Monday, March 23, 2015

Vermont Maple Cream

Maple Cream on Gluten-free Toast

It made sense for my mother - a woman who canned, fermented dandelions and wild grapes, and foraged the backroads for wild fruits, nuts and berries to give making maple syrup a try.

We had two old sugar maples on the front lawn of our Main Street Bakersfield (Vermont) property. 

Our tiny 70’s kitchen with its orange/harvest brown theme was filled with fragrant, sweet steam.

She boiled a bucket of sap on the electric stove, added another the following day, and repeated until she had a batch of sketchy “maple tar”.

No matter, it wasn’t a cost or labor-effective endeavor.

Far easier to truss my sister and I in parkas  – the ones that caught our Adam’s apples in the zipper – and travel down the road to a sugar maker in the avocado-green wood-paneled station wagon.

I remember that she would sit diligently at the stove on the “step-stool”; periodically dropping teaspoonfuls of boiling sugar into a bowl of cold water to discern soft ball or hardball stage to make fudges and toffees or sugar-on-snow.  

Unfortunately, candy-making didn’t stick to me.  

To make this recipe I watched a how-to video by America’s Test Kitchen.

It took four tries to get an acceptable result, but the experience was worth it. 

Tips

Oil is necessary to stop boiling over.

Calibrate the thermometer with boiling water to 212f and adjust the recipe accordingly. 

The temperature outside this time of year will chill hot syrup in 15 -20 minutes without having to make or buy ice.

Vermont Maple Cream 
Maple Cream
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Makes about 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

1 Cup Fancy or Grade A Maple Syrup

¼ tsp. Canola Oil

Special Equipment: candy or digital alarm thermometer


In a 2-quart saucepan, bring syrup to boil over medium-low heat. Make sure thermometer is not touching the bottom.

When the temperature reaches 235f, remove from heat.

Pour syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer and move to the porch to cool, or place in a bowl of ice until 100f.

Stir with a paddle on the lowest setting until pale in color and no longer glossy or beat by hand for 20-30 minutes.

Finished cream will be the texture of peanut butter.

Store in refrigerator.  Some separation is normal.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Life on the Farm 031115: a Shoe Full of Poo

Boucher Family Farm
I want to let you know that I’m still alive and kicking. 

It’s been a while.  A long while. 

There has been stuff going on here on the farm, but nothing of note.

I write regularly, but haven’t submitted – because I’m boring myself with the particulars of daily life – staying warm, picking up after the cats, nursing a flu-sick coughing achy husband. Nursing myself after I caught his illness(es).

And then, life gave me a shoe full of shit.

Yes. You heard me right.

An actual for real shoe full of poo - because the bathroom in the cheeseplant froze up during the last horribly coldy/cold spell.

Let’s just say my husband Dan took care of it, and gave me the blow-by-blow minutia that I didn’t ask for or want to to hear.

He insisted that I listen to the entire poopy tale because ‘no one should carry that burden of knowledge alone’. 

Not that he didn’t “get it going again” – he did. 

I would have just lit fire to the room and washed my hands of it. 

I’m that way.

You know I’m kidding, right? (Not really)

In order to make everything sparkling clean enough so that I would use it again, I bought a new bowl brush, and lots of bleachy-full commercial bath products to coat every surface with, being careful not to mix the wrong ones together to make the death vapors. (Bleach and ammonia – bad idea)

It’s one thing to wash a relatively clean toidy that’s infrequented once a week – another to utilize the at-hand cleaning brush in lieu of a plunger, and then expect me to ever touch it again.

I thought – let’s throw the trusty old scrubber away, pretend this never happened, and maybe think about taking a vacation.

Big, BIG mistake.

When I lifted the brush (stuck in its holder) to throw it out, it dumped a bunch of liquid brown into my right shoe and it splattered all over the place.

There just isn’t enough cleanser to make that right again.

That was far, far worse than stepping in poo – because soles and treads are washed around here all the time - no harm done.

This was a new kind of filthy dirty.  And I’m not psychologically adjusted enough to deal with it, even at age (ummmm) 50-ish.

I will be ordering a new pair of work shoes as soon as I hang up this computer, and burning the old ones.

They will be white.





Sunday, February 22, 2015

Imploding Honey Custard Cake

Cooled Honey Cake
One of the most impressive cakes I ever made was for a dear friend back in the day.  It was gluten-free by default.

It was Julia Child’s apricot dacquoise, a complex affair of meringue layers with apricot puree, buttercream and sliced almonds.

It was the most labor-intensive thing I had ever attempted, and
it was a hit.

(Do you recall it, Norm Bouchard? I think it may have been your b-day.)

I remember it because it was one of the best things I ever ate - but I made it only that once.

It was a miracle that it turned out at all - and trying to turn those ingredients it into “tiny steps” like a French macaron was well beyond my skillset.

Also, I had no idea what a macaron was, or a macaroon, for that matter.

My newest best cake recipe is far simpler, but no less spectacular.

It was so easy that I made it twice just to be sure it wasn’t having a lucky baking break.

What is it?
 
The center is "lava" custard!
Imploding Honey Custard Cake.

I loved the extremely short ingredient list and the short time it took from start to finish.

It also uses five eggs.  This time of year the chickens are laying like crazy under lights. I’m taking up the challenge to use them all.

My version features Caledonia Spirits honey - a gift with gin purchase from the vendor at last year’s Burlington farmer’s market.

When baking, it fills the house with the heady fragrances of summer.

 
Cooled cake, deflated

 Imploding Honey Custard Cake
Adapted from Lady and Pups (online)
Makes one 6-inch cake

3 Large Egg Yolks, at room temperature
2 Large Eggs, at room temperature
¼ Cup Honey
4 ½ TB Pillsbury’s Gluten-Free Flour (or regular cake flour)

Butter and flour a six-inch cake pan

Preheat oven to 355f

Heat honey in the microwave for one minute.

Whisk eggs together in a large bowl of a stand mixer.

With the mixer on medium, add honey to eggs very slowly, one tablespoon at a time, slowly drizzling it down the side of the bowl. 

Keep whisking until the mixture becomes pale yellow and nearly doubled in size, with distinct “ribbons” of batter.

Sift in flour on low speed until incorporated.

Pour batter into pan.  Bake 13 - 14 minutes for a custardy center, 15 minutes for a firmer cake.  The center should be jiggly!

Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes.  The cake will deflate, and can be enjoyed warm or cold.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Gluten-Free: Chocolate Pot du Creme Brûlée

Chocolate Pot du Creme Brûlée with Butterscotch Topping
Sometimes, I need a sweet treat.

The days seemed to be running together and the only thing that set them apart were my hubby’s split pants, the furnace malfunction, and listening to him hungrily sample a tin of sardines the cats got from my Mom for Christmas – I’m not going to forget that anytime soon.

Farmers?  We work too hard for too long in marathon stretches. 

Days off are rare, vacations few and far between – so I need to get the happy on when and where I can.

I love doggie kisses (currently living cat-full and pup-less); watching tiny Internet ponies while the mail loads; having old black-and-white Godzilla movies play in the background while I work.  Simple things.

I also enjoy the anticipation of trying something new, and I recently purchased a kitchen blowtorch. *

This recipe looked just right for the task.  It turned pantry ingredients into something decadent and extraordinary, and didn’t take long.

It’s a dessert to be remembered - a silky smooth, chocolaty custard that brought out just the right amount of smile.


* (Next new things: making cotton candy, using a cowboy-style Dutch oven, and trying pressure cooking for the third time.   Times #1 and #2?  It’s too soon to share the failures.)
 
Creme Brûlée with Kitchen Torch 
 Sometimes, I need a sweet treat.

The days seemed to be running together and the only thing that set them apart were my hubby’s split pants, the furnace malfunction, and listening to him hungrily sample a tin of sardines the cats got from my Mom for Christmas – I’m not going to forget that anytime soon.

Farmers?  We work too hard for too long in marathon stretches. 

Days off are rare, vacations few and far between – so I need to get the happy on when and where I can.

I love doggie kisses (currently living cat-full and pup-less); watching tiny Internet ponies while the mail loads; having old black-and-white Godzilla movies play in the background while I work.  Simple things.

I also enjoy the anticipation of trying something new, and I recently purchased a kitchen blowtorch. *

This recipe looked just right for the task.  It turned pantry ingredients into something decadent and extraordinary, and didn’t take long.

It’s a dessert to be remembered - a silky smooth, chocolaty custard that brought out just the right amount of smile. 

* (Next new things: making cotton candy, using a cowboy-style Dutch oven, and trying pressure cooking for the third time.   Times #1 and #2?  It’s too soon to share the failures.)

Chocolate Pot de Creme
 Chocolate Pot de Crème Brulee
Adapted from a recipe by Anne Thornton (Food Network)
Makes 4-6 servings

2.5 oz. Bittersweet or Milk Chocolate Chips (I used both)
1 1/8 Cups Heavy Cream
3 Egg Yolks
1/8 Cup Liquid Honey
2 TBS Cointreau (or ½ TB fresh orange zest)

Optional: 6-8 Butterscotch Hard Candies (or white sugar)
Special Equipment: Kitchen Blowtorch

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325f.

Arrange 4-6 ramekins in a roasting pan.

Place cream and chocolate In microwave, power on high 30-45 seconds, until chocolate begins to melt.

Whisk until smooth. Cool to just warm.

Whisk yolks and honey in a large bowl.

Gradually whisk in chocolate mixture and stir until the ingredients are incorporated.

Divide the custard equally between the ramekins.  Place in oven.

Add water to the pan halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake until just set around the edges, but still soft in the center (35-40 minutes).

Remove ramekins from water.  Refrigerate until cold.

Optional, for serving – crush candies and sprinkle over the custards. Heat with torch until melted.  (White sugar may be used instead of candy.)