Happy Birthday Cake Cocktails

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Well, I made it. I have met my goal to write a blog for one year. Last year on June 1, I hurried to Best Buy after work to buy a digital camera, then I hurried to the liquor store to buy ingredients for a Long Island Iced Tea Cake, and then I hurried home to start baking my first blog post. Today on June 1, I also found myself at the liquor store after work.

Anyone who blogs will tell you it is a labor of love. Never do I feel that more than when I spend most of my Saturday baking things that do not turn out. I cannot claim to be a better baker than when I started out one year ago, but I can claim to much more readily recognize the point where things start to go terribly wrong. Though there remains much room for improvement, I have rediscovered my forgotten joy in photography.

Throughout the year, I wanted to quit multiple times. I wanted to quit this week. I might want to quit next week. And I just might! Except I recently realized I’m not so much a quitter as I am a pauser. Sometimes I pause  – which may look like quitting to everyone else – so I can gain wisdom or strength or rediscover what it was I enjoyed about something in the first place.

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Though I often feel my posts are published into a vacuum, reason tells me that is not necessarily the case. I am truly grateful to every person who has read a Love & Flour blog post. Though I sometimes forget to respond in writing, I say thank you to every comment, every Facebook like, every Twitter follower, and even every criticism if the feedback helps me improve. I am grateful that though I may fail at a recipe or a photo, the words always arrive to fill the page.

Some of the posts have been really bad. Some of  the posts I’m pretty proud of. I have very little idea of what I should do with social media. I have had a Facebook page and Twitter account since the beginning, but very rarely have I updated them with anything more than links to my posts. It will probably be a long time before I initiate conversations on Facebook (I rarely post status updates my personal page), but I have recently started Tweeting*. You can thank (or curse) Instagram for that.

So now what? I want to take the time to improve my photography. I want to learn more about baking. I want to improve the look of the website – I’ve never liked pink, and the recipe page is in desperate need of an overhaul. I want to do more series!

For the year ahead, I am going to focus on a flavor per month. As this idea expands, I may also focus on a technique, like whipping egg whites into posts about angel food cakes and meringues. My goal is no less than four (an average of one post per week seems reasonable) recipes that focus on the month’s flavor theme. If any one would like to suggest a flavor, please feel free to leave a comment letting me know.

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I have been thinking of what to make for my one-year blog post** since February. Is this an anniversary or a birthday? I leaned towards birthday and an elaborate cake. But I simply have not been in the mood to bake. The answer to what I should post today appeared in the form of a Birthday Cake Batter Martini.

On a final note, does anyone else find it fitting my blog shares its first birthday with National Donut Day? (National Donut Day is always the first Friday in June). If ever there were a sign to continue…

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*Tweeting is a bit awkward. When I talk to myself, I don’t expect a response. But when I tweet, which I find is really just like talking to an invisible audience,  it becomes readily apparent that no one is paying me any attention. Awkward…

**For anyone paying close attention, I consider the May 31 post a prologue.

Birthday Cake Cocktails
Serves: 1
  • 1 ounce amaretto
  • 1½ ounces cake batter flavored vodka
  • 1½ ounces creme de cacao
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • assorted sprinkles
  • frosting
  1. Coat the rim of your glass with frosting.
  2. Place the sprinkles onto a plate, and lightly press the glass rim into the sprinkles to adhere.
  3. Combine all other ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for about 30 seconds.
  4. Strain into glass and enjoy!
Whipped cream flavored or vanilla vodka is acceptable here as well.

Tempeh Time: Smoky Tomato Soup with Crumbled Tempeh

IMG 3795 Edited Tempeh Time: Smoky Tomato Soup with Crumbled Tempeh

Something came over me as I drove home this evening, and I found myself saying aloud, “I’m going to change my life!” I am pleased with my life, but some aspects need dusting off – some polish if you will.

Clearly, any change will not start with this blog post as I offer up yet another recipe involving the new-to-me tempeh. This time, it’s Smoky Tomato Soup with Crumbled Tempeh. I am not all that sure of the overwhelming brilliance of making a warm soup as a hot summer day looms, but let’s say we treat it like gazpacho and enjoy it cold.

The original recipe – titled Smoky Tomatoes, Roasted Plantains, and Crumbled Tempeh – comes from The Inspired Vegan. I really like that this cookbook organizes its recipes by season. Unfortunately, the cookbook did not read itself aloud to alarm me to the fact that this particular recipe is meant for the autumn.

IMG 3805 Edited Tempeh Time: Smoky Tomato Soup with Crumbled Tempeh

The fact that I purchased tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market this weekend makes me feel better about warm tomato soup in the summer since the main ingredient is, after all, in season. But when fresh tomatoes are out of season, canned tomatoes will do.

If you are not sure about tempeh but would like to try it, this soup is a good place to start. The tempeh gives the soup some substance, but it could easily be mistaken for something as common as rice. When you are feeling more adventurous, you can move on to Tempeh Picatta or Jerk Tempeh (the cilantro lime rice is not to be missed).

The Inspired Vegan suggests serving this dish with another recipe from within its pages, coconut quinoa. I thought it was great alone, but if you are hungry, you can never go wrong with tomato soup and grilled cheese. Even in the summer. Enjoy!

IMG 3797 Edited Tempeh Time: Smoky Tomato Soup with Crumbled Tempeh

Crumbled Tempeh in Smoky Tomato Soup
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 chipotle in adobo
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 5 medium to large tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1, 8-ounce package tempeh, crumbled
  • 1½ teaspoons salt, separated
  • 2 plantains, cubed
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  1. Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil, the red onions, and the chipotle in a large saucepan over high heat for two minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Lower the heat to low and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic and cook an additional five minutes.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a blender, add the tomatoes, and puree until smooth.
  5. Return the mixture back to the saucepan, add the bay leaves, and stir over medium heat about 10 minutes to cook down.
  6. Stir in the stock, crumbled tempeh, and the salt.
  7. Cover the pot, lower the heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes.
  8. While the soup simmers, toss the cubed plantains with the remaining tablespoon olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt.
  9. Place the plantains on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. Stir the plantains on the baking sheet every ten minutes to ensure even baking.
  10. After the soup has simmered for 45 minutes, add the roasted plantains and the cilantro.
  11. Simmer an additional five minutes before enjoying.
The original recipe called for 3¼ pounds fresh tomatoes or one, 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (drained).

Daring Bakers’ Challenge – Challah

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May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

I was super pumped to participate in a challah challenge (should that be called a challahenge?) because a) I love bread, and b) for whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about challah all year. The bread must have been something I considered tackling as part of a baking resolution, but I never got around to it until now.

As someone raised in the Methodist church, the only things I knew of challah were it is a braided bread and associated with the Jewish tradition. Ruth’s instructions informed the Daring Bakers that challah refers not to bread, but to the  portion of bread which, in the days of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, was set aside as an offering to the high priests. The braid symbolizes the coming together of separate pieces into one combined entity, like the everyday and the holy, and the coming together of family and friends.

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It wasn’t until I was in graduate school studying  for my social work degree that I really started to consider the privileges I enjoyed  in society simply because my faith celebrated Christmas and Easter.  A classmate who was very vocal about her Jewish faith made it clear those of the Christian faith had an unfair advantage in the workplace because employers recognized Christian holidays like Christmas and Good Friday, but not Jewish holidays like Chanukah or Passover. I will always remember her discussing how she felt it unfair she had to take a day off for Christmas, a holiday that held no meaning for her, yet she had to use her vacation time for Yom Kippur. I am grateful that hearing her story allowed me to consider the structures I had always known in a different light.

More recently, with the recent passage of Amendment One here in North Carolina, I have realized how a country founded on the separation of church and state does a pretty bad job when it comes down to it. We certainly seem to find many more ways to use our differences to drive each other apart (hate?) than to use our differences as a reason to come together to learn and celebrate (love?). Fortunately, I got to use the challah I baked for a celebration.

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I made a traditional three-strand braid and a four-strand braided round. Ruth explained round challah is traditionally used on the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) as an example of the cycle of life and the cycle of the year. I needed no help with the three-strand braid, but I found the video Ruth made about how to make a four-strand braided round invaluable. I think my braids turned out well because I had learned from my experiences rolling snakes of dough (see butter mints and pretzels) and braiding dough (see King Cake).

I used a Honey White recipe Ruth provided, and I turned it into Honey Wheat because (gasp!) I ran out of all-purpose flour. As I near my one year goal of blogging, I notice I am slipping when it comes to planning to have ingredients on hand. Ruth also suggested we check out The Challah Blog, and I echo that suggestion to you all. Challahs like stuffed pizza challah, nutella challah, and pumpkin challah can be found within its pages.

Though non-practicing, my friend Jenn is of the Jewish faith. It just so happened Jenn recently celebrated her birthday, so I gave her the braided round to enjoy for her new year. It made my day to receive her verdict, “Challah is delcious!” Indeed.

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Honey Wheat Challah
Recipe type: Bread
Serves: 2 loaves
  • 1½ cups warm water, separated
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. (2-2/3 packets) dry active yeast
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour*, plus more as needed
  • 2 cups wheat flour*
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine ½ cup warm water, 1 Tbsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. yeast.
  2. Allow to proof approximately 5 minutes until foamy.
  3. To the yeast mixture add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour.
  4. Knead (by hand or with your mixer’s dough hook) until smooth, adding flour as needed, approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl, turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top.
  6. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and leave dough to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1½ hours.
  7. After the rise, punch down the dough and divide it into two sections. Use one half to make each loaf.
  8. Place loaves on parchment-lined or greased baking sheets, cover with a towel, and allow to rise 30 minutes.
  9. After the second rise, brush the tops of the loaves with egg wash.
  10. Bake loaves at 325 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until done.
  11. Cool on wire racks.
*You may need up to 9 total cups of flour. I used 4 cups of white flour and 2 cups of wheat flour.