Recipe #19 – Honey Sweets

IMG_4573“How hard could it be? There are only 2 ingredients?”

That’s what I said to myself, with a little bit of attitude, I admit. “There’s honey and sugar in the pantry, so I don’t even have to worry about finding some obscure ingredient!”

And the instructions were so simple and straightforward – boil the two ingredients to temperature, turn out onto Silpat, roll into a long tube, and cut it into pieces. Easy peasy!

Ha!

 

 

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First, I burnt the mixture. Twice.

Sure, I was using my lovely thermometer. But I neglected to put the bottom of the pot into cold water, to stop the cooking process. Fail. Twice.

Can I take a minute to say how much I detest electric ranges? I’ve adjusted to a lot since this move to Florida, but I will never get used to cooking on an electric stove top. It’s. The. Worst.

 

 

 

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Next, pour it onto the Silpat. Beautiful! Though I was a little worried about how liquidy it was. I expected this to start forming into a chewy ball on it’s own.

Oh well. It will work out. The next step says to roll it into a ball. The mixture is “quite warm,” so they recommend wearing rubber gloves. I only had regular kitchen gloves available, so that’s what I used.

 

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Disaster! This mixture did not want to roll itself into a ball or a log or any other shape. It stuck to the gloves mercilessly. (It’s honey and sugar, what was I expecting?!) It pulled at the Silpat – and nothing ever sticks to that stuff!

What to do? I ditched the gloves, and had a glass of wine while I contemplated how this little two-ingredient recipe had gone wrong. There’s not much to mess up.

Turns out, all it needed was a little time to cool off. Once it had cooled a bit, it pulled together into a ball with ease. And no gloves required!

 

 

Roll it into a log. Cut into little pieces. Work fast here, because as it cools, it gets much harder to work with.

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Once they’re fully cooled, coat them in confectioner’s sugar, and keep in an air-tight container.

So, these were good. But I would only recommend eating them if you need to remove a tooth or a filling or something. They’re unbelievably sticky. We couldn’t even eat them all. But they’re really pretty, and probably would make for a lovely gift.

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Also, I need to work on my food photography. ‘Cause it’s terrible.

Onwards!

 

 

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Recipe #18 – Lemon Cake

IMG_3640 (1)I was really looking forward to this recipe. I love lemons, and actually really love lemony baked goods. This is usually something that one loves or hates – there’s not really a middle ground here.

I didn’t candy the lemon peel for a garnish. I honestly just wanted to jump in and bake something – it’s been a while – and figured the lemon peel was more decorative. So we passed on it this time.

It’s a pretty simple cake recipe – a dense pound cake type of cake, with lots of lemon juice. Just before the cake is done baking, you poke it and pour more hot, sugary lemon syrup over the top. Smells amazing.

The taste…not so much. Even for my lemon-loving taste buds, this was a bit too tangy. Which didn’t bode well for the next recipe….

Baking and Exploring

I’ve been remiss in getting to my book as of late. Adjusting to a new city and learning a new routine can throw you off your game a bit.

Which isn’t to say that I’ve not been baking. The past few weeks have found me making a wedding cake for friends, my first-ever attempt at cannelles (which were amazing), chocolate chip cookies, and banana bread. I just haven’t ventured into the cookbook-of-the-year.

I’ve also been making my way around this new city. I haven’t found a key lime pie yet, but honestly, I haven’t been looking that hard.  But I have discovered pastelitos, a Cuban pastry filled with guava. Delicious, and I could eat them for breakfast every day.  There’s even a restaurant that makes a pastelito burger, but being a vegetarian, I won’t be trying that anytime soon. Speaking of being a vegetarian, this town is rough for the meat-free. Lots of great Cuban and Haitian food, but very little of it is vegetarian.

But I’m back. And I’ve got a few recipes to share with you. So hold on tight!

Oh, and I signed up for a class at the Miami Cordon Bleu. I can barely.contain.my.excitement!

Recipe #16 – Nonettes

I realize that I skipped #16 – I went from 15 to 17 and jumped right over these lovely little things.

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Nonettes are little jam-filled cakes.  The name literally translates to “little nuns,” because these delicious little morsels were made by nuns in the Burgundy region of France during the middle ages.

There’s honey in the cake itself, similar to a spice cake, and they’re usually filled with some citrus marmalade. (Remember when I told you that the orange marmalade recipe would be coming back? Here it is.) When they’re almost finished baking, you brush them with a runny frosting, which turns into a crisp top.

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Putting the marmalade in the center didn’t work out as I’d hoped (or how I suppose it was meant to). The marmalade was a bit too chunky, so it didn’t sink into the batter. As you can see in the photo, it generally stayed at the top of the cakes. As far as I’m concerned, however, the issue was more an aesthetic one, because they tasted fantastic.

An easy recipe, with common ingredients that you probably already have. These will be added to my regular rotation for certain.

Side note: I have an interesting discovery to share. Well, it’s interesting to me.  As I was browsing for other nonettes recipes (this one looks incredible), I found another food-based challenge! Annemeika writes the Miss Gingerish blog, and she’s cooking from every cookbook that she owns. I get it – I’ve got beautiful cookbooks that are woefully underused. I love this idea. And, these nonettes are what she cooks from La Mere de la Famille!  You can join her challenge at #missgingerishchallenge

I’m Still Here!

Happy end of August, dear readers (all 4 of you).

I’m still here. I’ve not given up. I haven’t mysteriously disappeared. And I’m still baking.

But, quite a bit has changed since we last met.

I’m writing this from my new home in sunny South Florida. Yes, life threw us a ginormous curve-ball when my sweetie was offered an amazing professional opportunity in Miami. I’ve never been to Miami. I don’t speak Spanish. But we’re an adventurous family, and this seemed like it could be loads of fun. So, in the span of 5 weeks, we upended our lives and took a trip down south.

Goodbye to Vermont winters, and the at-times provincial nature of living in a tiny, rural state. Goodbye to my shiny new kitchen (I don’t want to talk about it.) Hello to sunshine, culture, and crazy-good food. For my birthday, I got season tickets to the Florida Grand Opera and baking classes at the Miami Cordon Bleu. We live 20 minutes from the ocean. We’ve bought tickets for baseball games and hockey games – but I still don’t like the Heat (to be clear, I love the temperature “heat,” but greatly dislike the NBA team “Heat”), and this Western New York girl will never ever ever ever root for the Dolphins.

Given the craziness that has been this summer, I’ve not baked much. Barely at all, to be honest. But now that things are settled, and we’re getting back into a normal routine, I’m starting to bake again. I do have a handful of completed recipes that haven’t been posted yet, so we’ll start with those. So, my Scrumptious Year is a bit nebulous. I’m going to finish every recipe in the book. But, the timing may be a bit off. I’m sure you understand.

Recipe #17 – Candied Kumquats

Yep. This is apparently a thing. After the pineapple disaster, I’m boldly going back into the fire.

The kumquats needed to be blanched. Then boiled in sugar syrup for 3 minutes a day, once a day, for four days. Now they’re sitting in the syrup for a week. In the basement. Where it’s nice and cool.

We’ll see what happens. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Also, I want to take this moment to say, Sweet Baby Jesus, there’s a ton of sugar in these recipes!  It’s one thing to read “6 cups of sugar” when you’re looking at a recipe. It’s an entirely different thing to actually measure out and pour 6 actual cups of sugar into a bowl.

On an unrelated note, I’ve started running more often and have been attending barre classes 3 times a week.

Recipe #15 – Chocolate Cake

A classic. How can you go wrong with chocolate cake?

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This was an easy recipe. Simple, straightforward ingredients. No fuss. And you use a bread loaf pan, so it’s a completely manageable size. I do love these smaller portions.

I don’t have much to say about this recipe. Not too sweet, with a deep, rich chocolate flavor. And instead of using a lot of flour, you add a bit of ground almond meal. So there was a great nuttiness to the cake, and a more substantive texture.

I made it twice. The first time we topped it with ice cream and powdered sugar.

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The next night, it was sliced almonds. And I do think that the sliced almonds were my favourite.

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Either way, this was a definite win.

Candied Pineapple Disappointment

Disappointment, you guys. Huge disappointment.

After waiting patiently for a week for the pineapple slices to candy, the experiment failed. The week in question was an unseasonably warm one, and we don’t have air conditioning. So I suppose that there was a way for me to have foreseen that this would happen.

I honestly don’t think that I’ve seen that much mold on a piece of food before, though. There was a sort of beauty to it, actually. The different shades of green against the deep yellow of the pineapple. Well, it was colourful.

So, lessons learned? First, any future candying will include storing the fruit in a much cooler place. And maybe taking into consideration the air temperature. (I really should have thought about that.)

While I’m at it, I should also mention that the orange marmalade turned bad after a few days. Another disappointment. But, it was really delicious while it lasted. I event made another recipe from the book with it (more on that soon).

I’ll try this again. As you know, this is the recipe I was most looking forward to, so I have to try it again. But I’m going to continue looking for a Victoria pineapple and try that. Do you have any leads on where to find a Victoria pineapple in New England? Preferably one that doesn’t cost my entire paycheck.

Recipe #14 – Candied Pineapple

This may be shaping up to be the biggest disappointment in the book so far.

When I first thumbed through these beautiful pages, there was one recipe above all others that caught my attention. I’ve been itching to try it. And this weekend was it.

Ladies and gentlemen, candied pineapple.

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Do you see the picture? It’s a whole pineapple. Candied. With the leaves, which become edible after the candying process. It’s beautiful. Colourful. Jewel-toned.

But then I read the recipe.

It calls for a Victoria pineapple, which is apparently a tiny pineapple. About 5 inches tall. I’ve never even heard of this before. Where does one buy a Victoria pineapple? I can’t find much. What I have learned is that it is grown in Reunion, an island off the coast of Madagascar, and mostly shipped to France. So, I’m not sure of my chances of finding one.

The recipe has an alternative for those of us who can’t find a Victoria pineapple. It’s pretty boring. Simply slicing the pineapple, removing the skin and leaves, and soaking in sugar syrup.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m disappointed -I was looking forward to candying the whole fruit, and to having a beautiful presentation. Don’t ask what I was planning on doing with it. And I’m sure the candied slices will be fine. It’s just not what I wanted.

The fruit is soaking, it’s been boiled in sugar syrup and is now resting. A few more days and we’ll have our finished product. Stay tuned!

Recipe #13 – Orange Marmalade

I adore orange marmalade. It’s my topping of choice for scones, toast and muffins. So I was pretty happy to see this recipe in the book. And, as with many recipes in this book, it’s a prerequisite for a few others.

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I’ve made marmalade before. It’s been an arduous, time-consuming process that leaves me unable to use my hands much afterwards. The peeling and fine dicing of the orange and lemon (my favorite combination), and preparing the peel, cramps my hands and wrists like nothing else. But, I suffer because I love it. And it makes a lovely holiday gift. There’s probably some tool or method of doing this that would make life easier.

This recipe, though, is different. You blanch the oranges whole, then cut them into large chunks. That’s what the recipe says. No fine dicing. No peeling. I’m feeling like I’ve scored big time with this.

This recipe is oranges, sugar, and cardamom. That’s it. No pectin or other thickening agent. Simple. You put the blanched oranges, cut into large chunks, sugar and cardamom in a bowl and let it macerate overnight.

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The next day, the mixture is boiled for a while, then canned. That’s it! Really easy, guys!

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And yet, I am skeptical.

First, I expected the oranges to fall apart a bit more after macerating overnight. But they were still in pretty big chunks, with no apparent intention of breaking apart. Which, really, would make it pretty hard to spread onto toast! So I spent a while actually cutting the orange pieces with kitchen scissors, into more manageable sizes.

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After canning and processing, the marmalade is apparently ready after just a day. But it was still pretty liquidy. I expected the sugar to gel the marmalade a bit more, but without pectin, I don’t know how much it will happen. So I let it sit a few days more, and it looks like it’s gelling, but not much.

Also, can we talk about how much sugar goes into this?! I’ve known that marmalade is high in sugar, but I tend to ignore it because … well, because I like to eat it. But making this recipe, I was struck by just how much sugar it is.

So, I’m going to test it tomorrow and we’ll see what happens. But I think I may go back to my traditional marmalade-making ways.

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