Grow, little apple blossoms! Grow!

I get the American Life in Poetry column in my inbox every week. I used to read every poem, but I’ve gotten out of the habit. I’m glad I read this week’s. It’s reminded me that Spring is out there.

American Life in Poetry: Column 462
By Ted Kooser
U.S. Poet Laureate

This year’s brutal winter surely calls for a poem such as today’s selection, a peek at the inner workings of spring. Susan Kelly-DeWitt lives and teaches in Sacramento.

Apple Blossoms
by Susan Kelly-DeWitt

One evening in winter
when nothing has been enough,
when the days are too short,

the nights too long
and cheerless, the secret
and docile buds of the apple

blossoms begin their quick
ascent to light. Night
after interminable night

the sugars pucker and swell
into green slips, green
silks. And just as you find

yourself at the end
of winter’s long, cold
rope, the blossoms open

like pink thimbles
and that black dollop
of shine called

bumblebee stumbles in.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2001 by Susan Kelly-DeWitt, whose most recent book of poems is The Fortunate Islands, Marick Press, 2008. Poem reprinted from To a Small Moth, Poet’s Corner Press, 2001, by permission of Susan Kelly-DeWitt and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

It’s not Monday, but here’s our menu for the week anyway

A photo of the White House kitchen from the National Archives.
A photo of the White House kitchen from the National Archives.
Sunday: Butternut Squash Lasagna
I’ll try just about anything that includes a butternut squash puree, because it’s the one vegetable that Poppy will eat willingly. Rockford’s cousin posted a picture of her butternut squash lasagna a few days ago, and it looked and sounded so delicious that I made it for Sunday night dinner. I couldn’t find the amaretti cookies the recipe calls for (yes, there are supposed to be cookies in it), so I just added a little sugar and a splash of almond extract to the butternut puree.

Monday: Kung Pao Chicken
One of my very favorite meals is PF Changs’ kung pao scallops. I don’t like cooking seafood, though, so we had kung pao chicken instead. The recipe I used calls for “velveting” the chicken. It’s a method that includes coating the meat in egg white and cornstarch and then briefly poaching it, and it makes for a more tender protein in your stir-fry. It’s worth the extra steps.

Tuesday: Pizza

I believe we’ll have a wood-fired pie from our favorite local pizzeria. The last time we were there they had an autumnal pizza with butternut squash, gorgonzola and pancetta. It sounds a little weird, but it was exceptional. I’m looking forward to seeing what their special is today.

Wednesday: Chicken sausages and macaroni & cheese
We never had this last week.

Thursday: Cheeseburgers
Pete wants cheeseburgers every day, for every meal. He’ll be very happy on Thursday.

Friday: Ribs
We bought a large pack of ribs at Sam’s Club when my dad was visiting recently, and I have a few racks in the freezer that I need to use. I usually make Alton Brown’s No Backyard Baby Back Ribs, but I’m thinking about switching it up and trying a Korean marinade this time.

I’m linking this up with’s weekly Menu Plan Monday thing.

In which I use a basting brush to make a cake

The first Daring Bakers Challenge of 2014 was a cake I’d never heard of before, a European confection called a baumkuchen. It has lots and lots and lots of layers, and it’s usually prepared on a spit. Like a rotisserie chicken, but with cake batter instead of fowl. I had a very hard time picturing exactly how that worked until I found a slideshow that shows how baumkuchen is made.

And then last week, Rockford snapped this picture at a department store in Yokohama, Japan:

Rotisserie Cake

It’s called baumukūhen in Japan, and according to Wikipedia it’s one of the country’s most popular pastries:

It was first introduced to Japan by the German Karl Joseph Wilhelm Juchheim. Juchheim was in the Chinese city of Tsingtao during World War I when Britain and Japan laid siege to Tsingtao. He and his wife were then interned at Okinawa. Juchheim started making and selling the traditional confection at a German exhibition in Hiroshima in 1919. After the war, he chose to remain in Japan. Continued success allowed him to move to Yokohama and open a bakery, but its destruction in the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake caused him to move his operations to Kobe, where he stayed until the end of World War II. Some years later, his wife returned to help a Japanese company open a chain of bakeries under the Juchheim name that further helped spread baumkuchen’s popularity in Japan.

Daring Bakers KitchenThe DBK recipe didn’t require a rotisserie for the cake’s prep, which is good because I don’t have one handy. The at-home version calls for painting the batter onto the bottom of the cake pan, broiling it, painting on another layer, ad infinitum.

I followed the baumtorte recipe at pretty closely, but I was missing a few things and had to improvise. I didn’t have quite enough almond paste, so I mixed a quarter cup of Trader Joe’s crunchy cookie butter into the almond paste before I added the butter. I also discovered that I didn’t have enough cornstarch, but I was too far into things to run out for more so I used what I had and compensated with extra flour.

Making the baumkuchen/baumtorte is a laborious process. I thought my arm might fall off while I was folding in the beaten egg whites, and painting on the layers of batter seemed to take forever. I cheated and made the first several layers thicker than they’re supposed to be, which was a bad idea. The cheatery was evident when we sliced into the cake, and the thicker layers were less tender than the others.

All in all, is was a tasty and pretty impressive-looking cake, and I would show you my attempt at it if we hadn’t eaten it all before I remembered that I needed to take a picture. Which speaks to the tastiness, I suppose. I don’t know that I’d make another one, but I’d definitely try a slice if I were ever somewhere where they made the authentic version.

The January 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Francijn of “Koken in de Brouwerij”. She challenged us all to bake layered cakes in the tradition of Baumkuchen (tree cake) and Schichttorte (layered cake).