December 4th, 2015

2013, cyd, new

So, a New Year.

I think, for the New Year, for a change of pace, I will learn something new. This year’s goal was to actively promote my art and get stable on my meds. It took all year, but I did it. If I can pull off this month, I will be golden, and right set up for next year to continue on with my efforts. So, something new.

When we went to our storage locker last year, which we used to share with an ex-girlfriend of mine, I found that she had left me something: a black electric guitar. I didn’t know it at the time, but she also left me a soft case for it. Pretty nice. It only took me 13 years to find out about it. Thanks, Andi.

The guitar needs strings. I can order those online. It needs to be strung. I can learn to do that online. It will need to be tuned. Doc and online can help me with that. At which time we will find out if I’m really tone deaf, or if I just can’t sing softly or hum. Which, in itself, is vexing. I scare the cats when I sing at full volume. Even though it is on key. I used to have a recording of me singing a couple of Concrete Blonde songs really well with a acoustic guitar accompaniment. I got jobs singing with bands. I just can’t sing unless no one else is around. So, really, I should be able to tune a guitar. And I have an adapter for my headphones, so I can plug them into it, and not have to deal with the expense of an amp right now.

The song fail the other night really got to me. If I can think of one song, I can think of others. And maybe having an easy instrument to play would help with that. Once I learn the basics. I can at least use it to keep a rhythm when I write. But I do have other songs in my catalog. Three come to mind. All of them channeled Courtney Love to a strong degree. Flatteringly, I got accused of plagiarizing her until no songs by her that matched mine could be found. And considering how far back they looked, would I have been plagiarizing her, or Kurt? If you subscribe to the theory that Kurt was writing her lyrics. Which I don’t. His lyrics were more thoughtful than hers. She went for the obvious imagery, he went for the more obscure objects in the room.

Boomer has reached a new level of sneaky. Trying to sneak onto my lap when the keyboard is on it. Yes, she went there. She didn’t get far, but she tried.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Swedish Christmas legend. About the Tomte,or Tomten. At Christmas, Jultomten. If I had a Tomte, it would be my Papa Paul. He’s gone some 9 years now. He would be the one watching over me and mine. But he would be busy, big family. Then there are all the ancestors I could have picked up along the way. All manner of tomte could be looking out for me. I could have an army of Jultomten. They are the cutest little things, too. Their tall, cone hat covers all but their nose. Their grey beard covers all but their legs. Some have short, squat legs, some have long, skinny legs. Some wear robes, some wear sweaters and knit leggings. But always the tall cone hat, and usually in red. And usually taller than the tomte themselves. It’s just a really cool thing I didn’t remember from my childhood. Now my mom clings to the German Father Christmas, she’s left the Swedes behind.

My German heritage scares me. Both on my Nana’s side and on my Dad’s side. Mainly because of the lies that were told to cover it up. Why cover it up? What went on in WWII that everyone decided that my dad’s family was British by the time I was born? I have no Jewish heritage at all that I know of. This scares me more. Were my ancestors part of the mindless sheep that just let Hitler do what he wanted? Did they flee Germany’s fascism? What’s the deal? When did they come to America? Why would you rather I believed I was descended from an insane English king than my true German relatives? I mean, this makes me 3/4 German. That’s a lot. That explains some things, genetically. I don’t know. Until I can get myself DNA tested and pay what they want, it is a mystery. My parents did decades of genealogy with the Mormon church, they were supposed to have all of this sorted. But they have left really basic questions on the message boards that shows they know absolutely nothing. I know more, right now, than they do, according to their messages.

Got through Day 3 Without Cable News. Actually, it was a day without news at all. Didn’t even skim the headlines. Didn’t read Facebook at all, in fact. I’ve been stylizing selfies. Because I am not interesting enough sitting there making a face. I don’t know what I am doing. I need to go into the kitchen. I am barefoot. It’s time.

2013, cyd, new

Why Did I Wait so Long?

For the hand mixer. Really? Because I was trained that small batches (under a gross, yes, 12 dozen cookies) are to be made by hand. They are too small for the Hobart.

But WOW. I was able to properly whip the sugar and eggs until almost white and doubled in volume for the banana bread, which made folding in the dry ingredients so much easier. And I had to work the batter almost not at all. This is actually going to be light and fluffy spiced banana bread. I added ginger to the recipe. I also lightened up on the flour a bit. And I used walnuts this time. I didn’t toast them because I got carried away with the rolling pin and the pieces were really small, and they will cook enough in the bread, which bakes for an hour. I didn’t want them overcooked and bitter.

I also found out from Kelli that coating chocolate chips in a light coating of flour will suspend them in a loose batter. So I did that with the bread. Instead of having one big loaf, I had enough for two regular sized loaves. One for me, and one for Doc to take to work. Give them a taste of what they are getting for Christmas if they have been good to him. And only if they have been good to him. He doesn’t give kiss-ass gifts. So his supervisors get nothing.  And Mike, the ex-room mate from hell gets nothing. Not even a bag of cheap chocolates wrapped up like coal.

What to make next? Chocolate chip oatmeal? No, need raisins for that. Chocolate Crinkles? No, need fridge space to chill the dough. Same for sugar, butter, and pinwheel cookies. I should go out to the garage and see where I stashed my heart shaped cookie cutter. And should I make fish shaped cookies? I have a fish, like long, skinny fish, like a trout, cookie cutter. I also have a club and a spade. I won’t use those. And I have a bird. I think it’s a Scandinavian thing. It’s the same make as the fish and the Dala horse, which is definitely Scandinavian. I also bought a snowflake, xmas tree, and gingerbread man from eBay last month so I have some normal cookies. Doc doesn’t seem to mind, but the people at work ask questions.

The pinwheel cookies, should I make chocolate/vanilla, or chocolate/peanut butter? All three recipes are untried by me, though they all come highly recommended by Pinterest readers/doers. The chocolate sugar cookie recipe was a year in development to find the perfect combination of ingredients that would give the melt-in-your-mouth effect, but not expand and ruin the cut-out shape. It calls for a LOT of butter. Unsalted butter. That’s class. Though I like a little salt with chocolate. It brings out the flavor. Always a bit of salt with the sweet. Just a bit.

I have enough bananas to make two more loaves of bread. I’ll make them tomorrow. I’ll use pecans and orange zest and ginger over nutmeg and cinnamon. No chocolate chips in these. Too bad I don’t have currants yet. Those would be good, they would plump up in the cooking and be tiny bits of goodness. Maybe that is a bridge too far.

I’m just excited because the world of Patisserie has always been really restrictive to me. Always following recipes to the letter. Weighing out ingredients, doing math, strictly adhering. I loved the result, but the process drove me mad because it left me no room for experimentation. Everything was chemical, there for a reason. This banana bread is the first baked thing I have been able to toy with. I’ve been able to go so far as to modify the recipe enough to make it my own. I have messed with the chemistry and have not had disastrous results. I’ve had a lot of fun with this bread. My chocolate chip cookies are the same way. I have a base recipe that I add and subtract things at random to in order to make a different cookie. Now I have a bread I can do that with. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like a door that I’ve only been able to reach through and do things from the doorway has opened completely and let me all the way into the room.

And I haven’t even started making the candy yet.

2013, cyd, new

Crispy Sugared Walnuts

Here, I give you an old family recipe. I don’t know which side it came down from, I think my mother’s. It was printed in one edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook in the late 60’s, early 70’s (I haven’t been able to check to see which edition my mom’s copy is). It was never printed again. The recipe does not exist in their online recipe archives. And exhaustive three year search of the internet has revealed this recipe is not online, until now. It is so easy. Even if you fuck it up, it tastes good. Which I did tonight, I under cooked it by about 5 degrees and it didn’t crystallize like it should have, but it tastes awesome and doesn’t look bad. Here is the recipe:

Crispy Sugared Nuts

Heat 1 1/2 cups walnut or pecan halves in moderate oven (375) 5 minutes, stirring once.

Butter sides of heavy 2 quart saucepan.

In saucepan combine 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup hot water, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. salt.

Heat and stir until sugar dissolves and mixture boils.

Cook without stirring to “soft ball” stage (236-238).

Remove from heat.

Beat by hand 1 minute or until mixture just begins to get vreamy.

Add 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla and the warm nuts.

Stir gently until nuts are well coated and mixture becomes creamy.

Turn out on a buttered cookie sheet, separate at once using two forks.

Nut halves can then be dipped half way into melted chocolate and cooled for an added treat.

That’s it. Easy-peasy, huh? I’m going to look up some advice, and then I might try doubling the batch. It is so small right now that the end of the candy thermometer doesn’t reach down to it. So what just happened with me was, the foam was 236, but the liquid underneath wasn’t. I needed to let it go another 5-8 degrees, and I needed to beat it with a whisk once I removed it from the heat, that was a big mistake, trying to mix it with a heat-resistant spatula. I just couldn’t get the momentum to get the creamyness I was looking for. But Doc will be lucky if there are any left by the time he gets home. I used pecans. Mmmmmm nom nom nom.

Off to go look for a recipe for almond lace cookies. Doc got me a big bag of slice almonds, and I only need a handful for the Green Beans Almondine I’m making. And I want to see if I can add toasted hazelnuts to them. I think that would be an incredible flavor combination. And again, more dipping in chocolate. And those are just for me. They are expensive, almost impossible to find fresh, and just plain not worth buying. The only way is to make them. Since I have parchment paper this year, I will dare it. I would never dare it on my beat up baking sheets, but with parchment paper, it’s like a new pan every time.