It was my birthday last week! I had so many eating and cooking celebrations that I must share them with you. And then I’ll end with an awesome recipe for funnel cake. Yeah, that’s right, funnel cake! Anyway, I’m someone who loves birthdays. I love making a fuss, hanging out with friends, celebrating a lot, and eating large amounts of sweets. And since I’m self involved and still want to talk about my birthday almost a week later, I want to share with you my adventures.
Growing up, birthdays were celebrated by opening presents and eating cake first thing in the morning before going to school/work. Naturally, I insisted that Ryan and I do the same. Ryan woke up all groggy and sleepy, but he did sing me happy birthday and shared a piece of cake with me. I made the cake myself: it was yellow cake with a strawberry raspberry filling and a lemon buttercream frosting. Ryan had volunteered to get me a cake, and even said he would make me a cake, but I decided I would have more fun making a cake. I was inspired by a cake we had at our wedding from Sweet Eats Cakes, that was just to die for. My cake wasn’t nearly as good as hers. The frosting and filling (both of which I made!) were yummy but I over-mixed the batter so the cake came out a bit dense. It was tasty, but I had the most fun putting it all together.
After cake I opened presents. Ryan got me a deep fryer! I was so excited because I had been talking about wanting one for about a year. Ryan let me register for one when we were engaged, but no one bought it, because, seriously who needs a deep fryer? It’s not a kitchen necessity, but I thought it would be super fun to have. I mean, who doesn’t want to have carnival themed dinner nights? Think of all the things you can make! Deep fried candy bars, fried chicken, corn dogs, French fries, potato chips, hush puppies, and of course funnel cake. P.S. Mom, please send me your fried chicken recipe!!! Hungry bellies want to try it!
And, to add to the kitchen goodness, my brother got me a crème brulee set, complete with kitchen torch and butane gas. So I now have two ends of the cooking spectrum – I now have the means to makee fancy food like crème brulee and greasy street food like corn dogs. My friend also pointed out that now I’ve moved up from basic appliances to the “dangerous” ones. Using the deep fryer I did have an accident, but not related to the fryer. I’ll get to that in a bit.
But back to the birthday. I went to work and I spent a lot of the day telling museum visitors it was my birthday. After that, my besties from work took me out to lunch at Lincoln, an Abraham Lincoln themed restaurant. It was such a decadent afternoon. The weather was gorgeous and we ate outside, sitting in this cozy both. Seriously, you never see a booth outside, but we were really sitting under a tree lounging on snuggly couches. We all ate so much! We shared brussels sprouts, fries, and chips. I had a lobster cob salad and it had HUGE chunks of lobster. My friends told the waiter it was my birthday and he asked if I was turning 16. Not quite.
For dessert we ordered some sweet potato pound cake thing, which sounded suspicious but was really yummy. There was this deliciously rich and decadent sauce we poured on top. The dessert was the only thing I took a picture of, with the exception of my mint julep, which was in a cool copper cup. The other pictures are courtesy of my lovely friend Anna. I did take about 7 pictures of Charlotte pouring the sauce on the cake. Also, they gave me a free chocolate cake too, so that put my birthday cake total up to 3. Actually, make that 4, because my coworker Jonathan bought be a cupcake too.
And, as if I hadn’t eaten enough, Ryan took me out for dinner at Quarter Deck. This was what I was most excited about, because we were going to have a steamed crab feast. I love crab picking and it’s truly a staple of summer for me. We got a table outside, ordered a pitcher of Yuengling and waited for our crabs to arrive. My goal was to eat 14 crabs (because it’s half my age). The restaurant gives you a bucket so you can put all your unwanted bits inside – but I laid out the crab tops as a marker to see how many I had eaten. I didn’t make my goal, I only ate 12.
I had the best time eating a leisurely dinner outside with Ryan. Some people don’t like crabs because they say it takes forever to get any food. And it does. But you can’t go for crabs really hungry. It’s most enjoyable when you go with the purpose of sharing the evening with someone. We had a few beers, enjoyed the weather, and talked, and got really messy and covered in Old Bay and crab bits.
I treated myself to a knife skills class at Sur la Table on Saturday. In addition to sushi class, knife skills class is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I have always been nervous to go though, because I thought I’d be the worst, and incapable of cutting well, and might slice my finger off. Someone did cut themselves in class, but it wasn’t me. Class was pretty cool! I learned a better way to cut a bell pepper, grapes, and an onion. I also learned how to hold the knife better (it’s called a pinch grip). And that instead of lifting my arm up and down to chop, I’m supposed to do more of a continuous rocking motion that follows the shape of the blade. I’m not yet ready to throw knives at a Japanese steak house, but my skills are improving.
When you take a class at Sur la Table you get a 10% off coupon that’s good for a week. I was walking around the store and I caught my eye on a semi-ugly pig pitcher. And I wanted it a lot, but it was $50. I love pigs, and since I was a kid I’ve collected random pig things. I have coasters, a wine stopper, and little figurines, but I could not justify buying a $50 pig pitcher. Ryan also told me it looked “like a demon.” So I consoled myself by buying a pig overmitt and a spatula. (And some other things… there was a sale, what was I to do?!)
On Sunday, I had three of my college friends, Norma, Lynn, and Kim, over for brunch. They live in Maryland, so I made them trek all the way across state lines for some food. I made an onion and pepper quiche – and I made the crust, from scratch. I also made waffles, bacon, Bloody Mary’s, and I put out a bunch of berries. It was delicious, I got to practice my knife skills, and my friends all teased me that the strawberries looked especially well cut. And, I made all this delicious food, and I didn’t take a picture of one flipping thing. The only picture I took was of my friends on the roof of my building with the Washington Monument in the background.
Also, I’m not sure how it started, but somehow Ryan started giving a speech about how I have too many different kinds of spatulas. I think it was because I was showing my friend Kim my Sur la Table purchases. She is a good and adventurous cook herself, so I thought she’d be interested. But somehow, the spatula situation got out of hand and my friends started calling us “House of Spatula.” They said I should rename my blog “House of Spatula.” Or maybe have a food truck called “House of Spatula.” Only Kim said it made sense to have so many so I didn’t always have to wash them. And now I feel like every time I cook I should use multiple spatulas to prove that I need so many. My weak argument is that when you see the kitchens of professional cooks they always have tons of utensils and spatulas. The group pointed out that I don’t cook as much as they do. Sure, but you know how they say dress for the job you want, not the job you have? Maybe it’s like that. If I equip my kitchen like a professional chef, maybe I’ll cook like one.
So that was my birthday. It was delicious. And I think 28 is going to be all right because it includes funnel cakes.
I settled on funnel cake as our first deep frying expedition because it’s a delicious treat. But also, it’s low pressure. I didn’t want to start with dinner because what if it was ruined and we are starving after work and then have nothing to eat?! Also, we had practically all the ingredients in the apartment already. And again, funnel cake is delicious.
Funnel cake is also fun. We have it at the fair, at the circus, at the baseball game. There’s just something festive about it. As Ryan and I were making it together, we were silly and dancing and having a nice time. We did have one minor setback that I thought was going to ruin the night. As he was stirring ingredients, I went to put stuff back on the shelves. I placed the flour on the shelf and a can rolled off and hit me in the foot. I yelled in pain, fell on the floor, and cried in a heap. Seriously, I was behaving like a pathetic mess. We were worried I’d lost my nail since that happened to me last year. But I didn’t, so crisis averted. Once we got me off the floor and cleaned up the blood on my foot, we rallied and were back in business. We finished mixing the dough, poured it into the hot oil, and watch with delight as we made our first funnel cakes. We also had our friend Josh over and there was immediate talk about the three of us opening a stand and selling funnel cakes to tourists on the 4th of July.
This recipe is half of the Williams-Sonoma recipe. It makes about 4 funnel cakes if you use ½ cup of batter per cake. Also, if you don’t have a deep fryer, you can still make this recipe. What you’ll need is a deep skillet or a not-too-deep pot. Maybe like a Dutch oven. Fill it with a few inches of oil and heat until very hot. You can use a candy thermometer to try to make the exact temperature. You just want a few inches of oil so the funnel cake has room to float.
Canola oil for frying
¼ cup of confectioners’ sugar
¾ tsp cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ cup packed brown sugar
Scant ½ tsp salt (scant means don’t fill the tsp all the way)
1 egg and 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups milk (might need a bit more)
¾ tsp vanilla extract
- Mix confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Set aside, this is a topping.
- Optional: Heat oven to 200°. This is so you can keep funnel cakes warm while you’re still working on making new ones.
- Pour oil into deep fryer. You will use what feels like a disgusting amount, but it’s ok because you can strain it and reuse it.
- Heat deep fryer to 375°.
- In a large bowl mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar.
- In a medium bowl, mix egg, 1 ½ cups of milk, and vanilla.
- Add wet ingredient to the dry. If it seems a little thick and will be hard to pour, add some more milk. You shouldn’t have to add anymore than another ½ cup. I think we added another 2 tbsps.
- Put fry basket into the oil.
- Transfer batter to a cup with a spout. We used a liquid measuring cup. If you have a funnel, use that! What you want is to be able to pour the batter in ribbons so it makes the funnel cake shape. If it pours in one big blob, it’s not going to look right. Also, it might be obvious, but if you have a funnel, then just pour the batter through the funnel into the oil. I don’t have a funnel, so I needed a cup with a spout.
- Slowly pour ½ cup of the batter into the hot oil in a thin stream. Try to make a circular pattern. Make sure the batter is poured within the confines of the fry basket.
- Fry for about 1-1 ½ minutes, until the underside is brown.
- Flip the funnel cake over. We raised the frying basket out of the oil, then flipped the funnel cake, then dropped the basket back into the oil.
- Fry for 1 minute more.
- Lift the basket out of the oil and let drain. If ready to eat, sprinkle with the sugar mixture. If saving, put in the oven to stay warm.
- EAT IT!!!
Low! I’m totally impressed with this deep fryer. The max-fill oil level is much lower than the rim of the fryer so there is no spatter at all. The only mess we made was when we transferred batter from the mixing bowl to the measuring glass. It was really excellent. We didn’t even have to worry about draining the funnel cakes because the basket hangs over the oil and lets it drip there. SO EASY. I love it. I look forward to more frying.
The messy part came from smashing my toe with a can of coconut cream. Be careful!
Update 6/30 – So, I think I should up the messy level to 3 spoons. Cooking it isn’t very hard, but man is clean up some work!!! You have to clean the heating unit, the part with the oil, and the frying basket. Also, if you’re going to reuse the oil, you have to pour it through a strainer into a large jar. And so it’s a lot of steps and a lot of things to clean up afterward.