A renovation. A move. An election. I have been wrapped up in all of the nerve-wracking, nail-biting excitement, bogged down with so much frustrating, passionate activity. It has taken me away, dragged me body and soul from my work, my writing, even my cooking and baking. Lunches were more often than not sandwiches bought at the corner bakery washed down with cans of cola; dinners were more often than not pizza or kabobs. Evenings found us blottis, slumped on the sofa, cocooned deeply in layers of blankets and pillows, too exhausted both physically and mentally to do anything other than zone out in front of a movie. Nothing outside of those three activities got done in any way, shape or form. Now, I tell you one thing, I could always drag this on and on as we are still surrounded by cartons and suitcases, there are still walls to be finished and lighting fixtures to be hung. I could use this as an excuse, the excuse of the lazy, to procrastinate further, to put off until tomorrow what I should do today. But as much as I truly think that I needed that break, needed to step away for a few weeks from the expectations and deadlines, I am actually anxious to get back to work.
Focus is necessary. A clean kitchen and an orderly workspace are crucial. The head must be perfectly clear of worry, the body free from stress, the marriage in perfect working order, the children…well at their age nothing is guaranteed. A place for everything, as the old saying goes, and everything in its place. We need to create a Zen environment, Feng Shui for the soul. Bottles of wine lined up on the countertop, grumps kept at arm’s length and if all goes well I might just get a little writing done.
Although toolboxes still clutter the entryway and odds and ends litter the floors, our kitchen is in good working order, the oven a dream, the stovetop burning and spluttering away non-stop as our pleasure in cooking is renewed. Husband and I have taken turns preparing homey, warming, comforting meals while the other sits perched on a stool on the other side of the island, chattering, typing or just keeping company. Sausages with lentils, a traditional Potée Limousin, chicken and mushrooms even cheese fondue and the scents and warmth pervade our new apartment turning a house into a home. Marty slips and slides across the new parquet flooring, hoping, waiting for some tasty tidbit to flip up and plop onto the floor.
I have now also set up shop in the kitchen, my laptop no longer teetering atop a pile of cookbooks and magazines on the edge of a small stand in front of our dusty, crumb-spewing toaster nor sitting on the rickety, rocking table collecting flour and sugar in between the keys, getting butter smeared across the screen and losing internet if I close the door for privacy. I can now keep one eye on the cake in the oven, jump up and give a stir to whatever is simmering on the fire and keep typing, keep writing, keep chatting to my heart’s content. And, yes, I can now get back to my regularly scheduled program…
But just wait a minute there…. Not the regular regularly scheduled programming! You see, with the new home and the new workspace and the new outlook, I have decided to embrace my lovely city of Nantes and begin a journey of discovery… my own and yours. I recently attended a soirée dedicated to Le Guide Les Tables de Nantes and connected with Nantes Tourisme and Voyages à Nantes, organizations devoted to everything cultural and gastronomic about my city so I will be sharing more with you. I have also been schlepping around… oh no, sorry, strolling the streets of Nantes armed with an iphone and seeing the world through other eyes, noting the beautiful, the comic, the historic, excited at the multitude of layers and cultures surrounding me, in hidden view for all the world to see if only the world would stop and look. And these I will continue to share with you.
And Ilva, Jeanne, Meeta and I are now well ensconced in the organization of our next From Plate to Page workshop. How does Dublin, Ireland in the lovely month of May sound to you? We are tightening up the program, readying our famous post-it note challenges and have even dusted off our old website and shined it all up spiffy new…. And to kick it all off, we are offering all of our readers a very creative challenge with the chance to win one of our Somerset Plate to Page goodie bags…just read all about it here!
And in between, I have been baking. After my comforting Apple Almond Bundt Cake I craved something rich and chocolate. I returned to a favorite recipe, the Heavenly Chocolate Cupcakes, and turned it into a Bundt cake. Although, I will admit here, that the most-distinctive Bundt bumps stuck to the non-stick pan when turning it out, yet the cake came out perfect despite this gentle glitch! As I wrote in the Cupcake post:
I decided to delve into Abigail Serves, the community cookbook put together, under the watchful and formidable eye of my mother’s aunt, Great Aunt Mae in 1956. Abigail Serves is the collected recipes of The United Order of True Sisters of Albany, New York. Perusing the yellowed, faded pages of this self-published cookbook, I couldn’t help myself when I came across Heavenly Chocolate Cake; with such a name, who could resist? Before the days when adding a box of pudding mix to cake batter was all the rage, this recipe is based upon this very idea to create a dense, moist cake. A chocolate pudding-like cream or custard is prepared with sugar, milk, cocoa powder and an egg then added to the cake batter to create a luxuriously thick and creamy mixture. Once baked, the cake is a deep, dark chocolate, the sweetness perfectly balanced, the texture extra moist without being overly gooey and dense. Light, fluffy yet moist and tender, full-flavored, the chocolate kissed by the barest hint of espresso as I decided to replace some of the water in the batter with prepared coffee. Add to that chocolate’s best friend, cinnamon, and pour it all into a Bundt pan and you have the ideal cake. No frosting needed, although lightly sweetened whipped cream never hurt anyone.
I love Bundt cakes and want to share this with Lora and Anuradha for their #BundtAMonth challenge Spicy November! Go to either of their blogs on the posts that I have linked to and see all this months fabulous entries!
And looking for even more fantastic Bundt cake recipes? How about
Grand Marnier Bundt with Chocolate Ganache Glaze
Chestnut Fondant Bundlets
Chocolate Chip Yeast Kuchen Bundt
Glazed Lemon Bundt
Apple Almond Bundt
Chocolate One-Bowl Emergency Bundlets
HEAVENLY CHOCOLATE CINNAMON BUNDT CAKE
For the chocolate cream:
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
¾ cup (75 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup (185 ml) milk
1 large egg
For the batter:
2/3 cup (150 g) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups (250 g) sugar
3 large eggs
2 ¼ cup (260 g) sifted flour (sifted BEFORE measuring, not measured then sifted)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup (165 ml) cold water (replace half or all of the water with prepared coffee)
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¾ tsp baking soda
¼ cup (62 ml) warm water
Prepare the Chocolate Custard:
Whisk the sugar, cocoa powder, milk and egg together in a medium saucepan until thick, creamy and very smooth. Place the saucepan over low heat and very gently bring to a low boil. Whisking constantly, continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer until it becomes a thick sauce or custard. (Once the mixture is heated, the sauce thins and then re-thickens as it cooks.) Remove from the heat, set aside and allow to cool. As I use Le Creuset, which continue to heat even after the pan is removed from the flame, I immediately scraped the custard into a heatproof Pyrex bowl to cool.
Prepare the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Generously butter one classic Bundt pan or a smaller 8 ½- or 9-inch in diameter (22-cm) and about 3 ½-inch high (9-cm) fluted pan.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended and light. Beat in the eggs one at a time just until blended. Beat or stir in the chocolate custard in a few additions, blending thoroughly. Stir the sifted flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together; beat the flour mixture into the batter in three additions alternating with the cold water in two, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Add the vanilla.
Dissolve the baking soda in the warm water then stir quickly into the cake batter until very well blended. Pour into the prepared Bundt pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending upon both your oven and the size of the Bundt pan being used until risen, the cake is set and a tester inserted in the center comes out dry.
Allow to cool on a rack for at least 10 or 15 minutes before running a sharp knife around the cake or loosening and turning out onto the rack to cool completely.