Success does not depend upon the food. The food is the centerpiece. Does it matter. No. it is the people. It is family. It is gathering together after three long years of covid separation. We survived. Some had it. Twice. We were fortunate to have missed Covid. Safe? No. There is a positive number for new cases and deaths. But the risk? is at acceptable levels. All the old recipes were pulled. My turkey was made in our new oven which overcooked the bird in less time than we expected. No one complained. It was as though we were seeing long lost relatives. Mistakes were made. And everyone had an excellent time. No one went away hungry.
We have binge watched the Great British Baking Show. It’s sad to see amateur bakers criticized for mistakes they make under the pressure of an audience and the judges. But, it did teach me some things about improvising. We recently had outdated whipped cream that had been frozen. Nope, it’s butter. Toss it. And then, I was making meringue cookies. The egg whites did not whip up. What to do? Quick, add some flour and cocoa powder – sponge, jelly roll cake. Fresh whipped cream, ha ha. And there was enough cream for the Atlantic pie – a lemon curd, (saltine) cracker crust pie. A happy ending! So, I have advanced my baking skill by becoming less intimidated that everything must be precise and measured in baking. There are limits to be tested. How about that? A jelly roll cake!
Failure is not an option
We made gifts for the family – local cousins. Times five – one each and one for us, it was to be Challah bread, brownies, and flavored oyster crackers. Ha ha. Oyster crackers? Yeah, a guilty pleasure triggered by a memory while grocery shopping. Hey, they are good! The bread – who knew – Colleen started baking them after dark. Five loaves. Five recipes, one at a time. It turns out the loaves were huge, as in really large! This was way too big for one or two persons. Ha ha! She followed the directions. We were exhausted and I fell asleep by the time the first loaf came out of the oven. Colleen still had four loaves rising all over the house in every warms spot we could construct. She finished around 1:30am. Over baked! Dammit. You could tell from the loaf we had/sampled. Trash or gift? Four huge loaves. You could cry. The pecan tassie – “tea time tassies” (local vernacular) were inspired by a visit to the grocery and a NYT recipe. That would have been perfect but we were not ready for mass production…. yet.
What could go wrong? Brownies – I added chocolate chips and walnuts. No problem. And sprinkles on top, it’s Christmas. The sprinkle stars melted into the brownie top making unidentified holes. Not too bad otherwise, I was sure no one would notice after they were cut.
Pea soup? Yes, that was the opening act to our day before we started baking bread. Who figured proofing and rising would take so long? Leftover ham bone makes great pea soup to go along with ham and cheese sandwiches. Really! And yes, that’s a bite out of the sandwich. (I forgot to snap a picture before I was savoring my sandwich.) Yes, we have been eating well during the pandemic.
We delivered (bread), mentioning it was large (ha ha) and would make great French toast. It worked. Ultimately, we got messages of approval. Of course, I had messaged images of the French toast and my “mmmmm’s.” It turned out to be fabulous French toast! – We’ve had no feedback. My opinion: the brownies were overdone and the challah overbaked. Well. Damn!
Food photography is not my forte. Far from it, I have read about food stylists who add shine and steam. Often lard will stand in for… not all is real in food imaging. Alas – it’s my new favorite word – some things need help… Leftover turkey makes great pot pie. Where’s the pot? Ha ha? I have to admit we adpated our own container. Pot pie for two, it’s not an easy to task to find the right vessel. We tried to be simple, not overboard, This is comfort food. I browned the mushrooms. Yeah, yeah, it’s not a component. Well, it is, in mine. Sauce – cheating? – yes we used – cream of chicken, no, cream of mushroom. In the end it’s about what you like; there’s nothing set. And the grocery store frozen brand stuff has nothing on us. This was piping hot and as good to eat as it looked. Sorry, no steam effect.
Cooking in place
… a riff on sheltering in place. St Pat’s, we cooked. What else? Corned beef and cabbage. No green cabbage – there was a run in the grocery – red will do. It turned my carrots and potatoes purple. Purple was the color of the day. Gluten free cake with pecan coconut icing, are you hungry yet? Corn meal biscuits, yum! Colleen likes canned corn beef – cold. Oh well, the rest of us ate the good stuff. And, we were all virus free and hoped to stay that way.
I don’t bake. Yes, I’m a scientist – of sorts. I cook. It’s largely undisciplined – like me! But baking? That’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax. We had leftover egg whites from making pie. Yes! It was a stunning Atlantic Beach pie from the NYT. Imagine it covered in whipped cream – but then you’d not see the pie.
Meringue cookies! Yes! Brilliant! A disaster even by my humble standards. Mix, measure, match, bake. Utter disaster! We trashed a sifter, egg beater, mixer, and a stand mixer all within one bake. No sh*t Sherlock! Yes, that would be a record for ‘round these parts. And the cookies were flat! Tasty but flat. The egg whites needed more beating! Duh! I’d write in all CAPS!, but you get it. Too funny. It cost me. I had to buy one each… and yes, this time it was a Kitchen Aide stand mixer. I register protest here and now. I wonder how the next batch of meringue cookies will turn out?
I did this! It’s dead simple. I failed in my first attempt. (Note to self: “Read the freakin’ instructions.) … as in I did not turn up the oven to the right temp. It was good to eat but it looks much more impressive if you follow the instructions. It’s called a Dutch baby. I don’t know why. It was a hit both time I made it. That’s all you need to know.