Monthworth of Baking – A Photographic Medley

Okay, maybe it’s not an entire month, but it certainly feels that way. All I know for sure is that it’s been a damn long time since I posted anything about the baking I’ve been doing, so much so that I’m not sure I’ll be able to catch up if devote a post to each one. So I’m going to have to cheat a little and post ’em all in one shot.

At least you’ll get pictures and the links to the recipes that inspired them. Hopefully I will be able to go back to my regular bake-then-post model soon, but it just seems like life has had a habit of getting away from me. For example, can you believe it’s already the middle of August?? That just seems so crazy to me!

Anyway, enough stalling – here we go.

The Quest for that perfect French Vanilla Ice Cream, inspired by David Lebovitz’s recipe. Of course. Although, sadly, I’m still in search of that deceptively simple yet elusive flavour. This was a great ice cream, don’t get me wrong, but it just felt a bit too close to frozen custard.

The Quest continues. Anyone have any tried-and-true recipes they care to point me in the direction of, feel free!

Pink Popcorn Candy Balls, made as party favours for a three year old’s birthday party.

Recipe inspired in part by Making Great Candy and also from popcorn machine manual that included a couple of suggested recipes.

Here’s a tip: don’t overlook these  manuals. What you may think is just some instructions for use and warranty limitations could be a goldmine of classic recipe inspiration.

 

Rhubarb Custard Pie with Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream

I’ve begun a whole new love affair with rhubarb. I don’t put any extra sugar on it which allows for that natural tartness to come through.

My mouth is kind of starting to water just thinking about it. The recipe for the pie came from a Women’s Institute cookbook (home of all great pie recipes) while the ice cream – which might just be the very best strawberry ice cream I’ve ever tasted – came from here. I feel it’s important to note that the blogger was inspired by Lebovitz’s book,The Perfect Scoop.

Pate de Choux. My first attempt at making choux pastry. 

I have never in my life turned an oven up so high, plus I have the horrible habit of not being able to keep the door closed because I want to see what’s going on (and the inside light doesn’t work right now on my antique Eaton Viking), so not being able to do that for the first ten minutes was agony. But, I suppose, we have to suffer for our art. Sigh… 

This recipe comes from a book that has become my kitchen sidekick, The Baking Answer Book.

I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to…well, a lot of things, but I was constantly Googling random things like why the butter and water has to be so cold when using it for pastry (so that it will create pockets of steam that lead to a flakier crust), so this book has saved me from hours of wasted time that would have been better used baking as well as excess data usage on my iPhone!

 

Blueberry Quinoa Muffins came out of two things: a general curiosity and the lack of oatmeal for Sunday morning breakfast. I have been wanting to experiment with sweeter dishes using quinoa, so I swapped out the water you would normally boil the quinoa in for soy milk and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. The result was somewhere between an oatmeal and a rice pudding consistency – it was quite tasty, but thick enough to grout your tile if you let it stand too long.

I noticed that there was quite a bit left over, so not wanting to waste any of it I set about finding something to use the remaining quinoa. Although I look all over the Web for alternatives,  I should really know by now that there are generally two sites I can count on for most things: David Lebovitz and Martha Stewart. But I don’t mind – most of the thrill is in the chase, isn’t it?

I used Martha’s  recipe for the muffins, swapping out the vegetable oil for butter and the raisins for frozen blueberries. I did have to Google whether it was better to use frozen or fresh blueberries in baking – as it turns out frozen is the better choice as they hold their shape during the baking process and lend a nice extra bit of moisture to the overall texture of the finished product. This is probably common knowledge for most of you, but keep in mind – I’m new to this. Forgive me?

Macarons, since I’ve discovered how to do them, are my new obsession. It seemed only natural to pair it with another one of my latest obsessions: lemon.

The result? A macaron that tastes  almost exactly like lemon meringue pie. The ones pictured here deviate somewhat from the typical rounds, but take note: they do indeed have pied and therefore qualifies them as actual macarons. Siames twins and heart-shaped, but macarons nonetheless.

Recipe for both macaron shells and lemon curd filling from another kitchen sidekick of mine, I Love Macarons

 

Phew… I think that should just about do it. I may have almost got caught up here. I’m sure there’s something missing here, but these are the highlights that have come out of my sweet little kitchen over the past few weeks. I used more of my cookbooks than usual, which is good since that means they aren’t sitting around collecting dust.

Enjoy!

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Something Old, Something New: Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble Pie

In my admittedly limited baking experience, I have found that despite the vast amount of recipes available by various cookbooks, recipe blogs, and the Internet in general I will inevitably have the most success making something from the timeworn Women’s Institute cookbook given to me by my mother when I was about sixteen. I think it was an attempt on her part to interest me in cooking, as well as impart a bit of a lesson in family history. Both grandmothers, two aunts and at least one great aunt had their recipes included there, as well as a host of others from names I’d heard many times throughout my life. It’s like a culinary version of a time capsule.

Although that first attempt failed miserably – I was far more interested in boys and bands at that age to want anything to do with country kitchen life – I did keep the book with me. It even moved across an ocean and back. I would bust it out whenever I had a hankering for my grandma’s oatmeal cookies or banana muffins, then back to the bookshelf it would go. But it wasn’t until my mother passed away last November that it has been getting any regular use at all.

There are a number of contributing factors, of course, but mostly it’s because baking has become a form of therapy. And using that cookbook in particular serves as a link between me and my mother, as well as those women who have gone before her. Every now and then it hits me, that connection, and then the tears will start to flow. Like today, for example.

I had picked up a bunch of rhubarb and a quart of strawberries from the farmer’s market because they looked so inviting. I’ve never attempted to make anything with rhubarb before – the last time I think I baked a pie it was pumpkin, using the canned variety. I’ve never really been down with anything too labour-intensive, and hulling berries and cutting rhubarb stalks into one inch pieces would definitely fall into that category. But for some reason, today I was really looking forward to it. There is a certain zen-like quality to the repetitive action of cutting the fruit and tipping it into a bowl to be blended with some sugar and spread onto an oatmeal crust. Until it hit me – the last time I would have had strawberries and rhubarb together in a room would have been when I was a teenager, living at home with my parents. I would have been watching my mother slice up the berries, slapping my hand as I stole some to eat. She would often send me out back for more of the rhubarb that grew wild at the edge of the field our house was surrounded by, since she would underestimate how much she needed. When I would return, there would usually be a small bowl of cut-up berries set aside for me; no sugar, just the way I liked them.

Cue the tears. God, I wish she was still here.

I’d like her to see that I did learn something after all, that even after all those years of resisting anything to do with the kitchen that everything she’d tried to teach me had somehow sunk in anyway. That I was finally somewhat proud of my rural roots, proud enough to pass on one of my grandmother’s recipes to a co-worker looking to make the perfect pecan pie. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my newfound hobby, it’s that you can’t go wrong with a Women’s Institute or church group recipe. And I come from a long line of both.

I made this strawberry rhubarb crumble pie by using this recipe. It’s a name that I know I’ve heard but cannot place. If Mom were here, she would no doubt tell me not only who Marilyn Ismond was but where she lived, who she went to school with, and who else she is related to in the book.

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