Friday, June 14, 2024

Strawberry Season Is Back!

Hopefully, this year strawberry season won't last three days, but I wasn't taking any chances. The fields opened two days ago and this is my first day not working since then. There was a thunderstorm coming the afternoon so I made a plan to go early this morning and get enough strawberries for all my needs - we've been out of strawberry jam for a while. 

First batch was strawberries, sugar, and a little vanilla paste. This made eight cups. I've stopped adding pectin to my jams whenever possible so it means a slightly lower yield per batch. 

Second batch was strawberry rhubarb. I had two cups of rhubarb in the freezer, which I let sit with four cups of sugar for an hour to macerate, and then added seven cups of halved strawberries and 1/4 cup lemon juice. This made six cups. 

I have set aside strawberries sliced and mixed with sugar to make strawberry shortcake tonight, and another quart of berries for strawberry soup for dinner. That still leaves about three quarts of berries left for... another project, maybe?

Friday, February 2, 2024

Sourdough Bread Bowls

I've been teaching the youngerchild to cook and one of the things we made this week was beef stew. There was a lot left over, so we decided it would be fun to try to use Legion to make bread bowls. Last night I mixed up the dough:

150 g Legion (starter)

6 cups bread flour

3 cups water

1 oz olive oil

1 T. sea salt

After letting it rest for 30 minutes, I pulled and folded it 5-6 times every half an hour for a total of three times. I ended up having to lightly oil the bowl, too, since it was really sticky (maybe do this first next time?). Then I left it overnight to ferment. 

This morning I shaped it into three small round loaves and lined three salad bowls with floured cloth. The loaves were placed seam side up in the bowls, covered with the cloth and then put in the fridge. On top of the cloth I used plastic cover them all to help keep the moisture in.  

This evening, about six hours later, I flipped the loaves onto baking sheets lined with parchment and dusted with cornmeal, slashed them with a knife, and baked them for 40 minutes at 450˚F. 

It's a similar bread to the sandwich loaves I've been making for years but the extra manipulation led to a lighter crumb which was exactly what I was hoping for.

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!