Maria has been baking. Maria has been blogging. Maria has been taking absolutely spectacular photos of her French kitchens and French baking ingredients.
Alicia has not been baking. Alicia has not been blogging. Alicia has let the battery run out on her camera and doesn't even remember how to take a picture.
So my posts will definitely not be so entertaining as Maria's. But if I don't write about what I've been doing, I will get even further behind in the race through Maida's book, so I better at least write about what I HAVE accomplished!
American Beauty Apples
At the beginning of January, my friend and co-GS leader Lisa asked me if I wanted to participate in the 3-Day Breast Cancer walk. Of course I said yes. I would never pass up an opportunity to walk 60 miles. Now if I didn't have to raise $2,300 it would be perfect. Of course Natalie wants to do it too. So make that $4,600. And Maddy is considering coming home from college for that weekend too. So that will be $6,900. Hmm.
Even though the walk isn't until mid-November, we decided to start our training with a 5-mile walk around Lake Miramar on the second weekend in January. The night before the walk, I made the American Beauty Apples.
As pointed out by Maria, things have changed since Maida wrote the book. I do recall being able to purchase boxes of highly sweetened raspberries. I couldn't find them -- even though I went to a questionable market which carries old-fashioned things. I did find a bag of "sweetened" raspberries however, so figured they would be good. And I don't think Rome Apples exist anymore. I bought some expensive type of apple called Honey Gold which looked very similar to what I remember Rome Apples looking like (very round and very red.) 6 Honey Gold apples set me back $12!
I was not a fan of this recipe. It involved coring apples, which is a job that I consider truly awful. The core never seems to come out cleanly, so there are always little seeds and stuff stuck in the apple after you are done. And then you still have that little butt end of the apple left, and if you get it in your mouth while you are eating the apple it is a most unpleasant experience. And then you had to thaw the raspberries and shove them through a sieve, which took FOREVER. I realized, after I was done, that I should have used the food mill. Instead, I got carpal tunnel syndrome mashing the berries through the super fine sieve I have. Not too much fun.
The baking of these apples also required a lot more work than I enjoy, because I kept having to open the oven, take the apples out, "baste" them, and put them back in. This continued for a while until the red raspberry puree had congealed around the apples. The apples looked quite spectacular actually. Of course, I didn't take a picture of them, so you have to take my word for it.
I think of baked apples as something that you eat hot. But Maida specified that these apples were to be eaten cold. I left them on the counter to cool, but then forgot about them and went to bed. Fortunately Maddy spotted them on the counter before she went to bed and shoved them into containers and put them in the refrigerator. Good job Maddy.
Next morning was our training walk. When we got up in the morning, I had received a text message saying that the walk was going to begin 1/2 hour earlier than I thought it was going to start. AAAAH! Maddy, Natalie and I threw on our clothes, washed our faces and brushed our teeth, and shoved a couple apples into bowls for eating in the car while we rushed to Lake Miramar.
The apples tasted like cold applesauce covered in raspberry jam. I like applesauce. I like raspberry jam. But I apparently don't like the combination. They were alright, but nothing to write home about (or even to blog about.). I ended up throwing away 4 of the 6 apples (so $8 worth of apples). I couldn't get myself to sell them to anybody else. I'm hoping there aren't anymore baked apple recipes in the cookbook. I haven't looked yet.
I made the doughnuts on January 24. I was determined to make the doughnuts that weekend. I had told the girls I was going to be making doughnuts, and that was definitely going to happen. I didn't get to it on January 23 because I ended up running all over San Diego trying to buy Maddy a Mac laptop at the "educational discount" price. That was a complete nightmare. By Saturday evening, I was exhausted and didn't feel like doing anything else. When Cassandra suggested that I should probably start the doughnuts that night, because "they might take a while," I told her that I would make them on Sunday. I didn't even look at the recipe. Probably because I knew she was right.
So when Sunday morning dawned, and I looked at the recipe, I discovered that Cassandra was, in fact, right. These doughnuts require a great deal of downtime. If I had started on them the night before, I would have been pulling the dough out of the refrigerator and cutting out doughnuts for their final rise. Instead, I was boiling potatoes.
My first sign that things were not going to go well with the doughnuts was that the yeast in the measuring cup really didn't rise too far. Nope. Not even close to double. But it did rise a little bit. That's what I kept telling myself. And the package wasn't expired. And I was NOT going to go out and buy new yeast. I got through the whole potato ricing, mixing, kneading process (on my new Roul Pat, which is the best cooking thing I have ever purchased in my life), and stuffed the bowl of dough into the oven with the light on so it could rise.
At that point, Pete suggested that we all pile into the car and drive up to the snow. In San Diego, this is a big event. People pull out the sleds from the mothballs, load up coolers, bring chairs and tables, and drive to the snow in droves. We just don't get snow that often. It had been snowing quite a bit that week in the mountains, and everything we heard said that you needed chains. I didn't have chains. So while Pete drove off to find chains, I took Maddy to the mall (an hour before it even opened) because she had decided to go to the mall instead of to the snow. A decision which I still do not understand.
When I got back from the mall, I looked at the bowl of dough. It really had not budged an inch. But I told myself it had risen a little bit, maybe, and "punched" it down (it didn't take very much effort to get it to go down . . .) and put it in the refrigerator for the "curing" phase.
And we went up to the snow. You didn't need chains. And there were about a million people up there. Thank god we chose to drive through Julian because the other road to the snow was backed up about 20 miles. We had a blast! We didn't have sleds in mothballs, so we just had a giant snowball fight.
When we got back from the snow, I pulled that bowl of dough out of the refrigerator and Sam and I cut out the doughnuts. I put the doughnuts onto cookie sheets and put them back into the oven to rise.
There was a little movement. Maybe. It was now an hour past the time when I was supposed to get the girls back to Stuart (he had given me permission to get them back late due to the doughnuts). I pulled the really super flat doughnut circles out of the oven and started frying them. My oil was apparently too hot, because they came out of the oil VERY BROWN. But they were puffy.
It was then I realized that I had no powdered sugar and could not make the glaze. Using Maria's technique, I just rolled the hot doughnuts in sugar.
So my doughnuts looked like the plain cake doughnuts they sell at doughnut shops covered in sugar. They were not large and puffy. They were kind of low and flat and really brown.
But apparently they were good. I forgot one part of this story. I hate doughnuts. I won't even eat a doughnut hole. Everybody else, though, said they were tasty. I gave almost all of them to the girls and don't know what happened to them. I brought the rest to work, and know that Ben ate at least one. He said it was like a Beignet. I guess that's good praise from a boy from Louisiana.
Big Daddy Cake
I made this one last Friday night. The Girl Scout troop was going camping and I recall Maria saying that this was a good cake to make if you have a lot of people to feed. It wasn't a LOT of people, but more than usual.
This cake is pretty fun to make, but uses a lot of butter. Kind of a scary amount, actually. And I was thinking my chocolate bars were 3 oz, and so used two of them to make up the 6 oz I needed for the tunnel of fudge. Oops. They were 4 oz. 8 oz. of chocolate in the tunnel of fudge, making for an even fudgier tunnel.
Although I buttered my pan and covered it with pecan dust, the cake did not want to come out of the pan on Friday night after the requisite cooling period. Because I started on the cake after work, and it takes a long time to bake, I had already stayed up way later than I wanted to. So I just left the cake upside down on the cake plate hoping that the forces of gravity would slide the cake out of the pan. No such luck.
So Saturday morning, I was faced with one of those situations where you know you need the cake to come out of the Bundt pan, you know it is almost impossible to get stuck cakes out of Bundt pans due to all the nooks and crannies in such pans, and you want a perfect looking cake to take a picture of. Oh -- that would be Maria, because I have stopped taking pictures for some reason. But I did want a perfect cake anyway.
I finally settled on my flexible cake frosting spatula, which I slowly worked around the cake. After about 20 minutes of this (20 minutes which I should have spent packing and getting out camping supplies and chopping vegetables and things in preparation for the camping trip), I got the cake out in one beautiful piece. Patience is a virtue. Just not my virtue.
Now 20 minutes behind on my preparations for the camping trip, I enlisted the support of my 3 able-bodied children to do things such as chop potatoes, clean out the car, and restock my camp kitchen, and made the glaze for the cake. This time I used the proper amount of chocolate, but it still looked like a lot of glaze. Cake done, I helped pack of the car and hit the road to Lake Perris. Which I have decided is one of my favorite campgrounds -- if you go in January.
We broke the cake out during the late afternoon and everybody had slices -- even Pete, who hates desserts. Everybody seemed to like the cake. Especially Maddy and I, who had more the next day for lunch. After skydiving. Ok, ok. Indoor skydiving. Really works up an appetite, let me tell you.
I liked this cake. The cake part reminded me of my favorite cake when I was a kid -- Rae Sveen's pound cake made with Crisco, sugar, flour, eggs, and almond extract. I could eat almost an entire cake by myself, especially if coupled with coffee ice cream. It is really a wonder I didn't weigh 400 pounds when I was a kid, considering how much I ate. Then there was the whole tunnel of fudge, which was tasty. And the crunch of pecans interspersed throughout the cake made for a nice contrast.
Maddy took the leftover cake, which had kind of rolled over in the cake carrier, to school. Apparently the people at school declared it "weird" and "too sweet." But they ate it.
I don't think it was weird. And all of Maida's stuff is "too sweet." That is the hallmark of a Maida Heatter dessert.
So apples, doughnuts and cake. I liked the cake. The apples -- not so much. The doughnuts -- well, I never like doughnuts.