Wish I was there . .
My passport is ready and I can be packed in minutes.

29 January 2009

Daring Baker - Tuiles

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

This month's Daring Baker challenge was Tuiles and the requirements included a pairing with something light. When you look at the recipe and see the amount of butter these Tuiles required you'll see the need for something light. Very rich and very buttery.

I made two of the Tuiles recipes a Savory Tuile that I paired with a Spinach Salad, and a dessert Tuile that I filled with fresh whipped cream and berries. While the dessert was a hit with the kids, I have to admit that it is unlikely I will make the Savory Tuiles again; they were just too buttery (who knew it was possible to have something with too much butter!). Plus as you can see below, I did not roll them thin enough so the Savory Tuiles were only crispy on the edges. I actually ended up throwing out the Savory Tuiles and that is near unheard of in this house.

The Dry Mixture

The Wet Mixture

Spinach Salad with Pancetta and Strawberry Balsmic Dressing . . .

Served with Savory Tuiles and Warm Camembert
The salad is pretty standard - just spinach, some strawberries, the Camembert, and some diced pancetta. The dressing is a mixture of pureed strawberries, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and fresh pepper.

The Dessert Tuiles Pre-Filing

Tuiles Filled with Berries and Cream Served with Strawberry and Blackberry Puree

For the dessert, it was just sliced berries and fresh whipped cream with a splash of vanilla. I pureed fresh berries with just a bit of sugar. Nothing difficult. To make the tubular shape of the dessert shells, I cut a paper towel tube in half and wrapped the half baked tuiles around the tube, popped them back in the oven just for a few minutes and then let the pastry cool around the tube.

This recipe was not complex - just timely. To bake and shape the tuiles takes a bit more time and patience than I had anticipated. While I won't use the recipe for the Savory Tuiles again, the kids loved the Dessert Tuiles and they were a great filled with just fruit so I expect to make those again. Below you can find the recipes I used and check out the other Daring Bakers because there are some beautifully shaped Tuiles that put mine to shame.

Dessert Tuile Recipe
65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet
Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that).

Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….

Savory tuile/cornet recipe
From Thomas Keller "the French Laundry Cookbook"

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (65 grams/2.1/4 ounces) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (= 2/3 teaspoon table salt)**
8 tablespoons (114 grams/4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened but still cool to the touch
2 large egg whites, cold
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the softened butter until it is completely smooth and mayonnaise-like in texture. Using a stiff spatula or spoon, beat the egg whites into the dry ingredients until completely incorporated and smooth. Whisk in the softened butter by thirds, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary and whisking until the batter is creamy and without any lumps. Transfer the batter to a smaller container, as it will be easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Make a 4-inch hollow circular stencil. Place Silpat on the counter (it is easier to work on the Silpat before it is put on the sheet pan). Place the stencil in one corner of the sheet and, holding the stencil flat against the Silpat, scoop some of the batter onto the back of an offset spatula and spread it in an even layer over the stencil. Then run the spatula over the entire stencil to remove any excess batter. After baking the first batch of cornets, you will be able to judge the correct thickness. You may need a little more or less batter to adjust the thickness of the cornets. There should not be any holes in the batter. Lift the stencil and repeat the process to make as many rounds as you have molds or to fill the Silpat, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the cornets. Sprinkle each cornet with a pinch of black sesame seeds.

Place the Silpat on a heavy baking sheet and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the batter is set and you see it rippling from the heat. The cornets may have browned in some areas, but they will not be evenly browned at this point. Open the oven door and place the baking sheet on the door.

** This will help keep the cornets warm as you roll them and prevent them from becoming too stiff to roll. Flip a cornet over on the sheet pan, sesame seed side down and place 4-1/2 inch cornet mold at the bottom of the round. If you are right-handed, you will want the pointed end on your left and the open end on your right. The tip of the mold should touch the lower left edge (at about 7 o'clock on a clock face) of the cornet. Fold the bottom of the cornet and around the mold; it should remain on the sheet pan as you roll. Leave the cornet wrapped around the mold and continue to roll the cornets around molds; as you proceed, arrange the rolled cornets, seams side down, on the sheet pan so they lean against each other, to prevent from rolling. When all the cornets are rolled, return them to the oven shelf, close the door, and bake for an additional 3 to 4 minutes to set the seams and color the cornets a golden brown. If the color is uneven, stand the cornets on end for a minute or so more, until the color is even.

Remove the cornets from the oven and allow to cool just slightly, 30 seconds or so. Gently remove the cornets from the molds and cool for several minutes on paper towels. Remove the Silpat from the baking sheet, wipe the excess butter from it, and allow it to cool down before spreading the next batch. Store the cornets for up to 2 days (for maximum flavor) in an airtight container.

27 January 2009

Please Send . . .

Items needed:

Medical Kit
Ear Plugs
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Juice Boxes
EpiPen for Peanut Allergies
Magic Lotion (Sanitizing Hand Gel)
White Wine

Will be chaperoning for a field trip to farm today. Fifty plus four-year-olds plus manure. You get the picture . . .

Public or Private?

It's that time of year again - the time where Hubby and I must make a decision about keeping the kids at the expensive private school for another year. If the expense was indicative of the quality of education they were receiving I would happily pay the tuition and go about my merry way. Instead as a child progresses out of kindergarten*, the quality of education appears to drop; so the answer should be clear cut. Except that we live in a place that was once known as one of the largest producers of meth on the east coast, and the educational options are limited. As a prosecutor, I had the pleasure of going to some of the public school to interview witnesses. My most memorable visit was a first grader who ran up and down the halls, slamming into classrooms cussing, and the staff barricaded themselves in the office until the police dragged this six year old in handcuffs. No, we are not zoned for that particular school. And yes, the elementary school we are zoned for actually has a decent reputation and solid test scores. And yes, Hubby and I are products of a public school education. And yes, no matter where they attend school I will still be helping them to receive a quality education.

So next week I am off to tour the public school. Youngest child will be in kindergarten next year and I would love to continue him for one more year at expensive private school, but oldest child will be in second grade and really needs more of a challenge than private school is giving her. I can't just pull oldest child from private school as she would be devastated that her brother still gets to see and hang out with her friends on the playground. Plus, the school are seperated by a good half an hour drive. I understand no where will be perfect, but I wish the answer was a bit more clear cut. Feel free to send along sage advice and clichés about how it will all work out in the end - at least then I'll feel a bit better about this.

*The pre-school and kindergarten teachers at expensive private school are great and deserve so much more than what they get from the crappy administration at that school.

22 January 2009

When Hell Froze Over

The Backyard
January 22, 2009 at 8:45 A.M.
Temperature 31˚F/-.5˚C

20 January 2009

A Birth Control Promotion

Warning: This post contains the discussion of various bodily fluid and may result in the decision to never procreate. Be warned.

1:00 A.M. Having difficulty sleeping and finally go to bed.

1:22 A.M. Phone rings and someone asks for Nathan. We receive this call monthly and Hubby yells for the fifth month in a row that Nathan doesn't live here.

2 A.M.ish Youngest child wanders in. He doesn't feel good and oldest child is moaning and keeping him up. Get up and check on oldest who moans that her stomach hurts. Youngest child also feels sick. Put both kids back to bed and I move to the pull out couch near their rooms. Hubby does not wake up during this ordeal.

3:15 A.M. Have listened to oldest child moan for over an hour. I know by the increase in volume that she is going to vomit. I tell her to go to the bathroom until I can get her a bucket. She moans a refusal so I walk her to the bathroom where she vomits. At this point, the quiet youngest child vomits in his bed. Hubby wanders down to determine why everyone is awake and loud. He throws youngest child's blankets in the kitchen sink, turns on the water, and goes to change youngest child. I put oldest to bed with bucket, take a bucket to the youngest, turn off the water, throw the dry clothes from the dryer on the kitchen table, put the wet clothes from the washer into the dryer but don't turn the dryer on because it is loud, toss soap into the bottom of the washer, and carry vomit soaked bedding to the washer. Then, I wash my hands.

3:51 A.M. Both kids are trying to sleep with bucket close by. Oldest continues to moan. Hubby asks if I want him to share the pull our couch - not the offer I was looking for - so he goes back to bed.

3:52 -7:00 A.M. Kids continue synchronized vomiting. Oldest continues non-stop moaning. I get 4.7 minutes of sleep.

7:00 A.M. As I am cleaning up oldest and youngest is threatening more vomit, I WAKE Hubby and ask if he is feeling sick. He replies in the negative and says he just needs a few more minutes of sleep! In response, I tell him to get up or I will deposit the content of youngest child's bucket in his warm bed. Grumpy Hubby tends to youngest child.

8:00 A.M. Hubby leaves for work. I am left with two children and their buckets, laying on the couch watching Sponge Bob. I want a job.

8:01- 10:22 A.M. Vomiting has slowed down, but the children's bodies have found a new well to expel the contents of their stomachs. Oldest doesn't quite make it to the bathroom in time. As I clean up floor, I hand her a wash cloth and tell her to wipe off her legs and then put the wash cloth in the hamper. She throws wash cloth in toilet and become hysterical screaming "I thought it was toilet paper!"

10:23 A.M. Fish wash cloth out of toilet and into the continuous running loud washer. Put screaming child to bed. Make large cup of coffee.

10:44 A.M. Oldest child emerges from room and claims to have napped. Kids are tired of Sponge Bob and have moved on to the Disney Channel

10:45 A.M. - 11:15 A.M. Play cards with youngest. Oldest begins moaning again. She goes to the bathroom and vomits for the last time. Upon expelling the vomit, she attempts to lay her forehead on the toilet seat and misses - all her hair falls into the toilet and vomit. Put oldest child in shower.

11:25 A.M. - 12:30 P.M. Feed children Gatorade and Saltines and pray it stays down. Watch Disney channel and lose at cards.

12:30 P.M. NAP TIME!

A Welcome Change - YES WE CAN!

Let me pull myself away from the vomiting kids just for a minute to say how very excited I am for today's inauguration. I don't expect miracles; things will be just as messy tomorrow as they are today and the road to a stronger and healthier economy will be long and difficult. But today, for just a minute I have hope.

Now excuse me - I must return to vomiting children.

14 January 2009


How is it possible that I ate whatever I wanted over the Christmas trip to Maine and Colorado and did not gain a pound, and my first week on a diet where I followed it perfectly - lots of fruit and veggies, no chocolate and exercise everyday - I gained 2 POUNDS!?!

07 January 2009

A New Attitude

Yesterday, the kids returned to school after nearly a month away. It was time. We'd been back in Florida for a week, the novelty of new toys had worn off, and the bickering had begun.

I know I'm a bit behind (as usual) but a new year always brings some reflection. It has been one year since I left the realms of the employed outside the house. It's been a hard year. Much of my identity and my measurement of self worth was wrapped up in being a "good employee." Throw in the down spiraling economy that is certainly not helping our quest to leave Florida, and the theme of 2008 was frustration. So what did I learn in 2008 . . .

I can not put my life on hold until we leave Florida. It could be a very, long time before that may happen. It is possible that due to my husband's position, he may not be willing to go until the kids are out of school. He believes he is ready to leave, but right now there is nothing on the immediate horizon to force this decision. I can continue to hope a position elsewhere become available. We can continue to actively seek employment elsewhere. And even though I have the time to take classes, I really don't know what I want to do. I miss practicing law, but for us, two full time lawyers do not make great parents. I have to find a way to make peace with the fact that this is my life for now and be happy.

Much of happiness is an attitude choice. It's how I chose to see the glass and it is time for me to see it half full. The opportunity of being a full time parent has strengthened our family. I now have some time to do other things that I would like to do and I am damn lucky. If my life is not the way I want it, I need to make choices to change it.

So in the spirit of choosing my life, I have applied for a volunteer organization that does international legal work for non-profit agencies. If I am not accepted, I found some other non- profit agencies to contact. Legal work on a smaller scale that fits my life for now.

In my quest to see my current home in a more positive light, I have found a cooking school to take a couple classes, not for career development, but just because I like to cook. As a family, we started a compost project and are putting in a vegetable garden. I love cooking with fresh ingredients and there has to be a way to grow something in this sun. And in a total New Year's cliche, I have started a weight loss and activity plan - enough said about that.

So my New Year's resolution is to plant some new seeds and then see what happens.