Category Archives: Baking

Limping Along

This past week I have been sick, not horribly so, but sick enough that I’m not getting much sleep and daily activities seem to require a lot of effort.  The kind of sick that requires lots of over the counter measures and an all day supply of hot tea to be functional.  Germs don’t really care if you have 20 dozen cookies you want to bake or gifts that need to be bought or loaves of bread to bake.  They just come on in and take over your life when they feel like it and we just have to sit back and watch it happen. What little energy I have, has been devoted to baking.  The house is a mess, no presents have been wrapped, and meal planning for the holidays has been almost nonexistent.  I did buy a ham.  That should feed us for a couple days.  We’ll survive on cookies and ham this Christmas.

The boys were a big help to me over the weekend when we baked up cookies for packages that needed to be sent and for a cookie exchange.

Most of these doughs were made and frozen before I got sick and they just required cutting, decorating, and baking.  Then, when the pizzelle maker came out of the pantry, the husband got in on the action as well.

Making pizzelles is a four person operation: one to scoop (that was me), one to time, one to remove the cookies, and the last one to cool and pack them.

The boys also did most of the packing up.

We put each type of cookie in its own tin  so that flavors and moisture levels don’t mingle.  Then the boys bagged up a lot of cookies and packed up the boxes we wanted to mail out.

Which reminds me that I never announced the winner of my giveaway!  It was  Sara, also known as crazysheeplady on Instagram.  She has a great blog called Punkin’s Patch where she documents her life as a sheperdess.  Hopefully, her package will get there in the next day or so.  Thank you to everyone who entered!

Once those cookie boxes were sent out (also known as stage 1 of Christmas baking), I turned my attention to stage 2: breads.  First on the agenda was Panettone.

I make these every year with the same recipe.  The only thing I change is to substitute candied chestnuts for half of the fruit/candied peel mixture.  This year I also decided not to do the glaze.  It’s very messy and stuff falls everywhere when you turn them upside down to hang.  I just sprinkle them with a little pearl sugar and it looks pretty enough for me.  This year, I also tried a version with dried pear and chocolate.  We’re looking forward to trying that one.

One advantage to being sick and homebound is that it has allowed me to develop a rolling schedule for feeding the starter and building these bread doughs.  If I time it right, I can bake a pandoro in the morning and a panettone in the evening.  Of course, last night’s pandoro did not rise in our cold kitchen, so it is getting some remedial time in our furnace room which is the warmest room in the house.

Hopefully, these will turn out well and we’ll have some yummy bread to go with our cookies and ham.  Maybe I should try to cook something red or green, too.  How about these.  Would these count as a vegetable?

I thought we were done with cookies, but I had to squeeze these in for my younger son.  I’ll tell you the story next time!

Hope your holiday preparations are humming along!  What are your strategies for getting it all done when time is running out?

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Almost Last Minute

Is it just me or does time speed up in December?  I always start off with grand plans and lists and intentions, but halfway through the month, it seems I have barely made a dent in all the things I would like to do.  I’m sure there are many of you who feel the same way.  This is the point in which we have to make peace with not getting everything done and buying some gift cards.  It’s the though that counts and I’m not just saying that.  I know I’m not the only one with a list of people to get gifts for and for half of them I can’t think of anything to get.  I spend a lot of time racking my brain over these people and, if nothing has come to mind by this time of the month, gift cards are a wonderful invention.  That leaves me some spare time to try to finish off my Christmas baking wish list, yay.

The last time we talked, my list was really long.  Unfortunately, it only got longer and now has reached the point where it has to be trimmed.  I can’t make everything I’ve made in previous years AND add a few new things I’ve been itching to try.  Mostly, I am now baking whatever I feel like baking, because I really believe that if one is going to bake during this crazy season, it better be something you REALLY want to make.

Unfortunately, as sometimes happens when trying new things, the new stuff does not always work out the way we wish they would.  Like these Lebkuchen.

I had high hopes for this recipe since I love this cookie.  I made a recipe last year that was quite good and I  thought this one would be better and more authentic.  This year’s recipe is from Classic German Baking, which I mentioned last week.

There is no flour or leavening in this recipe and, as a result, what you you put into the oven is what you get when they come out.  They do not spread much or change really.  The dough was pretty sticky and hard to spread onto the papers, so that made for lumpy bumpy cookies.  I thought maybe the glaze would help its looks, but no.  The glaze was also a pain to apply evenly.  They taste ok, but I’ll just say that next I will go back to the recipe I made last year.  At least I got some good quality time with this cutie pie who helped me assemble them.

After that disappointment, I moved on to a new cookbook with some great Christmas recipes, Sweet by Helen Goh and Yotan Ottolenghi.  This is the book the husband used last week for me birthday cake.  I wanted to try the Soft Gingerbread tiles with Rum Butter glaze.

After I figured out how best to use the cookies stamps with this dough (coat them with a light film of oil for each cookie), these were fun to make, especially since I had some help from the husband.  The dough is easiest to handle when chilled and rolled between sheets of parchment.  I also found that the rum butter glaze was best applied by dipping the cookies into the glaze rather than brushing each cookie individually.  These might be our new favorite gingerbread cookie.  I love the look of the stamped ones, but I want to make another batch in some other shapes, too.  Maybe I’ll be able to get to that this weekend.

I’ve also got my sweet sourdough starter going to prep for pandoro and panettone baking next week.  On a whim yesterday, I decided to try out a sourdough kugelhopf recipe instead of discarding the unused portion of the starter.  I wasn’t sure if it would work because I have a stiff starter, whereas the recipe calls for a liquid one.  I just made up the difference in weight with water and a little extra flour.  The dough came together quite well.

However, it didn’t seem like it was very active for a long time, even after I transferred it to the pan for its last, long rise.  It seems, though, that a watched dough doesn’t rise.  I just had to ignore it for a few hours and it rose just fine.  It did take a couple extra hours, but our house is pretty cold, so that does not surprise me.  Once baked, it looked great.

What I was really impressed with, though, was the crumb structure.  It’s spongy, but firm, elastic, and yet sort of cakey, moist, and fine textured.  It was a little tangy from the sourdough and just a little sweet.  The bits of rum soaked fruit was a perfect complement.

It was so good, I decided to make another one today.  I love it when experiments work out like this!

Now that time is getting short, I don’t know how much more I will be able to get done before Christmas.  But, I’ve promised you a giveaway so I’m just going to keep it simple this year.  Leave me a comment on this post by midnight this Saturday, December 16, and I will randomly pick one winner to receive a box of goodies to be shipped on Monday, December 18th.  This giveaway is limited to United States addresses.  Only one comment per person, please!  Tell me what you’re doing to get ready for the holidays.  Are you baking a lot?  Shopping?  Making any gifts?  Trying to get over a cold (as some in our house are doing) or avoid illness (the others in our house are doing this)?  I’ve been tempted to go on a diet in preparation for the holiday week of treats, but it’s hard to do that with all the baking that is happening here!

 

Advent Season

Hello friends!  It’s been a crazy busy couple of months here as we continue to adjust to our high school/middle school schedule.  We were not prepared for the increased work load and all the issues that come with that.  It kind of threw us all off mentally and left hardly any time for extra things, especially during the week.  Oddly enough, now that the older one is swimming 2 hours everyday, our schedule seems to be settling down.  Maybe he just needed regular exercise to help his mind focused?  Or maybe we’ve all just adjusted our expectations.  Anyway, I’ll take it and run with it for now!

And now, it’s time for Christmas baking to begin!  Squeee!!!  I’m super excited this year for all the baking.  I think the early Thanksgiving holiday really helped us to get a head start on all things Christmas.  Already this week, I have tried three new cookie recipes:

Pfeffernusse from Classic German Baking by Louisa Weiss

Springerle, also from Classic German Baking

and Bakery Style Butter Cookies from Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen

I have literally been waiting for months since I got Classic German Baking to start baking some of the recipes in the Christmas chapter.  I love that that she has a special section for Christmas!  I chose to make Pfeffernusse and Springerle first because they are long keepers.  In fact, they are supposed to get better as they age.  This is perfect for including in packages that might go a long distance, like to a different country.  Neither one of these cookies has any butter in them, which makes them a different texture than most cookies out there, but we don’t mind that.  Actually, it’s probably better for our waistlines at this moment!  Both cookies are really yummy.

The Pfeffernusse are like a dry, bready, and chewy gingerbread.  The lemon glaze on that one really compliments the cookie well.  It was a very stiff dough. Next time, I might try a cake flour to get a softer dough.

We also made Springerle last year, but I used a different recipe, which I actually like better.  These are drier, but that could be because I baked them too long.  Next time, I will pull them out earlier.  That being said, those of us who like anise, preferred this recipe.  I preferred the fruity/floweryness of the recipe from King Arthur Flour.

The third cookie I made mostly because I had two egg yolks lying around and a container of sprinkles I wanted to use up.  These were a bit of a fiasco to make, only because of my choice of equipment.  I did not have a big star tip for piping and I actually dislike piping anyway (it hurts my hands).  Instead, I decided to use my cookie press.  We had a hard time getting them to press out evenly (a lot of them curled into strange shapes) and making them a uniform size was also quite challenging.  Not to mention, loading the press was a three person job (one to unscrew it, one to hold it, and then one to fill it).  Good thing there were three of us!  Anyway, despite all that, they are quite delicious.  I could do without the chocolate dip and sprinkles.  I left some plain, with just jam sandwiched between and those were my favorite.  The kids prefer the sprinkled ones, so everyone is happy, really.

This is a great start to the Christmas baking season.  There’s still a lot left.  So far, we are up to 9 different breads/pastries and 10 different kinds of cookies.  We just need to add a few more and we’d have enough to populate an advent calendar!

Greener

It would be quite impossible to catch you up on everything that has been going on here in the past month.  I’m continually astonished at how fast time goes by and I have so much to tell you that I don’t even know where to begin!  But, we are friends, right?  Have you ever noticed how true friends can go long periods of time without talking and then just pick up where they left off, just catching up on the highlights since they last talked?  That’s kind of what I’m going to do today because we just don’t have time for me to tell you every little detail.  Ok, I’m just going to dive in now.

Firstly, I have been doing a lot of baking.  Some of my very favorite bakes of late include:

Boston Cream Pie from the Canal House Cookbook.

The sponge cake part of this recipe is the real gem here.  My plan is to talk about this more at a later date, but that means I need to make it again, which I will do soon.  Promise.

We also loved this Tuscan Sourdough Cake, which is more like a bread.

It’s an excellent and tasty way to use up some of that sourdough starter that you need to discard every feeding time.

Recently, I also made chocolate babka using this recipe.

I have been loosely following King Arthur Flour’s Bakealong recipes.  If you hadn’t noticed, I am a sort of sucker for a bakelong, knitalong, or sewalong.  I haven’t made every recipe since they started back in September, but I have made a few.  They have all been good.

This babka, though. Yum.  I’ve made several other babka recipes in the years I have been baking, and I think this one is my favorite so far.  Other babkas have been too sweet or too sticky or have huge gaps between the layers after cooling.  This one has none of those problems.  Plus, it was relatively easy.

I’ve also recently joined the Food52 Cookbook Bakealong (see, it’s true that I am a sucker for a bakealong).  This month, we are baking from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft.

These are marzipan challah loaves using the recipe from his book.  My favorite thing about this book is that the recipes make a lot.  Why go to all that trouble to make just one loaf of bread?  My philosophy has always been to make more now and save time later.  The freezer is your best friend here.  We easily ate half a loaf in one sitting with our growing boys, so these four loaves will not last long.

I also have a new favorite cookbook for dinner (see I don’t always bake!).

Melissa Clark’s Dinner, Changing the Game is full of fairly easy and tasty dinners.  In the first week, I made three recipes and they were all delicious.  I don’t know about you, but making dinner gets to be boring sometimes and this book does a great job of bringing some new ideas to the table.  Highly recommend.

Ok, on to sewing.  During March and April, I was busy making a new quilt for a friend who is expecting.

Each square has fabric picked out by a different person in out little group of friends to be a virtual blanket of hugs and kisses for this little one to come.  It was a fun quilt to make.

I love how quilts can be a tangible gift of love.

I’ve also been working on my collection of 12.5 inch blocks from the Cookbook Quiltalong book.

I was trying to keep up, but got behind when I had to finish the baby quilt.  That’s ok.

My plan is to keep making these and combine them with other quilt along blocks I have done in the past to make one big scrappy quilt.

So far, I have 27 blocks and I think I will only need 36 for a queen sized quilt if you factor in sashing.  I considered not sashing, but I don’t think that will look right.

In my knitting life, I was able to finish a pair of socks a couple of weeks ago.

These are Vincennes by my friend Kim and were really fun to knit!  You can seem more details on my ravelry page.

I’ve also picked up my Triticum sweater again, but am afraid I am on sleeve island with this one.

I have one sleeve left to knit and can’t get up the gumption to even cast on.  It’s probably because I just recently got back from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, and I have new yarn for new projects I want to start immediately!

My Brambling Shawl from A Year of Techniques is done, though!  I finished this a couple of weeks ago.  It looked a bit like a snake sweater at first:)

But, it blocked out nicely.  It was very long and skinny, though.

It was hard to get it all in the picture!  It was fun practicing intarsia.

This month’s project is an adorable knitted mouse, but I think I am going to skip that one because there are a lot of parts to put together.  It’s a bit too much for me right now.

Also, I am taking part in The Starting Point Mystery Shawl Knitalong by Joji Locatelli.  I had a few days last month when I totally went through every ball and skein of fingering weight and lace weight yarn in my stash.  I eventually settled on using up a bit of my laceweight by holding it double.

Phew!  You are a true friend if you have followed along during this whole post so far!   I think we are mostly caught up now.  I’m hoping to blog a little more often from here on out, but perhaps make the posts quite a bit shorter to make them fit better in my routine.  You can also find me on Instagram as @crafteamama.

One more thing: the boys and I are closing our etsy shop on Tuesday, May 16.  We have a sale going on now.  25% off your entire order with coupon code CLOSING2017.  Tell your friends!  Here’s a link: 1514Homemade.  We are so grateful to everyone who has supported us the last several years.  It was fun while it lasted!

Tell me what you’ve been working on lately!  Thanks for coming by!

Merry Christmas!

Hi All!  Just popping in to announce the winner of the Christmas Treat Box Giveaway.  I used the random number generator to help me pick the winner and it chose post 67, which is Laura C. with this post:

“I’ve seen these cookies before but never had any. Glad the machine was fun and easy to use”

Well, Laura, there are some pizzeles in the box I just shipped off to you, so I hope you enjoy them and the other treats as well!

Thank you to all of you for being faithful readers and commenters.  I wish you could be here to enjoy a piece of cake with me.  Our event on Saturday ended up being cancelled due to weather, so we’ve had to eat the whole cake by ourselves, but I would have loved to share it with you.   You all make writing this blog a lot of fun!

Today, despite getting off to a late start, has been fairly productive.  My candied orange peel is drying now.

And the next batch of panettone dough is made and rising (very slowly).  Do you see how stretchy and sheer the dough is?  Heavenly!  I know it’s only Monday, but the week is looking good so far!  How’s your week looking?