Friday, August 27, 2010

August Daring Bakers: Baked Alaska!

Blog-checking lines: The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

It's been a long haul this past two weeks!

The good news is, I get to keep my hand! The bad news is that I only started being able to use it, and cautiously at that, starting today. I still have some numbness and lots of swelling, but I'm out of the tunnel and definitely in the light. If you want to get truly disgusted, just do a little Google search on Infectious Flexor Tenosynovitis, but you might want to wait until after you've looked at the yummy food pictures below!

So starting today, I was finally able to type and I was also able(finally!!)to get back in the kitchen and do some cooking. Just in the nick of time, too, since today is the August Daring Bakers reveal date. Baked Alaska was this month's challenge, and I have to say it made a wonderful cake to celebrate the day with!

The first part of a Baked Alaska is a cake base--in this case we made a brown butter pound cake. How good was this? The batter was divine licked straight off the beaters, and cake is pretty great as well. Think pound cake, but with a sort of nutty caramel tweak. Yeah. Good. Of course I forgot to take a picture of the cake before I leveled it. Also, see the myriad of little holes? That's a combination of hurrying and trying to figure out how to hold spatula in a hand that's not working right.

The second part of the cake is ice cream. I followed (loosely, verryyyy loosely) the recipe for fresh strawberry ice cream that came with my ice cream maker. Instead of strawberries, I used a mixture of raspberries and blueberries. Along with vanilla, I added a nice little shot of Chambourd. Macerating the fruit? Who has the TIME for that???? And finally, instead of adding half the berries here and half the berries there, I just dumped the whole lot of them in at once.

So, you know, about as good as I ever follow any recipe!

The final layer of a Baked Alaska is the meringue. I love meringue. A. Lot. So, I was really glad to have a ton of egg whites left over that have been hanging out in the freezer for a few weeks. I thawed those and discovered to my dismay (naah, utter delight!) that I had approximately 50% too many for the recipe. I made it all up and I used it all up! Yay for meringue!

I was really scared when it came time to assemble the whole cake. My ice cream hadn't had time to freeze solid, so I was really concerned that the cake guts would melt before the skin was bronzed. No worries, though. I had plenty of time to use my kitchen torch and take plenty of pictures, too!

This brief interruption brought to you be gratitude. Hey Bet?! How long ago was it you gave me the torch for Christmas? Still one of my favorite gifts ever!!!! Thank you!!!!!!

Okay, back to business.

The business here being trying to get the cats off the table so I can take photos! Move your furry hind-end, Sky! Hurry, the sun is going down!

What, you too?

That's it! I'm going back to bed!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The beach (by Kat)

I wouldn't blame you if you thought I'd managed to fall into Puget Sound and drown, based on my lack of posting lately. Happily, I can report that I was the least injured of the family upon return from this vacation. That might very well be a first!

The house we rented with Mr. Boom's brother and his family sits on a bluff overlooking the Sound, has gorgeous views of Mt. Rainier, and has a kitchen that makes me feel very happy. The home is part of a private community that owns the northern part of Hartstene Island, so the kids were also able to enjoy the private swimming pool, hot tub, tennis courts, and of course the ping-pong table! Mr. Boom's brother and his wife are hardcore gamers, so we also enjoyed (or endured (shhh...)) several evenings of hardcore gaming.

We rented this same place last year, sharing with a third family (two families was better than three, I must admit), and knew before we left that we had to return this summer. And again as we left this year, I was already making plans in my head for next summer's trip out!

While the kids recreated away, I spent every minute I could on the beach, the veranda, or in the kitchen. Last year, I didn't really bring much in the way of cooking gear or supplies, and then kicked myself solidly and repeatedly when I discovered the house actually had a very nice kitchen to work in and that I had a crown of hungry people I could feed.

This year, and I'm only a little bit ashamed to admit it, I brought my rolling pin to make fresh pasta, I bought my espresso maker to have good coffee, I brought my three favroite chef knives, I brought a bundt cake pan to make a zucchini cake I'll tell you about later, and I bought my good thermometer to make sous-vide steaks which were finished up on the super uber fancy stainless steel propane barbecue that probably cost as much for the owners to purchase as our new car! I'm not a barbecuing kind of gal, but that monster and I became friends. Very, very close friends! Too bad I was there with people who didn't give a crap about food. Oh well. More geoduck and salmon in freshly rolled pasta in a bechamel sauce with Parmesan and mozzarella for me, right?

So, "what's a geoduck" you ask? First let's get the prononcuitation down. Gooey-duck. No joke!

Repeat after me: Goooooey-duck!

The geoduck is a bivalve on steroids that lives about three feet under the sand. The clam sends up a "neck" to the surface of the land and filters water down the tube to it's body, the water shoots back up the other side of the tube and squirts a few feet into the air. Like other filter feeders, the geoduck takes the worst fragments of rot and decay out of the water and turns them into sweet sweet goodness for me to eat. Crab, lobster, mussels--all of 'em eat the nasty and make it tasty.

Retrieving a geoduck from it's den in the down deep requires a lot of digging. The problem, of course, is that the further down you try do dig on the shoreline, the faster it fills in with water. The sides continually slough down into the center as well. I think our holes ended up nearly as wide as they were deep. But we were successful, and came home with three geoducks and a small bag of mussels and steamer clams to boot.

Cleaning a geoduck requires a sharp knife, lots of towels, boiling water, ice water, and an asthma inhaler if you have any sense of humor whatsoever. After those requirements are in place, take the sharp knife and run it around the shell, separating the meat from the shell. LOTS of water will squirt in every direction at this point.

Now cut off the neck. There isn't much left to cut on this poor little guy, since I accidentally be-necked him during the dig.

When you pry open the shell, you'll get to see the insides of the geoduck.

Then do a vivisection on the neck....way cool! See the tiny little holes to either side of the circular white center? Those actually relax out to be as big a round as my thumb. That's where the geoduck filters water down on one side and up on the other. Everything else in there is muscle.

Are you laughing yet?
Now you're ready to plunge all the body parts into the pot of simmering water. Ten seconds is all it takes to make sure the geoduck is dead and to loosen the gnarly membrane around the neck.
Scoop them out of the hot water and put them in a sink of cold water.

See that thick membrane on the surface of the neck? Yeah, we're gonna have to get rid of that.

Grab at one end and start pulling back.

Repeat for each neck.

My sister-in-law had to finish this up. I was puffing away on my inhaler upstairs. She saved the membranes by hanging them over the edge of the deck. They dried like little used....


Friday, August 6, 2010

Westward ho! (by Kat)

And we're off...again!
This time to the beach.
This time I'm taking my espresso maker.
This time tomorrow, I'll be on a veranda overlooking Puget Sound...
These are the good times!

Bet, blog something, okay?

PS This video has been in my head all day. You're welcome!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How to give a cat a bath (by Kat)

Sky, our oldest and dearest cat, at least dearest cat to me, needed a bath.

Why? Although he's the meanest cat in the whole dang world, whenever we're gone for more than a day the other cats kick him out of the house. He hangs out under an old carriage house kitty corner from our house. I believe it must have had a coal-burning stove at one point, or was at least used to store the coal for the adjoining home. Whichever the case may be, he will let us coax him out, carry him home, and then he shares the coal dust with the rest of the house.

I should mention that this cat scared the vet so bad she peed her pants.


Second scariest animal she's ever had in her office, she said. And this gal works on rodeo animals (think world-class bulls), strays, and a husband who scares the bejeezus out of me, so there you go.

I should mention that her digression that brought this on was simply entering the exam room and approaching the table. Let's just say his teeth weren't examined, his temperature never, uh, probed, and his prodigious gut never palpated.

But he's my sweet little snoogums and I luvvy wuvvy duvvy him. All 30+ pounds of him.

But seriously, when you need a bath you need a bath.



Close up of his fur, although it's still hard to see just how dirty he is!

Everything laid out.

Easing him into the water...

Doing his best meerkat impersonation...

Help! A peeping tom!

You can just see Cloudy, out on the potting bench, laughing his head off


I told him he was too heavy for me to keep holding up,
so he just sat politely after that...
what a weirdo!
I mean what a sweet little luvvy duvvy!

Rinsing over, squeezing out the water

Gross, but better here in the sink than on the couch or in my bed!

Like Eeyore, Sky seems to be missing a tail


Nay, positively glowing!

And thanks to Mr. Boom who (unknowingly) allowed Chirp chirp to use his camera to document the process!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Testing (by Kat)

I've been using Blogger to compose all my posts up to this point. Getting started was very easy, and the whole interface is also very easy.

What I don't like is the teensy little screen they give you to compose on. I can't even view a photo in its entirety, much less see the text around it. I also dislike not being able to get a feel for what the post will look like when it's stretched wide over the full width of a computer screen. At times I've thought my posts were getting a little long and windy, only to find that when viewed on the actual page they came across as terse and fractured.

Today I discovered that I can compose posts in Microsoft Word 2007.

At least, supposedly I can.

You never know with Microsoft, do you?!

So, this here is a trial post using Microsoft. Let's see how it goes!

Oh, and that photo up there? Those are some lupine from a drive we took a few weeks ago. My camera is broken. It's actually more than broken now, since I took the whole dang thing apart seeing if I could fix it…

Otherwise, I would have posted a few pretty shots from our camping trip this past weekend. Actually, I should say from where we spent the weekend and I just barely lived to tell about it! Next post I'll tell you all about the bruises, contusions, contortions, and burns. Fun stuff!

Okay, testing, testing…