Sunday, January 29, 2017

Martha Stewart's Lemon Chiffon Cake

Anyone in need of a pick-me-up would probably appreciate a good chiffon cake made with lots of fresh citrus.  Chiffon cakes are classified under the sponge cake family, just as angel food and jelly roll cakes are.  What sets them apart from other cakes is that they don't contain any butter whatsoever, and the fact that they are baked in ungreased cake pans so that the batter can cling to the sides during baking. They are immensely delectable, delicate and very easy to make.  I find them to be the ideal choice for weekend get-togethers, a birthday luncheon or for those occasions when a little sweetness is in order.

I recently turned to a Martha Stewart recipe that I hadn't tried before but had noticed in several of her publications.  Intrigued by the recipe's use of freshly-squeezed orange juice, orange and lemon zest, I decided to have a go at this scrumptious cake.

A variation of the cake covered in a Swiss Meringue icing, much like a lemon meringue pie, can be found in her 'Cakes' book.  

For the recipe, click here.  

It's important when making chiffon cakes or any type of cake really, to have all of your ingredients premeasured and accessible next to the mixer(s) before starting the recipe.  The oven should be preheated and the cake pan(s) should also be handy at this point.

Because chiffon cakes call for adding the egg yolks and beaten egg whites separately, I like using a handheld mixer to whip up the whites when making these types of cakes. To be honest, I should have done the entire recipe with the handheld mixer! It would have made things easier for me.

Stiffly beaten egg whites not only lighten the batter, they provide leavening. It's important to add the egg whites in stages, folding them into the batter gently but thoroughly.

As soon as the batter is completely mixed, gently pour the mixture into a baking pan which has NOT been buttered and floured.  Martha's recipe calls for a small 7" tube pan with a removable bottom.

When the cake comes out of the oven, it has to be cooled upside down so that the cake doesn't collapse.  Recipes always call for cooling the cake on a bottle of some sort, but I find it precarious to do so.  Use a Ball jar or empty jam jar and balance the center cone of the angel food cake pan on it.  Leave the cake alone until it is cooled completely.

Proceed with the recipe as you see fit.  For this citrusy cake I split it in half and filled it with some homemade jam.

Note: the cake is best sliced if you place it in the freezer for a good hour. Even so, it is still tender and delicate.  Use a serrated knife and a sawing motion when slicing the cake, otherwise you might tear it.  I like using my large spatulas to remove the top part of the cake.

My dear friend Dennis sent me a set of homemade jams which I've been enjoying a bit at a time.  Grouped together on that large jadeite platter (Martha by Mail), I wasn't sure whether to use an apricot jam, blueberry or an apple jelly for the filling.  

Lemon and blueberry go well together, so I spread a good amount of it on the bottom layer.  Because it is a sponge cake, the majority of it was absorbed by the cake.  Delicious!

Rather than cover the cake in a thick frosting, I drizzled a simple glaze of confectioners sugar and milk.

Slice the cake up into big wedges for those who want a lot of cake or portion out smaller slices for those who ask.  All you need is a cup of coffee or some tea to go with the cake.  Sponge cakes are light as a feather and incredibly delicious.  What's even better is that there is no reason to feel any amount of guilt having some, because the cake hardly contains any fat.

Martha's Lemon Chiffon cake is great served plain, filled & glazed like I've done here, or covered completely in heavenly meringue.  I'm telling you, cake baking doesn't get any easier.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Ultimate Spice Rack

Many of you are familiar with the iconic Martha by Mail spice rack that was available through the catalog back in the late 90s.  I wrote about the one in my kitchen several years ago, and quite a few collectors that I know of were fortunate enough to have bought one when they were available. People continue to enjoy those beautiful spice racks in their kitchens to this day! They are timeless, heirloom-quality pieces that will continue to be collectors items due to their beauty and fine craftsmanship.

I thought that the seventy-spices rack was the last word on spice organization, but I was proven wrong fairly recently.  About month ago, a friend of mine from the midwest commissioned an even larger rack to accommodate the spices that he frequently uses in his catering kitchen (above), from craftsman and friend, Nick Stein.

The finished rack is nothing short of exquisite with its twelve shelves, one hundred and fourteen custom-labeled spice tins made to look like Martha by Mail originals, and its poplar frame construction covered in five coats of paint.

Because of its size and weight, the rack and tins were shipped in two parts. Dennis decided to showcase his ultimate spice rack by hanging it on a wall in the kitchen.  

These drywall anchors meant for elfa shelving were chosen by Dennis for their clean lines and sturdy support.

The spice rack itself measures 48"W x 39"H, and contains 114 spice tins.

What I love about the spice tins is that Nick found a way to make a very good likeness of the original Martha by Mail spice labels, with the differences being that he used a larger font, and smudge resistant label paper.

The Spices: allspice berries (ground & whole), anise-seed, anise star, basil (european & sweet), bavarian seasoning, bay leaf, Bell's seasoning, bradyst cheese sprinkle, caraway seed, cardamom, cayenne pepper, celery flakes, celery salt, celery seed, chervil, chili powder (hot), chili powder (medium), chili powder (mild), chile seasoning, Chinese 5 spice, chipotle chili powder, chives, cilantro, cinnamon, clove (ground & whole), coriander (ground & seed), cream of tartar, cumin (ground & seed), curry, dill seeds, dill weed, fajita spice, fennel seed, fine herbes (chervil, chives, parsley & tarragon), galena st. rib rub, garam masala, garlic (minced), garlic powder, garlic powder (roasted), garlic salt, ginger, gourmet burger seasoning, herbes de provence, horseradish powder, italian blend seasoning, juniper berries, lavender, little italy herbs, mace, maple garlic seasoning, maple & pepper, marjoram, mrs. dash, mrs. dash (table blend), mural of flavor, mulling spices, mushroom powder, mustard (black seed), mustard (brown seed), mustard (yellow seed), mustard (dry), northwoods seasoning, nutmeg, nutmeg (whole), Old Bay seasoning, onion (minced), onion powder (toasted), onion powder (white), oregano, oregano (greek), paprika (sweet), paprika (hot), parsley, pepper (lemon), peppercorns (black), peppercorns (cracked), peppercorns (black ground), peppercorns (black/white), peppercorns (black/white cracked), peppercorns (black/white ground), peppercorns (green), peppercorns (green-ground), peppercorns (pink), peppercorns (pink-ground), peppercorns (white), peppercorns (white-cracked), peppercorns (white-ground), peppercorns (szechuan), peppercorns (tellicherry), four pepper blend, hot pepper flakes, pesto pasta seasoning, pickling spices, poppy seeds, poultry seasoning, pumpkin pie spice, rosemary, saffron, saffron threads, sage, salt (happy), salt (seasoning), sesame seeds (black), sesame seeds (toasted), savory, tarragon, tomato powder, thyme, turmeric.

Here is a sideview of the rack itself.  It makes quite an impressive focal point and statement in the kitchen.

You may not have the room in your kitchen for The Ultimate Spice Rack like my friend Dennis, but what's great is that Nick can custom make a spice rack for you through his Etsy store (Bay Custom Crafts).  I'm so glad that Nick is once again offering his fine craftsmanship, because I get quite a few requests every single year for a spice rack source.

Simply click here to view what Nick has to offer and don't hesitate for one moment to place an order if you're feeling inspired to add a superb spice rack to your kitchen.  Even if you're looking to replace your old, worn down Martha by Mail spice tins, have Nick custom make you a set with fresh, new labels. These racks also make great gifts for the chefs in your life.

Thank you Dennis and Nick for allowing me to showcase your great collaboration!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Antiquing in Orange County, California

Antique shops are alive and well in Southern California.  A cluster of them can be found at The Orange Circle in Orange County, California, all within a block of each other.  It's a place which I had been told about in the past by several individuals, but had never visited until recently while on vacation.

I'm so glad I finally made it to this area because it is a true shopper's dream come true for all things vintage and antique.  Scattered along The Orange Circle on Chapman Avenue and Glassel St., it's safe to say that there are at least half a dozen or so antique shops in the area, all stocked to the gills with wonderful treasures.

Mom decided to go with me this time around and shop for herself, while I toured the floors and shelves on my own.  It was a perfect afternoon of casual vintage shopping for us, and yes, we both found stuff we liked.

If you walk along Glassel St. you will notice that both sides of this street contain shops, cafes and restaurants.  After you've done a bit of shopping, it's so convenient to grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants here and reenergize for even more shopping.  

This beautiful enamelware bread box, probably British, is in really good vintage condition.  You can see that some of the enamelware has chipped off along the rim of the lid, but all in all, it's a piece that would look at home in any country, colonial or retro kitchen.  The set of Pyrex 'primary colors' bowls from the 1950s was advertised as the perfect gift for bridal showers back then. It's not uncommon to come across these at antique shops and flea markets.  

Depression era stemware is delicate, yet beautiful.  I thought of a friend of mine in Indiana when I saw these etched pieces.  At $32 a piece, it can get a bit expensive to gather a set for a table setting, but just imagine the possibilities!

This old bucket had a cluster of vintage rolling pins and I'm sad to say that I didn't get them.  I've started collecting green-handled rolling pins from the 30s and 40s, so I kick myself for passing these up.  If they're there when I go back this year, I'll get them for my kitchen.

Here is another old enamelware bread box that is in great condition.  Even if you don't see yourself storing loaves of bread, you can always repurpose these boxes to hold any number of items in the kitchen.  I can see these being used to store linens or silverware, or even cookies!

I don't know why camping equipment fascinates me so much.  Perhaps it's because mom and dad used to take me and my brothers camping every single summer to various lakes, buttes and forests.  Dad was a serious camper in those days, and we had everything a camping family needed.  Kerosene lamps and stovetops, large tents (we always helped dad stake the big family tent), sleeping bags, and camping dishes were just some of things mom made sure to pack for us.  Oh, and I mustn't forget dad's Swiss Army knife!

Well, I couldn't pass these old enamelware camping plates up.  With their cream-colored background and green trim, I think they're going to be used for all sorts of things.

Isn't that vintage Taylor thermometer amazing?  It would look so nice sitting on a kitchen counter.

I'm telling you, restored Wedgewood stoves are so in right now.  It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful they look once they've been given a makeover.  This beautiful example with its white, chrome and jadeite-colored accents, is absolutely stunning.

I hope someone is able to give this stove a good home soon because it's too nice to pass up.

There is one shop along Glassel St. that is dedicated to home fixtures and old metal escutcheons.  This place is great for the DIY people.

If you like to shop for these items, you're going to want to take your time sifting through the variety.

The doorhandles are extraordinary!

I like these examples of clear and milk glass doorknobs.


This old caddy was made to hold Mason jars for canning.  I like that it's sold as a set and that it isn't expensive.  

Reproduction and fantasy jadeite is prevalent in antique shops these days.  It's almost a guarantee that they're mixed in with the older pieces for display purposes, so it's up to you, the shopper, to know what you're buying.  Most prudent sellers will mark their pieces accordingly, but it isn't always the case. If the jars with metal lids look brand new, then you know they're not vintage.

The Swedish Modern bowls are so pretty to have in one's collection of jadeite (I don't own any).  If you're looking to add these to your existing pieces, be aware that they do cost quite a bit of money.

This display shows some great examples of Fire King jadeite, but to be perfectly honest, some of them were overpriced.  I didn't buy any this time around.

Why am I not surprised to find Martha Stewart Livng magazines at these places?

I love this "Fresh Candy" dispenser!  Just look at the condition it's in.  I wonder what type of candy it used to hold.

Maybe it was because I was visiting so close to Christmas, but many Christmas ornaments were available for purchase.  It's so nice to see that they have survived decades of celebrations.

The moment I went by this seller's display, I stopped dead in my tracks.  It took me a good thirty minutes to sift through basket after basket of silverware. I managed to get quite a bit of it (more on that later) at very reasonable prices. This is a perfect example of going into a shop with an open mind: I don't like going into vintage shops with only one thing in mind or with a specific mission.  It's all about letting the wares dictate what I may want.

An amazing display of old tins.

This piece of yellowware became the butt of many jokes with several of my friends.  The tag said "can be used as a planter", however.....  I wasn't prepared to shell out money for an old urinal even if it was made out of yellowware.

This display was not in Orange County, but rather in Pasadena.  I made a quick stop at the Pasadena Antique Center and came across this gathering of cake stands.  Although they aren't vintage at all, they are superb.

Made in the U.S.A. by Mosser Glass, the rich colors of these cake stands will make just about any dessert look its best.

I literally gasped when I saw this seller's china cabinet stacked with dozens of vaseline cake stands.  

There you have it.  The Orange Circle antique shops are a must for all of you collectors out there.  It's so good to see that these businesses are thriving, because it gives me hope that future generations will continue to see the importance and beauty in collecting vintage.  

Make sure to visit this area the next time you're in Southern California, even it is just to browse and get ideas.  However, don't be surprised if you find something that you simply can't leave behind.  

Happy Collecting.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

'Dinner' - Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark

Melissa Clark's recipes make you want to get into the kitchen and start cooking all sorts of savories and sweets.  Whether through her New York Times column 'A Good Appetite' or the corresponding video series, and her previous cookbooks, Melissa Clark is one of those chefs who understands how to perfectly combine ingredients.  She is a boss when it comes to creating delicious recipes for home cooks.

Melissa's latest cookbook, 'Dinner', is due to be released on March 7th, and let me assure you when I say that you're going to want to add this publication to your culinary library, because it has everything you want from a cookbook. New recipes using flavorful ingredients and easy how-to techniques found at the beginning of every chapter, are just some of the things to anticipate from Clark's latest culinary triumph.

I absolutely love the way the main ingredient chapters are organized: chicken, meat (pork, beef, veal, lamb, duck & turkey), the grind, fish & seafood, eggs, pasta & noodles, tofu (& a touch of seitan), beans, legumes & vegetable dinners, rice, farro, quinoa & other grains, pizzas & pies, soups, salads that mean it, dips, spreads & go-withs.  Every single recipe is meant to be a stand alone dinner, but you can, of course, add to these meals and change things up a bit to suit your needs.  Melissa gives you many options.   

It isn't every new cookbook that makes me want to cook or bake from it, but Melissa Clark's "Dinner" certainly does whet my appetite.  I'm already looking forward to her Smoky Paprika Roast Chicken, the Cumin-Chicken Meatballs, the Fish Tacos with Red Cabbage, Jalapeño, and Lime Slaw, the Asparagus Frittata, the Cacio e Pepe, the Curried Chickpeas with Eggplant, the Spicy Thai Fried Rice, the Leek, Tomato & Farro Soup, and the classic Niçoise Salad with Basil Anchovy Dressing.

Preorder your book now wherever books are sold and get an extra copy for a loved one.  You're absolutely going to be inspired by Melissa Clark's 'Dinner - Changing the Game'.