posts tagged with 'baking'

giving up on keeping cool

Back in July and early August when it was really hot I was doing all kinds of things to keep the house as cool as possible. Turning fans on at night, closing windows and blinds during the day—and of course minimizing baking and boiling. I didn't even like to run the vacuum during the day, it made so much heat! And then we had a beautiful stretch of mild days with cool nights, and even a few days that you might call chilly... and I almost started to think that winter was on its way. Well, it's hot again now. But since I've already transitioned to winter mode I don't care, and it's all cooking all the time. Last week it there were all the baked goods and jam the boys made for the fair, and since then we've kept right on going the same way. I made bread and biscuits over the weekend and Leah made cookies; this morning Harvey baked some dog treats (since the fair he's gotten interested in dog training) and I made sourdough bread and enchiladas for dinner. Sure it's horribly hot, but on the plus side it makes the breeze from outside feel downright pleasant! And of course we get to enjoy all the baked goods. Tomorrow I hope to make jelly from the grapes we pressed at Backyard Farm Club last week, which will add humidity as well as heat. Oh well, it's almost September... surely it'll be getting cool again soon!

the real Pie Day

With the geometry work we've been doing this year, Pi Day felt like something we could really pay attention to. (There may, unrelated to anything else to do with this post, have been some discussion this morning at the breakfast table about how many digits any of us could remember of that famous non-repeating, non-terminating decimal.) But really, to me the significant Pie Day was yesterday, May 9: the day I made the first rhubarb pie of the year.

a rhubarb pie (and a bread) on our back porch table, watched over by Scout

Scout is interested in cooling baked goods

I could have made one earlier, as far as the rhubarb was concerned: it was lack of time that held me back. But that doesn't matter, because it's having pie that we want to celebrate. Harvey and I, at least; the other boys don't care for it. Luckily they were able to fall back on the brownies I made on Saturday and the M&M cookies Leah made on Sunday. We ate the first slices of it after supper yesterday, and there's now either one big piece or two little ones left. You see how excited we were. Suffice it to say there will be more pies before long... the season has begun!


the complexities of personifying sourdough

Keeping the sourdough starter healthy, with the amount of bread we make, means sometimes throwing out some of it. I need to keep feeding it faster than I tend to use it up. Occasionally I feel bad for the starter that I'm washing down the sink or scraping into the trash or the compost. It won't get to fulfill its destiny of becoming bread! Then it occurs to me that, from the perspective of the yeasts and bacterias and things that make the sourdough so wonderful, dying in the over is maybe not the best outcome. Probably lots more opportunities available to them in the waste stream! So I try and wish them well as I send them on their superfluous way. I'm still going to make lots of them into bread, though.

I ate too much pie

Sometimes it's nice to have these random non-holidays to notice. Yesterday it was Pi Day. We wanted to make a pumpkin pie, but found that we didn't have any pumpkin left so we had to settle for pecan. Well, Harvey had to settle; I like pecan better myself, and so, we find, does Elijah. In fact, it's the only kind of pie that I know how to make that he likes; usually he just eats the crust. He asked for a chocolate cream pie, but after I looked up the recipe I told him that I would need a little more time and mental space to attempt to make one. I never have before. I also made pizza—pizza pie, right?—but when I told the kids we were having pizza pie they imagined a wonderful pizza/pie combined concoction, so a couple of regular old pizzas was a little disappointing. But not too disappointing, because pizza. There were only two downsides to the day: we ate it all so quickly that we forgot to calculate any circumferences, and I ate too much of everything. It was so good! But I really didn't need that last slice of pie right before bed...

pecan pie and pizza on the table

pies all round


After the big winter feast folks at park day continue to bring food. Not everyone, but enough that the kids have come to expect that there will be a good supply of treats and don't bother to bring their own snacks any more. I try and do my baking part every other week or so, and this morning I got up earlier than I maybe would have otherwise to make mini muffins. Maybe a little bit too early, because after melting the butter I completely forgot to mix it in to the batter, a mistake I didn't notice until just after I put all three pans into the oven. Oops.

Well, we had just learned that the Shrove Tuesday pancakes were meant as a way to use up rich ingredients like eggs and butter before the Lenten fast... I never would think to fast from butter, but maybe it was my subconscious saying something? The muffins were fine even without butter; not nearly as good as they would have been, but totally passable for the kids of park day. They weren't fasting either!

how are my children like the young Alexander Hamilton?

Yesterday morning Elijah asked me if we were having potatoes with breakfast. No, I told him. He asked what we were having and I said french toast. "What else?" he asked. When he heard it was just the french toast he wandered away looking disappointed. Standards are high around here! Despite the lack of potatoes yesterday it was kind of a busy baking day, actually; even if you don't count the french toast I made biscuits, wheat bread, sourdough bread, and brownies. And soup for supper. The biscuits also were not universally appreciated. During our school time with friends I said I was going to go make a snack and Harvey was excited for a second, then suspiciously inquired if it was going to be sourdough biscuits; clearly that's been our school snack too many times for his liking. Whether or not they were as exciting as everyone could want biscuits just out of the oven with butter and jam must have been fine, because five kids (six if you count the baby, who does actually eat now) finished them all in pretty short order. So I guess I'll just keep doing what I'm doing!

party at the park

Our Park Day is still going strong. Stronger than ever in one important regard: folks bringing food! The feast I predicted last week came to pass, and it was one for the ages. I made coconut macaroons this morning and Harvey made chocolate chip cookies; there was also thumb-print cookies, stroopwafels, peanut-butter fudge, other chocolate chip cookies, gingersnaps, and peppermint candy. And it wasn't all sweets. There were also spring rolls and saffron buns. The kids all ran around a lot, but I have some doubts as to whether they burned more calories than they took in. For the adults there isn't even a question! I think some folks are planning to be there next week too, but we're taking a break... not only do I anticipate being busy with Christmas prep, but the season is enough filled with treats as it is!


Last week at park day one of the parents brought popovers to share. Now, I often bake snacks or desserts for school days, or at least bring leftovers to share, but I hadn't thought to offer treats to our friends at the playground. Knowing that was a thing, though, I just had to get in on the action, so yesterday I brought a tin of chocolate cookies I made the evening before. Only to find that this other dad brought popovers again PLUS chocolate cookies with crushed up candy canes on them! Folks hardly looked at my cookies, paling as they did compared to the wonder that was the other cookies (ok, they actually ate them all up, but clearly everyone thought the other ones were better in every way). Now there are plans for a veritable feast next week—bread, desserts, hot drinks... It may end up being a swan song for the group this year, because I'm not sure how many folks are going to want to come out on December 22. Then again, this group has surprised me before...

baking with sourdough

Our sourdough bread had been going along fine for quite some time, but lately it hasn't been doing so well. I know that lots of people started baking sourdough in the pandemic, but when we stopped gathering over food with bread-loving friends twice a week I actually slowed down production, and maybe got a little inconsistent in my feeding schedule. Or maybe it's something else. In any case, the last few times I've tried to make bread it's hardly risen at all, and the resulting loafs are only edible when still warm. So as I work to recondition the starter I have lots that I'd be throwing away... so it's a good thing I've now figured out how to make sourdough biscuits!

three sourdough biscuits on a sheet of tinfoil

like this

Basically, they're regular buttermilk biscuits with a cup of unfed starter replacing a cup of flour and the buttermilk. My first attempt was super dry, so I've been experimenting with increasing the butter and adding a little bit of water or buttermilk to wet up the dough. Now they're good. Rolled biscuits are kind of new to me—my traditional go-to recipe inherited from my mother is drop biscuits made with baking powder and milk—but I do have this biscuit cutter so I figure I might as well use it. The different shape also lets the kids know what sort of taste to expect before they bite into a biscuit.

You might think we could also be doing sourdough pancakes and waffles and things like that, but so far my attempts in that direction have been met with failure. Not that the pancakes didn't taste good—in fact, they were delicious! It's just that the kids didn't care for them. And there really aren't many days where I'm making a breakfast just for myself. Maybe I can see if I can tweak the recipe until it's acceptable to them, but I don't know that I have the energy to try; especially since my buttermilk pancakes are basically the best thing ever. And I can't complain, because we've got the biscuits! And maybe someday bread will work again.


rhubarb wins the garden

I tend to think of rhubarb as a spring food, like asparagus: one that comes in early but then gives way to other things as the summer moves along. But that's not really the case, in actual fact, rhubarb comes in early and then keeps going strong all summer long! It's just that the novelty of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apples each in their season makes us forget about it. Now, in early October, strawberries and blueberries are long gone; a few of the raspberries are producing their second crop of the season but not enough to bring inside; and the apples are actually almost done (they were early to begin with and our heaviest tree by far was the Macintosh). And last Thursday I harvested eight cups of rhubarb to make a crisp.

It was the same recipe I raved about in this post, and it remains my favorite dessert that I hardly ever make. Why do I hardly ever make it? Not because the rhubarb is hard to get—clearly not!—but because it's so delicious, and so unappreciated by the rest of my family, that I eat too much of it on each day that it exists (also it calls for orange zest and we don't often have oranges in the house in the non-winter months; I had to make a special trip to get one). At least this time I was able to bring it along to school, where the other adults and children of middle- and high school-age were able to enjoy it.

Funnily enough, just like that first time back in 2016 I had leftover butter pecan ice cream to go with the crisp. That's really a coincidence: we rarely buy ice cream, and when we do it's rarely butter pecan. And I didn't ever realize it until I looked up that old post to link it!