Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And Suddenly, You're Building a Gingerbread Cathedral...

...so far, so good. I have the panels baked and decorated. I'll do the assembly and repairs tomorrow and spend some time making mini-details later. The dome will be on a stand in the centre of the structure, but the casual viewer should not be able to see it. I'm still not convinced the whole thing won't collapse, but I suppose just getting this far with such an insane idea is an accomplishment.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Steamed Buns

The recipe for the buns may be found HERE. I improvised a filling of stem ginger, garlic, onions, carrots, cabbage and sesame oil. I tossed in a bit of five spice and let it all cook down slowly. I did make sure to let the filling chill well before filling the buns, so they don't start to steam as they rise. not having a wok with a lid, I made these in a pot with a metal steamer-it worked fine. The buns are a bit sticky, so I lined with parchment instead of the recommended wax paper.

Mine rose, feather-light. I swear, I've never seen or felt anything like it.

These were easy to do, though be warned if you have any dry, cracked skin on your hands-kneading flour with a dusting of baking powder really, really hurts. Bad. Otherwise, these were a breeze to make.

Today's Best Reason To Homeschool

Books are like, so 20th century. Where's the cafe?

Poor Mojo's Newswire

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Licorice Caramels

I had a good candy-making day today. In addition to the licorice caramels, I made a batch of coffee flavoured as well. Tomorrow, I'll try dark chocolate caramels with orange flower water. I hope everyone wants caramels for Christmas...

You Will Need:

1 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 1/4 teaspoons anise extract
Black food colouring

In a heavy, large pot, combine everything except the extract and food colouring. Cook, over medium heat stirring regularly to prevent scorching. Cook to 248 degrees F. Remove from heat and stir in extract and colouring. Tip onto a well-buttered 9x11 heatproof dish and let sit until cold. Turn out out, and cut as desired. Wrap tightly in waxed paper.

For Coffee caramels:

Add 1 tablespoon instant coffee to everything else, and after removing from heat, stir in vanilla extract rather than anise.

What Happened To Hibernating?

Among the many expectations I have in life, is the hope that by the end of November, I will be through finding snakes in the house. Apparently, nature has other ideas.

At least it was a small one.

Cinder Toffee From Many Syrups

I'd been curious to try making cinder toffee/honeycomb with syrups other than Golden. I kept the recipe the same, as well as the technique changing only the syrup in each. The results were interesting.

Golden Syrup:

This is my stand-by syrup that I use for most candymaking. The results are nice, and they have a deep, almost burnt caramel flavour that I really enjoy. These are what the name, "Cinder Toffee" evokes for me.


Now these are interesting. The flavour is deep, and smoky, and they melt down into an almost taffy-like texture in the mouth. They are certainly heavier than the Golden syrup, but have a longer chew.


These were my favourite overall. The texture is so light, lifting the slab of candy was like handling pumice. The honey candy came up drier as well, though some people like the sticky-tacky feel of regular cinder toffee. These melt rather quickly in the mouth, unlike the Golden Syrup, and molasses.

Malt Syrup:

Mr. ETB declared these his favourite, and I can see grinding them up to make a fantastic malt powder for ice cream and baking. Again, like the honey these were very light, and in the pot they cooked quickly and started to strand before it ever reached an amber colour-so keep an eye on it if you try making these. The results have a lovely malt taste. I might dip these in chocolate-just to see.

Maple Syrup:

The only, "syrup" that is pure of the lot, and not a combination of sugars, or a by-product of the manufacture. Didn't make cinder toffee, I'm afraid. It did end up crystalising and making a maple sugar candy, which is delicious, but it is not at all aerated-the result is dense and granular.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Overheard in my Living Room-Not a Made-Up Story

Papa: So Danny, did you hear Jeter might be leaving the Yankees?

Danny: Was he a general in the Civil War?

That's our Danny!

Black Forest Cheesecake

-because the boys don't like pumpkin pie, and cream cheese was on sale at Hy-Vee.

Recipe to follow later in the week, but I will say that making your own chocolate wafer cookies is economical-a small box is now close to five dollars.

Two Egg Whites

After doing an egg wash on yesterday's bread, I had two little egg whites left. My freezer is filled with egg whites.

Here's what I did:

I beat the room temperature egg whites in a copper bowl until they held soft peaks, then I beat in (slowly) a cup of cinnamon sugar. I piped them onto parchment paper on a baking sheet and baked them for an hour at 225 degrees F. Then, I turned off the oven and left them overnight. In the morning? Perfect meringues.

Who? Who? Who...

...wants to get up at 5 AM?

I do, actually, and the owl that lives in the tree beside the bedroom window seems to understand the household schedule as well. Danny's room is far enough that he sleeps through the chant each morning, but I enjoy an hour to have coffee and wake up slowly before launching into the day.

I can definitely say, I'm thankful for owls, and my morning cup of coffee.

I'm thankful for the sleepy headed not-quite-six year old who stumbles into the kitchen each morning, squinting in the light seeking toast and tea. I'm thankful he still needs my help tying the belt on his robe, and pulling on the occasional stubborn sock. Once they can tie their own robes, and pull on socks it is but a short time until they've left home and run off with some floozy. Whatever floozy he finds had better make a decent pot of tea and not over-brown the toast. I'm thankful for tea and toast, and Red Rose Tea proofs of purchases that can be sent off for porcelain miniature figurines.

I'm thankful for the copy of Chapman's Homer, in one volume the Internet sent my way last evening. Thanks, Internets!

I'm thankful for the snoring Scotsman, who always offers to do the washing up after dinner even though I rarely accept. I'm thankful for the time he spends involved in Danny's life, the thoughtfulness he shows us, and the made-up songs that entertain us (you'd be horrified, but we think they're funny in an, "If William S. Burroughs had a lounge-act" kind of way). I'm thankful that I don't need to explain jokes to him. I can't imagine going through life with someone that didn't understand the same humour.

I'm thankful for vegetarianism, and the fact that I am not required to roast a gigantic bird no one enjoys year after year. I'm thankful for fake Christmas trees that can be set-up on Thanksgiving Day, for gingerbread men and candy canes to decorate it, and for the hours spent getting each branch, "just right" to suit a small child's tastes. The ornaments all look better at his eye level anyhow.

I'm thankful for my car with over 200, 000 miles on it that keeps running (knock wood), for a sturdy box grater, for a well-made wooden drying rack, and countless other things that do work, in a world where so many things do not. I'm thankful for the purple Polar Fleece Extreme Cold long underwear I bought eighteen years ago at Tent City in Boston that I am wearing as I type on this cold, 8 degree F. morning. Purple fleece long underwear, rocks.

I'm incredibly thankful for friends that after so many years are still part of our lives. I'm thankful for all of the people we'll never meet, who come here to see what sort of monstrosity has come forth from my kitchen, and I'm thankful for the supportive comments when I destroy a perfectly good pan attempting jelly candy that smells like a grandmother (won't be making Turkish Delight again any time soon). I'm thankful for the people who send my better half home with bags of Venison for his vegetarian wife to prepare (I like a challenge!). I'm thankful for International Christmas cards that decorate my piano each year.

For all that, and more I am thankful. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bread Dough Ornaments

Probably not the chore for someone with rough skin and cuts all over their hands (yow, salt dough hurts!) but in the end, we made a couple dozen decent looking ornaments. I left the cut-out pieces in the oven to dry overnight, and they were ready to paint in the morning. If you're not artistic (like me) use cookie cutters for the shapes (I did). You can add paint, glitter, and a clear poly coat (if you like) to preserve them for years to come.

You Will Need:

1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup regular table salt
Enough water to mix into dough

Combine salt and flour and add the water until you have something not sticky, and the consistency of bread dough. Knead it until smooth, roll it out, and cut into shapes. Place on a parchment lined sheet in a 225 degree F. oven for several hours (about 4). Turn off oven, and leave overnight to harden. When completely dry, decorate.

Sourdough Challah

This turned out beautifully. The recipe makes a very large loaf, and it is richer than most challahs (in terms of butter) and certainly sweeter. I expect it will make lovely toast, which is nice because I made a small three half-pint batch of ruby grapefruit marmalade today-and you don't want to waste that on just any old toast.

You Will Need:

2 1/4 teaspoons regular dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup fed sourdough starter
1 cup AP flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 cups AP flour
2 egg yolks plus 1 tablespoon water

In a large bowl, combine yeast in warm water and stir to dissolve. Add the starter, and 1 cup of flour. Mix well, cover and let rise about four hours. Stir sponge down, and add sugar, eggs, butter, salt, and 2 cups Ap flour. Mix well. Continue adding flour until you have a stiff dough that is no longer sticky. Knead until smooth. Place in a buttered bowl and let rise until doubled (about 2 hours). Punch down, divide in 4 pieces and roll into lengths of rope. Braid, place on buttered sheet, and let rise again until nearly doubled. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Before baking, beat the egg and water together and brush generously on bread. Bake 20 minutes, remove from oven and glaze again. Return to oven to continue baking until done-about 40 minutes total. Cool on rack. Makes one gigantic loaf.

Mincemeat Mini-Pies

A gigantic mincemeat pie is too much for one person, even Mr. ETB (and he does dearly love mincemeat pie). This particular batch of mincemeat was canned two years ago...two years of soaking up brandy.

As I was putting these tiny pies together (it took about an hour) I was listening to a radio show about ADD. If you think that's funny, the author was complaining about how the title of his book had to be shortened to simply, "Distracted" for sale in the American market. I laughed so hard I nearly dropped a tray of mincemeat pies. Anyway, yeah-they take a bit of attention to detail, but I'm fairly confident you can manage it without anti-psychotic medications. I mean, aren't those speed anyway? You need steady hands for this sort of pastry work.

Here's what you do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Make a double-crust pastry, roll it out and fit the bottom rounds into the mini tins. Fill with mincemeat. Top wither with latticed strips of pastry, or cut-out rounds. Crimp lightly. Bake about 40 minutes, or until nicely browned. I brushed mine with egg yolk, but you could use milk, or cream, or nothing at all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sourdough Raisin English Muffins

An absurdly easy recipe for sourdough English muffins. I changed the soak time, etc. to reflect already fed starter. The recipe does call for yeast in addition to the sourdough, but I don't see why you couldn't omit it-though it will take several more hours on the rises (in a cold kitchen). My starter is pretty strong, and I think it would have worked fine-something to try next time.

From, Creative Sourdough Cooking, Rose Cantrell, 1977

2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup fed, sourdough starter
2 cups AP flour
2 tablespoons melted shortening (i used butter)
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins (I used closer to 1 cup)
3-4 cups Additional AP flour
Cornmeal for dusting

Mix yeast in warm water until dissolved. Stir in starter. Add 2 cups AP flour, and mix well. Cover, and set aside until foaming-mine took 2 hours. For an unfed starter, book suggests leaving it overnight.

Mix in the shortening, molasses, and salt. Add raisins and flour, a cup at a time until you have a somewhat sticky dough that can be rolled into a ball. Place in a buttered bowl, turn to coat, and cover. let rise until doubled (about 2 hours). Punch dough down and divide in 2. Scatter a work surface with cornmeal, and pat out dough to 1/2 inch thick. Using a 3 inch cutter, cut out rounds. Place on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and let rise again until doubled-about 1 hour.

Heat a griddle (I used a cast iron pan) and grease it very lightly. You want it hot, but not so hot that your muffins will burn. Just under medium works on my range, but you will need to adjust accordingly. Then, bake them-about ten minutes on each side. I also like to get the sides browned a bit at the end, but it isn't really needed. Cool on racks, then store in plastic bags in the fridge. Makes about 18 muffins (I got 13).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Spinach Lasagna With Homemade Pasta

I suspect what really made this special wasn't the fresh pasta, but the assortment of cheeses therein. I am fortunate enough to live within an hour's drive of a grocer in Iowa that has the world's most amazing selection of cheese ends. Really, I plan trips to Iowa around this place. Anyway, the combination of Parmesan, Romano, Pecorino, and oddly enough, Swiss really came together for an interesting dish. I also used sieved cottage cheese, as I almost never have ricotta on hand. 4% cottage cheese, drained and forced through a fine sieve is a pretty good filling for most pasta dishes-I've had great success using it for ravioli.

This is a bit of work, but if you're having vegetarians over for Thanksgiving (provided they do eggs and dairy) this might be a nice thing to serve. It re-heats quite well, and isn't half-bad cold either.

You Will Need:

For the Pasta:

3 large egg yolks plus 1 whole large egg
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semolina flour
(about) 1 cup AP flour plus more for dusting

Beat the eggs until light. Beat in water and salt. Beat in semolina, then slowly add enough AP flour until you have a stiff dough. Roll into a ball, wrap in cling film and let rest 30 minutes. Roll out thin, dry for an hour on racks, then boil gently for a few minutes. Proceed with assembling dish.

For the Spinach Filling:

3 cups 4 % cottage cheese, drained and forced through a fine sieve
1 teaspoon dried garlic granules
Pepper to taste
3 blocks frozen spinach, cooked, drained and squeezed dry in a dishtowel
2 large eggs

Combine all, mix well.

For the Sauce:

2 cups skim milk (I think you have enough fat in the cottage cheese, etc.)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons Wondra flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until it comes to a boil. Cook one minute longer, Remove from heat, cool slightly before using.

Cheese Layer:

You need about 4 cups shredded cheese-use a combination of hard, and soft cheeses for a good effect. I find Swiss works really well, but if you prefer mozzarella, go ahead and use it. Provolone is always nice too.

Assemble your lasagna, making sure the top layer is sauce and cheese. Bake in a 9x13 pan, in a 350 degree F. oven for about an hour, or until top is nicely browned and bubbly. let stand a few minutes before cutting.

Fuyu Persimmon Cake

These are the firm, less astringent persimmons (though the others are perfectly sweet if you allow them to fully ripen) everyone is mad for now. I made the cake from a recipe HERE. Bear in mind, it took an hour, not 30 minutes for mine to bake. It is a pretty enough cake, and easily thrown together on short notice, but it can also be made with 2 persimmons rather than three, and cut into thick slices, which is what I did.

Recipe may be found, HERE.

Sourdough Fruitcake

We all knew I'd do something like this, correct?

I based this on a recipe in Breads and Cakes With Homemade Starters, by Ada Lou Roberts, 1967. Strangely, I own two copies of this oddball volume, but I've only recently remembered it. I think these were purchased prior to the tornado, and then lost in the clean-up. Anyway, here we are with a sourdough fruitcake.

I used the starter I already have thriving, not the buttermilk based one Ada Lou recommends. I think we can all trust a baker named, "Ada Lou." Or I can at least.

I also made some changes with the fruits, using my own candied apricots and dates in place of nuts, etc. I skipped the wine and went straight for brandy because I had it, and prefer it to wine. As with the fruits, you can substitute pretty freely with fruitcake recipes, just keep the measures equal. I really like the way these turned out.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups raisins (sultanas, red flame, etc.)
1 1/2 cups dried currants
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons blackberry cordial (remember, this was published in the 60's when that shit was popular) or other wine
1 cup fed sourdough starter
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
4 cups AP flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon mace (I adore mace, I'm glad she includes this overlooked spice)
3 cups candied fruit (cherries, pineapple, peels, candied ginger, etc.)
1 cup or more chopped nuts (I used candied dates, but some people swear by unsweetened coconut as a nut replacement)

Soak raisins and currants in wine overnight. Feed starter overnight. In the morning, drain the fruit, reserving the liquid. Grease 3 standard loaf pans, or two larger ones (or six mini-whatever). Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. With a large pan of water set on the bottom shelf.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light. Beat in eggs and lemon rind. Pour wine drained from raisins into mixture. Stir in starter and 3 cups of the flour sifted with the spices, and baking soda. Sprinkle remaining flour over the fruits and stir into mixture. Turn into loaf pans and let rise 30 minutes in a warm spot. Bake about 2 1/2 hours for standard loaf pans, checking for doneness at about 2 hours. Remove to rack, and cool on their sides, in pan for 10 minutes. Remove, and cool completely on rack. When cool, brush with wine and then wrap tightly and store before using.

Sourdough Made With Whole Wheat, and Rye

The crumb was pretty light and open, considering the hefty flours. I did use two cups of bread flour in the sponge, which I think helped. This bread took close to three days, but the boys really liked it as a base for chutney and cheese sandwiches. It seems to keep well, which is always nice.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why Limit Gingerbread To Cottages?

Me: I wonder if you could fashion a dome from gingerbread by baking it on an inverted bowl?

Mr. ETB: You'd probably need to make extra, in case they break.

Me: Yeah. I wonder if I could wrap the dough around a coffee cannister to get a round shaped building...

Mr. ETB: (completely unfazed, as though this were the most ordinary conversation in the world) You'd need to stabalise it somehow, to build the whole cathedral.

And that people, is what happens after seventeen years together-you decide to do St. Paul's Cathedral in gingerbread, and before you've even mentioned what you intend to bake, your better half is making jokes about how to depict Nazis firebombing it-in gingerbread, of course.

I mean, any idiot can bake a gingerbread cottage-it takes an ambitious idiot to bake a Christopher Wren cathedral.

White Castle Stuffing

Maybe you need to be from Chicago to understand why THIS is funny. Or revolting. But still kind of funny.

So Your Socks Smell Nice

My son has discovered men's cologne. I went ahead and helped him spray three strips of paper with different fragrances, to decide which he prefers. Danny took the strips and placed each in a dresser drawer*, so he can see what they smell like on his clothes after a couple days. I'm afraid the kid has my tastes, but overall being a devotee of Guerlain is probably better than the cult of Axe. Thank god. I pity the mothers of Axe dousing teenaged boys. I like cologne...in moderation. Teenaged boys don't understand moderation.

*I'm of the generation that still sticks a bar of soap (preferably Yardley lavender) in the dresser drawers to keep things smelling nice. I can say from experience, that mice won't eat it. They will eat Dial, Safeguard, and they simply adore the taste of Ivory (I had a package in the cabinet beneath the sink they devoured) but Yardley lavender soap must give their mouse intestines a trail-they won't touch it. The things you learn, living on a farm.

Malt Loaf Recipe?

I need a malt loaf recipe-preferably one that has been tried (I get funny about trying out random recipes when expensive ingredients are involved-and malt is expensive around here). Anyone?

Thanks in advance.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Is it just me, or is having an ice rink in front of the medical centre funny?

"Aaaaaggghhh, my hip!"

Not as funny as the hospital overlooking the huge cemetery-but still funny.

Sourdough Pancakes

So, what were you doing at 6 AM? I was making pancakes.

These were a successful experiment.

1 cup fed sourdough starter
3/4 cup AP flour
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
(about) 1 cup water

Mix everything except water in a large bowl. Depending how firm your fed starter is, you'll need to dilute with water until you get a thick, yet pourable batter. Heat a griddle, toss in a small amount of butter, and make some pancakes. I got about a dozen good, sized ones from this batter.

Friday, November 19, 2010

More Fruitcake

Don't forget to visit my other blog project, Festive Fruitcakes. If you bake any you'd like to share, I'll be pleased to post them.

Stir-Up Sunday is...oh my goodness...This Sunday! You're going to want some recipes.

Gingerbread-The Wenham Tea House Cookbook

"At The Sign of the Tea Kettle and Tabby Cat."

The Wenham tea house in Wenham, Mass. was one of my very favourite places. By tea-room standards, the place was somewhat spartan, but the tea was excellent, the sandwiches strange, and I spent many happy afternoons there. Before we moved, I dragged Mr. ETB up there to purchase a copy of the tea room cookbook. A decade later, I still hadn't baked anything from it. Today, I did.

The tea house was a project of the Wenham Improvement Society, and has been in operation since 1912. As far as I know, it is still there, but if it is not, please don't tell me.

This is a very substantial gingerbread. I ended-up using a mixture of full-flavour molasses, Blackstrap molasses, and Golden Syrup because I thought all Blackstrap would be inedible. I also took the step of frosting it with a cream cheese frosting which offset the strong flavour. The strange thing is-the boys loved it. Dense, strongly flavoured, and rich with spices, I didn't think they would go for it. Shows how much I know. The cake is large, so I froze half (unfrosted) and plan to use it with a ginger custard at some point as a trifle. This seems like a reasonable cake to have on hand through the holidays. You could obviously skip the frosting and just dust it with icing sugar before serving.

You Will Need:

5 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons cloves
4 teaspoons ginger
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups molasses (I used 1 cup Blackstrap, 1/2 cup Golden Syrup, and 1/2 cup Full Flavour molasses-use what your tastes dictate)
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups boiling water

Sift flour, and spices together. Cream butter and sugar until light. Add molasses, and mix well. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each. Stir in baking soda and boiling water. Add flour mixture and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 45-55 minutes. Cool before frosting, or dusting with icing sugar. Makes a very large cake.

Blackstrap Molasses

Since I seem to be unable to eat (I know, sounds like a dream come true, but it really stinks) I thought I ought to try to get in a spoonful of blackstrap molasses every morning for the iron and other nutrients. I used to date someone that swore by it, and he was in pretty decent shape-so I poured myself a nice big spoon of the stuff...

...yeah, that isn't going to work for me. People really subject themselves to this daily? Maybe diluted in hot water or something. I used some of it to bake a gingerbread today-haven't served it yet, but I'll post it when the boys give their feedback. Other than perhaps a batch of baked beans, I can't think of a good use for the remainder of the bottle. I sure as hell won't be downing any of it straight from the bottle again (gah, if I have to consume a by-product of sugar refining, I'll drink rum).

One Month To Go...

...until Operation Birthday Cake is finished. Oh dear god, I'm soooo damn tired already-why do I do this? I swear, I'm not some sort of martyr. A store bought cake is a thing of beauty, it really is. Someone really needs to open a nut-free bakery in Nebraska. Not me. I'm not opening a nut-free bakery-I can barely manage what I need to do.

All right, complaining out of the way, here's what I have in mind-the siege of Troy. In cake. The horse will be the easy part, but getting a walled city constructed with decorated cookies might be trickier. Fortunately, the templates, and cookies can be made well ahead (those royal icing cookies never go stale) and I can mess around with applying frosting to cake a few days before. In the past, I've had good luck with the golden butter cake recipe in the 1950 edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. When chilled, the cake cuts and slices so neatly, that there aren't any crumbs or uneven surfaces to deal with. That was the cake I used for the HMS Victory, and for the spaceship in The Day The Earth Stood Still. I plan to use if for the horse. I'm envisioning something boxy-looking that can be held together in pieces with skewers, then frosted over. I can get a wood-paneled look with decorated graham crackers (provided I bake them small enough), but all-over frosting might be better. Gee whiz, I don't know.

The bigger problem will be getting my hands on an affordable copy of Chapman's Homer*. I know, I know, but the kid is hung-up on Elizabethans, and he really wants it. I'm not kidding, I caught him flipping through Spenser, and I asked if he knew what he was reading and the reply I got was, "Several hundred pages of sucking-up to the monarch." No child of mine will be going without his Elizabethan translation of Homer, if I can help it. I feel like I'm supposed to say something like, "At least he isn't into Pokeman." I don't know anything at all about Pokeman, but what I know about Elizabethan verse, makes me wonder if Pokeman might be, if not inherently more interesting, easier to read aloud. At least no one can accuse me of forcing my interests on the child, because if I were, I'd just show him old episodes of Soupy Sales, and call it, Humanities class.

Anyone out there have experience with large scale, epic cake? How about a used set of Chapman's Homer? I'd gladly swap for a nice food basket of jams, Christmas cake, bread-whatever. I'm flexible, and I can take (bake) requests-but I need it soon. I can go about twenty bucks, max for both.

* It isn't that we lack usable translations of Homer. I have many from which the child may choose. Just for funsies, he can flip back and forth between translations, but for classwork, I'm not using Chapman.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Wear The Awful Trends...

...so you don't have to.

Grey knit tights look about as good as you'd imagine. I don't know what possessed me...a desire to stay warm? Complete lack of fashion sense? They might have looked OK without the cables-the cables are pretty bad. But hey, if you're looking for a way to make your legs look utterly shapeless, these might be for you.

Now get off my lawn!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Guess The President Isn't A Marxist

-He just gave Warren Buffett the Medal of Freedom.

I mean... oh never mind-I'll leave it to the Z Magazine people to tackle this one-but geez...I mean...I understand that realistically speaking, making billions of dollars probably does reflect an important American fundamental...I just wish we didn't have to be so damned blatant in...I don't know...celebrating it? Yay, capitalism! People are sleeping in the streets and eating out of dumpsters.


You Know You Are An Interfaith Family When...

...you go online to purchase Hanukkah candles, and an Advent calendar at the same time.

That's really going to screw-up the Amazon recommendation software.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Spectacles

I needed a new lenses, as I grow more blind each year. I prefer the traditional bifocal to the line-less ones because I'm stupid, and the line lets me know where to look. These are wonderful! I had frames from an old pair of reading specs that I thought would make a good spare pair-and they certainly did. I'm really fortunate to have an excellent optometrist, and the people who measure your eyes know what they're doing. The last pair, I put on, and never had trouble adjusting to. This pair is the same deal-I got in the car, drove into town, and forgot I was even wearing them. Bifocals can be tricky if they aren't exactly right for your eye-but these are perfect. I am so incredibly happy.

Why can't I have this sort of good luck with dentists?

Yet Another Sourdough

I know, I know-you're sick of looking at bread...but look at how pretty it is! This one took 3 days from the sponge to oven, but look at it!

Orange Spice Cookies

These came up so delicate, and delicious it might be difficult to ever resort to the stand-by gingersnap recipe. Sure, rolling is a pain (and these are very sticky) but place them beneath some cling film, and pry them off the cutting board with a thin knife, and you're good. If you're bothered by plain looking biscuits, go ahead and shove an almond in the centre. I have better things to worry about (like how I can manage to eat the entire batch before Mr. ETB gets home and finishes them off).

From Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies, 1966

You Will Need:

1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup (I substituted Golden Syrup because I never have dark corn syrup on hand)
1 tablespoon water
3 1/4 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Sugar for dusting

Note-I beat these by hand with a wooden spoon to keep the cookies somewhat flat as they baked. If you beat too much air into this sort of cookie they will puff-up and then deflate and get chewy out of the oven. You can avoid this if your mixer has a paddle attachment. I don't have a mixer-I have a strong arm, and a wooden spoon. Use what works best for you.

Cream butter and sugar until combined. Add 1 egg and beat until fluffy. Add orange peel, syrup, and water-mix well to combine. Sift dry ingredients together (except granulated sugar for dusting) and stir in to mixture. Divide in 2 rolls, wrap in cling film, and chill well. Roll out thin-1/8 inch, and place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 8-10 minutes. Cool on racks.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Colourful Dinner

Dinner just looked so pretty, I had to photograph it.

Paprika baked tofu

Steamed Broccoli

Braised red cabbage with raisins and red wine

Rice in vegetable broth with peas, onions, and carrots

All served with thick slices of sourdough bread.

Not bad for a Monday night.

Neat Bread Scoring Tricks

This was achieved by making two long slashes downward rather than the typical slashes across. Pretty neat, eh?

The problem with a super-active sourdough starter is that you feel (or I do anyway) obligated to keep using it. The freezer is quickly filling with loaves of bread, as I perfect techniques. Oh well, I suppose one could do worse than having a freezer filled with home baked bread.

Chunky Jumpers

I think, "Chunky jumper", sounds like a suicidal fat person. Mr. ETB thinks it sounds like someone that fancies the obese (he doesn't know anything-that's a chubby chaser, geez). Really, it is just what the idiots that dictate fashion trends call a bulky sweater...which isn't an obese person that perspires.

I know you're glad I cleared that up.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Something Is Wrong...

...when a Swede (rutabaga) costs more than a pomegranate. It was quite the tiny Swede at that.

"So what do you do with them?", the cashier wanted to know. Being a person that devotes considerable time to writing about cookery, I should have had a more exciting answer than, "I boil and mash them." But that's the truth. I know you can roast them, and give them all sorts of fancy treatments from marmalade to applesauce-but I really just like them boiled and mashed.

Years ago, my mother made some sort of amazing casserole of Swede, lentils, broad beans, and breadcrumbs. The only seasoning I remember was a generous dose of Worcestershire sauce, but beyond that, I'm lost. She only made it once, and I suspect she didn't care for it, but I thought it was the most wonderful casserole I ever tasted. I've tried reproducing it, but haven't ever come close. Eventually I gave up, and returned to boiling and mashing my Swedes instead. I don't fancy-up the turnips or parsnips either. Boring, I know.

I did get a giggle looking at my grocery carriage as I prepared to pay-Swede, purple cabbage, sour cream, container of oats, beets, a tin of herring fillets in paprika sauce...I suppose I'm still feeling slightly unwell, as that's a pretty good snapshot of Ukrainian comfort food right there. Toss in some kasha, and rye bread and I'll turn into my Granny.

Anyone have brilliant uses for Swedes that they'd like to share?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yellow Butter Cake With Chocolate Sour Cream/Yoghurt Frosting

Wouldn't be Friday night around here without a cake-this one is so easy you can bake it with a fever of 103 degrees F.

I don't know about you, but when I'm sick, I get restless and start re-arranging the cupboards. I don't know why I'm like this. I did manage to clear out a rolling coat rack from the front room which is great because now I have room for another bookcase (three weeks to the next Friends of the Library book sale in Omaha-mark your calendars!).

This cake...oh this cake smells heavenly while it bakes. The whole house smells like butter, sugar, and vanilla which is great because it was raining all day and the wet hay neighbour has sitting in the drive starts stinking like a mixture of moss, Revere Beach at low-tide, and corn nuts. It smells much worse than it sounds. Anyway, the cake was a nice change from the regular air.

I only used yoghurt in the frosting because I had a bit of strained stuff left from a few nights ago and wanted to use it up. I can't tell the difference between thick yoghurt and sour cream in baked goods, and certainly not in frosting, but you could easily use all of one or the other-the combination was nothing more than me being a cheapskate that can't bear to throw out 1/4 cup of yoghurt.

While I'm all chatty, (god, I really am, it must be the fever) let's talk about double boilers. I don't have one. They're silly. For the three or four times a year I need one, I can rig up something suitable with a strainer and a bowl. I don't like a kitchen filled with items I won't use. Sure, every time I scrape my knuckle grating breadcrumbs, I mourn the sad death (after like, 17 years) of the food processor-but not enough to go out and purchase another-not to grate stale bread anyway. To melt chocolate I either use the microwave on half power, or I set it in a small, heavy pan (enamel over cast iron) on low heat, and stir it gently until it melts. I've never in my life scorched chocolate with this method, and even if you were tempering it, the double boiler wouldn't guarantee you better success. Or rather I should say, it wouldn't guarantee me better results. Because I'm blogging about how I bake, you won't find mention of a double boiler for melting chocolate. If you prefer to use one, and it works well for you, by all means do so-but my lack of insistence isn't because I'm unaware of the practise. I bake bread without a stand mixer as well, but that's just masochism.

I adapted this (and I really did make changes, I'm not just copying it word for word) from Better Homes and Gardens Pies and Cakes, 1966

For The Cake:

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temp
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar (or vanilla sugar if you have it, which I did)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used this in addition to the vanilla sugar for a very strong flavour, but you could decrease as you see fit)
3 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk (I used whole, but you could use any milkfat you like-I think the butter in the cake has you covered for fats)

Grease and flour two 9 inch pans and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter. Add the sugar gradually-about 4 tablespoons at a time (I know this sounds fussy, but it helps incorporate the sugar into the butter). Beat until light. Add the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract if using. Sift dry ingredients together, and add in small batches alternating with the milk. Don't overbeat the batter. Pour into pans and bake in the centre rack for 30-35 minutes (mine took closer to 40, but best to keep checking). Cool 15 minutes in pans on rack, then cool completely on rack. Trim, and frost.

For The Frosting:

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup thick yoghurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

Melt together over very low heat, the chocolate and butter, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add yoghurt, sour cream, vanilla, and slat. Mix well. Slowly, with a heavy whisk, beat in the confectioner's sugar until it is thick enough to spread. Keep in mind that it will harden with chilling, so don't go nuts and add five cups of sugar, or you'll have fudge. Fudge is nice, mid-but that's not what we're aiming for here. If you screw-up, just beat in a bit of milk or cream, and pretend nothing happened-I won't tell.

Fill and frost cake, decorate with festive jimmies (because damnit, I paid perfectly good money for these "Fall Leaves", so I'm using them!). Set out at room temperature a few minutes before serving.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I felt this awfulness approaching and did what any sane person would-made a gigantic dish of lasagna, and climbed back into bed. They'll be eating that for days. Me? Packets of instant soup and saltines.

I did manage, before getting too terribly nauseated, to make some really remarkable ice cream using a cup of heavy cream, a cup of coconut milk, 1/2 cup vanilla sugar, and toasted coconut stirred in at the end. You should try that one, next time you have half a tin of coconut milk left from a curry.

OK, back to bed. I hear we're getting the first snow flurries tomorrow night, so I fully expect to hear the rattling, and mewing of farm cats in the storm cellar. The squirrel has already returned to the outside wall of the mudroom. Farm living...Yeah, I'm going back to bed...wait, I have to share something funny:

Danny went for his flu shot today, and they put one of those children's bandages with a character on it, over the injection site. He just now, walked into the room and showed me his arm:

Danny: It looks like some sort of worm.
Me: Maybe a bookworm? A wiggleworm?
Danny : I think it is...the black meat!
Me: (Shooting angry look at my husband) Would you stop filling his head with Burroughs? Hey wait, wouldn't it be cool to have a line of decorated bandages for adults featuring Burroughs characters? "Dr. Benway's Naked Lunch bandages, for filthy beatniks" or something?

OK, I really am off to bed now.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Saffron Tofu Curry

This curry was met with requests for second servings-always a good sign. I served it over rice cooked with a cinnamon stick, 2 cloves, and a handful of raisins.

You Will Need:

1 block extra firm tofu, pressed dry of liquid, and cut into cubes
1-2 tablespoons oil for frying
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon ghee
2 large onions, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
Chopped fresh ginger to taste (about 1 tablespoon was what I used)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups vegetable stock

Soak the saffron threads in hot water for ten minutes.

Fry tofu in a pan with a small bit of oil until golden on all sides. Set aside.

Heat oil and ghee in a large pot (I used a Dutch Oven). On medium heat, add the onions, garlic and ginger. Cook until softened-about ten minutes. Add tofu, spices, and coat well. Add saffron and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, and cook 20 minutes longer. Adjust salt and pepper.

If you still have too much liquid, remove the tofu, turn up the heat and reduce the stock until you have about 1/2 cup. Pour back over tofu.

Serve hot over rice.

Nut-Free Glace Fruit For Baking

If you're doing holiday baking for a nut-allergic person, buying candied/glace/dried fruit can be hazardous. Nearly every brand I've come across is manufactured in a facility with nuts. I've always made my own candied peel, and cherries (better, cheaper), and now I've made pineapple. Here's how I did it.

Maybe fresh pineapple would be better-I don't know, these turned out well. I drained a tin of sliced pineapple and patted them completely dry between towels. I did a batch of candied cherries earlier, so I was lucky enough to have already tinted syrup to work with, but you can always leave them yellow, or tint as desired with food colouring.

The syrup is 2 cups water, 4 cups granulated sugar. Boil it down until it reduces by 1/4, and cook slices a few at a time until they have a candied appearance. Drain on rack until dry. Cover syrup in same pot to use again later. When slices are dry, re-heat syrup to a boil, re-dunk slices for a few minutes, and turn off the heat. Let sit 20 minutes. Drain on rack. Syrup should be getting thicker and reduced-this is OK. Cover for later. You'll keep repeating this until you are satisfied with how they look and feel. I did seven dips, but it would also be OK to leave them sit in the pot overnight, then drain in the morning to dry. Your call-I've done both techniques with fruit and while I haven't found the overnight soak useful with peel, it worked well with candied apricots, dates, and orange slices.

When dry (the fruit will still be sticky) store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container (I use pint jars, but plastic tubs work too) and keep in a cool place (I use the fridge unless it is really cool in the house). It is easier to chop the fruit for cakes and puddings when cold.

And that's it-really easy.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Graham Cracker Fruitcakes-Gourmet, 1971

I finally made them this morning (at 4 AM, heaven help me). When I arrived home this evening, I brushed them in brandy, wrapped them in cheesecloth, and brushed them in more brandy. Next week, they get a drink of rum. The cakes are then tightly sealed in foil, and stored until Christmas. You can get the details, and more pictures at Festive Fruitcakes.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

I've Been To Iowa

I probably ought to have been a bit embarrassed to purchase ten pounds of butter, two large packages of beef suet, a ton of cheese and the four dozen eggs not pictured. I wasn't. I bake, and we have a freezer.

Suet is almost impossible to get hold of these days, but if you're a local, we found this at the Hy Vee in the Mall of the Bluffs. Get there quick before some other suet-steaming-pudding fanatic beats you to it. While you're at it, Peppercorn Parmesan cheese is on sale for 3.99 a lb. I stocked up. Good stuff that Pepato cheese.

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Angry French Canadian

I'll bet they were sober when they came up with this.

Rosemary Sourdough

Still cranking them out.


That's the best independent bookstore left. Well, for new books anyway.

I fell in love at the New England Mobile Book Fair (more than once, actually. Eeks. Sorry honey!). Gee whiz, I hope the new owners (assuming someone will buy it) keep it the same. I'd buy it if I still lived there.

Please don't ruin it, future owner. Please. I said please.

No Wonder He's So Happy

A new report finds men are happier when they participate in housework, and spend time with the children.

I can't believe they needed a study to confirm this. The day of layabout partners came and went some time ago, did it not? I've always considered myself extraordinarily fortunate to have a husband that enjoyed being a father to his child, and didn't need to be asked to spend time with him, or helping out around the house for that matter. Still, I would think, even if they didn't quite approach the task with enthusiasm, men would want to be participants in the family beyond sitting before the television. Again, perhaps I've been spoiled by a thoughtful, helpful, attentive husband.

Really, why become a father if you don't care to spend time with your children? Seems so bleedin' obvious.

Teaching The Gunpowder Plot

I was really impressed to hear that the London fire brigades were threatening a walkout on Bonfire Night-that's so fantastic. American labour unions, take note. Anyway, I thought it would be worth explaining to Danny what all the bonfires are about.

I could see the child's eyes glazing over with boredom at what he must think is some sort of quaint story of early, poorly planned terrorism. The gunpowder was, after all a bit on the old side, and there's question whether it would have gone off at all.

"So, did they chop off his head?"

Children. They can't wait for the narrative to take the proper course, they skip ahead to read the conclusion first. So impatient, these youngsters. "No, actually he was hanged...but then he was drawn and quartered."

No sooner the words left my mouth than I knew I'd have to define, "drawn and quartered" to a not-quite-six year old. I'm pretty sure that my mother, faced with a similar question would have come up with something about being drawn on with quarters, or perhaps drawn by a horse through a series of quarters. She was better at thinking on her feet than I am. Besides, you can't santise everything for the wee ones-giving happy endings to Greek myths, and the like.

We've all been slightly under the weather of late with sickly bellies and sinus congestion. I looked at my son, already pale from the cold, and wiping at his nose with the handkerchief thoughtfully embroidered by his granny that read, "Monday" on this, a Friday-and I thought, "should I?" Again, a better mother would change the subject, or offer some nonsense...

I fully expected to see the blood drain from his face, possibly even a gag, but history is filled with unpleasant things, and we still had ten minutes left to our social studies lesson. I told him. He didn't believe me. I told him again, and he declared it terrific, and not in the spectacular sense of the word. I noticed sincere disappointment when I told him the practise has fallen out of popularity along with the guillotine. I fully expect to find him skimming history books later, looking for further examples. What is it with children, and their fascinations with the gruesome? This is the child that does not care for horror writing (I told him Lovecraft cries every time he says that) or movies for that matter-but will delight in Mary of Scotland getting her head lopped off. Having your liver eaten by an angry eagle is also perfectly OK, along with every other grotesquenesses of mythology...but not a horror story. I don't know what will happen when this kid accidentally picks up a copy of A Distant Episode and starts reading. Maybe I'd better go hide it now. Stick to a good beheading, and being drawn and quartered.

-and no, I'm not building a bonfire, or shooting off fireworks, though I'm pretty sure the fire department would come out if I needed them, as they are volunteer.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Carrot Patties

I saw a recipe for mashed carrots with chili powder, and honey. I knew I couldn't get the boys to eat that-so I made a few changes, and here's the delicious result.

You Will Need:

6 large carrots, cooked and mashed
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons mild chili powder

Oil/butter for frying
Flour for dredging

Mash hot carrots with butter. Mix in syrup, honey, and spices. Chill several hours. Form into patties, and dredge generously in AP flour. Place in dish and chill 20 minutes.

Heat a frying pan. Add 1 tablespoon butter, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Fry patties a few at a time until nicely browned on each side. I used a cast iron pan, so I really had to keep the heat low-adjust according to your own pan/stove.

Peppermint Angelfood Cake

With peppermint frosting. I had 14 egg whites in a container in the freezer (I make tons of ice cream, and noodles). I dunno-it seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time...

Yeah, peppermint would have been OK without the tint. Each bite now evokes Pepto Mismal. That's really a shame, as it is a delicious cake...but that pink. I can't get past the pink. I guess we could call it a Canada Mint cake, but it is peppermint, not wintergreen, There's a difference. At one point, I thought about crushing up Altoids as a coating decoration. I'm glad I thought better of that one. Chewable antacids might have been more appropriate.

Introducing, Festive Fruitcakes

I went ahead, and started posting from my vast collection of vintage fruitcake recipes. Now do your part, and participate. Bake one, or just send a recipe to post. Come on, it will be fun.

Blog for Festive Fruitcakes, HERE. Bookmark it. Because I said so.


If you start obsessively grabbing orange, and grapefruit peels from your family scolding them that, "Those can be candied", you're probably British. Or you like fruitcake. Either way, by now you should have a pretty good store set in, and be ready to do something with it all.

I collect fruitcake recipes. I have hundreds. I always make the same fruitcake-actually, I bake three because one ends up a Simnel Cake for Mothering Sunday. I still have one in cold storage from last year that we're going to break open this weekend. Booze and sugar-are there any better preservatives, or happier words to the human ear? I think not.

Mind, I already did the initial steaming on the Christmas puddings. If nothing else, I'm terribly efficient, and organised. This is partly due to Danny having a birthday five days before Christmas-I could never manage elaborate Birthday doings, and the holidays were I to start out late. Besides, you should let puddings and Christmas cakes soak in booze for several weeks before serving, whereas this is generally frowned upon in the preparation of children's Birthday cakes. Ah, the good old days when your uncle would show up for Christmas with those brandy filled chocolate candies for the children. Bonus fun-he was a family court judge! Yeah, I guess things have changed a bit over the last forty years...anyhoo, no booze for the wee ones means more for you, and your Christmas cake.

Because we're a bunch of nut-allergic freaks, (though quickly becoming the prevailing norm, at least in the Western world) the cakes need to be nut-free. I compensate with generous amounts of fruit, but toasted coconut makes a swell nut replacement in baking. Some people crush up pretzels, which I am interested to try.

I can't make all these cakes by myself. Oh sure, I could make them, but I could never find enough people to eat them. That's where you, readers come in.

Lets have a blog party where we bake Christmas/fruitcakes. I'll link to your posts, and we can keep a running tab leading up to the holidays. Meanwhile, I'll post a directory of recipes from my collection to try (with the warning that they haven't been tested). We could even do an exchange-secret Santa (or if you prefer, secret secularist) style. Come-on people, it isn't like these things ever spoil. You make it once, and eat it for months!

Drop me a line at cornmotherne at yahoo dot blah-blah (suck it spammers) when you bake your cake. No blog? (why the hell not?!) you can send me a jpg. and we'll figure it out. Come on now, don't make me go all War on Christmas because you wouldn't bake with me.

I'll set up another blog for it if we get enough interest. So spread the word...or I'm serious, I'll start-up the John Dewey blog again.

Another Attempt

This sourdough had a two day rise in the fridge, and was baked in a dutch oven. The crust is perfect, and while the crumb is improving, it still has a way to go. The sour smell is really present, and the starter continues to thrive,I have a rosemary version fermenting in the fridge that I'll bake tomorrow . This is ever so exciting.I wish I could eat bread! That's OK I have two greedy volunteers to sample my attempts.

Oh, Deer!

I have a sizable hunk of venison in my freezer, as well as some steaks from last year. Thoughts, anyone? I'd like to use the hunk for making a dried-type sausage, but maybe that just isn't worth the bother and I should make a pot of chili instead? Obviously, I'm not eating it...so really, help a vegetarian out here. I'm in need of suggestions.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Mmmmm, Fresh Grass

Neighbour was moving his cattle to the newly ploughed field...when they got other ideas. I mean, corn is nice and all, but our grass is still pretty green on the lawn and well...

Golden Syrup Caramel Sauce With Brandy

This goes into the, "Oh my god this is crack" category. Dangerously easy to prepare as well. I made vanilla ice cream to pour it over because I didn't think there were enough calories in the syrup.

I adapted it from a Diana Sturgis recipe from the 80's. She used corn syrup, vanilla extract, and whiskey. I used Golden syrup, vanilla sugar, and brandy. The technique is excellent though, and as you see, perfectly adaptable as well.

Be warned though-this sauce is something like a million calories a spoon.

You Will Need:

1 cup light brown sugar made from vanilla sugar and molasses
4 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces
1/2 cup Golden Syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons brandy

In a heavy, medium saucepan melt the brown sugar, syrup, butter, and cream. Bring to a boil slowly over medium heat, stirring. Reduce heat to moderate low, and continue stirring until it reduces to 1 1/2 cups (about 8 minutes). It will look thin, but it thickens upon cooling.

Remove from heat, cool slightly, and add brandy. Let it cool to room temperature. Pour into a clean, dry, jar, cover and refrigerate. Let sauce com e to room temperature before using.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Last of the Garden Dinner

There's some green zebra tomatoes, Brandywines, and radicchio in there. I added some onions, garlic, green bell pepper, rosemary, thyme, and olives to round it out. A generous amount of olive oil, some pasta, and I had dinner in under 20 minutes. I still have radicchio and a few tomatoes left-but they'll be gone soon. Now I can focus my energies on planning next year's garden.

First Loaves With New Sourdough Starter

Not perfect, but I'm slowly remembering what I learned last time around. The starter needs to keep being used for a while to strengthen it, so I'm afraid it will be all-sourdough-all-the-time for a bit. It really smells wonderful. I'm keeping it on the counter, and doing 2x a day feedings, but i plan to bake daily. For longer storage, it can go in the fridge. I', keeping it at 100% hydration, though I might change that over time. It began as a rye starter, but I had no difficulty changing it over to white. In the past, I've used really expensive flours like first clear to feed my starter. This time around, I'm using Hy-Vee brand AP flour that I stocked-up on for .99 a bag. No difference as far as I can tell.

Honestly, I had no intention of growing another starter. After my last one met an untimely demise in the 2008 tornado, I was kind of relieved to bake regular old yeasted breads. This starter came about as I was making a 3 day starter for a sourdough rye. Normally, all of it is used in the loaves, and that's that. This time, I was feeling ill, and let the starter go five days before I remembered it. I didn't expect it to work, but I fed it to see what might happen. I was stunned by the results, and now I have a healthy, strong starter.

Sourdough breads take longer to rise, so there's abit of planning involved in baking them, but this might be a nice way to experiment with different breads. True, sourdough boules make lousy French toast, so I'll still need to make a white sandwich loaf once a week, but otherwise, I think the boys are happy enough to eat anything I put in front of them.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Please Welcome Petrarca

Please join us in welcoming the newest addition to our family, Petrarca to the world. He was a bit of a surprise an, "oops", if you will-but were delighted just the same. We were a little embarrassed, what at this late stage in our lives and all-what would people think? But here we are, proud parents of bubbling little bundle of joy. The regular feedings are a pain-how soon you forget the middle of the night feedings, temperature taking, and so on-but again, oh the happiness he brings us. He looks just like his mother.

Some people say keeping your baby in the icebox is somewhat neglectful, but I really can't imagine dealing with him EVERY DAY. Oh sure, some people leave their babies out on the counter munching on any bacteria they happen upon, but I want our baby to be special. I still haven't gotten the knack of breastfeeding as little Petrarca has some latching issues, and he leaves me all sticky and sour smelling, but in a pinch, a formula of 1:5:5 seems to do the trick. Keeping your baby fully hydrated is important, even in cooler weather. I keep him covered lightly with cling film because I think all those warnings about plastic are rubbish anyway.

I can't wait to toss him in the oven for the first time, and see if he springs!