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. 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Boozy Birthday

Generally, on my husband's birthday, I make something with chocolate. This year is no exception. It's a time to test out new recipes that I find, and to play around a little with my baking skills. However, I have actually made this particular cake for him before. Sometimes a recipe is just that good

This Irish whiskey and Guinness cake is just that good. I made the cake part a couple of days ago and refrigerated the cake until it was time to make the frosting. It's easier to cut the cake layers when they are cold. The recipe says to serve immediately after frosting but that isn't necessary. I made the frosting and frosted the cake several hours ahead of time and put it back in the fridge. The cream cheese and mascarpone in the frosting firm up in the cold and it holds the cake together well.

When I made this cake the last time I did separate the frosting and make part of it with whiskey and part of it with Bailey's. The whiskey was so strong the kids couldn't eat it. This time, I just made all of the frosting with Bailey's. It was still very strong. My husband licked the frosting bowl and felt dizzy for a while afterward. It is a rich, boozy cake that should definitely be eaten in moderation! The Bailey's flavor for the frosting throughout the layers was, in our opinion, a better choice. 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Round Two

Since I still had more chicken bones in the freezer, I made another batch of stock a couple of days ago. Today I canned it, and now have another nine pints in the pantry. I might make a batch of vegetable stock another day but, for now, I have enough stock to last a while. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2023


Happy New Year, a little late!

Yes, there has been a lot of baking - bread, cakes, cookies. I even tried my hand at popovers recently. I made those lovely cupcakes for my mother's birthday and a celebratory cheesecake for the youngerchild's acceptance to college. So yes, plenty of baking, but not much energy to write about it. 

In other news, I found a dairy near where I go riding that sells raw milk and fresh eggs. Sometimes they have cheese and even raw cream, and they also sell meat but I haven't gotten any of that yet. I buy a half-gallon of raw milk every week and it's helped keep my stomach happy. Several of the cows have had calves in the last month. I met two of them, one was only three days old and so very small and cute. I might sometime get enough milk to make cheese or cream to make cultured butter but, for now, just getting enough to drink is fine for me.

Another update is that the farm is not offering a CSA this year, so I won't be going out to the farm weekly over the summer to gather my share and pick from the fields. I have mixed feelings about this but overall I will miss being out there in the fields picking herbs, berries and flowers. Mocha will likely miss all the kale.

Today I canned seven pints of chicken stock I made a couple of days ago (I chilled it to remove the fat, then heated it back up again before canning). I'd run out of all the stock I'd made last year, and it was time to start getting my supply back up. I have more chicken bones in the freezer and will have to make another batch at some point, but at least I've started canning things again. 

Who knows what this season will bring?