Today is both Muffin Day and Cherry Pie Day. Richard loves anything to do with cherries, but I most decidedly do not, and we really didn’t need me to make an entire pie for just one person, considering all the *other* baking I’ve been doing this month. So this morning I made muffins with pie filling inside them, in an effort to combine the two.

I used a pretty basic muffin recipe (from the red-checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook I have on my shelf), but added about a tablespoon of filling to each. The cherry pie filling is from a can, because there are limits to how much time and effort I’m willing to spend on this challenge, especially for something only one of us is going to be eating. The apple pie filling, however, which I added to half the muffins instead of nasty cherry glop, was the last of a batch I canned a year or so back, so at least there’s that.

The muffins turned out about what one would expect for a straightforward muffin with nothing added but a dollop of pie filling. Richard reports that his cherry pie muffins were delicious, and I was quite happy with how the apple filling worked out in mine.

I had originally planned that just being the end of it, but there was a *lot* of filling leftover. So I pondered some more and eyed those tiny tart pans that have been so useful so far this month, and decided that I might as well do some tiny pies to try to use the stuff up.

So when I got home from work I threw together a pastry crust dough and I stuffed that in the fridge to cool, and then after dinner I made two tiny pies – one for Richard, with the cherries, and one for me with the apples.

And thus both National Food Days have been celebrated appropriately and deliciously (and we shall not discuss the fact that there’s *still* more pie filling lurking in the fridge for later).

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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Didn’t we do this already?

Today is Chocolate Mint day which seems a bit redundant, since earlier this month there was also Peppermint Patty day. But then I guess there’s other things you can do with chocolate and mint, so eh, whatever.

It being a Monday, which means very limited time for me to make anything, what with work and rehearsal, I went for something quick. I used this recipe, since it makes only two, but instead of adding in chocolate chips, I chopped up the last of the peppermint patties and mix those in instead. I do not own tiny skillets (nor do I foresee a need for me to own tiny skillets), but I *do* own tiny tart pans, so I just baked the brownies in those.

Verdict: This is a very delicious brownie (although I question the ‘for two’ designation, since each one could easily have been shared between two people on its own), but alas, the mint flavor didn’t really come through. Ah well. I think at this point, we’re a bit minted out anyway, so it wasn’t any great loss.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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Today is Pluto Day, which left me a bit stumped as to what to do for it (I mean, besides play this a few times).

But then I remembered that earlier this month there was a food day I didn’t actually celebrate, and also, thanks to the Tim Tams, I now own a key ingredient, so today we are celebrating Bagel and Lox Day (which was February 9th), except without the lox because neither of us is a fan.

I have tried bagels a couple times before, with minimal success. In theory, they should not be difficult, because it’s really just a fairly basic yeast dough, only you boil it for a bit prior to baking it. But previous attempts have turned out sad, flat discs that only resembled bagels in color, but not much else.

However, King Arthur Flour has a recipe and over the past few years I’ve learned that if I want to try baking something new, I should check on their website first, since pretty much every one of their recipes I’ve tried has turned out delicious. This particular recipe calls for, you guessed it, malt powder. Gosh, what a lovely coincidence!

The dough is pretty straightforward. I mixed it up and stuck it into my usual winter proofing space (microwave, after heating up a couple of those rice-filled heating pads, so that the interior, once the door is closed, stays at a nice, cozy temperature that yeast really likes). The recipe calls for cutting the dough into 12-16 pieces, but I actually did 24, because we wanted slightly smaller bagels. Forming the bagels is kind of fun, because basically you stab a hole in the middle of the dough ball and then spin it around on your finger to open it up.

Next, the rings get a short water bath in a mix of boiling water, malt powder, and sugar. This is what gives bagels their characteristic chewy outer skin. And finally, once they’re boiled, they go into the oven, and a short time later, you have bagels!

Unlike previous attempts, these turned out fantastic. They are chewy on the outside and soft in the middle, just like they should be. Some of them did turn out a little flatter than they should have been, but that was totally my fault – pro tip, don’t boil your dough rings until right before you are ready to stick them in the oven, or else they’ll start to deflate!

I’ll definitely be adding this to the regular bread-making rotation, and malt powder is now going to be a pantry staple. Yum!

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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Today is Random Act of Kindness Day, so I hope you all were nice to other people for no reason at all. But that’s not a food, or a thing that I can make (and an act of kindness done deliberately for a blog post doesn’t seem like it should count anyway).

Luckily, today is also National Indian Pudding Day, so hooray, we have a food thing to try.

I’ve heard of this thing before, but have never, as far as I can recall, tried it. A quick query to Google suggests that it’s called Indian Pudding because it’s made with cornmeal which was made from what they were calling, at the time, Indian corn, and that the colonists who came over to America used that because that’s what was available, to make foods similar to what they were used to eating back in Britain, and not because it is a food made by Native Americans. It’s still a bit of an uncomfortable name, but I didn’t find any good alternatives out there, so….Pudding-With-Inappropriate-Name, it is!

Anyway. The recipe seemed fairly straightforward. You start by boiling 3 cups of milk, and then whisking in a *very* small amount of cornmeal until it’s thick. Then you stir in ginger and cinnamon and various sweeteners (the recipe I used called for both molasses and maple syrup). There was a small part of me that enjoyed the fact that I was making this using only ingredients that the colonists might have had on hand (okay, I don’t know if that’s accurate when it comes to the spices, but the rest of the stuff works). Next you pour it into a baking dish and you stick it into the oven and bake it for half an hour, and then here’s where things got really weird. You pour in another cup of cold milk, and stick it back into the oven and it bakes for 1 1/2 to 2 hours more, until it has turned into something that *isn’t* strangely molasses-scented soup.

We had friends over, who were all warned that they were going to be guinea pigs for this recipe (none of them had ever had it either), but thankfully they’re all the sort who are game for trying weird things. I kept checking it and checking it but the center never really seemed to set. When I pulled it out of the oven, finally, the top was browned, as per the recipe instructions, but the middle was still a bit on the soupy side, and I wasn’t really sure if it was ever going to change, since it had looked the same for the past half hour in the oven.

Nevertheless, we all gave it a try.

The flavor isn’t bad. The molasses comes through, which is good because I am a fan of molasses. But the texture is a bit like eating molasses-flavored polenta, except not necessarily in a good way. It was a bit gloopy. I began to wonder if maybe the recipe itself was the problem.

Mm. Doesn’t *that* look appetizing!

A quick Google search brought back lots of variations on the recipe, but in all of them, the ratio of cornmeal to liquid is roughly the same. In some it was clear that the pudding had cooked down to something more resembling a soft cake; in others, the pudding was a bit more on the ‘gloopy mess’ side of the equation, suggesting that I’m not the only one who’s had this same problem.

It’s possible that this should be only done using whole milk, or cream, as that might help bind things together more. It’s possible that a little more cornmeal is needed. It’s possible there’s other ways I could redo this recipe to make it less of lumpy soup, but eh, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Let’s just say that I’m glad we’ve come a long way from the time when this was what people had to look forward to for dessert, and leave it at that.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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Today is National Tim Tam Day. Apparently these are a really big deal in other countries, but here in America they aren’t a grocery store staple like Oreos, so most of us have never had them. I, myself, am not entirely sure if I have ever tried an actual Tim Tam, although from pictures, I know it’s some kind of cookie that’s covered in chocolate. But will that stop me from trying to *make* them from scratch? No! No it will not!

I found this recipe, which seemed like a good one to follow. Basically you make a chocolate cookie dough, and you freeze that for a bit, and then cut it up and bake it and then set those aside to cool.

Yes, I know, Tim Tam purists, these are square and store-bought Tim Tams are rectangles, but the square cutter was a lot easier than trying to measure and cut these all by hand.

While the cookies are cooling, you mix up the filling, which is made with chocolate and malt powder. I would like to note, for the record, that I went out and bought malt powder specifically for this recipe. It’s not an ingredient that’s part of my normal repertoire.

Once the filling’s all mixed up and fluffy, then you assemble the cookies by putting a big dollop of filling on top of one cookie and put another cookie on top of that. Then you melt up a big bowl of chocolate and dip the cookies until they’re completely covered. Then those get chilled in the fridge until the chocolate sets, and poof, you have Tim Tams, or some vague approximation thereof.

Verdict: It’s….an awful lot of chocolate in one bite (dare I even say too much chocolate), and it’s a bit time consuming for what ultimately ends up only about a dozen cookies. Not sure it’s worth making them again, although if I did, I’d try a different filling (perhaps a lovely salted caramel instead? Or peanut butter?), and also find a way to make the chocolate coating a *lot* thinner.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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Today is National Gumdrop Day. Are you as thrilled as I am? Or not?

There are a bazillion recipes on the internet for how to do these, that use unflavored gelatin as the stiffening agent. However, I didn’t have any unflavored gelatin in the house and didn’t have any time to swing by the store. I *do* have, however, pectin. And the internets obliged with some ideas.

So….following the directions (which I’m not going to link here for reasons which will become clear shortly), I first cooked sugar and corn syrup until it reached the softball stage, meanwhile also cooking pectin, orange juice, and a little baking soda until it was all foamy. Then I mixed the two pans together and added a little food coloring so they would actually look like the orange flavor, and poured that into a pan to set, and stuffed it in the fridge to chill, and went on my merry way.

When I got back tonight, we unmolded the candy onto a cutting board and I cut off a small piece and handed it to Richard to try. He made a face. Sour. Hmm. Okay. Well, gumdrops are typically rolled in sugar, so I did that next, with a dozen or so pieces.

And then we both tried one. The look on Richard’s face made me laugh hysterically, only because it was likely mirrored on mine. So in case it wasn’t obvious, the reason I haven’t bothered to link any recipe is because these things are *nasty*. The texture was off-putting, the flavor was off-putting; really, there wasn’t any redeeming quality about them at all except that visually, they at least *look* like a gum drop.

Ah well. They can’t all be winners. Tomorrow’s Thing will hopefully end up a lot tastier.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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It’s the thought that counts

Today is Valentine’s Day, if you’re the type that celebrates it. Richard and I decided early on in our relationship that we weren’t really into it (this encapsulates our thoughts on the matter perfectly), but well, we now live with someone who’s a bit of a romantic at heart (or at least, he was), so we knew we had to make at least some attempt. And it is traditional to gift chocolates on Valentine’s Day…..

…so it’s convenient that today is also Cream Filled Chocolate Day (seriously, who comes up with these things??). Of course, we don’t actually own any candy molds. But we *do* own a small selection of strange and unusual silicon molds for ice and/or cake, so those would have to do.

Making candies is fairly straightforward. You melt some chocolate, pour it into your mold, then pour it *out* again, making sure all the sides are well coated. Then you stick that into the fridge to chill, while you make your fillings.

Richard wanted peanut butter. I wanted something that satisfied the ‘cream-filled’ part of the equation. Plus there was still some ganache left from Saturday that I wanted to try to use up. I found this recipe after a quick search of the internets (you can find pretty much *anything* on the internets!), so we were both set.

And what molds did we pick to use? Why, brains, of course!

They’re a little big for chocolate candies, and also I suspect we didn’t let them chill long enough to account for the size, which is why one of the coffee cream ones had a catastrophic blow-out as I was unmolding it.

I attempted to do a layering effect with the peanut butter ones, but I’m not sure how successful that was. Also, the chocolate ganache kind of melted with the coffee cream.

But the intended recipient was thrilled, even if they didn’t turn out perfectly.

Verdict: I thought they were a bit too sweet, but Richard loved them. Might try making candies again, at some distant future time, but only if I have much smaller molds, and some different filling options.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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There weren’t any food-related National Days for yesterday. I suppose I could have made one up, but Mondays are notoriously busy for me, what with work and rehearsal, so I decided I’d just skip it instead. Ah well. Today sort of makes up for it, though, because you’re getting two Things instead of just one!

First, today is Shrove Tuesday, which is apparently when Episcopalians eat pancakes for some reason. I hadn’t included this in my plan for the month, but when Richard, who happens to be an Episcopalian, informed me, I shrugged and said, sure, let’s do pancakes for breakfast, twist my arm. So I made an oven pancake, which is basically just a slightly eggier pancake batter, that’s cooked all at once in a skillet in the oven. The result is a slightly puffed ‘pan cake’, that you can then just slice up and serve with whatever toppings you are in the mood for.

We had ours with some of my home canned apple butter, and a dollop of whipped cream, since that seemed appropriate somehow.

More importantly, though, today is Tortellini Day. I admit there was a small part of me that initially pondered just buying tortellini at the store and having my Thing be the recipe that incorporated it. But making fresh pasta has been on my list of of things to do for a while, and Tortellini Day happened to fall on a night when neither of us had anything planned. So tonight, we made tortellini. From scratch.

We have a pasta roller, but it hadn’t ever been used and needed to be washed, so instead I just rolled the dough out by hand on the kitchen island. Once the dough was rolled as thin as I could get it (not quite as thin as if I was making strudel, but thin enough), I used my largest ring cutter to cut out circles, and then put a small dollop of filling (a mix of cheese and herbs) in the center of each.

Next they get folded over and shaped. The majority went onto a sheet pan to be dried and then frozen for later, because if one is going to go through the process of making pasta from scratch, one ought to make enough for more than a single meal.

But the first set got tossed immediately into some boiling water. Five minutes later, they were cooked, and shockingly, not a single one unfolded, or otherwise sprung a leak in the water.

We had them with a simple herb butter sauce, and a side of steamed broccoli, and they were quite tasty. The entire process took far less time than I had feared (even with having to roll the dough out by hand), and was far easier than I had anticipated. So I think it’s safe to say we’ll be making fresh pasta again in the very near future.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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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.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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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. 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.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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