Monday, December 22, 2014

Kentucky Christmas Cake ~ Fruitcake



Since it's Christmastime, I thought I'd try a sort of fruitcake.  The one I chose is called Kentucky Christmas Cake.  I made it the same week I decorated and took it to work and it was kind of dry.  I think next time I'll do the traditional "feeding" - cooking it a month or more ahead of time and pouring whiskey or bourbon over it every week.

I also made homemade marshmallows to top it with.  I was aiming for a "naked cake" look; stacked, un-iced cakes.  Then have the marshmallows running down the "mountain" like snow.  In order to do that, I had to work quickly, putting a bit in between each layer, stacking it, then pouring it down the cake from the top down.  It didn't quite turn out like I'd hoped, partly I think because I didn't work quickly enough and they cooled off too much to run down the cake really well, but I still liked it a lot.

Kentucky Christmas Cake

2 tsp nutmeg
¼ cup whiskey
1 lb. pecans, coarsely chopped
½ lb. raisins or sultanas
1½ cups flour, divided
1 cup butter
1½ cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp baking soda
⅛ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325°.  Grease and flour a 10" tube pan, or two 8" cake pans.
Soak the nutmeg in the whiskey for ten minutes.  Stir together pecans, raisins, and ¼ cup flour.  Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.  Fold in remaining flour, along with cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, soaked nutmeg, pecans, and raisins/sultanas, until well combined.

Spoon into prepared pans and bake for one hour and fifteen minutes, or until cake pulls away slightly from the edge of the pan.  Let stand in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack for complete cooling.


Homemade Marshmallows
from The Barefoot Contessa

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
Confectioner's sugar for dusting

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

With a sieve, generously dust an 8 by 12-inch nonmetal baking dish with confectioners' sugar. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and dust with more confectioners' sugar. Allow to stand uncovered overnight until it dries out.

Turn the marshmallows onto a board and cut them in squares. Dust them with more confectioners' sugar.



Monday, September 1, 2014

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake - September's Cakes





Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake
with Chocolate Ganache and Fresh Strawberries




2¼ cups cake flour
¼ tsp salt
2½ tsp baking powder
½ cup butter
1½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup crushed, fresh strawberries
1 cup cream
½ cup milk


Cream Cheese Icing

Chocolate Ganache


Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.  In separate bowl, combine butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Beat for 3 minutes.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with strawberries.  Beat for 2 minutes.
Pour into two 8" baking pans and bake for 350° for 25 minutes (or 325° for longer).

Ice with cream cheese icing, stacking as you go, and cover with a thick chocolate ganache.  Decorate with a few fresh strawberries.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

And some people wonder why we eat them...


First thing I do when I get out of bed in the morning is let the dogs out.  Then I swing by the coffee maker to turn it on before heading back to bed until it's brewed.  Then it's time to hit the floor, jump into some clothes, put my face on, and head out.  It usually goes uneventfully.

But not today.  This morning had to be different.

As I was getting ready, the dogs started barking.  And kept barking.  And kept barking some more.  I ignored them, thinking that asshole squirrel was sitting on top of the well house taunting them again, the little jerk.  About the time I started thinking I should go out there and intervene, they quit.

As I gathered up my keys and poured that last cup of coffee for the road, they started up again.  I headed out the door, ignoring the chorus of upset heeler and confused weenie dog, thinking how I was running early and would get the store opened and ready to go by the time Boss Man Scott got there, being all happy about that.

Until I see a cow go by with a tarp on her head.  Dragging twenty feet of it behind her.

My heart sank.

Those of you who grew up on a farm or live on one now know that feeling.  The sudden stop, then holding still while all the rest of you catches up, as it sinks in that your plans for the foreseeable future were just rearranged for you.

At least I now knew what the dogs were barking about.

I heaved a big sigh and walked to the truck, watching as the cow ran behind it towards the creek and around the corner out of sight, wondering how this one was going to play out.  Again, Country People, y'all know the drill - you just have to go for it, dive right in headfirst and see what happens, hoping a plan presents itself along the way.

I put the truck in reverse and backed it down the close quarters to the creek.  I'm not sure why I backed it down there instead of driving the right way.  I vaguely recall a fleeting thought of chasing her around in reverse like back in my demolition derby days, thinking she might get stuck on her own in the melee, and being in reverse I'd have an out if she got mad and came at me.  But I really didn't have a great idea of what I was doing.  Obviously.

As I came around the corner and headed down the hill I saw her, standing there on the other side of the creek facing my way, twenty feet of tarp laying in the creek between her and me.  I saw my chance, aimed for the tarp, and gunned it.  In the next four seconds I saw the mud, thought I might get stuck, thought of how it'd put everyone in a bind at work if I couldn't come in because I got the truck stuck, imperceptibly lifted my foot off the gas as I contemplated that versus cow-with-tarp-on-head-home-alone-all-day, saw her move as if to walk away, remembered I have a tractor to pull the truck out, said To HELL with it!, gunned it some more    ...   and   !!!




... landed on the tarp.  WOOT!  SHE WAS MIIIIIIINE!!

As I was looking in my purse for my pocket knife to cut her loose, I thought, "If I'm careful and lucky and avoid becoming a Linda-ka-bob, I might still get to work only a little late!  But Boss Man Scott will never believe this.  Who in the hell in their right mind would?! ... Pictures. ...  I need pictures.  Pictures would definitely make this an excused tardy."


As I got back in the truck to finally start my commute to work, I texted him the third picture on this page, with this message: "Running about ten minutes late. Dumbass cow got stuck in a tarp and I had to rescue her. And people wonder why we eat them..."



She didn't even say thank you.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Stop, Thief!

I inspected my hive Saturday, adding more pollen sub and sugar syrup.  I've been feeding them since, as a new colony, they need a little help since we've been in a dearth (no nectar or pollen) almost since I got them.  Since sugar syrup turns bad in as little as three days in hummingbird feeders, I was concerned about it in the hive as well, even though I don't add that much at one time.  I'd read about adding a tablespoon or two of vinegar to a gallon of syrup to help it keep longer, so thought I'd try it.  I'd also read Michael Bush's admonitions on the BeeSource.com forums that doing that can set off a robbing frenzy, so I watched the hive closely.

Sure enough ... a few hours later I saw what looked like a swarm all around the hive.  TONS of bees flying all over.  Probably from the bee tree across the creek, or from the one over on the Krause's place (not sure exactly where it is, but I beelined it to their fenceline last year so I know it's somewhere over in their east pasture, probably just a quarter mile from my house).

Man, it happened FAST!  I had been looking out there every ten or fifteen minutes, and between one check and the next fifteen minutes later, there was a bee cloud.  Amazing.

I ran out there and watched closely to make sure it wasn't just them still a bit upset from the inspection, saw fighting and lots of bees going in with empty pollen baskets and coming out with full ones.  Yep, robbing.  I knew because of reading everything bee-related I could get my hands on that I had to do something NOW.  I remembered something I'd read - I ran to get a sheet, covered the hive, poured water over it, watched for a while to make sure nobody found any holes I might have left open, and went back inside to think some more.  By this time it was almost dark, so that and the sheet stopped it.  For now.

I uncovered it in the morning and kept a close watch, knowing, again because of what I'd read, that there was a very good chance it would start again.  Sure enough, once the sun got up a bit it started again.  But I was ready.  I robbed a piece of 1/8 hardware cloth off a top feeder I'd just bought, made a Billy Davis robbing screen (thank goodness I'd read about THAT one, too) to cover the top entrance that was getting the most action, and reduced the bottom one.

It did just what I'd read - the robbers kept trying to get through the robbing screen directly in front of the entrance, not even finding the open ends.  In just a few minutes, there was a mob of them right there at the hole.  I watched for quite some time, grinning and laughing at them (yeah, schadenfreude - I had it), seeing that some robbers who were coming out of the hive got lucky and found the end exits to get out, but none that I saw figured out how to get back in.  I watched for a bit 'til not many more were coming out, and covered the bottom entrance with wet towels, as well as the ends of the robbing screen, leaving the area over the top entrance open for ventilation (didn't know how long I'd have to leave them like that and was nervous about them overheating).

I went back inside, but kept a close watch on them still.  By nine or ten the bee cloud was gone.  I left it covered for a couple or three more hours, then uncovered it and kept watch closely, thinking I may have to cover it up again.

But it didn't start again!  WOOT!!  Started about 7:30 the night before and was over by noon the next day.  Now, two days later, still no robbing and the girls are still in there, happily working away (yeah, didn't want to disturb them even MORE, but I just had to peek a little).  I'm still looking out there every fifteen minutes, and likely will be every day for the next week or more.  But I'm cautiously optimistic.  Excitedly, but cautiously.

Because I'd read all that, I didn't panic because I knew there was a solution and it was in my brain because of all the reading I've done on forums, on Michael Bush's site, in LoneStarFarms.net's books, and elsewhere.  I just had to stay calm, think for a minute, and find that solution.  And I did.

Some pictures of the hive today with my handy dandy robbing screen.  I've got some more hardware cloth on order and will make one of these screens for every entrance on every hive I ever have.  Billy Davis, you are one smart man.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The bees now have a condo


Worked the bees for the first time today and HOW MUCH FUN WAS IT!!!  I had a BLAST!  Yeah, I really think I'm going to like this beekeeping thing.  I remember liking it when I was a kid helping Daddy, but you know about childhood memories - they rarely live up to the hype when you revisit them.  But this time ... this time they sure did.

I woke up late, about 7:30.  I'd asked Rhonda to come over early so I could get this done while it was still cool out, and she got here about fifteen minutes after I woke up.  We had a little tea and coffee together then got to work.  I rounded up all my tools, handed her the camera and my big hat with the homemade veil, and out we went to the hive.

I got the smoker lit and got into my suit.  It would turn out that I really didn't need to be covered that much.  These bees are so gentle!  They didn't bump me at all, and I only got stung once on the thumb, and that was after I was putting the frames back together and you always squish some.  I don't blame them for being pissed.  And my smoker went out about then, so I couldn't calm them with it.  Despite all that, just one sting.  Nice. 

They tried to sting me a few other times, but not nearly as much as I thought they might.  I'm confident now that I can work them with just a veil, gloves, and long-sleeved shirt.  One of these days I just might be one of those crusty old beekeepers who works them without anything on.  ... I mean bee gear.  (Au natural beekeeping. Now that would be something.) 

I was able to carry out all my plans - get the frame feeder out, inspect all the frames, put more empty frames in the box, and put another box on top.  It went so smoothly and only took about half an hour.  And I was right - they were so out of room.  I should have done this last week.  Bad Beekeeper Linda. But now they have lots of room, an entire box full and then some.

I would have loved to see the queen, but it's not uncommon to not see her, so you look for eggs.  If there are eggs in there, there's a queen.  I couldn't see any eggs, but that's probably because I forgot my glasses in the house, so had to use Rhonda's and they're not as strong as mine.  I was also having a hard time seeing how much brood was in the frames, but thank goodness for Cameraman Rhonda.  She got some really good pictures that, once downloaded, really show how much brood is there.  Relief.  MUCH relief.  The queen is either still in there or at least was last week for sure.  I'll check on them again next week and remember my glasses this time.  If no eggs then, that means no queen and I'll have to get another, but that's not likely.  I think she's in there.  I just missed her.  I need to practice finding her. 

I went out there later in the day and they were back to being their so-calm-I-can-walk-right-up-to-the-hive selves.  So I did.  And took some more pictures.

I also brought them an "I'm Sorry" gift - two hummingbird feeders full of sugar syrup.  I took the little tray-covers off the bottoms so they can get right down into the syrup.  Nomnomnomnom.  I hope they like it.





Squinty McSquint.

Honey, honey, HONEY!

Pry out another frame ...

... and look at it ...

... closely ...

... and still closer. That's honey up top, brood below. See the little grubs in the black holes? Cute little boogers.

Got three out. Working on the rest.

Lumpy, bumpy drone comb.

FULL.

Pull out another one ...

... and look again.

Putting everything back together and squishing some.  They got pissed ...

... so Rhonda and the dogs backed off, ...

... but not before Nellie got hit a time or two.

:)


~*~

7:30 update: Only a handful hanging around the front door,
not too many more than what's in the pictures here.
I'm glad they're more comfortable now.  







Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The bees are doing something weird ...


... and I thought you'd like to see.


It's called bearding and I think they're doing it because they're out of room inside.  Bees also do it when they're hot, but I don't think that's the case here - it hasn't been that hot today, and I think they have plenty of top and bottom ventilation.  And bearding because they're hot would mean they'd go back in once the evening cools down.  I first noticed them doing it about five this afternoon.  I just went out to check, an hour after dark, and they're still doing it. 

Also, did you notice the washboarding, the bees "line dancing" on the face of the hive?  They line up and move forwards and backwards.  Nobody seems to know why they do that.  I think it's to make us wonder what they're up to.  (You can see it better if you click on the bottom-right YouTube link so it opens in a bigger window.)

When I first got them home two weeks ago I put out a hummingbird feeder of sugar syrup, but they haven't been much interested in it.  There are a lot of Gallardia (Indian Blankets) and Horsemint (Monarda citriodora) blooming.  Acres and acres of it just across the fence from them.  I think they're working those flowers and packing the existing hive body full. The Horsemint is a cousin of Bee Balm, so I'm not too surprised it's so popular.

When I got them, the box contained eight frames and a frame feeder.  I wanted to leave them alone for a good while before mucking around in their home.  (Okay, okay - that's not really true.  Yeah, I did want to get in there that first day, but learned my lesson then. *snicker*).  It's been twelve days.  I've seen beekeepers recommend waiting at least ten days after moving a hive before you go open it up.  I think it's time.

So I've got my plan ready.  Smoke the entrance and wait a couple minutes.  Lift the lid and set it aside.  Pry out the feeder.  Pry out the frames and inspect them one by one. I'll be looking for a nice brood pattern, along with some pollen and honey.

Then I'll take one frame of comb out of the bottom box and put it in a new box full of empty frames.  I'll put two empty frames back in the middle of the full box - one to replace the feeder and one to replace the frame I remove.  That full frame acts like a ladder for the bees to climb to the top of the new box and it's frames.  They like to work from the top down, and don't like flying up there.  I guess they bump their heads if they try.

Once I get that top box set on just right, I'll put the notched inner cover on and top the whole shebang with a plastic hive lid.  I got it for my birthday a few years ago from Kelly and Billy, friends who gave me their entire old hive.  That's the white one sitting next to my new one. Great birthday present, huh?  I certainly think so.  I've read other beekeepers' posts on forums, those from hot climates, who say the plastic tops keep too much heat in.  I'll keep an eye on it.  I have a backup plan - a piece of corrugated tin and a rock.  Fancy.

So Rhonda's coming over early tomorrow to be moral support and run the camera.  Wish me luck!





Monday, June 30, 2014

Marshmallow Fondant


I love marshmallow fondant!  It's easy to make from materials that don't cost much, really dresses up
a cake, and tastes pretty darn good, especially when compared to store-bought.  That stuff's nasty.  One of these days, I'll learn how to make my own marshmallows so it'll taste even better, and I can avoid corn syrup and all the other nasties in regular marshmallows.  But until then, I'll keep using this recipe:


 Marshmallow Fondant
1 16 oz. package marshmallows
2 or 3 Tablespoons butter
3 to 5 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
Note:
For snow white fondant, substitute a clear oil such as coconut for the butter, and leave out the vanilla unless it's clear as well.

Melt butter in a 3 or 4 quart cooking pan over medium heat, rolling pan until butter covers then entire bottom and sides.  Add marshmallows and stir until melted (it may take a while).  Remove from heat and sift in sugar one cup at a time, stopping when it becomes like a firm ball of bread dough.

Cover your counter with some butcher paper if desired, wax side up.  Cover your hands with a health amount of coconut oil, rubbing it all over the butcher paper or counter as well.  Turn out the marshmallow "dough" onto the prepared paper and roll out to 1/8" thickness, adding more oil as needed.

If the fondant is sticky yet firm and stretchy, or is dry and breaks/cracks, add more oil.  If it's sticky and gooey, add more sugar. 

~*~


When I first started making this, I used a LOT of powdered sugar since the recipe called for it.  It also said to keep adding sugar if it got sticky.  All that sugar did was make it dry, so dry that it would crack and break.

Sometimes that made happy accidents, such as with the dark brown cake above.  I wanted to cover that peanut butter cake with chocolate fondant, so I kept adding cocoa and kept adding cocoa (instead of powdered sugar), thinking it would help the stickiness I was encountering since the cocoa was dry like sugar (I was still believing in the original recipe).  It just kept breaking into pieces, so I stacked them and rolled them, leaving the lines from the cracks so that it looked like leather.  Neat. 

That fondant was leftover from the fondant I used to cover the gold cake above.  For that one, I followed the original recipe that called for a lot of sugar.  Because it was so dense, I wasn't able to roll it out very thin.  It ended up fairly thick.  You can see how thick if you look closely at the triangle cutouts surrounding the base on the sides.  Those were cut from the same fondant.

It wasn't what I'd call bad tasting really, but the marshmallow flavor did kind of overwhelm the cake flavor because there was so much of it.  I switched to peeling off half of the fondant before taking a bite and it was much better.  (Btw, I used Wilton gold dust and lemon extract to paint it on.  Lemon wasn't the best flavor with the chocolate, but it was all I had on hand. I've since bought a bottle of everclear for painting since it evaporates completely.)

For the lighter brown cake just above and to the right, I also covered it with some previously-frozen white fondant with cocoa kneaded in.  This time I did things a bit differently, adding "wet" and "dry" both as I kneaded.

I covered my hands in a generous amount of solid-at-room-temp coconut oil, then rubbed it over the entire blob of fondant.  I started kneading it, dipping into the oil and adding more to the blob as I went.

Once it was well-softened, I spread it out into a flat blob about 8" across and topped it with a good bit of cocoa, maybe 1/4 cup or more.  Then I folded it and kneaded it, folded and kneaded, until the cocoa was worked in.  I kept this up, adding more oil and cocoa as needed, 'til it was as brown as I wanted and the color was even.

Once I started rolling it out, I noticed it was much easier than it ever has been, and I was able to get it thinner than I ever have.  I'm thinking the extra oil was the answer, though I may have gone a bit overboard with the oil.

With the oil and thinness, it was harder to pick up.  If it touched any part of itself, it stuck firmly.  I carefully pulled it off the paper, holding it with both hands, and draped it over the cake.  All those beautiful folds in the cake?  Just happened that way!  I love it.  It's never done that before.  It was a bit shiny, too - not sure that would work on other cakes, but it did on this one.

The white cake above and below was covered with fondant with a teaspoon of regular vanilla mixed in.  It makes it an attractive creamy, beige-y off white.  I like how that makes the snow white cream cheese icing really pop.  Also, I think I got the "wet" and "dry" additions while kneading about right on this one.

I think one of these days I'll experiment with coloring more.  Maybe I'll try kneading in a LOT of tumeric.  I think I'll also try beet juice, probably with extra sugar to counteract the extra moisture in the juice, though will probably try this on a small amount as I'm thinking it might make it too sticky.  And then maybe I'll try spinach for green.  Wonder what that'll look like.  And blueberry juice, and cherry juice, and ... and ...

Or I'll just learn to paint.












Saturday, June 28, 2014

Heaven & Hell Cake




June's birthday cake at work was the Heaven and Hell Cake ~ angel food and devil's food layers with peanut butter ganache in between.  It was a lot of work, but worth it.  I did change it up a bit and put a layer of chocolate ganache in the very middle.  Yum.

I was also making a cake for Toddi's birthday and covered it with marshmallow fondant.  I had some left over, so decided to play with it. 

I'd already colored some icing for this cake with tumeric (yellow), cocoa (brown), and paprika (orangey-red), so tried coloring the fondant with tumeric, too.
It didn't turn out so well.  It might have worked had I used more, but it wasn't looking appetizing, so decided to try working in some cocoa.  It took a lot of cocoa, but turned out nice.

I love playing around, not really having any outcome I'm dead-set on, just seeing what happens.  I learn a lot that way. 

While playing with the fondant this time, I learned that it's good to add oil when it gets sticky.  Before, I would dust on some powdered sugar.  It just made it more sticky, and more dry and brittle.  But that's what I'd read online, so I kept at it. 

This time I was using some fondant I'd made before and froze for later.  Since it was dry, I thought it would be good to coat it and my hands in a little coconut oil.  I don't know why I didn't connect those dots before.  I'm glad I finally did since it was SO MUCH EASIER to knead it and roll it this time! Very little stickiness, nice and smooth, easy to fold and knead without it splitting much, and when it did it was a cinch to knead those right out. 

And I was able to get it thinner than I've every gotten it.  Thin enough that it draped so beautifully when I put it on the cake.  I saw that, said "Huh", and went with it, tucking it in a bit and trimming to fit the plate.  Another nice thing learned from just going with the flow.

Nice.  I love learning new tricks.



~*~

Heaven & Hell Cake

Angel Food Cake
2/3 cup cake flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup egg white ( about seven or eight)
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract 

Devil's Food Cake 
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup strong coffee
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda 
 
Peanut Butter Ganache/Mousse
12 ounces cream cheese
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups peanut butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup heavy cream 

Chocolate Ganache
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate 

Directions:

Angel Food Cake

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Cut a circle of parchment paper or wax paper to fit the bottom of a 9" cake pan. Do not grease the pan or paper. Sift together the flour and powdered sugar and set aside. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer. Beat slowly while adding the salt and cream of tartar and continue beating for 1 minute or until soft peaks form. Increase speed to medium, add sugar into whites by tablespoons until all is incorporated, then beat about 1-1/2 minutes longer. When egg whites have stiff peaks, add vanilla and almond extract. Remove bowl from mixer and sprinkle half of the powdered sugar-flour mixture and fold in again, using a minimum number of strokes so the egg whites do not deflate. Gently spoon the mixture into the pan and bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown. Do not over bake or the cake will sink in the center.

Devil's Food Cake
Preheat oven to 350°F.Oil and flour a round 9-inch cake pan. Sift the cocoa powder into the mixing bowl, then drizzle in the coffee while whisking to make a smooth paste. Set aside. (Might be more liquid than paste) Combine shortening, sugar, vanilla, and eggs and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Alternately add the cocoa-coffee mixture and the flour mixture to the sugar-egg mixture and continue beating until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Test for doneness.  
Peanut Butter Ganache/Mousse
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the cream cheese until light and creamy. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar, then the peanut butter.If mixture looks lumpy, add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Continue beating until thoroughly incorporated and fluffy. Transfer mixture to another bowl and set aside. Place heavy cream in the electric mixer bowl and whip until stiff. Carefully, but thoroughly, combine both mixtures; set aside. 

Chocolate Ganache
In a saucepan, bring the cream just short of a boil and stir in the chocolate. Remove from heat, cover pan and let the chocolate melt. Whisk to combine thoroughly then let cool to room temperature.

Assembling the cake
When both cakes have cooled, carefully slice them in half horizontally with a long, serrated knife so that you now have four layers. Place one layer of the devil's food cake on a cake plate and spoon 1/3 of the peanut butter mousse on the top. Place a layer of the angel food on top of the mousse and spread with the chocolate ganache. Place another layer of devil's food cake, then peanut butter mousse, then angel food cake.  Frost with cream cheese icing. 

Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving. Slice thinly. It's rich! 

Heaven & Hell Cake recipe #22312 on Food.com




Friday, June 20, 2014

I'm a beekeeper now


Got my bees today!  And it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.
 



 We got to the apiary about 9:30.  There were quite a few people there.


I waited in a line a bit to check in, but it wasn't bad.  Picked up a couple things I needed, got my ticket, and got in line.

These are the nuc boxes.


And these are the full strength colonies.  
Mine ended up being the one second from the left in the front row.


I had thought it would be really heavy, so asked my buddy George to come help.  We even had a bee suit all ready for him.  Turns out, I didn't need George or the bee suit.  

The lady helping people get their beees loaded them in the back of my truck by herself 
with nary a grunt, so I knew I'd be able to unload them myself when I got home.  I put a 
ratchet strap around them (without a veil or gloves even!) to make sure the top didn't blow off.  
THAT would have been a nightmare.  

And off we went. 

Got them home, I set them in place, and there ya' go.

See the girls coming and going through their front door?! Squeeeee!

I did go out there later to give them some water.  There is tons of it down in the creeks, but I thought it'd be nice to welcome them to the neighborhood with a gift of water right by their front door, 'til they get settled in and can find it on their own.  

They gave me a gift right back: when I lifted the lid to check the feeder and see if I 
needed to refill it, they stung me on the ass.  Yeah.  Right in the freakin' middle.  Just over
onto my right butt cheek.   
Nice to meet you, too, girls.
I dub thee Lilith.


Toddi's coming over later and we're going to do some beewatchin'.
With bourbon.








Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gettin' ready for the bees


 Got the bee yard ready.  It's *Nellie approved*.
Ain't it cute?


I lit up Daddy's smoker.  First time in over 35 years.


It smoked for almost the entire time I was out there.
I think Daddy had a hand in that.


Got my bee boxes all ready for expansion.  These are all medium supers
(hive boxes).  They're lighter.  The ones on the left are 10-frame,
on the right are 8-frame.  They have 82 frames inside them.  I got all
those put together a couple weeks ago using my screw gun and brad nailer.


 Eventually, I think I'll move all my bees into 8-frame medium boxes
throughout the entire bee yard.  It'll be easier on my back so I'll be
able to continue beekeeping by myself 'til I'm 80.


 Those bricks on the right are where the new hive is going.  I've got them nicely leveled,
as is the hive on the left.  It's currently unoccupied, waiting for expansion.  I hope
to split my new hive later this year (move some of the frames with bees, brood, and honey 
into the second hive to make a new one).

Ever seen the inside of a hive without bees in it?  This is what it looks like
It's missing a frame.


The bottom board with a screen on top.  I need more of these screens.  If you put a
sticky board on the bottom board below the screen, it'll catch mites that fall through.
Then I can easily monitor the mite levels.


And my helpers, keeping the mulch from blowing away.


I can't wait for tomorrow.




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