Thursday, January 17, 2019

Ran Out!

Of applesauce!

To be fair, this is my fault because I didn't make any in the fall, partly because I thought I had more than I did. Last night I pulled the jar out of the fridge only to discover that it had gone bad, in such a way that we threw out the entire jar. Ew.

But, to my surprise, that was our last jar! No applesauce. We used a pear-cranberry compote made by a friend to go with our pork chops which was fine, but not applesauce. I guess I should pay closer attention to the inventory.

However, since we finished off all the apples from when we went apple picking, and it's the middle of winter, I might have to go buy apples just so we can have more... 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Princess and the Nonpareils

As I mentioned in my last post, my mother-in-law requested gingerbread cookies. I decided on hearts this time, thinking I could get ready for Valentine's Day by making some cookies ahead of time and freezing them until February. I made them on Sunday and today I got to decorating them.

One thing I know - I should use the good metal tips rather than the cheaper plastic ones; the icing came out in globs. Despite that, the cookies turned out much cuter than they had any right to, considering my suspect decorating skills. And, speaking of that...

For Christmas, in my stocking there were various little sprinkle decorations, including a bottle of tiny white nonpareils. (Yes, I know nonpareils are the chocolate candy with the little white balls, but I think the term also applies to the white balls themselves.) Let's just say they are affected rather profoundly by static electricity and, the second I opened the bottle and poured some into a bowl, they scattered.

Despite sweeping, and roomba-ing, I am constantly stepping on these itty bitty, 1 mm-across candy balls. And I can feel every one. I have taken to picking them up off the kitchen floor by hand. And I haven't even checked out the dining room yet...

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Quite The Production

Holidays came and went, along with a quick ski trip in Vermont that was less "skiing" and more "staying inside and avoiding the rain." We did play a pretty awesome game, Betrayal Legacy, which kept us entertained for hours but needing to take a break once in a while because it was so complicated! We also discovered that ground venison is a fine substitute in tacos and spaghetti sauce. My brother-in-law sent me a bunch of game meat for Christmas; I sent him a signed copy of Hank Shaw's new cookbook: Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail.

One of the things on my agenda this weekend was to defrost the freezer, so exciting, but that meant I needed to get the four gallons of tomatoes out of there. Yesterday they thawed and this morning I boiled them and tried to run them through the food mill. I'm not really sure what happened except that somehow the food mill got jammed. I ended up scooping out tomato pulp from the hopper and pushing it through a sieve by hand, making a mess that the youngerchild suggested looked like a crime scene. Someone has been watching too much Supernatural, maybe? Anyway, after the liquid boiled off I was left with 3 and a half pints of tomato sauce; I added Persian spices to one pint, Italian spices to the other two and left the half-pint plain.

The other thing that I wanted to get done today was to make a batch of gingerbread cookies for my mother-in-law, who was envious that she didn't get any over the holidays. I got the cookies all made today - two different sizes of hearts - and will frost them tomorrow, hopefully. It's a LOT of cookies. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Where've You Been?

Yeah, I recognize I haven't posted since Thanksgiving. I don't know where the time goes anymore. But I have been baking, a lot, and getting my holiday gifts together.

As November drew to a close I discovered I hadn't really been canning all year and had approximately three jars in my gift stash. Normally I need about 50! Clearly something needed to be done. I decided to try to make a variety of cookies this year and hand them out to my neighbors instead. I started with gingerbread (Day 1). Actually, I started with a gingerbread house, and then moved on to gingerbread cookies. We had a marathon decorating session (Day 2) and I set the cookies aside. Nine dozen.

Then I made shortbread cookies (Day 3). They were supposed to be spritz cookies, using my cookie press, but the dough was too thick (I vaguely remember that this was why I put the press back in its box for over a decade) so I rolled it out and made shortbread hearts which were filled with ganache and dipped in chocolate. Two dozen.

Next I made Biarritz cookies (Day 4), with almond and hazelnut flours and orange zest. These also were sandwiched with ganache and striped with dipping chocolate. Four dozen, I think. Maybe five. I lost count.

The next task was meringues with hazelnuts (Day 5), Rochers. The technical difficulty here was that the hazelnuts clogged the star tip while piping, so I had to change to a plain tip and they weren't as pretty. They baked overnight in a low oven. Six dozen or so.

Then I made chocolate crackle cookies (Day 6) which was really fun and easy. But the recipe was a little off for me so instead of five dozen cookies I got four and a half dozen.

Lastly, a double batch of Nanaimo bars (Day 7). This recipe I posted is similar but I use pecans and my Mom's recipe has slightly different proportions. These are traditional for our family at Christmastime. Roughly four dozen bars.

Today I assembled little gift boxes of all the cookies along with some kisses and other chocolates and have started delivering them to our friends and neighbors. I have more to do, but this takes care of the bulk of people on my list!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Time to Be Thankful

This has been a particularly blog-unfriendly year, between not having a lot of time and not having a lot of interest in canning or baking. I know, that seems weird. It's not like I'm not baking, it's just that it's fairly routine stuff, like cookies or cornbread or the regular batches of white bread I make with Legion whenever we run out. That's still happening, but it doesn't seem all that blog-worthy anymore. I haven't even started a gift stash this year.

But it is Thanksgiving, and it's time to stop and rest briefly and have a feast. To reflect on the things that have made this year good and overlook the bad.

This year there will be nine of us, and I just brined the turkey. We are having our feast on Friday as I'm working tomorrow, giving me an extra day to bake and prepare. Yesterday I made the squash by roasting my last three farm share butternuts and mixing the baked squash with butter, salt, and pepper. Nothing too fancy. Mom will bring the sweet potatoes we love, our friends are bringing rolls and Brussels sprouts, and maybe a dessert.

For the turkey, I mixed 1 cup of Kosher salt for each gallon of water, and put the turkey in that with some bay leaves, peppercorns, sage, celery salt and rosemary.

The next thing I did was make two pumpkin pies, using my favorite recipe. Fortunately, I had condensed milk in the house and didn't need to run out and get some.  I also had 3 cups of pumpkin  purĂ©e in the freezer; that may be the last of it. The crust got a little toasty because they were a little too close to the edges of the oven but nothing too bad. I baked the leaves and acorns separately for about 20 minutes so they wouldn't burn. One will go to work with me tomorrow and the other is for my feast.

Tomorrow after work I will make an apple pie and also the stuffing, then on the day of I can roast the turkey, make the mashed potatoes, and put on all the finishing touches!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Semi-Responsible Bee Guardianship

It's been sort of cold, sort of warm, very rainy and not exactly great weather to get into the hive. I'd been meaning to make fondant for them, and get the hives insulated. General wisdom is to insulate the hives around Thanksgiving. Which is next week. But it's going to drop to the 30's tonight.

So I rushed home and made fondant. One quarter of the recipe posted here makes enough to fill two combiner boards which is what I use to make candy boards for a top bar hive. It cooled quickly and I ran out with all the insulation panels to get the hives tucked in for the winter.

Beeyonce's hive was fine, I got the fondant in there and the insulation panels on without an issue. Oh, did I mention I was not wearing my gear or using smoke? This was the irresponsible part, as it turned out, as Phoebee's hive was not as docile. They were, in fact, rather agitated that I was opening their hive on a damp, overcast day. I got the fondant in and three of the four panels on before one decided my wrist was just too close and stung me. Even after spraying it with alcohol the bees were still mad and another got onto my shirt and stung me through it. I decided to leave them to calm down and come back out just before the sun set to get the last panel on.

Once inside the house, I discovered that a bee had hitched a ride on my hair and was now in the kitchen. I managed to catch her with a drinking glass and a towel and took her back outside so she could go home. I'm glad she was the only one!

I just managed to get that last panel on. As expected, when I went back out there were no longer bees crowding the entrance and I was able to tuck them in nicely. Fingers crossed until the spring!

Monday, October 22, 2018

I Bake Because I Love You

The youngerchild takes Latin. Last year the fun project was gladiatorial combat using cardboard armor (and weapons) that was graded on its period accuracy. This year, they will be escaping Pompeii, or trying to, during the volcanic eruption.

Snacks for the class were optional.

Originally the youngerchild asked for Lava cakes but we realized they needed to be baked and served immediately. That wouldn't do. Then we discussed cupcakes with lava colored filling. That led to the inevitable...cream puffs with lava colored filling.

Here's what I know - 1. I am terribly out of practice. 2. One full batch of pate a choux makes a whole lot of cream puffs. And swan bodies (I'm freezing those, thinking about Thanksgiving which is not that far away). 3. My hands aren't as strong as they were while I was in culinary school (see #1, above). 4. Swan heads don't need to be baked for 20 minutes, 15 minutes will do (the first batch burned, whoops!). 5. I have clearly forgotten how to make fondant topping. I did manage to save it after it broke, just barely, and half a batch is just enough for 3 dozen cream puffs. 6. I'm dreading starting my new kitchen and desperate for it at the same time.

Anyway, here are the lava puffs. And I'm exhausted. They literally took all day.

I love you, kiddo.