Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Blog Fodder Biscotti

I can't believe it.  After all the time I have been baking ..and in particular baking biscotti.... I burned a batch of Ian's Rosemary, Orange and Cranberry Biscotti.  There went the last of my fresh Rosemary.  Damn!

Wow... in the photos ..it doesn't look half bad.  It was much worse in person believe me ...and, of course, I had already tossed the 8 worst burned guys... should have kept them for blog fodder.  It's always good to show the failures along with the successes.   Anyway... my sweetie loves them..he prefers things a bit browner than they should be most of the time.  There is only one left.  So.. not all was lost.

However, I still claim the disaster was not all my fault... I have excuses..... my oven is on the fritz.  Yep... the brand new, only 5 years old, top of the line, GE MONOgram.... ridiculous.

A few months back I burned a pot dry on the cooktop above the built-in oven.  But, I didn't realize it somehow affected the oven.  At the time I did NOT do more research into all of it and discover that a cooktop is supposed to have a minimum of 12 inches clearance between anything and itself.... and, obviously, when we put it in..we did not notice the tiny print on one line of the installation instructions as somebody else was installing the thing.  They actually recommend not putting it over the top of any appliance as it could "cause damage".  The salesman knew exactly what our design was ...and, either he didn't know or didn't care .. why would he ....... after all, money is the bottom line with most of those guys.

so... for some reason...the fans of the oven aren't working.   Either the wiring got fried ..or ... it is a strange coincidence.  I don't believe in coincidence.  Therefore, now it gets hot and stays hot...no intermittent cooling fans or any cooling of any kind after the heat is turned off.  Needless to say.... I burned my biscotti.

Now, we have a conundrum.  How to change the configuration of the cooktop and the built-in oven.  Can't be done.  So, we have to buy a new range...cut our granite countertops... make space... build up some hardwood under where the stove will sit so it is not the wrong height and looks okay...and, then... hope it all works out and .... carry on.  After 30+ years of renovations.....I am sick about it all.  I just want to stick my head in the sand and pretend it is okay.  Do nothing... but, can't.  It gets so hot you can't even touch the control panel..so is dangerous.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Miniature Gingerbread Houses

From a Cupcake Jemma Youtube video.

I have no clue about piping and have never made Royal Icing before.

so.... as you may or may not know............ nothing is quite as simple as it looks on Youtube.  Besides, she is a professional baker ..hahahhahah... silly me.

I always just expect to follow along and things surely must just happen as easily as they do for them on there right? .... nope.......

Every square inch of my kitchen was a disaster let me tell you.  Icing sugar is so messy even if a person is careful and I am very careful.   And...it just didn't come together like hers did at all.  She put in 3 tablespoons of water and barely had to add a bit more and it looked great.  Of course... seeing and 'feeling' consistency isn't quite the same.  I had to add about 6 tablespoons of water just to get it to be almost solid glue...and, yes...I measured the icing sugar very carefully... an exact 400 grams... by the scale.  Maybe it is a case of the lack of humidity in our homes compared to those in England.  Basically, we have none.

Anyway... very long story made somewhat shorter ..   ( many hours long if truth be told!@#)  I finally got some icing in a bag.  By then, I already had 3 spatulas with hard, crusty bits on them so had to keep tossing them and reaching for a new one... good thing I have many, many spatulas. .. (still could not get a tip small enough to do it properly either) and practiced on some parchment paper for a bit and then...onward with biscuits to build some tiny houses.  Tiny being the key word here....they are only 3.5 inches high...and, 2.25 inches across the front...only 2 across an end.

At first I was pretty disappointed with my results...but, on I went... and even if they are a bit more whimsical and not as tidy as Jemma's.... I like them.   she did have 3 colours ...but in the end...all I could manage was my white icing... not trying for 3 colours if I can't even make the icing pipe properly.

Mr. BumbleVee says I was trying to make a two story house look like a bungalow....aha....I didn't notice that really....not a wonder they don't look so great.   Not a wonder he is the designer.  I watched the video a few times...and, then...just went for it.  Some details escaped me I guess.  Next time I may draw out some door and window configurations before I  begin winging it.....

Also...I did watch a few more Julia Usher videos later...WOW !!  and, discovered my icing had to be much softer  ... no wonder my arms and wrists almost gave out after 5 houses and many hours of struggling.  We ate the 6th house and other extra roof and side pieces.  A good thing.  My arms wouldn't take any more, nor would my back!  And, that is the BEST gingerbread recipe ever.  I love those biscuits.  She uses Golden Syrup instead of molasses ... which I don't like anyway... so I love the taste of them.

I want to take a cake decorating class now...to learn how to pipe icing properly.  What fun that would be.

Here are my cute little "gb" houses.... as my friend Muriel calls them.... in spite of all the pitfalls and my own limited piping skills....I do like them a lot.  Just click on the photo if you want to view them larger.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Alexandra's Mom's No Knead Peasant Bread

It's been two years since I did any posting on this blog... many's the time I had something great to show and tell, but, for whatever reason, it just didn't happen.

But this.......... this is too good not to share.

Alexandra's Kitchen.  I stumbled upon her blog while searching for something... forget exactly what it was now...but then, I noticed this on her sidebar.

Simple Peasant Bread as she calls it.  It's her Mom's recipe from when they were kids...  I'm always on the lookout for easy and tasty breads.  Looks like her Mom was way ahead of the 'modern' no knead breads everybody is always raving about.  So was most of Europe, but don't tell that to everybody who is now ruining their lovely expensive Creuset pots trying to bake no knead bread in a superheated oven.  I've been using several other versions over the years...but, this is the best so far.

A lovely, easy to make, tasty, crunchy-outside-soft-inside loaf, in about 2 hours.  Yes, it only takes a short while and there is no kneading or even touching the dough at all.  Alexandra made it, with videos included, on her blog; even with small children around .. years ago now..but, the 100s of positive comments attest to its' ease, its' flavour and to its' success.  People like me are just discovering her blog and her recipes ...and I will definitely be back to try some of her other goodies.  Like the chocolate cake recipe I also saw while there ....oh, yummmm.....

Anyway....she divides her dough into two blobs and bakes it in two Pyrex bowls...I didn't have two, so used my giant muffin pan for the second half of the dough ... it makes the cutest little loaves for giving quickly to neighbours so you don't eat all of the bread in one sitting... straight out of the oven.... which could happen.......believe it.

Here are some photos of my attempt... which I did exactly as she said to do on her recipe... and it worked perfectly.
Thanks so much Alexandra!!  and, of course, your Mom ...  who did it many times before ............

Dough after the first rise of one hour..

Second rise just sitting on the oven door where it was still warmish... 

After 15 minutes I moved it on top of the stove while I heated the oven.

              It rose to just the tops of the containers by the time I put it in the oven.

It got plenty of oven spring in the first few minutes of baking.

Soooo cute... big muffins of bread.

Good thing there are a few items for perspective...they could be pretty large loaves if you didn't know otherwise.

As you can see I had to cut and taste even if it was good and hot........... mmmmmmmmmm....oh, yeh..........

This is the little bit larger loaf from my 1 quart bowl.

I lost track of the actual baking time for the smaller muffin loaves..but, you can take them out when golden or leave them to brown a bit further ... probably mine were about 25 minutes by the time I decided to take them out and left the larger one for another 5 or so... I like them more blonde than dark.... but, that's just me.....

here is the recipe.. from her blog ...... she gives you plenty of info about how to mix the dough;  lift with the forks etc...  you should watch some of it before attempting it... it makes things so simple once you've seen it done.  Well, it sure did for me anyway.......  I'm what my sister calls "visual"... reading it doesn't always make it totally clear to me.  I like to "see the video" if you know what I mean...

Monday, September 21, 2015

Home made croutons

Many years ago...when I discovered you could buy packaged croutons, I laughed my head off.  Why would you do that?  It is just toasted, flavoured bits of bread.  Most likely, the bits of old broken stuff that they swept off the floor at the bakery.  But, then, people are even buying potatoes wrapped in foil..so they don't have to do it themselves.  Are you kidding me?  no.... it's sad, but some folks will pay for anything.  Some folks  ....  just not me.

This is simple and yet so tasty.  I insist on making my own.  I like having them in a container in the 'fridge just for a snack..instead of crackers.

Make them with any of the spices you enjoy... plus a bit of salt and pepper.  Yummy.

A perfect way to use up old bread..even the bits that are getting hard and dry... just perfect.

Cut the bread pieces into chunks the size you like for your own croutons.  Mine always end up about one inch square or so ... cuz I like 'em big enough to be snacks!

Put them in a deep bowl and drizzle on a bit of olive oil.  Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and some spices.  I like oregano and sweet basil...sometimes a tiny sprinkle of poultry seasoning .. or some rosemary.  Turn them over and over with a large spoon... then, drizzle on a bit more olive oil.  They won't get all soaked with oil...I just like to make sure most of them get a bit of it on them.
If you have quite a few do them in two batches ...they do tend to jump out of the bowl sometimes when I over fill it.

Spread them on a baking sheet ... turn the oven to 350F and pop them in.  I don't bother wasting time, energy or heat on preheating.  When the oven gets up to temperature I set the timer for about 10 minutes...then turn it down to about 250F when ten minutes has passed.   Another 10 to 15 at that temperature ...or in the interim while the oven is cooling to it... should just about be enough time.  If you like yours browned a bit... leave it up at the 350F...but, keep an eye on things.  They can begin to brown and then all of a sudden they may be more coloured than you want them to be.  You will figure out your own temperatures and times after once or twice making them.

When they are cooled I store them in a container in the 'fridge.

Sometimes they actually make it onto a bowl of soup.... like this yummy veggie soup I made yesterday ....  and, sometimes I just nibble them for snacks......

If you haven't already....try some.  You'll love 'em.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Eons have passed

...yet again....

But I have a fractured rib or something...so I am spending more time in the house and just watched a biscotti making video from 2011 of Nonna Pia, making Almond Biscotti.   Such a sweet little old lady of 89 years. .... using all the mod cons...and showing us how she does it.

I have never made biscotti quite this way and certainly never had soft, almost cake-batter-like dough.  But I tried it and I really like the look of it when it is finished.  Looks so rustic.  All lumpy and a bit browned on the very tops of the bumps of course...

Here are a couple pics so you can see what it looks like.

If you would like to see her video .. just click on this


My Christmas test baking begins....... I am still tweaking this recipe of hers..... and will share when I get it the way I like it....