Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Just Too Much

Have you ever had so much to do you didn't know where to begin?

Yes, of course you have. Well, it's been happening to me lately, which is part of why I haven't done a whole lot of cooking or canning projects. Sometimes, being busy is a good thing. It gets you going in the morning, out the door, and then it's easier to run your errands and get things done because you're already past that inertia. Sometimes, you either have more than that or just slightly less, at which point the path of least resistance is to sit on the couch and play video games and justify that you'll do that thing tomorrow. Over and over again.

So much so that I let an entire bag of Meyer lemons go bad because I kept putting off making curd. That I haven't even planned our summer vacation. That I have to be reminded to do the things I said I do. This is not like me.

Therefore, when I saw that apricots were on sale today I took that as an opportunity and bought a whole bunch. Enough to make a batch of apricot jam and a batch of apricot ginger jam. (I had fresh ginger in the house because I planned to make something with it and, you guessed it, never got around to it.) I'm hoping the apricot ginger jam is fair-worthy and I'll set two jars aside.

Maybe this is the kick I need to get moving. I certainly hope so.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Latest Projects, Frozen and Fresh

Yesterday, partly because it was Saturday and partly because my husband had just returned on a red-eye flight, no one really felt motivated to do anything. Sure, we went for a walk in the park, and did some chores, and I mowed the lawn, but no one had the energy for the grocery store. So I raided the freezer for dinner...

I took some garlic scape pesto and bittercress pesto and mixed them together with a little heavy cream, to make a sauce. There were portobello ravioli and butternut squash ravioli; I thought the pesto would go better with the portobellos. The youngerchild, not being a fan of mushrooms (or squash, for that matter) got steamed pork buns instead. It was a successful meal, and I even used the pesto sauce to dress up the plate for the buns. Just because it came from the freezer doesn't mean it can't look pretty!
Part of the reason I was tired yesterday was I spent a fair amount of time making brioche dough and pastry cream in anticipation of making cinnamon rolls this morning. The brioche dough, after it's fermentation, is refrigerated overnight to develop flavor. This morning I rolled it out, spread the pastry cream on it, added cinnamon, rolled them up and voilá:

Friday, May 5, 2017

Out of Practice

Preparing the Violet Infusion
Today I made the first batch of jelly for the season - violets. I'm really out of practice. I don't think I've canned anything for quite a while. The violets came from my yard, they finally bounced back from the landscaping work we did in the front of the house. It still took 4 separate gatherings to get enough violet infusion to make jelly.

Four cups of infusion, 1/2 cup of strained lemon juice, a box of powdered pectin and five cups of sugar. Yield: 12 4-oz jars of violet jelly plus some in the fridge for now. The youngerchild will be pleased.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Belated Birthday Cake Post

The youngerchild turned 12 the other day and we had a little party with the extended family. I hadn't made a cheesecake in a while, and that is what the youngerchild chose when given the option, so I made a NY style cheesecake with a chocolate graham cracker crust. However, that wasn't enough chocolate, so I made a little ganache and topped the cheesecake with the ganache and then sliced strawberries. While the cheesecake didn't crack as much as the one I made in school last year, it did crack a little, so the ganache did a nice job of hiding that.

Another New Skill

Two days ago I learned how to make soap. I have a couple of friends who make soap, one of whom sells her products. I had saved up some beeswax and honey for her and brought it over so we could make soap together.

First of all, apparently beeswax isn't the best ingredient for soap, at least not in large quantities. A quick web search suggested only 1-2% of the total oil weight should be beeswax so we used... 10g. And it was a challenge to melt it and incorporate it into the mix.

My friend showed me how to calculate the lye content, make the lye water, and measure out the oils. What we decided to do was to hold some of the water back, boil it, and use it to melt the beeswax. It sort of worked, but the minute we added it back in the wax would solidify so there were tiny little flecks of beeswax in the soap. I still think it worked reasonably well.

She wanted to make a soap with layers, so first we made the basic soap, which is white. She used palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil and that little bit of beeswax. When you mix in the lye and whisk and whisk, it turns white (begins the process of saponification). After we added the scents (lavender with a little rosemary) she divided it into three portions. To the second portion we added about a tablespoon of honey and the tiniest bit of turmeric. To the third, about a teaspoon of turmeric.

We poured the soaps one at a time into the molds, trying to keep the layers level in between. Then they sat, wrapped in towels, in an insulated bag, for two days. Today I picked up my oblong of soap, which looks beautiful, and cut it into eight bars. These will now sit for a month to finish the process of saponification and become lovely little bars of soap. They smell divine.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Treats

In the few days leading up to today, I was busy with work but also with baking. First, as a lunch box treat, I made Easter-themed Linzer cookies. In order to do this, I needed to get tiny little cookie cutters. Even with them being so small, the cookies needed to be a fairly large size to accommodate the challenges of asymmetric cut outs. Many of the rabbits broke, but here are some of the ones that made it:
The fillings were blueberry jam and strawberry lavender jam.

Today, in between Easter baskets, video games, an egg hunt and a walk to the grocery store, I made Puits D'amour (wells of love) out of quick puff pastry (butter, flour, salt and water, folded and rolled many times), lemon curd and meringue. Since they ended up being more oval than round, I took that as serendipity. They are egg shaped, after all.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Now I'm REALLY Confused

Today is a gorgeous, warm day, and I headed out to clean the hive up and get it tucked away. After all, the bees were dead, right?

Wrong.

I found the queen, still alive and kicking, with maybe 200 bees. Not enough to start a colony, I don't think. There was no evidence of any new brood. There was a LOT of honey. I decided to organize the hive a bit and removed all the burr comb, cross comb, and otherwise shaggy looking comb. I took some but not all of the honey. The bees even fanned a bit to let the rest know where the queen was. I tucked them all back in.

And then I contacted my mentor, who told me that was the right thing to do. Either they'll make it or they won't. He suggested I could get a new package and install them but I don't think I have the energy right now to make that happen. I'm going to let nature take its course.

Meanwhile, I'm busy extracting honey and rendering beeswax. And scratching my head at the tenacity of my hive.