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Baking

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.



Bright

I couldn’t get through an entire month of lemon things without making at least one pie. This is not, however, the lemon pie you are expecting. There is no meringue involved; just sugar, eggs, whole lemons, and pastry.

Any time whole lemons are involved, there is the potential for the food to end up bitter. So the key to a Shaker Lemon Pie, according to everything I read online, is to make sure you slice the lemon very, very thin, and you give those slices lots of time to macerate in the sugar. LOTS of time.

So this morning I sliced up 3 lemons as thin as I could, then tossed them in a bowl with the sugar, and left it to sit all day. This evening, I made the pie crust, then finished up the filling, and popped the pie into the oven. A couple hours later, after it was baked and then thoroughly chilled, we gave it a try.

You can see bits of the rind peeking out. And please look at that crust. This is the first time I have made a pie crust that actually came out nice – not only in taste, but in appearance. Yay, perhaps the long, dark night of pie crust woe is finally over!

But I digress. How was it, you ask? Really, really good. The filling borders at the edge of too sweet… until you get a little sliver of the rind to even things out. It’s definitely a rich tasting pie – I wouldn’t want more than a small piece at a time – but I could definitely see making this again.

Lemons used: 3

Total lemons this month: 45

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.



Taking a dip

Today’s lemon thing is quite possibly the weirdest one for the month, but when I stumbled across the recipe, I knew I had to try it. And now none of you have to, because I fell on that sword for you. You’re welcome.

So what is this weird thing, you ask? Fondue. Lemon fondue, to be exact.

It sounded like such an intriguing concept, and it seemed pretty straightforward. Water, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and butter. I figured it would be a bit like a lemon curd. What could possibly go wrong?

Ha. First of all, it was really runny. Sure, the cornstarch-sugar mixture thickened, but not very much, so that at the end, we were left with this anemic slightly sweet lemon water sort of concoction.

As for what to dip in the fondue, I have this recipe for lemon pound cake, and pound cake goes well with sweet fondue, and I have made it several times before with no issues. But this time the cake crumbled into bits once I tried to dump it out of the pan.

Mmm, doesn’t *that* look appetizing.

Oh, we did try to make this work, carefully dipping chunks of cake into the runny lemon stuff, but….yeah, no.

Ah well. At least the cake was tasty, even if it was in pieces.

Lemons used: 3
Total lemons this month: 36.

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.



Lightning round

This morning I had my decorating class (we’re playing with gum paste this time around), but I always wake up super early regardless, so I figured I would have plenty of time to whip up these Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze. Even though it was a yeast dough, I figured it’d still be fine! So as soon as I got up, I poured myself some coffee and then I mixed up the dough, and set that up in the microwave with some heated rice pads to speed things along. While it went through its first proof, I took care of the usual chores and made sure I had everything ready to go for the class. Then I rolled out the dough and mixed up the filling and huh, this filling’s awfully runny…oops, I was supposed to let that chill for about half an hour. Except I didn’t have an extra half hour to wait, so instead I kind of poured the liquid filling all over the dough, rolled it as best I could, arranged the rolls in a springform pan, and then poured all the remaining liquid over the top (figuring it’d just soak down into the nooks and crannies). Those went into the oven to rise, and when they’d nearly puffed out of the pan, it was time to bake them.

Naturally they took longer to bake than anticipated, because that is exactly the sort of thing that will happen when one has to leave at a certain time and doesn’t have any extra minutes to spare. So as soon as they were finally done I whipped off the ring on the springform pan, smacked the cream cheese glaze willy-nilly all over the rolls with no thought whatsoever to how it might look, then pulled off a roll and pretty much inhaled it as I was dashing out the door. We shall not speak of how fast I was driving, but I did at least make it to class only 2 minutes late, so there’s that.


Notice how the cream cheese glaze cleverly covers up the fact that these aren’t spiraled so much as randomly folded due to the aforementioned issue with the filling leaking out all over the place.

Anyway, these are incredibly delicious, despite how long they take to make, and I highly recommend that you give them a try, although perhaps set the dough up the night before, though, (which is what I should have done if I’d had half a brain) so you’re not stuffing super-hot-from-the-oven rolls into your gaping maw as you run out the door, and instead have time to properly enjoy the combination of lightly lemon-touched dough, a delicate lemony filling that somehow thickened up during the entire process despite my oops, and a lovely rich cream cheese glaze.

Two (sticky) thumbs up – would definitely make again.

Lemons used: 3
Total lemons used: 28

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.



The lemon version

A lot of the recipes I’m using this month came from me doing a Google search to the tune of ‘I wonder if there’s a lemon version of ‘, which is how I stumbled across today’s recipe: Gooey Lemon Blondies. I found this one when I asked Google if there were a lemon version of a brownie, and lo, did Google provide.

While technically brownies always include chocolate, these did fit the bill – they’re a little bit chewy and they get a little crispy on the edges, and in all things except flavor, they do mimic a brownie fairly well – albeit a rather thin brownie (it’s not very much batter for even an 8×8 pan, and I did wonder about the distinct lack of any rising agent in the recipe).

I found the glaze a little overwhelmingly lemony, but Richard liked them, so that just means I get the edges and he gets the middle pieces (which have lots more glaze) and we’re both happy. This recipe’s definitely a keeper.

Lemons used: 1
Total lemons used: 25

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.



Molten

Hey, remember how we were going to make Lemon Lava Cakes earlier but it turns out we didn’t have all the ingredients? Well tonight was going to be something else but neither of us felt like making it, so instead I made the Lemon Lava Cakes, because the missing ingredients had been acquired.

This recipe is pretty straight-forward. You melt some butter and white chocolate together, and then stir in flour and sugar and a shockingly large number of eggs (four whole eggs plus four yolks). To that you stir in some lemon juice and an entire tablespoon of lemon zest, plus half a cup of lemon curd (and hey, conveniently, I have a jar of homemade curd in the fridge!). Then you pour the batter into some small ramekins and pop those into the oven, and bake them until they are just set.

Here they are, out of the oven.

After letting them set for a couple minutes, you then carefully invert them out onto a plate, and sprinkle with a little powdered sugar. And then the moment of truth – you take a bite. If all went well, the cake should have an outer shell, but a molten center, which should ooze out upon cutting.

Oh hey, look at that! You can actually see the outer cake ‘shell’ in this picture – it was perfectly uniform all the way around. I am always pleased when recipes turn out exactly as they are supposed to, and this one definitely did.

Verdict: SO VERY YUMMY. The cake part is very light and the filling is creamy with a lovely light lemony flavor. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

But now I have another four egg whites that need using up. Hmm. What *shall* I do with those…..?

Lemons used: 2 (they were small)
Total lemons used: 22

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.



Light as air

A couple weeks ago a friend came over for some kitten therapy, and brought me this, which she’d found when clearing out a family member’s things. She knew I liked baking, so thought I’d appreciate it.

It’s a wonderful little book, published in 1954, and I had a lovely time thumbing through it that night. There’s quite a few recipes I’m going to have to make out of this book, but one in particular I bookmarked specifically for this month: Lemon Meringue Lady Fingers. Because after making creme brulee and ending up with a lot of egg whites, the best way to use them up is to turn them into meringues!

The book provides a recipe for basic vanilla meringue cookies, as follows:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Boil the sugar and water to 250 degrees F, or until it forms a soft ball when a little is dropped into cold water. Beat the egg whites very stiff. Beating continuously, add the syrup very slowly; when all the syrup is used, add the vanilla. Fold in the confectioner’s sugar.

Butter a baking sheet and dust it with flour. Spoon the dough in strips 3 1/2 inches long and 3/4 inch wide or, better still, force the batter through a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tube. Bake 20 to 30 minutes and keep the oven door slightly ajar with a wedge of paper.

After that, there’s several different varieties (chocolate, orange, coffee, and lemon), with directions for how to modify the original recipe. For the lemon variety, you substitute 1 tablespoon lemon juice for the vanilla extract, and you stir in 1 teaspoon lemon zest when folding in the confectioner’s sugar.

I didn’t feel like fussing around with trying to make perfectly shaped logs of dough, so instead I used my largest star tip and a pastry bag and piped out individual cookies that way.

I thought they were rather tasty – nice and crunchy on the outside with a chewy middle and a delicate lemon flavor – but everyone else I offered them to went crazy over them, so clearly this recipe is a keeper. I am definitely going to have to try some of the other variations at some point – the coffee one intrigues me.

Here is where I now admit that I actually made these yesterday, because what with carting kittens to and from the vet to get fixed, work, and rehearsal in the evening, I knew I wasn’t going to have any free time to bake. So take it from all the members of the local Lacy Knitters Guild chapter, as well as the members of Vox Musica – these are worth giving a try.

Lemons used: 1
Total lemons this month: 17

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.



Another type of curd

This is a two-day post because yesterday was super busy, what with the decorating class in the morning and then a full afternoon of gaming. Plus there isn’t all that much exciting to say about yesterday’s lemon thing, except for its application to today’s.

Anyway. Yesterday I took these two ingredients.

And I turned them into this.

Yup, that’s right. I made cheese. Lemon cheese, to be exact. When trawling the internets for ideas for this month I came across this recipe and thought, eh, why not give it a try. So yesterday morning I got up, poured myself some coffee, and then heated up a half gallon of milk to about 180 degrees F. Then I juiced a lemon and stirred that into the milk. Roughly 15 minutes later, I poured the resulting mess into a cheesecloth-lined colander. I jury-rigged up a cheese draining system involving an empty pitcher, some heavy glass jars, and the kitchen faucet, and let that sit for an hour or so while I did my usual morning chores, and when it was all done, I had cheese. Or some loose approximation thereof.

Trust me when I say this sounds more exciting than it actually was. The cheese itself has practically no flavor at all, although the container does smell faintly of lemon after a day in the fridge.

But once one has cheese, one needs to use it in baking things, so since I happened to have a sheet of puff pastry in the freezer that needed using up, I decided to turn the cheese into these Lemon Puff Pastry Packets.

They’re pretty simple to throw together. You just mix up the filling, roll out and cut the puff pastry into something vaguely resembling squares, egg wash them, fill them, fold and crimp the edges, toss them into the fridge to chill for half an hour, and then after another egg wash and a sprinkling of sugar on top, pop them into the oven. A short time later, you get these.

The result was…passable. There’s a very faint lemon flavor but only due to the zest and juice added to the filling, and not due to the cheese itself. We both agreed they were lacking *something*.

In the meantime there’s yet more bland lemon cheese in the fridge to use up, so expect it to show up in a couple more recipes this month. And I think it’s safe to say I won’t be bothering to make either of these recipes again.

Lemons used: 2

Total lemons this month: 16 (still so many in the fridge. SO. VERY. MANY.)

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.



Morning sun

This morning I got up, poured myself some coffee, and immediately got to work making lemon scones.

I have made scones a bazillion times in the past, because they’re one of those stupid-easy (as long as you keep the butter cold and don’t overwork the dough) breakfast foods that everyone loves. However, I hadn’t ever tried making lemon ones because most of the lemon scones I have tried in the past have been far too lemony – unpleasantly so. But this month is all about the lemon, so I figured I might as well give it a go.

The scones are mixed and then shaped and baked, and then you let them cool for about 15 minutes before you top them with a thick lemon glaze.

Fifteen minutes, by the way, is plenty of time to go hang out with tiny three week old foster kittens.

This recipe uses a lot of lemon – nearly six tablespoons of juice (including what’s in the lemon glaze on top), and several teaspoons of zest, but yet weirdly it wasn’t very lemony at all (and most of what’s there is from the glaze on top and not the scones itself). I don’t know if maybe the lemon flavor will become more pronounced as they sit, or if it’s because I used Meyer lemons instead of regular ones, but I was quite relieved. I would definitely make these again (although perhaps I might cut them into smaller pieces next time).

Lemons used: 3

Total lemons this month: 8

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.



The only snow we’ll see

Tonight is a rehearsal night, which means I didn’t have much time to make anything complicated, so I made Lemon Snowball Cookies.

I stumbled across this recipe a few weeks ago, in King Arthur Flour’s social media feed, and have been looking forward to trying them ever since. They have some similarities to Mexican Wedding Cakes, but these don’t have crushed nuts. They go together pretty quickly – just cream the butter and zest a lemon, and add in powdered sugar and a couple of other ingredients. Once out of the oven, they cool for a few minutes, and then get rolled in powdered sugar.

The recipe calls for the addition of lemon powder to the powdered sugar coating, but I don’t have any, or know what it is, and since the primary goal is to use up actual lemons, not lemon substitutes, I just ignored that bit.

They are delicate, and a little bit crumbly, and there’s a light lemon flavor that gives just a hint of brightness without being overwhelming. Over all, they are a perfectly acceptable cookie. Will I make them again though? Eh, probably not.

Lemons used: 1

Total lemons used: 6

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.




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