I made these yesterday, but you know I’m not one to plan ahead and, like, blog these in advance so you could maybe make them yourself on that special day. They’re still a cute thing to make though, even if it’s not Valentine’s Day.
My big brother Krystopf came over to help me paint what’s going to be the baby’s room (which hopefully I’ll get finished within the next week or so), and we fed him dinner for Valentine’s Day as his family is currently away on the other side of the country.
These are based on my original macaroon recipe, which is always a crowd-pleaser. Start by bringing some stuff to room temperature: here I have 3 large eggs sitting in a bowl of warm water, and about 12 frozen strawberries, defrosting in the morning sun.
While you’re waiting, preheat your oven to 325°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Blend up the thawed strawberries into a glorious red purée.
Separate the eggs, and save the yolks for something else (for me they’re going in a meatloaf later on).
Tip the whites into a bowl together with a teaspoon or two coconut extract.
Give them a whirl until they’re foamy and then add in 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Whiz that up until it’s white and thick-looking.
Tip in 5 cups shredded coconut (I used unsweetened, but you can use sweetened) and your strawberry goo.
Fold that together until fully combined.
I decided to try to mould the cookies, which I’ve never done before, so I grabbed a heart-shaped cookie cutter and used a teaspoon to fill and pack the coconut down.
Some careful wiggling and pressing down with the spoon freed up each one quite nicely.
I kept going until I had 21 coconut cookies and an empty bowl.
Shove those cookies into the oven for about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the bottoms are browned and the cookies are solid. Let cool completely.
While they’re cooling, grab some dark chocolate and huck it into a double-boiler to melt. Let that cool as well.
Then tip the cooled chocolate into a bag with the corner nipped off and squeeze it out on your cooled cookies. Let that set.
There was a day a couple weeks ago where it was absolutely pouring out and it was a super-depressing, totally un-summery day.
So I went grocery shopping and found that fresh figs were on sale, as well as some reasonably local strawberries. So of course I bought a whole bunch.
And then I had to figure out what to do with all this gorgeous fruit.
But I had some puff pastry and some good ol’ custard-in-a-can. So let’s make a tart — or two!
So I sliced up all the figs and strawberries, nice and thin, about 1/4″ thick.
And then I drooled a little bit, because look at all that awesomeness.
I’ve never baked with canned custard before, so I wasn’t sure if it would solidify after cooking. Just to be on the safe side, I decided to beat one whole egg into the custard for insurance.
I also spilled a few drops of Grand Marnier orange liqueur in there and it tasted amazing already.
I created a quick glaze by mixing some honey with some egg white I had sitting in the fridge.
Then I preheated the oven to 375°F and rolled out my two sheets of pastry onto parchment paper.
I added a few spoonfuls of my custard mix and smoothed it out with the back of a spoon. Not too much – you don’t want it spilling everywhere once it heats up.
Then I laid out the fruit. This one was all fig.
This one I alternated fig and strawberry.
Then I took a silicone brush and smoothed the egg white glaze over the fruit. I shoved those in the oven, one at a time, for about 25 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure the glaze and the custard aren’t burning.
Let those puppies cool almost completely before cutting them up.
I still had some glaze and strawberries and custard left, and there was a cup of that delightful rhubarb curd I made earlier. What should I do?
I decided to whip together a wee bit of shortbread (butter, sugar, flour), which I pressed into a pan and baked at 375°F for 15 minutes.
Then I mixed that gorgeous curd into the custard I had left over.
Poured it into the pan on top of the shortbread.
Then lined it with the strawberry slices.
Glazed it with what was leftover.
And then I baked it for about half an hour. It’s kind of like a rudimentary flan. It was so tasty!
These were a consolation prize the Pie found after the disastrous experiment with s’mores cookies last week. And they turned out to be an excellent way of depleting our more esoteric baking supplies.
Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter an 8″ baking dish. I went with the extra precaution of lining it with parchment and buttering that, too. Now I doubled my recipe and plopped it in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish because the recipe got its math wrong and there is no way that an 8″ square pan leaves you with forty 1 1/2″ squares. It just ain’t so. I only ended up with twenty-four, and that’s in the bigger pan.
Anyway. Don’t fret about the math for now, and whisk together 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and set that aside for now.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1/3 cup unsalted butter (room temperature) and 3/4 cup granulated sugar until they’re pale and fluffy, a couple minutes. I used half white and half brown sugar here because I ran out of molasses so I needed to boost the flavour a bit.
Separate out 4 egg whites and use the yolks for something else. I’m sure you could get away with tossing them into this mix, but it would make for a much denser cake. I might try it next time. Huck those into the mixer and beat to combine.
Grab yourself 1 cup molasses. I ran out of molasses halfway through and discovered that my Golden Syrup had corroded the tin it was in, so my only recourse was lily white corn syrup, which made my squares quite a bit more pale than they were supposed to be. Your squares will be much darker.
Anyway, pour that in as well and give it a stir until it’s all combined.
At this point, the Pie remarked that this was one of the grosser-looking things I had ever made, with maybe the exception of banana bread. He has no appreciation for the science of things. Then of course I added in the flour mixture and whipped that around and he was all like, “ooooh, it’s so pretty and smooth!” Figures.
Anyway, smooth that lovely pretty substance into your prepared pan and chuck it in the oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of it comes out clean. For the doubled recipe, this took about an hour.
Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, then tip it out and cut it into as many squares as you like.
Grab a bowl and dump in about 1/2 cup icing sugar, and roll each square in that just before serving (if you do it in advance then the icing sugar will be absorbed into the square and it won’t look as pretty).
My morning meal usually consists of coffee, juice, yogurt, and granola. Like I could eat that stuff every single day.
Until now, I’ve been buying our granola, but it’s quite expensive for the amount you get and it’s full of all sorts of weird additives and the like that I don’t really want to put in my system.
My mother used to make granola for us sometimes when we were kids, so I figured that I could probably do it myself if I tried. And it’s easy. And you can use what you’ve got in your cupboards, or what you can scoop up at the bulk food store. Which means you can customize each batch.
So preheat your oven to 350°F and get out a large rimmed baking sheet. I took the precaution of lining mine with parchment paper, so stuff wouldn’t stick.
The majority of granolas start with a base of oats, about 4 cups. I used four double handfuls, because I measured my tiny hands once and put together that’s about what they hold. And thus ends my list of measurements for this recipe. Because you can do whatever you want. So what else have I got going on here? In addition to the oats, I have bran, groundflax, shreddedcoconut, slicedalmonds, nutmeg, cinnamon, sesameseeds, poppyseeds, lavenderflowers (yes), and then a selection of dried fruits: apricots, mango, and raisins.
Take all your happy dry ingredients (minus the fruits) and plop them in a bowl.
Mix ’em up.
In another bowl, add about 1/2 cup runny honey,
about 1/2 cup maple syrup,
and about 1/2 cup melted butter.
*** EDIT: If you’d like granola that forms clumps (and that’s my favourite kind), whisk 1 or 2 egg whites into a froth and add them to the mixture as well. The protein in the whites will stick everything together during the baking process. Just use caution when stirring mid-bake, as the amount you stir will affect the size of the clumps you create. ***
Pour that golden loveliness into the dry mixture and stir until all the dry ingredients are coated.
Spread that stuff out on your baking sheet and chuck that in the oven for about 40 minutes.
Make sure to stir with a spatula every 10-15 minutes or so to keep the stuff on the bottom from burning.
While that’s on the go, get your dried fruit ready. I chopped up the apricots and mango slices a little to make them easier to get on a spoon.
Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan, stirring it occasionally to break up the chunks. The finer grained your ingredients are, and the more sticky wet ingredients you use, the chunkier your granola will be.
While it’s still a little warm, stir in your dried fruit.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, and enjoy whenever you want!
As you may remember, I recently entered Movita Beaucoup’s pumpkin carve-off 2012. I didn’t win. It was very upsetting to me. But all is not lost. Movita also holds an annual gingerbread house contest. And I’ve had this idea that’s been percolating in my wee brain meats for some time. And I think I just might pull it off. When I mentioned the idea to Cait over Google Talk, this was how our conversation went:
me: so the lady who does the pumpkin carving contest also does a gingerbread house contest
but I was thinking, what about an igloo, made of meringue? with a yeti attacking a camp full of ninjabread men?
Cait: you’d have to experiment. it may not take much to cause that to happen… i don’t know.
i am not a glowing igloo scientist
also they can’t taste it on an internet contest.
me: find me a recipe for glowing meringue
I just don’t see how the tonic water fits into it
Cait: oh well google says tonic water has quinine which glows brilliant blue under black light
and so whenever they make glowing whatever on baking shows they use tonic water
and it glows
so make some test meringue, brush that s**t with tonic water, or sprinkle, or whatever
and then stick it under a black light for science
me: you know, I could use it in the slurry i’m making with cornstarch, which will stabilize the meringue
Cait: i mean people’s minds will be blown by the googley eyed ninja bread men
but BAM the damn thing glows
i don’t even know why anyone else would bother entering
me: don’t forget the yeti
So you can see how this woman completes me in every way. Long story short, this is what we’re doing. And by We I mean me and a slightly-less-than-willing Pie, who, as Cait says, does not understand our vision. And Cait will be offering moral support over Google Talk as she concocts a contraption for Ruby. I wish my computer could always be in the kitchen …
Before we got started I wanted to lay out my supplies. I needed a piping bag (I used a plastic one with a piping tip stuffed in one corner), and my baking sheets lined with parchment paper. I also needed some form of structure for my igloo, so I grabbed a metal bowl that looked like it was the right size to fit the ninjas I had in mind.
It was kind of an origami fest getting the parchment to cover the bowl in an appropriate way. I used freezer tape to stick stuff down — on the non-meringue side, of course.
Then I made a little door as well. I hope this works.
As we know, the first trick to making meringue is to bring the whites to room temperature, so I did that with 8 egg whites (wash out the shells and keep them for later). And rather than use my usual method, which produces a beautiful, flaky and delicate meringue, I modified this recipe, which involves stabilizing the meringue with corn starch.
In a small saucepan, combine 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/3 cup cornstarch. Whisk it up until you are sure it’s well mixed.
Whisk in 1 1/3 cups tonic water (I let mine get flat so the bubbles wouldn’t interfere — if you don’t want yours to glow you can use regular water) and heat over medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture is clear and thick, kind of like petroleum jelly. Remove that from the heat and allow it to cool. If you do it for too long you end up making plastic. I’ve definitely done that before. The science of it is pretty neat but it’s a pain to clean.
I also made some royal icing to use as glue for later on.
In a large metal or glass bowl (copper apparently works the best), plop down your egg whites, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar (another stabilizing acid), 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (who knows, these could end up being tasty). Whisk that up until it gets all nice and foamy and soft peaks form.
Then, a tablespoon at a time, add in 1 cup granulated sugar. The sugar, if you add it slowly enough, is another stabilizing agent.
Add in slowly as well that gross vaseline-like stuff you just made.
Whip that silly, until you get a nice opaque, shiny mass with stiff peaks. The best thing about meringue is that unlike whipping cream, which relies on fat to stabilize, you can’t overwhip this stuff. So if you’re not sure, just keep going.
I think we’re ready to go here. Preheat your oven to 225°F. The cooler your oven is and the longer you bake your meringue, the drier and crisper it will be. And we want to do this right.
I had a lot of meringue to work with, so I did some experimenting, shoving the meringue in a freezer bag with a piping tip jammed in the corner, I tried out different shapes, scrapping what I didn’t want.
I ended up making three yetis, and a tree. And some blobs.
And signing my name. If I’d dyed this with vitamin B12 it would have come out yellow, and I could have done the ol’ yellow snow joke, eh?
And the igloo itself. I originally piped on the meringue, but I didn’t like it.
So I used a spatula to smooth it out.
Then I baked them for about 3 1/2 hours (because there was so much stuff in the oven), and when they were done I turned off the oven and let them sit in there until the oven was completely cool. Only then did I attempt to remove the parchment paper. This is why I made more than one of everything. Well, except for the igloo. That was enough of a pain in the ass.
I know you’re saying, what’s a gingerbread house without gingerbread? Well, this is a meringue igloo, so it’s not complete without ninjabread men. Am I right? Cait gave me these cookie cutters (by Fred & Friends) when she and Jul were here this summer and so I relished the opportunity to use them.
I won’t extend this post still further by walking you through the ninjabread process (because really, the point of this exercise is in the meringue igloo, people), but I’ll show you a few that we decorated, and I got the recipe from here.
Yes, I really do suck at piping icing. I just don’t care enough to get better at it. So deal.
I also just happened to have some empty gelatin capsules on hand, so took the opportunity to make edible googly eyes for all my participants. If you’re interested in doing this, you can get the capsules from drug stores or health food stores, but you might have to call around.
So you take your capsule and you carefully puncture a hole in the end of one of the halves with fine pointy scissors (or a sharp craft knife or razor blade), then cut around until all you’re left with is a wee dome. Do that to the other half of the capsule as well.
Now you need eyes that google. I found these sprinkles at the grocery store, and they will make handy eyes — in pretty colours, too!
Use an empty capsule to make indentations in the meringue to hold your eyes, then jam the eyes in the indentations you made. Make it go in far enough that it stays, but not too far that the eyes aren’t all wiggly. I don’t know why it’s important that my eyes are googly here in a still photo, but it just is, darnit.
For the ninjabread, I glued them in with piping gel. It meant they weren’t very googly, but this is a still shot anyway.
And now the setup. Fortunately everything I have here is very lightweight, so I just set everything up on a piece of cardboard. For the “ground” I used jumbo marshmallows that I cut in half. The stickiness of the marshmallow made excellent glue for keeping it attached to the cardboard. I also snuck a few of those empty egg shells in there, glued down with royal icing. Egg shells glow pale pink under black light. I thought they might look a little like very subtle snow monsters. Then I set everything else up, using toothpicks and royal icing to keep everything in place.
And here we have our scene of mayhem and terror: poor ninja researchers travel to the Canadian north, only to be set upon by the very creature they came to study: the elusive yeti.
Yeah, I know. It’s not the handsomest design in the cold light of day. It looks like a hungover drunken science experiment.
And in the dark? Well, I’ll let you reflect on that by yourself. I never really thought this would ACTUALLY work. BUT IT DOES! It glows in the mother-freakin’ DARK!
The eggs don’t glow as pinkly as I wanted them to, but it was, indeed, very subtle.
I had to fill in (on rather short notice) for one of the members of my Sweet Treats group at work, and so this is what I came up with. I LOVE (love, love, love) meringues. Always have. In fact I think they’re the first thing I ever baked. And so every time I make something with egg yolks I take advantage of the extra whites and whip up a batch. The Pie isn’t a huge fan of the crispy, chewy, sugary goodness, but that hasn’t stopped me yet. I’ve even branched out and made different varieties of chocolate meringue, one of which I posted about here. But I keep seeing fruity versions, so I thought I’d give that a go. Most of the recipes call for food colouring and raspberry or strawberry extract, neither of which are particularly yummy to me. I mean, I understand why you would use them in this case — the fluffy egg whites are pretty delicate and would collapse if you put too much heavy stuff into the mix.
But I think we can give this a bit of a go, with some real fruit. We just have to be very careful.
What you need is some egg whites, at room temperature. I have some pasteurized egg whites that came in a carton which has been sitting in my freezer since Cait and Jul were here, so I might as well use that. Then you need some cream of tartar, which is your stiffening agent. And some sugar. For sweetness. Obviously. You can use any sweetener you like, but I prefer the ease of good old regular sugar.
And you need some fruit. I’m going to use about a cup and a half of frozen raspberries here, which I thawed, and I’m going to gently stew them for a little bit with 1 teaspoon corn starch. To prevent lumps of corn starch forming, mix the spoonful of starch with a small amount of the raspberry juice first, to form a slurry (this technique works really well when adding thickener to gravies, too). I added in a tablespoon or so of sugar, just to get rid of the bite of the raspberry acid.
Then I’m going to strain them (and by that I mean shove the mess through a sieve with a spoon), and come out with a nice little coulis. Let that cool for a bit.
Now you can start your meringues. Preheat your oven to 250°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper.
The regular proportions I use come from The Joy of Cooking, and involve 4 egg whites, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon vanilla (which I made from rum!) and 1 cup sugar. You can multiply or divide this recipe however you wish. In my carton o’ egg whites the label says there is the equivalent of 8 egg whites, so I’m going with that proportion, which is a double batch.
Of course, I didn’t learn until after I’d put it all together that pasteurized egg whites (such as those that come in a carton) do not lend themselves well to making meringue. So I had to start all over again.
So you have your room temperature egg whites, and you chuck them in the bowl of a mixer with your cream of tartar and your rum/vanilla, and you beat the crap out of it with your whisk-y thing. When you’ve got nice foamy peaks, you can start adding your sugar in, a little bit at a time. Keep beating until you have nice firm peaks.
These peaks not only hold their own weight, but they can support the weight of the heavy metal whisk as well!
Once the egg whites form stiff peaks, you can gently fold in your coulis.
I spooned the meringue stuff onto the baking sheets in decent cookie-sized heaps, and ended up with 42 of them. Bake them for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (maybe a bit longer if they’re still squishy on the bottom, and make sure to rotate your sheets if you’ve got them on two levels), and let them cool inside the oven after you’ve turned it off. If you cool them too quickly they’ll collapse. Store them in an airtight container and make sure to eat them all within a few days of baking.
These are strongly reminiscent of those fruit-flavoured hard candies that they hand out in restaurants, that you suck on for a while and then you chew and the inside is all squishy and sticks together. That’s what biting on these is like. Taste is very similar, too.
Yesterday was Kª’s birthday (otherwise known as The Lady Downstairs). She’s now 19, or somewhere close to that :). She’s also the mother of two very energetic young boys, and if you include her husband, she’s outnumbered in the house by males 3 to 1. So I thought that for her birthday I’d give her something incredibly girly — a flowered cupcake. The recipe is Martha Stewart and I got the idea for the flower from here. The decoration part is really time consuming (at least, with my amateur skills) but so totally worth it.
This recipe makes 24 large cupcakes.
First, preheat your oven to 350°F and line two muffin tins with paper liners.
In a bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda and give that a stir.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, plop in 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) cocoa powder and 6 tablespoons hot water and mix them into a paste. Apparently this helps to intensify the chocolate flavour. I found I had to add an additional 4 tablespoons of water in order to get a paste, so keep that in mind.
Add in 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) buttermilk (or soured milk), 6 tablespoons melted butter, and 2 whole eggs plus 2 egg whites and whisk until combined.
Gradually add your bowl of flour and sugar and whisk until smooth.
Scoop the batter into your liners and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the middle cupcake comes out clean. Place the muffin tins on racks and allow the cupcakes to cool completely.
While they’re cooling, plop a 250g package of plain cream cheese in a mixer together wtih about 2 cups icing sugar. Whip that up until it’s smooth and creamy. This is your icing.
Frost your cooled cupcakes generously.
Here’s where the ridiculous part comes in. You’re going to need several packages of Fruit by the Foot, or some kind of store-brand equivalent. I haven’t had this stuff since I was a kid. The Pie was thrilled and went off in the throes of nostalgia, an extra candy sticking out of his mouth.
You will need 12 strawberry flavoured ones (red) and at least 1 apple-flavoured one (green). I could only get these variety packs, so I had to cut the green bits from the multi-coloured ones, and I ended up with some purple roses.
Unroll one of your red strips and use a knife to cut a sine wave down the middle of it lengthwise. Don’t worry about being perfect — it will look fine no matter what.
Take one of the halves and, starting from the end, tightly roll it up for about five inches. This is your “bud.”
Take the bud and plop it in the centre of one of your frosted cupcakes. Carefully drape the rest of the candy around the bud, tapping it into the frosting to anchor it. I find it helps if I sort of let it feed through my fingers on one hand and use the other hand to rotate the cupcake.
Then cut out two small leaves from the green stuff and tuck them into the frosting under the flower you have created.
And so you are done.
Now you just have 23 more to go. And actually the purple ones are kind of nice, I think …