Monday, January 21, 2013

Compare and Contrast

Dear Marg,

Amos and I went to Mom's for Downton Abbey last night. Dessert was ice cream and your butterscotch sauce. Mom and I were musing over the fact that you no longer like it, and even consider it too sweet. You prefer caramel sauce. Since neither of us can fathom anything better than Mrs. Bentley's butterscotch sauce we were perplexed.

Then we realized that without actually tasting the caramel sauce we would have no way of comparing the two. We think you should send us a jar of caramel sauce so that we may properly compare and contrast and form our own opinions.

All my love,


Thursday, January 10, 2013

His Lordship has a birthday and Miette is a secret communist

                Chris has been sick off and on for over three weeks. At this point, he is bored enough to read our blog, many many posts of our blog. Not only does he not like being referred to as “the bf,” he was also dismayed by how many of my posts conclude with, “I didn’t really like it, so the bf ate it,” and variations on this outcome.  He thinks he is being portrayed as a cross between Mikey from the original Life cereal commercials and a dispose-all.
                Henceforth, he wants to be referred to as His Lordship or HL. (He watches one episode of Downton Abby and he's searching Craig's List for a Valet. (naturally, he keeps getting directed to Casual Encounters) His Lordship. And he’s Irish.)
                HL had a birthday and I had an appointment with Miette, very like an appointment at Samarra (Miette, not the birthday).
                I chose the coconut mousse cake. I got out my six inch pans, tried to muster up some aversion to my comfortable nine inch pans, read the recipe through and put on my obedient shoes.  Two days before the birthday, I got to work.
                Hot milk cake.  Nothing like hot cross buns or hot buttered rum. No relation to that Hot Milk web-site which is just what you would imagine if you have that sort of imagination. The sugar and eggs are heated in a double boiler to 110 degrees and then whisked in the stand mixer until cooled to 85 degrees and voluminous. The butter is melted in the milk which is heated to 108 degrees and then also whisked and cooled to 83 degrees. All this heating and cooling is important for the final moisture and crumb. When you have simultaneously achieved all the correct temperatures, the dry ingredients are folded into the eggs, then the hot milk is gently folded in with the rest of the batter. I used my candy thermometer, I was vigilant about every degree.
               Apparently hot milk cake is a stand-in for the usual dry, white cake and absorbs syrups without becoming gummy. 

                I really couldn’t attest to that, because naturally it didn’t work for me. The cakes rose around the edges, never rose in the center and developed a thick crust on top. The coconut mousse cake recipe calls for one six inch cake and the hot milk cake recipe makes two six inch cakes, so I was able to slice the layers and end up with one cake.
                The good part is the coconut mousse. Coconut puree, a little gelatin and some whipped cream. Say no more.
                I sliced the cakes with the handy wire cake slicer; I layered in the coconut mousse, wrapped and chilled.

                There is a coconut syrup step that I hesitate to even bring up because I didn’t make a particularly good coconut syrup and my hot milk cake didn’t really absorb any syrup anyway.
                Miette wants a boiled icing. Miette apparently owns stock in some candy thermometer company. Actually, the boiled icing was sort of gross but also seriously beautiful. It is hot sugar syrup whisked into egg whites to make a thick and shiny meringue.  
                 I spread the icing, I pressed the shredded coconut all over and back in the fridge it went for more chilling. 

                The failed cake was incidental. The coconut mousse was all we needed. In fact, the failed cake left a lot of extra space to be filled with more coconut mousse. The boiled icing was a good complement. Next time I might make a nine inch, old reliable, Rose Levy butter cake, and use the coconut mousse with that.
                I left it with HL, he ate a little more and threw out the rest. I guess boyfriends are better eaters than Lordships.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Last Night

Dear Marg,

Last night I stayed up until 11:30 editing my Firefox bookmarks. You know, checking links, deleting ones that don't work, or that go to blogs that haven't been updated since 2011, or to patterns for socks from back in the day when I thought I liked knitting socks. Things like that.

Now this could either be seen as an entirely appropriate bit of digital house-keeping to start the new year, or a glaring sign of a Flaming Wacko with not enough to do. You be the decider.

Love, Elise FW

Monday, January 7, 2013


Dear Marg,

We had a party last night...

I was in charge of dessert and since Pemba and I had agility that day, it had to be an easy one. The word syllabub seemed to imply some sort  of an olde english dessert so I did some research. Lots of recipes on line, of varying degrees of olde-ness. All suggested a mixture of alcohol, sugar, lemon juice and cream. The most colorful one suggested I combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl and then milk the cow into the bowl until it was full. I didn't think the Scottish Highlanders would stand for that. Does she look like she wants to be milked in to a bowl?

I went with a mish-mash of the recipes I found, based on common sense and what was in the pantry. 

  • 1/3 cup sugar (make it a heaping 1/3rd)
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/6 cup Grand Marnier (I know this is an odd measurement but I used half of a 1/3rd measure)
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup whipping cream

  • I mixed the first five ingredients together and let it sit overnight, which actually ended up being about 20 hours. Most of the recipes didn't do this but Nigel Slater said that step shouldn't be skipped as it makes the flavor more mellow. 

    After dinner I added the cup of cream and with a whisk began to whip. Tentatively at first, for Nigel had also warned that overbeating was a risk. "Watch the texture like a hawk", he says. "Stop as soon as the mixture starts to feel heavy on the whisk, when it will sit in soft folds, like a duvet. If you take it too far it will curdle quicker than you can curse."

    When the cream began to thicken but before it was fully whipped I added the wine mixture. More whipping, gently, gently. Stopped short of the cursing point and plopped it into some of Gram's glasses. 

    Wow. It was light and gay, a perfect balance of sweet and tart. It was angel's food, before those words were sullied by that disgusting cake. It was perfect. 

    The cookies are a pecan crisp that I made over Christmas. I'll give you the recipe. You definitely want it.

    Love, Elise

    PS Mom thinks Syllabub would be a good name for a pit bull. If anyone were adopting a pibble...