Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Snowy Pi Day

This year, for Pi Day, I was prepared. I bought some pears before the snowstorm and today, with the help of the elderchild, made a maple pear pie. After slicing the pears, I let them sit with 1/2 cup sugar while we made the crust. Then I drained the pears and boiled the juice with some maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch to thicken it. This was mixed back with the pears before filling the pie crust. Here's the finished pie.
Note the vents - the elderchild carved at least 11 digits of π into the crust!
We had some of our neighbors over to enjoy it with us, and it was terrific! Also I made a raspberry tart with the rest of the crust; that was an afternoon snack.

In addition to all that, while the storm was dumping eight inches of snow, and then rain, on us, I made a gallon of yogurt, a batch of cornbread, a batch of chili, and also did a whole bunch of laundry. Oh, yeah, and last night I made bread. All sorts of lovely food!

Sunday, March 12, 2017


Before the onslaught of illness, we were supposed to have dinner with friends at their house. I planned to make profiteroles, which are pate a choux puffs filled with ice cream and then topped with some sort of chocolate sauce. I made them, and then they hung out in the freezer until we finally all got well enough to reschedule.

I wasn't sure how my oven would deal with pate a choux. It's not well sealed, and loses heat all the time, and I was afraid it would lose the moisture created in the first half of the baking process. Thankfully, it didn't, and I got 20 puffs made without much fuss. I used the rest of the pate a choux batter to make gougères by mixing in shredded cheese and some mustard and scooping the batter onto a baking sheet. These were amazing and got consumed within a few hours. Yum.

The next step was making rose flavored ice cream, just like I did for class a year ago. A custard base, with rose water added, then that rested in the fridge for a day. After that I churned it in the ice cream maker and, while it was still soft, piped it into the puffs. I know this isn't the usual way to do this, but I thought it might be interesting to have them filled this way. It did work out, although I had to move quickly to keep from being covered in melty rose-flavored ice cream!

These then lived in the freezer in an airtight container until last night. To top them off, I made a saffron-white chocolate ganache, with 4 ounces of white chocolate, 4 ounces of cream, a little butter, and a generous pinch of saffron (added after the cream was heated, before being added to the chocolate). By the time we got to dessert the ganache was the perfect pouring consistency. I also brought chocolate fudge sauce because I wasn't sure how the kids would like the saffron. We ended up all trying both. I think the saffron ganache was the better choice!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Comfort Foods, Again

There has been an unbroken circle of illness going around the house over the past two weeks. So much so that a lot of our plans have completely gone out the window. Such is winter, I guess.

Anyway, yesterday to ease unsettled tummies, I made chicken noodle soup. Actually, I made chicken and goose noodle soup, as I found both chicken and goose bones in the freezer. This won't be canned as it's needed now.

Today I made "kitchen sink cookies," meaning chocolate chip cookies but with anything and everything in them. Some of the things I'd been hoping to add had gone bad, including pretzels (really? yes, pretzels can apparently go bad) and peanuts, so here's what was in them: mini chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, coarsely chopped almonds, coconut flakes, craisins, raisins, and mini marshmallows. I should try to remember not to bake with marshmallows. They melt and caramelize before anything else bakes.

However, having a weekend in which I am stuck in the house helped me finish another project. Mocha, our rabbit, has a problem with textiles. By that I mean he finds some of them irresistible. So about a month ago my husband recovered the window seat. I took the leftover fabric, bought a contrasting but complementary fabric, some trim, and a few pillow forms and, very slowly, made replacement pillows. I finally got them all done today.

Just don't look too closely at the seams!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I Hope This Won't Mess Them Up

You might have heard, it's been unseasonably warm in Massachusetts so far. Today it was 65 degrees, last week it was in the 70's. And the bees have, thus far, survived the winter. Today I went out and had a peek.

I saw bees flying in with pollen, although I have no idea from what! (Maybe maples and crocuses?) Which implies that there is some sort of nectar somewhere. And I saw capped honey still so there may be some for me to take next month. Or later this month, if it stays warm. My plan to not feed them fondant this past winter seems to have worked out. There were no guarantees it would, but I think overall it was a mild enough winter.

Since January I've been taking a beekeeping class which has been a nice review for some of the things I already knew and I'm learning a bit more. One of the things I wanted to learn was the terminology and use of a Langstroth hive. Not that I'm going to get one, but when beekeepers talk about how to tend to a hive, they use Langstroth jargon and I don't always know how to extrapolate to my top bar hive. Now I have a bit of a better idea. I also have a connection with a top bar beekeeper who has said I can call him if I need help. I may tap him when I want to try to split my colony this year so I can figure out how to do it properly.

Here's wishing for a year without drought, and maybe I'll finally see what my hive can do under proper conditions.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Birthday, Mom

So my Mom had a birthday and I decided I would make her a cake. It took three days, if you consider I made the cake and then froze it for a day until I could do the rest. One of my favorite cakes from school was a white genoise cake with strawberries and kirsch flavored mousseline. I decided to make it with a chocolate genoise instead. The genoise was easy. (I used half of the recipe in the text, and that made enough for one cake. Perfect.) The rest used every pot I had: kirsch flavored syrup to soak the cake, pastry cream and buttercream for the mousseline. Here's the sink when I was done with all that:
I then chilled the cake and yesterday morning removed the ring (using the torch) and then decorated the top with more berries and a little chocolate. Then glazed the berries using apricot glaze mixed with a little strawberry jam.

Mom was pleased. 
I also brought the last baguette to their house and made garlic bread with it for dinner. It was phenomenal.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Blizzard and Baking

The other day we had a blizzard, dropping about 15 inches of snow on our area. After spending a few hours at work (I went REALLY early so I could be done before the worst of the snow started) I tried a second time to make baguettes. This time, I used a recipe from one of my culinary school pals but I used the school method of folding the dough every hour to build up the air pockets. I was also much more careful about overproofing. I may, in fact, have underproofed slightly but that is less of a problem in this case.
My friend has a different method for folding the dough and I'm going to try that next time and compare. Instead of the dough being flat, it's kept round and then the sides are folded up and over like flower petals. It'll be interesting to compare.

Last night another friend came over and we had the bread with my homemade paté, some cheeses, and a really terrific artichoke spread she brought with her. The bread sliced easily and had some nice air pockets but didn't have quite the crumb I was looking for. This is why I want to try the other method and see what I get.

I have another project I've been working on, but I won't be done with that one until later today and then I'll see how it all looks....

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Valentine Linzer Cookies

With Valentine's Day coming up, I needed to make some cookies for the kids. Thankfully, shortbread-type cookies work just fine in my oven and that's exactly what Linzer cookies are. I made them without almond flour so they were just regular flour, butter, sugar and egg yolks. I cut my recipe into a third and that made 22 cookies. I suppose could have made them smaller, but these felt just right.

The filling is strawberry lavender jam from my stash. Half are being frozen for now and the other half can be eaten in the next few days. Yum!