Friday, November 30, 2007

Daring Baker Day - it's my last chance

Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Because of how busy I have been this month I have stalled long enough on making my daring baker project. I can get so little done with Emily in tow, but I think that bread can be manageable. I have the ingredients, I even own the cookbook the recipe comes from, so what am I waiting for. My dear sweet husband emptied and loaded the dishwasher for me this morning so that I would have a head start on things. We're still working on cleaning up the big stuff from the three dinner parties we had over the Thanksgiving weekend.

But nothing to do but get on with it. Since I own two copies of the book the recipe was from (I have no idea how that happened) I decided to use the book, as my printers are running out of ink, and I didn't want the laptop in the kitchen with Emily. I had noticed somewhere that a beginning baker should use 8 ounces of potato, and a more experienced baker should use 16 ounces, so I went with an 11 ounce potato (10 after I peeled it). By ten this morning I had the potato in the pot and I had Emily asleep by 10:10. So from 10 till 11:15 everything went pretty smoothly. There was only 2 cups of water left when I measured after removing the potato. I smashed up the potato with a pastry blender, and mixed water and potato together in the mixing bowl. It was soon cool enough, and I proceeded to get the rest of the ingredients in, which came to exactly 2 pounds of white flour and 6 oz. of whole wheat flour.

The dough was very wet. I really wish that people would write recipes using weight, as this helps things come out just as expected.

But Emily and I soon had the dough under control and in the bowl to rise. We then had lunch and watched Sesame Street.

The bread was rising faster than I expected (pushing up the tea towel on the top of the bowl, so I commenced to get it in the pans. The dough weighed in at about 77 ounces, so I divided it into three parts, two for loaves and one for rolls.

I didn't put the loaves into the rectangular pans because my family doesn't tend to eat bread when made in that shape. I don't know what to call the pans I used, but I've baked well over 100 loaves in them. Maybe they are called wide French bread pans.

The loaves and rolls came out looking lovely. We started right in on the rolls. Emily promptly began to eat both hers and mine. I had to wrestle mine out of her grip. The whole process took longer than expected because Emily was very very difficult today. She isn't usually like that. She did take a nasty fall last night, or maybe she's teething, or maybe she's coming down with something.By the time Emily left - 5:40 - I was tired and ready to relax. No guests this time. I went to the library with my laptop to post this. Riley came home from work a bit late and seeing that I was in the library he brought up cheese and crackers and Scotch. At that I decided we might as well keep going and I went and got some potato rolls, cranberry sauce, and turkey.

The Recipe for Tender Potato Bread

11 ounce yukon gold potato, peeled
4 cups water
1 tsp salt

1 Tbl yeast
1 Tbl salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 pounds of all-purpose flour

Put the cut up potato into a pot with the four cups of water and the tsp salt and cook partially covered until the potatoes are nicely done. Then drain, reserving the water. Mash up the potato. Measure the water to see if you have exactly three cups. If not enough add cold water to top it up. Mix with the mashed potato in the kitchen-aid mixing bowl. Let cool down to luke warm, them add the yeast and let sit a bit. Add the whole wheat flour and 2 cups of the white flour and stir well. Then add the remainder of the flour and mix on low for 6 minutes. It will be very mooshy and it would be my inclination to add some more white flour. But when you are happy with it, turn out onto a well floured board. Toss the dough around a bit in the flour, then knead it a bit to get it under control. Place into a bowl at least twice the dough's size and cover with a damp towel and let rise. This will be an hour or so.

When it's risen form this dough into whatever you want. Loaves, flat breads, rolls ..... Let rise until double in size. Bake at 450 degrees for a time suitable for whatever you turned the dough into. I made rolls and they bakes for about 20 minutes. I made French loaves and they took about 30 minutes. note: when forming the dough be sure to toss it in plenty of flour. I tosses my rolls in flour before forming them.

So how would I do this recipe differently. First off, I wouldn't add all three cups of liquid right off the bat. Maybe 2 cups, and work in the rest as needed. Secondly I would never knead this stuff by hand if I have a kitchen-aid to use. You might as well tell me to cook it in the fireplace when I have an oven I can use. I understand that the dough probably wants to be wet, that's how it gets its consistency, but just maybe not quite so wet as mine was. The rolls had a nice chewy crust and a soft squishy insides. I think maybe I would add about 2 tablespoons of sugar to the recipe for just the tiniest hint of sweetness.

Friday, November 23, 2007

We did it! Thanksgiving dinner for 43 people

Luke 8:39 "Return home and tell how much God has done for you."
So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

We had a great time, and there was space enough and food enough for everyone. I have a lovely family that gets along and that is so nice.

We set up the 2nd floor sitting room for video games. Two tvs were used and it kept the boys happy all day. There was a small kerfuffle concerning what video games were acceptable for general use. I'm affraid I had to plead ignorance in the matter. I don't like video games.

And in the library we had games, where dominoes and the blocks tower game were favored.

It seems no matter where you went there were people comgragating happily, which is so nice to see. This is my niece Sophie, her mother Lauren, and her aunt Beth and the landing between the first and second floors.

But starting with the day before ... early in the morning my dear sweet husband mopped the kitchen floor (a daunting task) and when he put the two kitchen tables back he decided to open them up and place them end to end. This was a table measuring 42 by 96 and it was just what I needed. It was great for cooking on, and perfect as a table for the children. It solved all kinds of problems. But unfortunately I had the kids for the day, and because of all the cleaning I had been doing, and still had to do, my left hip was killing me. I decided to take two asperin and see if I couldn't get in to see the chairopractor. Riley and Emily and I went downtown, and he just kept her in the car while I went to see the doctor. We left Christian at home with Corey. Heidi got off work a little early, got Christian, then we dropped off Emily. Then it was home to start cleaning and cooking. I felt that because we were having so many children to dinner the next day it was imperative that we get the second floor in really good shape, but I have to say ... the task looked impossible. I had to be in my "just do the next thing" mode. You just pray and keep going.

My first cooking task was to make a lot of pie crusts. I decided that I would make two batches of three discs each.

Pie Dough

1 pound flour
1/2 pound butter, chilled and diced
2 Tbls shortening
1 scant tsp salt
1/2 cup ice water

Put the flour and salt into the food processor and give it a whirl. Add the shortening and give it a whirl. Then add the diced chilled butter and mix with pulses until the consistency of course cornmeal. Drizzle the cold water over the mixture and mix with only a few pulse.

Then dump out into a large bowl, remove the blade and squish the dough into a large singular mass. Take as little effort as possible doing this, you don't want to warm up the butter.

At this point I weigh the dough and divide into three equal portions, which was about 8 ounces each. Wrap each lump into plastic wrap and form into a disc. Refrigerate.

By now I had two daughters in the kitchen helping. Annie was making the stuffing for the roasted bird, and Corey was all set to help make pies. They are both excellent sou chefs. I decided to start with a pie that needed no crust. One that I had had often as a young person - fruit cocktail pie. Now I know this is sixties sounding, but I was in the mood for it. Finding the recipe was not easy, and I wasn't sure I had located the right one, but I was done looking and we were going to do it. I was at the computer simply telling Corey what to do. She had not remembered this pie, though I know she has eaten it. We got it into the oven, and after a little while Corey points out that it was bubbling quite actively. I didn't remember it ever doing that, but I just decided I'd keep an eye one it. When the time was up it seemed quite unsettled, so we cooked it for at least 10 more minutes. By then the pie plate was a mess, and I decided to just take it out. It was a bit like removing soup from the oven. I continued to ponder the problem, and it finally struck me ... she had omitted the flour!! She asked me to just forget all about that pie, but I hated to see all those ingredients go to waste. When it had cooled some I put a cup of flour and some baking powder into a bowl, dumped in the soupie pie and gave it a real good stir, and them put it into a deeper pie dish and put it back to bake. It turned into a really lovely friut cake. I've got myself a new recipe -

Boiled Fruit Cake

16 oz. can fruit cocktail, drained
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. nuts, chopped
1/4 brown sugar
1 egg
1 c. flour
1 tsp. soda

Combine the fruit cocktail, sugar, salt, nuts and brown sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for several minutes. Remove from heat, let cool some in a bowl, then stir in the egg, flour and soda, mixing well. Put into a buttered souffle dish and bake at 350 for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Well I need to test this recipe some more. So don't try it yet.

Corey moved on to making pies she felt more comfortable doing. I rolled out the crusts for her, and she made all the fillings and watched the baking.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie

1 unbaked pie crust

Pumpkin Layer
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Pecan Layer
2/3 cups corn syrup
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbls butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup pecan halves

Preheat over to 350 degrees.
Mix up the pumpkin layer and place in shell.
Combine pecan layer, stirring in the pecans last.
Spoon over the pumpkin layer.
Bake for about 50 minutes.

Pecan Pie

1 unbaked pie crust

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
2 tbls butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 Tbls bourbon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.
Pour into the pie shell and bake for about 50 minutes.

And finally, Tyler Florence's Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie. This was a huge hit. The best loved pie of the dinner. Corey made it again later, and took it to work, where it was again a huge hit.

People tend to ask "why pecan pies?" and then they get all eaten. We had one incident that was quite irksome. One "guest" asked if she could take home a piece of the pecan pie (a pie I hadn't yet had a piece of and was wanting one), and she proceeded to take all of the remaining pecan pie. I had been watching as she went for the pie, but I was then distracted. Both Corey and I was quite upset about that. That person filled an entire pie plate with "pieces" of pie, after having asked if she could have a "piece." Like the poor, the rude are always with us.

The stuffing was made by this point, and the ingredients for the French Bean Casserole were ready. Corey went off to bed and Annie went to work on her pumpkin pies. We use the Libby's recipe, but she likes to add a good amount of rum to one of them. So I rolled out the crusts as she assembled the fillings. One thing to note here - we put all the pies into different looking pie plates so that we can later tell the pies apart.  A regular pumpkin pie and a rum pumpkin pie look just the same. We put the rum pumpkin into a bright red pie plate. I think that by the time Annie had the pies in the oven she was looking very tired and she needed to be at work very early the next morning, so I told her to go to bed. As I was tidying up I saw that there was still pumpkin in an open can, so I decided to make another pie. I still had some discs of dough. I weighed the pumpkin and adjusted the main recipe accordingly. It seemed that I'd have enough for a pie and then some, so I put the pie crusts into one regular size and one shallow pie plate. I added bourbon to the pumpkin mix.

It took a while to get all the pies cooked, and while I was waiting I assembled the French Bean Casserole. It really was rather labor intensive. I used frozen French green beans, which made it a little easier, but in hind sight I would use fresh green beans if I do the dish again. The frozen green beans are lacking.

When it was all finish I went to bed and it was 2:00 am. I was a bit worried about how well I would do the next day, but in the end it all went well.

Luckily I slept in until 8. I woke up thinking about all the things that needed doing, and I went into "just do the next think" mode. My biggest worry was the two rooms on the second floor. By a normal human understanding the task of getting them all cleaned up seem absolutely impossible, but I just kept at it. Another person who just kept at it was Corey. After I do not know how long that I have been after her to clean her room, she finally got it all cleaned up and it looked terrific. She was rather exhausted, but I'm sure she's glad she did it. She's been really enjoying it ever since. Another issue that I needed to solve was getting the tables set and figuring out how many people at each table. I finally settled on 8 in the back room, 10 in the kitchen, 12 in the dining room, and 8 in the front hall. That makes 38 and unexpected people could squeeze in somewhere, which they did.

Front Hall -

- Back Room

Kitchen - that's my 6' tall sister-in-law standing next to my 5' tall daughter.

- DIning Room, I do not know how I missed the plate of toast on the corner!

Finally dinner was ready - at 4:45 I think. And we all gathered in the dining room, as just about anyway, and gave thanks and it was off to the back room to fill up the plates. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves very much.

At the end it was discovered that I had left the green bean casserole in the warming cupboard. So I invited my brother Bill and his family to come over on Friday to help us eat the left overs. They accepted the invitation.

Bill and Jill and Ian, Austen, and Britany came for dinner on Friday. At the last minute Sarah and Zac asked if they could come over to help us eat left-overs. I put chopped up turkey into the left over gravy, adding some white wine and sage to perk it up. This was to be served over the left over mashed potatoes. Then I made a turkey curry which turned out fantastically. My brother said that it was definitely the best curry he had ever eaten. I made it using a generic jar of Trader Joes curry sauce plus the left-over carrots, some cranberry sauce, and some coconut milk. I'm sure there was more, but that's all I can remember. We all agreed that Thanksgiving dinner the next day is even better than the first. The table was absolutely choc-a-clock with left-over foods.

My brother Bill seems a bit sad of late, but that is to be expected when one of your children has died at a early age recently. His oldest son died at the age of 36 from cancer caused by chewing tobacco. Britany and Austen are two of his three children. But at about 9:30 or so I suggested that we all play a game. We played Sequence, and a good time was had by all, and our guests left around midnight.

On Saturday we had 13 for dinner. Our oldest daughter Heidi has a new "friend" and Riley invited him and his three children to come for dinner. In the end we were all there: Molly, Riley, Heidi, Annie, Corey, Sarah, Zac, Christian, Emily, Christopher, Jessie, Clarissa, and Lauren. I don't know where this is all going, but Christopher's children seemed quite interested in making us part of their family.

We had an Italian dinner, as Heidi said that was Christopher's favorite. I made my spice meatballs and spaghetti, French bread, green salad with a thanksgiving vinaigrette (I added some cranberry sauce), and of course we had left-over thanksgiving desserts.

The little girls were really interested in the piano and I taught them both a tune on the piano. The youngest, Lauren, learned Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Clarissa (I could have this name wrong) learned Joy to the World. They both showed talent. Lauren wanted to have three lesson from me each week this summer. This is a bit difficult as she lives in Eugene. Clarrisa wanted to call me Gramma. I told her I was Nana, but whatever they call me it's a little early to think I might be their grandmother. I wonder what has them so keen to have a new grandmother. Well one thing - they only have one grandmother, as their father's mother abandoned him at the age of four, which is very sad.

We ended the evening by playing Sequence and a good time was had by all. Christopher took pictures and I hope he sends me some and I will post them here. On Thanksgiving I misplaced my camera.

And now for Christmas and rain. The weather has really gone bad, but that's winter

Monday, November 19, 2007

Making Thanksgiving Dinner for 35 People

Luke 12:40 "You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him."

First there's the planning. Who's coming, what's to eat, where to seat. Then there's what ingredients are needed and buying them. Last week I bought 2 turkeys, chicken stock, pecans, punpkin puree, heavy cream, yams, sweet potatoes, yukon golds, sweet onion, peas, eggs, sugar, brandy, bourbon, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cranberries, apples, green beans, golden raisins, firm white bread ..... I'm sure I'll need to go to the store again. For example, I can't remember where the orzo is. But anyway, now I'm ready to get started cooking.

note: above picture is a painting called 'Copper Pots" Deborah Chabrian

Cranberries and Apple Sauce

Sauce à la canneberge maison.

It's based on a French recipe I read.

2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced.
12 oz. cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Put it all in a saucepan, bring to a boil. Stir occasionally, and turn down to a low simmer. Cook until all of the berried are popped. The berries are burst, and most of the apples are mushy.

Grateful Pudding with Lemon Sauce

Next I got started on the Grateful Pudding. I sent Christian to the basement to find the pudding mold. He found it!!! Then I buttered and sugared the insides. Next I'll soak the golden raisins for a few hours, and then put the raisins and cubed bread into the mold with the lid on. On Thanksgiving I'll pour the custard mixture into the mold and steam it for an hour or so. This evening I'll make the lemon sauce.

1/2 cup sultanas
1/4 cup brandy
12 ounces white bread, bottom crusts removed, cut into 1/2 inch squares
2 cups light cream
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Soak the raisins in the brandy with the lemon zest overnight.

Butter and sprinkle with sugar a 2 quart covered metal pudding mold, including the inside of the lid. Layer the bread alternately with the plumped sultanas in the mold, ending with the bread.

Beat the eggs with the sugar until light. Gradually pour in the cream. Add the nutmeg. Pour over the bread.

Secure the lid and place the mold on a rack in a covered kettle with enough water to come two thirds up the side of the mold. Steam the pudding for 1 hour over gently simmering water.

Lemon Sauce

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbl cornflour
1 cups hot water
1/4 cup butter
juice and zest of two tiny lemons

Combine the sugar and cornflour in a saucepan. Add the hot water and bring slowly to a boil. Add the butter, lemon juice, and zest and continue cooking until smooth, just a bit longer.

To serve, unmold the warm pudding onto a serving plate and serve with a bowl of lemon sauce.

Next I steamed the sweet potatoes and roasted the yams. They both turned out great. As soon as I could handle them I peeled them. Again, they both turned out great. The sweet potatoes (that's the pale yellow ones) were huge, while the yams (that's the orange ones) were all the same size and smallish. For steaming I used Nigella's big all-purpose pot, putting some water in the bottom, and the sweet potatoes in the top. For the roasting I pre-heated the gas over to 400 degrees and baked them for maybe 45 minutes. I'm not sure because I went to the grocery store, taking Emily with me and leaving Christian at home. I told him about the yams in the gas oven and the sweet potatoes in the steaming pot and that if anything seemed fishy he was to turn the stove off.

But on our way there I spotted and open house sign in front of an amazing house that I have wanted to see since I was in grade school. I think maybe Emily and I were in the house for at least 20 minutes or more. It was even nicer than I had imagined. There was a very large living room with a grand piano at one end that didn't detracted from the size of the room. The dining room was grand in size without being grandiose - just what I would like to have. Beyond the dining room, heading towards the kitchen, was a delightful breakfast room. The kitchen, which was remodeled in the seventies, was very yellow and measure about 12 by 20 feet. Off the kitchen was a spacious area that I think was meant for the housekeeper, but instead there was a man in the house who couldn't walk, and this was his area. Emily and I found him in a room off the living room, and he was quite eager to talk. this is why we were delayed. Upon seeing Emily he quickly turned his huge tv to a kid's cartoon chanel. The house sits on a HUGE lot, with a tennis court in one corner, and atleast four separate garden areas. I would love to live there, but not at 1.5 million.

When we arrived back home, Riley was there. I told him about the house and he wanted to see it, so off we went. Unfortunately it wasn't open anymore, so we (Riley, Emily, and I) went for coffee and a walk. Later I peeled and julianed about 12 carrots, then I steamed them in Nigella's pot to au dent, then I put them in cold water, drained them, and put them in the refrigerator. At the same time I made ordinary cranberry sauce. Which reminds me - I keep forgetting to get the canned jellied cranberry sauce for the brothers.

note: It turn out that there were 43 of us.  Here's the outcome.