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I don’t really consider myself much of a cake decorator. R has some amazing cake decorating skills. Me? Well, I used to suck hard at baking cakes, but now, with practice, I am getting better with that feat. I’m still not a very fast, or precise cake decorator, but with practice, my limited skills are improving. I read NPR’s article, “Struggle for Smarts? How Eastern and Western Cultures Tackle Learning” and that really struck a chord for me lately. When I was a kid, my Dad would reiterate practicing over, and over, and over, and… but the rest of my influences were primarily western, promoting this idea of practicing a little bit, but of innate ability. The western influence won out, but the older I get, the more I see that practice will improve performance over time, regardless of ability. You may never be perfect at something, but if you keep trying, you may improve every so subtly over time (Though, Dad, just between us, going to have the coordination to excel at any sort to team sports). Sometimes you fail (miserably) despite following all the rules. Sometimes you don’t follow the rules and things turn out okay. Sometimes you don’t follow the traditional path society sets in front of you.
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I’ve never had much luck at white cakes, but of all things, the recipe on the back of the King Arthur pastry flour box worked wonders! It was so moist, and the crumb was quite tender. It was almost pudding-like. I sliced the two cake rounds in half, and spread them with some guava paste I watered down into a workable jam-like consistency, and a whole lot of buttercream.
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Much like I have a strong love for Hello Kitty, my friend has a strong love for anything Disney. So a few Mickeyrons were on the menu, as were a few regular macarons.
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Filled Mickeyrons with guava buttercream. These cracked a bit where the ears me the body in a few of the mickeyrons, but not all of them.
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Fin! I made the cakes a week or so ahead of time, wrapped them whole (not sliced) in saran wrap, and then stuck them in freezer bags (and in the freezer) until the night before I needed them. It made the whole process a lot easier for me, and less overwhelming than making and decorating a cake in 1-2 days. I had a cake carrier at one point, but lost it. So far I’ve had decent luck with putting the cake on a normal dinner plate, and then driving very carefully.

 

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What better of a way to celebrate one year of being in the house than smoking up a brisket for friends?
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I picked up a whole Naturewell beef brisket from Restaurant Depot for about $3.50/lb. This about about 13-15 lbs, as I recall.
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And barely fit on the meat cutting board.
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I measured it and realized it wouldn’t fit on the Weber grill, so I sliced it in half, trying to get the flat and the point separated. I did a pretty shitty job of it, but well, the cut was made.
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Just did a simple salt, pepper, sugar rub, maybe a bit of paprika and cumin. Rubbed it the night before, wrapped it, and let it sit before getting ready to smoke.
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Trimmed out the hunk of fat from the middle of the point section.
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Then also rubbed and wrapped.
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Cutting it in two made it a lot easier to store in the fridge, at least.
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And then, well, I woke up around 4/5 AM to start the coals, topped with apple wood chips, brushed every few hours with apple cider, and… I must have started it a bit hot because it hit temp around 10/11 AM! I was expecting a 12 hour smoke. I was pretty sure I’d effed it up, and hard, but I wrapped it in foil and held it at 190/200F in the oven until it was ready to serve.
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It didn’t turn out too bad. I’d realized I picked the most difficult type of beef to smoke for a large crowd with no experience in smoking it before. Not a great idea on my part, but it turned out okay. Not dry, and pretty smoky! I’m happy about that for a first try. It also went surprisingly fast, so it must have been pretty acceptable to my crowd, too.

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Deanna Fox is an amazing woman – she recently whipped up brunch for a few folks when Innae was in town.  LOOK AT THE TABLE! It is so beautiful!
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When I walked in to her beautiful farm kitchen, I peeped her hash-making skills.
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Squee – table of deliciousness! I seriously love the foliage.
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A stack of fluffy cheddar dill biscuits.
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Citrus salad. Oh, the effort that goes in to delicately peeling these.
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Apple Cider Doughnut Bread Pudding, which in my circle of friends, seems to be pretty popular this year. Fall 2014′s new it-dessert?
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Soon it was time for us all to sit around and chat, chat, chat while we ate, ate, ate. When I was a kid I remember HATING how long the adults would take just sitting around the dinner table TALKING about stuff that wasn’t Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sesame Street, or Disney movies. But now I get it – there’s SO much to talk about it. So much to catch up on, and just plain giggling and joking to have because we don’t see each other all that often.
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I’ll take one of everything, please! Just the night before I’d made a maple ice cream with burnt caramel swirl that went really well with the apple cider doughnut pudding. And a lovely gram masala muffin, too!
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And since we were just coming off of the final Tournament of Pizza , and Innae was a previous pizza judge, Deanna made breakfast pizza with puff pastry! Food friends, and tons of French press coffee. Love it!

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Two new doughnut shops in just a few months. Nibble, Inc. opened in Troy recently, and Cider Belly Doughnuts opened in Albany. If you’re one of those “I don’t cross the river” type folks, well, then good – there are new doughnut shops on both sides of the river. The hype machine is going strong for these two new shops, with love for both doughnut shops throughout the blogger community. The Fuj has much love for Nibble, Inc. I wish I shared his enthusiasm for these doughnuts, but they don’t light me up. While Fuj finds them to have a crisp exterior and light/fluffy interior, I’ve found them to be on the dense and tough side. Nibble’s doughnuts are unlike any other doughnut in the area, in that they use potato in the mix. I suspect that Nibble is the doughnut shop for folks who don’t like traditional doughnuts, as one of the owners says she wasn’t a fan of doughnuts before trying this type of potato-dough doughnut in Portland, ME.

Nibble doughnuts don’t hold up well to time, getting denser and denser as the day goes on. Conversely, if you like dense doughnuts, then they hold up very well. The density is what really gets me with the Nibble doughnuts, and isn’t really my thing – my ideal doughnuts are light, ethereal things. Albany John picked up this mixed dozen (missing one, hee hee – couldn’t help myself), and they were a real jaw workout come nightfall and the next morning. They were very nicely fried and non-greasy, though, and I think they’d make a fine doughnut-based bread pudding. I’m looking forward to seeing what non-doughnut offerings Nibble has coming up in the future – they definitely have promise.

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Cider Belly Doughnuts is on South Pearl Street in Albany and is sadly only really open to walk-in traffic during M-F hours, with some Saturday morning hours open for pre-orders. I tried this doughnut during meatball fest one weekend in Albany, and OMG, it was love at first bite. They kind of reminded me of Krispy Kreme in that they had a nice crunchy shell, and the icing had a good crisp exterior, and the interior was very light and poofy. I went in a bought several more doughnuts – they even have “Belly Flops” pre-bagged on the counter, which are discounted frankendoughnuts that don’t quite make the cut (ie, imperfect in shape, but still perfectly tasty). The doughnuts I bought stayed light and crispy into the evening. I really like these doughnuts, especially with the different glazes (maple is really well executed).

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This homeownership thing is starting to catch up with my blogging. I always have something to do (which I like), which means blogging takes a way side sometimes. I’m learning new ways of time management, and trying to accept what I cannot change. Overnight cinnamon rolls are great for busy times. Make them the night before, pop them in the fridge, and then bake them off in the morning.

I made these red velvet cinnamon rolls from the Law Student’s Wife. They were pretty tasty, but I may knead it a bit less, or try to make them a bit more tender.
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I also made the gourmeted cinnamon rolls I loved 4 years ago, but didn’t feel the same way about them this time. They were fine, but… Maybe I just wasn’t in much of a cinnamon roll mood when I made these.
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I do like overnight ferments of pretty much any bready things lately. It helps develop a little more flavor, and while it spreads out the prep time, it makes it easier for me to plan out when I want it ready.
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Mornings like this make me smile, though. Mornings when I pretend I’m a housewife who Betty Crockers it up and totally didn’t have to take off the toilet from the base to find roots, then self-rootered them out, and cracked a tile reattaching the toilet to the bolts. At least I’ve got a somewhat decent knack for toilet plumbing, though I wish it would have extended to click lock flooring. Sigh. Epic sigh. Deep breath. Not a big deal. It’s not a big deal. We’ve got a cement slab, and it’s just a bare slab now, so my house has a Halloween theme going on in parts of it. Yes, that’s it – Halloween house. I think I’m more bothered that this bothers me, than not actually being good at it (which is progress in and of itself).
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Cream cheese frosting also helps. I’m also happy that I live near new friends, so I can ninja-drop cinnamon rolls in their garage.

Hey cool cats – check out what’s in store for the Soul Cafe (Albany Edition) tomorrow night!

Soul Café Albany
Monday, September 29, 6-8 PM
Westminster Presbyterian Church
parking lot access at 85 Chestnut Street
Albany, NY
$3 suggested donation
Pizza! Why read any further?
The Soul Café Albany community meal is at it again on Monday, September 29 from 6-8 PM at the Westminster Presbyterian Church (parking lot entrance at 85 Chestnut Street) in Albany. There is a suggested donation of $3 for this volunteer-run dinner (no one will be turned away). The Honest Weight Food Co-op and other generous area businesses donate culled produce for the cooks to prepare. Vegan and vegetarian options will be available.
All are welcome! We are looking forward to working together to break bread in the community.
+ For more information, contact soulcafealbany@gmail.com.
+ More information can also be found on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/soulcafealbanyny

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Smoked pork butt rubbed with my BBQ Rub Recipe. Smoked low and slow for a few hours over applewood chips. Not gonna lie – the bark on this roast was awesome. I had to stop myself from eating the entire cap of fat off of the top. So good.

2T Cumin
4T Paprika
4T Kosher Salt
1T Korean Chili Flakes
1T Onion Powder
1T Garlic Powder
6T Sugar
A few shakes cayenne flakes
~1t nutmeg

I’m seriously loving this rub on pork lately.

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