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TND – First World Problems

April 20, 2011

Sunday was one of those days where everything seemed to conspire to make me irritable – my timing was a little off on everything, and nothing wanted to work quite as predicted.  It was a day full of what NPR refers to (correctly) as First World Problems.  Knowing that didn’t make them any less annoying.

I got up later than I planned.

For no apparent reason the first gingerbread cake I made rose beautifully at the sides, but with a giant sink hole in the center. I checked the recipe I used against a variety of other recipes for gingerbread online and could find no discernible difference between it and them. I scowled at the pan.

The second attempt at gingerbread cake – using a recipe I’d made before – worked perfectly. It wasn’t as dark and dense as the first recipe, qualities I look for in a gingerbread cake, but on the other hand it rose evenly and smelled good.

I went down to Whole Foods for pork butt and patiently waited for my number to be called only to be cut in front of at the last minute by a large overbearing woman possessed of an overly inflated sense of self-importance. It’s possible I muttered something uncharitable about her choice of (wildly unflattering) attire under my breath, but not loud enough for her to hear because apparently my mother’s injunctions to be polite sank in too deeply to be overridden even in a moment of exasperation.

The chicken stock I set to simmering when I got home never really achieved its true chicken stock destiny. I finally took it off the stove after six hours because I needed to go to bed, and I didn’t think it was going to get any better than it was. It’s fine, but not as rich as it should have been.

The pork partially redeemed my day by doing exactly what it was supposed to do, and coming out of the oven after four hours meltingly, fall apart at the touch of a fork, tender. Doused in hoisin, ginger and garlic it was hard to remember that its sacred purpose was Dinner on Tuesday, and not stand at the counter and eat it straight out of the bowl.

On Tuesday I put the fear of God into everyone to get them to show up to Dinner on time, and then put it on the table 15 minutes late. Although the hoisin pulled pork is so universally loved that nobody so much as murmured a complaint. How good is the hoisin pulled pork you ask? It’s good enough to make people reschedule a Seder so they could come to Dinner when they heard it was being served – okay, the company probably also had something to do with it, but the irony of skipping a Seder to eat pork is too delicious for me not to revel in it.

Despite the extra time in the oven (which is why dinner was late), the sweet potato fries never really quite crisped up as they should have. I can’t quite decide if it’s because I over crowded the pans in an attempt to make enough fries for 8 people, or whether the white sweet potatoes I got on whim just don’t cook up the same way that garnet yams do. I mean, they were still tasty, just not crisp. Clearly this means I shall have to experiment with white sweet potatoes further. Oh woe is me, more sweet potatoes (cue world’s smallest violin).

On the other hand at about 5:30pm today my week is about to get immeasurably better because I took the rest of this week off. My only plans involve hieing myself downtown on Friday to go to lunch at the café in the Boston Public Library and then taste chocolate and wine pairings at the Hotel Chocolat on Newbury Street. To quote Ina Garten, ‘How bad can that be?’

Hoisin Pulled Pork Wraps
Crunchy Peanut Slaw
Massaged Kale Salad
Sweet Potato Fries

Gingerbread with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Hoisin Pulled Pork Wrap
Recipe previously given: Dinner with a Side of Schadenfreude

Crunchy Peanut Slaw

Recipe previously given: Of Shoes and Ships and Ceiling Wax

Massaged Kale Salad

Recipe previously given: Introducing Fancy Molasses (and her cousin Black Strap)

Sweet Potato Fries

Recipe previously given: In which it all went kind of wrong, but was still tasty

Gingerbread with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
The birthday request was for anything with cream cheese frosting. I wasn’t in a red velvet cake kind of mood, so I opted for gingerbread instead.

Gingerbread
I made the cake base from the Gingerbread Trifle, but used the spice mixture from Jes’s version of gingerbread to make a slightly darker and spicier cake.

I baked it in an 8×8 pan because I was really invested in having a square cake and I don’t own a 9×9 pan (although not for lack of searching – apparently a 9×9 pan is a mythical item despite the fact that every baking recipe I’ve clicked on recently has called for a 9×9 pan). Possibly the cake would have benefited from either a slightly larger pan – although then it wouldn’t have fit on my cake stand – or from being scaled back slightly – although this would require you to guess at 2/3 or ¾ of an egg which is just fiddly.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
5 Tbsp butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp orange zest

Beat the butter and cream cheese together until combined and slightly fluffy. Add the powdered sugar a bit at a time until you reach the desired level of sweetness (may be more or less than 2 cups depending on your palate). Add the vanilla and orange zest and beat to combine thoroughly. Frost the cake.

I had frosting left over and served it on the side because throwing cream cheese frosting away seemed sacrilegious.

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