Color splash

Flush from the success of last year’s Year of Cheese for the #BakingSisters projects (which…I realize I have been sadly lax about blogging, but hey, why should that be any different from anything else I keep forgetting to blog about), we decided to pick a theme for 2020. And thus, 2020 was designated the Year of Rainbows (or color gradients, as the case may be). I foresee the purchase of a lot of food color gel in my immediate future.

We kicked things off today with three brightly colored items: Rainbow Swirl Bread, Rainbow Challah, and Rainbow Marshmallows.

The rainbow swirl bread is basically just a regular white bread recipe, with added colors. I used the recipe linked above, but you could easily use your own favorite light-colored bread recipe in its place. You mix up the dough, then divide it into equal size balls (I did five), and mix a color into each of the balls. Note: mixing the color into the dough balls takes far longer than you might expect. Far, farrrrr longer.

RainbowSwirl1

Those are left to rise for about an hour. Then you roll (or carefully press them) into 8″ x 4″ rectangles, and stack them in rainbow order.

Roll that up into a tight spiral

and plop it into a greased bread pan for its second rise.

Once baked and cooled, when you slice it, you get this gorgeous rainbow swirl effect.

I think it’s safe to say our sandwiches for the next week are going to look pretty wild.

Next up was rainbow challah. For some unknown reason I have never made challah before, so I was excited to give this a go.

It starts the same way as the first bread, in that you mix up the dough, then divide it into equal parts (six this time) and work in some food coloring.

Once that’s had its first rise, then you roll each color into a log and line them up, in rainbow order.

Then comes the fun part – braiding. The recipe link above includes a useful video for how to do this part, and all those bright colors turn into something really gorgeous once it’s all braided up.

After a second rise, it bakes. I was worried about the fact that it didn’t rise very much during either set, but once in the oven, it grew quite a bit.

And here’s an interior shot.

Finally, after all the bread, it was time to do the marshmallows. I’ve made marshmallows before (in fact during one #BakingSisters morning, we made chocolate marshmallow fluff, which was absolutely delightful), but that was always done with egg whites. The recipe I linked above didn’t use egg whites at all, and instead is made solely from gelatin and sugar syrup, whipped until smooth. Then you divide it into one bowl per color used (I did five) and add the food coloring, then stir until well mixed.

I admit by this point I was a little tired of kneading and mixing colors into things, so I went with a lighter, pastel palette.

Those get layered into a pan that’s been lined with a very thin layer of powdered sugar, and then are set aside to firm up. Did I remember to take a picture of them before I covered the top with powdered sugar? No, no I did not. Ah well. But I did carefully cut out a chunk before they completely set, so you can get an idea of what they look like.

Verdict: Well. They’re marshmallows, with rainbow blotches, and they taste like….marshmallows. Nothing much more to say than that.

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Uninterrupted

We put up the tree today.

In years past, it’s been quite the production, with us having to remove cats from the box and from the tree as it’s being assembled. But Rupert is now ten years old, and more interested in sleeping than in wreaking havoc (most of the time), and Sherman, at seven, has also gotten a little less interested in the Christmas decor. So we had no help at all, and in a way it was kind of sad, to accept that last year might have been the final year of having a cat in the tree.

But then, this evening, while hanging out in the living room, watching a holiday baking competition show on TV, I heard rustling from the branches, and I turned around to see this.

This is our tenth year of having cats in the tree. The poor thing is looking a bit lopsided by now, since the branches weren’t meant to support that kind of weight. But somehow it just wouldn’t be the Christmas season without at least one self-decorating ornament, so we were both quite happy to see that Timmie has taken on the mantle and was willing to continue the tradition.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Channeling my inner Katy Perry

This morning I eyed the remains of the first batch of Black Friday Bread I had made. It was starting to get a little stale, plus there are two more loaves waiting to be eaten, so I needed to use it up some how. So in a move that will shock every single member of my immediate family, I decided I would try making something I have actively avoided my entire life: french toast.

In theory I should like french toast because it is made of a collection of lovely things – bread, cinnamon, eggs, milk. But the problem with french toast is that it takes all those lovely ingredients and then goes horribly wrong. It wants to be toast, which should be crisp, except that french toast invariably is disgustingly soggy in the middle. Combine that with the usual eggy overtone, and no. Just….no. Shudder.

But as I am wont to do (with varying success, because I am constantly trying to challenge my own innate picky-eaterness,), I decided to see if I could find a way to make it so that I would actually *like* it. And when it comes to french toast, this means using a sturdy bread so it won’t go mushy, thinning the batter to keep it from being overly eggy, dipping it lightly enough so that the inside remains the lovely toast it was always meant to be, and the gross soggy middle is avoided.

I found a promising recipe and mixed up half a batch, and sliced the remains of the bread into thick slices, and then dipped it and plunked them onto the pan. A few minutes later, we sat down to plates of french toast. I took a tentative bite, and hey, what do you know, I ate french toast and I liked it.

I suspect I’m always going to continue to be extremely picky about french toast in general because the rest of the world fully embraces the soggy middle thing that has put me off it for so long, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. But at least I’ve found a way to make it palatable for *me*.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Cat tales

A little math problem for you:

You have a room that contains eight VERY busy foster kittens. You open the door.

Two kittens run out. You put one kitten back. Two more kittens run out. You put three back. Three more kittens run out. You put two back. One more kitten runs out. You put one back. Two more kitten runs out.

Please answer the following:

  • How many kittens are still out?
  • How many of the escapees were the same kittens?
  • How long did you have to search for the final kitten before realizing that she discovered she could go down the stairs and was exploring under the bed?

Don’t forget to show your work.

*****

I have a cautionary tale for you.

Rupert occasionally goes through periods of extreme horking. The last few days he’s been in epic form (in other words, watch where you step!). So when he was sitting on the island, right beside my laptop, and I heard him make his distinctive little ‘I’m going to hork’ cry, I decided that instead of just pushing him off the island so he’d hork on the floor (and not on my laptop), I would instead grab him and dash him over to the sink where he could then hork directly into something that would be easy to clean.

I know, I know, but in my defense I hadn’t had any coffee yet, so I wasn’t thinking clearly.

Let’s just say that we didn’t make it to the sink. Let’s also just say that (because the splatter range of a cat horking from five feet in the air is *impressive*) the kitchen floor and all the cabinet doors and baseboards needed to be thoroughly cleaned anyway. Sigh.

Please learn from my fail. You’re welcome.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Comfortable

Last night we looked in the fridge and pondered what remained of the Thanksgiving leftovers. Mostly, with the exception of one lone turkey leg, it was veggies – garlic thyme sweet potatoes, garlic butter green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, and a little stuffing.

I’d already turned a bunch of the mashed potatoes and stuffing into a batch of Black Friday Bread which, by the way, is excellent for making grilled cheese. Another bunch of potatoes and stuffing were turned into potato pancakes, which we’ve been eating for breakfast, along side scrambled eggs and the cheese of the day. But there was still quite a bit left, and I was determined to use up every bit of the leftovers, one way or the other.

So this evening we made shepherds pie. I diced up an onion and tossed that in a deep skillet along with some mushrooms and leftover celery from the fridge. Then when those were just soft, I tossed in the remaining sweet potatoes and green beans. Normally I’d add some garlic and thyme to the mix, but there was plenty in the leftovers so I figured I didn’t need it.

I stirred in a little flour, and then some chicken stock, and poured in the leftover gravy. Once that was bubbling on the stove, I stirred the remaining potatoes and stuffing with a handful of Parmesan and cheddar, then spread that on top of the whole thing. The skillet went into the oven to bake, just long enough for the top to warm up and brown, and then it was done.

Verdict – delicious, and there was just enough potatoes and stuffing left to whip up another batch of the bread. Granted, I did find a little container of cranberry sauce left in the fridge when stashing the remains of the shepherd’s pie, but I’m pretty pleased that we managed to use up nearly every single bit of Thanksgiving, without having to just eat it straight from the containers for days on end. Yay!

*****

Today’s cheese is a Jarlsburg, which is some kind of swiss.

I am not a fan of swiss, unless it’s buried inside of something else and had other cheeses to mask it, so Richard got this one entirely to himself.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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But wait, there’s more!

So how’s that Cheese Advent calendar going? Why, thank you for asking! It’s great so far!

Yesterday’s cheese was a lovely Applewood with a smokey undertone.

and today’s is a Red Leicester, with a nice sharp flavor.

I know there’s some kind of swiss coming, which I’m not looking forward to, but the first three have been quite tasty.

But wait, you say. The title suggests something else!

Why yes! Yes it does! I didn’t notice when opening the first two doors, but I finally caught sight of it opening today’s. Each little compartment comes not only with a tasty little round of cheese, but printed on the back of the little door is a joke about cheese.

Yes, folks, that’s right. It’s cheese, with a side of cheese!

Here’s the first three days, just so you can share in the joy. Put your best guess for the punchlines in the comments.

Day 1: What cheese would you use to coax a bear from the woods?
Day 2: What do you call cheese that doesn’t belong to you?
Day 3: Where can you buy second-hand cheese?

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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This is why I need coffee

2 AM
Cat: Hey. I want under the covers.

Me: Tries to ignore cat, knowing full well that this never works, but holding out hope anyway.

Cat: Hey. Hey! Covers! Lift the covers!

Me: You manage to get under the covers just fine without any help during the day. Go ahead.

Cat: Covers. Now. I can do this all night, human.

Me: Gives up, lifts covers.

Cat: But do I really *want* under the covers?

Me: Yes you do. Now go to sleep.

2-2:06 AM: Cat settles herself.

2:12 AM
Second Cat: Hey! How come she gets to be under the covers?

Me: Tries to ignore cat, hoping he will think I’m sleeping and go away.

Second Cat: Paws at my face, claws barely out, just to make his point. I said lift the covers, human!

Me: Fine. Here. Get under the goddamn covers.

Second Cat: But do I want under *those* covers, or do I want to just sit here?

Me: Why are cats?

2:12-2:18 AM: Second cat accepts head scritches and eventually settles under the covers.

2:22-2:31 AM
Brain: Hey, while you’re awake, remember when you did that really stupid thing ten years ago? Let’s revisit that in excruciating detail, over and over.

3:45 AM
Second Cat: Hey! Hey! I need back under the covers.

Third Cat: Horks wetly, somewhere nearby, thus setting up the daily minefield for bare feet.

Second Cat: Deliberately steps on the First Cat-shaped lump under the covers.

First Cat: OMG, someone stepped on me! Grr! Hiss! Whine!

Brain: Hey, while we’re awake, let’s plan out a schedule for the day.

4:08 AM
Fourth Cat: Remembers how much she loves the track toy that is in the room directly overhead, and begins to play with great and loud enthusiasm.

4:15-4:25 AM
Brain: Hey, have you ever thought about what would happen if –

Me: OMG, seriously? Gets up, goes upstairs.

Fifth and sixth cats: Yay! You’re awake! Pet us! Play with us! Hey! Hey! Hey!

Foster kittens: We hear you out there! We are starving! We are lonely! We have not been fed in twenty seven years and no one has ever given us any snuggles EVER in all our tiny little lives! Hey! Hey! HEY!

Me: Sigh.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Daily cheese

Yesterday morning my friend texted. Could she swing by on the way home? She had something that needed to be stashed in my fridge.

Sure, I replied, a little confused. It wasn’t until an hour or so later that it finally dawned on me what her cryptic words meant. She had found the Cheese Advent Calendar!

We heard about this magical thing a few years ago, but it was only available in the UK. It did eventually make its way over to the US last year, but only in a very few locations, none of which were anywhere near us. This year it was going to be sold at Super Targets in the US, which was a problem because there’s no Super Target anywhere around…except that then she remembered there’s one in the town where some of her extended family lives, and she was going to be seeing them for Thanksgiving.

There were only 3 left on the shelves when they checked. We got two of them.

So this morning I ceremoniously opened the first little flap and pulled out the first cheese of the season.

It was a lot more neatly packaged but I forgot to take the picture before I opened it.

Verdict – not bad for a tiny little wheel of cheese. Richard and I split it and had it with potato pancakes (made from Thanksgiving leftovers) for breakfast. Yum!

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Flair

Tonight, for my very last lemon-thing-a-day, I made a lemon upside down cake. I had bookmarked several cake possibilities (which I will definitely have to try at some point in the future), but this one won out primarily due to the fact that I had the right number of eggs.

It is very much the classic upside down cake, except with a few twists. You start with a brown sugar caramel, which you pour into the pan. Then you layer thin slices of lemon in a pretty pattern, and top that with the cake batter. This particular recipe includes lemon zest and cornmeal in the mixture.

That gets baked for nearly an hour, and then you are supposed to let it cool at room temperature for two more hours, except it was getting really late. So I stuck it in the freezer to speed things up a bit.

Finally, you invert it on to a plate, and if all went well, your pretty pattern of fruit will come out with the cake and not be stuck to the bottom.

Ta da!

This is a lovely, delicate cake. The cake itself is sweet, but you need that to counteract the bitterness of the lemon rind. Nice to end the month with a delicious success.

Lemons used: 4
Total lemons this month: 55

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.

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Chilled

Last night I made ice cream. Or rather, I *tried* to make ice cream. The ice cream maker base was thoroughly frozen, and all my ingredients (cream, milk, sugar, juice of six lemons) were thoroughly chilled, but it just churned and churned and never changed. So I poured it into a container and put that in the freezer and hoped for the best.

Today I made lemon pizelles. Or rather, I *tried* to make lemon pizelles. The cookies themselves turned out just fine, it’s just that there is no lemon flavor at all. They don’t even smell like lemon.

Luckily, the ice cream firmed up in the freezer, into something incredibly rich and delicious, and plain vanilla pizelles were the perfect accompaniment.

Lemons used: 6
Total lemons this month: 51

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.

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