Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Good Excuse for a Party

Much foodiness has occurred over the last few days, and I have been remiss in my writing:

Thursday: meeting with kitchen designer to review his ideas, followed by Vietnamese food delivered from Nha Trang to our friends' house. The food was excellent, as usual—we opted for the Vietnamese dinner for four (spring rolls, wonton soup, satay beef and vegetables, Vietnamese ginger chicken and tofu with tomatoes, and then added a special bird's nest (fried noodle basket topped with stir-fry) and salad rolls). Our children, amazingly, played well together, and it was in some strange way refreshing to only have an 18 month old poking at our five month old, because he seemed far less likely to do any damage compared to 40lb-D's usual hijinks.

Friday: prepping for a family birthday dinner, to take place Saturday. Supper was a momentous occasion, because D completely cleared his plate. The winning dinner was pork piccata with lemon caper sauce, simple roasted baby potatoes, steamed broccoli, and sauteed carrots and zucchini.

Saturday: spent today preparing for a homemade pizza party to celebrate Uncle Kevin's birthday. Grandma and Grandpa came, as well as six kids ranging in age from 5 months to 17 years. Keeping in mind potentially fussy eaters, I kept flavours relatively simple:

Veggie plate with dill dip
Avocado, radish and orange salad with lemon Dijon vinaigrette
Ham, black bean and mango pizza (inspired by a quesadilla I sampled many years ago—it has become one of our pizza standards) with old Cheddar cheese
Chicken, bacon, caramelized onion and mushroom pizza, with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
Classic Hawaiian pizza
My mom's amazing devil's food cake with vanilla ice cream

I started planning on Thursday, made my grocery list, and sent D and Dad to the grocery store Friday night while I went to my book club meeting. Late on Friday night, I threw together the pizza dough, to sit overnight. I have to put in a plug for my Kitchenaid mixer at this point, because making pizza dough has never been easier. Throw the ingredients into the mixing bowl, attach the dough hook, turn on, and walk away. It's worth the investment!

Made the cake before noon today and spent the kids' naptime (which they have thoughtfully coordinated again) chopping and prepping so that all of my ingredients were ready to be spread on the pizzas as our guests arrived. I reveled in my lovely ingredients, such as my dad's home-cured and smoked bacon, smoked pepper on the chicken breasts before we grilled them, and the liberal use of bacon fat as a cooking medium for the onions and mushrooms. I didn't manage to make my own tomato base, but instead relied on purchased salsa for the ham/black bean/mango combo, and a jar of fire roasted tomato sauce for the other two. The pizza was a hit.

And damn, Mom. Your cake is simply fantastic. It is my measuring stick for all cakes. I confess that I don't understand the goal of a 'fine crumb' in a chocolate cake. Any finely crumbed cake I've ever tasted seems dry. Mom's cake is moist and chocolatey, while managing to avoid being either too dense or too sweet. Topped with simple chocolate butter icing and good vanilla ice cream, it is probably the only birthday cake for me. I occasionally venture out to try new ones, because it is in my nature to search out improvements. But I have yet to find an improvement on this cake. Dare I say, at least according to my tastebuds, it is perfect.

Mom's Devil's Food Cake

Mix in a large bowl:
3 c. flour
1/2 c. cocoa
2 c. sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
pinch salt

Make a well in the centre.

Mix together:
2 eggs
1 c. oil
1 c. buttermilk
1 t. vanilla

Add to dry ingredients. Then add:
1 c. hot coffee

Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate to cool completely. Top with your favourite icing and serve with ice cream.

I'll also share my pizza dough recipe, since I have tried several, and settled on this one as my favourite. I've adapted it from The Lazy Gourmet cookbook, incorporating whole wheat flour and being even lazier than the Lazy Gourmet in my mixing techniques:

3 T. fast rising yeast
2 1/2 c. hot water
2 T. olive oil
2 T. honey
2 T. salt
3 1/2 c. EACH whole wheat and all purpose flour

Place yeast, water, olive oil and honey in a mixing bowl and let sit a few minutes until the mixture starts to foam. Add flour and salt and mix by hand or using a dough hook until it forms a shaggy dough. Knead for five minutes (or just keep that beautiful mixer running for five minutes while you do other things). Let rise, covered, for 30 minutes, or in the fridge overnight.

Roll and stretch thin onto your favourite pizza pan and top with your favourite toppings. Bake at 400F 20-25 minutes.

I often make just a half batch, which is enough for one generous meal for four. Lately, I've been making the entire recipe and then freezing half, so that I have pizza dough on hand for a later date. Tonight, I used the whole batch, which made two large rectangular and one 12-inch round pizza, and fed six adults and five kids (baby G just sucked on a piece of mango) with probably a generous 1/2 a pie leftover for tomorrow. Mmmm. Pizza for breakfast! ...and chocolate cake for dessert.

P.S. I apologize for the lack of photographs. I will try to get better at that. Tonight, my husband said, "You should take some pictures for your blog." I said, "Go ahead, I'm busy." He took a couple, but they're not great. I think it's time to think seriously about an SLR camera...

1 comment:

  1. I made this cake today for a bday and it was fabulous -- I've added this to my favourites (and sweets rarely qualify).