Cake

Blueberry Upside Down Cake

In the past week, our hens have given us 106 eggs. Yes, ONE HUNDRED and SIX. And that doesn’t count the duck eggs. As a result, I’ve spent some time looking for recipes using a LOT of eggs. Scrambled eggs, omelets, quiche, frittatas, egg salad, deviled eggs, etc., I’ve heard over and over again. Those work, but really you can only eat so many things that taste like eggs. Charlie likes angel food cake, so I’ve made quite a few of those. Macaroons use egg whites, but only 4. That’s barely a dent.

eggs

I heard about a recipe for a 10-egg Pound Cake. When I looked up the recipe, it looked more like it would be a 10-pound Egg Cake. I read, “1 pound, or 10 eggs. 1 pound shortening,” and I was done. The thought of a pound of shortening just seems really wrong. But I felt like I was on the right track.

I found a recipe for pound cake that called for 6 eggs, and that sounded about right. We bought blueberries a the farmer’s market, and I wanted to use them. I didn’t find a recipe for blueberry pound cake, because I didn’t look. How hard could it be?

Here’s the recipe I used from allrecipes.com:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups butter
6 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
Directions:
1. Grease and flour a tube or Bundt pan. Do not preheat oven.
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. add vanilla.
4. Add flour mixture alternately with milk. Beat until smooth. Pour batter into tube or Bundt pan.
5. Place cake into cold oven, set the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake for 60 to 90 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
6. Top with confectioners sugar or glaze.

Batter

Glaze:

  1. 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  2. 3/4 cup lemon juice

Place sugar in bowl. Add lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, until glaze is desired consistency.

Here’s what I did differently:

I replaced the vanilla with lemon extract and added 2 cups of blueberries.

I knew 2 cups was a lot of blueberries, but we really like blueberries. It only took an hour to bake, and it got huge. I guess the 2 cup of blueberries was a lot.

Baked

Once it cooled, I sliced the excess of the top and the kids and I snacked on it. It took several tries to get the darn thing out of the pan, and once it came out I knew why. All the blueberries sank to the bottom. All the blueberries. All the way to the bottom. I didn’t take a picture of the whole cake because it had chunks of blueberry missing. When I make this again, I’ll bake it in a regular round pan. The lemon cake and the lemon glaze, combined with the blueberries came out really nice. All in all, yummy! Even better, that’s SIX eggs in one shot.

Cake

 

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Berries + Eggs = Angel Food Cake

Chickens take a little break during the winter, laying very few eggs. One of the exciting things about spring is the eggs start coming again. Within a few weeks the hens are ALL laying again, and in no time, we’re up to our eyeballs in eggs.

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The other thing that happens is berries! There aren’t a lot on the local vines, yet, but there are plenty at the store. The family loves jam, pie and cobbler. This year I’m adding something new.

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Angel food cake! A few weeks ago Charlie asked if I had ever baked an angel food cake. Was he kidding? No! Way too hard. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks this) I actually had no idea what was involved in angel food cake, but something from my memory said I KNEW they were hard. Then Charlie tells me it was one of his favorites as a kid. Oh. That changes things. Maybe it’s something I can figure out. One direction at a time, one step at a time, I decided I’d give it my best shot.

It doesn’t exactly meet my “super-easy” criteria, but it’s nowhere near as complicated as I thought it would be. And it uses a LOT of eggs. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups egg whites (10 to 12 large – yep, that many)

1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 cup sifted cake or all-purpose flour
Directions
  1. In a very large mixing bowl allow egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, sift powdered sugar and flour together 3 times; set aside.
  2. Add cream of tartar and vanilla to egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add granulated sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight) .
  3. Sift about one-fourth of the flour mixture over beaten egg whites; fold in gently. (If bowl is too full, transfer to a larger bowl.) Repeat, folding in remaining flour mixture by fourths. Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Gently run knife or spatula through batter to remove any air bubbles
  4. Bake on the lowest rack in a 350 degree F oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert cake (leave in pan); cool thoroughly. Loosen sides from pan to remove.

Now, for some tips:

It really does take 10-12 eggs.  I use eggs fresh from the backyard, and the yolks break very easily. That’s a lot of eggs to mess up if some yolk gets past you. I separate egg whites into a small bowl, then transfer them to the big bowl one at a time. To me, separating the eggs is the most time-consuming part. The rest is easy.

The “stiff peaks” seemed open to interpretation. I know if you whip egg whites too long, you ruin the whole thing, and I didn’t want to do that. Really, I didn’t want to have to separate another dozen egg whites. I stop beating when the egg whites hold the lumps made from the mixer. Or, stick with “stiff peaks.” That works, too.

I thought sifting the flour and powdered sugar THREE times was a little overkill, but I figured there was a reason, so I did it. Angel food cake is basically meringue with flour and sugar added. When you’re mixing the flour/sugar mixture into the egg whites, you don’t want to overmix. By sifting ahead of time, the flour and powdered sugar mix in smoothly, with no bumps to worry about.

Getting the cake out of the darn pan is harder than I thought. I run a butter knife around the inner edge once, but the outer edge takes a couple of rounds. The farther down you can get the knife into the pan, the easier that cake will come out.

The cake barely rises at all, so don’t worry about the batter filling the pan all the way to the top.

Charlie likes a mix of black berries, raspberries and blue berries, so that’s what he gets. And, of course, whipped cream. Yum!

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Picking Up Chicks

It’s chick season! While the rest of the country may think chicks come at Easter, farm folk know they come in February. The internet has been abuzz with people anxiously awaiting chick deliveries. This was the week!

It’s enough of an event here, we even invited the kids to meet us at the feed store. Reta Jean came and picked out her favorite. She told Carly she was excited to pick out chickens. And take them home. And eat them. These chicks are all for eggs, but it shows that Reta Jean is a natural farm girl. Maybe I’ll let her raise the meat birds later on.

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People pick their chicks for any number of reasons. Some people pick out the cutest chicks. Others pick based on which will be the prettiest chickens. People like us pick based on egg color. Yeah, it’s all very scientific. We want the chickens that will lay different color eggs.0206151154a

We don’t want white eggs. We could buy white eggs at the store. No fun there. We like the pretty blue and brown eggs. This year we got Ameraucanas for their blue eggs and Marans for their dark brown eggs. We’re hoping for a variety of blues and browns, but there really is no way to know until they start laying. We’re also hoping for all hens. These are labeled female, but sometimes a rooster sneaks in. At least this year we know if a hen starts crowing, it’s not just a really loud hen. See? We’re getting good at this.

As soon as we got them home, Tori had to make friends with them. It’s pretty impossible to look at new chicks, and not have the overwhelming urge to pick them up. It’s also easier to pick them up and bond with them one at a time. When you have a dozen chicks in one place, they get really loud!

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The dogs are all really good with the animals, but we’re always careful. When new animals come home, the dogs are always introduced. Peanut actually went with us to get them, but Socks was very interested in meeting them.

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We’ll be making a few more chick pickups throughout the season. Charlie wants meat chickens and turkeys, but I think ducks for eggs are next. Reta Jean is already working on picking them out.

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On the Clock

My life today is so different from what it was just a few years ago. I did the Monday-Friday work week forever. I’m not able to do that anymore. I’m past feeling bad about it, and love my new life. I also love teasing my friends who still have to get up and go to work every day.

Since I do tease so much, I thought I’d set the record straight. I actually have a lot to keep me busy. Morning chores need to be done 7 days a week, rain, sleet, snow, or just wanting to sleep in – the animals still need to be cared for.

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First thing in the morning, I have to let the dogs out and  feed them. Then, it’s off to the yard. The ducks need fresh water, food, and I collect their eggs. After opening up the hen house, alpaca poop needs to be cleaned up. Water supplies have to be checked and refilled as needed.  Now that the hens are up and moving, I can get in and clean up more poop. There aren’t usually eggs that early in the day, so I’ll go back for those later. Food dishes and nesting buckets need to be topped off with food and bedding.

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0924141115bIf I stay too long in the hen house, the alpacas come check on me. When they see me putting the lime over their poop piles, they know they’re next in line. Some nights they have food fights and their shelter needs some extra cleaning. I top off their hay tub, THEN they get their grain.

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Once I’m done with the animals, it’s on to the vegetables. If there’s nothing to be brought in, I probably have buckets of stuff waiting to be processed for storing. Today, it’s blanching beans and broccoli for freezing, then deciding what to do with MORE squash.0924141123

After chores, it’s time for projects.  Yesterday, I finished spinning a bobbin of alpaca yarn. Today, I need to rinse and hang the yard. I also want to work on a hat I’m crocheting for Raymond. It’s orange which is his favorite color and the color of his soccer team, so I want to finish it before this weekend. (I’m looking forward to the end of vegetable season, so I have more time to make things.)

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Sometimes Raymond and Reta Jean come to play. That takes priority over everything except feeding the animals. Most days I also need to make time for a nap. Think of it like an extended coffee break.

Raymond cleaning up

No matter how much I have to get done on any given day, I absolutely love doing it. I can “go to work” in my pajamas if I want to. I get to decide what to do each day and how much time I want to spend. While I may not clock in daily, I definitely put in my time

Babies Baking

The babies came to play today! While we were outside, feeding the pacas, collecting eggs, and swiping strawberries, we discovered some really good-looking carrots. And, when you have babies and carrots, the first thing that comes to mind is…carrot cake!0912141034

At 2 and 3 years old, they’re more entertainment than help, but they’re never too young to learn.  Between Carly and I we can manage two toddlers in the kitchen. Right?

Raymond really wanted to help with the eggs. 0912141101He started by biting through the shell of the first egg. Oops. No, little man, these aren’t hard-boiled eggs. I showed him how to crack open a couple of eggs, then he did his own. He’s going to need a few more lessons.

Carly measured all the dry ingredients while Reta Jean danced around the house in her apron. Raymond and I handled the eggs and grating the carrots.0912141105

When the eggs were mixed in, the kids0912141112 thought it was the coolest thing. The oil and carrots were equally impressive. You never know what’s going on in their little brains, but their faces sure lit up. Once the batter was in the pan, they got busy with the best part. The bowl and beater!Raymond cleaning up

The original plan for today was laundry0912141217 and housework. Guess what didn’t get done. Instead, we picked carrots, gathered eggs, giggled, laughed, made a fabulous mess, and a delicious cake. That’s more than enough for me!

Cake

 

eggs

Up to our eyeballs in eggs

A farm has to have chickens. I think it’s a farm rule. A friendly rooster greeting the morning, hens happily clucking and scratching, fresh eggs whenever you want them. Fresh eggs for breakfast. Fresh eggs for all your baking needs. Fresh eggs to share with your friends. Eggs, eggs, eggs.

Our first year, we started with 7 pullets (that’s a young hen). We picked a variety of brown and blue egg layers. We ended up with 6 hens, one of which lays irregularly, and 1 rooster. With that, we averaged 4 eggs a day. That’s enough for breakfast, baking, and occasionally sharing, but if you’re doing any serious baking, you run out.

RJ and hens

Reta Jean and the hens

This year, we were moving them from an enclosed coop to an open yard. Everybody we talked to told us we would lose some to escapes or predators. We got 10 more, prepared to lose some. We were very scientific in our selection. We picked chicks that would grow up into pretty chickens, and give us a variety of colored eggs.

Getting up in the morning and collecting fresh eggs is like Christmas. Pretty little packages, just waiting for me to put in my cute little basket.  I bring them in and put them in my mother’s pretty wooden bowls on the stove top. Every day I’m still a little amazed that this whole egg thing actually works!eggs

As the new hens started laying, it was even more exciting. We stopped needing to buy any eggs at the grocery store. We also had enough to share regularly with my daughter’s family. We even had enough to share with friends. And neighbors. And coworkers. And complete strangers.

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Freezing eggs

Our high point so far has been EIGHT DOZEN eggs.  It was a really good thing that my husband was ready to head to California for his annual hunting trip with his son and best friend.  That took care of 5 dozen eggs. But, oh no! If Charlie’s in California for a week, who is going to help me eat all these eggs! Gah!

I’m starting to feel like the Benjamin Buford Blue of the farm. That’s me! Gabba Gump! I’m freezing eggs regularly to get through the winter when the chickens give us – I mean take – a break. Meanwhile, we have fried eggs, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs – hard and soft, omelets, poached eggs, eggs benedict,  egg salad, egg sandwiches, egg wraps, egg drop soup, eggs for baking, quiche, frittata, soufflé, pickled eggs, deviled eggs…

Oh, look! I found an egg site. (Did I mention the ducks started laying yesterday?)

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/articles/50-egg-ideas.page-1.html