Better macaroons.

betteroons

betteroons

In previous years I’ve used David Lebovitz’s recipe for macaroons, which calls (extraordinarily, I haven’t seen this anywhere else) for lightly cooking together the ingredients in a skillet before baking. This year I didn’t look up his recipe and just used the universally approved method that simply mixes the egg white with the dry ingredients and bakes.  And I have to say, they’re NOT AS GOOD. This morning I made a tiny batch of the Lebovitz method — of course I left out the flour; otherwise the only differences are the process and the addition of a little dab of honey — and they are not as macaroon-looking but they are charmingly juicy with a caramelized edge.  So good.  Thanks, David, it’s well worth dirtying a frying pan.

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Continuing the Passoverian theme

Should I have a tag for “Bad Pictures of Baked Goods”?

maca-maca-roon

maca-maca-roon

This morning I made a batch of coconut macaroons. It’s embarrassing how easy coconut macaroons are.  Almond ones, for some reason, cause me much more trouble, but I’m going to try for some of them later today or in the passover season and also want to make tish pishti, but these may have to wait, as I am required to produce a vegetable kugel for tonight,

Some of these macaroons have a little nutmeg and cardamom sprinkled in, with some coconut extract added. Nice, I think.

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First crunch of Passover

not really crack

Planning well ahead and expecting high demand, I’ve already made the first batch of chocolate caramel matzoh crack.  (It keeps well, if I keep my paws off it.)  This year’s brilliant innovation: I went to the bargain store on Court Street and found a marked-down bag of Lindt chocolate squares in four flavors. (Yeah, I know, bargain chocolate, but they’re fine, I promise.)  I used the Intense Orange squares mixed with plain dark chocolate and added a little minced clementine peel and some slivered almonds, and it is delicious. I filled out the tray with regular semisweet chips topped with roasted salted sunflower seeds.  Next up, the chili-flavored squares.  As to the macaroons to come, I think I will not make red velvet flavor, but I could be wrong.

Cold butter.

I made some tasty scones, or sconelike things, for the singers yesterday.  I hunted over Tastespotting and looked at a bunch of recipes, finally keeping three open and relying most on Tartelette‘s for structure (as I had yogurt, not cream or buttermilk) and My Lovely Kitchen‘s for the apricot-rosemary idea.  I used a total of about two cups of flour, including a quarter-cup or so of corn flour, and reduced other quantities in an imprecise sort of proportion — four Tbs of butter, for instance, whirred rapidly with the flour in the food processor.  A couple of dried apricots, chopped, and a tablespoon of currants, all soaked in a bit of tea, got thrown in, and a little sprinkle of turbinado sugar on top sparked against the not-very-sweet (but quite moist) substance. I liked them, as did my friend T and the singing gang.

Luck of the.

I wanted to contribute to dinner at Camille’s for Movie Night, but I know by now that C has usually got the main categories well covered, so I offered to bake and bring a moderately-timely Irish (or Irish-ish) soda bread.  I looked at at least a dozen recipes and had these four open when I was baking.  In the end I relied most on the King Arthur Flour Irish brown bread, but changed pretty much everything.  (Considering (a) how varied the recipes were and (b) soda bread’s something made by rustic grandmas, stringent accuracy seemed not required.) I decided I needed only a three-cup bread, so I used two cups of all-purpose and a cup of mixed whole wheat and oat flakes, a tablespoon of sugar, approximate 3/4 amounts of salt, baking soda, and baking powder, a tablespoon or so of melted butter, a little over a cup of yogurt blended with almond milk, a touch of vinegar to make sure there was enough acid, and a third-cup or so of soaked currants and raisins.  Aside from sticking to the ungreased (dumb!) cast iron skillet I baked it in, it came out handsomely brown and craggy and tasted very good, not so dry or so plain as “real” soda bread but not so ornamented as to approximate cake.  It was eaten with glee by the Movie Night gang and, the leftovers, by me for breakfast.  I wish I had a picture.

I made another yeast bread on the more-or-less Bittman method, this one almost white with a little chickpea flour and some oats.  I let it over-rise on the first rise, but it still worked out nicely. And another batch of the super ranger cookies.

Haruspex Day 2015

The Ides of March roll round again. And once again, lousy haruspex as I am, I have no predictions for you, except the eternal and obvious (the snowdrops and crocuses will appear and give way to the daffodils and tulips, et cetera).  So this year’s link is to this note on the apotropaic function of Caesar’s reported words to his killers: And the same to you!

Pans and parchment.

C’est à dire, more baking.  That lemon-almond cake came out tasty but a bit dry, though it had both a dose of syrup and a layer of icing.

As for yeasty things, I’ve shifted for the last three loaves for a variation on Mark Bittman’s food-processor, brief-knead, slightly extended-rise recipe (in HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING, though using a warm liquid as suggested by the Fleishmann’s site (a mix of water and almond milk) and continuing to vary my flour mix with rye, buckwheat, whole wheat, and oat flour, flakes, and bran, alongside all-purpose.   I kind of miss the kneading, so I may move back to that, though it’ll mean keeping the mix a little drier than I have made the last couple of batches.  The crazy thing is that they all come out pretty similar in terms of texture, soft and with a fairly tight sandwich-bread crumb.

Today I made these chocolate gingerbread bars.  I don’t have “pumpkin pie spice” so I used a teaspoon of cinnamon and a quarter-teaspoon or so each of clove, allspice, and nutmeg along with the ground ginger, I used lowfat yogurt instead of sour cream, and I put the melted butter in with the wet ingredients (no instruction is given for it).  They are actually delicious, or so I think.  Let’s see what the Sacred Harp gang thinks tonight at Midweek singing. And I’m all out of brown sugar.

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Breakfast life musings.

I woke up on this bright morning, came into the kitchen, and was delighted to see that (unusually) I’d done all the dishes last night and my sink was clean and empty.  I made pancakes and sat down with them, coffee, and the Internet.

An hour later the sink was full: two pans, two bowls, whisk, turner, and tongs, measuring cups and spoons, plate, fork, knife, spoons; and I had listened (via Twitter) to an extended conversation about moles and molecatching in the farmlands of England.

What, I ask myself, does it all mean?

Battering.

I’ve been doing a good bit of baking: I have the time, it warms the kitchen, and a perhaps illusory sense of productiveness is inspired.  Well, not illusion exactly: the baked goods exist; but they’re not really to the point. Nevertheless, they are tasty. I’ve made several batches of the Ranger Cookies (with, variously, raisins and nuts, dried cranberries, chopped crystallized ginger, and chocolate chips) and a version of Nanaimo Bars with a brownie base, averting the need to buy graham crackers and adding, perhaps, extra deliciousness.  I’ve worked my way through some of the bananas in the freezer with a couple of loaves of banana bread.  I made lemon cornmeal shortbread cookies that came out really nicely and now I can’t figure out what recipe I used. I bring the results to my singing friends.

I’ve been baking bread every few days too.  Nothing artisanal, but various off-white sandwich loaves that have a little oil in them so they’ll keep.  One loaf had whole wheat, bread flour, and all-purpose; one had buckwheat, bread flour, and ap; another added some rye; some have had poppy, sesame, and (or) sunflower seeds; the latest has oat flour, a couple of tbs of oat bran, and all-purpose.  Sweeteners have included honey, sugar, and molasses. The first couple I made from the ancient Broccoli Forest book with its comic-book instructions.  Then I realized that (a) I had instant yeast, requiring different treatment, and (b) that recipe had led me to very dry doughs, especially in winter and using hygroscopic whole grains, difficult to knead and resistant to rising.  At the Fleishmann’s Yeast page I found instructions about the different kinds of yeasts — instant yeast doesn’t get proofed, but mixes in with the dry ingredients — a skeleton recipe calling for just one short rest and one in-pan rise, and more.  I’ve been trying out keeping the dough wetter, and remembering to add more salt.  The loaves are mostly pretty good, nothing to win a prize but modestly well-textured and tasty.

Today I used four lemon-almond cake recipes (mostly this one) to make a cake to take to dinner at my friends Eric and Sylvia’s. Haven’t tasted it yet, but it looks pretty.

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They Also Serve: Maps to the Stars

“Maps to the Stars” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Bad language, bad sex, bad vibes.

A.O. Scott on Maps to the Stars.

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