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Black Raspberry Cobbler: Summer with a Spoon

This week, in Southwestern Ontario, has been that magical time of year when strawberries and raspberries overlap in their ripening. Last Tuesday, I finally got to pick black raspberries at our local berry farm.

Just to clarify: black raspberries are not to be confused with blackberries, which look similar but A) are not raspberries, B) are easily available in grocery stores and therefore less exciting, and C) are frankly not nearly as tasty.

blackberries
These are blackberries. They’re nice but meh.
black raspberry plants
THESE are black raspberries, on their way to being ripe.

When I was a kid, black raspberry time meant foraging into the woods near our house, sweaty in jeans and long sleeves (to prevent scratches), taking precarious steps further into the undergrowth, contorting and stretching in all kinds of awkward ways, in pursuit of that handful of gorgeous berries just out of reach. An intense picking session would end back at home with a baking-soda bath, because no matter how careful you were, the thorns were gonna getcha. But it was totally worth it. The dopamine hit, when you found the good ones, was better than a video game… Oh, and then there’s the EATING. Mmmmmm. They taste like pure, wild summer.

The trouble is, I don’t live around the corner from indigenous black raspberries anymore, at least not that I’ve come across. When I found out that our berry farm grows them, I was SO EXCITED. And I will admit that not having to entangle myself in the briars is nice, if not quite as action-packed.

I would have liked to go picking during Sebastian’s days, because ever since his first anniversary, when I happened to go berry-picking on his birthday, the two things are connected in my mind. Picking berries in the sunshine feels like the right thing to do. Like I’m near him. I can’t explain why. This year, they weren’t ripe on his birthday, but six days after is close enough. And as it happened, on that particular afternoon, I picked some in the sunshine and some in the rain.

That first year, we saw a cicada sitting peacefully and perfectly still on a raspberry plant. This year, it was a dragonfly.

black raspberries and a dragonfly
Still Raspberries With Dragonfly.

My mom swears that the domesticated raspberries don’t taste as good as the wild ones. All I know is, when I eat one, Mini-Di pops up in my soul and says Yes. YUM.

If you find yourself picking black raspberries, make sure you look under the leaves, especially the lower ones. You’re likely to find the most beautiful berries there, in whole ripe clusters.

And on to the point of the blog post: our family’s favourite black raspberry recipe.

I should probably warn you – if you have a problem with little seeds, this fruit, and by extension this dessert, is not for you. Both are seedy par excellence. But if you can get past that (those seeds are actually really good for you), Black Raspberry Cobbler is summery heaven with a spoon.

black raspberry cobbler
SO DELICIOUS.

 

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a 9 x 13 pan (or a 10 x 10, which is what I have) melt 1/4 – 1/3 C of butter or margarine.

3. In a bowl, mix 1 C flour (I use whole wheat – it’s robust and it fits – but it’s up to you), 3/4 C sugar (white or brown), 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 2/3 C milk (dairy or not), and 1 (optional) egg.

4. Pour batter over melted butter. Don’t worry, it’ll spread itself out if you don’t get into all the corners.

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5. In a bowl, mix 4 C black raspberries with 1/2 C sugar and 1/3 – 1/2 C water.

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6. I also add a dash of lemon juice and a couple drops of almond extract to the berries.

7. Distribute the fruit mixture over the batter in the pan. It’ll look like a soupy mess, but don’t worry. (If you are brusque with the fruit, the juiciness will get underneath the batter, which actually produces quite a tasty berry-flavoured caramel, but a very hard-to-clean pan.)

 

IMG_6597

8. Bake for 45 minutes.

9. Enjoy warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, table cream, milk of your choice – or just plain.

black raspberry cobbler for breakfast
Makes a really nice breakfast too. (I apologize for my lack of foodtography talent. Just trust me about the recipe.)

 

Voilà. A dessert I fervently looked forward to as a child, and still look forward to as an adult – maybe even more fervently.

***


 

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What to Feed the Vegetarians at your Holiday Gathering

I’ve been to my fair share of holiday gatherings as the lone vegetarian. I know people get really excited about their turkey/ham/roast/whathaveyou, and spend a lot of time and energy – and money too – to make it fantastic. And I can relate, to a certain extent; even though I’ve been a vegetarian since the age of 14, I still enjoy the scent of turkey cooking, because it smells like holidays to me.

Although I understand folks’ connection to their festive meats, I’m one of many who don’t partake. If you don’t ever cook vegetarian and therefore get anxious thinking about that person coming to your holiday dinner who isn’t going to eat the pièce de résistance, here’s a very easy and nutritious main dish that we in my family (veggies and non-veggies alike) have loved for a long time. It’s delicious, festive, and very hard to eff up.

IMG_5339

Lentil Cheese Pie – originally from Crank’s Restaurant cookbook.

  • 1 cup red lentils (they’re actually orange)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 Tbsp butter (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar (we like old)
  • 1 tsp (or a bit more) seasoning – we use oregano, basil, coriander, thyme, and/or sage
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (we use whole wheat)
  • salt & pepper to taste

It’s a good idea to rinse the lentils, though it’s not a huge deal if you don’t. Then cook the lentils at a gentle boil in 1.75 – 2.25 cups of water (I usually use about 2), until all the liquid is absorbed. This is the one part I have effed up: don’t let them burn. Stir them regularly. They should look approximately like this when you’re done:

IMG_5336

While the lentils are cooking, dice the onion and sauté it in the butter or oil until transparent. (If you accidentally caramelize it, it’s okay!) Then combine the two ingredients, and add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. (If you accidentally put in way too much cheese, it’s okay! Same with the seasonings, up to a point.)

Press the mixture into a greased 9″ pie pan. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes. (If you accidentally overcook it by like 20 minutes, it’s okay! I have absolutely done that and it was still delicious.) Slice and serve warm.

photo(2)

Seriously, this dish smells and tastes awesome and is THAT EASY. You should go for it.

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Creamy Spring Cauliflower-Cheddar-Sorrel Soup

Our family is lucky enough to be able to buy super-fresh, uber-local veggies from gardener friends of ours. Our first batch included pea shoots, green onions, rhubarb, and sorrel.

sorrel
Image from urbancultivator.net – but it looks just like our sorrel.

To my knowledge, I had never cooked with or even eaten sorrel. It sounded like something from Outlander. But I figured, sorrel is a green leafy thing, must be good.

And it is! But rather strange, too. I was warned that it’s “tart”, and it is. Sour, actually, in a yummy way, but strong enough that I don’t think I could eat a whole salad of sorrel. We sprinkled bits of it in our salad the other day, but would take a long time to use up all the sorrel we have at that rate.

So yesterday, I looked up sorrel recipes, and read that cooking the sorrel tones it down a bit. I found some recipes that sounded all right, especially soups, but ultimately decided to wing it.

This is how I tend to cook: winging it. Like my mom and siblings, I rarely use a recipe except to bake. And I’m not good at recording what I do when cooking, at least not with any meticulosity. But when this particular soup turned out really well, some friends asked if there was a recipe. So here is something approximating a recipe.

  • I coarsely chopped up a medium-large onion and two large cloves of garlic and sautéed them in melted “better butter“* on medium-high heat until they were getting brownish.
  • Meanwhile, I chopped up two smallish potatoes (skins on) and then threw them in and crumbled half a head of cauliflower on top.
  • I had some frozen vegetable stock (2-3 cups) so I put that in to melt into everything with the lid on.
  • I took two big handfuls of sorrel, barely chopped them, and added them a few minutes later. The stock had melted and was a nice brown colour from the onions.
  • Once the cauliflower was tender, I took out a couple pieces with one piece of onion and mashed it with a fork to feed to the baby. (This step is optional. I did notice that, with cauliflower for dinner, her night diaper a lot stinkier than usual, despite being just pee. Just in case you do have a baby and follow this step. Hmm. Was that an overshare?)
  • By this time, all the veggies were tender and the sorrel had turned brown (the Internet warned me about this – it’s because of the oxalic acid). I added some whole milk (maybe a cup?) and then took The Wand (immersion blender) to the whole thing.
  • It was a bit thick so I added a bit more milk and some water (probably another cup’s worth at least) until I liked the look of it, you know, sort of a restauranty consistency.
  • The last thing to add was about a cup-and-a-half of grated old cheddar, which I stirred in until blended.
  • Then I tasted it, and I was like, “Where’s the sorrel? I don’t even taste it!” So I took another modest handful of the sorrel and chopped it more finely and put it in and did not blend it. It quickly wilted right in and made itself at home.
  • I added salt to taste. (Our salt is actually ground butcher salt, which contains soupçons of rosemary, sage, thyme, and marjoram, which were very pleasant but not necessary.)
  • We also added fresh black pepper at the table.
Creamy Spring Cauliflower-Cheddar-Sorrel Soup
I didn’t serve it like this originally. These are the leftovers we had today, shamelessly studiously dressed up for y’all.

Done!

Everyone at the table over the age of 4 called it delicious. I was frankly surprised that my experiment worked so well. We agreed it was very nice with the extra bits of sorrel, which still have an acidic kick but somehow work anyway. I like to think that the blended sorrel provided the context for them to shine.

Creamy Spring Cauliflower-Cheddar-Sorrel Soup
Looks pretty good?

Try it y’self! Tirrah!

***

*My mom introduced our family to “better butter” ages ago: you soften some salted butter in a container and add vegetable oil in equal proportion, then (carefully) Wand them together. It cuts the saturated fat and salt of the butter while retaining good flavour; it’s cheaper than pure butter all the time; and most importantly, it’s much more spreadable.

***


 

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The Authentic (Belgian) Liège Waffle Odyssey

Get ready. This blog post REALLY IS AN ODYSSEY. If you make it to the end (which you should, if you care about waffles) and correctly answer the skill-testing question, you will receive a solid gold waffle-shaped medal, handcrafted at the Franklin Mint. Please allow 4-29 weeks for delivery.

Dilovely’s Personal Waffle History

As some of you know, after I finished my undergrad, I lived in France for the better part of a year, teaching English conversation classes at a high school. To be specific, I lived in Dunkerque, France, which is at the very top of the star, right next door to the English Channel and Belgium.

map-of-france-regions
Can you find it?

To put things in perspective, Belgium is close enough that we could take a city bus there when we needed a chocolate fix (a Leonidas shop was right on the border). In fact, three of my friends and I once walked to Belgium along the beach, just to prove that we could. It took about three hours, and when we got there, we wanted to have waffles, because obviously.

We sat in a cafe and ate waffles that were well-deserved and nice enough, but I remember thinking, What’s the big deal? I could get something identical at a pancake house back home.

That was because they were REGULAR Belgian waffles. Like what you can make yourself at the breakfast buffet at a Best Western – the kind you top with fruit and whipped cream.

Very soon after that, a friend bought me a waffle at the beach (on the French side, funnily enough) that demonstrated what the fuss was about.

They call it a Liège waffle, or gaufre liégeoise, and it needs no garnish. It’s small, chewy, sweet, and scrumptious. No plate required; you just hold onto it and nibble its crunchy, caramelicious edges. It changes your conception of a “waffle” forever.

The Christmas I was pregnant with E, we got a waffle maker. While I do enjoy a regular waffle, I wanted to make the REALLY GOOD ones – but I could not find an authentic recipe. I had no idea what made these waffles so good; I figured out quickly that adding toffee bits to your waffles, while yummy, does not come close to producing the Liège waffle.

The Secret (or part of it)

Finally, a year or so ago, I found this recipe, which revealed the secret to me: Belgian pearl sugar. NOT to be confused with Swedish pearl sugar, which does not produce the same results.

 belgian-pearl-sugar

Trouble is, you can’t just go out and buy Belgian pearl sugar at the grocery. Not even a European grocery.

When I finally got organized enough to order some online, because I wanted to make real Liège waffles for Auntie Em’s birthday in January, I went to belgianpearlsugar.com… and they were under construction. I tried to order Lars’ Own from Amazon.com, but they wouldn’t ship it to Canada. I ended up at The Belgian Shop, where I unfortunately had to order some chocolate as well, to make up the minimum order size. (We dealt with that ordeal like champs, though. Especially me.)

Now I went back to recipe territory, and realized there are way more recipes for Liège waffles than there used to be (good ol’ internet – give it time and it’ll always come through). And they varied a LOT – from whip-these-up-whenever recipes to you-must-craft-these-like-an-artist recipes.

Thus began The Authentic Liège Waffle Odyssey.

Attempt #1: The Moderate Recipe

As you might have guessed, the inaugural attempt used a recipe that fell between the two extremes, entitled “The Best Waffles Ever.” The recipe takes a couple of hours, including rising time, so they were lunchtime waffles.

Emi and Sean and I agreed they were delicious, although I knew I still needed to tweak the cooking process. The pearl sugar still seemed mostly raw, not properly melty and caramelized. You see, I do not have a hardcore waffle IRON. I have a cute, lightweight “waffle baker” from Proctor-Silex. It has no temperature indications on it, just “Min – Max” and a light to say it’s preheated.

proctor silex waffle baker
This is my waffle baker. Well, a twin of my waffle baker anyway.

The other drawback with this recipe (and it may have to do with the type of waffle maker I have) is that it was MESSY. It left a veritable pool of melted sugar-butter on my counter. While this may sound like fun, it really wasn’t. Using a Q-tip to remove clumps of caramel from the crevices of my now-defiled Proctor-Silex felt like surgery, or perhaps archaeology.

I didn’t take a picture of the maelstrom. I knew I’d need to try a different recipe.

Attempt #2: The Most Intimidating Recipe

I figured I would eventually have to try the super-complicated recipe I’d found, just to see if it was worth all the trouble. I mean, it’s an overnight procedure. It’s also the most obnoxiously pretentious recipe I have ever read, but hey, that’s part of the fun. In fact, it’s so fun that I’m reproducing it below.

{Note to the Creator of this recipe, if you ever read this: Please understand, I hold you in the highest respect. I am in awe of your perseverance and your dedication to the cause, even if I imply that your diction is persnickety. My own diction is hardly above reproach. And I can hardly wait to try your Ultimate Pumpkin Waffle Recipe. Beau travail, mon ami.}

So here is the text from the blog devoted entirely to the Liège Waffle, in red. (It’s worth visiting the real site, to see the mouthwatering pictures.) In black, I’ve added my own thoughts as I was making this crazy recipe.

Authentic Liege waffles are one of life’s great indulgences — caramelized sugar glistening on the most delicious buttery-sweet treasure beneath. [Whew. First sentence and I already feel like I’m intruding on an intimate moment.] Unfortunately, they can be nearly impossible to find, even in their homeland of Belgium, where chains like Belgaufre have taken them so far afield from their 18th century brioche roots. Stateside, chains like Bonte (in Philadelphia) don’t use the right sugar and others like Wafels & Dinges (in NYC) simply import mass-produced substandard pre-made frozen balls of dough from Europe. Basically, to enjoy the ever-curiously oblong [is it really curious? ‘cuz later you instruct us to make them oblong] Liege waffle, you need to make one yourself.

Sadly, the vast majority of recipes found online and in cookbooks are appallingly bad. Some are over-yeasted. Many are just leaden or grainy. And, due to one factor or another, virtually all of them lack the smooth and complex flavors of a true Liege waffle. [Wow. I wonder what you’d think of the last recipe I tried, because those folks thought their recipe was perfect.]

The recipe that follows is a culmination of A TON of research into recipes of the last 200+ years, study of artisinal Belgian street vendor techniques, and a heavy investment in the right tools (including the above 35lbs. Krampouz Liege waffle iron). [Oh crap. I’m guessing my Proctor-Silex is not even in the right league.] Get ready to experience a perfectly traditional 18th century “Gaufre Liège”.

Baking these waffles is involved and takes patience, but the result is well worth it. The only caveat I must give is that the iron’s temperature is very crucial [not just regular crucial] in making an exceptional Liege waffle. It helps to have an infrared thermometer handy [double crap, I don’t have that either], as there’s a fairly narrow range in which the sugar will caramelize perfectly and not burn. You can make do without one though. It may take some trial and error, but you’ll get it right. [Thanks for believing in me! :)]

INGREDIENTS
makes 5 Gaufres Liège [Okay. If you’re gonna geek out on authenticity, check your French: it’s Gaufres DE Liège or Gaufres liégeoises.]

• 1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
• 1/4 cup scalded whole milk at 110-115 degrees
• 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. of water at 110-115 degrees [Those two extra teaspoons are very crucial.]
• 2 cups King Arthur Bread flour [I don’t have this brand, but it sure does sound “artisinal”, n’est-ce pas?]
• 1 large room temperature egg, lightly beaten [Sh*t. Room temperature according to whom?? We keep our thermostat at 20C, is that okay?]
• 1Tbsp. + 1 tsp. light brown sugar
• 3/4 tsp. salt
• 8 1/2 Tbsp. soft room temperature unsalted butter
• 1 Tbsp. honey [Seriously. Just honey? Should it be pasteurized or not? Liquid or creamed? Clover or buckwheat??]
• 2 tsp. vanilla [Is that with meniscus or without? Screw it. I’m living dangerously and using a generous splash of rumnilla, baby.]
• 3/4 cup Belgian Pearl Sugar (“Lars Own” brand is an excellent choice) [Sure. Rub it in, Yankee.]

liege belgian waffle
This photo is from the original site. This person, unlike me, takes good foodtographs.

DIRECTIONS

1. Place yeast, milk, and water into the workbowl of a stand mixer. [Hey! You said “perfectly traditional 18th century”. THEY DID NOT HAVE STAND MIXERS IN BELGIUM IN THE 1700s. I’m sure of this. And despite ostensibly belonging to the 21st century, I don’t have one either. WTF.] Stir for a few seconds to moisten the yeast. [Using a SPOON.]

2. Add the egg and 1/3 of the total flour. [Oh no, math. Sigh. That’ll be 2/3 C.] Mix to blend. Scrape down sides of bowl.

3. Sprinkle remaining flour over the mixture, but do not stir it in. Cover and let stand 75-90 minutes (at the end of that time, you’ll notice the batter bubbling up through the cover of flour). [Yes, I do notice that! I AM ROCKING THIS RECIPE.]

4. Add brown sugar and salt to the workbowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed – just to blend.

5. With machine on low [yeah, I’m doing this with my hands, and it feels WAY MORE artisanal, by the way], add honey and vanilla. Then add 2 Tbsp. of butter at a time. Mix 4 minutes at medium-low speed; scrape down sides once or twice in that period. [Well is it once or is it twice??] Let the dough rest for 1 minute and then continue to mix for 2 minutes. [How many minutes when I’m hand-mixing?] If you measured your ingredients perfectly [HA], the dough will be sticking to the sides of the bowl in the last minute of mixing and then, in the last 30 seconds of so, will start to ball-up on the paddle. If this does not happen, let the dough rest for 1 more minute and mix for another 2 minutes. Whatever the outcome of the extra mixing, proceed to Step 6. [“Whatever the outcome”? Are we just flying by the seat of our pants here?]

6. Scrape the dough into a large bowl, sprinkle lightly with flour, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 4 hours. This step is crucial for developing the flavor. [Don’t you mean very crucial? And exactly four hours?]

7. REFRIGERATE FOR 30 MINUTES BEFORE PROCEEDING TO STEP #8. This is [very] essential. The yeast respiration must be slowed before continuing. [Respiration must be slowed. You may want to write to your MP.]

8. Stir the dough down (meaning: gently deflate the gases from the dough, by pressing on it with a [traditional Belgian] rubber spatula), scrape it onto a piece of [artisanal 18th century] plastic wrap, and then use the spatula to press the dough into a long rectangle. Fold that rectangle over on itself (by thirds – like a letter) so that you have a square of dough. [Hell. This does not look like a square. Effing geometry.] Wrap it in plastic, weigh it down a bit (I put two heavy dinner plates on top of it) [but – my dinner plates are circular! How does this work??] and refrigerate overnight. [Or, dig a traditional Belgian hole by the apple tree and fill it with chips off the ice block and put your dough in there.]

9. The next day, place the cold dough (it will be quite firm) [why, you’re right! How did you know?] in a large bowl and add all of the pearl sugar to a bowl. It will seem like a lot of sugar, but it’s supposed to be :) Mix it into the dough by hand until the chunks are well-distrubuted. Once mixed, divide the dough into 5 pieces of equal size. [I made a double batch, because Skye was joining us and Sean insisted we must have lots. It made more like 16 – at least in my waffle baker it did.]

10. Shape each chunk into an oval ball (like a football without the pointy ends) [let’s call an ellipsoid an ellipsoid, shall we?] and let it rise (covered loosely in plastic wrap) for exactly 90 minutes. [Hold on. They must rise for exactly 90 minutes… that means I must have five waffle irons and five assistants so that we may drop our balls of dough onto the bakers with perfect synchrony at the 90-minute mark! Otherwise some will rise too long!! Why didn’t you warn me?]

11. If you have a professional waffle iron (meaning: it’s cast iron and weighs over 20 pounds) [NOPE] cook at exactly 365-370 degrees (the max temp before sugar begins to burn/decompose) for approximately 2 minutes.** Give each waffle a few minutes to cool slightly before eating. [Very good advice. That sugar is HOT.] No syrup or toppings are needed, unless you’d like to add some fruit or a dusting of powdered sugar; they’re quite sweet on their own.

** If you have a regular waffle iron, heat the iron to 420 degrees (hint: many regular waffle irons go up to and over 550 degrees at their highest setting) , place the dough on the iron, and immediately unplug it or turn the temp dial all the way down. Otherwise, the sugar will burn. [There are no degree markings on my waffle baker. I engaged in quite a bit of trial-and-error.]

So: the Result?

lunapic_136527857341000_7

They were YUMMY. And handsome. Skye heartily approved, and Sean and Em agreed they might even be better than the first ones. I knew I was getting better at the temperature manipulation (which I will describe below). As the one who had eaten the real thing, I did think that this recipe had a more complex flavour, and I can’t deny it was delicious. Also, no sticky butter-swamp, so that was awesome.

But wow. That was a lot of work.

Attempt #3: The Simple Recipe

Over Easter, I wanted to make waffles again, to share the experience with my folks, but couldn’t imagine doing the Intimidating Recipe on a holiday weekend. I said to myself, Hey – why not try the recipe on the pearl sugar box? Instructions in French AND Flemish… That’s authentic! Must be pretty good, right?

tirlemont_sucre_perle_500gr
Peal sugar, straight from Belgium.

The un-simple part of this recipe was translating it – not just French to English, but grams to cups. And figuring out how much is a “half-sachet” of vanilla sugar. And how to account for “levure fraîche” or “fresh yeast”, which Auntie Em luckily knew was not the same as our standard dry yeast. Also luckily, Auntie Beth knew about this recipe conversion website that solved our problems. Plus I tweaked it slightly, based on my newfound experience. Bonus – I learned a few new French words in the process.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C (plus an extra splash) warm milk
  • 3.5 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla (or rumnilla)
  • 3/4 C + 2 T softened butter
  • 3/4 C to 1 C pearl sugar
  • a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make the dough with all the ingredients except the butter, pearl sugar and cinnamon.
  2. Let it sit for 30 minutes. (In French, they say “laisser reposer”, which I love, because “reposer” also has the connotation of relaxing peacefully – like maybe at the spa, with cucumber-lemon water and a clay facial.)
  3. Knead in the butter and then the pearl sugar and cinnamon. (Pétrir = to knead.)
  4. Divide the dough into 100g blobs. (Pâton = “dough roll” = blob.)
  5. Begin cooking after 15 minutes (of relaxation).
  6. Preheat the iron. Cooking time: 3 minutes. It is not necessary to grease the iron. (No kidding. Hello, butter content.)

And the Result?

lunapic_136527857341000_8

They were good! In fact, my family (mostly waffle rookies, but still) thought they were pretty delicious.

Now, if you’ve made it this far, you have certainly earned Two Bonus Sections!

How to Cook Liège Waffles Using A Cheap Waffle Baker Without Temperature Indications

  1. Turn up the heat all the way (to “Max”) and wait for the green “preheated” light to turn ON.
  2. Once your dough blobs are ready, place one blob on each side and close the baker.
  3. Watch for the green light to turn OFF.
  4. Turn the heat down to halfway between Min and Max.
  5. Wait three minutes. (I always set a timer because I WILL lose track otherwise.)
  6. Remove waffles when the time has elapsed, and let waffle cool before consuming.
  7. Re-preheat to Max before putting in the next two blobs.
  8. Don’t fret about the sugary residue in your baker; as long as you keep your batches going consistently, it will be fine. Until you are done, at which point you may start fretting.

And now you’re gonna need the final Bonus Section,

How to Clean a Cheap Waffle Baker That’s Really Effing Messy

When I googled “how to clean your waffle maker”, the advice I found made one of two wrong assumptions:

  1. I have an actual waffle IRON with removable (and soakable) plates, or
  2. I am making AVERAGE waffles with my cheap nonstick waffle baker.

They say things like “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you attempt to clean your waffle maker while it is hot!”

After Attempt #1, I diligently waited for the appliance to cool before trying to clean it. By which time, of course, the sugary residue was shiny black cement utterly resistant to cleaning.

So. This is what I did to get my waffle baker clean.

[Disclaimer: I’m NOT telling you to do this, since it is HIGHLY risky and dangerous!! and I would not like to get sued. There is a definite likelihood of a possibility that you may burn or electrocute yourself. Proctor-Silex has in no way endorsed this method. But it worked for me.]

  1. Plug in waffle baker.
  2. Carefully fill the channels of the baker with water.
  3. Make sure the heat is on Min, and close the baker.
  4. When you see steam, unplug the baker.
  5. Pour off the (black, tarry) water into the sink, wearing Kevlar gloves.
  6. Repeat until water runs clean.
  7. Unplug waffle baker.
  8. Use a Q-tip/cloth/folded paper towel to wipe off any remaining residue.

Finally, you’ve made it! The Skill-Testing Question!! (Provided in part by my son, the resident math expert.)

If two cars start driving at the same time from the Butterfly Conservatory, and one car is going 39 kph, and the other car is going infinity plus one and eighty percent, which one will arrive first at Aunt A and Uncle R’s house?

Good luck! Bonne chance! And happy waffling.

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Tea Party Food: Crowd-Pleasing Chocolate Chip Cookies and Easy Mini-Crescent Scones

Last week, I had four other mamas, with child(ren) in tow, over to my house as part of a “shrinking coffee party” fundraiser for our local hospital. It was a really nice time: the preschoolers (all boys) got along famously, the babies were adorable, and we mamas never lacked for conversational topics.

I don’t host parties often, so when I do, I get grandiose ideas about what kinds of refreshments to make. As a former Pampered Chef consultant, I am well-versed in the ways of mini-quiches and decorative trifles, but those are a little out of my league at this juncture, with the number of interruptions guaranteed to punctuate any project I start.

I managed cookies and scones.

cookies and scones
They look much fancier on a tiered tray, n’est-ce pas?

We also had veggies, crackers, and cheese… The hummus was store-bought and I resigned myself to skipping the deviled eggs… but someday I’ll have a tea party with those items too!

Here is my recipe for Crowd-Pleasing Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from Anna Olson’s recipe on the Food Network.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup soft whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and blend in.
  3. Add flour, and sift in cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir in with chocolate chips.
  4. Drop by tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Make sure you don’t overbake!

Yield: about 40 cookies.

The secret ingredient is the cornstarch, which makes the cookies wonderfully chewy. I use a 1T cookie scoop, because it makes cute, uniform little cookies. I bake on seasoned clay bakeware (a.k.a. stoneware, from Pampered Chef) so there’s no need to grease the trays.

I also used real vanilla extract, which I made thus:

  1. Order vanilla beans from these people, with plenty of time to make vanilla for Christmas (in a rare flash of holiday forethought).
  2. Spend a few weeks not receiving them, with several fruitless attempts to contact the company by email and by phone.
  3. Eventually receive an email from the company saying you should have received notification weeks ago that your beans are not in stock, try back in March.
  4. Order vanilla beans from these people, and receive them within a few days.
  5. Get yourself some hard liquor. Not just to loosen up, although feel free. (The recipes I found used vodka, but I thought rum would be yummier.)
  6. Slice the vanilla beans lengthwise.
  7. Put one vanilla bean per cup of liquid into the rum/vodka/whatever, in a tightly-closed container.
  8. Wait at least six weeks, shaking the container whenever you think of it (once a week or so).
  9. Use delicious Rumnilla in all your baking!!
homemade vanilla extract
Vanilla: the essence of homey awesomeness.

I also made Easy Mini-Crescent Scones, adapted from this recipe at Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, frozen
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 generous splash rumnilla

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal).
  4. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream, milk, egg, and rumnilla until smooth.
  5. Stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to work the dough into a ball. (The dough will be somewhat sticky.)
  6. Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick.
  7. Use a shot glass to cut the dough into crescent shapes. (I was just going to make small circles, then I realized that if you do crescents, you have a spot to hook your thumb in and release the scone from the glass. Then voila, it’s cute! Though some will probably end up looking like alien heads or cow plops.)
    IMG_3634
    Hands up if you can tell I am NOT A FOODTOGRAPHER.

    IMG_3644
    Actually the one on the right is more zygote-shaped.
  8. Place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper) or stoneware pan, about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, 15 to 17 minutes.
  9. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature, with butter and/or jam. Or, just eat ’em straight off the tray.

Yield: about 3 dozen.

So there you have it! Tea party: CHECK. Try it yourself!

Oh, and you might wanna make some tea.

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