log cabin socks

Chocolate Guinness Cupcake
Ina Garten Irish Soda Bread
Ina Garten Irish Soda Bread

Every year on St. Patrick's Day we get together with two of our favorite couples and cook a big dinner of corned beef and cabbage, Guinness beef stew, and colcannon. Even though we take turns hosting the event, I'm always responsible for bringing the Irish soda bread and a dessert. The soda bread recipe is always the same--I use Ina Garten's recipe, because it's 1) delicious, 2) easily adaptable, and 3) even better the next day toasted with a generous smear of soft, salted butter.  I make two versions of the bread--first, the recipe as written, gloriously orange-scented and studded with ruby-red currants. For the second loaf, I omit the orange zest and fruit and replace it with two tablespoons of aromatic caraway seeds. The anise flavor of the caraway pairs especially well with the pickling spices used to flavor the corned beef and cabbage. Pair a warm slice with a little nip of Linie Aquavit, (a Norwegian spirit distilled from potatoes and flavored with caraway and star anise), and you're pretty close to heaven.

I added a third loaf to the mix to this year--a simple beer bread recipe. The texture of this loaf reminded me of banana bread, which was a bit unexpected, but worked well when topped with butter and dipped into the delicious pot of Guinness Beef Stew my sister made. 

Chocolate Guinness Cupcake

For dessert, I made Veggie and the Beast's Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Whisky Buttercream and Salted Caramel. Needless to say, these were a big hit. The batter was extremely liquid, so I ended up using a tiny ladle to gently spoon it into the muffin tin. Since we had a bigger crowd this year, I doubled the recipe, and ended up with five dozen cupcakes. To flavor the caramel and buttercream, I used Jameson Caskmates (Stout Edition); the tang of the stout in the whisky really brought everything together. These dark, luscious babies took me over four hours to make from start to finish.

I ended up with two small jars of left-over salted whisky caramel, which I plan to drizzle over some good vanilla ice cream this weekend. 

While everything was baking away, I snuck over to my little corner of the couch to knit rounds and rounds on my log cabin sock. Being perpetually cold, I've added these to my personal queue for the fall. I'm thinking about trying Woolfolk Luft, a 55% merino and 45% organic pima cotton blend, to keep them light and fluffy. 

This week, I plan on finishing this first sock, then continue working on my secret project, which I hope to complete by the end of the month. How about you, fellow knitters? What are you working on this week?


baking + wool

Wool and baking
Fresh Blueberries
Wool and baking

This was one of those perfect little weekends--there were no obligations to meet, no significant errands to run, and lots and lots of down time. On Saturday morning, I spent a leisurely hour on the couch knitting a little Quince and winding this smoky gray ball of wool for the Log Cabin socks. Using this week's leftover blueberries, I made Eva's Blueberry Dutch Baby from her new book, First We Eat. (If you love baking and stunning photography, you must check out her website, Adventures in Cooking. It's such a treasure trove of inspiration!) Anyway, we're big fans of Dutch Babies in our house. If you've never had one, you should make one immediately--they're a glorious cross between a pancake and a popover. Typically, we default to the Dutch Baby with Lemon Sugar on Epicurious, but as soon as I saw Eva's dark and luscious blueberry version, I knew we'd have to try it! 

Don't let the beauty of this Baby intimidate you--it's actually quite simple and straightforward to make. First, you prepare a quick blueberry jam by combining blueberries, sugar, and water in a small pan and simmering until it thickens. It takes all of about 15 minutes to prepare and, really, it's the best kind of kitchen puttering one can do on a Saturday morning. Then, you preheat a cast iron skillet in the oven while you prepare all the ingredients. When the pan is scalding hot, drop in softened pats of butter until they sizzle and melt, then pour the batter in and bake until it's puffed and golden. Immediately top the Baby with the homemade jam, fresh blueberries, and almonds (I toasted mine for extra flavor) and eat warm from the oven with a glass of cold milk. The custardy pancake, combined with the sticky-sweet jam, the pop of ripe fruit, and the nuttiness of the toasted almonds, made this one of the best Dutch Babies I've ever had. 

Please pick up the ingredients and make one this weekend! I promise you won't regret it. 

Summer days

farmer's market flowers
winding yarn
farmer's market flowers
garden tomatoes
caprese salad
fresh zucchini
smitten kitchen zucchini bread 1
farm fresh eggs
bird's nest fern terrain
homemade jelly
smitten kitchen zucchini bread
Alicia Plummer Barnwood Hat

The weekend was long, humid, and hot—which was perfect because it gave me an excuse to retreat into the cool, air-conditioned comfort of our little house. I was a busy-bee this weekend—furiously knitting my second attempt of the Barnwood Hat, which happily came off the needles and was promptly blocked. My in-laws came for a visit on Saturday, bearing jars of homemade blackberry and black raspberry jelly, along with two enormous zucchini from the local Amish market. I knew right away that I wanted to turn at least one of the gigantic beauties into a pan of zucchini bread, so Sunday afternoon was spent grating, squeezing, mixing and baking. If you’re looking for a good zucchini bread recipe, try Smitten Kitchen’s—I might add a splash more vanilla next time, but it’s so simple and delicious. Be sure to try it warm from the oven with a small smear of butter…just trust me on this.

While the bread was baking, we made a simple caprese salad with the most beautiful roma tomatoes and soft bocconcini. All you need to do is toss them into a bowl with good, extra virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, fresh basil, sea salt and black pepper and you have the perfect summer lunch. Vegetables are so good this time of year, aren't they? We didn’t get to plant our garden this spring, but what’s nice about our community is that it backs up to a small farm; the farmers were kind enough to set up a little produce stand right in the neighborhood. On Sunday, we stopped and bought fresh corn on the cob and a little jar of flowers for the kitchen table. We feel really lucky to have locally-grown ingredients available right in our backyard. 

I was able to get my hands a little dirty this weekend, repotting the Bird’s Nest fern we bought from Terrain two years ago. It had long outgrown its container, so we moved it into a bigger home—a pretty, red ceramic pot. She's perched in my knitting room on top of my yarn chest—her green, ruffled leaves catch the light in the most beautiful way.

Tell me—how to do spend your summer days? Also, what’s on your needles?