Bryan Cranston’s Underwear and “Bag-End Biscuits”

After a frenetic binge-watch of Breaking Bad (only my second viewing) and after seeing most of Malcolm in the Middle, I’m convinced that Bryan Cranston is the man I’ve seen most often in his underwear, with the exception of two other men. So—Cranston ranks number three.

Of course, my husband is the number one wearer of underwear in front of me.

Number two was my father. He was of the boxer variety (Bob and Bryan being of the brief variety). My dad would actually step out of the house (or even the occasional motel) to go pick weeds in the front yard. Maybe nobody noticed him sitting cross-legged in the grass in his relatively dingy t-shirt and boxers. On his feet, he would only be wearing socks, never slippers or sandals or shoes. Maybe nobody minded… I’ve assumed that, because the neighbors never called the police to report there was a strange man sitting in front of his house, pulling weeds, in his underwear. Or gosh, officer, there is this strange man walking around the parking lot of the Denver Motel 6, looking at license plates… no, he’s not doing anything weird, he’s just… in his underwear… and some socks…

(He liked to “chase plates.” Mom and dad would drive around, and he would observe license plates. A good day was seeing maybe 25 plates other than New Mexico. Canadian and Mexican plates were a welcome bonus. Hawaii and Alaska always elicited the response, “well, they’re a long way from home.” Dad gave up driving when it became clear he was an exceptionally nervous driver, and better off only being a passenger.)

My sister, mother, and I never really knew why he perpetually went out into his perceived yard (even if that yard was the parking lot of a Motel 6) only in his underwear. He was a peculiar person in many ways, but I’ve assumed since he was brought up in an incredibly repressive household, he figured he could finally be free (at least in this particular way) after he married and moved away from his parents.

Nevertheless, dad was also an intelligent man; he loved sports, yet never played much as an adult. He loved music, yet only played piano briefly as a youngster. He was generous and sensitive. He had a quirky and dry sense of humor. He also believed that if he belonged to a religion, it would be “cookie-ism.” He never let his diabetes get in the way of his sugar worship, however. These cookies would have been right up his alley.

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Did you know that Tolkien fanatics established a special holiday just to read the works of the Professor? The Tolkien Society started this event way back in 2003, and it is held every March 25. It’s a good day to re-read a favorite short story, such as the delightful Leaf by Niggle. Or you could give up binge-watching OITNB and give The Hobbit a quick read.

I know I’m late for it this year, but this little post was something I prepared for the day a couple years ago and it goes along very well with these delicious cookies, which turned up in my original cookbook at just this place in this chapter. You’ll just have to mark your calendars for next year!

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From “The Hobbit”—Bilbo’s Pantry

For a typical Tolkien Reading Day, I like to picture one of my favorite hobbits, Mr. Bilbo Baggins, reading his “morning letters.” He’s about to enjoy his day (his less noisy and more green day) when this incredibly annoying wizard intrudes, whose only mission seems to be destroying Bilbo’s cozy, complacent world.

After this encounter, I like to imagine Bilbo escaping into his comfortable and luxurious Bag-End bachelor pad (well, “scuttle” is the word Tolkien uses…); relieved that he can now spend his afternoon reading about Tookish adventures, certainly not participating in any such nonsense.

It’s a good thing he’s already baked some delicious biscuits to nibble on. Little does he know, he better enjoy them now, because those uncivilized and rude dwarves are going to take over his pantries tomorrow…

“Bag-End Biscuits”

bagendbiscuits

  • 3 large oranges
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon soft salted butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar

Using a microplaner or fine grater, remove as much of the zest from the oranges as you can. You should have at least 3 tablespoons; set aside. Cut oranges in half and juice them. If necessary, strain the juice; reserve ¼ cup and save the rest in a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray or grease lightly. In a large bowl, cream the 1 cup butter, sugar, and 2 tablespoons zest. Add the flour and the reserved ¼ cup juice; mix well. On a lightly floured surface, pat and roll out the dough to a 6″ by 12″ rectangle, about ½” thick. Cut into 1″ by 2″ pieces. Carefully place on the baking sheet. Bake 16-20 minutes, until the cookies are just slightly brown on the bottom. Cool on pan for 2 minutes. Carefully place them on a rack and cool 1 hour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon butter, remaining zest, and 2 tablespoons juice. This should have the consistency more of an icing, not a glaze. You might add a smidge more juice if you think it is too thick. With a recessed or bent spatula, spread about a teaspoon of icing on each cookie and leave on rack over the baking sheet for about ½ hour to set. Keep covered at room temperature. Makes 36.

dragon1

 

Mom, Monty Python, and “Belladonna Took’s Lemon Cake”

My mom occasionally liked to see films at our local art cinema, The Guild. One day she took us to see And Now For Something Completely Different, starring a band of relatively obscure Brits collectively known as Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I was ten and my sister was seven. It was 1972—why wasn’t she taking us to see some Disney film, like Napoleon and Samantha?

Thank goodness she didn’t. In the end, my mom didn’t always appreciate the Pythons, but my sister and I were hooked. We spent our teen years quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Between comfy chairs, hedgehogs, silly walks, and killer rabbits, we would often find ways to integrate Python quotes into our daily lives.

mpfc

My modest collection—“That rabbit is dynamite!”

Can I quote all the lines in The Holy Grail? I could come very close, if it’s on. And it is on, about once a year. Was Graham Chapman the first man I ever saw naked on screen in The Life of Brian? Maybe… I’m pretty sure he was. Do I still bother people with obscure Python quotes? Sometimes—let’s face it; the Pythons are an acquired taste, and you have to know your audience.

Have I based friendships and boyfriends on whether they understand Python references? Or Star Trek, or Tolkien, or Star Wars references? Yes, I have.

Thank you, mom, for skipping Napoleon and Samantha.

I can hardly wait to expose my grandsons to this crazy Python world…

This was mom’s favorite cake, out of all the recipes I tested before she died on May 17, 2012.

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From “The Hobbit”—Bilbo’s Pantry

Various other pesky dwarves call out for “more cakes—and ale—and coffee, if you don’t mind,” so Bilbo brings out what I imagine would be one of his mother’s special recipes. In my original cookbook, I envisioned this lovely lemon cake as a recipe handed down from Bilbo’s mother, hence the name. I have pictured it with coffee below; some desserty, chocolatey ale might complement the cake, but I’m doubtful (mainly because I’m not the most avid beer connoisseur, but try it and let me know…).

Belladonna was the ninth child (of 12) of Gerontius (The Old Took) and Adamanta Chubb. She married Bungo Baggins and their only child was Bilbo. This seems to be her only claim to fame, though, in the beginning of The Hobbit, Gandalf pardons the somewhat rude Bilbo, “for your old grandfather Took’s sake, and for the sake of poor Belladonna.” Did Belladonna suffer from some unknown tragedy? Or is Gandalf merely commenting on the fact that Bilbo turned out to be so different from his apparently fun-loving, firework-enjoying relatives? Regarding his Tookish relatives, even Bilbo comments that “life used to be quite inter—(he is so obviously going to say interesting, but his fustiness prevents him).” Is she “poor Belladonna” because her son turned out to be such a stick-in-the-mud?

Oh well, children often become their parents, or they react to them by becoming their opposite, you know what I mean? But let’s assume that Bilbo’s mom was a good cook—she’s bound to have had a few delicious recipes on hand.

“Belladonna Took’s Lovely Lemon Cake”

lemoncakeslice

  • 1 giant lemon (or 2 medium lemons)
  • About ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon 1% milk, room temperature
  • ¼ cup soft salted butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 extra large egg, room temperature
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon soft lemon curd
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9″ heavy aluminum cake pan with cooking spray or grease lightly. Lightly flour bottom of pan. With a fine grater or microplaner, scrape as much zest as you can from the lemon; you should end up with 1-2 tablespoons—set aside. Then squeeze the lemon and measure out about ¼ cup of juice into a 2-cup glass measure (remove any pits, of course). Add ¾ cup milk to this, or enough to measure 1 cup total. Add the zest and vanilla; whisk and set aside (it will most likely appear curdled—don’t worry).

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and egg until thoroughly combined. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 tablespoon poppy seeds. Add to butter mixture alternately with the lemon/milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients; mix well on medium speed;scrape down sides. Spread in prepared pan and bake at 350° for 33-37 minutes, until cake tests done in the center. Cool in pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge and turn out onto the rack, bottom down—cool one hour.

Transfer to a serving plate and split in half horizontally; carefully set aside the top layer. Mix up the 1/2 cup lemon curd and gently spread on the cake. Replace top carefully. In the same bowl you mixed the flour in (don’t bother washing it out), whisk together the 1 tablespoon lemon curd and 1 tablespoon milk, then add the powdered sugar and whisk until fully combined. Spread this evenly over the top—it’s okay for some to drizzle over the sides. Sprinkle with the ½ teaspoon poppy seeds. Cover and store at room temperature or refrigerate. Serves 6-8.

belladonnatookslemoncake

bilbointro

Making Mincemeat out of “Bofur’s Mince Pie”

When I was researching my original cookbook, I discovered that your basic traditional mincemeat pie was (of course, duh) made partially of meat. It usually had large amounts of beef suet as well, which was something I had usually relegated to bird feeders. I came across a recipe and made some modifications, which really means I omitted the meat and suet. However, the amount of alcohol in the filling made the whole thing—to be perfectly blunt about it—disgusting. 

I see that a good mincemeat can be stored for up to ten years, according to Wikipedia. Well, times and tastes have changed, and I decided to make an updated version. I also decided to omit any sort of meat product, except for lard in the crust. You can certainly substitute vegetable shortening for the lard, then you’ll have a vegetarian-friendly dessert. This is a great pie to make for the fall/winter holiday season.

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From “The Hobbit”—Bilbo’s Pantry

The dwarf Bofur asks specifically for some mince pie with cheese. I’m not sure how Bofur knows that Bilbo obviously must have some mince pie in his too-full-pantry, but Bofur does. And Bilbo, indeed, does.

“Bofur’s Mince Pie”

bofursmincepie

  • 2 cups raisins and/or currants
  • 8 ounces chopped sugar dates
  • 1 cup dried blueberries
  • 1 cup dried apricots, cut into ¼” bits
  • 1½ cups orange juice
  • ½ cup cognac (dark rum would also work, or try a liqueur such as Amaretto or Frangelico)
  • 4 ounces coarsely chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 ounces cold lard or vegetable shortening, cut into ¼” bits
  • 7-9 tablespoons ice water
  • Optional: some “cheese” on the side (a few slices of sharp Cheddar would be nice)
  • Optional sauce, recipe below

In a large bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients.  Pour into a 7-cup glass container and cover.  Refrigerate overnight; stir a couple of times.  Place a strainer over a medium bowl and drain the fruit for one hour.  Reserve this liquid for the optional sauce below, if desired (you should end up with ¾ cup).  Put fruit into a large bowl and add the walnuts, ¼ cup sugar, and spices.  Set aside.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add the lard or shortening and combine well.  Mix in the water, starting with 6 tablespoons.  Add more water and mix until the dough comes together well and is still moist.  Divide dough into a 2/3 and a 1/3 portion.  Flatten into discs and wrap each with plastic wrap or put each into covered containers.  Refrigerate dough for 30-60 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375°.  On a floured surface, roll out the 2/3 portion of dough to approximately 13″ and lay in a 9½” glass pie dish.  Pour in the fruit/nut mixture.  Roll out 1/3 portion of dough to approximately 12″ and lay on top.  Trim the edges, fold over and crimp decoratively; reserve scraps.  Cut a ½” hole in center.  With scraps of dough, cut small decorations and set on top of pie.  Spray lightly with water and sprinkle liberally with 1 tablespoon sugar.  Bake 46-50 minutes until golden brown.  Set on rack.  Let cool at least two hours before cutting.  Keep leftovers covered at room temperature.  Serves 8-10.

Optional Sauce: 

  • ¾ cup reserved juice (if needed, add some orange juice to bring the amount to ¾ cup)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a 1½-quart saucepan, using a whisk.  Bring to a rolling simmer with a medium/low heat, whisking frequently.  Then turn the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens, whisking occasionally.  Nice with the pie and/or ice cream.  Cover and refrigerate leftovers; reheat very slowly.  Makes about 1½ cups.

mincepieslice

mincepiefruitnut

 

New Emoji and “Bifur’s Raspberry Jam and Apple-Tart”

In general, I 🙂 the new Facebook emoji. 

My newspaper ran this cartoon, however, and I think it really does represent what perhaps many of us would 🙂 to see as emoji:

FBemoji

From the Albuquerque Journal, sometime in March 2016…

For years, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Lately, it’s been mostly frustration. It seems it has become the place where relatively interesting people go to become boring. I have a fairly wide range of friend-types, and each subset represents itself in the most relentlessly repetitive ways possible. Here are a few examples:

I get it; you’re Christian, but you’ve already told me six times today about the glory of Christ.

I get it; you’re Jewish; please tell me more about Israel.

You’re Wiccan; please tell me more about herbal remedies and Gaia.

You’re Conservative—guns, Jeeps, and Ted Cruz are your favorite shares.

You’re feeling the Bern.

You’ve got a terrific recipe to share. Again.

Oh, here’s another photo of alcohol.

Now, I bet if I went to lunch with any of these people, they wouldn’t talk about these particular things. But Facebook seems to compel people to spend about 99% of their social media presence sharing things that other people have memed (yes, I know that’s not a real word, but it should be). Barely 1% is personal. It got to the point where I simply could not handle my timeline.

Don’t misunderstand me—I love the occasional puppy/monkey/Bernie meme. One of my daughters considers Facebook a trashy tabloid. She tries to limit herself to about 30 minutes per day. I can certainly understand looking at it that way. I finally took a radical step and unfollowed every person, every group, and every page. I only follow my kids and my sister and our respective business pages. This means I follow three people (who hardly ever post anything) and three pages, one of which is my own, Astrid Tuttle Winegar (please like and share! Groan…). 

I categorized friends into about 12 specific groups. Now, I have to make an effort to check on friend groups, or group groups, or pages. You might think this would be a pain in the ass, but it has saved me so much time and frustration. I check in on my friend groups occasionally. What I have found is that even though I haven’t heard anything about someone, it doesn’t matter, because when I do check in, inevitably they are posting the same old stuff they’ve been posting on a daily basis. I can always drop in on my pages feed to see what’s up on my favorite TV shows, or whatever else I’m following. Again, however, as with people, most pages are usually filled with the SOSDD. 

The only problem is people who really don’t post anything much at all, but assuming you’ve assigned them to some sort of group, you’ll eventually catch up with their updates. And let’s face it—if somebody is really THAT important to you, aren’t you keeping in touch OUTSIDE of Facebook? I do receive notifications from a few of my group groups mostly, and that’s not a problem. I mean, I’m in those groups for a reason, so I do want to hear what’s going on. I don’t receive notifications from other groups, however. I’m in the memorial group for my high school, but I definitely don’t want notifications from them. Why am I in that group, then…?

See what I mean? Remember a time when Facebook didn’t exist? Weren’t we all somewhat happier in our isolation back then?

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From “The Hobbit”—Bilbo’s Pantry

Well, Gandalf finally arrives and calls the dwarf invasion of Bag-End “Quite a merry gathering!” I’m sure the annoyed Bilbo would disagree with Gandalf’s assessment. The serious ordering of foodstuffs and beverages begins. The dwarf Bifur asks for “raspberry jam and apple-tart.” So, does that mean he wants raspberry jam AND a separate apple tart? Or does he want them together? Wouldn’t he have asked for some toast or an English Muffin on which to spread his jam? Or will he merely spread the jam on the tart? Does he just want a spoon with this jar of jam, with a slice of tart on the side as a jam chaser? Tolkien’s language here is severely testing the limits of literary interpretation. I decided just to combine them into one item for simplicity’s sake.

“Bifur’s Raspberry Jam and Apple-Tart”

bifursraspberryjamandappletart

  • 4 ounces walnut halves, lightly toasted and cooled
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons plus ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup soft salted butter
  • 4 ounces light cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large apple, peeled and cored, cut into ¼” slices (any variety)
  • ½ cup seedless raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large food processor, pulse the walnuts, flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt until the nuts are ground. Add and pulse the butter until thoroughly mixed. Coat a 9½” tart pan (1″ deep) with removable sides with cooking spray or grease well. Scrape nut mixture into pan (don’t bother washing bowl and blade); press evenly up the sides, then press evenly onto the bottom of pan. Bake 15 minutes. Put on a rack; maintain oven temperature. Be sure to handle pan on the sides only, so you don’t shift the bottom.

Meanwhile, process the ½ cup sugar, cream cheese, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Spread evenly over shell. Decoratively arrange the apple slices over the egg mixture, but don’t overload. Bake at 350° for 36-40 minutes. While tart is baking, melt jam in a 1-quart saucepan, whisking just until smooth. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered.

When done, carefully place tart on a rack and spread the jam over all, using a spoon or bent spatula. Cool on rack for one hour. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Remove pan sides and place on a serving plate. After cutting, store covered in refrigerator—you can bring it to room temperature before serving again or enjoy cold. Serves 6-8.

raspberryslice

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The Oscar Rush and a “Beautiful Round Seed-Cake”

Aside from the obvious controversy that (rightfully) loomed over this year’s Oscars, I thought the show was pretty average. It was filled with gorgeous dresses, some rather flat jokes, some very smart female comic actresses making very unfortunate jokes (yes, I’m talking about Sarah Silverman and my favorite, Tina Fey), as well as some charming moments and well-deserved awards (finally one for Leonardo DiCaprio, who was elegant and eloquent). Nothing this year was as questionable as the opening number in the Seth MacFarlane Oscars—so overall, a fairly good show.

My husband Bob was probably grateful he didn’t have to sit through all of this glitz, since this was the first time I ended up recording the entire thing. I even added the 30-minute extension, yet right when Morgan Freeman came on to announce the best picture award, my recording ended. By then, I was pretty sick of the whole show, didn’t care much which film won (inevitably I’ve never seen the best film choice at the theater anyway), and figured it would be all over the Internet the next day.

However, two items really bugged me throughout the show. The first was this “gratitude ticker” that ran along the bottom of the screen whenever someone was announced as a winner. I found it completely unnecessary and distracting, as if I were watching CNBC or one of the news networks. It was bad enough when just one person won an award—but then there were the teams of people winning. These were the worst, with an even faster version of the ticker listing every single relative they could think of, and every friend, and every associate… Enough!!!

The other problem for me was the orchestra playing an accelerated version of “The Ride of the Valkyries” whenever the producers felt someone was taking more than their allotted 30 seconds of speech time. I actually came to loathe the song by the end of the evening.

I’m sure I’ll get over it one day…

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From “The Hobbit”—Bilbo’s Pantry

The unfortunate (or serendipitous, depending on your perspective) dwarf invasion of Bilbo’s home truly tests his patience. When Bilbo offers refreshments, the dwarf Balin requests beer instead of tea, and seed-cake. Bilbo fetches the beer from a cellar and rushes to one of his pantries (again, I wonder, how many pantries does a single hobbit need…?) “to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.” Of course, you can double this recipe if you really need two cakes…

Should you, like Balin, drink a beer with this cake? I’ve tried it and it is, indeed, a lovely combination. However, it is also completely delicious with coffee, tea, milk, or even a hot chocolate.

“Beautiful Round Seed-Cake”

seedcakeslice

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cake flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • ½ tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 tablespoons salted, dry roasted sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup plus ¼ cup soft salted butter
  • ½ cup light sour cream, room temperature
  • ½ cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 extra large egg, room temperature
  • ¼ cup packed golden brown sugar
  • ¼ cup old-fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9″ springform pan with 2″ deep sides with cooking spray or grease lightly. In a large bowl, combine both of the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, ½ tablespoon each of the poppy seeds and sesame seeds, and 1 tablespoon of the sunflower seeds. Add and mix in ¼ cup of the butter and the sour cream. In a 2-cup glass measure, whisk together the buttermilk and the egg, then mix this into the dry ingredients. Spread in prepared pan. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, oats, and the remaining seeds. Add the remaining ¼ cup butter and combine with your hands. Sprinkle this evenly in clumps on top of the batter. Bake 37-41 minutes or until the center tests done. Place on a rack and cool at least 30 minutes before removing pan sides and cutting. Keep leftovers covered at room temperature. Serves 6-8.

beautifulroundseedcake

birdy

Turkish Delight Trauma

Perhaps you are unaware of this, but I post a couple times a month on a massive nerd site called Legendarium Media. I’m a nerd, so I can say that. Since I had this legally-questionable cookbook just sitting around, I figured I could still post the recipes using the original text. So, all my posts consist of text from “Astrid’s Modern Hobbit Recipes.” The recipes are the same, and the arrangement is completely different, plus I occasionally change the wording to reflect recent developments, such as the release of Peter Jackson’s films.

This has been fun, plus I figure it exposes people to my e-book or my Facebook page, whatever. The site also deals with any type of fandom you can imagine. You can probably imagine that the Narnia fandom is quite large, plus they seem to be even more obsessed with food than the Middle-earth crowd.

So—another reading of the Chronicles of Narnia led me to invent 25 recipes that I will eventually get around posting on the site. As of now, I’ve had a bread and a sugar-topped cake for Mr. Tumnus. If we follow the books, my next recipes should involve the treacherous character of Edmund Pevensie. He drinks something luscious, but is obviously not hot chocolate (though Lewis does mention hot chocolate elsewhere, so I’ve got my deluxe Narnian chocolate ready for future posting). I ended up with coconut and it is quite good—you can read about it here: Edmund’s Downfall.

Then, of course, Edmund asks for…(cue epic and dramatic music here)…Turkish Delight. The White Witch conjures up a “round box, tied with green silk ribbon” which contains “several pounds” of candy. This recipe makes about a pound or so. (Several pounds…what is Lewis thinking?)

My parents used to get plenty of Turkish Delight wrapped up in the American version from Liberty Orchards in Washington state. You’ve seen the boxes around; they’re called Aplets and Cotlets. I would often resort to buying them at Christmas time from Costco (!), because what else do you get your parents when they already have everything? They are quite delicious. I’m doubtful they would make me betray my siblings to some bitchy white witch, but you never know.

They are a candy. They have a specific “chew” to them. I would compare them to a gumdrop, sort of, but they are more sophisticated. They can be covered with powdered sugar, or other ground nuts or seeds, dried coconut, or even chocolate.

In other words, they are NOT a cookie or a cake. They are NOT served cold.

All righty then, I said to myself, let’s make some!

My research starts on the Internet. I read MANY recipes; I try a few. I adapt a few. They are ALL failures. I’m thinking, this is ridiculous, how am I going to present a relatively easy recipe for posting on Legendarium? The stuff just will not set up properly. Is it my altitude? Is candy-making really that hard? Why yes, I’m fairly sure that it is that hard, and that is why I like to buy candy. That is also why I laugh at Bob when he suggests particular candies are too expensive. Now that I’ve been fussing with candy-making, with all its persnickety cooking details, I don’t think I’ll ever complain about paying a higher price for luxury candy.

Many of the recipes resort to gelatin. This results in a cold, wet product that might taste half-way decent, but is certainly not genuine. I fiddled with gelatin a couple of times, and the finished product was basically a Knox Blox-type of goodie. It was so wet, it quickly became melted sugar.

I decided maybe it would be okay to come up with a completely different iteration of Turkish Delight. This led me to experiment with a sort of sweetened condensed milk concoction that needed to be refrigerated. It also suffered from a complete wetness.

None of these items would ever support a powdered sugar coating; the sugar just melts away and becomes a mess. I finally decided I’d had enough and took a trip to Cafe Istanbul, my nearest local Middle Eastern grocery store. At least 20 versions of Turkish Delight stared back at me from the shelves. I ended up buying four, which are pictured below. As I was checking out, I asked the middle-aged, male owner of the store, “Do you know of anyone who makes Turkish Delight? I mean, like your friends, or your family members?” He did not laugh at me, but told me he didn’t know anybody who would bother, though he thought he knew some people in California who did.

Turkish Delight (or rahat lokum, with variations on spellings) is well represented here. My favorite of these ended up being the Sera at the top—it had pistachios and was covered with very fine dried coconut. The Dobrova was also good, as was the chocolate coated Usas at the bottom of the photo. The purple box had four different coatings, but also had soapwort as an ingredient, which produced a sort of marshmallow-type of texture (they were my least favorite, since I don’t care for chewy marshmallow texture).

turkishdelights

Although we had different nuts and coatings, and the hint of subtle flavorings (rose water is often an ingredient, though that’s a bit perfume-y), all four packages boiled down to four essential ingredients: sugar, water, cornstarch, and citric acid. NO gelatin, cream of tartar, or corn syrup. Internet recipes will claim lokum is easy to make, but believe me, it is not. Your timing has to be precise; you can’t rely on gelatin to firm up the cubes, and coating your candies can be a mess. If you get them to set up, that is.

Soft ball stage will not accomplish this. Refrigeration should never be necessary to set up your candies; it is a room temperature product. It lasts quite a while just sitting on your counter, loosely covered. As a matter of fact, you should not wrap your candies tightly; they need to breathe and stay dry. I ended up keeping mine covered with a cloth napkin and they were perfectly good for a month. Maybe even two months. I finally threw away what was left of my first successful batch because I was sick of looking at it. And if it comes to what I want to spend my calories on, I’d much rather eat a Godiva nut and caramel chocolate than Turkish Delight.

After making this a time or two, you might really wish that you could simply conjure it up like the White Witch does. Or perhaps you will simply become a loyal customer of Liberty Orchards.

PLEASE be sure to read the entire recipe through before you tackle this. 

Turkish Delight

10

  • 1 ounce shelled, roasted, and salted pistachios
  • 1 ounce walnut halves
  • 1 ounce whole hazelnuts
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup plus 1 cup water
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon citric acid
  • 1½ teaspoons orange extract (or other flavor) ***
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon extract (or other flavor) ***
  • A few drops of food coloring, if desired
  • Various coatings, listed below

*** FOUR DAYS BEFORE SERVING ***

Chop the nuts coarsely. Combine in a small bowl and set aside.1

Coat a 9″ by 5″ loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside. Combine the sugar and ½ cup water in a 1-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Then keep the liquid at a STEADY, MODERATE BOIL on medium/low heat. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush the inside of the pot occasionally to prevent the sugar from crystallizing on the sides.

Insert a candy thermometer and cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 260-265° (hard ball stage).2

This will take awhile, perhaps 20-40 minutes, depending on various circumstances, but DO NOT IGNORE IT. DO NOT MULTI-TASK, EXCEPT TO DO THIS:

Set up a hand mixer with a whisk attachment; set aside. Place the 1 cup water, cornstarch, citric acid, extracts, and food coloring into a 3-quart saucepan. Combine all with a medium-sized whisk, then place on the stove without turning on the heat. When the sugar mixture reaches the 260° mark, turn heat to the lowest setting and remove the thermometer.3

IMMEDIATELY: Turn heat on the cornstarch mixture to high. Cook on high, whisking constantly until fully mixed and starting to boil and thicken. It will become VERY thick.

IMMEDIATELY: Lower the heat a couple notches. Switch to the hand mixer and mix on low speed until the mixture becomes creamy. This might become a bit messy, so try to keep the mixing under control.

IMMEDIATELY: Slowly pour the hot syrup into the cornstarch mixture while mixing on low speed until fully integrated over medium heat. Turn off heat and mix in the nuts with the hand mixer on low speed. Pour into the prepared pan. Place on a rack until completely cool. Cover lightly with a lightweight towel or cloth napkin and let stand overnight.

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*** THREE DAYS BEFORE SERVING ***

Sprinkle some powdered sugar on a cutting board. Flip the candy out onto the board.7

8Cut into 45 pieces using a pizza slicer or other sharp knife.

Line a medium baking sheet with wax paper or parchment paper. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on the pan. Place the candy pieces on the pan, ¼” apart, uncovered, so they can dry. Cover with the same cloth only overnight.

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*** TWO DAYS BEFORE SERVING ***

Turn all the pieces over and let stand, uncovered, all day. Cover lightly overnight.

*** DAY OF SERVING ***

Choose your coating from the Various Coatings listed below and dip each candy.

Various Coatings: Choose one, or use half of two variations.

  1. ½ cup powdered sugar sifted with ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  2. ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder sifted with 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  3. ½ cup lightly toasted sesame seeds
  4. ½ cup shredded, dehydrated coconut (this is what I have used in the finished photo above)
  5. 8 ounces melted semisweet chocolate (Cool a bit, then dip each candy and place on the same parchment sheet. Refrigerate, uncovered, just until the chocolate sets.)

Dip each candy into your desired coating, covering on all sides. Set on a plate. Turkish Delight needs to breathe and stay dry. Keep finished candies covered loosely with a lightweight cloth napkin or towel at room temperature. Or wrap loosely in lightweight paper and place in a small box that is tied with a silk ribbon (the color is up to you). Do not keep the candy in airtight containers, because the sugar content will start to melt and you’ll end up with wet candy. Lasts about a month or so. Makes 45 pieces.

*** You may experiment with other flavors; rose water, vanilla, almond, and mint are traditional. You may also try using a no-sugar-added fruit juice for the 1 cup water; apple is a nice alternative.

PS: I really mean it about following the directions precisely. Don’t let your sugar mixture sit around, or you will end up with what I like to think of as “meth” sugar, only gauging this by my viewing of Breaking Bad. This sugar could not be saved. Fortunately, most of this sugar stuff is easy to clean up with hot water.

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I’m in print; now I’m famous.

Not exactly.

Well, I hadn’t intended to take a whole four months off for a summer vacation, but there it is. I did. Lest you think I was traveling the world or hanging around in some quiet resort, I will tell you that my summer started in June with a wedding. My younger daughter got married and I was her official wedding planner. I was relieved when she and her fiancé finally asked for help back in March. Fortunately, she was definitely not a Bridezilla, though I was concerned when she called me at the Albuquerque Balloon Museum at 2:30 p.m., asking me about what bra she should wear since she was at Dillard’s and wanted to buy a new one. The wedding was scheduled for 5:00 p.m. the same day. Her sister and I were already at the museum cutting up Costco flowers. However, the ceremony only started 10 minutes late. Our photographer assured us that most weddings start about 30 minutes later than planned, so I figured we did well!

I anticipated a migraine afterwards, but only got a cruddy summer cold. July passed, with babysitting grandchildren, a short visit from a relative, a binge-watch of Sons of Anarchy (excellent!), and lots of hemming and hawing about what to write about when I finally did decide to be more productive. August had me painting my bedroom and closet and enjoying a binge-watch of Orange is the New Black (OUTSTANDING!).

I ended up with a few yards of shell-pink silk shantung leftover from the wedding dress I made. So, I then spent a few weeks debating about opening a shop on Etsy, which I will probably do eventually. My goal there is to sell elegant tooth fairy pillows and whatever else I feel is necessary to make. I knit, crochet, embroider, as well as sew. Why not join the trillions of other crafty people on Etsy? Indeed…

Back in April, I was asked to submit an article to a local glossy magazine that was doing a June spread on local DIY bloggers. I didn’t really consider myself a DIY blogger, but I figured I’d be game for the opportunity to write something. Foolishly, I was under the impression that what I wrote would be printed. Sure, it would be edited. I could live with that. I had a phone interview, then I whipped up a peppy little article about the five steps involved in making a homemade ice cream sauce. A photographer came to my house, set up lighting and took MANY photos. He told me there would be fact-checking. I asked if I would be able to read what they wanted to print, but he hedged about that and, alas, nothing happened in that department.

That is why I only have one grandchild listed in the article and my cookbook’s title (as well as this blog) was printed as “Cooking for Halflings and Little Monsters” three times. I think the phone interview became conflated with the writing, where I know I said something about little children. In the end, I figured I got off easy regarding typos/errors, so I didn’t mention it. I was grateful for the visits to my blog. I was able to attend a launch party where Bob and I wandered around in perfect introvert form, wondering how soon we could leave and where we could go for dinner since the appetizers at this party were certainly not stellar. I wanted to type up my original article here, maybe because people who write usually get attached to whatever they write and resent it when absolutely none of it is used. And I’m pretty sure all the other bloggers ended up with the same situation I did. I guess it’s a matter of space and word counts, but then why ask a blogger to write an article if you don’t plan to use any of it?

DIY Ice Cream Sundae Sauce

My husband is an ice cream fanatic. He would eat it every single day if he could, but then he’d have to worry about cholesterol, sugar, and excess weight more than usual. The only time he temporarily lost his taste for his favorite frozen treat was when he worked for Creamland Dairies here in Albuquerque in the 1970s—freedom to eat as much ice cream as you want on the job gets old sooner than you might think (the annual ritual of preparing the dairy’s Pumpkin Pie flavor was an almost traumatic event!). After he left the job, however, he quickly recovered and rediscovered his great passion. He loves most any flavor with few exceptions. But he also appreciates the beauty of a good quality vanilla: the perfect medium for the creation of magnificent sundaes.

During our 27-year marriage, we’ve purchased many jars of luxury ice cream sauces: we’ve dabbled in chocolates, fudges, caramels, and fruits. We’ve sampled more generic brands, as well. A rather low point came when we experimented with shell-type sauces, but some inconsistent quality and a careful look at the scary, artificial ingredients listed on the bottles led me to start creating my own sauces. It’s nice to be able to pronounce everything you consume. As expected, a DIY sauce costs less to make and provides you with a delicious sense of satisfaction. This particular sauce will keep well in your refrigerator for 2-3 weeks; it’s also excellent to serve with cakes, cookies, or dip your favorite fruits for a “healthy” treat. If silk satin were edible, it would taste like this.

What else will you need? Ice creams (or frozen yogurts) in whatever flavors you like, chopped nuts, chopped fruits, whipped cream…keep it simple or make your sundaes fancy!

Here’s how my (peppy little) article was rewritten:

Astrid Tuttle Winegar’s husband could eat ice cream everyday. Of course, it’s not a healthy thing to do, so he doesn’t. But that doesn’t entirely quell his love for the stuff. “During our 27-year marriage, we’ve purchased many jars of luxury ice cream sauces: we’ve dabbled in chocolates, fudges, caramels, and fruits,” Winegar says. But once Winegar noticed the artificial ingredients in lots of the concoctions, she decided to make her own, including this sauce recipe, which makes about two cups and can keep in the refrigerator for two to three weeks.

I still like mine better. 

Here’s the ice cream sauce recipe for you. I took a photograph of the article and cropped the photos, so please be advised that these photos are a bit grainy.

Silk Satin Ice Cream Sauce

Step One:

2 ounces white chocolate

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60-72% cacao)

Chop the chocolates into ½” chunks.

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I hardly ever smile this much; gosh, I’m so happy.

 

Step Two:

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon salted butter

1 cup heavy cream

Place in a 1½-quart saucepan along with the prepared chocolates.

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Step Three:

Cook over medium heat until bubbly and the chocolate has melted, whisking frequently.

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Step Four:

Turn heat to lowest setting and cook 10 minutes, uncovered. Whisk a few times.

 

Step Five:

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Turn off heat; mix in vanilla. Cover and let stand 30-45 minutes. Stir and serve.

Cover and chill leftovers; reheat slowly. Makes about 2 cups.

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(Bob got to eat this sundae later on, after adding some of the condiments pictured on the side.)

 

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