recently told me about a cookie venture of his which is extremely exciting.  The idea of baking cookies, decorating cookies and selling them to customers is something I enjoy doing on a regular basis, so when someone with creativity and superb skills in this arena catches my attention, I want to share that talent with individuals.  Colin's cookies are truly beautiful.

Heart & Heart in Hand Cookies

After seeing a few photos and a link to Colin's website, I couldn't wait to have it here on Good Things by David.  What made it even more special and really flattering to me was that Colin said he was inspired by what I do here on the blog.  

Colin lives in a historic home along the Connecticut coast line and bakes his small batch, limited-edition cookies from his kitchen.  Using collectible copper cookie cutters from Martha by Mail, as well as others he's collected over the years, Colin has set out to create tasty treats for customers in Madison, Connecticut.  

I love the packaging and the logo.

Take a look at his newly-constructed website and see what he's up to.  He promises to be making seasonal cookies for clients in the future, and I, for one, can't wait to see what he comes up with.  

Inspired by Good Things by David!

I hope these images of Colin's sweet cookies inspire you to bake and decorate some treats for your loved ones this Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Lemon cakes are by far my favorite cakes to bake and eat.  If you love lemons just as much as I do, then you don't need me to tell you about that sweet/tart element that is so enticing in lemon desserts.  It is what it is!

The combination of lemons and poppy seeds is classic.  Layer cakes covered in rich buttercream are great and festive, but when you want something simple that is sure to be a crowd pleaser, then only a bundt cake will do.  Bundt cakes are great to have on hand when company comes around, because they don't feel overly indulgent to enjoy with a cup of coffee for brunch or with some tea in the afternoon after a light luncheon.  The cake portions can be as generous or as slender as one desires.

Whether or not you choose to ice a bundt cake, sprinkle it with confectioners sugar or leave it plain, it's bound to be a welcomed ending to any meal.

This special Lemon Poppy Seed Cake is baked with the basics of butter, flour, sugar, fresh eggs and lots of fresh lemon zest.  It's up to you as to what type of lemons you use, but if you happen to have meyers, then by all means use them.  Your poppy seeds, however, must be absolutely fresh and not at all stale.  If you're unsure about the ones in your pantry, go to the supermarket and pick up a new batch.

With the many shapes and sizes of bundt pans from which to choose at baking supply stores, it's fun using the more unusual ones for special occasions.  I recently added a square bundt pan from Nordic Ware to my baking pans, and thought: why not use it for that tasty lemon poppy seed cake I've been making for the past several weeks?

Let's bake a cake that every lemon connoisseur is going to enjoy.  With a handful of ingredients and a few minutes of preparation, you can have a cake worthy of your best cake stand and cake dome.

This is what I did for my family.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Equipment: 10-12 cup bundt pan, buttered and floured or sprayed with nonstick baking spray.

NOTE: A smaller bundt pan, such as the square Nordic Ware pan, should only be filled ⅔ full of batter (you will have leftover batter if using this cake pan; if using the larger ones, like the 'Anniversary Pan', you can use the entire batch of batter).  Leftover batter can be baked into cupcakes. Bake cupcakes 18-20 minutes.

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350° F (177°C)
  1. In a bowl, sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Keep it ready. 
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until lightened, about 30 seconds.  Add the salt, sugar & lemon zest, and cream on medium speed until light and creamy 4-5 minutes.  Stop and scrape down the bowl and paddle at least once during this process.  
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until fully incorporated and emulsified.
  4. Beat in the lemon and vanilla extracts.  
  5. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl and paddle attachment.  
  6. On low speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients with the sour cream; add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 1/2 of the sour cream, and so on. Begin and end with the dry ingredients.  
  7. Add the poppy seeds and blend well.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake the cake for 50 minutes to one hour.  The cake should feel springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the cake should come out clean when it’s completely baked.
  9. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes;  gently flip and remove the cake from the pan and cool completley. 
  10. Frost as desired. 

Simple Lemon Icing
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons strained lemon juice
  • poppy seeds
Mix confectioners sugar with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and begin to thin it out by the 1/4 teaspoon with more lemon juice until you have a very thick, yet pourable icing.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds while the icing is wet.  Let set.

If you can manage to resist slicing up the cake before company arrives, keep it in a cool environment so that the icing doesn't run into problems.  For this occasion I remembered that I had a large 19th century blown glass cake dome, so I used it to cover the cake while it waited.  Believe me, it was so hard to resist. 

When we finally did slice into it, I was pleased with how light the crumb was (sifting is very important as is not overmixing) and what a great flavor it had. Anything made with sour cream or even buttermilk comes out quite tender and delicious.  

There you have it.  A very good lemon bundt cake with the added bonus of having tasty poppy seeds in both the batter and the icing, will have people asking for seconds.  Whether you choose to enjoy a slice with a cup of coffee, some tea or even some milk, be sure to eat every last crumb.  A cake like this will keep for a couple of days under a cake dome or tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, but why not share it with people so that you have no leftovers.  Have fun baking this cake and do let me know what you think!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Jonas, the Blizzard of 2016

The blizzard named Jonas which hit a good section of the east coast over the weekend has been on the news around the world.  People near and far have sent me emails and texts expressing their concern for our safety, so I thank you for being in touch.  We're doing well and have not lost power.  Thankfully!

Looking at photographs that some of my friends have been posting on social media, it seems as if everyone received a substantial amount of snow around their area.  A friend in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania measured 35 inches in her backyard this morning.  From what I've been reading, Manhattan received over 2 feet.  Here in Montgomery County, just outside of the city, we got about twenty inches of snow, so we certainly had our fair share.

I was able to take several photographs throughout the weekend of the snowstorm, and I even captured a small video clip while standing on the front porch Saturday evening.

Take a look.

This photograph was the calm before the storm.  We had had a dusting of snow a few days prior to Jonas, but it was nothing compared to what we would wake up to Saturday morning.

When I came downstairs on Saturday to brew the coffee, this is what the front of the house looked like early in the morning.  You can barely make out our car on the left.  

Taken from one of the upstairs bedrooms, you can see how wonderful everything looked behind the house.

The driveway was nowhere to be seen.  

Every window throughout the house had snow accumulation, and as you can see from this angle, even the gutters were completely covered.

That is a bench.  A snow-covered bench.

Between morning and late in the afternoon, we didn't receive a snowflake, but reports were telling us that more was on the way.  Sure enough, right before it was time to make dinner, the snow began to come down.  

I sent this photo to friends and family so that they could see the enormity of what we were experiencing Saturday evening.  There is a car there under feet of snow.  


I took this short video while standing on our front porch.  You can hear just how windy it was and how brutally cold it felt.  This was a blizzard!

Sunday morning was a different story.  The back porch next to the home office was the scene of a few birds hopping and bopping to and fro.  That heart shape is a cooling rack that Michael Bonne made for me several years ago; I forgot to bring it in!

Standing on the front porch at 8 am today was rather serene.  Nothing could be heard except for a bird here and there.  The snow drift on the left is the car and you can barely make out the steps leading up to the driveway where the snow undulates.

I put on my warmest wool coat and some rubber wellingtons before attempting to go out on the front porch.  Here I am standing on the porch.  I haven't even walked down to the first step and the snow is almost up to my knees.

One step, two steps and down to the ground.  The snow was up to my knees, so approximately twenty inches.  This was a lot of snow.

The crew thankfully arrived early to dig us out, but even the large Ford Super Duty pick up truck was having trouble navigating that driveway.  It got stuck!

This was the scene after the crew left.  Mounds of powdery snow with just enough of a walkway to navigate out to the car. 

I have to admit that I love being out in the snow when the sun is shining and there is not a cloud in the sky.  I'm not sure I'll be out and about on the field or walking the trails, because there is just too much snow on the ground to make it a safe thing to do.

Having said this, I hope all of you who were in the storm's path are safe and warm today, and are digging out of the feet of snow.  Please be careful out there on the roads and do check up on loved ones if you can. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Good Things from California

My trips to California never cease to be opportunities for me to bring back a little something (or a lot) for us to enjoy here in Pennsylvania.  More often than not, I stock up on fruits from dad's trees, and if I'm lucky enough to have found something at an antique shop, it too gets carefully packed up in my luggage for transport.  An ordeal to be sure, but it's the only way to be certain there won't be any mishaps.

This time around I found a variety of things at antique shops that I wanted to scoop up, many of which you've already read about, but I showed restraint because it would have been a nightmare trying to figure out how to ship everything.  There were two items, however, which I simply couldn't leave behind because they would have bothered me for months had I done so.  Keep reading to find out all about them!

Lemons.  I can't write enough about my love for lemons!  These tasty meyer lemons with their thin, fragrant skins and juicy insides, came from one of my aunt's who was visiting from Santa Barbara while I was there.  The bunch sitting in that Apilco porcelain bowl was only a fraction of what my mother had in her kitchen right before I left.  As much as I wanted to bring more, there really wasn't any room.

That tiny cutting board from Asheville, North Carolina, was a gift from a dear friend this past Christmas and I've designated it my citrus board.  It will get used for the cutting up of citrus and nothing else.  

Meyer lemons are prized for their juicy, fragrant nature, which makes them suitable for many culinary uses such as vinaigrettes, drinks, desserts and in savory dishes.  They're less acidic than their Eureka lemon counterparts.  Yes, I do make lemonade with them, but I much prefer to have my Hot Lemon Drop Drink with a couple of these.  The zest of meyer lemons is perfect for candying, but it superb in cakes and cookies which call for lemon zest.  These fruits are in season now and available at any supermarket.  Look for them the next time you want to add a bit of zip to your dishes.

What can I say?  My father has always had a green thumb in the garden and these amazing and delicious avocados are a testament to his care and patience. A couple of years ago he decided to plant some Hass avocado trees and this time around mom and dad were rewarded with hundreds (no joke) of these delicious fruits.  Again, can you believe that I only picked 8 of them?   

We've been enjoying one or two of them a week, and I've hastened their ripening by placing a couple of them in butcher paper.  Rolling and wrapping two avocados at a time is a good way of ensuring perfection in no time at all. These have been so good in guacamole, thinly sliced in sandwiches and as a topping for toast.  I can't get enough of them.  Thanks dad!

At first glance I thought that this was a large platter, so I asked the shopkeeper at the Pasadena Antique Center if I could inspect it.  It turns out that there were two of them in the display case!  Its jade color, which is so alluring to me, is what caught my eye as I was scanning the crammed displays.  My immediate thoughts were: "I can see cakes, cookies and other desserts sitting here with or without a glass cake dome.  They would blend in with my existing ceramics and Fire King....."

At a little over 13" in diameter (I had a tape measurer with me), these round ceramic plates seemed extraordinary to me.  Not only did I love the color, but their generous proportions and their heft (they're quite heavy) made me want to take them home.  The high rims were just right.

These pieces were completely glazed in that rich jade color, both on top and on the bottom.

The left plate had no markings to identify what it was, but this one on the right did.  Barely legible, the plate had engraved, "Bauer Pottery Co., 12, Los Angeles".  Being that they were both of the same proportions, shape and color, I immediately realized that I had early pieces of Bauer ware ceramics from the Los Angeles pottery works.  I won't tell you how much I paid (sticker shock, believe me), but as I was being rung up and chatting with the owner of the antique shop, I knew that I was absolutely mistaken with my assumption that these were originally used as platters.  It turns out that Bauer Pottery made these to use as pot saucers, which presumably had their original pots for planting any number of things.  It makes sense!  The wide diameter, the high rim to catch water spilling over from watering one's plants.  

Having said this, I am still going to use these beautiful pieces of ceramic as platters or as cake plates in the future, because to my mind, they would be wonderful repurposed in this manner.  If I hadn't told you that these were pot saucers, wouldn't you assume that they were platters or serving plates of some sort?

These French ivory celluloid knives were waiting for me. With perfect blades which showed no signs of ever having been used, the bolsters and celluloid handles seemed to be in excellent condition.  I wasted no time in purchasing them at a good price.

The stamp on the blades say, 'Arnold Scheurer Aarberg'.  One of the things that I love about these knives, other than the classic European shape of the blades, is the squared-off blade guard which connects to the bolster.  It helps rest the knives perfectly on a table without them wobbling.

How can you tell if the flatware pieces are French ivory celluloid?  When you look at the handles closely you will immediately see a series of lines running down the length of it.   

Here is a comparison of my inexpensive Martha Stewart Everyday Cottage flatware pieces next to one of the antique knives that I purchased.  The color matching is way off, but they complement one another.  I may use these two patterns together for my table, but then again I might just pair the knives with other pieces of vintage silverware.  

On a side note: my trips to California also have me eating more than my fair share of scrumptious foods from many great sources, so when I return home my body craves a small detox of sorts.  Not only have I been enjoying hot lemon sips in the afternoons with those meyer lemons, but I've also been craving vegetarian dishes such as the one above.  This is a typical lunch that I will make at home on any given day of the week.  Hulled barley is one of those fiber-rich foods which are minimally processed.  In fact, hulled barley has the most fiber of any whole grain and if you want to learn more about it, do an online search to get the facts.  We like it because it tastes so good and because it fills us up.  Served over this is a combination of cooked chickpeas and caramelized onions, sprinkled with herbs, salt and pepper.  Easy, nutritious and a very healthy lunch, I feel so much better after eating a dish like this.  Happy eats and happy shopping!