Thursday, December 30, 2010


At the Blue Castle

The little deer at the front door - which I moved there to add a little something to the pot of Christmas greenery and "things".

Nothing is in focus in this picture, but it's more romantic that way. I have that right, don't I? Romance makes everything a little fuzzy?

Ta-da! We finished the Christmas decor as the family was arriving for the Christmas Eve gathering at the Blue Castle. We were a little late decorating this year.

I don't even remember what this thing is called, I just know I've had it packed away in my personal Christmas box for several years - and that I've wanted one since I was a little girl. I'm going to have to remember to buy more candles for it. It really did add something to the Christmas feel at the house and it was sad that that the candles burned so fast.

In the midst of all the chaos, I love that the Christmas decor makes things feel grounded, like home is here at last. And yet, somehow, I'm also almost ready to see them packed away again. I didn't think I'd be ready this soon. We've never decorated this late before, that I remembe), and I don't know why I'm feeling ready to move on so soon. Maybe I need to see a shrink, get to the bottom of my issues. (Finds mirror, stands in front of it, "Now why do you think you feel the way you do?" Hmmm.... )

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mini Mocha Meringue Cakes

(I don’t want to infringe on copyright in anyway, so while I altered the original recipe quite a bit as far as feel the first time I made it, I’m going to go even further and include the changes I would make if I did it again. Just being extra cautious! It's the kind of girl I am.)


2 egg whites, room temperature
Pinch cream of tartar
½ cup sugar (the recipe called for superfine, I used regular)
2 Tablespoon Dutch process, cocoa
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules, lightly rolled to crush
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups whipped cream, sweetened with ¼ - ⅓ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla (I’m guessing a bit on this, since we did more cream than that at the time – some for the coffee!)

Fudge Sauce – this is an addition that I think would be simply smashing. I thought they needed a little something extra, if you know what I mean.

1. Put the egg whites in a large clean bowl, and whisk slowly until they become thick and frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to whisk more quickly until the whites form stiff peaks.

2. Sprinkle over half of the sugar and continue whisking until mixture is stiff and glossy. Whisk in the rest of the sugar a little at a time. Sift over the cocoa powder and add the coffee granules. Whisk in vanilla.

3. Trace 2” circles (I think I did about 36 using a cookie cutter) on parchment paper and then flip over and place on a cookie sheet. Carefully spread meringue evenly within circles, trying to make them fairly even and flat. You could also pipe it in a spiral pattern. Bake in a 250°F oven for 45 minutes. I pulled it out at this point and it cooled on the counter, however, I think you’re actually supposed to let meringue cool in the oven. In which case I would cut the baking time down a little.

4. To assemble, place one meringue disk on a plate, drizzle a tiny bit of chocolate sauce over disk, place a generous dollop of cream in center and press another “cookie”, bottom down, on top of cream. Drizzle a bit more chocolate sauce, and another dollop of cream, artistically placed, to finish it. Assemble all the meringue cakes and place on serving platter and then sift cocoa carefully over the tops. It is okay to get a little on the platter – it adds a nice touch!

Note: I’m not a meringue expert and these turned out very fragile so I lost a few in assembly. Over baked? The granulated sugar? Just as a note that you are likely not to get 18 mini cakes. I will probably cut down the baking time a bit if I do these again. 35 minutes and let them cool in the oven? Just giving you the inside scoop on my thoughts on this.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mini Lemon Curd Tartlet Cookies

Mini Lemon Curd Tartlet Cookies

2/3 cup butter, (or vegetable shortening) softened
3 – 4 T. honey
2 egg yolks
½ tsp. vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups soft white wheat flour (I suspect you could substitute all-purpose flour)

Honey Lemon Curd – see below
Sugared Lemon Zest
½ - 1 teaspoon lemon zest
Granulated sugar

Cookies: Cream together butter and honey. Beat in yolks, vanilla, lemon zest and salt. Stir in flour. Chill. In greased mini muffin tins, gently pat about 1 T. dough. Indent top of cookie deeply with thumb. Bake in 350 degree oven for 17 – 20 minutes or until lightly brown. While still warm, top with a generous dollop of Honey Lemon Curd and then garnish with Sugared Lemon Zest.

Zest: Toss lemon zest with a little granulated sugar. Sift off extra sugar and sprinkle zest on cookies.

Notes: For the cookies pictured, I didn’t have mini muffin pans available so I went for a slightly stiffer dough and I think I might have ended up using maybe another ½ cup flour? For the same shape pictured; chill the dough and then form about 1 Tablespoon dough into balls. You might have to chill the dough again briefly at this point. Then, lightly flour your fingers and carefully press balls into square “bricks,” about ½” thick. Press thumb deeply to indent center. Now, when you bake them the cookies will spread in the oven and all your hard work to make “very square cookies” will be annihilated. But, they will still be pretty square, so no worries and continue….Carefully spread the Lemon Curd in a square in the center of cookie and garnish.

Honey Lemon Curd

2 eggs
Between 1/3 – ½ cup honey (Fill honey to a little over 1/3 cup, top with water to ½ cup)
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter
½ cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons lemon zest

Beat together eggs, honey, and salt. Stir in butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Cook on low heat, stirring briskly and constantly, making sure to whisk entire bottom of pot, until thick, about 15-20 minutes. Or cook in double boiler until thick, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. I used the first method, because I fancy I have a lot to do so I try to be efficient. It’s really because I’m a bit impatient. I think. Cool to room temperature. (After you are finished, if you have any leftovers, store in refrigerator. This recipes makes about 3/4 cup.)

Lemon Curd made with honey is pretty tangy, which is kind of a nice compliment to the cookies since the cookies mellow the curd and the curd gives a snap to the cookies. But I’m sure any lemon curd recipe or even, gasp, store bought, would be fine.

If you think this is essentially the same recipe as the Jam Thumprint Tarts, you're right. Aha!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

French'ish Party

I wanted to do a fancy French themed pastry type party for my sisters birthday (blame the lady who was in France taking picture of pastry shop windows) but life just won't allow for things like that right now. Not willing to completely forgo the idea, my sister-in-law and I decided to pull something together that was simple, fun and tasty!

Mini Lemon Curd Tartlet Cookies

Creative Wending made Petite Fours with some help from the other sisters

Mini Mocha Meringue Cakes

Served with a pot of hot coffee and a bowl of sweetened whipped cream!

Adding Some Zest to My Life....

In the only way I know how! :)

When we buy lemons, we usually purchase them in fairly large quantities and then before we can use them all, they start going bad. It's prudence to buy them in larger quantities since they're cheaper, but letting them then rot on the counter for want of use, is not prudence. We've tried different methods and I can't recommend freezing the whole lemon to zest and juice later. It being simply said, is a painful job to try to zest a frozen lemon. Your hands get very cold, especially if you try to do more than one. So I asked, can we not do that again?

So here is what we do (I use the term loosely - I would generally be more correct. Well, I have to do something around here.) Thoroughly wash and dry lemons. Zest all of them. Freeze lemons in the zested skins. When you need the juice, thaw in the refrigerator and then juice. On to the zest...

Take a 12" wide roll of plastic wrap and pull out 4" and place on a cutting board. Divide the strip into three squares with a sharp knife. Place 1 teaspoon zest on each square as neatly as possible. Fold plastic wrap into a little envelope. The way I do this is to fold one over the top towards me, then next fold up away from you overlapping the first fold, and then on the left side fold it towards the back of the packet and then repeat on the right side. Does that make any sense?

Freeze the envelopes, preferably in a sealed container, or not. When you need zest, thaw and use. I got almost exactly 4 teaspoons zest per lemon, which I'll bear in mind if a recipe calls for the zest of 1 lemon. Wiki says one lemon equals about 3 teaspoons. Now I don't know who to believe. Both? Is such a thing possible? The lemons I had were on the larger side, so I'll bear that in mind too. I already have so many things to keep track of, I don't know why I'm adding zest to the list. Next time I can't remember something I should say, "it's the zest." I'll be in touch from the institution where I'm sure to be sent if I try that.