Sunday, March 22, 2009

We're sugaring down in Maine!

It's one of those scuddy cloudy, sun and brighty March days here in Maine and we are collecting our maple sap....... possibly the smallest sap buckets known to man...everyone else uses 5 gallon buckets...not me, they just aren't cute enough!
The sap has been flowing intermittently as the temps have been up and down the last few days but today it is flowing like a raging torrent...well not quite, more of a constant trickle, but certainly better than yesterday when it was freezing coming out of the tap!! I am awestruck at how much water you have to boil out of the sap...the ratio is about 43:1 so I am going to have to collect 43 gallons of sap to end up with 1 gallon of maple sugar, no wonder the divine stuff is so expensive. I am aiming more realistically for a pint, and then I will consider myself lucky!!
Here is Eleanor wondering when she gets to taste the sap which you can see frozen into a doughnut shape...yum, maple doughnuts...that sounds good to me. Alas, I don't have a recipe for today but I did just see a delicious looking one on David Lebovitz's blog so hop on over there for Giovanna's Maple Creams.
I would show you a picture of the actual sugaring down on our trusty old wood burning stove but I have to admit I am too embarrassed at it's current state of dirt and rustiness after a hard winter of constant burning day and night. I am delighted to be able to do the sugaring down on the stove which we are still using to warm the house so I am killing two birds with one stone...apparently this is not such a bright idea as there is the possibility of my coating the entire house with sugar sap but so far it hasn't been a problem and honestly you saw the size of my buckets....we will be lucky if we end up with 4 fluid ounces of that delicious golden liquid, nectar of the Gods. When I have completed the process I will post a Brit recipe which uses maple sugar but I haven't decided on one yet.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Saint Patrick's Day Recipe - an oddity but goodity!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day one and all...above is a logo I designed a couple of years ago which celebrates the deep friendship between Eire and  The United States of America. I circled the flagpoles with a Claddagh ring in honour of my parents who were born in Galway. The Claddagh ring is the adopted symbol of that town and is given as a token of love.

A-ha, you may not think that this little delight pictured above looks that odd but you might be wrong, because, it is not your regular pie, it is in fact a potato and apple cake (don't know why it's called a 'cake'...but there you go!) from Irish Traditional Food by Theodora FitzGibbon. It is basically an apple pie made with a potato crust. I love unusual recipes and I have been eyeballing this one for a while and isn't today the perfect day to try it out so tomorrow all over the western world people can be making pie crust with mashed potatoes and not the usual green beer and boiled ham and cabbage (YUCK!!!...the smell of that when I was growing up put me off for life, I'll have you know)'s the very simple recipe to which I have added more sugar and a sauce from my sticky toffee pudding recipe , a sauce which I think can be added to almost anything sweet and improve it.

1lb freshly cooked potatoes (I always cook spuds in their skins to give them a more earthy taste, in this instance I did peel them whilst still hot for cosmetic reasons but most times I will leave the skins on them for more vitamin content...your call)
2 tablespoons salted butter
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1lb of tart apples like Granny Smiths, peeled, cored and sliced...the recipe said 2lbs but there was NO WAY I could fit them all into the size of pastry I made with 1lb of spuds!!
4 tablespoons of flour
1. Mash the spuds very well whilst still nice and hot with the butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar and ginger.
2. Add enough of the flour to make a pliable (but I found slightly sticky) dough.
3. Knead the dough a little.
4. Roll out into two rounds, one slightly larger than the other.
5. Make sticky toffee sauce with 1 1/2 ozs butter, 2 1/2 ozs sugar and 2 tablespoons of cream...bring to a gentle boil in a saucepan and add apples to coat.
6. Mound caramel coated apples in the middle of the larger round of spud pastry.
7. Cover with the smaller round of pastry and use a fork to press the edges together to seal the pie, sorry 'cake'.
8. Cut a vent in the top of the 'cake'...or if the same happens to you as it did to me the pastry coveniently cracked and you already have a vent (the pastry is delicate!!)
9. Sprinkle more sugar all over the 'cake'
10 Bake for about 45 minutes...or longer if necessary, at 375F, until the 'cake' is golden and the apples are cooked.
11. Should be served hot. I bet you could put a little cream on there too!!
FYI...mine started out very tall and ended up as flat as you see in the pictures above.
This ia subtle and not very sweet dish for those of you who don't like a lot of sugar but you have to admit it is intriguing and a new direction for St. Pat's Day (my patron saint by the way!) ...and HEY couldn't this also be a Maine dish...apples and potatoes??

Friday, March 13, 2009

Melting moments...please!!!

In a desperate attempt to help the mounds of dirty snow dissipate I decided to make one of my favourite cookies which just happen to be called MELTING Moments, also known as Viennese Swirls (does everything in England have more than one name I ask??) These sublime little cookies/biscuits really, honestly do just wisp away in your mouth, it is quite extradorinary how they do it, AND they are very simple to make.
MELTING MOMENTS: From 'Irish Traditional Food' by Theodora FitzGibbon
10oz butter (as always I like mine salted)
2oz icing sugar/confectioner's sugar
8oz sifted all purpose flour
2oz cornflour/cornstarch (same thing on different sides of the pond:))
(for equivalent US measurements check out Sue Palletts link in my web/blogroll in the right hand column aways down from the masthead...thanks!!)
Lashings of vanilla buttercream...or any flavour really, almond would be good, anything flavoured with almond is good in my book.
1. Cream the butter and sugar 'til very light
2. Sift both flours together and add gradually mixing well after each addition.
3. Either pipe the dough as I did in the pictures above (other wise you can't call them Viennese SWIRLS)...or if you don't do the piping thing drop small spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet.
4. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350F until 'set' and very slightly browned.
5. Cool on a baking rack and then snadwick, or even, sandwich together with your lashings of buttercream.
6. Eat and melt!!!
Happy Baking and melting...Patricia

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring is is HONEST!!!

Spring simply must be coming because I am now the proud owner of this little pink chick...and chick's are born in spring right???...or at least near Easter because chick's are associated with Easter...anyways I bought the chick from the same place (Left Bank Books, Searsport) I purchased these lovely little boxes of Italian candy/sweets....aren't they adorable, look - the pink one says "Fairy Wood Fragrance", doesn't get any better than that!! The chick decided on his own about the red ball.....
...and then there's this sign....the very tiny tips of daffodils, I just spotted them this morning and I am thrilled...this winter may really, in fact, END!!!
Then there's this sign...the shadow can only mean one thing...SUNSHINE! ...and thank goodness temperatures above 32F/oC, the snow is melting...I am so happy!!!...anyone who has made it through this winter in Maine knows exactly how I feel...congrats to all of us if we haven't been institutionalized!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

I added a slide show!!

I am so impressed with myself because as you can see in the column to the right I have managed, against all my better non-techy instincts, to put up a slide show of James artwork. Now I am working on one for my dogs and kitten and my desserts pictures, and my artwork...oh and pictures of Maine...hey it's going to be slideshow heaven. Check back soon and they should be inplace one by one, whichever takes the least work cropping and resizing will be the first is a teaser pic of Harry,the kitten, who we found in a pile of leaves a couple of months ago, and who is now being naughty and jumping around in James' maquettes......see you soon!