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


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


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?


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.