Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Reliable

Once again, I have been conscripted to help make a food for a school project. See, the youngerchild knows that whatever I'm asked to help with, I'll probably find a way to make it. Case in point, the lava puffs for Latin class last fall. A few years ago we made an ancient Greek sweet with honey and cherries. Tonight, I was asked to help make some sort of ancient Roman sweet for Latin class.

We found a recipe for globuli, which is fried curd cheese soaked in honey. I bought a pound of ricotta and a pound of farmer's cheese which we mixed together and then added semolina flour. This had to sit for a few hours so, after dinner, I scooped portions of this dough into the youngerchild's hands so they could be rolled into "cheese orbs." Then they were deep fried in olive oil, drained, and the youngerchild rolled them in honey until they were coated.

After they cooled we tried a sample. They're pretty good. I suspect they should be soaked more deeply in the honey but since we don't really know what they're supposed to taste like I guess that will do.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Two Hives Again

One of the issues I have with these top bar hives is that when the colony expands, they have no place to go but to leave. With a Langstroth I'd be able to tack on another box and give them room so they'd be less likely to swarm. I've been looking into a Langstroth setup, as it might make things easier in the long run but, for now, I have these two top bar hives.

When I checked on Beeyoncé's hive today it was FULL. Brood, honey, everything. The colony had moved all the way to the back and was starting to make swarm cells. I was prepared for this, however, so I moved the combs with the swarm cells and some honey comb into the other hive. I did not see Beeyoncé, which always worries me a bit when I do this, because I am afraid that if I move her into the other hive by accident I'll mess up the dynamic. I looked at each comb I sent over as carefully as possible and didn't see her, but I didn't see her on the ones that were left, either. It's quite possible I just missed her as there were SO MANY BEES.

I plan to leave them alone for the next few weeks and will check on them towards the end of the month. By then I should know if they're both queened and doing OK.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Experiments With Legion

Generally when I use Legion to make bread, I use all purpose flour and sugar because the youngerchild prefers this bread for sandwiches and is less of a fan of whole wheat. However, I had a few egg yolks lying around from another project and also found a white whole wheat flour I wanted to try. So I used that flour - the mix was about 2 parts whole wheat flour and 1 part all purpose flour. The sugar was the same. I did toss in the egg yolks (3) and adjusted the water accordingly. In general, I have been trying to add more water because I find that the final product is softer. My batch always makes 3 loaves.

The bread came out a light brown, the color of raw sugar, rather than the really dark whole wheat or the regular white; this is likely due to the flour choice. The crumb was also a bit softer, which I attribute to the egg yolks. We ate almost an entire loaf while it was still warm. YUM.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Her Royal Highness

Today was finally the right combination of: warm, sunny, I had no place to be urgently, and I could wash my hair and not put my styling products in (I have come to the conclusion it smells to the hive like their alarm pheromones. It's not a good scene when a bee is STUCK IN YOUR HAIR. Which has happened more often than I care to admit. Sometimes, I am a slow learner). Finally I could inspect Beeyoncé's hive.

Back when I removed the insulation panels, I had put in some comb from the other hive that was empty. It has been well used, with honey stores being formed in the back of the hive and a ton of new brood. Lots and lots of both worker and drone cells. As I moved forward in the hive I found some larvae and, finally, Queen B herself. Everything seems fine for now, but it does feel a little crowded in there. I'll have to get back out there soon to make sure they're not getting ready for a swarm. So far, I didn't see any queen cells. There is also a little cross-combing going on which, if I have to split the hive, I can remedy.

I am still pondering whether this is the right hive setup for me. At some point, I would like to get some honey and maybe, with a modular hive like a Langstroth, I could accommodate the changes in population better. I have no idea how to convert an existing colony from a top bar hive to a Langstroth and I'd also have to get a bunch of new equipment. For now, I will continue to ponder.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Bees and Birthdays

The youngerchild had a birthday, and there were many parties, as usual, as we spent time with each set of grandparents. For the one where I wasn't baking in my own home, I made red velvet cupcakes (from a MIX, what were you thinking, mom?) with chocolate cream cheese frosting. I have to say I wasn't too happy with the frosting, and we tried to find Pop Rocks to sprinkle on the top but couldn't. We resorted to Nerds, which were OK, but not Pop Rocks.
Back at home, the youngerchild specifically requested a Brazilian Carrot Smith Island cake. I guess that's my specialty now. The chocolate fudge icing was so strong I couldn't taste the cake part at all!

Now on to the bees - it's been warm but I've not had enough time to get into the healthy hive (Beeyoncé's) and move the false back to give them room. It's supposed to rain today but I jumped in quickly and did get the insulation panels off, the false back moved, the candy board taken out, and I moved over some of the empty comb left from Phoebee's hive so they wouldn't have to do any significant work. I did not inspect, given they were all in there I decided to leave them alone and pick a different, sunnier and warmer day to inspect. At least now they have more space.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Farewell, Phoebee

In the late fall, when I put the insulation panels on the hives, Phoebee's colony was a little aggressive. I had fed it as often as possible during the late summer and fall, and even put in a candy board when I sealed it up for the winter. I hoped that would be enough. Beeyoncé's hive got the same treatment. A few weeks ago I peeked in both windows and didn't see any activity in Phoebee's hive. I figured I'd lost them. Then, on a warm day, I saw bees orienting around the hive entrance so I guessed I was incorrect and maybe they were just collecting on the warmer side of the hive. Sadly, since then there has been no activity and today I confirmed that my original interpretation was correct. Phoebe's hive was gone.

In the hive I found evidence of a new brood that just never really made it out of their cells. All the bees were dead. I might have even found Phoebee; I definitely found a bee that looked more like a queen than a worker bee. And there was NOTHING in the combs. No honey, no pollen, no capped cells, no larvae. Nada. No signs of disease, either.

So now the hive is cleaned out with a lot of starter comb which I might use to replace any combs I take from Beeyoncé's hive once I harvest some honey this spring. I decided to leave them alone for a little longer, it's only been in the 60's for 2 days and I want to give them more time before I go in there, remove the insulation panels, and set them up for the spring.

It's possible Beeyoncé's hive might split again, and then I'll have a place for them. We'll see.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Chocolate-Orange Marbled Cake

Guess what! It's birthday time again. And, as usual, my husband's cake needed to be chocolate. But what else? I consulted the elderchild who suggested orange. After tossing a few ideas around (chocolate-orange mousse filling?) I settled on a marbled cake. I warned my husband I was making it up and got to work.

First I made two batters: Orange cake, from this recipe, but I scaled it down to 2/3 of the recipe. And I made half of my usual sour cream chocolate cake recipe. Then I spooned everything into two cake pans and swirled them with a knife.

Since I wasn't sure how long they'd need to bake I checked on them frequently. Ultimately they baked for 35 minutes. After they cooled, I made ganache: 10 oz of cream, 10 oz of 60% chocolate (bittersweet), 2 T. butter.

Once everything was cooled and the ganache was the correct consistency, I assembled the cake. Since the layers were very rounded on the top I cut off the excess on one layer and that became the bottom. I used ganache and orange zest between the layers and then put the intact, rounded layer on the top. Then I poured the rest of the ganache and allowed it to enrobe the cake. I topped it with more orange zest and then some orange curls - I used a peeler to get strips of zest and curled them on a chopstick before placing them on top.

One thing I should not have done - refrigerate the cake. Unfortunately, the ganache cracked slightly. But not too bad.

This experiment was a success! After a birthday outing to an escape room, we had take-out Chinese dumplings and then, cake!