Still Life, With Cats

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Baking

Pop-do-overs

Today for breakfast I made popovers.

Or rather, I should say that I *tried* to make popovers. It was not…entirely successful.

I found this recipe, which sounded interesting. I made half a recipe, which was good because I have no popover pans, and so instead used a muffin tin, which meant that they were significantly smaller than they should have been. As a result, even though I tried to adjust the baking times accordingly, by the time I pulled them out, it was clear they were a little over done.

The signature characteristic of a popover is that it is supposed to puff up over the edge of its container, and then when you prick it with a toothpick, it should deflate in on itself (sort of the same concept as a souffle). These….did not deflate. At all.

Thankfully, however, the inside looked fine, and they actually taste pretty good.

Not sure it’s worth purchasing pans specifically for popovers, but maybe with a little extra adjustment in times to account for the smaller size, I could make them look and act a bit more like a popover is supposed to. Hmm.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.



It takes two

Today I decided to make scones, because it’s been a while since I made scones, and also scones are stupid easy to make, and also this recipe uses both lemons and orange, both of which I happen to have in massive abundance. Yay scones!

The key to a good scone is that you mix all the dry ingredients together first, then you add in the (cold) butter and you mix it together by hand, until the butter is well incorporated (the mixture should look a bit like sand, and you’ll still see some larger, pea-sized lumps of butter). Only once that part is done do you add in the wet ingredients (in this case, some cream), and once you add the wet, you only mix the dough until it’s *just* incorporated. You’re aiming for a delicate crumb, and overmixing will active the gluten in the flour and give you a more bready product instead of a crumbly biscuit sort of affair.

One other step that most scone recipes don’t mention is that if you want your scones to hold their shape, you should pop the whole pan into the freezer for maybe ten to fifteen minutes to chill up the dough after it’s been mixed and shaped and cut. I probably should have done that, except that I got a late start on these (because I was too busy playing with adorable foster kittens) and needed to toss them into the oven before running downstairs to get to work.

Anyway. I’ve been doing half recipes of a lot of the things I’ve made so far this month, but for this one I did the full batch. Here they are, fresh from the oven, and drizzled with the orange glaze.

And here is a single scone, gently extracted from the herd, and ready to be consumed.

Verdict: absolutely delicious, as expected. There’s a brightness from the lemon, while the glaze on top adds just the right amount of sweetness. Yum! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.



Here there be dragons

I realized the other day that half the month is gone and I haven’t yet made any cookies. Also I realized it had been a really long time since I fed my sourdough starter (which lives in the fridge and gets fed every month or three, when I remember. Luckily it’s a hardy entity and thrives on neglect). So into Google those terms went, and out popped these Sourdough Almond Orange cookies. Yes, there really *is* a recipe for pretty much anything out there.

I actually put the dough together yesterday, since it needed to sit for a while and I knew I wouldn’t have very much time today to be messing with it.

This is another recipe where you use the whole orange or if you want to get technical, this one uses the pulp, plus the zest. Since I was only making half the recipe, I just used one large Mandarin, and hoped that would be sufficient. That gets ground up (hooray for the stick blender) with some butter and sugar, and then you stir in almond flour and whole wheat flour until it all just comes together. Then that gets put into the fridge for a few hours (or in my case, overnight).

This morning I rolled out the dough to bake the cookies. I asked Richard to get me a cookie cutter in keeping with the season, and he handed me a dragon, which is why these are all Sourdough Orange Almond Dragons.

Interestingly, the recipe did not actually specify the length of time they should be baked, so I just kept peeking in to check. So if you should be inspired to make your own Sourdough Orange Almond Dragons, start with about 12 minutes, and then adjust from there.

These were an interesting sort of cookie. The predominant flavor is actually the whole wheat, which disappointed me a bit since I would have expected the almond or the orange to take center stage. They’re not a bad cookie, but they’re tasty in an earnest ‘you are eating a healthy cookie’ sort of way, instead of in a ‘I am indulging in something decadent’ feeling. Perhaps if I were to ever make them again (although the chances of that are pretty much nil), I’d use all-purpose flour, so as to let the other flavors shine. An orange juice glaze might also help too.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.



Cheese, please

Since today is Valentine’s Day, I decided I should do up something fancy for the occasion. So this morning I whipped up a an Orange Cheese Danish.

That sounds way more impressive if you don’t realize that I started with store-bought puff pastry, doesn’t it?

Anyway, it’s pretty simple. Mix up some ricotta (or in our case, cottage) cheese, sugar, an egg, a little flour, and some orange zest, and blend it really well together. Then lay out the puff pastry on a baking sheet, slice the edges, spread the filling down the middle, and fold the cut edge pieces inward to make a pretty pattern. Then that goes into the oven, and when it’s baked, then it gets brushed with an orange juice and powdered sugar glaze, then sprinkled with chopped nuts.

I only made one of these (instead of the two the recipe calls for), since there’s only two of us, and things made with puff pastry tend to lose their signature crispness after sitting for a while.

Here’s an interior view, of the filling and all those crispy, crunchy layers. Laminated dough is a magical thing.

It went together pretty quickly, which was convenient, since the Boskone panels started at 7am (it’s an East Coast convention). And it wasn’t….bad. It just didn’t have much flavor. I think it just needs significantly more filling, or else about twice the amount of zest, or *something*.

The good news is that I do have another package of puff pastry so I could try something similar later on. And orange curd is on the list of recipes to make this month, so….we shall see.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.



All the butter

When one thinks of orange, one naturally thinks of biscuits, right?

Yeah, me neither, but when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. So today’s orange thing was these Orange Biscuits.

They come together like any other biscuit recipe, in that you work all the dry ingredients together with the butter until it resembles coarse sand, and then you stir in the liquid (in this case milk and orange juice) until just moistened, being super careful not to overwork the dough, and then you roll them, cut them, and bake them.

These had an extra step of an orange butter sauce (which is literally orange juice mixed with melted butter, reduced on the stove) which was brushed on top of the biscuits prior to baking. Here’s where I admit I wasn’t paying enough attention to the steps so I popped the biscuits into the oven and then made the butter sauce instead of the other way around, so I pulled them out about five minutes from the end, basted them with the orange butter sauce, and finished them back in the oven.

Of course, once one has a small bowl of orange butter sauce, one has to come up with something to do with all the rest of it. So I looked at the pan of chicken and broccoli I was putting together for dinner, pondered the fact that orange would go nicely with both of those, and just dumped the remaining orange butter sauce directly into the pan. That, plus some leftover rice from the fridge, turned into a delicious dinner. Also, how many more times can I use the words ‘orange butter sauce’ in this blog post?

While I would happily use orange butter sauce for chicken, broccoli, and rice again, I’m not sure the biscuits are worth a repeat. They’re perfectly fine biscuits, but a plain, non-orange biscuit would have worked just as well.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.



Smooth

It feels like it’s been a very long year so far, and it’s not even halfway through February. So today was definitely the day to whip up some comfort food, in the form of pudding.

Pudding is one of those things that I usually don’t make from scratch because it’s so easy to just buy a box of mix at the store, but every time I *do* make it from scratch, I wonder why I don’t do that more often. Because it is SO EASY.

Since this month is all about the orange, naturally I had to find a recipe for orange pudding, so when I stumbled across this recipe, I knew I wanted to give it a try. Unlike most other pudding recipes I’ve made this one doesn’t use any milk or cream – just a whole lot of orange juice, some eggs, butter, sugar, and cornstarch to thicken it up. Also this recipe requires a lot of whipping. A LOT. I started the process by hand, because at first I thought it was just the eggs, but then when I looked more closely at the directions, I quickly transferred everything to my mixer and let the machine do the rest, because that is far too much whipping to be done by hand.

Anyway, here’s how it turned out.

The orange flavor is extremely forward on this, but it’s surprisingly creamy (probably from all that whipping), and when one is in the mood for some comfort food, this definitely hits the spot.

We ate it while watching an episode of The Repair Shop on Netflix, because sometimes the best way to self sooth is creamy sunshine in a bowl, and a gentle program on the TV that always, without fail, has a happy ending.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.



Two for one

I had a plan for yesterday’s orange thing, except that yesterday morning we got a call that our new-to-is car had arrived. We scheduled a time after dinner to drive out the CarMax in Roseville to pick it up, and figured since everything had already been taken care of, it would be a quick trip – plenty of time to make orange things once we got home. Ha. NOT.

On the plus side, buying a car online means significantly less time spent getting the hard sell for all the extra stuff they want you to pay for. On the negative side, we were still stuck there for several hours, because they took it off to be detailed and that took soooo long. So by the time we got home it was super late and I just didn’t feel like trying to tackle anything in the kitchen.

But at least now we have a car – a 2017 sea foam green Prius. I drove it home and it felt just right – everything where I expected it to be (unlike the rental), with a couple huge improvements over my old recently squashed 2004 Prius – backup camera! Automatic bluetooth synching with my phone! Heated seats!

Anyway, today I made up for missing yesterday by making two orange things. The first was this scrumptious Orange Walnut Bread, which I didn’t photograph because I got distracted by work and kittens, and ah well, just take my word for it, it’s super tasty and if you happen to have some oranges floating around in your fridge that need using up, you should whip up a loaf of this right away.

The second was the thing I intended to make yesterday – Orange Sesame Brittle. The concept sounded very intriguing – who doesn’t love a good brittle, after all. You toast the sesame seeds and zest an orange, then you make a caramel, and then you stir the seeds and zest into the caramel with some butter, and finally you pour it onto a pan and let it cool.

It certainly *looks* pretty.

But once it was cooled and we broke off a piece to taste, we both looked at each other and shrugged. It’s just….eh. It needs *something* – maybe some salt, or some additional flavoring? No idea, nor am I motivated to try to figure out what was missing. Ah well, not every recipe we try can be a winner. And at least the bread was a smashing success – yum!

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.



Citrus and sugar

This morning when I got up, I looked at the list of things I really needed to do, and then I ignored it and instead made donuts. Orange donuts, to be exact.

These were super quick to stir together, and for those of you who care about such things, this particular recipe is vegan (although I just used regular cows milk since that’s the sort of milk we have in the fridge).

After they are baked, then they’re drizzled with a glaze made of yet more orange juice stirred together with some powdered sugar, and then you let them cool just long enough for the entire house to smell delightfully like citrus and sugar before you pluck one from the cooling rack and inhale it in a single bite. Um, I mean, before you place it on a plate and then take dainty bites as befitting an elegant lady, okay, I can’t even finish that sentence without my eyes rolling right out of my head, so eat it however you want.

This is definitely a recipe I’ll be saving to make again. Yum!

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.



Two and done

There was a horrific wind storm in Sacramento last Tuesday night. These pop up every couple years and every time, there’s a ton of trees or branches down – it’s a hazard when you live in a city of trees, especially when some of the trees are as old and as huge as the ones in our neighborhood. We’ve had ginormous branches come down in our area before – one landed on our neighbor’s boat a few years back, but it usually isn’t too bad. However, Wednesday morning we woke up to see this.

Later in the day I went out to get a better sense of the scope of the damage. This is how big the branch actually was.

It blocked the entire street.

Thankfully the tree it came from did not also fall – that could have taken out a house or two. Thankfully no one was hurt (unlike a lot of other places in the city – there were trees on houses and power lines ripped out all over the place). Thankfully we have awesome insurance. But it’s been a hassle, dealing with inspections and paperwork so on. They finally towed away the blue car yesterday – due to its age and the extent of damage, the insurance company declared it a total loss. That’s okay, we figured – with both of us working from home right now, there’s no rush to replace my car. We can easily adjust to being a one-car family. The red car was towed to the body shop, and we’ve had a rental car, so we would be just fine until it was repaired.

But this afternoon I got a call from the insurance adjustor – there was enough structural damage to the red car that it, too, is being considered a total loss. That was followed by a notification that, now that we’re not waiting for one of our cars to be repaired, we only get the rental until the end of next week.

So…I guess this weekend we’ll be car shopping. During a pandemic. This should be *fun*.

– – – – –

I didn’t get around to making yesterday’s orange thing yesterday, because it was a long day and the last thing I wanted to do at the end of it was bake. So today I made two things – both of which had the unfortunate attribute of using up oranges but not tasting like oranges at all. The first was Orange Cornbread. As cornbread recipes go, this was pretty tasty, but the orange juice addition was a wasted effort, but it made a delicious side to the pork stir fry I whipped up for lunch.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.



In this week’s episode of ‘Will It Blend?’

This morning I was in the mood for muffins so I looked online and found this recipe, and the premise was so intriguing I decided to give it a go. Because for these muffins, instead of just stirring in juice and/or zest (the usual way of using up an orange in a baked good), you actually cut them into pieces and then blend the entire orange (yes, peels and all) into the dough. Wacky!

Since we have a giant mound of Mandarins in the fridge, I decided that three were probably the rough equivalent of one regular orange, so I quartered them and added those to all the ingredients (minus the flour) and then pulled out my stick blender and blended (messily) until the oranges were no longer recognizable. Then I stirred in the flour and poured the batter into my skull cake pan, because one should use a skull cake pan as often as one can, after all, and popped them into the oven and hoped for the best.

Note to self: while the skull cake pan works great for some recipes, do not bother doing that with these muffins again. If you squint really hard you can sort of make out the skull, but otherwise they look more like misshapen lumps.

Unconventional appearance aside, however, they tasted absolutely delicious. If you were to guess what the ‘special’ ingredient is, you wouldn’t assume whole ground-up oranges, you’d instead guess cornmeal, since that’s what the interior color and texture reminds me of.

The orange flavor definitely comes through. I was worried that the inclusion of the peel would make them bitter, but that was thankfully not the case. And bonus: it used up another three mandarins from the pile. This is another recipe that we’ll definitely be making again.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.




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