January 26, 2016


I'm not a huge fan of most single purpose kitchen tools.  I mean, it is easier to separate an egg just using the egg shells, or by pouring the egg in your palm and letting the white slide through your fingers, than using one of those egg separating devices, and a knife really does a decent job of cutting up an apple instead of needing one of those round apple slicing tools.   They take up space and generally they get used rarely to never. 

Sometime before Christmas, I must have come across a 19th c recipe for Madeleines.  It sort of stuck in my mind as I'd never seen a Madeleine pan in any shop I had ever been in.   A Madeleine pan is really a single purpose piece of bakeware, and not a small one you can hide in a drawer.   This one has 18 decent sized shell shapes and it is as large a a cookie sheet or a big muffin pan.   Anyway, I was looking for a particular mug for a present and this outlet store had Madeleine pans of all things.   I popped back in last week and they still had them, for $8.    I couldn't resist bringing it home with me.  

I haven't looked for the period Madeleine recipe, but I did adapt a modern one to be gluten and dairy free. Oh MY GOODNESS!   This is a single use pan that deserves space in my cupboard.  Yes, I could use a little mini-muffin pan.  I already have one of those that sits rarely used, but the little shell shaped Madeleines are so pretty and so very delicious! 

 (dairy/gluten free)

1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour/starch
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3-4 tbsn vegan margarine 

melt the margarine.   In a bowl, mix the flours, starch, xanthan gum and salt, stirring well to completely blend them together.   In a separate bowl (I used a stand blender) beat the eggs until thick and light.  Add the sugar and vanilla to the eggs and keep beating until well blended.    Turn the mixer off, add the dry ingredients to the wet and then the melted margarine.  Mix until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.    Pour the batter into a ziplock bag, squeeze out the air and set in the fridge for an hour or so.     Oil and flour the pan (I used tapioca starch and that really didn't work all that well)   Preheat the oven to 375° F.     After the batter has set for an hour, cut the corner off the ziplock bag and pipe it into the Madeleine pan.  This really limits the mess but you could use a spoon or a reuseable piping bag as well.   This recipe filled all 18 shells with little leftover.   Bake for about 8 - 10 minutes until the cakes are browned and spring back when touched gently.   Let cool for a few minutes in the pan and then turn out on a rack to finish cooling.  When cold,  dust with icing sugar or you could dip half in chocolate, however taste testers decided that the chocolate was overkill and these were plenty good enough without.

  These are a little too brown but ohhh, they are so delicious.

January 24, 2016

Wintery things

It was sunny yesterday.  It was cold too, but the sun shone and the sky was blue.   During the winter we get an awful lot of white and grey skies.  After day after day where the ground was white, the roads were white and the skies were white, the blue sky was so very welcome.

A good sized bird brushed it's wings against the fresh snow, leaving an image as if it had been trying to make a snow angel.   It was big enough to have been at least a BlueJay or maybe even a crow .

The girls came out to play in the sunshine.  They didn't all keep to the trodden paths I've made doing chores.  Some waded through the snow to get to other parts of the yard.   I wish I had a photo of 4 of them sitting on the top edge of the chicken wire garden fence, and the Bedstraw stalks which have intertwined amongst the strands of the chicken wire.   They were sunning their backsides!

  The sky was a glorious shade of blue.  Not that pale, watery winter blue that we usually get.  This was a blue that gives hope that spring will soon arrive.  

Hunkering down inside during the most recent blustery weather, it was too cool in my work areas to finish up my in-depth study, so instead, I set my wheel up near the woodstove and played with some of the fibre I've been washing up.
 Three bobbins of playing around with the longdraw produced 360 yards of 2 ply yarn.   I will just keep spinning until I have enough for a project; a major project.   Maybe this will become a sweater or at the very least hat and mitts. Last year I had 3 pair of mitts in rotation. They were a) a fairly sturdy yarn pair (not all soft and yummy) which held up well for barn chores, b) a somewhat softer probably Shetland pair, which were comfortable for every day use and c) a Merino/Alpaca pair which were sooooo soft and sooooo yummy and which I can totally remember the exact day that I lost one of them late last winter.   However, I still had 2 working pair of mitts at home, so it wasn't an issue, other than I lost one of a lovely pair of mitts.

  Fast forward to this winter when I can find 3 mittens, none of which has a mate.   There is one barn mitten, one medium soft mitten and one Merino/Alpaca blend and only the last one should really be mateless.   At least they are all white, so despite having different ribbing patterns, they all sort of look like they should go together.

January 19, 2016


 My husband has discovered Dr. Who videos.   Because this year's hockey schedule has been weird - lots of back to back games, so 2 in a row and nothing in between, not even Habs, Ducks (my son's favourite team)  or any other team, just nothing to listen to at all.   So instead of listening to games on the radio, the man has been playing Dr. Who videos.   Season 1 of the latest incarnation of the serial, had me finish the last sleeve, assemble and stitch the button band.   That button band took  4 episodes alone!   I have a number of suitable buttons, but in numbers of less than 5 and I need 5 buttons.  They will have to wait until I get to town and that won't be until this stupid snow and wind let up.   We've had squalls and wind and more squalls and wind.  Despite having had what seems like only 7 days of real winter, I am already tired of it :)
(I love the sweater - it is warm, comfortable and looks half decent!  All wins the the scheme of things)
I had a vendor packet made up with applications, welcome letter, map etc for the spring conference the guild is hosting.   I was arguing with the cat, who has been very clinging of late and instead of saving it, I hit the wrong button and cancelled, shut things down and lost it all.   I've been procrastinating rebuilding the darned thing this morning and instead have been washing fleece.   This is still the rest of the 14 lb in depth study fleece.   I've been spinning up the washed fleece leftover from the study and realized that the large bin that I've used for storage of the washed locks, is only half full now.    I started of washing it with packets of single locks, but this last batch has been bulk fibre, loose in lingerie bags, just to speed things up.   I won't get the same retention of lock structure, but since I am carding it into rolags and spinning it with a long draw, it won't matter to the fibre preparation.   It will dry quite quickly because I've commandeered the space in front of the woodstove, for my drying rack.

January 18, 2016

Culinary Vices Challenge - HFF

The second theme for the Historical Food Fortnightly is Culinary Vices, described as foods that are really, really naughty; full of butter, cream and all sorts of decadence.    This theme caused a few head scratches and a lot of research.  Since dairy is completely out of the question, I had to find a recipe that I could either substitute or just didn't use dairy.  Since butter and cream are the main components of many, many decadent foods, cakes and such, I was left wondering what to do.     I could use a cake recipe with 30 eggs, but they tend to make really large cakes and still need butter, plus the celiac thing and raisins - are they all plum cakes?  giggle

In the end I went with the 1850 edition of Mrs. Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book, published in New York and Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery.  Directions for Cookery, in it's Various Branches, written by Miss Leslie - thirty-eighth edition, 1851, Pennsylvania.

Boston Cream Cake is basically a Choux Pastry recipe, with slightly different proportions.   Looking at the quantities in the original recipes, it would make a lot of puffs, so I cut the recipe down to 1/3.   
Preheat oven to 425° F

Boston Creme Cake
 1/3 c butter (vegan margarine)
1 1/3 c flour (1/2 c brown rice flour, 1/2 c tapioca flour, 1/4 c millet flour, 1/4 c white rice flour)
for gluten free 3/4 tsp xanthan gum.  Don't use if you are using wheat flour.
1 1/3 c boiling water
4 eggs

The recipe states to rub the butter into the flour, then add all the flour into the boiling water.  You need to stir vigorously here because what you are doing is making a big ball of dough and you need to incorporate the flour thoroughly and have the mixture cook as well.   The mixture will come together in a ball and leave a film over the bottom and sides of the pot.  This is normal and if you soak the pot as soon as you get the dough cooling, it will clean up easily.

Once the dough is cool enough to not cook the eggs, break one egg in to the dough and beat it well until thoroughly blended.   The dough will look like it has separated into ribbons and if you just keep mixing it, all of a sudden it comes together.   Add each egg separately and stir until blended in.

Grease a baking sheet or cover it with baking parchment and drop large globs of the dough on the pan.   Leave a bit of space between blobs of dough.   Bake for 25-35 minutes until well puffed and nicely browned.   Slit each puff open or poke with a skewer to let the steam escape, and let cool.

Mock Cream or Blanc Mange or Custard

Miss Leslie's Blancmange
For filling, I checked out a number of different recipes from similar period books, give or take 10 years, and ended up with a bit of a combined recipe.   There were many recipes for Blanc Mange or a cornstarch thickened milk custard dessert and many recipes for custards which were similar, save for the cornstarch.  Mrs. Beecher's Mock Cream recipe is a flour thickened blanc mange, flavoured with rosewater or lemon essence.   To get the decadence theme in their and to avoid the little stringy white bits that I almost always need to strain out of my custards, I used just egg yolks and not whole eggs.   Because I have 11 laying hens right now, eggs are easy to come by and are a bit of my own nod to decadence   Most of the blancmange recipe say to serve with cream, so I used so whipped cream as well. 

Mock Creme/ Blancmange

2 c milk, 3 tbsn cornstarch, 4 egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp flavouring lemon or vanilla   (almond milk and vanilla bean used)

Mix the egg yolks with the sugar and cornstarch and stir until very well blended.   Heat up the milk over medium heat until bubbles are formed along the edges and it is quite hot.   Temper the egg yolk mixture by adding about 1/2 cup of hot milk and stirring in vigorously.    The add the warmed and diluted egg mixture to the hot milk, stirring constantly until the mixture just comes to a boil.  Keep stirring so it doesn't burn.  Take it off the heat and stir in the flavouring.   Stir once in a while as it is cooking to prevent a skin from forming on top.  or not

Recipe:  Boston Cream Cake - Mrs Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book, 1850 (NY)

Time:   It didn't take that long, maybe 30 minutes to prepare the dough.  While the oven was preheating, I made the cream puff dough.   I did use the stand blender to add in the eggs.  It didn't save any time compared with mixing in the eggs by hand, but it freed up my hands to wash dishes and start the filling.   I am guessing a bit on the bake time because I ran out to collect eggs and ended up feeding and watering the chooks, and didn't check the time before I headed out to the barn.  The blancmange took another 20 minutes or so, after I got back in.  

How Successful:   It was really good, despite being gluten and dairy free.  Despite not really having globs of butter and gallons of cream, it felt like a very rich and special.

How Accurate:   Well, it was dairy and gluten free, so not accurate at all in that case, but the process was accurate and I am pretty certain the end product was pretty close, all things considered.   I forgot that I was out of vanilla and only had not quite enough lemon extract and several vanilla beans, so I split open a vanilla bean and scraped out the seeds, adding the seeds and the pod to the milk and set it to soak before I headed out to the barn.  I removed the pod when I added the tempered eggs back into the pudding mixture.   I haven't seen any recipes using vanilla beans, so that was a total not period addition.  However, it was very, very tasty!