My hat is off to all artisanal cofectioners

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It is time for the annual making of the Fleur de Sel caramels. I have the recipe down pat; one cup of heavy cream, 5 tablespoons of butter, 1 teaspoon of Fleur de Sel salt, 1/4 cup of light corn syrup, 1/4 water, 1 1/2 of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. The heavy cream, salt and butter are brought to a boil and then taken off the heat while the sugar, corn syrup and water are brought to a boil and to the desired caramel color. The hot cream mixture is poured into the sugar mixture, it will roil up violently and this is when the vanilla is added, with a wooden spoon the mixture needs to be stirred until the caramel registers at 248F on a candy thermometer. This is always the tricky moment, a few seconds too soon or a few seconds too late and your caramel will be different: either perfect or too hard or too soft, like I said it is tricky; basically I don’t quite have the technique down pat.

This is why I say my hat is off to the artisanal chocolate and candy makers, it is hard work in a professional space, but even more challenging in the home because you might not have all of the proper equipment and for those who are starting their small businesses, it seems almost impossible to juggle your normal demands on top of new candy orders. I had made pizza for dinner and then I took my cooled off batch of caramels out to cut up into pieces, dip into Fleur de Sel and then wrapping each piece individually in foil-lined parchment paper. This part isn’t difficult just a little tedious, I am lucky that I don’t get tempted by the caramel because then the job would be even more challenging. lol. :D

One batch of caramels yields about 50 to 60 pieces; I can just imagine how overwhelming it can be if you are lucky enough to have say 20 batches to make, at the home how would you figure out how to make the twenty batches, do you double up on the recipe and make two batches ten times or do you take the time to figure out how to bulk up the recipe, but that is a whole other ratio problem to tackle. I admire these entrepreneurs very much and I haven’t even gotten past the surface in terms of challenges.

I am happy making my small batches of whatever tickles my fancy; I don’t think that going beyond my small circle would give me more satisfaction. Often bigger doesn’t mean better.

Christmas card writing time

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Tis that time of year, when you break out the address book and limber up your writing hand to wish all of your close friends, family, acquaintances, business associates and anyone else that you may have rekindled something with, a happy holidays or a Merry Christmas or whatever you celebrate.

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I have already run out of cards. I think that I made the same mistake last year. Luckily I wrote out the cards for my husband’s family, his close friends and my few relatives who live here and sent them just this afternoon. The rest of my Christmas card list live in France and as long as they get there by New Year’s Day, I am good to go.

While I was up in the attic getting the Christmas cards that I had purchased last year, I found Jack’s Christmas collar and since he never minds when I put things on him, he is wearing it right now. He is so cute, just like Rudolph “She said I’m CUTE”

One Christmas cookie begets another

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This coming Friday is my good friend Mary’s annual Christmas cookie swap so I made 6 dozen Breton butter cookies; they are more like a shortbread cookie, not sweet, but very buttery and I would say perfect with tea. I felt like making a cookie that I had never made before and it was fun experimenting. The butter cookie isn’t difficult to make at all; it requires 6 egg yolks, 1 1/4 cups of sugar, creamed together and then you add 1 cup of room temperature butter cut up into pieces. The butter is key to the cookie, to be the proper cookie you need to use the best butter possible. I found French butter from my local supermarket, the reason why I sought out French butter is because it is salted in proportion that the cookie wants. It is after that the butter is incorporated into the creamed eggs and sugar that you add a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and then one cup at a time, you add 4 cups of all purpose flour, unbleached is the one that I use. You will get a thick, heavy dough. You roll it into a log and wrap it in saran wrap, chill it for at least a half hour and then you can slice the roll into at least 1/2 inch slices and put the slices onto a cookie sheet; as a decorative detail, you score each cookie with a fork’s tin and brush an egg wash over each cookie and then into the oven at 325 for about 30 minutes.

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My husband and our son both were not huge fans of the breton butter “biscuit”, they were not saddened at the prospect of 6 dozen of those cookies leaving the house on Friday. I am not offended, I was busy mixing up a batch of batter to get rid of the 12 egg whites that I had left over. The batter in question is another French confectionary treat called the financier, it is a almond tea cake consisting of almond meal, all purpose flour, melted butter, confectioner’s sugar and egg whites. There are many recipes on the web, I found one that corresponded to the amount of egg whites I had and I went from there. The only two things that I did differently was use regular sugar because I didn’t have confectioner’s sugar, so instead of adding 1 1/2 cups, I used 1 cup of regular sugar and I used my Kitchen Aid mixer. I mixed the flour, sugar, salt, and almond meal and then I added the egg whites and the melted butter. I ladled the batter into buttered mini muffin tins and baked them at 400 degrees for about ten minutes.

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So I told my husband that I only made these to use up the egg whites, this was before he had tasted one. He wasn’t crazy about the butter cookies, but boy does he love the financier, our son feels the same way as well. My baking worked out well in the end; I like the butter cookies, I can see my friends enjoying them with a spot of tea or even coffee after spending hours writing Christmas cards or wrapping presents.

Why poinsettias?

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Over the years my husband has purchased so many poinsettias and I admit that they are very pretty. I have gotten discouraged over the years because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep them alive past February. So this year when my husband asked me if I wanted a poinsettia, I said no and you wouldn’t believe it but this morning I woke up to a deep red hibiscus bloom! Who needs poinsettias when you have a hibiscus ready to bloom for you. :D

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Daily Prompt: One at a Time

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Today, write a post about the topic of your choice — using only one-syllable words.

(Thanks for the great prompt idea, polysyllabic profundity!)

Here is my shot at this job. These days of cheer are by no means hard, though they can be full of stress at times. My mind is full of thoughts to bake or not to bake, what to cook, where to shop and when to rest. I think that I will bake for friends. My boy and my girl will get me to bake for them as well, I am sure of it. My man will eat sweet or spice and both if need be, he is easy . There is my post for all this day. Short and sweet and to the point.

Experiment in the kitchen with a failsafe in place

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Years ago my husband found a shop called l’Occitan that also housed a Bistro on the second floor. L’Occitan has stores throughout the Northeast, but I have never seen one coupled with a Bistro except for the one my husband found on Prince Street in SoHo. I had the good fortune to have eaten there when it existed (it is closed now) and I had an excellent broccoli, cauliflower and cilantro soup. I decided to try making at home; I diced an onion, minced two cloves of garlic, cut up both the broccoli and cauliflower and sautéed everything in olive oil for several minutes before adding chicken stock and then leaving it to simmer for as long as it took until the broccoli and cauliflower were tender. I pureed it and then I added a half of a bunch of cilantro and pureed it again. I like it, but I am not sure that it is what I was remembering, I wish that I could get a time machine to go back a few years to grab another soup from their Bistro to refresh my culinary memories. I will have to tweak it because though it is good, it isn’t great. Perhaps I need to add more cauliflower or maybe the reverse, more broccoli, I don’t know. I will finish my pot of soup and think about it some more.

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The failsafe is the roast beef and roasted baby potatoes that I made for my men so if nothing else we have meat and potatoes. I am not sure that my husband or my son will enjoy the soup so the meat and potatoes are guaranteed to keep them nourished. I am no longer the meat and potatoes fan that I once was, even if I get tired of eating soup, I would prefer it over eating beef nowadays. Soup is good food.

Cold rainy day lends itself to nurturing food

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There is nothing better than the smell of swiss cheese melting and developing a golden crust from within the oven. The nuttiness that develops from the melting at high temperatures permeates the air and that is when you know that the gratin of whatever you like is done. Today I chose to make a gratin of cauliflower, complete with a béchamel sauce, to ward off the cold dreariness of the weather outside. Cold rain is depressing with all of the grayness enveloping Blandford from all around, so I use my oven and food to combat that oppressive external influence and brighten the mood with Mother Nature’s form of aromatherapy.

A bloom amidst the cold

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My son and I were talking this morning and I mentioned that some people were simple souls, he said that he believed that he was one of those people with simple souls. I added that I thought that I was also one who was a simple soul. I pointed out that the joy of seeing an apricot hibiscus bloom was a gift and that is how I define simple souls; the ability to relish the here and now, appreciate a good song, a blue sky, a bloom or a snowflake. My son lives for music, he is happy strumming his guitar, performing on stage, all the things that nurture his musicality and all that feeds his soul.

The pictures of the hibiscus buds, that will bloom red in a day or so puts a smile on my face. They may have shed most of their leaves since they have been inside, but their hearts are still warm with blooms that they are willing to share with me. I love my hibiscus.

Daily prompt: Wronged objects

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If your furniture, appliances, and other inanimate objects at home had feelings and emotions, to which item would you owe the biggest apology?

I have quite a few household objects that I could apologize to; the two ottomans, the lowest stair of our staircase, almost every chair leg that we have, they all have an issue with me. Why would they be angry with me or disappointed at the very least? I left them alone with Rex our German Shepard (who passed away) when he was a puppy. He had massive teething issues and separation issues. I used to joke that Rex had eaten our house during his toddler phase. It had gotten so bad that I used to bring him with me to the school where I used to work for a few hours a day and I used to worry that Rex was eating my car while I was inside teaching the little ones, but he stayed patiently waiting for me without incident. I still miss our Rex. Our household items seriously don’t miss Rex; they all love Jack, did not love Rex.

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O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree

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I love the song O Christmas tree; it starts the holiday season for me and it is one of the Christmas songs that run through my head while I decorate our tree every year. I also love the Christmas song taken up by Alvin and the Chipmunks and I was actually singing Alvin’s part while I was decorating this time, our son heard me and this prompted him to tell me that we needed to watch all of our Christmas movies; The Year without a Santa, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Santa Claus us Coming to Town and quite a few more.

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