Marble Cake

Reasons that I'm completely uninspired right now:
1.  It's January.  Christmas has passed - which at the very least gives us something to anticipate - leaving us with bare trees, cold temperatures and long, long periods of dark.
2.  The week started with a gr. 5 student barfing on the floor in front of the bathroom that he didn't make it to in time.  Yup.  Monday morning - first thing.  (poor kid - it wasn't his fault, I know).
3.  Very little is growing right now which makes fresh food a chore.  We are relying a lot on our canned food, frozen food and root vegetables... and imported oranges.
4.  Stuffed sinuses are making for difficult sleeping and lots of headaches.
5.  My BFF is having a super-busy month which means it's hard for us to get together and I'm missing her... I'm looking forward to February already.
6.  My Mom-in-law has gone back to Trinidad (like any sane person would do during the winter months) so we've lost our date night for a couple of months.

Ack... I could go on but I'm sounding whiny and bitchy... and it's starting to bug me.  You get me though, right?  It's a hard month, this January thing.  I know that those of us in colder climates all struggle with it.  You work hard to keep treading water and just when you think that you're falling in and you're going to lose it, then it starts to get warmer and brighter and hope rises from the ashes of bleak.  So, we're in the middle of it right now.

I knew that I needed cake this week.  Big time.  I spend my Sunday afternoon making bread and cake instead of making food for us to eat... like for a proper meal.  It sounds weird to me right now but at the time it made total sense and I'm still glad that I did it.
Cake makes January feel a little more comfortable, more liveable.  Cake gives me sugar which somehow makes me feel even better in the middle of a dark, cold day.  In short, cake is amazing.  This cake has helped me through a long, dark, cold, long, week.  Taking a little of this to work with me warms my heart.  I remember having marble cake from the supermarket as a kid.  This cake is nothing like that.  It's actually good for starters and tastes like cake should.  It's just the right amount of dense and light.  The chocolate is just enough and the better quality chocolate you use the better it will get.  It makes a lot of cake so be prepared to eat a lot of it, freeze it or share it 'cause you want to use it up in about 3 days or so (even though I'm on day four and it's still not total crap).

Sure... I'll feel inspired soon.  My foot is feeling much better (still not perfect but hey I'm not complaining) so I'm running again 2 or 3 times a week and up to about 8 k - I even added in a couple of hills today.  That's something to begin to feel inspired about.  In a couple (or 3 weeks) the days will begin to feel a bit longer and I know that will make a difference.  For now, I'm just going to wallow in my longing for hibernation and let myself eat cake.

Marble Cake adapted from 'Baked: New Frontiers in Baking'
makes one VERY large bundt cake

6 oz dark chocolate (60 - 72% cocoa solids)
1 tsp dark cocoa powder

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp bk powder
1 1/2 tsp bk soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 lg eggs (at room temperature)
16 oz sour cream (almost a whole 500g package)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Grease and flour a bundt or tube pan (I only have a tube pan so that's what I used)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a double boiler melt the chocolate and the cocoa powder together.  Set aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl.  Mix and set aside.
Cream and fluff the butter using a whisk or an electric mixer.  Add in the sugar and mix until incorporated and fluffy.  Add in the eggs one at a time mixing just until incorporated.
Add in the sour cream and vanilla and mix just until incorporated.
Pour 1/3 of the batter into the melted chocolate and mix until it's a uniform colour.
Pour 1/2 of the vanilla batter into the bottom of the bundt pan.  Smooth out slightly.
Dollop the chocolate batter on top of that and smooth out just a little.
Pour the remaining vanilla batter on top of the chocolate.  Smooth out a little and then with a knife or a chop stick run it through the batter, circling a couple of times.
Bake for about 45 - 50 minutes checking after about 40 minutes though (the recipe called for 30 minutes but my cake was still watery at that point).
Check with a cake tester making sure it comes out clean.
Cool for a few minutes in the pan before removing to a cooling rack.
Will keep for 3 - 4 days in an airtight container.

Red Fife and Carrot Bread

I'm in the strange position of having come about 180 degrees.  Totally and completely changed my opinion.
Now you might expect that I'm talking about something serious.  Like, 'I think that higher education is a waste of time.'  Or maybe, 'I was a christian and now I'm an atheist.'  Or even, 'I once thought that we were destroying our world but now I think that no polar bears, an acidic ocean and going to any and all lengths to extract oil from the planet is actually doing the whole eco-system a huge favour.'
Well, I'm not talking about any of those things.
I'm talking about yeast.
You see, it wasn't too long ago that just the word yeast sent me running from the kitchen.  You might have found me curled up in a ball on my bed rocking slightly and biting my finger nails profusely.  I would avoid using recipes with yeast entirely.  It's embarrassing and frustrating having a recipe flop after you've waited 4 hrs to finish it.  Yeast is like that though, especially if you don't know what it's all about and/or you want perfect results every single time.  This blog, however,  has given me a reason to decide to get past my phobia once and for all.  The quest itself has produced a most interesting result though.  I am now resolved - RESOLVED - to find bread recipes that a) Will work.  and b) Will be interesting.  I find myself avoiding the bread isle (the few times I've found myself in a grocery store of late).  I refuse to order the wonderful organic, multi-grain bread that we can get through our food box.  Sometimes, I discover that I actually want to make dough.  I search out bread recipes that look both interesting and healthy.  To seal the deal I've recently bought yeast in larger quantities than the packets that you get at the grocery store.  Yup.  This thing is serious.

I'm also in the enviable position of having received a gift.  I know that many of us were receiving gifts (some more than others) quite recently but this gift is different for me.  This gift is right up my alley  - a foodie gift I guess you could say.  One of the teachers that I work with brought me a gift of flour.  Red Fife flour to be exact.  It's beautiful.  It's a fine flour with a slightly pinkish/red tinge to it.  From what I can gather Red Fife is a strain of wheat that a farmer by the name of Fife began to grow around a hundred and fifty years ago.  Red Fife has the ability to adapt itself to widely varying growing conditions making it ideal for the colder Canadian climate.  It is classified as a Heritage Wheat.  This is all very exciting for me.  I didn't know how best to use it so was doing a lot of searching for recipes.  I found that most were pretty much using Red Fife mixed with all purpose and the results were great.  So, when I saw this recipe at 101cookbooks I knew I had to try it with Red Fife flour.  It had all the elements that I was looking for and it even uses carrots.  Too cool.

The result was better than I had hoped for.  A great bread.  Looks beautiful with these flecks of carrot scattered throughout.  Has a lovely crumb and the shape is fantastic.  Once the dough itself got made it was extremely low maintenance as well.  If you don't have Red Fife (and not many of us do at the moment) then use whole wheat or rye flour and it will do nicely.

So what once simultaneously terrified, embarrassed and eluded me has become the very thing that I run to for interest, solace and satisfaction.  A nice way to start a new year I'd say.

Red Fife and Carrot Bread adapted from 101cookbooks

2 1/4 tsp yeast
400 ml (just under 2 cups) warm water
1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp espresso powder
1/4 cup molasses
3 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups grated carrot

1 1/3 cup Red Fife flour
3 1/4 cup (plus extra for kneading) all purpose flour

Combine the yeast,water and sugar.  Stir and set aside in a draft free place for about ten minutes to proof the yeast.
In a small saucepan combine the cocoa powder, espresso powder, molasses, butter and salt together.  Melt together and set aside.  It should not be completely cold when you add it to the yeast mixture.
Combine the flours in a bowl and mix well.
Add the molasses mixture to the proofed yeast mixture.  Mix.  Add the grated carrots to the yeast mixture.  Add the carrot and yeast mixture to the flour and mix well.  It should still be pretty tacky but will hold together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes.  If you need a little extra flour (I probably used and extra 1/4 cup) then that's fine.
Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean cloth and set aside in a draft free place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours or until about doubled.
Punch down and form into a nice rounded shape.
Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Cover with a cloth and set aside for another hour or so  - or until about doubled.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Brush the top of the loaf with a little milk.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Turn the heat down to 350 degrees F and bake for another 20 - 25 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when you knock on it.
Slice once it's cooled for about 15 minutes.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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