Friday, October 6, 2023

Buche d'Automne

For the elderchild's birthday, I wanted to make something very different. We'd been talking a lot about all the interesting mushrooms that had been cropping up as the weather cooled and I was reminded of making meringue mushrooms in culinary school and how fun that was. So I set about thinking of a project that would highlight mushrooms and yet still be an appropriate autumn themed birthday cake.

I hit upon a Buche d'Automne.

First, I made the mushroom parts first with a simple Italian meringue and let them sit in a cooling oven overnight. The stems and shelf mushrooms were white and then I added some brown food coloring to make the tops. 

The next day I made the pumpkin pastry cream, by adding pumpkin purée to a pastry cream recipe and then mixing in cinnamon, clove, allspice, ginger and nutmeg. That was kept chilled until it was time to assemble the cake.

A day later I made a joconde - a sponge cake with almond flour, cooked in a very thin layer in a sheet pan. This was then soaked with a ginger simple syrup. To make a pumpkin mousseline, I whisked the pumpkin pastry cream and then folded in whipped cream. This was spread over the joconde and then it was rolled and chilled. I also hand painted sugar paper with food coloring and cut out oak and maple leaves.

Finally, on the big day, I made a maple Italian meringue by substituting maple sugar for white sugar. I frosted the rolled cake with the meringue, used a torch to make it look more like a birch log, and then decorated the cake with the mushrooms, leaves and some fresh daisies. 

The elderchild was pleased!

Friday, September 22, 2023

How Have I Not Made These Before?

I really have no excuse. I have lived in New England almost all my life and, somehow, avoided making whoopie pies. Was I intimidated by them? I can't say. 

But since it is pumpkin spice season, the stores are full of pumpkin whoopie pies, and I decided that maybe I could make a batch. Now that I am no longer contagious. I started simple, with chocolate ones

A few of them didn't come out as pretty but, given that my husband has promised to always eat my baking mistakes, you don't get to see those. You just get to see the good looking ones. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

A Walk in the Park

Since I'm stuck at home, I have some extra time on my hands. I can go for walks so I did that today at the park near my house. To my surprise, I found not one, but two hen of the woods clumps! I brought one home, cleaned it up, and have been freezing the pieces. Once they're frozen they can be vacuum sealed, so I'm sealing them in 2 ounce packages. The whole mushroom was fairly small, about 8 ounces in total. But as I've never seen them in the park before, I'm pretty excited about all this rain. 

Sunday, September 10, 2023

A Whole Lotta No, and a Surprising Yes

Several people asked me recently if I was entering canned goods in the fair - sadly, No. I just didn't can enough things to make it worthwhile. It hasn't been a great year for wild produce. Even the elderberries I have been eyeing all summer seem to have been eaten before I could get to them. 

Then, yesterday, I was supposed to have an in-home macaron making class that I won at a silent auction. I was ready - even though my mixer died earlier in the week, my husband was able to replace the worn out gear in my first dead mixer and get that one working, I had all the eggs, the elderchild was heading home from college to participate. Everything was ready! So I took a COVID test. Just in case, you know?

Shockingly, it was positive! 

I have been working directly with COVID positive patients since the pandemic started. This is the first time I have ever tested positive, and I don't even really know how I was exposed. Strangely, I have zero symptoms. I'm now just stuck at home for a few days and trying not to infect anyone. (Elderchild turned around and left, without getting exposed, thankfully.)

So, macaron class? No. For now.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Eldritch Horror

Elderchild and youngerchild teamed up with my husband to make my birthday cake. I asked for Boston Cream Pie. 

They decided that they would double the recipe, so they could have 3 cake layers instead of 2 and therefore more cream filling. The cream custard was excellent. They also doubled the chocolate, which they didn't need to do. Since there still was only one top layer, and all. 

There was a lot of chocolate. 

After coating the cake, the elderchild dubbed the cake an "eldritch horror," so they attempted to give it some character. 

I present to you, my birthday cake, quite possibly the best I've ever had:

It certainly made me laugh the hardest!

Friday, August 25, 2023

Crabapples at Work

At my new(ish) job, I get a lunch break. It's still a novelty. I've taken to going for walks. The loop around the building and the parking lot takes about 15 minutes so it's just enough to feel refreshed. The other day, while walking, I discovered a couple of crabapple trees. After work, I went back and picked all the crabapples that looked reasonably okay. They're not as large as the ones I picked years ago which were at an apartment complex and better cared for but they're still crabapples and they will still make jelly.

Today I took the 7 cups of crabapple juice I extracted and made jelly. I haven't bought pectin in forever and I don't have any currently so I did this the old fashioned way, using the natural pectin in the apples to make the jelly. It seems to have worked. I ended up with eight jars of jelly. For six of them, I placed into each jar a star anise pod, half a cinnamon stick, one clove, two peppercorns, and a dried cayenne pepper. 

In case I do enter them in the fair, here's the recipe:

7 cups crabapple juice

7 cups sugar

1.5 T lemon juice

Boiled until 220˚F

There aren't too many other forage-able things at work that I've identified otherwise, so this may be the only work related project for a while. 

Saturday, July 22, 2023


Canning season has been a bust until today. Strawberry season at our favorite PYO place lasted all of three days due to the weather not cooperating. The farm share isn't happening this year. We haven't had time to go out as a family to do any of the PYO things we might have done. I haven't canned a thing since March. Our mulberry tree did well and I did make a mulberry pie but I have plenty of jelly and syrup already so I didn't make any this year.

Finally, today, we went to our favorite wild blueberry spot. The weather has not been kind to these berries, either, and it was hard to find good patches to pick. We did see an Eastern Towhee, which I don't think I've ever seen before. In two hours the four of us had two quarts of berries. We came home overheated, hungry and tired. After cleaning up and having a little food, I got to work and made a batch of blueberry jam (with added pectin). There were enough berries for me to freeze two cups for baking later and I ended up with just shy of seven jars of jam.