I really love/hate April - it brings those first reminders that life is really worth living, but it's also the month I'm most likely to get frostbite, because it's freaking APRIL so why shouldn't I wear ballet flats and not take gloves? But there are finally signs of REAL spring here; we are reportedly hitting 70 today after a week in the 40s. No magnolias or cherry trees in bloom like you west coasters, but little signs. Crocuses. We start small.
We moved last year and I love my new neighborhood. A 12" wide strip of dirt by the sidewalk? These people will put a deer and a daffodil on it.
It's with a mix of regret and excitement that I give up my community gardening plot and try to do something with my very own first yard. And while I'm grateful and lucky to finally have one to call my own, the whole thing is shaded by a huge maple so anything that wants sunlight better be up and done by May when the leaves grow big enough to block the sun.
Which leads me to bulbs - bulbs - bulbs. I went crazy last fall and planted upwards of 200 daffodils, iris, crocus, snowdrops and tulips. For those that have planted bulbs, you know that 200 is actually 34 after you account for pillaging squirrels. All October and November I watched the scheming little buggers running back and forth across our back patio, but I was encouraged that I never saw them in the front where the majority of my bulbs lay hidden under the ivy.
This weeks stuff has really started popping up and it's cute... but wrong. All those iris that were supposed to shoot up through the ivy are turning out to be two inches tall.
And the daffodils too.
Apparently my subconscious started planning this April Fools joke last Fall when I bought an entire garden of micro flowers by "mistake." I'm so frustrated, I dug out the labels, and Home Depot actually had the nerve to call them plain old "Iris."
My mixed April feelings continued for Easter. I should mention I'm having real issues with my oven, it's being really passive-aggressive. ("It's so interesting you think I'm under-baking all your fancy desserts, when those frozen pizza always seem to come out perfectly") My sister-in-law requested a flourless chocolate cake with raspberry accents for her birthday so I turned to my favorite and most trusted recipe of all time - the Chocolate Cloud Cake from Classic Home Desserts. I have made this cake flawlessly for 20 years, but recently it's always undercooked (it's hard not to second guess myself because the last instruction in the recipe is "be careful not to overbake").
The trick to baking the cake is you have to bake it until the top cracks, otherwise it isn't done. I actually wrote that in the margin of the recipe 13 years ago. And yet, on Saturday - after baking the cake for 1.5 x the suggested time, I took it out of the oven, crackless. And then had to start over. Why am I so dismissive of 20-something Julie? Why would I write that in the margin if it weren't true? I baked the second one until it cracked, and it was fine.
Then when the cake cools, the center sinks leaving a hollow chocolate shell you fill with whipped cream, or in this case raspberry mousse. Kind of reminded me of an easter egg. I topped with raspberries and chocolate curls. I'd give it a solid 8.
Also got a new cookbook out of the library (I'm a big fan of trying a couple recipes before investing money and shelf-space). This was Bake It Like You Mean It from Gesine Prado - tried the Tangerine DreamTea Ring, and was pretty happy with it.
Pastries can be a real doozy - I mean anything that involves rolling out dough and egg wash pinching can be dangerous for me and my low tolerance for frustration, but this went together easy and had a lovely presentation pre-baking:
And check out my little fishy!
It looked pretty perfect post-bake too!
Now unfortunately, despite a 25 degree hike in temp it wasn't cooked in the middle, but it was good enough I didn't mind re-baking it piece by piece. Just like I won't mind planting 200 more life-size bulbs in October, or putting on gloves again next week. Ready for May, though.