Monday, January 31, 2011

Lemongrass, Granola and Cupcakes

But not together.  I don't think.  I was thinking about the lemongrass I have and then started thinking about making stock.  I believe I'll use some of the lemongrass to make an Asian inspired stock (with some ginger) for the Thai chicken noodle soup I like to make.  That will still leave me with plenty of lemongrass for other endeavors yet undecided.  But I keep thinking about lemongrass hibiscus tea, which is one of my all time favorite herbal teas, and trying to make a cupcake with those flavors.  Hmmmm

After another day of housework, I tried the cocoa granola again Saturday night, this time with almonds and honey.  Since I had read that honey could make the granola overly sweet, I decided to use some roasted almonds with sea salt to take the edge off the sweetness of the honey.  It was a little too effective.  My granola is not sweet at all.  Plan C will be honey, half roasted-salted almonds and half natural almonds.  Mind you, these "failures" don't stop me from devouring the granola I've made; I'm just on a quest to make it absolutely perfectly to my taste.  And yes, I know how compulsive I can be.  Am.

Sunday was my reward for doing cleaning type homemaking on Saturday.  Even though the kitchen was quite warm from the sun coming in, the need to bake took over.  The result was coconut-lime cupcakes and lavender-pear cupcakes. 

The coconut-lime cupcakes evolved from a recipe on the Top Chef Just Desserts website from contestant Danielle Keene.  The original recipe was coconut cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream (  Salted caramel buttercream sounds wonderful, but not what I was in the mood for.  I’m thinking of calling my version Harry Nilsson cupcakes since I “put de lime in de coconut”.  I’ll make a few more changes if I make these again.  The original recipe used sweetened, flaked coconut but I think desiccated, unsweetened coconut will give them a more coconut-y flavor.  The icing wasn’t too adventurous – coconut-lime buttercream.  My recipe, thank you very much. 

The lavender-pear cupcakes are from Stefanie Pollock of Cupcake Project ( with a few changes.  I add 1/2 tsp of salt and only used two pears.  I’ve made these before, but used a little less lavender in this batch.  While I love using lavender as an ingredient, I recognize that not everyone is as enamored with it.  These are not as “lavender-y” as ones I made previously.  I don’t think people will be as overwhelmed with the lavender and maybe won’t have that association with candles or bath products.  The last time I made these I iced them with white chocolate ganache (though not Vosges).  This time I decided to do a buttercream and came up with white chocolate champagne buttercream.  It actually worked out quite well.

Since I can’t have that many cupcakes around, I delivered some to my former colleagues and some to my dentist’s office (they’ve been quite wonderful to me).  The hubs will take the rest to work with him tomorrow.  I’ll be interested in the feedback on both of these cupcakes.

And in other news . . . the parts for my pressure canner arrived today.  Woo-hoo!!  Hopefully this week I’ll get the parts switched out and can start making and canning stock.  Is it wrong to be that excited about stock?  Don't answer that.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The "Other" Homemaker

Thus far today, I've not baked anything; I've not cooked anything (reheating leftover enchiladas in the microwave does not constitute cooking) or otherwise made anything.  I almost didn't make anything yesterday, but then around 8:00 last night I absolutely had to make some cocoa hazelnut granola I'd read about (  Two problems there, well, maybe three.  First, the grocery store I was at yesterday did not have rolled oats, only quick and old fashioned.  I went the old fashioned route.  Second, when I opened the jar of cane syrup my aunt gave me from a Masonic lodge in Alabama, I began to wonder just exactly what those in Alabama think cane syrup is because this tasted like what I call molasses.  Third, I seem to forget that I only like hazelnuts when they are raw.  I'm quite certain my final product was in no way similar to the original recipe, and even despite my aversion to roasted hazelnuts, I've still managed to eat half of what I made.  Next time I'll make it with almonds and honey.

Today I had planned on making some coconut lime cupcakes.  But the sun decided to shine beautifully today - for which I am so very grateful.  However, it also made the kitchen about 80 degrees through solar heating.  I guess you could call me a foul weather baker as it was far too warm to turn on the oven.

Instead I spent the day on other domestic pursuits, doing a lot and accomplishing little.  I'm totally okay with that though.  One of the things I did get done, was to give my lemongrass plant a trim to keep it off the floor.  I realize this isn't the part of lemongrass that's ordinarily used, but I just can't bring myself to toss something so fragrant.  Now I have all of these lemongrass leaves and my brain is churning like a cyclone wondering what I can do with them. 

It will definitely have to be some sort of infusion or dried and powdered because the leaves have the texture of a cat's tongue.  Maybe some lemongrass-hibiscus tea; or maybe infused into some simple syrup; or maybe somehow used in a cupcake; or . . . .

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Caramel Addict in the Making

The goat's milk caramels have exceeded my expectations.  I spent yesterday cutting them into bite-size squares (over 150 of them!) and wrapping them.  I'm not finished yet.  I believe my next experiment will involve trying to cut the recipe in half. 

Notice those little pieces at the top?  Those little "scraps" made some delicious caramel sauce.

Having this much caramel around is dangerous.  They're so addictive that even after coming home from the dentist's office from having a crown reattached, I was eating caramels.  I've also discovered that re-melted with a little cream, they make a heavenly caramel sauce for dipping slices of the awesome Fuji apples from the International Grocery.

My head is now filled with ideas for different kinds of caramels.  Caramels with chocolate, caramels with chile flakes, caramels with lavender, caramels with coconut, etc., etc., etc.  I need to go stock up on ingredients.  After all, I wouldn't want to be caught without corn syrup again.

The caramels did get wrapped.  It took about two hours to do them all.  I'd like to say I was more proficient at it by the time I was done, but such is not the case.  These few are all I have left.  The rest have been distributed to keep me from eating them.

But you know I had to eat the one I unwrapped for a glamour shot.  I love how the coarse sea salt looks like little gems embedded in the caramel!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Coffee Brittle Finale

But before I get to that, the goat's milk caramels are absolutely awesome.  Seriously.  I will not be at all embarrassed to share these.  I may even send some to my chef instructors.

Back to the coffee brittle.  Trying to revive it in the microwave wasn't quite doing the trick.  So I rolled it up and put it in the copper pot with a little water and let it go until it reached about 260 degrees.  (I was aiming for 280, but my attention span was waning.)

I finally got brittle.  It's absolutely gorgeous.  It now looks like deep, dark, rich coffee.  It was enticing enough for the hubs to try it without being asked.  We do, however, have differing opinions on how it tastes.

I think it tastes like that last inch of coffee in the bottom of the pot that's been sitting on the burner for three hours because no one wants to make more.  He thinks it's not that bad.  At this point I feel I must disclose that he is the person who will drink that last inch of coffee that's been sitting on the burner for three hours (and he will make another pot).

Should I ever feel inclined to try this again (which I may), I'll definitely go stove top method and will keep the coffee beans out of it until the very non-bitter end.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Score!! I think.

This morning I attempted to resurrect the coffee bean brittle.  The jury is still out on that and I'm not holding my breath that the verdict will be positive.  I will, however, find something to do with this stuff because I am NOT wasting a cup and a half of perfectly good coffee beans!

Since that took all of about five minutes, I decided to go forward with the goat's milk caramels.  (Thanks to the hubs for picking up corn syrup last night.)  This time I was a good girl and made sure I had all of my ingredients before doing any measuring, mixing or pouring.  I'm optimistic about this recipe.  I have to wait until tomorrow to cut the caramels, but what I scraped out of the pan is tasting pretty darn good.  I found the evaporated goat milk and goat milk butter at the Neighborhood Co-op in Carbondale. 

Goat's Milk Caramels
Recipe adapted from Charlotte Albright
Yield:  depends on how big you cut your caramels

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup evaporated goat milk
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 cups light corn syrup
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted goats milk butter, cut into 6 pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Coarse sea salt, optional

Spray the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray and line bottom and sides of the pan with parchment.  Rub with the one tablespoon of butter, paying particular attention to the corners.

 In a small heavy saucepan, combine cream, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk.  

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine corn syrup, sugar, water, and salt.  Over high heat, bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, about 6 to 8 minutes, brushing down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals.  Stop stirring, insert candy thermometer, reduce heat to medium and let come to a boil.  Cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches 250°F (hard-ball stage).  This may take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, place cream and milk mixture over low heat and stir until warm.  Do not boil.

When the sugar mixture reaches 250°F, stir in the warm cream and the pieces of butter.   Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until thermometer reaches 244° (firm ball stage), 30 to 60 minutes.  Stir in vanilla.  Immediately pour into prepared pan without scraping the pot.  Let the caramel cool for 2 to 3 minutes, then sprinkle the top with coarse sea salt, if desired.  Allow to rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours without disturbing.  

Unmold caramel by lifting the parchment paper out of the pan.  Cut into pieces with a very sharp, heavy knife.  If necessary, spray the knife with cooking spray.  Wrap with precut waxed paper squares, twisting ends to seal.  The caramel pieces will stick together if not individually wrapped.

After pouring your caramels into the prepared pan, immediately scrape the remnants from the cooking pan into another dish and fill the pan with hot water.  Otherwise, you'll be spending much more time than necessary trying to get hardened caramel out of the pan.  Like me.  Oh, and what you scrape out is perfectly edible.  It's my consolation while I'm trying to clean the pan.

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Projects - Not so much

After forcing myself to start the day with some housework, I decided it was time to tackle the goats milk caramels.  I got out my pots and pans, my candy thermometer, the pan for the caramels.  I carefully measured my cream, evaporated goats milk and sweetened condensed milk.  I went to the pantry for the sugar and corn syrup and, wow, that bottle of corn syrup doesn't feel as heavy as I remember.  Ummm, that doesn't look like two cups.  Well that's because it wasn't.  It was 3/4 of a cup.  Why can't I just do things the way I'm supposed to and gather all of the ingredients first?!

So with only 3/4 of a cup of corn syrup, the milk mixture was refrigerated and the caramels were abandoned.  But that is enough corn syrup for the coffee brittle . . .

The recipe for the brittle calls for 1/2 cup of corn syrup.  Since I couldn't think of any reason to keep a 32 ounce corn syrup bottle with 1/4 cup remaining, I chose to increase the recipe by half.  Again, one of those things I know better than to do, but did anyway.  Still waiting to see if I'm going to have coffee brittle or coffee taffy.  Either way, it should be a good buzz.

I do have to point out that I need brittle (or caramel) about as badly as I need marmalade.  Especially in light of the fact that while eating some honey-pistachio brittle late last night, I pulled a crown off.  Yay me.
It definitely looks better the second time around, but we'll see if it sets up to be brittle or if it's still taffy.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Projects

After a strenuous internal debate, I passed on the hubs offered to shop for more fruit with me.  That painful decision came when I did an inventory of the marmalade I have on hand.  I think  35 jars of marmalade is more than sufficient.  So now I'm going to switch gears while I wait for the new parts for my pressure canner to arrive.

There are two things I want to try this week.  I've had caramel/caramel sauce lurking in the back of my mind for awhile now.  The plan is to try some caramels made with goats milk and butter.  Just to be different.  Next, I've been conjuring a recipe in my head for a chocolate cake with figs and port.  Of course, the end result will be cupcakes as those are easier to give away than a partially eaten cake.  I also want to make a brittle using coffee beans; but that will take all of about 15 minutes.  Oh, and I need to experiment with my recipe to enter into the Alaska Seafood Fish Taco recipe contest (  That should be enough to keep my occupied while I'm waiting for parts to arrive!

Friday, January 21, 2011


I didn't make anything today.  I didn't can anything today.  I'm having symptoms of withdrawal.  I'd better come up with something quick.

The plan was to make stock and can it using my pressure canner.  Unfortunately, the pressure canner needs some new parts.  Don't we all?

Sensing my misery, the hubs is taking me to Fresh Foods tomorrow to pick out some fruit to make . . . you guessed it:  more marmalade!!  Since he's so understanding, I believe I'll make an orange-chile marmalade in his honor.  Maybe he'll even like it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lavender-Lemon Marmalade Done!

The lavender-lemon marmalade is resting after its boiling water bath and time will tell whether I'm absolutely brilliant or absolutely insane.  Perhaps a bit of both.  Worth noting is that I still haven't been to the store to get more sugar.  (In my case, homemaker also means homebody.)  This marmalade has about 1-1/3 cups granulated sugar, 1-2/3 cups turbinado sugar and about 1-1/4 cups honey.  Simply because that's what I had.  All I have left now is brown sugar.  But it does have me thinking . . .

And I know I shouldn't reuse commercial jars for canning, but I had a few that I just couldn't give up.  Although I won't advocate to anyone else to do this, I will say they sealed quite well.  Waiting for the marmalade to cool to see if it sets and how it tastes will be excruciating.  I feel a time warp invading the kitchen already.

The verdict on brilliance or insanity:  a bit of insanity that accidentally conjured a stroke of brilliance!

The Final Day of Marmalade (I think)

Last night I started what will be lavender-lemon marmalade.  To date, lemon marmalade is my absolute favorite of any I've ever made so I hope I don't muck this one up.  Not content to leave well enough alone though, I'm going to try substituting some of the granulated sugar with honey and some turbinado sugar.  The honey I get from my aunt is the most awesome stuff.  It brings out my hoarding behavior.  The turbinado sugar almost has a milky flavor to it, which is why I'm only going to use it for some of the sugar.

I thought I would insert pictures of each step, but that's not working out so well right now.  Maybe later.  After I've had some coffee.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Another Lesson Learned

This morning I finished the citrus and ginger marmalade and it turned out fabulously in spite of my oversights.  I was reminded today to never turn your back on a boiling pot.

Citrus and ginger marmalade boiling

The results of said marmalade boiling over

I'm still working on getting the stovetop clean.  It could be worse.  Our old stove had the circular electric burners.  Hopefully I'll have it all cleaned up before the hubs gets home. 

The lemon marmalade planned for tomorrow has been rescheduled for Thursday due to a sugar shortage.  I'm thinking of adding a little lavender to it.

Marmalade Day 3 (or is it 4?)

The red onion marmalade:  I'm not mad at it at all.  I think it could be better and may try it again, but not until I work my way through and/or give away the nine half-pint jars I currently have.  So what does red onion marmalade taste like?  Think about the warm bacon vinaigrette on wilted spinach salads.  A lot like that without the bacon.  The things that I think could be better about the batch I made yesterday:  1) more onions.  A lot more onions.  2) The added pectin jelled it just a bit too much.  I was hoping for a softer spread.  Beyond that, even the hubs conceded, "that's not bad, Luv."  We sampled in on Cabaret crackers with Laura Chenel goat cheese crumbles.  Quite tasty.

Grapefruit, blood orange, and red onion marmalades

Today I'm finishing a citrus-ginger marmalade.  I spent a great deal of time prepping this one and will be attempting a natural pectin method.  All the membranes and seeds of the grapefruits, oranges and lemons went into a jelly bag that will later be vigorously squeezed to release the pectin.  With the time and effort involved in preparing this one, I'll be rather disappointed if it doesn't work.  But some things you never know until you try.

I'd be lying if I said today was my last day of marmalade.  I still have quite a few regular and Meyer lemons left, so tomorrow will probably contain lemon marmalade, which to date is my absolute favorite. 

I am anxious, however, to move on to stock.  I absolutely adore making stocks.  This time I'm going to attempt canning them in the pressure canner instead of freezing them and taking up valuable real estate in our tiny freezer.  I've never used a pressure canner before.  I'll be calling my daddy for some sage advice!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Marmalade Day 3

The liquid pectin worked to firm up the pink grapefruit marmalade, but I lost the beautiful clarity.  But what good is clarity if the marmalade is pourable?  The blood orange marmalade turned out fabulously.  No added pectin, thank you very much.  In retrospect, I should have made this recipe using the technique of the grapefruit marmalade.  Maybe I'll just have to make another batch . . .

Grapefruit and blood orange marmalades

I didn't get to the red onion marmalade yesterday so that will be finished today.  I need to find some friends who like marmalade.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Marmalade, anyone?

With winter being citrus season, I am currently obsessed with making marmalades.  Yesterday's attempt was pink grapefruit marmalade.  Now, I know better than to try and double recipes when making jams, jellies and marmalade but I guess every once in awhile I like to push the envelope and see if I can force something to work.  Not so much.  There was a small amount of hope in the back of my mind that after sitting overnight the marmalade would miraculously firm up.  Not so much.  I have 10 jars of sweet pink grapefruit soup.  So today's agenda includes dumping it all back in the pan with some liquid pectin (a substance I normally eschew) and reprocessing with crossed fingers. 

Beyond trying to fix that mistake, I have a pot of blood orange marmalade that's been sitting overnight waiting for my attention and plans for a red onion marmalade (which seems repulsive and intriguing at the same time).  Then there's the Meyer lemons I came across yesterday . . . I'm going to have more marmalade than I know what to do with.

Blood orange marmalade bubbling away

A blog? Really?

That's pretty much what I've always thought.  I mean, why would anyone really care about what I have to say.  But maybe that's the point.  I love the hubs to the ends of the earth, but I think deep down inside he's probably not all that interested in my babbling about baking and canning and recipes, etc.  So this will be the place to express my internal babble.

I love baking, canning, making stocks.  I get cranky when I can't be playing around in the kitchen.  Part of me wants to own a bakery, but the other part says don't suck the life out of something you love.  Plus there's the fact that I seem to be slightly attention deficit and don't really stick with anything for any significant amount of time.  Problematic for a business, don't you think?