Still Life, With Cats

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Jars of yum

Today I looked at the calendar and thought, okay, so I know we don’t actually do Valentine’s Day (mutual decision we both are quite happy about), but surely we can use it as a teensy tiny excuse for me to make Tiramisu for Two.

Richard enthusiastically agreed with this plan, so this morning before work I made the sponge, and whipped up the mascarpone and cream filling. Once the sponge was cooled enough, I cut out rings of cake and soaked them in a coffee syrup, and then layered them with the mascarpone cream in two wide-mouth mason jars with sprinkles of cocoa powder between everything. Then I covered them up and popped them in the fridge so the coffee soak would have time to do its thing during the day, and then after dinner, we got to enjoy them.

These were quite delicious, and super easy and quick to make. I really appreciate that lately King Arthur Baking Company has been sharing a lot more recipes scaled down for only a few servings. Plus there’s some cake scraps left, and there’s still lemon curd in the fridge, so I think we’ll getting one more tasty dessert out of this when we’re done.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

All wound up

When one has made a large batch of lemon curd, one immediately ponders ways to use it up. Which is why this morning I made Meyer Lemon Morning Buns (I would link the recipe, but the URL appears to no longer be functional, so…hmm).

You start with a fairly basic enriched yeast dough, and after that’s risen for about an hour, then you carefully flatten it out into a rectangle. You slather the rectangle with some lemon curd, then fold over one side and sprinkle the whole thing with a mix of lemon zest and sugar to add a little more lemon flavor. Then you fold over the other side, pinch the edges closed, turn, and carefully flatten back into a rectangle so you can cut it into thin strips, about 1 inch wide. Those then get twisted and spiraled, and then carefully placed onto baking sheets. Another (shorter) rise, and you brush them with melted butter and then pop them into the oven to bake. And when they’re done, ta da, you have a bunch of lovely swirly buns!

The lemon flavor in these is fairly light (Adding some lemon zest to the dough itself would probably help a lot here), but otherwise we really liked them. One bun makes a delicious breakfast, so these will last us for a couple days, and the shrub in the backyard has a bazillion more lemons, so I’ll definitely be making these again.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

File under Nope

We ate the last of the Granola Bread the other day, so I thought it might be nice to branch out and try something new. Inspired by the fact that I had some carrots in the fridge that were starting to look a little sad, I decided to make this Carrot Bread, because not only does it include a whole pile of carrots, it sounded like it would be tasty.

It’s basically a sweet quick bread that includes 9 ounces of carrots, and a teaspoon of cinnamon. How could this go wrong?


First of all, this thing weighed a ton, and because I was in a hurry I used only one hand to pull it out and so I consequently dropped it on the floor. Thankfully it maintained enough structure I was able to get it back into the pan and once it cooled it was (mostly) fine.

But that’s not the bread’s fault. No, the issue I had with the bread was that it was alternately both unpleasantly heavy and also too sweet. That 1 teaspoon of cinnamon was not remotely enough to give it any flavor, and the tiny chunk I had left an unpleasant greasiness on my tongue.

Richard actually liked it, so he gets the remaining loaf to snack on for however long it lasts. But the recipe itself is being relegated to the recycling bin, and next time I have too many carrots, I’ll find something else to do with them (like maybe soup!).

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

A pound lightweight

Today was kind of exciting. California was hit by a rather nasty storm, with winds gusting upwards of 60 mph in our area, and even higher down in Southern California. We had friends over for an impromptu game day, and halfway through, the power went out. Thankfully it was still light out, so we moved toward the window-side of the table and were able to continue our gaming, but it did mean my plan for (yes, another) soup for dinner was thwarted.

Luckily, however, I had made cake. Or rather, Sandtorte.

A little backstory on what that is and why I picked it. For Christmas this past December, my little sister, my niece, and I all got a copy of B. Dylan Hollis’s cookbook: Baking Yesteryear. If you haven’t stumbled across his baking videos, by the way, I highly recommend you check them out. He’s got a quirky sense of humor and some of the recipes he’s made are absolutely delicious (and of course, some, not so much).

Anyway. Since we all got a copy we decided we’d jointly make one recipe from the book every month, then report back to each other on how it turned out (Why yes, I do do a lot of food-related personal challenges, why do you ask?) In January, we picked the Grasshopper Pie, which I thought was pretty tasty, probably because I used nonalcoholic syrups for the flavoring instead of the Creme de Menthe and Creme de Cacao that the recipe called for, while my sister and niece used the real thing and apparently were not fans (hooray for my accidental better choice!).

This month we picked the Sandtorte, which is from the 1900’s. It’s kind of a pound cake sort of cake, except that you use half flour, half cornstarch, and you whip the egg whites (of the SIX eggs) separately before folding them into the batter, so that at the end you end up with a surprisingly light cake.

The recipe said to place a doily on the top and then sprinkle it with powdered sugar to create a pretty pattern.

Gosh, if only I knew someone who had several dozen random knitted doilies downstairs in a cupboard? Oh that’s right, it’s me!

Anyway. Here is my cake.

The sandtorte

Not the best backdrop, but by this point we had no power anywhere in the neighborhood so I had to make do with wherever the most light was available.

The interior is a cross between a pound cake and an angel food cake, which sounds like a complete oxymoron but I don’t know how else to describe it.

It’s a tasty enough cake, although there’s not a huge amount of flavor. I suspect this would be much improved with the addition of a cream or a sauce. Perhaps some lemon curd. Hmm. If only I knew of a small Meyer lemon shrub that routinely tries to overload me with fruit around this time of year…..

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

Dark in all the right ways

Be of good cheer, my faithful readers, because today I did not make soup! Instead I made focaccia. Chocolate focaccia, that is.

When King Arthur posted this recipe as their bake-of-the-week, I knew I had to give it a try. The yeasted dough is similar to a traditional focaccia recipe, with the addition of black cocoa to the batter (plus a tiny bit of sugar to counteract the bitterness of the cocoa), but then you knead it for 15 (!) minutes before stirring in some chocolate chips. After the first rise, it then goes into a pan prepped first with a puddle of olive oil – focaccia dough actually rises in an olive oil bath, which helps give it that characteristic slighty chewy outer texture. At the end of the rising time, another healthy glug of olive oil is drizzled over the top, then you use your fingers to poke it full of holes (I have no idea why focaccia has holes; I just know they’re required), and sprinkle some pearl sugar over the top.

I wasn’t entirely sure how this would work, since chocolate plus yeast dough isn’t always a winning combination, but oh my goodness, this turned out delicious!

It’s got the focaccia texture and open crumb interior, but with little pockets of chocolatey goodness, plus the occasional pop of sweetness from the pear sugar on the top.

Definitely worth the effort.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

Lardy, (not) lardy

This year, once again, my little sister and I watched the Great British Bake Off together (Great British Baking Show in the US), and did our version of a bake-along. Every week we picked one of the challenges and attempted to bake it, within the time constraints that the challengers were given.

Yesterday was the finale, and while we were very sad that our two favorite contestants (Tasha and Saku) didn’t actually make it to the finale, we were both quite happy with the person who won.

Options for the finale included eclairs, which was, eh, mainly because we’ve both made choux pastry a bazillion times in the past so it wasn’t going to be any sort of challenge, and a three-layer fancy cake, which neither of us wanted to make because that’s a lot of cake when there’s only two people in the house. The third option, however, was something neither of us (or the contestants, for that matter) had heard of: Lardy Cake.

Lardy Cake is a yeast-based dough that is laminated with a mixture of butter and lard. The recipe the contestants were given, however, sounded absolutely revolting, as it included (yes you guessed it) lard, as well as a bunch of dried fruit. On a whim, though, I started poking around on the internets, and lo, the internets graced me with recipes for lardy cake that not only did not include lard, but also did not include dried fruit. Specifically, this recipe.

Normally I would have been timing myself, but because we veered significantly from the GBBO approved recipe, I didn’t bother setting a timer. So this morning, after the usual round of cat-related chores (filling feeders, scooping litter boxes, giving the diaper-clad incontinent cat a butt bath, why yes, my life is super glamourous, why do you ask?), I set up the dough. An hour later, I rolled it out and spread two thirds of it with a mix of softened butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Lardy cake dough, rolled out into a rectangle, with spiced, sweetened butter.

Then I did the first of 5 envelope folds, which are how you get the layers in laminated dough. You fold one third of the dough to the middle, then the other outer third over the first third, and let it rest. Turn the dough, gently roll it out into a rectangle again, and then repeat the envelope fold a couple more times. This helps spread the flavored butter out between ever thinner layers of the dough.

After the final fold, I pressed it into a greased springform pan. I did smoosh it into a circle but during the rising process it kind of, well, unsmooshed itself. Ah well.

Lardy cake batter, brushed with egg wash and ready for baking.

Half an hour in the oven and here’s my finished Lardy Cake. It isn’t very exciting to look at, I realize.

Fully baked lardy cake

But look at what’s inside!

A slice of lardy cake, showing off the interior layers. And yes, that ant is part of the plate – it’s Calamityware!

I am super pleased with all those layers.

The cake itself is more like a sweet bread, and is actually very reminiscent of a croissant in that the outer layers were flakey and buttery, and the inner layers are soft and lightly sweet. Cake or bread or whatever you want to call it, however, this thing is absolutely delicious. And except for about half an hour of folding and resting, it doesn’t take all that much effort to put together. It’s certainly not a fast bake, as there were two hour-long rises before it even went into the oven, but oh, it’s definitely worth it.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Sweet and light

I had plans to make something different today but it’s been a long week and we were tired, so instead we ordered pizza and I made these lemon cookies, which are basically a lemon crinkle cookie in appearance.

They were quick to throw together while we were waiting for the pizza to be delivered (and yes, I do realize that I could have just as easily made the originally planned shrimp dish in the time it took, except neither of us was in the mood for it).

The cookies are soft, slightly sweet, and have a pleasing scent of lemon, although I didn’t actually taste it. I did feel as if they could have benefited from the addition of just a bit of salt, and perhaps twice as much zest to bring out more flavor, but in general, they were a perfectly acceptable cookie.

Citrus used: 1 lemon

Total citrus used so far: 9 mandarin orange, 17 tangelos, 13 lemons

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

A use for my kitchen torch

Happy Valentine’s Day!

In honor of the occasion, I made Lemon crème brulee.

Crème brulee is one of those deceptively simple desserts that looks much harder than it actually is. It’s basically just a rich custard, baked in a water bath, then chilled, and topped with sugar that gets torched for that characteristic hard topping right before serving. In this instance, lemon zest is added to the mixture to add a little bit of citrus flavor, although it was pretty subtle.

I might have let it bake a hair too long, but it was still pretty tasty. We enjoyed it after a dinner of the leftovers of the salmon and risotto from Friday.

Oh and by the way, that weird potato salad from Sunday might not be the best sandwich filling, but it actually works fantastic as a breakfast when warmed up and topped with a sunny side up egg. We’ve had that for breakfast the last two days and I suspect it will be breakfast for the rest of the week.

Citrus used: 1 lemon

Total citrus used so far: 2 mandarin orange, 10 tangelos, 12 lemons

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

Early valentine

Because tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, which is usually marked with chocolates, I decided to make truffles. White Chocolate Citrus Truffles, to be exact.

I actually made these yesterday, because a work day is not exactly conducive to making chocolates (due to the multiple steps involved), but they were meant for today, and this is my own challenge, so I say it counts.

First, you zest one lemon and one orange (I used Meyer lemon and Mandarin orange, since that’s what’s on our trees) and you simmer that zest in the cream for a bit until it takes on the flavor. Then you strain out the zest, stir the infused cream into some melted white chocolate chips, and mix that together until smooth. That goes into the fridge to chill for a couple hours.

Once the ganache is chilled, that gets scooped into balls (shout out to cookie scoops, which are perhaps on of the best things I have ever gotten for my baking adventures), and the balls go into the freezer to set firm.

Once the balls are firm, then each one is rolled so that it’s smooth. Back into the freezer for another hour or so to chill again, and finally they then get dipped into yet more melted white chocolate, which if you have tempered it correctly, should set almost immediately on the cold pan.

I had intended to top them with pieces of candied peel, but during the process of boiling the peels, I lost track of time and managed to scorch the peels to the bottom of the pan, and by that time it was getting late in the evening and I didn’t want to start that whole lengthy process again, so….naked truffles are what we’ve got!

I am extremely pleased with how these turned out. The ganache inside is perfectly creamy and soft, while the white chocolate coating was just the right thickness to hold it all in place. There is a nice tartness from the infused cream that helps keep them from being too overly sweet, and overall, it is a lovely bite.

I took them to rehearsal with me (which is why I wanted to have them for today) and they were hit. This is a recipe I will definitely be making again.

Citrus used: 1 lemon, 1 mandarin orange

Total citrus used so far: 2 mandarin orange, 10 tangelos, 11 lemons

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

One potato, two

Today was Baking Sisters, and since we’re still meandering our way alphabetically through the states, this month it was time for Idaho. Or rather, this month it was time for all things potato.

The official pie of the state is Huckleberry pie, but as berries are Not Food (and also huckleberries are both not in season, and nowhere to be found around here anyway), we skipped that one. However, the official cookie of Idaho is the Potato Chip Cookie, and the official sandwich is the Potato Salad Sandwich (no I am not making that up), so clearly we had to give both of those a try.

Oh and also because of my need to use up citrus, plus my recent acquisition of a madeleine pan, we also made Lemon Madeleines.

So this morning shortly after I got up, I zested and juiced some lemons, and then mixed together the madeleine batter and got that into the fridge to chill. Then, once we started our video call, and after we got the potatoes into the pot to boil for the potato salad, I filled my madeleine pan and put that back into the fridge to chill some more.

The recipe for the potato salad includes carrots and eggs (which get boiled in the same pan as the potatoes), and also chopped celery and cubed cooked ham. The dressing was just mayo, salt and pepper, and seemed on first glance that this was going to end up pretty bland, but we pressed on, deciding to follow the recipe exactly. Neither of us thought to halve the recipe because it didn’t seem like it was going to make all that much….at least until we started mixing everything together and realizing that no, this makes a TON. Hmm, guess what we’ll both be eating now for days!

Technically we should have used white bread, but instead Richard and I put a scoop of the salad on some leftover Lemon Buns from yesterday for lunch. It was…okay, although my sister and I were correct in that it is extremely bland and is in desperate need of *something* (she stirred in some pickle relish, and I am thinking that a large dollop of mustard might be needed for mine, but we’ll see). I feel like this whole concept might have potential, but possibly not as a sandwich, or at least not without a whole lot of additional help.

As for the potato chip cookies, it’s basically an oatmeal cookie with crushed potato chips mixed in. They’re a perfectly acceptable cookie, I suppose, and there’s that same aftertaste that you get from potato chips (slightly greasy, slightly salty, a hint of something fried), but this isn’t a recipe I’m ever going to be wanting to make again.

And moving on to the madeleines – well, they puffed up perfectly, they all had the requisite hump, and they tasted fine….but they got a little too brown (they should be a pale golden brown, oops).

They were fun to make, however (despite the multiple chill times), and since I have this pan, I will definitely be making madeleines again, although perhaps I’ll try a different recipe .

Citrus used: 2 lemon

Total citrus used so far: 1 mandarin orange, 10 tangelos, 10 lemons

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.