Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Guest Blog: Chickens for Anne, cake for all.

It has been a long while since we've had a guest post, but they are back! Today's post is brought to you by my sister Anne, who has the most adorable hen coop in her backyard, constructed by her husband Blake and decorated by her. In it, she keeps some lovely little chickens. I was introduced in September, and we are all anxiously awaiting some home laid eggs. That is because Anne is very, very good at baking cake.

Anne holds Penny before releasing her into the garden to peck.

Chickens for Anne, Cake for all.
by Anne Eden

I have a dirty confession to make.  I'm allergic to eggs.

Most of the time this unfortunate but not deadly allergy makes more problems for others than it does for me.  Inviting me to your place for brunch guarantees at least a few moments of bafflement as you try to envision a savory breakfast dish that does not rely on eggs to make it delicious.  The same goes for dessert, sauces, and nearly all breakfast burritos. So why then would I bring four chickens into my life?

Barbarella (Barbie for short) is the first chicken I have ever held, and she was sweet as can be.

Adorable chicken antics, that's why.  It's also the thrill of discovery each morning, checking to see if the ladies have left me any (non-poop) surprises.  It's spending the afternoon on my deck watching the ladies tear into the late-summer remainders of my garden, tearing into each tomato like it's the last they'll ever have.  It's the sense of self sufficiency should the global apocalypse arrive.  It's the pleasure of naming and caring for four funny pets (for the record,Lucy's the blond, Penny the redhead, Barbie is black and white, and fancy Fatima will someday lay blue eggs).

Also, although eggs in their natural state make me feel terrible, eggs once they've been cooked into something like rich golden pound cake suit me just fine.  Albumen, the protein in the white of the egg, is denatured at high temperatures. Once my ladies begin to lay, I'll have nearly a dozen fresh eggs a week.  I plan on making cake.

Their coop is a happy home, with an area for roosting, and area for laying, and plenty of space to peck around.

Eggs are necessary in baking for several reasons.  First, they act as a binder, holding all the other ingredients together within their protein-rich matrix.  Additionally, beaten eggs add air into a batter,leavening your cake as the air expands in the heat of the oven. Some cakes use beaten eggs as their only source of leavening.  And the fact of the matter is the fresher your eggs the better they will express these binding and leavening properties within your recipes.  I don't just want to make cake; I want to make the best damn cake possible.To do that, I need a steady supply of fresh eggs.

Did you know that if you buy eggs carton labeled "fancy fresh" this means the eggs are around 10 days old?  Anything not labeled "fancy fresh" is even older than that, since eggs keep well for more than a month if properly refrigerated.  The problem is that time ages us all, eggs included.  Old eggs have yolks that lose their shape, gummy whites, and even if they haven't become home to massive bacterial colonies they will make your cakes sad.  With my own mini-egg production unit out back, I have the pleasure of knowing exactly where my eggs come from, how fresh they are, and what the chicken have eaten.  I want happy cakes to fill my home, and the chickens are step one in that process.

So this fall, if you need me, I'll be out in the backyard having cake with my "ladies"

Have you ever seen a chicken coop with mini prayer flags? So cute. So Annie and Blake.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The papa bear nesting bowl.

For our fourth wedding anniversary my husband broke down and gave me an early birthday gift. We weren't going to exchange anniversary gifts this year, but he was so excited. Now I know why. I opened the carefully packed box to find the fourth bowl to complete my vintage Pyrex nesting bowl collection. I've had my eye on these bowls for ages, and when I got a new job this past spring and felt flush with cash I went ahead and purchased the three-piece set on eBay. Well, now i have the fourth. To celebrate I made him pancakes with it. I think what I love even more than the bowl is knowing a married a man who pays attention to my vintage Pyrex affection and knows enough about our kitchen to complete the set.