Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The upper crust, for sure (BBD #56)

I have only once participated in the Bread Baking Day festivities.  When my sister hosted.  Well, this month my friend Jenni from The Gingered Whisk hosted, and she had such a fun idea I wanted to try my hand.  Jenni challenged us to make bread beautiful.  Pretty much any bread and any decoration would work, she just wanted us to make a purposefully beautified bread. 
I decided to make Mark Bittman's French bread, which I have made before.  I formed two boules so I could decorate one and someone else could do the other.  I though that other person would be Big Girl, but the timing just wasn't going to allow that.  So Hubby got recruited...!
The "canvases," which grew up rather than out in baking...!
The paints: egg yolk mixed with one drop of food coloring:
Hubby's inspiration - his favorite sport and favorite team:
My design -  just going for color and pretty...
Trying to take advantage of that extra side space...
Glazing for a nice shine:
Hubby's "ball" of bread!
My garden ball!
Thank you, Jenni!  This is something I would never have tried without you.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Daring to do it: Gevulde Speculaas

Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!

I love to bake from scratch.  So much these days is premade and done for us, I love taking the time (and, really, it usually isn't that much extra time...!) to make things myself.  Francijn's challenge was great for this.  I mean, make your own spice mix?  Cool!  Make your own almond paste? Ummm...  awesome in theory.  But I have a kiddo under the age of two who might be allergic to almonds (the skin test said yes, though a found and sucked on almond showed no reaction.  Who knows.).  But this was not going to deter me.
First things first, I actually didn't know what speculaas was.  I had heard of it, and thought it was some kind of cookie, but beyond that I had no clue.  As it turns out, it seems speculaas had a lot more to do with the spices than I thought.  One of the main spices we had to use was mace.  I have a lot of spices.  Mace is not one of them.  And for the first week or two it looked like I was going to have to use something different, since no one else I knew had it either.  Then, while at a friend's house for dinner, I snooped in their spices and found it.  (I love having friends who don't question me snooping in their spices!)  Mace in hand,it was time to spice it up.  Two of the other main components of the spice mix are cardamom and cloves.  Which I have. Whole.  Not ground.  So they got toasted:
Then they got ground and sifted:
Spices ready, it was time to make the dough.  Dry ingredients put together:
Then margarine was added and kneading began.  This dough is very much like a shortbread, and is very crumbly.  I was pretty sure I was going to have to add some liquid to get it to come together the right way.  Just as I was getting ready to contemplate actually doing that it was time for the girls to go for their naps.  As it turned out, those ten minutes of resting were all that was needed to get the dough to knead together!

While the dough rested in the fridge I searched for a replacement for almond meal.   I found a recipe for mock marzipan that I thought might work.  Powdered sugar, shortening and not a whole lot else:
Yet again, really crumbly.  This time I had to add liquid if I wanted it to work.  A few splashes of vanilla soy milk did the trick:
I was a little nervous, though. This "marzipan" really was more of a decorative thing.  You know, for covering cakes and stuff.  I was worried it might dissolve when baked.  But I was willing to try.
Assembling the dish wasn't too hard.  Roll out the dough:
 Brush with egg wash.  Except I didn't want to use egg wash.  Because I wasn't using almond paste, I wanted to add something with some more flavor.  So I brushed with watered-down strawberry jelly:
Then the rolled out "marzipan.  More jelly-wash, then the rest of the dough.  More jelly wash.  Then decorations.  Traditionally it should have been more almonds. Again, not using them...  So I used colored sugar crystals:
Baked beautifully.  Smelled AMAZING.  Cut up:
It worked!  True, the filling doesn't stand out as much as almond paste would have, but it worked!
This was so good.  Even my die-hard-chocolate-loving husband loved it.  Success!
Thank you, Francijn, for introducing me to speculaas.  I really learned a lot, and I had a blast playing with the recipe! 
Take a look here to see what my fellow Daring Bakers made this month.  I promise, you will be glad you did!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

(Birthday) Party Time!

Ok, it isn't time for either of my kids' birthdays, but now that my Big Girl is in school (and making friends wherever she goes!) we have a lot more parties to go to than I thought we would at this point!  (She isn't even four yet...) 
It never occurred to me to hold a birthday party for my kids until they were a little older.  I thought that would be somewhere close to five or six - you know, school aged.  Well, last year we won amazing party entertainment, so we had a third birthday party for Big Girl.  And it was a ton of fun.  But there is so much involved...!  Planning, paying, preparing, who to invite, what to provide for activities, should you do party favors....  The list goes on and on.
Little Girl will be turning two this year, so I am not thinking a party for her yet.  But Big Girl will be four.  And she had a party last year, so I know she wants one this year.  While her birthday isn't until May, I am already trying to think about what we might do for her part.  What themes to suggest, how to decorate, what to feed people...  I guess it doesn't help that I am the type of person who does it all home-made...  ;)
But my big question for you now, while the party planning can sit on the back burner, has to do with presents.  What do you get as gifts when you are going to a birthday party?  Do you have a budget based on who the child is or how well you know him or her?  Do you have a go-to "boy gift" and "girl gift" that you give?  I know we can all use ideas - share yours with us!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Start

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a wonderful 2012, and I hope that 2013 will bring you even more love, laughs, fun and yummy things to eat!!

I have come to realize that this blog has definitely strayed from its original purpose.  Don't get me wrong, I do a lot of cooking and baking, and I love to share it.  But I promise, I do a lot more than the Daring Kitchen and Sourdough Surprises!  And not all of it is in the kitchen!!

So now my new year's "resolution" for you - I want to bring this blog back to the reason it was started - to share what is it like to be a mommy.  Yes, I will still be cooking and baking.  A lot.  Especially as my girls get bigger and play in the kitchen with me.  But we will also be crafting.  And playing.  And learning.  And doing all sorts of things that may or may not have pictures associated with them.  But I want to start sharing more with you, and using this forum to help me (and others?  well, at least me!) figure out what it really is to be a Crafty Mom!!!

Here's to a great 2013!