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Monday, August 20, 2012

French Macaroons

This is my first attempt at making French Macaroons.  I bought a book.  My friend Scarlet has spent the last two years perfecting her recipe.  Apparently they are easy to make but hard to perfect.

3/4 cup Almond Flour or Almond Meal.
1 cup Powdered Sugar or Confectioners sugar
Put this in a food processor and blend for 15+ seconds.  Sift into a separate container.  It needs to be a really fine powder.  Throw out (or eat) the larger almond-sugar pellets.

2 egg whites at room temperature.  Beat until they form soft peaks.
1/4 cup superfine sugar.
I guess this means regular sugar, but I bought ultra superfine sugar just in case.  The granules are smaller than regular sugar.  Add 1 Tbs at a time to egg whites and beat until stiff peaks form and the mixture is glossy.
Beat in 1/2 tsp vanilla or other flavoring or colors.

Fold in 1/3 of almond-sugar powder into egg whites.  Repeat 1/3, repeat 1/3 until all the almond-sugar is folded into the egg white mixture.  The dough is thick and pasty at this point.  Stuff it into a piping bag and pipe out 25 - 30+ small circles onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Let the cookies sit for 30 min at room temperature to set. While waiting, heat oven to 325 degrees.  Bake on two baking sheet trays for 10 - 15 min.  Let cool for 10 min.

Vanilla Butter Cream Filling
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

When cookies are cool completely, fill with buttercream and stick two of them together.  Makes about 16 cookies.

I made too much filling.  I need to only make half or a quarter next time.  I ate the rest.  I could not stop myself.  I love you sugar-butter.  They were not perfect, too crunchy and hollow on the inside and not nearly up to Scarlet's standards, but J and I loved them and ate them all in one sitting.  I am definitely going to try this one again. 

Civil War Ladies Fashion Show

This is the Place Heritage Park Ladies Fashion Show Aug 10 - 11, 2012.
My Mom took these pictures for me.  Thanks Mom.
At every Civil War event we do a Ladies Fashion show where we start in 1860s undwear:  a Chemise (or a long cotton slip with short sleeves that is off the shoulder) bloomers, stockings and shoes.  Then we build up the different layers from there.  I was the model this year because I finally got all of my underclothes period correct down to the shoes and stockings.  I was getting a lot of flack from wearing my oh so comfortable sneakers all the time.
This is my friend Amanda helping to tighten the corset and give the presentation.  Everything about 1860s Ladies Fashion was to accentuate a tiny waist.  An ideal waist size was 15" to 18" around.  Women starting wearing a corset at age 16.  I started wearing mine at 31.  You need someone to help you get into one of these.  Back then it was a Mother, Sister, Servant, Slave, or Mammy.  J helps me when no one else is available.  The term "Loose Woman" or "Loose Girl" came from a lady who wore her corset loose so she could get in and out of it quickly.  Also the phrase, "Tight laced" came from wearing a corset.  I learned that you must put your stockings and boots on before the corset because there is no bending over once it is on.
Hoop Skirt
Large at the bottom and large on top is our motto, all to focus on that tiny waist.  The corset also helps hold up the hoop skirt and petticoats.  Like today's fashions, the hoop skirt style came from France.  There were several types of hoop skirts, the one I have has 6 rings and is pretty flouncy with ruffles sewed in to mimic an extra petticoat that I do not need to sew.  Hoops were made from whale bone, wood, rope, wire, stiff fabric, cotton, or horse-hair.  Another option was a Crinoline which was a wire, leather, or rope cage without the fabric in between that also gave the nice bell shape under a skirt.  Crinolines are also lighter to wear than a full fabric hoop.
Petticoats give the dress a nice full look.  I had one petticoat and sewed another three for this event.  Ladies normally wore 3 to 7 petticoats under their dresses, over the hoop.  Southern Bells wore as many as 10-18 petticoats to make their dresses look really fluffy.  It was considered immodest to have the "bones" or ribbing of the hoop skirt show through your dress.  During the winter you wore more petticoats for warmth.
Ladies only had 2-3 dresses which were washed occasionally to keep the colors from fading.  To prevent the dresses from getting sweat stains and dirt around the sleeves and neck they wore undersleeves and collars that would get dirty instead of the dress.  These were changed out and cleaned.  It is easier to clean a removable undersleeve than an entire shirt. 
A full 10 yards of fabric for the skirt that my beloved husband painfully sewed for me.  He made my dress so I could go re-enacting with him: skirt, shirt, undersleeves, and chemise.  I bought the bloomers and made the petticoats.  He also bought my hoop, stockings, shoes, and lace collar.  He sewed all his own uniforms and did some of the leather work.  He cooks as well.  I am so lucky to have him.
The shirts, or top of the dresses, also had large puffy sleeves with the hem line off the shoulder to make it look fuller on top, again to accentuate a narrow waist.  Notice, both Amanda and I wear white collars.  Almost every day outfit had a white collar and white sleeve cuffs.  At night the rules were different, but during the day it was long sleeves and dresses up to the neck for modesty and sun protection.  The shirt matches the colored flowers on the skirt, but clothing colors and patterns did not always match back then.  Clashing fabric patterns and colors were commonly used.  For a man a pair of pants, shirt, vest, and jacket all from different colored or patterned material was common.  This indicated that he was wealthy enough to afford more than one bolt of fabric.
And a bonnie new hat to top it off courtesy of  Mary Ann Barnard.   You know, the hat lady, or Milner, a person who makes hats.  She made this one special for me with green trim and peacock feathers which I requested.  Now I just need J to make me a new dress to go with it.
Now my Civil War outfit is complete and I look like a proper lady who is ready to go about town.

Cthulhu Cake

As today, August 20th, is H.P. Lovecraft's birthday (1890 - 1937) I thought I would make a Cthulhu cake in his honor.  He was the most prolific writer of the 20th century and was a founding father of the modern horror and science fiction genres.
It is supposed to be the Necronomicon with Cthulhu like tentacles coming out and The Colour Out of Space flowers around the base.  The color is Yellow.  If you have ever read the story, by the end of it the color has to be yellow, it is the only color that works.
The passages are from 1- The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (all time favorite) 2 - The Call of Cthulhu and 3 - At the Mountains of Madness.
I am pretty much obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft right now.  I got my Bachelor's degree from Miskatonic University located in Arkham, Mass. (Made-up University and town from his stories) in 2010 by reading all of his major works.  J read "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" on a 6 hour road trip to Las Vegas.  It was the best part of that vacation.  I could not wait to get back in the car and have J continue reading to me.  That is when I really got hooked on Lovecraft's antediluvian cyclopean eldritch style of writing.  Then I went on got my Master's degree in 2011 by finishing three different anthologies.
Now, 2012, I am working on my PhD in Lovecraft by reading anything he has written that I have not read yet.  This includes a lot of his short stories and some pretty bad poetry, most of which are from a set of books published in the 1970s and 80s that J found for me.
Yes, it would be easier to just pick up a copy of the "Necronomicon" which has every published story he ever wrote and read through that.
Two reasons why I have not brought myself to do this yet.  First, it is a really big book and I prefer reading the smaller more compact anthologies because they fit in my purse and I can take them everywhere with me.
Second, I like the adventure of going to different bookstores and finding anthologies with stories I have not read yet.  It is the thrill of the quest that I look forward to.
The aftermath shot.  I made a Red Velvet cake with Cream Cheese frosting.  I decided that a Cthulhu Cake could only have one flavor, and it had to be Red Velvet.  Another reason for making this cake, other than to celebrate H.P. Lovecraft was that it is J's birthday on Aug 22nd and he needed a birthday cake.  He shares his birthday with my Aunt Lonnie.  We had a lovely end of summer BBQ birthday last night with the family and extended family and celebrated two birthdays.
I also made Red Velvet Cake Pops.
And chocolate French macaroons because I knew a lot of people would be there and I was afraid the cake was not going to be enough.
This is what my kitchen looked like after the Cthulhu cake, Cake Pops, and chocolate French macaroons.  It is going to take me days to clean this mess up.  Sigh.  I think it was worth it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I would first like to thank the Italians for making this dessert possible.  Second, I would like to thank Julia Childs for giving me a ladyfingers recipe because I cannot find ladyfingers anywhere.  I know they exist because I have recipes that call for a package of ladyfingers.
The first thing I do is make the custard.
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk that together in a medium sauce pan.
Beat in 2/3 cup whole milk, because you always bake with whole milk because it tastes better.

Heat to boiling and boil for 1 min, stirring constantly, take off the heat and whisk for another minute or so to cool it down.  It should thicken up pretty quickly.  Pour the custard into another bowl and place plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard.  This keeps it from forming a film, or the hard yucky stuff on top.  Refridgerate for 1 hour or more.  Put it in the freezer for an hour if you are planning on using it shortly.  Monitor the custard so it does not freeze solid, it just needs to be cold.
Next I make the ladyfingers, since I cannot find them anywhere.
Separate 3 eggs.
To the 3 egg yolks add
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Beat that together until it is a thick yellow paste
To the 3 egg whites add
a pinch of salt
Beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form
Add 1 Tbs sugar
Beat again until stiff peaks form
1/2 cup flour.
Gently fold 1/3 egg whites and 1/3 of the flour in with the egg yolks.  Repeat two more times until all the egg whites and flour are gently folded into mixture.  It needs to remain light and fluffy.  Pour batter into a pastry bag or gallon bag and pipe out cookies about 4" long and 1" wide with 1" space in between.  If you stir them all together at once the ladyfingers turn out flat and crunchy.  They should be soft in the middle and retain some height.   Bake 300 degrees for 20 minutes until light brown.
Whipped Cream
1 and 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs powdered sugar
Beat until stiff peaks form and refridgerate.
I can find this in every store, but no ladyfingers.
2x 8 oz containers of mascarpone cheese = 1 lb.
Beat it.
Add cold custard to mascarpone  and beat until smooth.
Make coffee, but since I never use coffee or alcohol, I make hot chocolate instead.  Swiss Miss with mini marshamallows.  But the marshmallows melted away to nothing.
Tiramisu Ingredients Assemble!
Ladyfingers - check
Whipped Cream - check
Hot chocolate - check
Mascarpone - check
Custard - check - I took this picture before I mixed mascarpone and custard together.
Cocoa powder - check
Line ungreased pan with one layer of ladyfingers.
Spoon over or brush hot chocolate onto the cookies.
Pour a layer of mascarpone custard on top of the ladyfingers.
Add a layer of whipped cream.
And Repeat.
Repeat until whipped cream is on top.
Sprinkle with cocoa powder too look more fancy.



I tried Couscous today.  It was good.  Add 2 cups chicken broth (or any flavor broth) to 1 cup couscous in a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer for 10-12 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.  Add anything.  I added sausage, carrots, and green onion to this.  It turned out good.  Couscous was a nice change of pace from my standard rice, potatoes, or noodles.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookes

Cream together:
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
Add 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla and mix together
Add dry ingredients
3 cups oatmeal
1 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips or raisins. 
Mix that all together and bake at 375 for 9-11 minutes.

 Now that I am adult I have made a vow never to add raisins to anything.  There is no rational reason for raisins, especially in cookies.  My dream is that my furture children will grow up never knowing that raisins traditionally go into oatmeal cookies.  I have made a similar vow with Orange Juice.  If everything goes as planned my children will never know orange juice has pulp.