Monday, March 27, 2017

Birthday Boston Cream Pie

It's been a bit more hectic than usual in our household and I haven't had a lot of time for baking or any cooking, really. In fact, the elderchild commented on the amount of take-out we were eating! However, it was my husband's birthday and I needed to throw him a little party. So I made one of his favorite cakes: Boston Cream Pie.

For this, I used the go-to white cake recipe. Since we were not having cake on his actual birthday, I scooped out enough batter to make four cupcakes and frosted them with 1/4 of the recipe of fudge frosting. It was actually enough for only 3 cupcakes (apparently that day I was not good at math, I needed to make 1/3 of the recipe for 4 cupcakes) so I used the last of the saffron-white chocolate ganache from the profiteroles on mine. It was fine. Anyway, I made the cake in the tall ring from my culinary classes and stored the cake in the fridge until yesterday.

The next thing was to make the custard. I think that, after 30 years, my pots are finally starting to get thin on the bottom as things seem to burn more than they used to. Anyway, the custard had a very slight tinge of "toasted marshmallow" that maybe only I noticed. No one else seemed to care, anyway.

Last came the ganache: 54% chocolate with cream, butter and vanilla.

Then I trimmed the cake into two layers and tried to use my ring to make the cake look pretty. First I tried to put a layer of ganache on the chilled ring, but I'd trimmed the cake a little too small so there was a gap. I filled the gap and the middle of the two layers with the custard and then topped the whole thing with a layer of ganache and chilled it.

After I removed the ring, it looked way better than I had anticipated! I took the little bit of leftover ganache and piped some decorations then kept it chilled until almost time for dessert. After a dinner of cheese fondue, of course.

Not bad for my first attempt at Boston Cream Pie!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Snowy Pi Day

This year, for Pi Day, I was prepared. I bought some pears before the snowstorm and today, with the help of the elderchild, made a maple pear pie. After slicing the pears, I let them sit with 1/2 cup sugar while we made the crust. Then I drained the pears and boiled the juice with some maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch to thicken it. This was mixed back with the pears before filling the pie crust. Here's the finished pie.
Note the vents - the elderchild carved at least 11 digits of π into the crust!
We had some of our neighbors over to enjoy it with us, and it was terrific! Also I made a raspberry tart with the rest of the crust; that was an afternoon snack.

In addition to all that, while the storm was dumping eight inches of snow, and then rain, on us, I made a gallon of yogurt, a batch of cornbread, a batch of chili, and also did a whole bunch of laundry. Oh, yeah, and last night I made bread. All sorts of lovely food!

Sunday, March 12, 2017


Before the onslaught of illness, we were supposed to have dinner with friends at their house. I planned to make profiteroles, which are pate a choux puffs filled with ice cream and then topped with some sort of chocolate sauce. I made them, and then they hung out in the freezer until we finally all got well enough to reschedule.

I wasn't sure how my oven would deal with pate a choux. It's not well sealed, and loses heat all the time, and I was afraid it would lose the moisture created in the first half of the baking process. Thankfully, it didn't, and I got 20 puffs made without much fuss. I used the rest of the pate a choux batter to make gougères by mixing in shredded cheese and some mustard and scooping the batter onto a baking sheet. These were amazing and got consumed within a few hours. Yum.

The next step was making rose flavored ice cream, just like I did for class a year ago. A custard base, with rose water added, then that rested in the fridge for a day. After that I churned it in the ice cream maker and, while it was still soft, piped it into the puffs. I know this isn't the usual way to do this, but I thought it might be interesting to have them filled this way. It did work out, although I had to move quickly to keep from being covered in melty rose-flavored ice cream!

These then lived in the freezer in an airtight container until last night. To top them off, I made a saffron-white chocolate ganache, with 4 ounces of white chocolate, 4 ounces of cream, a little butter, and a generous pinch of saffron (added after the cream was heated, before being added to the chocolate). By the time we got to dessert the ganache was the perfect pouring consistency. I also brought chocolate fudge sauce because I wasn't sure how the kids would like the saffron. We ended up all trying both. I think the saffron ganache was the better choice!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Comfort Foods, Again

There has been an unbroken circle of illness going around the house over the past two weeks. So much so that a lot of our plans have completely gone out the window. Such is winter, I guess.

Anyway, yesterday to ease unsettled tummies, I made chicken noodle soup. Actually, I made chicken and goose noodle soup, as I found both chicken and goose bones in the freezer. This won't be canned as it's needed now.

Today I made "kitchen sink cookies," meaning chocolate chip cookies but with anything and everything in them. Some of the things I'd been hoping to add had gone bad, including pretzels (really? yes, pretzels can apparently go bad) and peanuts, so here's what was in them: mini chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, coarsely chopped almonds, coconut flakes, craisins, raisins, and mini marshmallows. I should try to remember not to bake with marshmallows. They melt and caramelize before anything else bakes.

However, having a weekend in which I am stuck in the house helped me finish another project. Mocha, our rabbit, has a problem with textiles. By that I mean he finds some of them irresistible. So about a month ago my husband recovered the window seat. I took the leftover fabric, bought a contrasting but complementary fabric, some trim, and a few pillow forms and, very slowly, made replacement pillows. I finally got them all done today.

Just don't look too closely at the seams!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I Hope This Won't Mess Them Up

You might have heard, it's been unseasonably warm in Massachusetts so far. Today it was 65 degrees, last week it was in the 70's. And the bees have, thus far, survived the winter. Today I went out and had a peek.

I saw bees flying in with pollen, although I have no idea from what! (Maybe maples and crocuses?) Which implies that there is some sort of nectar somewhere. And I saw capped honey still so there may be some for me to take next month. Or later this month, if it stays warm. My plan to not feed them fondant this past winter seems to have worked out. There were no guarantees it would, but I think overall it was a mild enough winter.

Since January I've been taking a beekeeping class which has been a nice review for some of the things I already knew and I'm learning a bit more. One of the things I wanted to learn was the terminology and use of a Langstroth hive. Not that I'm going to get one, but when beekeepers talk about how to tend to a hive, they use Langstroth jargon and I don't always know how to extrapolate to my top bar hive. Now I have a bit of a better idea. I also have a connection with a top bar beekeeper who has said I can call him if I need help. I may tap him when I want to try to split my colony this year so I can figure out how to do it properly.

Here's wishing for a year without drought, and maybe I'll finally see what my hive can do under proper conditions.