Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Violet and Elsa’s response to the baking activity

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Waning Moon
Cloudy and cold

And we’re into Day 5 of no hot water. Getting tired of taking either cold showers or the infamous “whore’s bath.”

It will be months, probably next year, before I can face icing another cookie. I iced from noon until 11 PM last night — close to 500 cookies. AND baked another batch of thumbprints (which came out beautifully) and eggnog angels (that dough is a nightmare to work with).

Re: the latter, the eggnog cookies, I realized that EVERY recipe I tried from the magazine that contains that recipe was wrong. I’m wondering if they actually tested these recipes or, because of cutbacks due to the recession, someone made ‘em up and they printed them without testing. The proportions are wrong. The only even remotely usable recipe is the eggnog cookie (and the icing rocks,now that I’ve modified it). Now, the reason I buy other people’s recipes for holiday cookies is because I’m baking about 1000 of them, and I don’t have time to mess with the recipe. I want something that works. If I wanted to muck around with the recipe, I’d start from scratch and make my own!

Example: For the eggnog icing, it said to put in 3 Tablespoons of eggnog to the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla mixture and then spread on the cookie. You wanna know what 3 T of eggnog made it look like? Cornmeal. It took 7 Tablespoons of good-quality eggnog from my favorite dairy to make a spreadable consistency — 8 if you want it really smooth. SEVEN. That’s a big difference from THREE.

If I’d had the time, I could have messed with the recipe and figured out by how much the amount of flour was off, and how much more I needed to add to make it a solid, workable consistency, not only for rolling it out (I used THREE POUNDS of flour to roll out one batch of cookies, that’s how badly it stuck to everything), but so the cookies wouldn’t break. My normal breakage rate for cookies is about 3 or 4 out of every 100, so 3-4%. With this recipe, it was about 40%. With one of the other recipes in the same magazine, it was 100% — the cookies simply dissolved on the baking sheet.

I started baking cookies when I was four, so I’ve been doing this a LONG time, and I’ve never hit a package of recipes that are this far off, proportion-wise. I may mess with the eggnog recipe over the coming months to get the proportions right, but as for the rest? Not using this publication again, and certainly not buying it next year. AND I’m going to contact them and let them know why. In a half a dozen recipes, surely ONE should have come out exactly as written! I mean, they all should, but still . . .

On the flip side, Martha Stewart’s recipe for Royal Icing comes out perfectly, and I bless the day I picked up Wilton’s meringue powder at the chef store, thinking it might come in useful someday. That stuff is awesome.

Errands in the morning went well. Gotta love Trader Joe’s, dropped my cartridges off at the really good Staples in Larchmont, got my favorite Jim’s Organic Coffee at Mrs. Green’s, found where my yoga studio’s moved — a new, larger, lighter space with better parking, and about a minute closer to me. So that’s all good.

I’m downloading photos and doing the Cookie Cheat Sheets that I pack with them –a photo of the cookie and a one-line description, and warnings if there are any nuts or whatever. And then we assemble the platters, load them into the car and head out. I expect it will take almost all day to deliver 30 platters. I’m anchoring each platter with a small gingerbread cake, and then I have between 3-7 of six different kinds of cookies on each — you can see, there are a lot of cookies around. I have cookie tins stacked everywhere.

I also baked a cake yesterday — I meant to bake it for St. Nicholas Day, but oh well. It’s from the SILVER PALATE GOOD TIMES COOKBOOK, only I changed it. It’s supposed to be a straight up coffee cake with buttermilk, and then a layer of fruit on it and a layer of walnuts. Well, I went to the store because I never keep buttermilk in the house — don’t like it and usually forget to use it when I buy it. There were 16 kinds of eggnog (SIXTEEN — who knew you could have so many flavors of eggnog? Heck, I only drink eggnog once a year; I want it to taste like EGGNOG) — and no buttermilk. The entire shelf of buttermilk was sold out. So I guess a lot of people are baking this year.

Anyway, I picked up sour cream instead, and used sour cream instead of buttermilk — which to me, made the batter taste better. I mixed in the fruit and nuts instead of layering them — and it’s a pretty darned lovely cake, if I do say so myself!

Okay, off to finish the Cookie Cheat Sheets, assemble the platters. I think I’ll have to put the back seat down in order to load 30 cookie platters into a Volkswagen.

Have a great day, everyone!

Yeah, not much writing done yesterday OR this morning, but I have to admit, the minute I lose my holiday spirit, I sit down and write a few paragraphs, and it comes back.

Devon

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Violet keeps an eye on things

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Waning Moon
Rainy and mild

I kept thinking yesterday was Tuesday, so I feel like I have the gift of a day. Woo-hoo!

I baked for 9-1/2 hours yesterday. I used a Thumbprint cookie recipe from the 1960’s and it came out PERFECTLY. So the recipes published this year must have shifted proportions, which made them not hold together. After the holiday frenzy, I’ll spread everything out and compare them.

I filled the Thumbprint cookies with three different types of jam — apricot, raspberry, blueberry. Not in the same cookie, don’t worry — I’ve got three different flavors, and I made three batches. I may have to make one more batch just to make sure I have a few extra. I made more molasses spice cookies — Lara, I’m going to scan the recipe and send it to you — and several batches of toll house cookies, AND the miniature gingerbread cakes in the molds — some are Christmas trees and some are gingerbread men.

As I baked, I kept thinking, “Oh, I have to write about that tomorrow” and darned if I can remember what “it” was! Every available space is decorated, so I had to flip over some of those empty milk crates that I meant to take to storage but couldn’t fit in the car, cover them with a board and a cloth, and use them for cooling stations. The new mixer and the new, deep batter bowl are awesome. It made everything so much more efficient and easier. Using three cookie trays worked just fine — the two in the oven were staggered, so I was always prepping one while the others were baking. The good thing about a tiny kitchen is that I can stand in one spot and reach everything (unless I’m storing it on top of the cupboards, in which case I have to stand on a chair).

All in a galley kitchen so small that I have counter space big enough for the mixing bowl, and you can’t stand in front of a cabinet door when you open it. So the next time one fo the spoiled brat bitches on HOUSE HUNTERS whines she “can’t” cook in a galley kitchen and fakes bumping into her significant other, I will hunt her down and smack her silly! I figured that, over the years, I’ve turned out somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 cookies in various tiny kitchens all over the country, and probably close to 500 cakes and pies. Would I like a huge kitchen? Absolutely! CAN I work in a tiny kitchen? Well, I have for years. These spoiled brats on the show, who are just starting out and expect 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, granite counter tops, steel appliances, etc. for $200,000. My goodness, you can’t even buy a CLOSET around here for that! Studio apartments are usually two or three times that amount.

Maybe I need a break from HGTV! 😉

Anyway, today is Icing Day. I’m going to ice the sugar cookies and the eggnog angels. So, tomorrow will be the pack-and-deliver day. I’ve got all my packing supplies — plates, festive bags, ribbon — and I’m going to make some tags on the computer (I can never find exactly what I want in the store, so I often make them).

I wrote domestic cards through “L” last night, and I’ll push to finish the alphabet tonight. I’m a little late (I like domestic cards out the door by the 10th or 12th), but they’re getting there. I have two packages to mail tomorrow, domestically; I have to figure out what the heck to get my cousin’s son and get THAT out the door — it’ll be late, but it’ll get there, it’s going overseas. I have one more gift to pick up for my Mom, probably on Thursday. And I am DONE. I can set up Ornament Hospital, finish some decorating, and just enjoy the season. I’ve got all the stocking stuffers, I can concentrate on my anthology deadline. And I can have fun with the holiday.

My eye seems to be okay. It’s sore, but not inflamed or any vision problems. Those eye drops I bought in Prague are magic!

Gotta head to Trader Joe’s this morning for cat food (the felines were horrified by their empty cupboard after I fed them the last can), gotta hit Mrs. Green’s for some coffee, and Staples (all in the same direction), then double back to Costco for more butter. So far, I’ve used 16 pounds of butter, 15 pounds of flour, 8 pounds of sugar, 4 pounds of chocolate morsels, and, when I did the math, realized I could paper a football field with parchment. And I’m not quite done yet — I’ve still got a few cakes to make and a Trifle. I’m trying to figure out which liquor to use to soak the spongecake — sherry, port, madeira, brandy?

I’m having a serial dream about a story. Very weird, but interesting. I have to make sure I take notes as soon as I wake up every morning, so that I don’t lose it. I think it could be quite a cool piece.

I have a Toyland display set up — ornaments of children and toys that are too big and heavy for the little tree, but are able to stand on their own. When I came into the ktichen this morning (it’s in the eating area of the kitchen), they were all rearranged and facing different directions! I don’t know if the cats played with them (they’re in a place the cats can’t usually reach) or the Christmas magic touched them and they had a party while we were all asleep.

Or the building is shifting again and we’re all screwed! 😉

Personally, I prefer Option 2.

Gotta run, there are angels to ice and cats to feed!

Maybe one of these days, they’ll fix the boiler, we’ll have hot water for more than five minutes (trouble for nearly a week now), and I won’t have to keep boiling water to wash the dishes. Pain in the —- when you’re baking and washing up as you go. Scumbag landlords. They make cosmetic “improvements” that make the building look like a hootchie joint where we rent by the hour, and skimp on things like the boiler. Typical.

Devon

Friday, October 23, 2009

IMG_0661

Friday, October 23, 2009
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Still dark out

Yesterday was pretty productive. Worked on several different projects; got one polished and out. Headed off to Larchmont to the really, really good Staples. Got everything on my list, including the special folders for the grant material. That Staples has the best staff — they even found the refills for my favorite pen that I couldn’t find. The packet in which the pen comes calls the refill one thing, but none of the refills are so marked. Yet, if you look in a corner, there’s a teeny tiny number (totally different from the legible markings on either packet) that match.

Went next door to Mrs. Green’s, the organic store, and stocked up, and then to Trader Joe’s where, oh horrors, they only had ONE flavor of cat food, not three! I hope they haven’t stopped making it. I bought a few cans of the one, and I’ll head back next week, hoping it’s just a case of a late shipment. Because my cats do NOT eat the same thing every day. After three days, they’d be like, “You’re kidding, right? You’re feeding me THIS again? No!” and stalk off, noses and tails in the air. It wouldn’t hurt Iris to miss a few meals, but the other two really can’t at this point. My felines demand variety.

At Trader Joe’s, I also found my new favorite decadent delight, the dark Belgian chocolate crisps. They look like chocolate potato chips, but they’re out of chocolate. Oh, boy! Dangerous!

They also had a spiced apple bread mix. I’m not one for mixes too often, but it looked really good, so I picked one up. I noticed, standing in the checkout line that EVERY cart in line (about 20 of them) had several of those distinctively colored boxes! Too funny.

At this very moment, it’s mixed and in the oven.

Two tarot readings in the afternoon, then off to dinner at a friend’s, which was a ton of fun. So much fun that I stayed way too late and was surprised by the clock on the way home.

Up before the alarm this morning, which is good, since I have some Very Early Mornings coming up. Yoga, baking, at my desk before 7 AM.

“Lake Justice” is going very well.

I’ve got more errands this morning, one that can’t be done until this afternoon, another tarot client in between. The writing bag is almost packed for the weekend gig, and i leave around 7 AM tomorrow.

Enjoy your weekend!

Devon

Published in: on October 23, 2009 at 6:07 am  Comments (6)  
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