posts tagged with 'baking'

perilous dessert

I like cooking, but I tend to make the same things over and over again. I guess mostly I don't like reading recipes. It's not really a problem—I make at least ten different dinners, so it's not like we have the same thing every night. And the desserts I do regularly are entirely satisfactory. Still, sometimes I envy the folks who crack a new cookbooks every couple of weeks and turn out exotic treats like chocolate cheesecake or lemon bars (to name two that I've thought of trying for five or six years now...). Yesterday, I was trying to think of something delightful I could create with the ingredients I had on hand, to make it up to the kids for working all morning and being grumpy, and I settled on dream bars—a thing that I've enjoyed tremendously at parties but never made myself. It turns out they're not hard at all, even if the recipe I used (mostly; I added chocolate) wasn't entirely what I was looking for. They're still quite good, though, which leads to a problem: I don't have any trouble controlling my consumption of the desserts I make all the time, but when there's something brand new in the house... watch out! I ate a few more dream bars than I should have in the name of "tasting". Yesterday that was maybe excusable; today not so much. And yet here we are. I guess I'll have to make them again so I get used to having them around!

negative feedback loop in sourdough

When it's hot I don't like to bake bread. I just can't stand to run the oven that much! Of course I do when I have to—we can't live without sandwiches—but there are certainly fewer loaves made to have with dinner. That means I'm not always thinking about the sourdough starter as much as I do when I'm making sourdough every two or three days, or as much as I need to in order for it to be totally healthy. Too often over the last month I've forgotten to feed it, which is never good, and even worse when the heat means that the little critters in there are dividing faster than they do in the winter. With less frequent feedings the wild yeasts in the starter are doing worse and the sour bacterias are doing better (or so I've been told). The last time I made bread with it—pizza dough, to be precise—I ended up with a very slack dough with no gluten development to speak of. That was frustrating, and it made me even less likely to want to deal with the starter. A spiral of failure. Today I'm going to dump some of it and try and get back on a regular feeding schedule. I'm confident it'll work if I can keep to it... but I'm not really good at keeping to things these days. After all, there's so much cycling to do!

dogs v rhubarb

With all the rhubarb that's growing in the garden the rhubarb patch is a lush and inviting spot. Maybe that's why the dogs chose to wallow in it the other day. Or it could be they were fighting, I'm not sure. All I know it that, in the aftermath, there were lots of smushed leaves and broken stalks. Of course I salvaged what I could, and then I was faced with the question of what to do with it all. Pie is delicious but with only Harvey and I eating them a third in two weeks would maybe be a little excessive. I also thought of rhubarb crisp; but it seemed like that would give rise to the same problem, only more so. So I made a rhubarb cake.

That wasn't a perfect solution. First, I was making up the recipe—adapting it from my favorite cake base—and I didn't make allowances for all the rhubarb when considering the cooking time. So the cake was a little underdone. That, combined with the fact that all the rhubarb sank towards the bottom of the bundt pan and made a solid layer, meant that when I tipped the pan over to get the cake out, all of what was meant to be the top crust stayed in the pan. I scraped it out and blobbed it on top anyway, and then put on the glaze. It almost looks like I did it on purpose...

rhubarb cake, somewhat jumbled on top

looks edible, right?

The second problem is that, still, only Harvey and I were interested. Zion and Elijah are committed to avoiding rhubarb entirely. Their loss! The cake was delicious: basically a brown-sugar cake, with a texture like a pineapple upside-down cake, with hints of rhubarb and ginger. Plus the delicious lemon glaze! We happily ate it for three desserts—dinner, lunch, dinner—but there was still plenty left. Then yesterday evening, after the table was cleared of everything but half the cake, I went back into the dining room and surprised Blue standing up on the bench chowing down on the glazey top. I suppose it's nice to know that someone else appreciated it too!

Wait a second—do you think he planned the whole thing?!

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rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

Last year a garden reorganization brought all the rhubarb in our yard into one garden row, united from various far-flung and suboptimal spots. Since it was newly installed we didn't harvest much last year, but this year the plants are working at peak capacity and I have to keep picking to keep them healthy. So we're using lots of rhubarb. Besides a pie a week, I also made rhubarb syrup the other day. Some of us had it on pancakes (others objected vehemently to the very idea). Then yesterday after a hot afternoon of working outside we cooled off and re-hydrated with some rhubarb soda—syrup and tonic water on ice. Delicious! I just wished I had some lime to go with it.

pink fizzy stuff in half-pint jars with ice

pink refreshment

This morning I was going to make rhubarb muffins, but we had some pear that needed to be used up. Pear muffins were good but it was sad to break the streak. Harvey and I could eat (and drink) rhubarb-sugar concoctions all day. The other two boys aren't as enthusiastic. Oh well, it'll be strawberry season soon. The strawberries plants, in the row next to the rhubarb, are looking good! Do you think they'll like strawberry rhubarb pie?

a rhubarb pie on the table

I wonder how many pie pictures I've posted on this blog?

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food security

As I mentioned yesterday, on Saturday we drove an hour away to pick up some flour (and go to the beach, of course). That's kind of crazy, I know. But here's how it happened.

First of all, we're not hoarding. The boys and I went to Costco back in the first week of March, and I deliberately didn't buy toilet paper. We had plenty! But the reason I was there was to buy flour—we usually buy our all-purpose flour at Costco, at a rate of 25lbs every month and a half or so. Maybe more frequently. Well, on that trip they were out. And a few days later Leah made it to Market Basket to find they only had one 5lb bag of King Arthur AP flour left. The pandemic hadn't even really started yet and our supplies were running low!

And that's just the all-purpose flour: there was a separate crisis in whole wheat flour stocks at Market Basket that predated the pandemic, so I was already feeling nervous about that. My one Market Basket trip of the pandemic time—alone! So strange going without the kids!—netted us 15 pounds of AP flour and 10 of bread flour, but once again no whole wheat. Last week's bread used up the last couple cups and was still whiter than we'd like, and the pancakes with all white flour were definitely not as good as we're used to. It was ever on my mind, which is why Leah mentioned it to her cousin (her mom's cousin, really) on the phone last week. Well, people in Leah's family get things done, which is why on Saturday we found ourselves driving down to the South Shore to pick up 30 pounds of whole wheat flour (plus some brown sugar for good measure).

So baking here continues apace. There's bread! There's cookies! Good pancakes! Of course, now the next worry is the AP flour again. It's really stressful not being able to run out to the store, and not being able to trust the store will have what you need. And we're down to four rolls of toilet paper left in the basement...

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back to baking

After 12 cold oven-less days, we're back in action on the baking front with a replacement installed this morning. (Remember when I mentioned our oven seemed like it was on the way out? It was. It never started again after I wrote those words.) After we burned off the foul-smelling chemicals that new ovens apparently come with, the first thing I baked was the batch of sugar cookies that I put in the fridge back on February 13, with the thought of having them for Valentines Day. The two-week-old dough was a little hard to roll out, but the cookies came out fine. Then I made bread. It was kind of rough around here without bread—we did alright with one package of rolls from the store, some bagels from church, and lots of tortillas cooked on the stovetop, but I'm very glad to have real sandwich bread available again. Just in time for our lunch out at homeschool science tomorrow.

from the "gooey" section

A couple weeks ago I picked up a cookbook at the library, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich, thinking I'd get some inspiration for holiday treats. The only problem with the book is that, while it's designed like a glossy coffee-table book, there are only pictures for every fourth or fifth recipe! How does the author expect me to bake something that I haven't already seen in mouthwatering full-page illustration? Yesterday we tried it out for the first time, making "Rocky Road bars" (pictured on page 213) and they were delicious. So good, in fact, that after we left the last five with our friends who gave us dinner yesterday I had to make some more for dessert this evening. They came out even better the second time!

a chocolate marshmallow bar on a plate

yummy

The recipe is super simple: just a graham cracker crust (with sugar added), topped with chocolate chips, marshmallows, and nuts. You hardly need a recipe for that! And yet, I never thought of it myself despite always wishing I could get marshmallows in cookies somehow. The key, I think, is baking the crust for 10 minutes at 350° and then adding the other stuff before baking for 10-12 more minutes at 375°. I don't know if I'll get to any of the other recipes in the book before I have to return it—we've got a little bit going on this time of year—but it's already changed our lives. Rocky Road bars are a keeper!

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it's not cake, it's bread!

In former times I had no qualms about wanting to make pumpkin bread all year long. Since then I've expanded my baked goods repertoire so it's now a more seasonal treat... and this is the season! The best thing about pumpkin bread is that, since it's clearly bread rather than cake—just look at the name!—you can eat it for breakfast. Which we did yesterday. Then, since it's packed with sugar we had it for dessert after lunch and dinner.

We had the first loaf with dinner the day before. We hosted friends and made roast chicken and mashed potatoes, so it all felt very Thanksgivingy. Our friends brought pumpkin cookies for dessert which weren't any sweeter than the bread, but they did have frosting on them.

Here's the recipe, if you want to try this decadence for yourself. Super easy.

Preheat oven to 375°. Beat together in the stand mixer:

1 cup oil
2 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 can pumpkin

Combine in a large bowl and whisk all up:

3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger

Add to the wet ingredients and mix til combined.

Bake in two ungreased loaf pans for 55-60 minutes.

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the apple pie

Last year we got tons of apples from our Northern Spy tree. At the time I predicted, half in jest, that the bumper crop would mean slim pickings this year—in fact that's just what happened. Never mind, we got tons of Honeycrisps this year, which is what the people want, and there are enough Northern Spys to eat a few and make a couple of pies. I made the first one yesterday.

apple pie in process on the kitchen table

putting it together

I have to admit I didn't feel totally manly as I rolled out this particular crust; the refrigerator repair guys working a few feet away put me off my game a little bit. But the apples were good ones, and the pie came out wonderful. Even better, when time came to serve it there was also a cheesecake and a gigantic (and wonderful) carrot cake, so there was some pie left for me and the boys to have for breakfast this morning.

a slice of apple pie on the table

yum

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muffins for us

I enjoy baking. Mostly the boys get the benefit of my desserts—and bread, of course. But for some reason I tend to only make muffins to give away. Like this month I'm making a dozen every Sunday to bring to church, to encourage other people to do the same and diversify our food offerings away from just bagels (it's working already!). Why don't I make muffins just for us?! Yesterday morning I decided to break that pattern, and we had blueberry muffins with our breakfast. Which shows up the best part of baking for family: you don't have to worry about things coming out perfect! I guess blueberry muffins are pretty common, but for whatever reason they haven't been something I've really ever made. Probably because I have better things to do with my blueberries! But now Leah and Zion are really into frozen blueberries, so they're perpetually available.

As it happened yesterday's muffins came out quite acceptably. The only interesting thing was their color: the thawing berries turned the batter a beautiful purple, which I thought was lovely; but when they cooked they came out green, which was less so. Still tasty. They're all gone now. I'll make more soon: my family deserves muffins too.

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