Dark

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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Wobble

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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Twofer

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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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.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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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.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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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.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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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.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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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.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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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.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.

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