I made a souffle

I’m not even going to bother with the niceties regarding how long it’s been.

I’m posting now because I made a souffle. Like an honest-to-god-bechamel-and-meringue-powdered-sugar-on-top souffle. And it was delicious. Because I was the one behind the wheel, though, I did have to start over on the meringue, and the best part was that I got the souffle right – easily the hardest thing I’ve ever had to make – but the custard didn’t come out right. Typical.

I start a new job on Monday. It’s a big girl job, with a set schedule and a salary, and I’m really excited about it. Maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling adventurous. So adventurous that I went out and bought a yellow sweater. Me, the girl whose closet has consistent of fifty shades of black since middle school. So adventurous that I made chickpea curry for dinner the other night from scratch, eschewing the easy way out (read: jar of butter chicken sauce).

Dinner tonight was mashed root vegetables. That was it. Just potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots mashed and cooked in an onion-garlic-rosemary oil. So why not go beyond that for dessert?

Of course, as mentioned, the night was filled with irony. The first being that my initial goal was to find a dessert without a lot of sugar – something with the semblance of being healthy. The second, again, being that I couldn’t make the freaking sauce to go on top. I was frantically whipping it, trying to get it to set, and I look over and my gorgeous souffles are falling. I practically screamed at Eric: No! Eat it now! Forget the sauce!

But they were good.

I haven’t really been doing NaNo this year, so this was a much-needed success in the right side of my brain. I’ll take it.

Paczki Day 2013

Last year, while living in the dark place that is Arkansas, I had to make my own paczki for Mardi Gras. My Polish man deserved to celebrate in a style befitting his heritage, but Arkansas has never heard of a paczki, and they were nowhere to be found. So I made a lemon curd filled pastry that we called a paczki.

Although we are now in a Dutch area and paczki are available at every local supermarket, the ingredient list on these boxed delicacies make me blush.

So, tomorrow being Mardi Gras, and I having a day off, I thought some baking was in order. Here is the first batch:

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Like last year, these are baked, so they are slightly healthier. However this year, to appease my coworkers who will be enjoying the fruits of my labor, I opted for a custard filling instead of fruit. I guess what I left out with the oil, we gained in the egg-milk-sugar filling.

I also went a step beyond this year by glazing the paczki to help the powdered sugar stick better.

Did I mention that I actually have an icing gun of sorts now, so I can bake and then insert the delicious filling, instead of having to make two thin pieces of dough wrap around the filling? I scare myself sometimes.

In case you are interested, here’s how I made them this year:

I mixed 2 cups of flour (1 cup of all purpose and 1 cup of quasi-pastry flour) with two packets of yeast, a quarter cup of a sugar, and a pinch of salt.

I melted a half stick of butter on the stove top with a cup of milk and two tablespoons of honey, cooked them together for about five minutes.

I added a tablespoon of rum, one egg, and two egg yolks to flour mixture, then the melted milky butter goodness.

These mixed together into a very very doughy substance, to which I added about another cup and a quarter of flour to make more solid. This I let sit for ten minutes.

After ten minutes, I rolled out the dough and cut out circles with my half cup measuring cup (about 2 inch diameter), and let those sit for an hour.

At the end of the hour, I started my first batch in the oven while I made the glaze to go on the paczki – quarter cup melted butter and a quarter cup honey.

Ten minutes into baking, I glazed the paczki, then let them cook another four minutes.

While the paczki baked, I also made the custard filling: 2 cups of milk (scalded), half cup of flour, two thirds cup of sugar, one egg and the egg whites leftover from those yolks. I cooked these for about 5 minutes until thick, then added a teaspoon of vanilla.

Once the paczki cooled a bit, I dragged them through powdered sugar, and a few minutes after that, I filled those suckers with some custard.

I haven’t tasted one yet because Eric’s not home, but considering the nearly 5 hours this has taken me, they’d better be the best damn paczki ever.

🙂

In other news, I got my letter from GVSU, so I am another step closer to collecting another degree or two. Woohoo!

I don’t mean to brag, but…

I decided to make my coworkers a ginormous batch of cookies for the day after Christmas. All but one of us in the precinct is working the day after (aka “the Show”), and I think we’ll need some extra cheer during our busiest – and likely lowest attitude – day. And JT had us close a little early this evening, so that we could get home to our families, and I to my oven.

And I baked, dear reader; I baked.

I made a double batch of my favorite oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies, and a regular batch of my Christmas tradition cookies (this time with actual sprinkles!).

Exhibit A
Exhibit A

This is but a taste of the baking that ensued when I got home.

That’s great, but that does not explain my title. Oh, no. Feeling particularly bold, I decided to try something new. A month ago or so, Eric and I bought a donut pan. I have since made a batch, but as I said…bold. So tonight I thought “I know what’s Christmasy! Booze!”

I switched up the recipe that came with the pan and made chocolate donuts. And then I dipped those suckers in a Bailey’s glaze. BAM!

The pouring got a little messy...
The pouring got a little messy…

The batter for these is always a little thin, and after two batches of cookies, it was strange to work with. And also, I am messy, so there are little bits of batter all over the pan. Mmmmm!

Making the glaze. I had to add more sugar than I had intended...couldn't get it quite thick enough at first.
Making the glaze. I had to add more sugar than I had intended…couldn’t get it quite thick enough at first.

It’s amazing what I can do with only about 4 combined feet of counter space.

Dippin' donuts, Batman!
Dippin’ donuts, Batman!
There they are!
There they are!

And then, because I was feeling so very fancy, I decided to sprinkle a little sea salt on these bad boys to offset the sweetness.

These are not for my coworkers. These are for my hubby.
These are not for my coworkers. These are for my hubby.

So, yeah. I don’t mean to brag, but I made some chocolate-bailey’s-glazed-donuts tonight. Merry Christmas to all!

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet as vinegar

In addition to the peach-honey butter, apple butter, pickles, salsa, chips, and apple sauce that I threw together this year for Christmas gifts, I also decided to make my mom some cranberry-orange vinegar, since she eats a lot of salad. I thought it might make a nice, quasi-festive (read: cranberries) vinegar that she could use in a dressing.

Here is how I did that:

A half cup of cranberries and an orange. Whatever shall I do with these?
A half cup of cranberries and an orange. Whatever shall I do with these?

Certain men failed to read the “6 Cups” of white wine vinegar, so I had only two cups, thus my only having a half cup and one orange.  I used frozen cranberries because, well, they’re not easy to get fresh ’round here.

IMG_2605
Sliced oranges and cranberries in a bowl.

I cut up the orange and the cranberries (as much as I could cut up tiny fruits) and put them in bowl. I crushed them slightly with another bowl and poured in the vinegar.

The dust helps it ferment faster.
The dust helps it ferment faster.

I place the covered bowl of fruit and vinegar on a bookshelf where it would stay cool. It sat there for ten days.

Crushed fruit in vinegar...still.
Crushed fruit in vinegar…still.

This is what it looked like when I opened it again to finish up. Mmmmm.

That's not cheese!
That’s not cheese!

I used a sieve and cheesecloth (just to be safe!) to drain the vinegar and separate the chunky bits. It was nice and red and, again, festive.

The last part was just putting it in a nice jar. I didn’t bother processing it, so mom will have to use it fast. (Read that, mom? Make some delicious salad dressing when it gets to you!)

I tasted a tiny bit before sending it, and I will say that it is a very subtle taste. I think if you are not a fan of vinegar, you would want to let the fruit soak a bit longer. This made me a little antsy to try raspberry vinegar next.

I have tomorrow and Wednesday off (hooray!), so I will have to write a few more posts for the remaining projects. I ship everything tomorrow, but I took plenty of pictures. For instance – tortilla chips! CDs! Etc! And I’ll post pictures as I start/work on/finish the board game I am making for gift opening on Christmas.

Keep it crafty!

 

 

 

Comfort in trivial things

I had my project for this post done yesterday, but I felt…silly, I guess, for wanting to post about it. But working in the kitchen, doing something with my hands in general, always makes me feel a little bit better about the world. The universe seems so much simpler when I view it through a measuring cup.

When we face the horrific parts of life, it is natural to seek the comfort of normalcy. Mine are the anise cookies that my grandma made every year for Christmas. It’s been years since I had them, but they always mean Christmas to me. So last night, trying to find some comfort and sense in the world, I decided to make them for the first time.

 

Dough that will become comfort
Dough that will become comfort

I used three recipes kind of rolled into one.

Smaller balls of dough that baked into comfort
Smaller balls of dough that baked into comfort

It’s a simple recipe, really, and a simple kind of joy.

Sugar glaze. I didn't have sprinkles, so I put food coloring in it, instead
Sugar glaze. I didn’t have sprinkles, so I put food coloring in it, instead

I guess it’s fitting. No one can go back in time (yet), so I made the cookies with my own twist.

Almond pieces instead of sprinkles
Almond pieces instead of sprinkles

 

I still feel silly for posting – who the hell cares about my cookies?

But if you are looking for some meaning, or reason, or little tiny piece of joy in an otherwise dark time, then all I can suggest is that you find a recipe that you remember with comfort, and you go bake.

 

 

Homemade apple butter – the extended edition

I am writing with the intention of sharing how Eric and I made apple butter last week for our DIY Christmas this year, but before I start, I just have to talk about yesterday.

As some of you might know – hopefully all – on the 14th, The Hobbit will be released in theaters. That is great news. But what was even better news to me was that this past weekend (8th and 9th), theaters around the country/world were showing all three extended versions of Lord of the Rings. And I mean in a row. 800 minute run time (with breaks). And because last week the Universe seemed to be smiling upon me, I had yesterday off for the first time since I’ve started this new job.

So Eric and I went to see all three Lord of the Rings in theaters, and it was amazing. There was a small group of people there (I hope Saturday was busier. I can’t imagine how more people would not want the opportunity to see these films on the big screen again). Between films, one of the theater managers would come out toward the end of our break and have trivia questions for us, with prizes. Via Eric’s insistence, since I kept muttering answers under my breath while other people were participating, I actually stood up for one question and won him some candy. I mostly stood up because I was shocked no one had shot up immediately. The question was “What is the translation of the inscription on the one ring?” I wasn’t going to bother standing because everyone knows that. But no one stood!

If you’re not familiar and are curious, the inscription is “One ring to rule them all; one ring the find them. One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness, bind them.” It’s actually part of a longer poem about the rings of power that I will save some face by not posting in its entirety, even though I recited it on the way home last night. I told Eric that in the nerd world, he’s my trophy husband.

The showing started at 11am, and we left the theater just after midnight. Worth it. Totally worth it.

Now onto the crafting/cooking. Last week, in our hurried pace to get through making the last of the Christmas gifts, we made a rather large batch of apple butter. Here is how we did it:

1. We washed, peeled, and diced(ish) the apples. The instructions said to core, and since we don’t have any fancy device to de-core, I just chopped around it. It worked out fine.

2. We added the apples, along with a cup or so of water, to a pot and let it simmer for about a half hour. We wanted the apples soft enough to go in the blender.

It took longer than I expected, but we could tell they were done when they gave under a spoon.
It took longer than I expected, but we could tell they were done when they gave under a spoon.

3. When they were soft, we threw them in the blender and pureed them. I now have an old-school grinder that would have done the trick, but we were going for fast, not necessarily authentic, though I would love to use that device sometime.

4. When the apples were blended, we essentially had applesauce. In fact, when we make applesauce this week, we will get to this step and part of step 5, then be finished. But moving on!

Applesauce, soon to be apple butter.
Applesauce, soon to be apple butter.

5. We added the cinnamon and ground clove that give apple butter that slightly spicy taste, and we threw it back into the pot to cook. We cooked it until it was sticky and did not slide easily off the spoon.

This is not even close to ready
This is not even close to ready

6. It took almost another half hour before the butter was the right consistency. Luckily we had practice with the peach butter, although that did seem to go a little bit quicker.

7. When it was ready, we poured it into our sterilized jars, leaving a 1/4 inch head space, screwed on the lids, and processed them in our boiling processor for 10 minutes. We made 12 small jelly jars.

Here they are standing in row. Bomp, bomp, bomp.
Here they are standing in row. Bomp, bomp, bomp.

All that’s left for these is some decorative flair. I will put the labels on and cover them prettily.

All that’s left for Christmas goodies are some blank-in-jar things (cookies, pancakes, soup, etc), the applesauce, and I think I will bake some cookies for those without the penchant for cooking/baking even pre-made mixes.

And Eric’s gift. I am caving and buying him some things, and while I’m not terribly pleased with giving in, I am more interested in making sure he has useful and enjoyable things that he wouldn’t buy himself. Which, if I’m being honest, is not a lot of things because he generally just buys what he wants. He’s gotten better around Christmas, though, after three years of me bugging him about it. 🙂

Well, then, I am off to continue my adventures. Keep it crafty!

 

 

 

Polymath Cooking: Make it up as you go

Working full time is great. Unless coworkers start calling off work, and I am asked to fill in for extra shifts. On my day off today, I am going in at 4 to close. My plans for today probably could have been kept because I have/had most of the day available. Most of my energy has gone into what to make for my late lunch/early dinner and Eric’s dinner when he comes home.

Since we are leaving next Tuesday for a visit with family, I didn’t do much in the way of grocery shopping, so I have been trying to put together a kind of pasta salad idea. Not having a whole lot of ingredients, I needed to be a little creative. Tuna, peas, various beans, some tomatoes from our plant outside, and pasta.

I ended up nixing the tuna.

I simmered the peas, tomatoes, and garbanzos in some oil and vinegar with parsley. For the record, I also cooked the pasta. When the pasta was done, I threw all the ingredients in a bowl, spritzed some lemon juice on the mixture, sprinkled a little bit of cheese, and voila!

It came out pretty tasty. Now I have about 15 minutes to get ready for work, and I’ll let this little concoction chill in the fridge for Eric. There is enough that we’ll probably both have lunch for tomorrow, too.

Ahh. Nothing beats cooking by the seat of your pants.