Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Pharmaceutical Kitchen

I'm no wise woman ready to spout off home remedies or lists of medicinal foods. I made a cough syrup once, I guess. It had honey and vinegar and cayenne pepper and tasted vile as you might expect, but it was still better tasting than the real stuff.

That aside I found a better way to bring the pharmacy into the kitchen. Legally dears, no green brownies here, just antiques(though at one point it did contain antique medicinal cannabis). Fresh onto my kitchen wishlist comes this lovely medicine cabinet.

The top and three drawers are filled with 288 of these amazing tins. Each with the wonderful antique writing and old paint, and a little window looking into the contents within.

Its only worth five to seven thousand dollars. That's the rub with antiques. I don't mind very much that they're old. Its the design I like. Designs that are out of manufacture and amazing and hard to find. I'd just as soon have a new box with a set of new jars, spice labeled instead of medicine jars, for my own. I love the uniqueness of the jars, and though I'd miss a sprinkle feature, easy spoon access and the window would be worth it.

Now I'm trying to convince my Dad to build be me a cabinet for my regular jars... but if any of you know a tin manufacturer... give em the hint.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pic-less In Denile

Believe it or not, I've been doing stuff when whilst neglecting my favorite blog. The truth is, I've discovered a hatred for uploading picture. I cant keep them organized. Its a terrible hassle to resize them (because I take them COLOSSAL!). Its a pain to keep edited ones and originals separate and safe. An increasing worry over digital storage, and a lack of editing software. And there's an inescapable fact, food blogs, like cook books SURVIVE ON PICTURES.

Very few people want to read a blog about food with no pictures. And heck, even if you DO post pictures regularly, without the amazing skill of the great food photog-blogs out there, you twont get linked. Its very distressing.

So while I could tell you about my cheesey rolled rustic bread, and my still singing a chorus of crackles fresh from the smoking hot oven blue cheese walnut sour dough... I wont without pictures. Nor will the Girl Scout style Samoas get posted. And those all HAVE pictures taken. Crappy, thoughtless and easy pictures... but at least some sort of photographic evidence of their conception. The angel food cake I baked (that fell because apparently letting it cool UPSIDE DOWN is really really crucial to structural integrity), and the egg nog that resulted to clean up those egg yolks. The carmels I made. The biscottie I whipped together, or the Dorrie's disagreeable cookie recipe I tried(think chocolate chip cookies, shaped like paper disks)

None of it. And if I did, I probably wouldn't give you recipes. Cuz I'm lazy like that. Word.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tossing You A Bone Bean Soup

I'll throw you some scraps here. This was my attempt at a bean soup. Five beans to be exact. Canned beans. I was hungry quick like, wanted vegges, beans, loads of flavor, and some crunchy spicy sprouts to top it off. And so it became.

Bean Soup

1 can black beans
1 can navy beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can white kidney beans
1 red pepper chopped
1 crown of brocolli chopped into small flouretts
fresh chopped up tomatoes
some beef and chicken bollioun to get me started
some turkey sausage stuff
spicy sprouts for topping
Probably some onion/shallots all sauteed up, but I cant remember

I tossed everything but the beans(and sprouts) into a crock pot to get all cooked up and flavorful . The brocolli and red pepper smelled sooo good cooking. When things were cooked I added the beans, not wanting them to get mashed up during cooking. And we ate it, and it was warm and tasty and thats the soup.
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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Go Komen!

My mother and I were flipping through channels the other day. We only have four channels, coming from the bunny ears on our roof. Yes, over the air. And yes... we need a stupid converter box.... That aside, we were shocked to stumble upon the broadcast of a nude photo shoot...

Woah! Wait?! Was she topless? We flip back through the couple channels our momentum sent us through. And there it was. A topless photo shoot with no lil censor bars or strategically placed muffins... OPB?! Good heavens! Of course its OPB... The only channel to broadcast nudity. Under the banner of education of course. This one we learned was about breast cancer. It is, after all,National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Apparently its also adopt-a-dog, vegetarian awareness, and national sausage month, but those have nothing to do with my cake.
I was practicing the sponge cake that goes to a Boston Cream Pie recipe. I've had the darndest time with it in the past. It should have nice big bubble pockets to soak up the creamy filling, but instead it has come out as a sweetened hockey puck of baked egg, replete with flour globes suspended throughout. As I'm using this recipe as a base for experimentation, I needed to perfect it. And so using what I had, a sponge cake, raspberry jam, cook and serve custard, and some "white chips", This lovey Raspberry Boston Cream Pie came into existence. Its even pink for the month!

Raspberry Boston Cream Pie
(Mine was actually scaled down to 3/4)

1 C Cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 C sugar
1/4 C milk + 2 tbs
almond extract (or vanilla or raspberry flavoring)

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan.

Sift together salt and flour 3x. (I skimped)

Warm eggs and sugar to about 110F till sugar dissolves. Whip 6 minutes till pale. (I whipped two of the egg whites separately to give more lift to the cake)

Warm milk (original recipe had a vanilla bean to steep here) but do not boil. Add to eggs while whipping.

Fold in flour and bake 30 minutes.

Filling - I used a raspberry flavored Jello cook and serve custard mix, but a pastry cream would work better.

Topping - I have no clue how it went together... It had sieved melted raspberry jam. Cream. Powdered sugar. Some melted 'white chips. A lil butter... and I melted it slightly before putting it on. It was grainy from the sugar and white chips...

Topping Ideal - Heat some cream. Add some white chocolate. Add some raspberry jam, seedless. Maybe try butter instead of cream if it had trouble setting up...

It came out a little less than picture perfect... I blame it on my own laziness. Had I made the pastry creme from scratch, and had white chocolate for the glaze... Ghirardelli doesn't sell white chocolate chips! They sell 'white chips' whatever the heck that means. Albertson's brand are better! They don't melt well, taste like powdered milk and wax, and really shouldn't exist. Anyway... If I did it again I'd make the glaze a white chocolate raspberry ganache glaze. And probably some real raspberries in the pudding.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I Did a Gig

Now for the 'I did a gig' jig! Sorry everyone. Really, sorry. That was painful. I couldn't resist. But I should have anyway.

Putting that behind us now, I did a catering gig the other day. I love working with Kristen for a number of reasons. She plans its all, I just show up and chop stuff. Not super glamorous, but its relatively risk free for me. She knows everyone in town, so I'm constantly meeting people when I'm working for her.

I get to see all the kitchens of Baker! This one has all the gadgets, but no counter space. A walk in fridge and freezer, lockers to dump your stuff when you come in, and a whole ton of massive stainless steel machinery I cant name. The kitchen before didn't even have hand soap. The one before that belongs to this cute cafe I've always admired from afar. Almost no fridge space, and the sun was baking me through the eastern windows, but it was still cute. Another cute kitchen kitchen was a residential one, pretty but by large unused. And the one before a well rounded small professional kitchen. It was possibly the easiest to work in. But it could use a walk in fridge too.

Cooking breakfast, lunch and tea on Saturday we were at a slow point, and I paused to taste one of our creations. A broken hazelnut scone, I'd been wanting to taste. Terri walks past and seeing me munching, I compliment her (she made them) and admit that 'really, its all about the food'. She chuckles and continues to get something or other done. I taste some of the berries with creme fresh, and a piece of her bacon quiche. Two things I'd never taste living in Baker that I hadn't yet made myself. She sees me again... and again. About the forth time she walks past me in some nook noshing, I reassure her "I really do work! I mean... some of the time I'm not eating! Really!". I do...

It really amazes me how she can come up with the menus she does. There nothing unheard of. Most of them are simple and easy to throw together en mass, as they need to be. It may be the simplicity that baffles me. They taste great, they're simple to prepare, and they compliment each other shockingly well. And its so simple... yet I can't even conceive them till she points it out.

Potato wedges with Romano, butter, salt and pepper. Basically cheese and potatoes... I can do that. I always have some sort of cheese and potato on hand. Yet this is the first time I thought to do it.

Potatoes from the garden. Yes. Purple potatoes from the garden. And cheddar, cuz we always have some cheddar. And some onions because everything's better with onions.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Honey Get The Pryin' Bar!

I'm getting out of this rut, says I. I have not posted here - anything of note- in ages! To be perfectly candid, I haven't been doing anything I deemed post-able. The moments where I have created, I disowned them from their start. Not taking the time to photograph anything. Not bothering to check the lighting, or even tidy up the island.

Well, I'm up. I may be catching a cold... but dang it, I'll be darned if that will stop me from doing something pretty in the kitchen. And when some unsuspecting fool devours my creation they will feel the sheer will and perseverance I exemplified in my efforts to complete it! Ok fine... I'll wash my hands and try not to infect anyone...

I've been so jealous of all other foodie blogger's and their creativity. And a bit mad at myself for always trying the same basic un-garnished recipes. So... I'm going to do a bit of experimenting.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Missed It Miffed

Have you ever seen Nim's Island? Its a fine show about a girl and her father, a scientist, who on a secluded tropical island, and a muti-phobic author who comes to their rescue. Rescue? You may ask. From what? Well a group of pirates has discovered the island while Nim's father was away. Now these pirates have the dastardly plan of making Nim's island a tourist cruise destination.

And there Nim is, trying desperately to fend off the interlopers. To keep her island fresh and pristine and unique, and not homogenized like the tourists and pirates wish it to be (the tourists is very cliche/homogenized).

This is the best analogy I can come up with at the moment for my current quandary. TasteSpotting is such a wonderful site. It really does inspire me(as much as it intimidates me). It always has new new new cutting edge food ideas. Like the honey drops for tea. Little packets of honey gone hard candy for tea on the go. And some great insights on what to do with whats in season. Sometimes there's a prevaling theme... like cup cakes. There's always a lot of cup cakes.... but they're all different.

But once each month a tidal wave hits TasteSpotting. A huge massive two-page-or-so wave, of sameness. A different color different shape different presentation... but all the same. Like the wave of tourists flocking in like they own the place, blasting away the uniquity, the mood, the moment, of TasteSpotting.

I'm being a bit dramatic... but really, I feel it to be incredibly brash. We all have a place in TasteSpotting. Its in our lives, our hearts, our blogs (and generally also in our stomachs). But bakers.... we're to big of a group to fit into TasteSpotting. We have our own site. We have our own blogs. And we have our own following. We don't need to all of us at once go out and hostile take over the mainstream food blogging epicenters and strut our stuff at them.

I love it all, but everything has its place.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Promised Puffs

About a month ago I told my mother I should bake some cream puffs for her office. She too thought it was an excellent idea, but then life interfered. I can make them Monday night and fill them for you in the morning! Or so I thought. Well, this being the same week I'm baking cakes for intermission at the play I'm also acting in... I didn't get around to it. So then next week. Nope. Week after? Maybe Monday and even Tuesday too are bad days to do it, I realize.

All of a sudden, I decide that asking what day would work best for them would... well... work best. So Friday I decide. Sadly when this was decided we left for Utah to visit family for a week. Sometime around then it occurs to me, I have no clue what the Daring Bakers challenge is this month. AND ITS ALMOST OVER! Eep! Less then a week, and I'm not even in my own kitchen till 4 days before it goes up! AND I'm leaving for Portland 2 days after I get back! And one of those is spent going to Idaho for a dentist appointment! And then I decide its also my only chance to bake some apricots fresh of my grandmother's tree.
Good thing it turns out to be Eclairs! I made them before I packed, the day I was leaving. I filled some with a caramel laced filling, and some with Splenda sweetened whipped cream for Val, who's diabetic.

And a chocolate glaze. (I mean look at it! Shiny Chocolate Deliciousness!)

Oh... and the folks we were staying with didn't have internet so I ended up not being able to post anyway.
-_- Forgive my repeated procrastination and lateness....

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Under Cover Of Darkness

Crazy week... but I got it done! Daring Bakers challenge number three! Whoo!

And whats on the menu you might ask? (That is if you really hadn't seen everyone else's yet...)

Charol Walters Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
This is where things get difficult. Do I post the recipe, which is huge, or leave it up to you to blog sleuth it, or buy Charols Great Cakes book? Seeing as the latter is definitely easier for me, your on your own for that. I'll give you the basics though, just because I'm so nice.

There were several elements to this cake.

Filbert Genoise (or hazelnut)
Basically a egg leavened cake with hazelnut meal used more than flour. Pretty dry on its own... though if you have the time and the guts to try it out (failure is a definite possibility with these) kind of a fun challenge. My wonderful mother helped me sift and sprinkle in all of the dry ingredients while I delicately folded them into the pillowy eggs, praying for them not to fall flat… and what do you know? They didn’t!

sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum – Sadly dark rum, or liqueur, spirit, or what have you, isn’t something I have on hand. That whole being a minor thing… So to make up for lost flavor, I tried caramelizing the sugar before adding all the water. I burnt it a bit though so it wasn’t as tasty as I was hoping.

Praline Buttercream – Two steps on this one. Making the praline was difficult. I got distracted and cremated the dry sugar twice before I achieved success. And the success was hard won. Tossing in the hazelnuts cools down the sugar which results in hardening… which results in them all being stuck together in one massive hard clump of hazelnut sugar glass! Luckily I did flatten it out, but it could have been bad.

After grinding this up (a scary thing in my oh so delicate Hamilton Beach pocessor) you mix it into a sort of meringue butter cream. I strayed from the exact Swiss butter cream recipe on technique. Instead of whipping first then heating and whipping… (which I did try and had trouble with) I mixed the sugar with the unwhipped eggs, and then warmed them, gently wisking, to 160. Its amazing to think you can heat egg whites that hot and have them not cook! So THEN I whipped them and added butter. And then into its pillowy whiteness I folded some praline paste.

This would have been wonderful with the cake… but… I added an extra ¼ C sugar, cuz I like my butter cream sweet. Sadly EVERYTHING was pretty sweet in the cake assembled… so it was a bit much.


½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks – I… excluded this bit, but did add some cream to my syrup.

Apricot Glaze – to smooth up the cake for the ganashe
Ganache Glaze – Which I got wonderfully thin, and the only thing that wasn’t WAY to sweet.

The over all? This cake was an insane amount of steps. Heck, even the butter had to be clarified, and the flower sifted and the… it goes on. It was pretty fine, but I’ll stick to something a lil less touchy for my go to.

So… bake on!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lets Bake It And Say We Didn't

Yes, as I'm approaching the reveal of the July Daring Bakers challenge, I feel it the appropriate time to post last month's challenge. I did it. Finished it up the day after the reveal, and never got around to posting it. It really was a shame too because it was hands down the best danish filling I have ever conceived. The best fillings I've ever concieved being... vanilla pastry creme and chocolate smear. I'm stumped when it comes to good fillings, so the chocolate smear was a huge jump at the time! Well the challenge inspired me. "Use something in season!" they say. Alright. Nothing is in season in this lil sweltering frost pocket (at the time of the challenge) but the valley next over sent us some smashing black sweet cherries. And almond extract needs no season and so...


Black Cherry and Almond Creme Danish

The ultimate tasty delisiousness. And it was georgous too. Neither did I record nor remember what magic I worked to achieve this, into measurements anyway, so I'll approximate.

Cherry Filling

Wonderful Sweet Black Cherries
Lil bit of water
Pectin? or geletin to get it to thicken some. Fine tapioca may work from what I hear...

Pitted the cherries, boiled them some to get em all soft and cook some of the extra water out. Thicken it to. Sweeten if it needs any... and then, because I despise deformed flavorless globs of cooked cherries, I blended it all together in my... blender. Go figure.
Almond Pastry Creme
I made a egg/starch pastry cream and added a tsp or so of almond extract and some vanilla bean paste. (If any one knows of a pastry cream that doesnt tast or mouth feel starchy, clue me in. All the egg/starch ones AND the egg ones dont have the texture I'm looking for... slick and smooth.)

I prepped the danish dough, spread on the pastry cream(coulda been thicker) and topped it with some cherry goo, (also coulda been thicker). Baked it with some turbinado sugar sprinkled on top. Only complaint? The braid held not nearly enough of the "coulda been thicker" filling.The remedy to that? Make the left over dough into tart-bowls. Best danish ever. Safeway bakery... its over. Forever. Beyond forgiveness.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Everythings Better With Cream

Tis the season for crazy produce sales. Over a pound of Oregon grown blueberries for 5$. And even more strawberries to match. Theres only one thing to do with the natures fruity bounty - first batch anyway - set it swimming in sweet sweet cream. The perfect breakfast.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Baking Up A Burning Ring Of Fire

If one were not a creature or habit... If one didn't prefer round cakes... If one would pause to read the instructions, nay, if one would only pause to think, one would realize that a 13x9 cake mix would have difficulty fiting into a less than 2 inch tall 9 inch cake pan. That one, dear friends, would not be me.

Caramely batter bubbling over and oozing between oven rungs outline my pan on the bottom of the oven. So close to the heat sourse they quickly burn and smoke profusely. Every time I make this cake.

Much panic has been caused by this mistake. Perhaps next time I shall remember to remedy it. The day my sister got married, we dined on the Blue Birds rather famous turtle cake. The day being as it was (wishes for a blog to link to) I didn't get to fully appreciate it, but only remembered the bit I did try longingly. Cool and moist lightly flavored chocolate cake filled, with little pockets of cool slick caramel and... well thats most of what I rememberd. And it was fantastic. And I live 6 hours away or so. Realizing this I knew something had to be done.

Enter wonderful amazing food unmasking skills! Well I dont have those very well developed. I got as far as, "I bet devils food cake..." and "maybe they piped the caramel in?" and was out of ideas. Luckily I stumbled upona recipe in a Betty Crocker mini magazine/cookbook at the checkout. Chocolate turtle cake! And I was right about the devils food cake part!

Basically you whip up some nice caramel sauce about honey consistancy...

1 C sugar
1/4 C water (maybe a lil extra I'm not sure)
1 T corn syrup (because it helps prevent crystals and I'm afraid to mess it up)
1/2 - 1 C cream warmed (depends on the consistancy desired. For this I start at 3/4 C)
vanilla and 2 T butter (cuz why the heck not?!)

Sugar and water (and corn syrup) in a medium saucepan, stir till about dissolved. Let boil (no stirring) for about 7 minutes. About this time the bubbles start looking different than they have been before, and eventually it will start to brown. Swirl the pan to get an even color, I look for a medium amber. I burn it frequently though going to dark and then its all bitter.... Once you get it to the desired color remove it from heat and ad in the hot cream. It will bubble and sputter... and then I stir it with a wisk so it all turns into the right consistancy. I add more cream if its not as thin as I want (note it does thicken while it cools) and add the butter and vanilla and call it good.

Its great on brownies by the way. Warm with some cold thick cream for contrast.... But I digress. For a small round pan I like to use almost this whole recipe, the more the better. So for the actual 9x13 pan I think I'd double it... or make separate batches twice to be safe.

Now for the cake...

1 box -9x13 devils food cake mix with ingredients to prepare (eggs, oil, water)
Caramel sauce (lots and safe some for garnish)
1 C or so - pecans (toasted chopped and maybe some whole for garnish)

Make a 9x13 cake mix to the directions. (One day I will make my own scratch batter and try it out) Pour half of the batter into a prepared cake pan, (parchment and greased for easy removal) and bake for about 20 to 22 minutes. Take it out, pour on the caramel (save some for topping though), sprinkle on some toasted pecans(save some for topping here too) and pour on the rest of the batter. Bake for another 25 minutes. Let it cool for a bit, about 15-20 and then I invert it, drizzle on some extra carmel and top with pecans.

Tasty dang stuff. Caramel saturating the top half gooey and delicious.

Gotta Blog Gotta Blog Gotta Blog Right Now

Shwooo. I'm back. Maybe. For a little bit. And by back I mean that this is the first non required post I've actually completed in a few months. Where have I been you might wonder? A sudden onset of obsessive compulsive gardening for a couple months and then off to the land of lazy. Have a tasty garden a growing complete with heirloom tomatoes, squash and gourmet peppers, and the rest of the usuals. The currant bush planted and 6 wonderful blueberry bushes a starting out.

But I digress. For the last month I’ve just been lazy lazy lazy. Even my few good dinner forays have been neglected, (though photo evidence does exist...). Well today I change... some of this. I break my silence and bake some dinner! That was the plan anyway. Bout an hour to dinner it occurred to me that the dough I had rising was at least 3 hours away from the oven, let alone the 30 minute cooling time. So we had pizza, and here I am at one o’clock finishing the rolls.

Kaiser rolls that is. A wonderful hearty sandwich roll From Peter Reinheart's amazingly detailed and thorough book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I'm going to make some turkey burgers and wanted a bun that tempted the palate in place of the foamy bits they sell at the store.

And as the smoke billows from the oven and I fan the smoke alarm, praying it wont go off as everyone’s in bed, I'm pretty sure they (and the dang chocolate turtle cake that overflowed earlier (hence the smoke)) are/were totally worth it. Just look at em.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Taste of Springly Opera

Now I'm not one to habitually bag on myself. I'm actually usually the first to admit I'm totally awesome. That being the case, all the rest of the Daring Bakers kicked my butt royally last challenge. Not even comparing mine to the neatly prepared masterpieces, I realize they look like they may have fallen down the stairs a couple times. So kudo's to you all!

And in the proud tradition of scapegoats and blame shifting, it was the chocolate chips fault. Shoulda used bars. Secondly... I seriously procrastinated. Its bringing my own style to the daring bakers! Thats how I roll *dramatic gansta pose with wisk and rolling pin* Staying up late into the wee hours of the morning to finish whatever I need done the next day... and then ariving two hours late regardless.

Well this month I'm trying a slightly new style. Ya know... the one where I don't fall flat on my face. And so, a week to show time, I prepared the buttercream! Yes yes! I know its shocking.

Trying or not, it still wasn't done till my birthday... A.K.A today!

So here's how it went down.

Light flavors I like... Lemon was out. I really don't like most lemon flavored things. So spring... light... blog... Lavender! And so it was. Lavender buttercream. I sort of made a tea using the water for the buttercream sugar syrup flavored with lavender flowers. And to cut some of the sweetness, I tossed in a sprig or two of rosemary(from my recent pruning). They went so wonderfully together, a sweet but peppery herbal flavor.

The buttercream looked so beautiful. The creamy white speckled with little black vanilla bean... And when I mixed some jell dye with some to color the rest, the contrast was even prettier.

As for the jocond bit, Date Line ruined it. I had originally planned to do cardamon with orange zest flavoring, with a touch of vanilla to round it out. Well there was a dateline special on that I was a bit more interested in that than my egg whipping... Luckily the actual egg whipping turned out fine, I just spaced the flavoring all together. Guess thats where the sugar syrup came in.My very first acceptable idea for a taste of spring(lemon being rejected) was lemon balm. A minty herbal flavor with just a springly taste similar, but wonderfully not, lemon. The difficulty, my lemon balm is 2 inches tall at this point in the year, two short to risk a heavy harvest(I would need all the plant there...). I did end up swiping a couple leaves for the syrup though. Once again I made a sort of tea with the sugar with Lavender, almond extract, rosemary, lemon balm, and black pepper corns. I'm not sure if you could taste all the elements, but I thought it was fun.
I put it all together, (tricky since my jelly role pans are huge, 13x17. I rigged the parchment with folds and rolls of tinfoil to cut the size some.) Cake syrup buttercream, repeat. Cake. syrup, mouse n' glaze. Sprinkle with lavender and set. I trimmed the edges square (resulting in that spiffy cake canyon) and was done.
I was amazed at how nice it turned out. I really really really wanted to produce something of comparable beauty to the rest of the daring bakers works. And it worked! This one didn't look like it fell down the stairs, and I am proud.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Procastination As Usual

Now, if I was on the ball these last two weeks, this blog would already be written. The cakes rolled and pictures post-able.

Well... as usual I'm showing up to the party late. Why the need for punctuality you ask? Well, today I post my first (mostly completed) Daring Bakers challenge. Chocolate covered Cheesecake pops.

Here's how the recipe reads :

Cheesecake Pops

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 large eggs

2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Now here's how I messed it up...
  • Completely forgot to add the cream.
  • Dont have a big enough cake pan, used a springform putting the water bath below.
  • I dropped the temperature down to 250 after the first 20 minutes and baked it for about two hours til 160 degrees.
  • There are no lollipop sticks in this town. No way.
I dont know how the lack of cream is affecting it. The springform worked ok. The baking temp tampering made the cake wonderfully smooth and creamy (which I demand in cheesecake) so I'll try it again next time I bake one, but alas, it did not set up quite firm enough for hand rolling. So it got frozen.

Now for my greatest pride with this recipe, having failed to find lollipop sticks and settling for short and sharp bamboo skewers, I dreamt a dream. A baking dream, where in I was finishing my cheesecake pops, and was looking for my sticks. My chocolate covered biscuit Pokey sticks. Thats right. Eatable chocolate covered lollipop sticks. Score one for the subconscious... but as it turned out the size of the cheesecake balls was a tad bit large for them. Most of them broke down the the chocolatey part, making it a bit of a mess to eat.

And note to everyone working with dipping or drizzling chocolate, don't use chocolate chips! They don't drizzle, they glob and plop, hence the giant drizzles on my two tones.

So for being a bit soupy in the middle, and thickly covered with chocolate chip chocolate... they were pretty good. Definitely not something I would do on my own, but heck, Daring Bakers are pretty inspiring.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Current Currants

St Patrick's day got me thinking about Irish cooking, and while I didn't prepare anything special for the occasion, I did pull out my Irish Food and Cooking cook book. As I was flipping through it I noticed, as I had often before, the beautiful black currant fool. The step by step pictures show a beautiful deep purple pink puree being folded into satin white whipped cream, the effect a beautiful striking swirl of color and cream. I look to the ingredients ready to buy a little batch of beauty for my self and am then deeply puzzled. Black currants... huh. Never seen those before.
Or had I? Looking through my seed catalog, passed the yesterdays news novelty plants, after the blueberries and raspberries and just before the fruit trees I find them. Sort of. Red currants. That wont create the heavenly swirl. It would be like pink sauce. Cant have that. Gooseberries, just under them, are almost translucent, so those wont work. either. Then I look to the curious variety 'Jostaberry'. Its darker, but not a black currant. Its a mix between black currants and gooseberries, but where, pray tell, is the other parent?

I then proceed to comb the net. None of my usual nurseries have them. I find some in the UK. Big breakthrough. I'm then combing the US importation website and lists of banned plants. Maybe its illegal to import it, who knows.

Now the real breakthrough is when I come across the Currant Company's website. They have a history of the Black Currant in the United States. The title of the article? "Forbidden" U.S. History of the Black Currant. Turns out its been banned for somewhere around 100 years due to its connection to white pine rust disease. Black currants pass along the disease, along with red currants, native currants and several varieties of gooseberries. The list goes on, but only Black Currants were banned.

Well, no longer. In New York then ban was recently appealed, and so started the Currant Company. They've been selling both currant juice and whole currants for a while, but their goods are not widely available, usually shipped, and they tend to be expensive as well. The lucky part? They've started selling plants too. Mail order. In this one site I hit the mother load.

A long and boring story made shorter, I ordered two for about $40 with shipping (the two day shipping is over half of that). Now I must wait for them to come. They dont ship for a while yet bare root. After that, I must find a place to plant them, prune them, and wait for berries that might not come till next year.
Till then... there should at least be some good tomatoes to eat.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Unicorn of Trial

I baked a cake. That is not the important part however. The cake was just a mix. Two cake mixes, to be quite exact. The important thing here was the goo that went on top. Now don't jump to conclusions. I took the lazier still rout, and used store bought frosting too. It was specifically the goo on top of that that is of note. Yes, I made fondant.

It isn't a true fondant, being made primarily of marshmallows and powdered sugar. The marshmallow fondant, or MMF, is much easier to make than regular fondant and more user friendly. It requires 3 cheap and easy to find ingredients likely in the pantry already. I got the recipe, and tons of helpful hints from Peggy Weaver, at .

So what did I accomplish? Just about the coolest unicorn cake the world has ever seen.

Happy birthday Alex!

The assembly of the two cake mixes. I used my ample winging-it skills, an 8" cake, a 9" cake, and a 9" by 13" cake. I realized sometime after I had removed all the cakes from the pan that I had nothing large enough to encompass them all. Except my marble work slab!
Thanks Grandma!

The most worrisome aspect of working with cake mixes would be their texture. They are so incredibly fragile and fluffy. All of my experiences frosting cakes from a box have been less than pleasant. I'm applying a crumb coat, which rolls up into a crumb lump which then snowballs into the entire cake, picking up frosting crumbs and denting the whole shebang. This time it worked. Don't ask me how. I believe in miracles.

I was unsuccesful in commanding the fondant. I couldn't get a big enough solid piece to cover without seems. So after crumpling my failed attempt into a ball slamming on the table and shouting and hopping around in fit of incandescent rage and frustration, I reassessed. I had been working on wax paper. That went away. That alone I now believe might have made it work, but I also decided to work in sections. It was actually really fun to work with. The way it sat almost perfectly, and its pretty plasticine surface as I tucked it under the edge really pleased me. Ignore the fit. It was fun... seriously. After I tossed the wax paper.

And then it got REALLY fun. Sure my hands are now a grayish blue tie-dye from making all those colors of fondant. That hardly matters. The hair is what made the unicorn... other than the horn. That too made the unicorn... but look at that hair!

Over all... once maybe twice a year will I do this. Started at noon today and worked till right about 6. My feet hate me, it tasted like cake mix cake and sugar, and I definitely liked the Pecan Pie birthday better... but darn it, I made a pretty cake!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

I'll Pecan YOUR Pie!

Your average pecan pie uses about two cups of pecans. Your average pecan pie usually has a sort of gelatinous corn syrup infused filling with a touch of bourbon. Most have only a bottom pie crust, and an open top.

This edition. from Martha Stewart, is not the average pecan pie.
  • It contains a whopping 4 cups pecans. I wince every time I measure them out. SO many of my precious pecans going into one food...
  • It is filled with a rich caramel, no corn syrup.
  • Its baked in a skillet. Starting on the stove while make the caramel, the pie is topped with the pie crust and sent to the oven. One dish preparation.
  • To present, you invert it.

I think next time I make it I'll cut back on the pecans a half cup to a whole cup. Not only is my pan a bit smaller than the recommended, but after the first couple slices, I'm sorry to say it, but I almost start picking through the pecans to get to the crust. Its pretty intense anyway, and I think it could carry itself with a reduction on the filling. Besides, if you have good butter, the crust is just about the best part!

And on that last picture, of the whole pie, I don't think its supposed to be that dark. Whoops...

All together, its about 1 1/4 cups of butter, almost two cups of sugar, and thats ignoring the 4 cups of nuts and cream. Pretty rich. Worth it.

Upside-down Pecan Pie

  • 1 unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 cups pecan halves, (about 1 pound)
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • one pie crust
  1. In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, combine butter, honey, and sugars. Bring to a boil; let boil for 4 minutes. Add pecans and heavy cream, and boil 3 minutes more. Remove from heat, and set aside. Let stand about 30 minutes to cool. Using a wooden spoon, gently mound pecans and caramel slightly in center of skillet, leaving a gap between pecans and edge of skillet.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.with rack in the top third. On a clean, lightly floured work surface, roll out one disk of prepared chilled pastry to approximately a 7/8-inch-thick, 13-inch-diameter circle. Place the pastry over the skillet, carefully tucking the dough down against the edge of the skillet and around the edges of the mound of pecans. Trim the excess dough.
  3. Place two rimmed baking sheets, one on top of the other, underneath the skillet to catch any drips while the pie bakes and to provide insulation for the caramel. Place skillet in the oven, and bake pie until the dough is just turning golden brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and continue baking until the pastry is cooked through and the caramel is bubbling up around the edges of the skillet, about 30 minutes more.
  4. Remove the pie from the oven, and let cool about 20 minutes. Carefully invert the pie onto a parchment-lined tray or baking sheet (the pie is easy to transfer to serving plate once it has been inverted). Be careful inverting pie; the caramel is very hot. If the pie does not release easily from skillet, heat the skillet over medium heat for about 30 seconds. Serve warm.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Best Butter Ever

This stuff is fabulous. I first found out about it at a pie baking class at down town Portland's Sur La Table. The butter they used was fantastic. It gave the crusts a incredible, almost cream cheese like, zing to it. Suddenly I found myself drudging through the pecans and caramel so I could get to the sweet sweet buttery crust. The biggest problem, it's not widely available as it comes from a small dairy in Clackamas. I have found it sold at two stores in Portland. Now that I'm back kicking it up in Baker, I've been managing my small hoard with a miserly iron fist. Stached triple bagged in my freezer, I'm cracking some out for my mother's birthday pie tomorrow. The best part about this butter? A nice high fat European style butter, it tastes as good as the $8lb imported danish butter or the $5 something-ish a half pound Kerrygold, and its only about $4 a pound.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Soda Pop

Never been a fan of fruit soda's. Grape, orange, strawberry, what have you. They just don't taste right. Its just an excuse to drink sugar fizz. Its grape flavor! That makes it all better!
Straight carbonated water has never been dear to me either. Its dry bubbles just highlight the sodium content making it taste somewhat salty, which in this case I find unappetizing. I'm working on it, but I've yet to be able to develop a taste for it.

The fix for both, Izze, naturally flavored blends of fruit juice with sparkling water. Each bottle counts for one full serving of fruit, and with no added sugar or artificial flavorings they show up your average grape and orange soda. They have a very fine fizz. Combining it with the zip of the fruit juice, its a very bright compliment. The fine misty smoke as you open a cool bottle, and the zing each time I take a sip... And I do sip it. Takes me about a day to drink one if I take my time, leaving it in the fridge between tastes. My reacurring favorite is their Clementine flavor. Carbonated orange juice that tastes like orange juice. Eureka! Pictured here is their pomegranate flavor.

Their lite versions use a 90:10 split carbonated water to juice ration in place of the 70:30 in regular. They're very similar to straight carbonated water, but with just a hint of flavor and sweetness to nock out that salty aftertaste.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Pea Soup and Crap Chowder

Soups have been slipping one by one into my kitchen. They have done this a total of twice. No big feat... but I share.

I was bedazzled by a bag of green split peas in the grocery store. As I was admiring their uniform green plasticine sheen, I realized I had never partaken of split pea soup. Much like lentil soup, pea soup gets a pretty bad wrap for its appearance. As Jordan describes his family's version "It looks just like cartoon vomit." Sounds appetizing of course, but both lentils and peas are so healthy, packing a ton of fiber and protein with no fat and hardly any carbohydrates. And both are relatively cheap... And I had to try it some day.

I set about searching for a recipe with vanity in mind. I searched images of pea soup. The most hideous looking (though still delicious sounding) recipes contained cubes of ham and carrots and various bits and chunks. The prettiest of all were made with fresh peas looking wonderfully vibrant, and an interesting cold soup using frozen peas. Of the prettiest dried versions the most fashionable had little besides peas and onions. A pretty greep puree with a dollop of cream (mentally added) puddled in a shallow bowl caught my eye. Turns out it's Emril Lagasse's recipe.

Under the surprisingly eager eyes of both my little siblings, I prepared the soup mostly by the recipe. I cautioned them that pea soup was not very popular. Though it was a wonderfully healty and even delicious soup, people were mean to it because it doesn't look very pretty. They were caught by the drama, and as a result ask me its status every 5 minutes through the process. They both enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. My parents did as well. A definite success. Sadly we forgot about the leftovers and they perished. A moment of silence...

Moving on, the latest soup has no photo's, but was tasty. A combination of bacon, clams potatoes, and cream along with some other integeral ingredients comprised a wonderful clam chowder. Though dubbed far before its completion "Crap Chowder" by my eagerly sarcastic brother, the children did try some. It had a lot of clams, so I don't begrudge them their ample leftovers. They did praise its flavor however. Which I thought a total plus.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Another Strike Of Pie Day

I have taken it into my head, as is oft my want, to practice my art of cookery in my ample spare time. Being returned to my native kitchen, I am much obliged to begin said practice. I started small. A batch of oatmeal nut cookies with a small amount of chocolate and no raisins. A day later, I followed with another batch of cookies, to replenish the first, and a batch of 6 loaves of bread. It was a take on an AllRecipes for so called Fabulous Homemade Bread. I replaced half the bread flour with whole wheat flour for that extra fiber, I mean, texture boost.

At anyrate, the bread was pretty fine. I baked two loaves and froze the rest in the form of two more loaves and a batch of rolls. They should be good later. Other than the shape laking a bit of height, the bread was perfect. Very light and tasty.

But I digress. We are not here for the bread. We are here for pie. I took a class on it a while back, and have been meaning to work on my skills for a while now. So I made a couple batches of crust. To practice see. All of a sudded I had a fridge with 4 pie crusts resting within! Whats a girl to do? Bake some pie, of course, but what variety? Going with what had on hand I grabbed a bag of frozen blueberries. As life usually goes the berries were all shriveled and yucky, so I had to go to the store anyway. And so with some wingin-it skills, and two bags of berries I came up with this.

Two-Berry Pie
1lb- Frozen Blueberries
1lb- Frozen Raspberries
1 double pie crust batch
1/2 C sugar or so
1-2T corn startch
I rolled out the crust in the pie dish brushed it with a beaten and left it in the fridge.
While I mixed the sugar and corn starch and tossed it with the berries.
I poured the dusted berries into the crust, dabbed some butter about it, and topped it with the other crust. I formed it up, then brushed it with more of the beaten egg, sprinkled granulated and turbinado sugar on it and popped it into a 400 degree oven for 15 or 20 minutes till it started to brown, then I dropped it down to 350 and cooked it for about 40 minutes or so till it was hot and the crusts looked done, covering it halway through with tinfoil so it wouldn't burn.

Did I stress the wingin-it bit?

It turned out wonderfully. Eating the whole thing amongst the 5 of us within 3 hours, the pie claimed an average of 2 slices per person (two children included here). And I'm telling you we aren't big on the baked fruit thing. Or even the pie thing... But it was good.

Soo goood.


I've been reading. Reading, in fact, to the point of being all read out (for the time being). I followed this with video game playing. I skipped on past the video-gamed-out point a few days after that. To follow up I anime-ed-out myself in the last few days, and I seem to be moving on to cooking.
If the pattern continues I shall be somewhat cooked-out in a few days(allowing a few extra to account for extreme cooking stamina I've built up over the years). I can hope the next activity will put an end to the pressure. You see I've been building up quite a bit of creative potential in my weeks of frivolity. I should hope I will be able to write something. Be it a wondermous blog or a fantastical story. Either would bring much sunshine to my heart.