Thursday, 23 April 2015

April 23rd and snow

Mother Nature as usual is having her last laugh this week with temperatures hovering around 0 and this morning, snow and ice. Luckily the kids and I haven't taken the winter tires off yet.Sometimes laziness pays off!

This weekend my baby, that's my 6'2" baby, turned 19. Weird to think that, officially, Greg is a man capable of making his own decisions. The reality of it is I still nag him out of bed to get to school every day. As frustrating as it can be sometimes to live with Greg the truth is I like this kid. He sees the world from a completely different angle. This is saying a lot in a family where we're all skewed a little off the norm. He and I have figured out how to rub along together as long as outside forces (that is usually Jeff) don't interfere. Our typical quality time has the two of us in the same room doing completely different things and hardly talking. It works because we're together and have the opportunity to talk as needed. Not what the books call well spent time but in this house it's perfect. I continue to worry about him getting through high school, we're currently exploring yet another avenue that hopefully will get him to the end. Anyway, Happy Birthday my little smooky poo!

I was picking up some fabric a week ago to make a shade for Jeff's window and, as usual, got talking to another lady in line. She doesn't sew and was commenting that she couldn't find a pattern for draped swags. I jokingly said she was showing her age because that style is no longer in fashion. Long story short this lead to me explaining how easy it really is to make curtains and valances and one of the sales clerks at Len's saying that I should make the valances for her. We exchanged numbers and I came home and made Jeff's shade and a cute summer purse I'd been planning. Sonia called me a few days later and asked if I would make the valances and we went back to purchase her fabric. I spent a few hours designing her scalloped valances and sending her patterns. In the end Sonia, with the influence of her daughter, decided not to put up valances right now but this lead me to design something similar for my kitchen windows.
 I've had this fabric for about 10 years. I made a table cloth for the dining table years ago and am thrilled to have the rest out where I can see it every day.

This all leads to my saying that, yes, the bake-off continues but other things are always popping up to distract me. ADHD much Nancy, ooh, sparkly. Oh, ya, I also painted the front windows, first coat only. If it warms up next week I'll finish that job. Looks so much better than the peeling avocado paint.

Last week my sous-chef and I (that's Greg) decided to make a couple of cookies from the spice section. I had Jess go over the list and choose which ended up with some editing of my lovely handwriting into what they thought I had written. Horrible children, but I think the new name for the Honey Sandies to Hans Solo cookies might be an improvement.

 We ended up with Browned Butter Cardamom cookies and Gossamer Spice cookies. I had included the latter recipe because they look like the IKEA ginger cookies we all like so much. Both batters had to be chilled before using so I whipped up both before coercing Greg into helping. Now I read over the recipes before I started and gathered all the ingredients but some of those numbers are written soo small that maybe I made a few changes.
 I like to use browned butter in a lot of things so the idea of using it in cookies was really appealing. Cardamom is quickly becoming one of our family's favourite spices and both cookies had it in them. The above photo is of the Browned Butter cookies. They are baked until just set and not browned. The result is a soft, chewy cookie with a lovely buttery flavour. The cardamom is not noticeable but the votes overall was that this is a good cookie to use as a base for other flavours. I don't really like chewy cookies but the majority rules and the rest of the family does so this one stays in the line-up. I think I'll spice them up a little more next time.
 Now the Gossamer cookies are basically a ginger snap. This is where that tiny writing got me. I was supposed to add a 1/2 tspn " apple pie spice", which is just cinnamon and nutmeg combined. I accidentally added 1/4 tspn cinnamon an 1/2 tspn nutmeg, oh well, the spicier the better as far as I'm concerned. That wasn't the end of it though. The recipe called for an 1/8 tspn of ground red pepper. Not having that I decided that cayenne could be substituted. No problem except that I added a 1/4 tspn instead of an 1/8th. In the end what happened was that the cookies have a bit of a nip to them not really an issue but next time I'll use the correct amount of pepper. The recipe also said to use my 2" cutter and what resulted were little cookies that look more like crackers than cookies. In light of the fact that the cookies are quite spicy I think the smaller size this time is perfect but next time when I make them perfectly I'm going to use the 3" cutter and roll them less the thickness of gossamer. The final decision on these are that they do remind us of the IKEA gingersnaps and they are worth keeping.

In case you haven't noticed we haven't eliminated a lot of recipes, lol. The gang is mostly enjoying having a barrage of new cookie flavours. I think the conclusion here is that we all just like cookies, any flavour, any shape.                                                                                                                 I think I'll go into the bar section of my recipes for next week. They're usually quick and easy to        make. Jess marked the goat-cheese brownies as one she'd like me to make. I've had that on my             Christmas baking list for a few years so I think that will be one. Wait and see what else I make. 
Think Spring everyone, the shoots are starting to pop up here. I'm sure Dayle is living in a tropical lushness and hopefully that foot of snow in Joy's backyard has melted. Love ya all.                          

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Cookie Bake Off Part Two

I planned on doing this baking last week but I was distracted by finding that my acrylic paints I hadn't touched for a few years were not dried out. This lead me to digging out a couple of ceramic houses that I had purchased a while ago as well and painting them. Those of you who follow me on Pinterest will know that I love miniatures and I have been collecting and painting these buildings for over a decade. I love making the small details stand out and creating my own, colourful world. Here's some pictures of my little town.
 My photography is at it's usual standard, I blame the camera. I inadvertently captured my mini Santas as well. Yes, I know Christmas is over but I spent a lot of time painting each of those so they stay out. My town consists of a dress shop, book shop ( of course) toy shop, bakery, hotel and a 
couple of houses. This is one of those things that I could care less what anyone else thinks. I've had 
fun painting them and they make me happy so they are always on the shelf.  Anyway, I worked on the bakery and brown house last week instead of baking.                                                                       So, back to the baking. I decided to go through some of my spritz recipes and came up with three that I wanted to try, mocha, hazelnut and buttery. In the end I only baked up two of them both of which taste lovely. You'd think that would be the end of it and I'd just show you some pictures but, as is more often than not the norm, things went a little bit astray. I have wanted a cookie press for years and a few Christmases ago Jess gave me one. It's the Wilton ergonomic handle one that is all plastic. It's light and has a ratchet press that should, in theory, make things easier. The reality of this press is that it's too fragile to handle any dough other than the softest. So far the only thing I have successfully pressed is my super tender whipped shortbread. Nonetheless I wanted to try these recipes. I started with the mocha recipe and as it mixed I thought to myself that this dough seem pretty stiff to go through the press. It turns out I was right. I packed the press as per the instructions and tried to press the dough. The press make some, shall we say, disturbing noises and nothing came out. I tried it a few more clicks and came to the conclusion that this was not going to happen. I pushed the dough out of the press and it came out in a beautifully round log. I then proceeded to do the same with the remaining dough and ended up with four logs. I took out my sharpest knife and cut them into 1/4" slices and baked them for the recommended time and they turned out great! They look nothing like the sunflowers I pictured in my head but the recipe is tasty. For the second batch I decided on the hazelnut spritz.  I didn't have any hazelnuts so I substituted ground almonds.Being always optimistic I thought maybe this dough would be soft enough, I was wrong. This dough came out the same as the first. I decided to get out my melon baller and roll scant 1" balls. Not wanting to give up on the press I put it to a slightly different use. You could say that I still pressed the dough the only difference is that I pressed down on the balls with the end of the press and made a daisy design on each cookie. This recipe creates a wonderfully buttery cookie. Another time maybe I'll press a half almond into the top before cooking. In the end I think I'll keep both of these recipes. I think I'm going to have to invest in a metal cookie press though. Here's a picture of both, the mocha ones don't look like much but they taste good and that's what really matters, right?