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Triumph of the Mundane

Slow blogging at its finest

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baking

World Peace Will Have to Wait

lemon-bars-1

World Peace Cookies, that is. I was all set to bake those but got distracted by a big bag of sharp, bitter, and tart. Costco had Meyer lemons on special. I’ve wanted to cook with them, and now I’ll get plenty of practice.

Since the hubs doesn’t like lemon in savory dishes, tangy desserts it is.

lemon-bars-2

I don’t cook with citrus fruit often and had forgotten the lovely mess one can make. All. those. seeds! The rasp is normally employed for grating parmesan so zesting proved no problem. But we have nothing even vaguely resembling a citrus reamer or juicer. Brute force had to suffice.

lemon-bars-3

The recipe was specifically for Meyer lemons; found it on Epicurious. Good thing it called for 3/4 cup lemon juice – three lemons down, a dozen or so to go! The result is quite tangy, the flavor much deeper than had I followed the recipe in a mundane cookbook which called for a mere 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice. Why bother?

Soon I’ll get back to world peace, once we’ve gotten through the sharp, tart, and bitter of winter.

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How Did That Pan Out?

oven

The default cake pan for this kitchen is a Bundt pan. I bought it long ago. Not knowing better at the time, I bought a black one. The purported positive theory was things bake faster in black–save time, save energy. Well, the outside bakes much faster but I’ve always had a problem with  super crispy outer edge and a still-gooey center.

So when I saw a post on Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Facebook page about using a baking sheet under a baking pan not just to catch bubble-over but to change baking dynamics, I decided to give it try. Oddly, the post noted that baking time would likely be affected but didn’t note in which direction.

oven-cake

For me for this cake, it increased baking time by about 10 minutes. Most importantly, the edge did not get crunchy. The hubs was pleased. This is his fav: poppy seed form cake. He maintains, however, that the center was still a titch gooey and requested a retrial. Yes, dear. Finish this one and I’ll bake another.

All in all, the experiment did pan out.

What has not panned out recently is the photo program on the ol’ PC. If it does open at all, it crashes, so please forgive the less-than-average images. As soon as I can find a solution, I’ve got a bunch of things to post. After eons in publishing, I can’t bring myself to publish anything beyond these two raw images.

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Testing 1, 2, 3

cake-testers

On the last out-of-state excursion, I bought a cake tester for no discernibly good reason. Even in the moment I said to myself, This isn’t necessary. But it’s cute and cheap and if that purchase has risen to the level of extravagance, I am being true to my frugal roots to the point of being cheap. But does it work?

Twice tested with the same results. And I’ll wrench my shoulder if I pat myself on the back anymore. The round-top one has been in use for years; it’s just a stout wire with a bit of a handle coated with something to make it a marketable item. The new one has a cake-shaped top stamped ‘cake tester’ in case you were to mistake it for something else. And there’s old reliable, the toothpick.

Most receipes state that the cake is done when the tester comes out clean. And sometimes a toothpick is noted as the preferred tester. Also of note is the caveat that ‘clean’ really means a few crumbs sticking to the tester. Since I’ve a tendency to overbake ‘just to be sure.’ that is advice to be heeded.

The results: The wire pulls out more crumb that either the new tester or the toothpick. So my crispy-edge cakes may be avoidable using the new tester. Who knew? The sad news is that this cake was baked in the wrong pan, but that’s a post for another day.

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Fruits and Labors or I Paid WHAT for Apples or Soggy Bottom

Apple pie

Pie making is a skill I neither possess or wish to develop into a strength. Passable is my goal. It is, however, my neighbor’s unfailing strength. So we work to stay in good standing with her and hope fruit-and-crust goodness continues to regularly cross the property line.

As for consuming pie, it is a dessert category I enjoy occasionally. Whereas the hubs could eat apple pie every day, and that’s only a minor exaggeration. So when I say a small something about possibly, maybe, I might consider making an apple pie, the look in his eyes first of surprise, then of hope and longing means it’s best to follow through.

Apple whole

Also of note: I don’t like to reward Facebook’s generally crappy algorithms. So when I saw a suggested post about a unique variety of cooking apples being carried for a short time at a local small grocer, I was torn – to click or not to click. When I got there, as expected there was no mention of price. . . Obviously, I caved completely. Sucker.

But here in the Land of the Frugal, part of the point of scrimping is to allow the occasional indulgence. Hmmm. Let me indulge myself in spending more than $10 (yes! more than ten bucks!) on apples to spend an afternoon making pie. Oh joy, oh rapture! Oh sign me up for that! Ahem.

Apple cut

Pink Pearl delivered first on color. As promised, the color is lovely. And after I spent all. that. time. cutting and peeling, peeling and cutting, (tiny violin time)

Apple sliced

the bowl of fruit was pretty and inviting. As with cooking apples, the flavor and texture is OK in the fresh state.

But the proof is in the pie. And it is delicious, with one minor flaw. Since I don’t bake pie often, I underestimate the amount of liquid that cooks out of the fruit. Failing to address the issue ahead of baking leads to inadequate liquid retention in the filling resulting in, all together now, a soggy bottom. This shortcoming has not deterred continued consumption of the final product.

For the future, a memory test: Next year at this time will I recall the price of these apples before heading to the store? And will I recall and prepare for the cooking liquid issue? Because chances are slim that I will make another pie before then.

 

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The B Side

Blueberry crumble

Went to a soiree last Saturday evening at a friend’s swanky new home. In the email invite exchange, he said the savouries were covered and I could bring a sweet if desired, but not required. We’re both Midwesterners so no invitation comes without an offer to bring something, and a host never insists guests bring anything — but we both know that bringing something is Official Midwestern Policy.

The day before, in our fridge was a Costco container of blueberries. The plan was to make blueberry muffins, experiment with carbonated blueberries (saw this on New Scandinavian Cooking), and eat the rest in yogurt.

Paragraphs 1 and 2 were to be separate events. But when I opened the binder of misc. baking recipes, on the flip side of a recipe sleeve was Blueberry Crumble Bars. Hmmmm. So I broke the first rule of cooking for guests: I used a new recipe. And I upsized it. The recipe called for a jelly roll pan of smaller dimensions than a standard cookie sheet. So I just made a generous smidge more of shortbread crust, gooey filling, and strudel topping. Plus, I’d already started eating the blueberries in my yogurt, so I added frozen Maine wild blueberries (in-house stock for blueberry muffins and blueberry buckwheat pancakes) to cover the deficit.

Blueberry crumble 2

The result was pretty terrific, and I don’t have only my opinion to back that up. The hubs, the hosts, and the blueberry-fan guests were also impressed. I may just run with scissors more often.

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Food Pass-Fail 1

A week ago I spent part of Sunday afternoon watching The Great British Baking Show and knitting. More about knitting another time.

This past Sunday, perhaps more appropriately, I watched three episodes of TGBBS while baking cookies and a cake. The local PBS station probably calls it a marathon; more likely it’s a choice made to fill air time.

Clearly we’re set for a bit over a week with the hubs love of sweets, and I’m not joking. We might get two weeks, but that’s the longest it will stretch.

Poppy seed cake

Made me think it’s time for a review and rating of recent kitchen efforts.

This is a pass!

This poppy seed cake gets a solid B. With the cookie reserve, the day’s efforts get a B+. Maybe an A-. There’s a lot of dishes involved in the prep and I did clean up rather than my usual I-cooked-you-clean-up approach. That includes the cookie sheets for bonus points.

Poppy seed cake is on constant rotation here; the hubs pines and whines if he thinks it’s been too long since a cake graced the counter. He’s been known to employ the sad face in the grocery store to force the issue.

This time I’m patting myself on the back for exceptional texture and spot-on baking time. While mixing I feared the egg whites might not have been whipped enough (nothing like a beaten-to-infinity foam), but the results speak otherwise.

 

Sighing Over Spilt Cream

Spilt cream
Thank goodness cooking doesn’t require a license. Based on recent performance, mine surely would have been revoked. Over the past week I’ve made a half dozen thoughtless errors from not having key ingredients on hand to messing up ingredients (wrong amount, added at the wrong time, etc.) to this unfortunate boilover. Emergency grocery store runs mid-recipe are almost commonplace. Sigh.

What’s with the distraction? Well, I’m in the midst of the third or fourth dozen “What am I doing with my life?” phase, and cooking is thinking time for me.

Phew. I better snap out of this before one of these distracted moments requires a call to the fire department!

Rising Before the Sun

I have determined to make rye bread. A post on Facebook inspired and terrified me, so it’s off to crazy foodville once again.

The FB post’s claim is demystification — sort of like sitting in an astrophysics class demystifies the universe: Not really, but the explanation was presented to you.

A more personal analogy is knitting/sewing/almost any kind of handwork — the most recent attempt being tatting. See interesting, intriguing, complicated pattern. Glance through it and realize I can either already do or have a reasonable expectation of being able to do all required steps. Then dive in and hope for success.

Oh, and I accidentally bought caraway seed twice (see International House of Cabbage, fermentation) and have to use it up. And the hubs really likes rye bread. There’s a starter to make and lots of rising to happen; that often means an early morning rise for me. Here’s to another kitchen adventure!

To Make Daylight Savings Monday Better — Scones!

Before:
WP_20160312_002

After:
WP_20160312_003

Apologies for the blurry ‘after’ pic. In a rush to get to the eating part.

My dough slicing left something to be desired. So smaller bits were smoodged together to make right-size pieces. That’s where I go freestyle.

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