Happy Boxing Day! I hope your holiday season has been merry and bright so far. We’ve had a lovely time here at Four Chickens with just the right mixture of busy and relaxed. We’ve had a nice mix of parties and time with pals, as well as time as a family. Girlfriend and I have been taking care of the cats (and turtle) of a knitting pal of mine. There are 4 cats and they all have different food and activity needs. Although it’s a lot of work, the menagerie is quite cute. It’s been so rewarding to win over the more shy ones—there is one cat who hides under the bed and has a hard time coming out even when he knows you have food for him. I’ve been trying to play with him with his favorite toy and I think he’s beginning to trust me. This is more of Girlfriend’s job (she is the one getting paid) so I’m mainly the transport to the cat house and the cat player-wither. The turtle floats around in his tank all day. I go over and say hi to him and chat with him for a while. Oddly, I think he listens to me.
We also did something different for my birthday this year. As you may remember, I usually agonize over how to have a birthday party without stressing out my pals or myself. This year we decided to have a Tuesday open house a couple of days before Christmas (which was a week after my actual birthday). This turned out to be perfect. It was on a non-traditional day for a party, so folks weren’t booked. It was a couple of days before Christmas, so everyone seemed fairly laid back about work (at least as far as I could tell). To make it easy on ourselves, we ordered a few catered platters from Whole Foods (they are so good with food allergy issues and we have tons of them!), I made birthday cake.
It was just perfect. We had a nice stream of folks and everything was much more relaxed than normal, which meant that I got to hang out and chat with everyone. The food was wonderful. We also decided to let people help themselves to cake whenever they wanted (we didn’t do a big “Happy Birthday singing with candles thing), which further relaxed everyone. I loved it.
Christmas was very low-key. Our usual Christmas guests all had out-of-town visitors and couldn’t come for dinner, so we just had a hang-out-and-watch-movies-and-knit day. And I made a new dish for dinner: Chicken and Mushroom Casserole with Cider from one of my favorite cookbooks, River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall, from the fabled River Cottage cooking school and dining space in Dorset, England. The dish was really, really good! One of our very favorite dinner recipes that comes from the book is the Baked Chicken Curry, which was also one of Girlfriend’s first meals that she made on her own.
Today Girlfriend took a pal of hers to see Big Hero 6 as a Christmas present. We saw it a few weeks ago and Girlfriend loved it so much that she wanted to see it again with her best friend. While they were at the movie, I baked. And, it being Friday, I baked a coffee cake. This one is a Brown-Sugar Chocolate Chip-Pecan Bundt Cake. And it is spectacular. I adapted it from a recipe I cut out of a magazine (I think it was in an ad). The pecans are mixed with butter and a little sugar and sprinkled in your bundt pan before you scrape the batter in. This means that the pecans caramelize on top. The cake itself is not-too-sweet, moist with a tender, dense crumb that is dotted with chocolate chips. Also: I made it in a pan that was a Christmas present!
Brown-Sugar Chocolate Chip-Pecan Bundt Cake, Gluten-Free
For the topping
3/4 cup (90 g) chopped toasted pecans
1/4 cup (60 g) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the cake
2 3/4 cups (385 g) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks; 230 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (210 g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 extra-large eggs (240 ml), room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
1 cup (6 oz; 170 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
extra melted butter and tapioca flour for pan
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Butter and flour well a 10 to 12 cup bundt pan.
In a small bowl with a fork, mix together the chopped pecans, 1/4 cup butter, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Use a spoon to sprinkle mixture over the bottom and lower sides of the bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt, and baking soda.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 1 cup butter on medium high until light and fluffy—2 minutes. Add brown sugar and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and beat on medium high for 1 minute. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides. Add eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. After all the eggs are added, beat on medium high for 1 minute.
Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk in several batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
Add the chocolate chips and mix by hand until combined.
Spoon out mixture into the prepared pan and smooth top.
Bake until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Store, wrapped loosely, at room temperature for up to 4 days. Do not refrigerate. For long-term storage, wrap tightly and freeze for up to 6 months.