Thursday, July 9, 2020

Purslane

For weeks now, at the farm share I've been eyeing the purslane that is growing like, well, a weed, in the kale patch. Last week they said we could pick it, but I didn't have time. This week I planned for it and picked about half a pound of it. It's ubiquitous and does well as a ground cover in between crops. I had pickled some once before but couldn't find the recipe so I made this one instead. I used a mixture of white, cider and rice wine vinegar because I didn't have enough of the cider vinegar for a double batch. Also, the dill at the farm is fully in flower and that's perfect for making pickles as a few flower heads per jar works better than dill seeds.

In the share was the beginning of a cucumber crop and, with a couple of cucumbers from my patio garden, I made one pint of dill pickles that I didn't process in the canner. Instead, I'm treating them as refrigerator pickles, just like the purslane. I'll let them sit for a week before tasting them. I'm sure there will be more cucumbers in the next share and maybe I'll plan to make bread and butter pickles then. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Farm Share Mixed Radish Pickle

The farm share always has radishes and Hakurei turnips the first few weeks and, since I'm the only one who likes radishes, even with just half the share they build up. (Note to self, they are not great on pizza.) But last week also had small Daikon radishes so I thought to mix all 3 into a quick radish pickle using rice wine vinegar and ginger. This is a recipe in Preserving by the Pint which I've made before, just not with all kinds of radish/turnip at once. They made exactly 1 pint, good for sandwiches and salads.

Another thing I had in abundance was fava beans so following another recipe in Preserving by the Pint, I made a fava-parsley-walnut pesto, using foraged black walnuts instead of regular ones. This made over 2 cups of pesto; I froze one cup, and baked chicken breasts coated with some of the rest. All of us ate it, some of us liked it. The rest were just very polite. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Wonton Soup

Wontons before simmering
After making dumplings a while ago I still had some of the filling in the freezer and another package of wonton wrappers. So last night I made wonton soup, using this recipe. I doubled it but used half stock (Ducken, I have only 1 jar left!) and half water. Also, since I didn't have scallions, I used garlic scapes. And I added noodles because I wanted to make sure everyone had enough to eat. It is very easy and very good.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Mulberry Jelly and Oat Milk

One of the things we have been trying is oat milk, for various reasons. It's not bad. But it can be expensive. So I thought I'd try to make it myself, which is easy, except for the straining part. Basically, you blend 4 cups of water and 1 cup of oats in a blender and strain it. I'm using my jelly bag. The hard part is that the pulp blocks the fluid from draining through the bag so I'm stirring it every so often to get it out of the way. The disadvantage of doing it at home is that it isn't calcium fortified but we can make more of an effort to get our calcium in other ways, I suppose. I am now thinking of things to do with the leftover pulp, once it has been dried. Maybe granola bars?

Also this morning, I made mulberry jelly with 4 cups of mulberry juice, 3 T. lime juice, 5 cups of sugar and a box of pectin. This made 7.5 cups of jelly. Now the birds can have all the berries on the tree they want!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

So Many Strawberries!

Last night I made strawberry shortcake with a quart of the berries we'd picked the day before. It's always popular and because we eat it so quickly it's hard to get a photo. This time I remembered to take one before we ate. We got another quart of berries from the farm share today which are already mostly gone!

My mulberry tree is really doing well this year and just today I got half of the mulberry juice I need to make a batch of mulberry jelly. I will likely do that over the weekend as I am working tomorrow.

Today I'm making bread. I managed to (finally) find bread flour in the stores again, and so now I'm making plain bread, just bread flour and all purpose flour, my starter, salt, sugar, milk and water. No teff, or spelt, or sprouted wheat flour (although I quite like that last one). Instead of an egg wash, I'm using water sprayed on just before baking. I did forget to get it started last night, which would have allowed it to ferment overnight and for me to be done much earlier. I woke up this morning, remembered that I hadn't made the dough last night, got it started by 8 am, so it's had all day to ferment and then about 3 hours to proof before baking. It's in the oven now. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Strawberries

Sometimes, when I'm berry picking, I can get into a meditative state, with the methodical picking helping me think about other things. Today I didn't have that experience. It seems that the pandemic has created an extra layer of anxiety over all things. Trying to pick berries and stay away from other people, when all of us would like to be oblivious and just focus on picking, is not too hard, but it does take some of the fun out of it.

Hey, at least the berry farm opened. We did not, however, visit the rabbits in their pen.

Once home, I made two batches of strawberry jam without added pectin. The peach jam last year was so much better without the added pectin I decided that maybe this year I should go for quality, not quantity. I'm not sure if the fair is happening this year, we still have time, but I'm going to focus on the things my family wants to eat and not on what makes a good fair entry. They are not always the same.

Anyway, these two batches made 15 half-pint jars of jam. Just strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Mmm.

The family did nix my idea of adding dill to one of the batches. I suppose it's for the best.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Ancient Grains

In my continued effort to make bread while bread flour is hard to find, I decided to play around with other grain flours I have found in the store. A little while ago I picked up some teff, knowing nothing about it. I made a batch of bread today with it; proportionately it was 1/6 of the flour and the rest was bread flour.

One of the things I did not realize about teff is that it is gluten-free. Which explains a lot. The dough was softer, and wetter, and while it baked very nicely I had a harder time getting the loaves out of the loaf pans because the loaves were less firm. The taste of the bread is interesting, though. Teff is used to make injera, Ethiopian flatbread which is fermented and has a sour taste. I'm not sure if the sourness to my bread is from the teff or the starter but it does have a more complex taste than usual. It's quite good.

In terms of texture, I think I like the bread made with spelt better, but likely that is because spelt has gluten in it. I have buckwheat flour, too, so I might play with that as well.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Recap and a Bee Check

The last time I checked on the bees, about 3 weeks ago, they were doing fine and starting to fill up all the frames with comb. I gave them a little extra time before this check, mainly because it's been overcast or rainy most days I had time to go see them. Today was a better day weather-wise and I had time so I went out to inspect them plus I brought the second brood box back out. It's a good thing I did, there was plenty of brood, honey in the frames on the sides of the colony, and it was time to add that second box. I did see Alcibee, and she seemed fine.

On my way back from the side yard I discovered poison ivy growing in my yard! Taking advantage that I was still in my bee suit and gloves, I pulled it out, hopefully getting enough of the vines as well to get rid of it but likely I'll have to keep a close eye on that area in the future. We're all so sensitive to it so I'm glad I saw it before I ended up in it by accident.

Otherwise, I've been baking a little, making bread when we need it, and yesterday I made a batch of flan to celebrate the youngerchild ending school for the year. Nothing too exciting for now, which is probably a good thing. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Daifuku

My rice flour finally arrived from Amazon so I spent a little time today making daifuku: red bean filled mochi balls.

You make the mochi by cooking rice flour with sugar and water and this can be done in the microwave or by steaming the mochi.

I probably rolled the mochi a little too thinly because I made 18 balls, not 12 as the recipe indicated. The difference is visible in the picture: the ones that are darker have a thinner mochi layer and the others were made after I rolled out the scraps again and so were thicker. The thicker layer is desired. Even so, they're easy and tasty!

I also made another batch of the Anpan today using the sourdough starter again. I still need to figure out how to get them to fluff more when they're baking. Today's batch was proofed for an hour, the recipe suggests half that time but I'm thinking they might even need to be proofed for longer. I still have plenty of red bean paste so I'll try again another time. 

Graduation Party

The elderchild graduated from high school yesterday. Given the whole pandemic thing, it's a bittersweet time. The Dean of Students made a special drive out to deliver the diploma in person, about 600 miles each way. We had a small picnic in the backyard with the Dean and her daughter to celebrate. Socially distancing as best we could, of course!

I made lasagna, which is always a little different each time I make it, but the basics are the same: make a sauce with ground meat (lately it has been turkey), sautéed onions, and a jar of marinara sauce, make a box of noodles, mix 1 large tub of ricotta with 3 eggs, salt, pepper, basil and oregano, and layer all this with shredded mozzarella. Bake at 350 or 375 until it's done.

We also had a quick fruit salad and, for dessert, peach mousse cupcakes!

The cupcakes themselves were the easy part: white cake cupcakes. I was also making some for a friend who also has a graduate to celebrate so I made a double batch. Then I made peach mousse from this recipe, and it did NOT WORK. You're supposed to make a peach purée and add gelatin and maple syrup and then let it set and fold in whipped cream. I ended up with peach jello and the whipped cream didn't blend in. (I can't tell you how much heavy cream I've gone through in the last 3 days.) So I made it up, sort of, in that I made another peach purée with a lot less gelatin and folded the whipped cream in and filled the cupcakes. Good thing I had extra peaches. It did eventually set while the cupcakes chilled overnight. Yesterday morning I got up early and made this whipped cream frosting with mascarpone cheese. At least this worked as advertised! I tucked a little piece of peach on top of the cupcake under the frosting to add to the otherwise subtle peach flavor.

It was a lovely sunny day, not like today which is overcast and cooler and with a little rain. Congratulations, elderchild. We're so proud of you and all you have accomplished!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Anpan and Potstickers

The ones with the sesame seeds were the batch with Legion
One of the things I hoped to make with my red bean paste was Anpan, a Japanese bread with red bean paste inside. I followed this recipe and was rather worried that the yeast wasn't working properly as the buns didn't really rise much. So while they were proofing I made another batch, using Legion. I replaced the water and 50g of flour with 100g of Legion. The dough felt more elastic and definitely was easier to work with. However, the original batch, with the powdered yeast, was allowed to proof longer and that might explain the difference in size.

Both of them were fairly dense inside which, again, I attribute to not very active yeast and insufficient proofing, respectively. They still taste better than the red bean rice dumplings I made last week!

The other thing I worked on today was another batch of potstickers, using wonton wrappers this time. These made me very frustrated while I was cooking them: I fried them in oil for a few minutes then added stock and let them cook on low for another few minutes. Sometimes that worked perfectly and sometimes, well, they're not called potstickers for nothing, I guess.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Back to Experimenting

Since I've been having a little trouble getting all-purpose and bread flour, I was looking for ways to make bread without using as much bread flour. I picked up a bag of spelt flour and made a batch of bread today with that. I used 32 ounces of bread flour and 6 ounces of spelt. It looks more like when I used to make this bread with whole wheat flour but, since I'm still using milk as part of the liquid, much softer and springier. Especially when warm!

It is good, though, that I'm starting to see flour in the grocery store more often. Hopefully that is a trend that will continue.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Overboard

Or is it...over-bored?

Today I decided to finally tackle the azuki bean paste I wanted to make several years ago when I learned how to make it from a friend. I guess I bought a lot of beans because now I have about 9 cups of it in the freezer, waiting to be made into various things. My first plan is a type of sticky rice dumpling like I did before with sesame filling but this time will use red bean.

Internet searches have given me more ideas: red bean buns, taiyaki (for which I would have to buy molds), daifuku (Japanese mochi sweets), red bean cookies, ice cream, popsicles, and so on. I don't think I have enough glutinous rice flour to make a huge amount of daifuku but I plan to order some.

Making the paste is relatively easy. After boiling the beans to a mashable consistency, you add a cup of sugar per 2 cups of dry beans, and a little salt. I ended up using the immersion blender to make it smooth.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Breakfast Kuchen

Last night over dinner we were talking about European plum tortes and how there are so many variations and they all depend on local fruit. Well, I don't have any plums on hand, but it did get me thinking, and so this morning I made a peach kuchen as a variation of this recipe for a plum kuchen that uses buttermilk.

The variations were: I used all purpose flour, and I used canned peaches with ginger I made last year. So I didn't coat the peaches in butter, allspice and sugar, since they were already sugary. This did affect the bake, since they're wetter than fresh plums, so it was a little runny in the middle. I made a modified chai-spiced whipped cream (cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger) and we had nice warm cake for breakfast!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Tomato Sauce

In the ongoing effort to organize the freezers, it was time to get the bags of quartered tomatoes out from last summer. Usually I end up with about 5 gallons of tomatoes but this year it was only 3. They take up so much space, because they're bulky and heavy. It is amazing to me that each gallon, once run through the food mill and cooked down to a reasonable sauce texture, yields one pint of sauce. Makes one wonder about the sheer amount of tomatoes those big companies use to make all those cans of sauce!

These three pints are plain, not spiced in any way.

Also, I just finished baking this week's batch of bread; I added even more milk instead of water to see how soft I can make the bread and still have it be sturdy enough for sandwiches. I've been trying to get flour where I can; I have enough bread flour for 2 more batches, and I bought some spelt flour just to try something different when the bread flour runs out. I am starting to see more flour in the grocery store, but it's all purpose, not bread flour, and so I'll keep an eye out for bread flour. 

Bee Check

Yesterday the weather was good and so I did a quick inspection of the hive. I didn't add any new syrup to the feeders as it's been warm and the flowers are out so I'm hoping to allow them to take advantage of all that nectar. I did fix a little of the cross-combing that was happening, saw Alcibee, and found evidence of new brood. I'll give them a few weeks before I inspect again, and hopefully they will continue to do well. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Things in Little Pots

Today I took a break from work and made things.

Since yesterday was our anniversary and I had to work, I decided to do something special for dinner tonight. So I made flan. I've never made flan before and I have a healthy respect for caramel after getting burned trying to make caramel sauce in culinary school. That stuff is HOT. So I have always thought about making flan and then dismissed it as Too Hard. Really, it's not.

Caramel: 2 ounces sugar, 1/2 ounce water, 1/4 ounce corn syrup. Boil without stirring until it is just turning golden brown then remove from heat.

Once I had the caramel made and distributed into little ramekins, I made a simple egg custard, poured it over the caramel, and baked them in a water bath for 45 minutes at 350˚F.  They chilled in the fridge until dessert, when they were inverted over saucers. I was pleasantly surprised that they came out intact and that the sauce worked perfectly!

The other thing made in little pots today were candles. I had more of those tins I'd bought to make the moustache wax for my husband and, after a trial run in which it was clear that one wick per tin was not enough, I melted a whole lot of wax and filled the tins with lavender-lemon scented beeswax and 3 wicks per candle. I had some left over so I also made a few tea lights and one last one in an empty jar. It took a long time to melt the wax as I was using a plastic pitcher which doesn't conduct heat as well as metal or glass, and it took very little time for the wax to solidify once poured. The only other downside to the metal tins for candles is that the candles have a tendency to crack and I think it is because the metal and the wax expand at different rates when heated. Glass doesn't seem to have that problem.

Regardless, it's back to work tomorrow so no plans to do any cooking for a few days at least!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Things in Things

We had been planning for a while to make dumplings, as we all like them and they aren't easy to get right now. We discussed take out, but then decided that we could make them ourselves.

But first, breakfast! I haven't made crepes in a long time, as evidenced by the fact that my crepe mix had expired 2 years ago. I made them from scratch instead. Filled with peaches and/or nutella they were a lovely way to start the day.

This afternoon, I got to work on the dumplings. I ended up making 2 different kinds: sesame rice balls and pork and cabbage dumplings. Both recipes were from when I was assisting in a dumpling class at culinary school. I will never forget that class, especially as I had the unfortunate experience of lifting the steamer off the pot and having the bottom fall out of it, dropping all the dumplings into the boiling water or onto the floor! For the sesame ones, I made the filling by toasting sesame seeds and then grinding them with sugar and mixing them with melted bacon fat, then chilling the filling so I could handle it. The rice balls were made with glutinous rice flour, regular rice flour, and water. These were boiled and then served with a sesame dipping sauce. They were really awesome!

For the pork and cabbage dumplings, I made WAY too much filling. The wrapper recipe (2 cups flour and 6 ounces of boiling water) only made 16 dumplings. So, while those were steaming, I stir fried the rest of the filling, added turkey stock and water, and then added udon noodles so they could cook in the wok and absorb all the liquid. This, for something I just made up, worked very well. Lastly, I whipped up a dipping sauce for the pork dumplings: equal parts soy sauce and water, ginger, scallions, red pepper flakes, and sesame oil.

I probably should have pan fried the pork dumplings rather than steam them, as it would have rounded out the flavor better. But I have 8 left that I can pan fry as a way to reheat them. This ended up being more food than I intended to make but at least we have leftovers!


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Misplaced

It's pretty cold this morning; there is ice in my flowerpots. However, it was also the best morning for me to check and feed the bees. I'm glad I did. Last time I went in, I checked the queen cage, thought that Alcibee wasn't in it, and moved it above the queen excluder so the rest of the bees would eventually get off it and I could throw it away. What I apparently didn't realize was that she was actually still in there, I guess? It didn't look like her at the time. Regardless, I saw her with the rest of the bees near the feeder, above the queen excluder. She needs to be below it, so she can lay her eggs in the newly formed comb. So I very carefully nudged her into the frames below and hopefully she will settle in quickly.

Overall, I'm not sure how I feel about the excluder. Every time I put it back down it crushes some bees and gets the colony upset. (Understandable.) I might not need it if I can be sure the feeders won't hurt the frames by being directly on them. I'll try that next time. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Birthday Chocolate Bliss

About a month ago, my mother sent me a link to a recipe for Ebinger's Blackout Cake. Apparently, this was a thing she used to get when my parents lived in NY in the 60's. I read the recipe and decided it was the perfect thing for the youngerchild's birthday. I made plans.

This used: 4 of my 5 mixing bowls, both my stand mixer bowls, 3 spatulas, every measuring spoon and cup I had except for the 1/3 cup measure, several pots, 4 different kinds of chocolate, almost a pound of butter and very little flour. Which is good, because I can't find flour in the store and I'm saving as much of it as possible to make bread. Oh, and about 3 hours. And one full dishwasher load for all the bowls/pans/utensils. This is definitely a cake in which you can understand that making it in bulk quantities is easier than making just one.

I'm not really sure if there were technical difficulties. The filling wasn't completely gelled when I got it out of the fridge, but it was close, even though it leaked out a little between the layers. The frosting was also really runny, but also firmed up once it was in the fridge for a while. I moved it from a cake round to a plate, to another plate, and finally to the cake stand, all in an effort to have the edges of the plate not be drowned in chocolate.

It was a success: rich and dense and overwhelmingly filling but not overly sweet. You really can't each much at one time, though. Which is good because there is more for tomorrow!



Monday, April 20, 2020

Snow?

It snowed 2 days ago. And not just a dusting! We got 3-4 inches. Everyone was asking after the bees, so I checked them yesterday and they are just fine. I fed them, and checked that Alcibee was out of her cage (she was). I looked briefly at the frames and saw the bees were starting to make comb. I'll probably feed again on Wednesday and then check next Monday for evidence that Alcibee is laying. Meanwhile, they have definitely started to forage; I saw bees with pollen coming into the hive. All good signs, hopefully!

Friday, April 17, 2020

reduce REUSE recycle

Since I had switched to a Langstroth hive, I had two Golden Mean top bar hives plus a nuc box and all their insulation panels and equipment just taking up space in the yard, garage, and attic. It seemed silly to leave them to attract termites so I posted on the local beekeeping association message board and within minutes I had a response from someone who knew exactly what they were, had worked with the guy who makes them, and was excited to take them off my hands. In fact, she was going to put them in a nearby conservation area which happens to be one of my favorite places to walk. She didn't take the stands that my husband made for them, she said they were "too nice" and I should find a way to repurpose them. Which I will do, and will post when I have figured out something for them.

But, in order to give her the hives, I had to finally clean out all the comb and the last bit of honey that was in them. It's taken a few days to: get all the bees off them, extract the honey (about one pint, in total), and render the beeswax. I have a little more wax to render in the next few days but most of it is done. This yielded just over 13 ounces of wax. There are 2 more combs that I left next to the new hive figuring the bees could try to get whatever honey out of it that they could before I take them away and melt them down.

Two days ago I fed them more syrup, they hadn't finished the last jar so I set the new one in the hive in a way that the bees could get to both of them and stay protected; I put the second box on without any frames so it's just a covered open space with the syrup jars. On Sunday if the weather is good I'll go in there and see how they're doing. I am not supposed to get into the main body of the hive until it's been a week since I put them in so I'll get in there Monday or Tuesday and see if Alcibee is out of her cage and doing well. 

Monday, April 13, 2020

Just In Time

It's rainy, and super windy, and cold. But, it was also the day my bees were available for pick up. I went as early as I could this morning to go get them, before the wind was due to increase dramatically. I planned to keep the bees in the garage until the weather cleared tomorrow, but I was told by the beekeepers at pick up to get them in as soon as I got home, as it would be better overall for the bees. It wasn't raining, just misting, so I went for it and got them loaded into the new Langstroth hive. And then it rained. A lot!
This queen has a blue dot, and she shall be named...Alcibee. Alcibie was an Amazonian warrior in ancient Greek mythology. Long may she reign!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Feast

Today, for Easter, we pulled out all the stops. By that I mean we cooked, non-stop. All day.

See? Not cracked!
Breakfast was bacon and egg sandwiches on homemade bread, which was immediately followed by me making a NY style cheesecake for tonight's dessert. I may have finally cracked the mystery of how to keep my cheesecakes from, well, cracking. I let it get almost done, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake cool in the oven for a while. Twice in a row now I've managed to produce an uncracked cheesecake. With different recipes each time.

While that was going on, I also made bread. So as soon as the cheesecake was out, the oven was in use again, baking a milk and honey sourdough bread, 2 sandwich loaves and one round loaf for dinner.

Then, as soon as the bread came out of the oven my husband started to roast the duck for dinner. We normally only do ducks on New Years but when we ordered them we were told we had to buy the whole case, which was six ducks. Three were roasted on the holiday and the other three have been waiting in the freezer. Now we have two left, and unless I find another specialty butcher shop that will be it for a while. I'm sad to say our local butcher shop closed.

From the duck, I was able to render about 2.5 cups of fat and we have some leftover duck meat as well that maybe I'll make into pad thai as that was really great the last time.

After our feast of roast duck, fresh bread, and miso cauliflower, we put strawberry pie filling on the cheesecake and served it over a drizzle of chocolate ganache. So, so good!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Not the Right Variety

It probably comes as no surprise that my family is a little spoiled when it comes to food. Applesauce is a prime example. I haven't had to buy applesauce from a store in years. YEARS. So we became accustomed to homemade, lightly sweetened applesauce. And then, last fall when we went apple picking, I didn't make any. I really can't explain why. So I bought some honeycrisps and made a few jars of applesauce.

Recently we ran out. And had to buy it from a store. And everyone noticed the difference.

So today, in between telemedicine visits that I'm now doing from home, I made a batch of applesauce. However, I had purchased a 5 pound bag of "Apples." I am not sure what variety they are, I know they aren't Red Delicious, but maybe they're Galas? Regardless, they are not the kind that break down easily with cooking. So they took longer and definitely had to go a few passes through the food mill to get to the right texture.

Ultimately I got a batch of about 4.5 pints of applesauce, lightly sweetened with 1/2 cup maple sugar and some cinnamon. Mmm. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Savory Scones

The other day I was sent a recipe through Instagram from my elderchild with a request that I maybe make them, sometime, please? They were for Spinach, Feta and Fenugreek scones. Well, I couldn't find fenugreek leaves, but I was able to get everything else. Spinach, cilantro, feta cheese, self rising flour and then all the regular scone ingredients. Today I put them all together.

At first the dough is dry and rough but the minute you add the cheese and fresh greens it becomes almost too soft. Maybe the greens needed to be completely dry? Not sure. The instructions weren't really clear on that part. Also, I probably rolled them too thin as they didn't puff up like the photo. That's OK. They tasted very good. Even the youngerchild ate most of one and, considering how much green was in there, that's impressive.

Served with chicken marsala and buttered noodles, they were a fine addition to dinner. A big thanks to the elderchild for finding the recipe!

Monday, April 6, 2020

For the Gentleman

Being stuck at home more means, among other things, that I'm looking for things to do. My husband mentioned he was using my hair styling products in an attempt to tame his mustache and grow it out a bit. Which got me thinking. And Googling. Sure enough, it is very easy to make mustache wax with beeswax and other oils. I have beeswax. I have shea butter. I have jojoba oil and sweet almond oil. I have lots of different essential oils for fragrance.

So, I ordered some tins.

Today I melted 1.5 ounces of beeswax in the tin and added 0.4 ounces of jojoba oil. We settled on myrrh for the scent, everything else was either too citrusy, too minty, or too flowery. So, ultimately I added about 5 drops of the myrrh. It smells very nice. Mostly like my hives, but with a deeper earthy scent as well. I wonder how long this tin will last before I get to make more?

Enriching

For the past four years, I have been making bread. Ever since I got Legion, I have managed to keep it/them alive, make bread often enough to never have to buy it in the store (except for artisanal loaves, which sometimes I just want), and gradually tweak the bread recipe to be basically where I want it to be.

However, there are times when I want it to be softer, and survive being stored in the freezer without seeming stale when it gets out. I've tried different flours, different sugars, adding more water, vacuum sealing the loaves (which I do NOT recommend) and even adding an egg.

Now that we're home all the time, thanks to the pandemic, I am making bread more often, barely fast enough to keep up with my family and all the sandwiches we're eating. But it gives me more opportunities to adjust the recipe even further. For the past 2 batches I replaced one cup of the water with milk. We are all really liking the results: a softer crumb, better tolerance for the freezer, and a slightly richer taste.

16 oz starter
38 oz bread flour
3 T. sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup + more water (until desired dough texture)
2 T. salt (added just before taking out of the mixer)

I decided to share my bread making routine so you can see how easy it can be. To be fair, I have a slow growing starter so I can let the dough ferment overnight and it works great. Here we go:

This is the dough after fermenting overnight, about 9 hours.

Divided into 3 equal parts (I weigh them) and then rolled and allowed to rest, covered, for 5 minutes.

Pans are prepped with PAM and then parchment on the bottom. Then they're dusted on the sides and bottom with cornmeal. 

Loaves are formed and placed in the pans to proof, generally takes about 4 hours. 

I proof them near the radiator, even if it isn't on. These are ready to bake. They get an egg-milk wash and are scored, then baked at 400˚F for 30-35 minutes, turning the baking sheet every 15 minutes in the oven.

As soon as they come out of the oven, they come out of the loaf pans. The sesame goes on before baking, if you're going to use it. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

All The Pieces Coming Together

After our disastrous macaron attempt last week, the elderchild and I tried again yesterday. It was almost disastrous again but we persevered and got pretty decent looking raspberry macarons!

Here's what worked, and what didn't:
1. The oven, new, is convection, and it seems that it should be set to 275˚F. 300˚F was too hot and they didn't develop their little feet.

2. The parchment, King Arthur brand, was perfect.

3. The egg whites were the near-catastrophe. I had egg whites in a carton which I'd used for a cake. After we tried to make meringue out of them for the macarons I recalled that they don't work well for that purpose (maybe there is a preservative or pasteurization issue? I don't remember). Anyway, we separated some eggs and made a better meringue which we used for the macarons. Not wanting to waste the other egg whites, later I beat the meringue for probably 20 minutes and made forgotten cookies. Which are not bad, after all that!

Forgotten cookies.
4. For the ganache, since I didn't have raspberry purée, I used raspberry syrup I had in my canning inventory. I added together the volumes of the purée and invert sugar and just used that total amount of raspberry syrup, and it worked perfectly.

I am now out of almond flour and don't anticipate buying any more in the near future as my freezers are both overflowing with food.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Tastes Like We Remember

When the kids were little, they went to a daycare which had its food provided by the daycare provider's husband's restaurant. One of the most popular items was chicken-orzo soup, aka Avgolemono. The kids both loved it, as did the adults. From time to time we would go back to his restaurant and buy it by the quart. But it's been a long time since we've been able to do that, and he doesn't have it on the menu every day. I decided to try my hand at making it.

I found this recipe on line and made a few tweaks based upon what I had in the house. Instead of four quarts of chicken stock I used two quarts of my "Ducken" stock and two quarts of water. I used about 3/4 cup lemon juice. Other than that, I followed the recipe to the letter. One thing I would change for the future would be to try using four eggs instead of three. It just wasn't thick enough. Otherwise, it tasted just like we remembered. The children were pleased.

The other project for today was more bread. Now that everyone is home and eating lunches here every day I need to make bread much more often. In my quest to get softer sandwich bread from my starter, I tried something new with this batch. I replaced some of the water with 1 cup of milk. I'm pleased to say that the bread is super soft and springy, and I will definitely use that trick again!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Redeeming Myself

After the macaron debacle I purchased better parchment paper. It's amazing how much variation there is for something that most of us who bake would think is a standardized product. The paper arrived the other day, just in time for me to make a birthday cake for my husband.

Note the bread, which I made yesterday, for our cheese fondues. 
In the fabulous cookbook, Marbled, Swirled, and Layered, is a recipe for a pistachio chocolate cake with a brown sugar buttercream. I decided to try my hand at making it. It most definitely required high quality parchment paper to make the thin chocolate cake required for rolling with the filling. Essentially, it is a jelly roll, on its side. It's been a while since I've done anything this complicated, that is for sure!

And yet, despite all the swearing, somehow I managed to make it look almost as good as the photo. Even if I was a little heavy-handed with the buttercream.

Happy Birthday! 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Serious Disappointment

Ever since the new oven arrived and I discovered it had a convection function (I'd forgotten) I had been planning to make macarons and try it out. My theory was that my barely functional gas oven couldn't maintain a stable temperature and that convection was required so the heat would be drier. Today the elderchild and I made a small batch of macarons. Everything was going fine. Until it wasn't.
Note: every single cookie cracked. All are stuck to the parchment.
My best guess is that the parchment I bought was just... crap. There is no other way to describe it. I had cheap parchment before, and then I bought a batch from Amazon that was great and worked perfectly. So when it was time to buy more, I went through my order history and ordered the exact same product. That was somehow completely different when it arrived. I'd had heard this complaint about Amazon recently, that other vendors were reselling products on Amazon that were not the correct product and not of the same quality. This is why, in the past I had not purchased toilet paper and other sundries through Amazon; mainly because the reviews for various products indicated that they were also subject to the same bait-and-switch.

Anyway, you can imagine our disappointment. We can't even pry all these broken macarons off the paper without the paper coming with the cookie. It's ridiculous. Every single cookie was ruined. Every. Single. One.

Setting aside all the work involved, almond flour is not cheap.

I have ordered King Arthur Brand parchment. And if it arrives being anything other than King Arthur Brand parchment, I will send it back. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

North American Soup?

The other day, this recipe for Sopa de Lima showed up in my inbox. It sounded very tasty and I wanted to make it. I'd had some wild game and turkey bones in my freezer for a while that needed to go if I was going to have more room for other meats and vegetables. After all, if we're going to be socially isolated for a while, I need to have provisions. Obviously I don't have chachalacas, but I do have one full chukar breast and one full Canada goose breast. So I set to work early this morning.

First, I used the turkey bones to make stock, and set aside 1 quart and the meat from the bones for the soup. The rest of the stock is being chilled so I can remove the fat before canning it. Maybe tomorrow....

Next, I put the goose and chukar breasts in a pot with the stock and the rest of the soup base ingredients and cooked them until I was sure the goose was cooked through. I will point out that goose isn't exactly a white meat, but in the end it worked out okay, if a little darker than the photos. I did have to pick out a little bit of birdshot out of the goose while I was shredding it.

Finally, I put all the soup ingredients together, skipping the habañero but using a poblano pepper. With the cilantro and tortilla chips, it was popular all around. Even the youngerchild had a full bowl, minus the goose which was "too gamey."

Why North American? Well, Mexican recipe, American turkey, and Canadian Goose, of course!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Unintentional But Funny

Yesterday we went for a long hike through Dogtown, the abandoned colonial town in Gloucester, MA. It was good to get out, particularly in this time of social isolation. One of the odd findings in Dogtown are the Babson Boulders, a series of inspirational admonishments carved into the glacial erratics which are scattered all over the area. We found all but the last five which would have involved crossing active railroad tracks, something we felt it would be prudent not to do. Babson probably would have approved of our prudence.

Along the way we found huge patches of wintergreen, some with no berries at all and some with TONS of berries. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.) We picked a lot. The elderchild asked if we could make them into muffins. Easily done!






This morning I used this recipe but without the chocolate chips and made a dozen chocolate-wintergreen muffins. Which look a lot like those pictures of the coronavirus. I promise, it was not intentional. But it seems apropos anyway.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

So Much Has Happened

New oven!
Yeah, sorry about that. It's been quite the month and a half. It started with a trip to Malaysia for our friends' wedding in the latter half of January. And then we got back, work picked up, family members were sick, there were trips out to see colleges and said family and then the flu hit, I fell off a horse, and now we're all stuck at home waiting to see what will happen with the state of the world. I am the only one who doesn't get to work/study from home so this is going to be interesting.

Both children will now be doing some sort of remote classes after their respective spring breaks end. We were supposed to be going to Scotland today to visit more colleges, obviously that isn't happening. All the concerts and lectures we had tickets for are postponed indefinitely or canceled. It makes sense but it's frustrating all the same.

You know what I can do? Bake! Especially now, that I have a NEW OVEN. Right before we went to Malaysia the oven died its final death. Which meant my sister was staying with the youngerchild without an oven, but they managed. I got a new oven delivered the day after we got back and haven't even really had much time to play with it except for making bread. That will change this week, as I had already taken the week off (for the aforementioned nonexistent trip to Scotland) so plan to start trying to bake some things. Starting with today - Pi Day!

Using the filling from eat the love's Strawberry Rhubarb Galette, I made a Pi, with the help of the elderchild. The oven worked swimmingly. We can't wait for dessert!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Mixed Fowl Stock and Soup

Winter season canning has begun!

I needed to get all the bones of chickens and ducks out of the freezer so the other day I threw them ALL (3 ducks and 3-4 chickens) into my lobster pot and added 12 quarts of water. Once the stock was made I set it aside and took all the residual meat off the bones and saved that as well. Today the stock was skimmed, warmed back up, and 14 pints were canned in the pressure canner. I was running fairly low on stock so it's good that I made so much. This way, since it's duck and chicken together, it'll add a richer taste to whatever I'm making.

The rest of the stock, all the meat, and some vegetables from the fridge were combined to make a variation of Turducken Soup. This time, I added about a cup of turkey stock which was still in the fridge so I can technically call it Turducken but just barely. I added 2 small leeks, 2 parsnips, 7 small carrots, 1 rib of celery, 1/2 red onion, and half of a small can of tomato paste, plus wild rice, salt, pepper and bay. I may or may not can this as I'm running out of pint jars. If we don't eat most of it today, maybe I will just save the rest for when I'm working this week. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

New Year Catch-Up

Happy New Year!

Since I was working on the 31st and the 1st, I didn't do the cooking. My husband roasted 3 ducks on New Year's Eve, which were more than enough for 6 of us to enjoy. We had almost a whole duck left over, which I used the other day to make a terrific duck pad thai.

But with those ducks came duck livers and I had enough to make a triple batch of paté (recipe from Duck, Duck, Goose). Actually, it was an all-fowl paté as I'd been freezing livers from ducks, geese, chickens and a turkey. I had just about 22 oz. once everything was thawed, then I sautéed them with shallots, sage, capers and cognac and blended them with butter and cream. I used my new little ramekins to make 8 small pots of paté plus some for that evening. Each ramekin was sealed with a layer of duck fat and eventually stored in the freezer for later. It came out a little runnier than expected so I hope that while they're in the freezer they will dry out a little and fix the consistency. One of my Christmas gifts was reusable food wrap and I'm trying to use less plastic wrap in general. Sealing the pots in fat should provide coverage for the paté but I'll probably have to check on them soon to make sure it's sufficient.

Yesterday school started up again and the youngerchild was responsible for bringing snack to advisory. There's a whole schedule. I've sent in cookies before but decided to make mini muffins this time. I used this muffin base recipe and added wild blueberries (from the freezer stash) and a few white chocolate chips and ended up with 4 dozen little muffins. They're excellent, and bite sized, and they were popular with the advisory group.

There's been a lot of take-out, too. We have a fridge full of leftovers which is helpful when I'm working so I can either take something for myself or leave something for everyone else so they don't have to cook. Last night I finished the duck pad thai and they finished the pizza. I think there may still be some Indian food.....