Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Branching Out

For a little while now I've been playing with uses for my beeswax. I did order a new colony of bees for next spring but in the interim I had a bunch of wax left over from the previous clean out. After making soap that one time with my friend I decided that soap was too much work for me to only make it once in a while. Lip balms, on the other hand, are rather easy. You melt the beeswax over a double boiler with some other oils, add scent, and pipe into lip balm tubes. I have a hand carved wooden spoon that doesn't mind being dipped into these mixtures and that makes it simple.

I did need to get some supplies, like a filling kit, extra tubes, some label paper for my printer and various essential oils. Researching on the internet yielded three different recipes - some with honey and some without. Each one had beeswax, some had coconut oil, some almond oil, some shea butter. So I experimented and I decided the recipe I liked best was this one with the coconut and almond oils. It has the nicest texture and the nice part is you can use different essential oils. For the record it makes about 20-21 5-ml tubes. Thus far, I've made the following batches: Myrrh and Palmarosa (smells like roses), Lavender, Peppermint, Honey Lemon, and Honey Lemon Mint.

The next part was coming up with a label that worked and my husband encouraged me to draw my own bee for the logo rather than use a clip art one. That way, if I trademark the logo it's original. Each type of lip balm has the bee colored in with different sharpies to represent the scent. And since my labels don't seal the cap onto the tube, I use washi tape to finish the seal. I purchased a bunch of washi tape with two different bee designs. I think they're stinkin' cute. Don't you?
Most will be given away as gifts, although I did sell some to a realtor friend who will used them for client gifts. I'm almost out of beeswax now but hopefully when I have more in the future I can make more!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Taking Notes as I Go

Yesterday I made a cake for a bake-off at my husband's workplace. It's a fundraiser, with proceeds going to fight malaria. I'm used it as an opportunity to test out a recipe combination I wanted to try. After my success making a Smith Island cake, I thought it would be fun to make a Brazilian carrot cake version to enter in next year's fair. This is my first chance to try out my concept.

First I made the batter for the cake:

Carrots (3 large or 5 medium or 7 small)
1 cup oil
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
dash of salt
1 heaping tsp. baking powder

Blend the carrots, oil and eggs in a blender and then mix in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Weighing this out (the cake layers each need 200g) yielded only 6 layers. For future reference, make 1.5 batches to get 8-9 layers of cake. Other things to note: bake at 350 for 13 minutes per 2 layers. I had a few technical difficulties here, with my oven mitt gouging one of the layers (I'm using it anyway, I plan to fill up the hole with chocolate) and another layer getting stuck on one side because I didn't have enough baking spray.

Next, the fudge frosting: 

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
10 T. butter at room temperature

Heat the cream, sugar and vanilla and pour over the chocolate. Whisk until melted and smooth. Add the butter and whisk until smooth. Chill for about an hour and the use to frost the cake.

The cake chilled overnight and was taken in today for the fundraiser. I suspect I won't win the bake-off but my cake did seem to get a fair number of votes at least! Here's a photo of it being served:

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Celebration!

It's not often we do our Thanksgiving dinner on the actual day. Usually I have to work and we have our celebration on a different day. Not this year!

Here's what was on the menu:

Roast goose. I followed Hank Shaw's instructions from Duck, Duck, Goose, removing the breasts halfway through the cooking and then searing them at the end. This was more work than I anticipated and I think it came out too tough. Not the recipe's fault, maybe mine? Anyway, for the price of a fresh farm raised goose I think it will be easier to stick with a smaller turkey. The gravy that is made from the giblets is pretty tasty, though.

Stuffing, topped with goose fat before reheating. Cranberry sauce which I made the other day.

Mashed potatoes, made by my husband. Sweet potatoes and marshmallows, made by my mom. She also made a Brussels sprouts and grape dish that was pretty good, so says those of us who like Brussels sprouts.

Pumpkin bread, made by my sister-in-law, and brioche dinner rolls, made by me. I made the dough last night and refrigerated it until this morning when I got up early and shaped a dozen dinner rolls. I haven't made brioche in ages!

Lastly, the pies. I had a pumpkin pie and that fabulous apple pie I made yesterday. The cornstarch worked perfectly, the crust was flaky and light, and not having a solid top crust wasn't a problem at all. I topped the pie with homemade caramel sauce which I made this morning and then there was ice cream and whipped cream because what's a pie without one or the other?

So from me to all of you, Happy Thanksgiving and may your table always overflow with lovely homemade food!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Vision = Reality


I've been trying for a while now to get a particular look for my apple pies. I want them to look autumny. Like piles of fallen leaves. I want them to evoke that nip in the air that screams snow is coming and still look tasty enough to eat. It's Thanksgiving, and I want my pie to be perfect.

Here is a list of the things I tweaked for today's pie:

1. I used my smaller (new) pie plate so only 6 apples.
2. Therefore, I dropped the sugar to 3/4 cup.
3. I added 2 T. of cornstarch to the sugar because I'm tired of my pies being runny.
4. No top crust - I covered the apples with cut outs of leaves and acorns, all scored with a knife, and tossed randomly but strategically onto the pie.
5. I used an egg-milk wash rather than milk and sugar.
6. The pie was baked uncovered first, and then covered for the second half of the baking process.

Not very scientific of me, but I can probably trace each alteration to a specific result and therefore I should be able to figure out which of these I should do again.

Regardless. I am happy.

Monday, November 20, 2017

That Time of Year

This is the time of the year where I do a lot of cooking but not a lot of noteworthy things and very few canning projects. I've been making bread, and granola, and cooking pretty basic meals. It's a busy time with school and work and travel. However, Thanksgiving will be upon us shortly and I need to get ready.

First of all, no turkey this year. There will only be six of us, so I'm splurging on a goose (they are surprisingly expensive compared to turkeys). We're also cutting back on the sides: no squash and no beets. Mom will make the sweet potatoes and some new brussels sprouts and grape dish (I'm intrigued) in the place of the broccoli. I will make gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and the pies. Those I'll start tomorrow, although yesterday I roasted the sugar pumpkin and got 6 cups of purée. I froze 3 cups for a later batch of pies and have 3 cups waiting for tomorrow. This morning I made the stuffing; since I won't be stuffing the goose it's just in a dish to be heated up at the last minute. I used leeks and duck stock instead of the usual onions and turkey stock, so it'll fit with the flavors of the goose a little better. I have pumpkin bread in the freezer which I'll thaw.

One other thing I plan to do - on Wednesday I'll make brioche dough and refrigerate it overnight. Then on Thursday morning I can make brioche dinner rolls. Whatever doesn't get eaten can become bread pudding later on.

This morning I'm tapping into my cranberry reserve and making cranberry sauce. Just 8 cups of cranberries, 2-2/3 cups water and 2-2/3 cups sugar. I'll be canning whatever I don't need for Thursday as I've been out of cranberry sauce for a while. Never fear, I still have at least 4 bags of cranberries in the freezer!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Autumn Baking Problems

These hazelnut shortbread cookies do not look like acorns.
They are supposed to. I followed the recipe exactly. I'm not even going to link to it because it didn't work properly. I was able to salvage them by sandwiching the smaller ones with ganache, dipping them all in dark chocolate, and sprinkling them with fleur de sel. Like so:
They are crispy and light, but they aren't what I was going for. And they aren't acorns.

Today I tried again, using a linzer cookie recipe and adding in some hazelnut flour instead of almond flour. They're not dipped in chocolate yet but...do they look like acorns?
Yes. And they taste fabulous.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Labor of Love

For the elderchild's birthday I wanted to make a cake out of my new book, Marbled, Swirled, and Layered which I had received from my sister. I gave the elderchild a choice of two recipes and the orange flavored Smith Island Cake was chosen. I've never made one before and, aside from it taking all morning, it wasn't too difficult.

First one has to make all the thin little layers. This would have gone faster if I had four 9-inch cake pans. Instead, I have two 9-inch cake pans and...two 8.5-inch cake pans. That would not do! So instead of baking four of the eight layers at once I had to bake two at a time and each baking and cooling cycle takes about 20 minutes. Also, the cake is a separated sponge so I used up basically every bowl and utensil I have, including the stand mixer.

The fudge frosting is basically ganache, and chills for an hour before frosting the cake. No crises occurred with the frosting part, thankfully.

Here's the finished cake, after we dug into it. It was perfect - not overly sweet, and the orange really stood out.