Minty

Today is National Peppermint Patty Day. So naturally I had to make peppermint patties, because why not.

I admit, that until this challenge, peppermint patties were not a thing that ever crossed my mind one could make at home. But it turns out they are shockingly easy!

This is the recipe I used, although there’s lots of varieties out there on the internets. Hooray for the internets!

First you stir together a large quantity of powdered sugar with some sweetened condensed milk and some peppermint extract. An electronic mixer is going to be your friend here because basically you are actually making your own fondant and it is *stiff*. Taste it at this point, to see if you want to add more peppermint extract or not.

Then you dump it onto a powdered-sugar-covered surface, and roll it out.

Do not skimp on the powdered sugar, by the way, because otherwise this stuff will stick like *crazy*. Also a bench scraper is totally your friend if that happens. Possibly I speak from experience. Mayyyyybe.

Next you cut it out into little circles. I happen to have a set of circular cutters, one of which was the right size, but you could easily use the top of an appropriate-sized jar, or you could roll the stuff into little balls and flatten them with your fingers, or you could just cut them into any shape that isn’t round. Go crazy!

Those go into the fridge to chill, and also to give you time to get the chocolate ready, which is just baking chocolate (or chocolate chips if you prefer) melted and mixed with a dash of oil to keep it from being too thick.

Once the little discs are chilled, then you get to make a ginormous mess. Um. I mean, you dip them in chocolate, and unsuccessfully avoid getting it everywhere. Or maybe that’s just me.

Those go back into the fridge to chill, and when they’re done, you have peppermint patties!

Verdict: These are delicious and taste just like a York Peppermint Patty, except that they’re more…uh…rustically shaped. They should be stored in the fridge, so the chocolate doesn’t melt.

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Roly-poly

Today is National Cream Cheese Brownie Day, but I’m not actually going to talk about that, because there won’t be any of those in this house. Not that I have any issues with Cream Cheese Brownies – they are quite tasty – but because today was this month’s #BakingSisters day, so instead of doing the National Day thing, we made mini Swiss rolls.

Originally we were going to use this recipe, which was used in a Technical Bake in the most recent season of Great British Bake Off, but then I went a-Googling, and found some other options, and so instead, I used the cake from this recipe, and the filling and ganache from this one. I do love peppermint and the thought of peppermint cream inside tiny little chocolate cakes sounded delightful but that was going to end up as an awful lot of peppermint for the weekend (spoilers!), so I went with peanut butter instead.

My pastry-chef-by-training sister recommended that a sponge would be a better option than the cake we’re more familiar with in America, so we started with that. You mix eggs and sugar over a double boiler until the sugar is dissolved, and then decant that into a mixer and whip until it’s pale yellow and fluffy. Then you carefully fold in a mix of flour, cocoa, and salt, and also some melted butter.

I was *so* careful when folding (I’ve seen enough people on GBBO fold too quickly and lose all their volume) but my batter still shrunk a lot by the time I was done, so maybe I didn’t get the egg and sugar mix whipped enough to start with. Who knows!

Next you spread the batter out into prepared sheet pans (covered with parchment paper and then greased and sprinkled with cocoa powder). Here is mine.

It looks kind of sad. My sisters was a much lighter color and filled her sheet to the rim, so clearly one of us had a misstep, and considering which of us has had prior training, I’m guessing it was me!

Then it goes into the oven and bakes for 6 minutes, and as soon as it’s out, you immediately dump it out of the pan onto a clean kitchen towel that’s been sprinkled with cocoa powder. Hah. My sister was frantically warning me ‘cut the corners!’ so the cake wouldn’t stick to the pan, but, uh, see above for why that was not remotely an issue for my cake.

After it’s onto the dish towel, you roll it up right away, apparently so that the cake then has the ‘memory’ of the roll once it’s cooled. Which sounds really really weird to say but totally works.

While that cooled on the counter, then we made the fillings. My sister made two fillings – one peanut butter and one caramel, but I stuck with just the peanut butter filling, which is really just peanut butter buttercream. It is, by the way, insanely delicious and I was a Very Loving Wife when I let Richard lick the whisk attachment after I was done instead of keeping it all to myself, even though I was VERY VERY tempted.

So once the cake is cooled, then you unroll it, *carefully*, and fill it. Because we were making tiny rolls, we first cut the cake into quarters, and then filled each one individually and rolled those up. I did not, for some bizarre reason, take a picture of them pre-rolled, but here they are, after being rolled up, and before going into the freezer to chill.

I am quite pleased to report that there was minimal cracking on any of my rolls! I know this is an issue because every time there is a rolled cake challenge on GBBO, someone has a massive cracking failure, so hooray for the lack thereof! Also, if some pieces fell off the ends, well quality control is important and the cake tasted quite fine.

After the cakes were chilled enough that the filling was firm inside, then we cut them into pieces.

Aren’t they pretty? I totally didn’t make sure to turn them all so that the nicer side face the camera, nope, not at all.

The final step was ganache, so we heated up cream (or in my case half and half, because that’s what I had in the fridge) and poured that over chocolate and corn syrup, and whisked that together until it was smooth and lovely, and then poured it over the little cakes.

The recipe called for dunking each cake individually but that seemed like a lot of hassle, and I was worried there would end up being too much chocolate and the peanut butter flavor would be lost. So instead I just spooned it over the tops of mine, so the pretty swirls were still visible (well, except for a few drips), and then sprinkled them with chopped peanuts.

Also when one is the baker and there are trimmings and leftover filling and ganache, one *has* to do more quality testing. For..um..science. Many yummy noises were made on both sides of the camera. So many.

Here we are with our finished rolls! This is from my sister’s side of things, because I had to use both hands to hold up my tray, and she was thus the only one with an available hand to work the camera.

And how, you might ask, do they taste?

SO VERY AMAZING. The peanut butter filling is very light and fluffy and really helps counteract the dark chocolate of the ganache and the cake. Five stars, would totally make again some day when I have lots of hours to spare and don’t mind turning the kitchen into a cocoa-powder-coated disaster zone again.

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If the moon hits your eye

Today is National Pizza Day, which is a lovely thing to happen on any day, because pizza encompasses two of the basic food groups (bread and cheese).

I’ve made pizza a bazillion times over the years, because as much as I love delivery pizza (especially if they have a garlic sauce), there is something special about making it yourself.

Pizza dough itself is pretty simple – it’s just flour, water, yeast, salt, and olive oil. I guess you can stir in other stuff if you want, but I’d rather do all my extras on the top, instead of burying them in the dough. It should be a soft dough, but not sticky (if you do it by weight, you’ll likely get a perfect dough every time; if you do it by volume, like most American recipes call for, you’ll likely have to make adjustments to the amount of water and/or flour you use, each time you make it). I always make mine in the morning and stash the bowl in the fridge, so it rises slowly over the day.

I’m a pizza purist – plain cheese pizza is always going to be my favorite – but I also do like other toppings from time to time. I’ve got a pizza stone, which is a lovely way to bake your pie because it provides the best amount of heat to really cook the bottom through, but I also have tiny little individual-sized pizza pans for when there’s a crowd over and we need to get a whole pile of pizzas set up quickly, or if we’re making up a batch to keep in the freezer for lunches or quick dinners later in the week.

I also make my own sauces, because I can (and often am able to end up using my own canned tomato sauce to start with). I prefer a minimal amount of sauce if it’s red, because otherwise the acidity of the tomatoes starts to really take over (and also that way the cheese can really shine, because let’s face it, pizza is a really good excuse to eat more cheese. Mmm. Cheese.)

Tonight, since it was just the two of us, we decided to use the pizza stone instead of the tiny little pans, so the pizzas look a bit rustic. I decided to do one with garlic sauce (make a roux, add garlic and cream or milk, cook until thick)…

…and one with red sauce (which got a little overcooked, oops, because we weren’t paying attention).

Both are topped with exactly the same thing – mozzarella, a sprinkling of cheddar, and some turkey sausage crumbles we had leftover in the freezer. And both were quite, quite delicious.

Also, it turns out leftover orange/peach frozen yogurt goes shockingly well with molasses bars. In case you were wondering.

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Treacly

Happy Molasses Bar Day!

I am very excited about this because I love the combination of molasses and all the dark, sweet spices that usually go along with it, and prior to this little challenge I had never even *heard* of molasses bars, so this is a brand new (to me) recipe. Is it a regional thing? I don’t know! Who cares! Let’s make some molasses bars and then eat every single one of them in one sitting!

A quick search of the internets finds a variety of things called ‘molasses bars’ so I am not actually sure if the one I made is the ‘true’ molasses bar, or if there is such a thing as a ‘true’ molasses bar, but I digress. Basically this comes together like a stiff cookie dough – the sort that is usually rolled out and cut out with cookie cutters, except that for these, you grease and flour a cookie sheet (did they provide a size for this? No, they did not, which is a bit frustrating as cookie sheets come in a wide range of sizes) and then you press the dough into the cookie sheet (this will be messy! Use lots of flour) and then you bake what is essentially a ginormous soft molasses cookie. The recipe calls for raisins, but as previously discussed on this site, raisins are Not Food, and thus, I ignored that ingredient, because why sully such a delicious morsel with those grape abominations? Why?

Here they are in all their molassesy glory.

Verdict: Absolutely delightful. I am saving this recipe and will definitely be making them again. Like most things made with molasses and those spices, they need time to sit, so the flavors come through, and are thus likely to be much tastier the day after, than fresh from the oven (although fresh from the oven is also quite delicious). Also one batch makes a bunch, so it’s convenient that Richard’s writers group met at our house tonight, so that the bars could be distributed among a larger group of people and thus were not left to sit on the counter to tempt me.

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Pastability

Today is Fettuccine Alfredo Day. No, I have no idea why. Mine is not to question; mine is only to produce the food and comment on its tastiness (or lack thereof).

I love fettuccine alfredo. LOVE. But it’s not the sort of thing that one really needs to be making and/or consuming on a regular basis when one comes from sturdy peasant stock genetically engineered to withstand famine, so it’s more the type of food I only eat when out at a restaurant, and not so much when I’m pondering meal plans at home.

But this month is all about making whatever the National Day’s food is, so I hit up Google and looked for some slightly lighter versions. The classic recipe starts with a roux, which is just butter and flour, but then continues on with cream and lots of cheese, and people, there is a *reason* why it is so incredibly delicious.

This recipe, however, makes it ever so slightly less a calorie-bomb, in that it makes use of milk and broth instead of the cream. The roux is still there, of course, because that’s the thickening agent, and also the cheese, because without cheese what would be the *point*?

We had it with a pile of steamed broccoli on top, because it really needed some color and also some additional texture. I would have sprinkled more Parmesan on top of that (because the answer to so many things about food is ‘more cheese’), except that I used up every bit of Parmesan in the house to make the sauce. Alas.

It’s not as pretty here as it could have been, but that’s only because I made it this morning, before heading off to work since there wasn’t going to be time after work to make it before Richard needed to leave for his meeting, and this is not a dish that reheats into the same beautiful vision as it is when it’s first cooked. Also I didn’t use fettuccine, because there wasn’t any in the house and pasta is pasta is pasta (yes, yes, I know, you purists out there are violently disagreeing with me, but you can just go make your own and be done with it).

It tasted fine, although not exactly like true fettuccine alfredo. I might be tempted to up the spices a bit next time, if I ever decide to make it again, and also add some chicken. And also some cream, because there is a reason the original recipe is so very much better.

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Frozen

Today is Frozen Yogurt Day. I hope you all celebrated appropriately.

Me, I forgot to check the calendar this morning and had a small panic when I remembered that today was a day that would require an ice cream maker, and that means the ice cream maker base had to be frozen, and oops, it was still sitting on the counter.

Luckily Google came to my rescue (all hail our robot overlords) with this recipe that requires no ice cream maker at all. Richard swung by the grocery store on the way home to pick up the necessary ingredients (frozen peaches) and after dinner tonight we broke out the food processor and gave it a whirl (ha, see what I did there).

You start with frozen peaches, yogurt, sugar, and lemon juice.

Then you blend the peaches and the sugar until they’re mostly combined, and add in the other two ingredients. It sounds pretty simple. Except that when we tasted it, the sugar didn’t really dissolve so it was kind of weirdly grainy, and there wasn’t much of any flavor at all.

Inspiration struck. I tossed in about a teaspoon of orange extract (doesn’t everyone have that in their cupboard?), added a little more sugar and a dash of vanilla as well, and then blended it like crazy and stuffed it into the freezer to sit and think about what it had done, and also in the hope that this would give everything a chance to meld.

And hey, what do you know, it worked!

Half an hour in the freezer and the sugar had all dissolved into the rest of the mixture, and the orange flavor came through. Still can’t taste peach at all, but no matter, the orange made it perfectly yummy, and we both agreed we might be willing to make this again.

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Melted

Today was perhaps the easiest day of this month’s challenge. Because today is both World Nutella Day, and Chocolate Fondue Day (not to be confused with *Cheese* Fondue Day, which is in April, and if you don’t think we’ll also be celebrating that, then clearly you don’t know me at *all*).

Seriously, these two could not have been planned better. And since Mondays are the worst day for me to try to do anything in general, due to work during the day and rehearsal in the evening, the combination was even better, because it went together in about two minutes, max.

So…ready for this highly complicated recipe that combines both important celebrations?

Here you go: 1/2 cup Nutella and 1/2 cup cream. Heat the cream, stir in the Nutella, serve with bite-sized items for dipping.

We pondered what to dip into our Nutella fondue, but decided fruit would make it feel more virtuous, so went with apple and banana. Also pretty much the only way I will ever voluntarily eat a banana is if it can be smothered in enough chocolate so that I can’t actually *taste* it, so bonus for getting my annual ‘I suppose I ought to eat a banana’ day out of the way early for the year!

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That would be a nope

Today is National Homemade Soup Day, so naturally I had to make soup. While pondering what soup to make, I rummaged through my recipe cards and stumbled across a recipe for White Bean and Bacon soup. It was in my handwriting, so clearly I had made this before and we liked it enough to decide to keep it, but neither Richard or I could remember a thing about it.

It’s a pretty simple soup. You cook up a couple strips of bacon, then set those aside and cook onion and garlic on low heat until they’re nearly translucent, and then you toss in some stock and some beans and some basil and red pepper flakes and simmer that for 20 minutes or so, and after all that, then you blend it all together and finish it off with a dash of cream and the crumbled bacon.

That would have been perfectly fine on its own, but then I discovered that it’s also Yorkshire Pudding Day. As far as I’m aware, I’ve never tasted this, and conveniently my 40+ year old Betty Crocker cookbook has a recipe, so I figured I’d give it a try.

The recipe starts off by mixing flour, eggs, and milk into a bowl. But then it gets weird. This recipe assumes you are making alongside a beef roast, so you collect a half cup of drippings. And if there isn’t a half cup available while you’re cooking your roast, you are to melt shortening and add it until you reach the full amount.

So….one half cup of melted fat. Okay. I figured, hey, the soup has bacon, and I do have a jar of bacon fat in the refrigerator, so I could just use that, so it’d go with the soup.

One half cup of melted fat is a lot of fat, by the way. A *lot*. This should have been my first clue.

Next you pour the drippings / melted shortening / bacon grease – into a pan and you pour your flour and milk mixture on top of that, like so. At first glance, it looks as if this is some kind of weirdly shaped pancake floating in a sea of maple syrup, doesn’t it? But no. That’s all melted bacon grease.

Finally, you throw the pan in the oven and bake it for about half an hour, which was conveniently the time required to simmer the soup. The pudding puffed alarmingly high on the sides, but the middle, even though it was cooked, did not.

I suspect because there is only so much dough can do to counteract the presence of an entire HALF CUP of grease in the pan.

Verdict: The soup was delicious (yay to past me for saving this recipe!), but the pudding was….not. The sides that had puffed above the grease line were a bland bread sort of thing, but the middle part was pretty much what you might expect for a piece of baked dough that’s been soaking in grease for half an hour. It was *dripping*, people. Shudder.

I freely admit that, because I’ve never made this, and also because puddings of this type are not a typical American dish, that it is highly likely did something wrong with the recipe, or maybe bacon fat just isn’t the best thing to use, but….yeah, no. Not motivated to try this one again. Ever.

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When a cow and a rabbit become very good friends…

Today is both Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, and Carrot Cake Day, so obviously we had to celebrate both.

Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, according to Wikipedia (which as we all know is the absolute *epitome* of factual accuracy, cough cough), was invented in the 1960’s by an exasperated mother. I have a sneaky feeling that Ice Cream for Breakfast Day was actually invented a lot earlier than that, (in fact I’m pretty sure it came into being the morning after the invention of ice cream in the first place), but the formal designation of it as a National Day is a more recent thing, if only because the ability to submit weird and wacky food-related days via the internet to a gathering house sort of website wasn’t around back when ice cream magically popped into being. Think what all those ancients were missing out on.

I like ice cream, obviously, but I am ambivalent about carrot cake. On the one hand, it’s usually a lovely, moist cake and there is usually cream cheese frosting involved. On the other hand, it is far too often used as a vehicle for raisins, which are a horrible thing to do to a grape and are therefore Not Food. Luckily if I’m making it myself, I can avoid the Not Food parts of the recipe. Ah, the power of being a home baker.

I admit I did go Googling for recipes for carrot cake ice cream (and trust me, there’s quite a few out there) but then I got to thinking about how ice cream by itself isn’t a very filling breakfast, and cake would be a much better option, and also there’s still vanilla bean ice cream in the freezer so I really didn’t need to be making *more*…all of which is to say that this morning, we started the day with some vanilla bean ice cream and a slice of this Carrot Cake Coffee Cake, which covered both bases.

The recipe calls for 2 cups of shredded carrots. Therefore one serving totally counts as a serving of vegetables for the day. Yum.

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Ooh la la

Today is La Chandeleur, which is a French holiday where they eat crepes (I am sure there’s probably a lot more to it than that, but the only part I care about is the crepe part, because yum, crepes!). Today is also National Tater Tot Day, except that I couldn’t figure out a way to incorporate tater tots into crepes, nor did I really want to because ew, so actually let’s just forget I mentioned the tots. Today is all about the crepe!

I’ve made crepes lots of times, because they’re kind of fun and also tasty. Basically crepe batter is really just pancake batter with extra liquid stirred in, so you could probably make them with any standard pancake recipe, with some minor adjustments (well, any pancake recipe that doesn’t include a lot of chunky bits; you are aiming for thin, smooth batter, after all). You don’t need a special pan; all you need is a regular frying pan and a non-metal spatula (I use a silicone one – the type you use to scrape down the sides of a bowl) because a metal spatula is more likely to tear your delicate pancakes.

Two things to keep in mind to make a successful crepe are low heat, and oil. The pan needs to be lubricated (nonstick spray works just fine here) and it can’t be too hot, because once you pour in the batter, you then need to very quickly tilt the pan around so that the batter spreads out as thinly as possible. Too high a heat, and the batter will cook too fast, so your crepe will end up too thick, or lumpy. The oil is because these things are really delicate, since they’re so thin, so you want to prevent them sticking, or else your lovely smooth crepe will turn into a shredded, sad mess.

Crepes are extremely versatile and work just as nicely with savory as well as sweet fillings, so one batch takes care of both dinner and dessert. With that in mind, for dinner tonight, we had crepes stuffed with ham, mushrooms, and swiss cheese.

Cornelius M. Peabody, III was quite excited about his. He’s a big fan of crepes.

And for dessert, we decided to light things on fire!

Or in other words, I made Crepes Suzette, which is a fancy way of saying I mixed orange juice, butter, and sugar in a pan until it reduced, and soaked the crepes in that, and then poured some alcohol over the crepes and set it on fire. Which, by the way, is another thing that would have been a whole lot easier to do if I only had a kitchen torch. Ah well.

The crepes were all quite tasty.

The cats were all, as usual, unimpressed.

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