Who’s Debbie?

We pulled a jar of chutney from the cabinet a few days ago, and it inspired hours of speculation.

Who is Debbie? My husband made the chutney, and he labeled it, but no one can remember why it’s called Debbie’s chutney. Did someone named Debbie give us some fruit that was used in the chutney? Is Debbie an acronym for something? Delicious black boy [peach] interesting experiment? Is it a description of what’s in it? December berries?

The truth is, no one remembers. Which is a shame—I’m sure it’s a good story.

Many of our preserves and homemade products have names that tell a story, or describe what went into them. Just a few memorable ones:

Strawgooberry Jam—strawberry and gooseberry jam

Brewcurgooberry Jam—black currant, strawberry, red currant, and gooseberry jam.

Windfall Chutney—made from not-quite-ripe apples that blew down in a storm.

Black Daze of May—a dark beer brewed during a May several years ago when it rained continuously.

Baby Butt Bitter—a beer brewed many years ago during the potty training phase of one of the children.

Non-Dillicious Pickles—a batch of dill pickles that I forgot to put dill into (they were actually quite good)

Ginpricot Jam—apricot and ginger jam

Taumutu Squeak—mozzarella cheese that hasn’t quite worked properly and can’t be stretched, but squeaks when you bite into it

And, of course, Summer Soup—soup made of all the late summer vegetables.

So…

Who the hell is Debbie?

Lemon Meringue Pie

I had extra pie dough from making a quiche earlier in the week, a bunch of lemons that needed to be used, and tons of eggs. What could I do but make lemon meringue pie?

I don’t think I’ve ever actually made lemon meringue pie before. It seems a gross oversight on my part, though not entirely surprising—I’m not fond of meringue, so it wouldn’t be the first thing I’d ever think of doing with lemons.

But, hey there’s a first time for everything, and the rest of the family loves meringue. So lemon meringue pie it was.

And it was very good—a study in textures and colours, with wobbly bright yellow custard underneath and foamy egg whites on top, nestled in a crunchy crust.

Would I make it again? Maybe occasionally, but it will never be one of my regular desserts. Even with the pie dough already made, it was nearly an hour from the start of the process to putting the pie in the oven. I don’t mind spending that sort of time on a dessert now and again, but every week? I can get my sweet fix much more easily than that.

And so, now I’m dreaming of a nice, whip-it-together in-a-few-minutes pan of brownies…

Tastes Like Christmas

I know, I know, you’re wondering why I’m posting about Christmas in mid-August. Bear with me here…

I made lemon coconut bars yesterday–a super easy recipe that I chose out of sheer laziness (and the fact I’d written ‘excellent’ beside it in the cookbook).

As I bit into one of them today, I was struck that they taste like Christmas.

Now, if you had asked me what Christmas tastes like, I would have said cinnamon, cloves and black walnuts.

My Christmassy lemon coconut bars contain none of these ingredients. As you would imagine, lemon and coconut are the primary flavours.

But these bars are loaded with brown sugar, and the more I considered it, the more I thought that must be the true flavour of Christmas. It shows up in most Christmas cookies, and even makes an appearance in some of the traditional savoury dishes, like mashed sweet potatoes.

I use brown sugar in many of the baked goods I make, so theoretically, they should taste like Christmas, too. So, why don’t they?

I think it has to do with the concentration of brown sugar. We tend to prefer baked goods that aren’t pure sugar bombs. For my everyday baking, I usually stick to less sweet items. Not so at Christmastime. Then, I throw all caution to the wind and make the most decadent sweets possible.

The lemon coconut bars fall into that decadent category, containing more sugar than flour. They taste like the decadence of Christmas.

And, perhaps that is the true taste of Christmas–the taste of decadence.

 

Eggsplaining the Difference

A standard egg at the supermarket weighs 53 grams, large eggs are 62 grams and jumbo eggs are a massive 68 grams.

My new chickens just started laying yesterday, and I smiled at the tiny eggs they laid.

Then I weighed them—far from being tiny, they weigh as much as a standard egg.

Turns out the ‘normal’ egg from my chickens weighs 80 grams or more (I had a 92 gram one last week—I know because it looked big, even to me, so I weighed it).

I’ve known this for some time. My eggs are bigger than the eggs called for in your average recipe. I can usually skimp on the number of eggs I use, with no repercussions. It comes in handy in wintertime, when egg production is down, and I’m often rationing eggs.

But I hadn’t really quantified it before. So, doing the maths, if a recipe calls for four large eggs, that’s 248 grams of egg. Just three of my 80+ gram eggs will do, in that case. That matches my experience with skimping on eggs in a 4-egg cake. In recipes that call for three eggs, I can probably get away with two. Start looking at a genoise cake that may call for 7 eggs, and I should really be using closer to 5.

I can’t tell you why my chickens lay such enormous eggs. I assume it’s a combination of genetics and diet. Coming from the same breeder, I expect my new ones to eventually lay 80 gram eggs, like the older ones do. But if they don’t, that’s just fine. Truth is, those super jumbo eggs don’t fit very well in the egg holder on the fridge door. Sometimes, when I open the fridge, an egg flies out to splat on the kitchen floor. I wouldn’t mind non-ballistic eggs.

Funny Fruit

Some days you just have to be silly.

Half way through cooking yesterday’s dinner, I felt it was incomplete. It need a little something extra. Something light and fresh. By the time I thought this, it was already dark outside. I didn’t feel like picking a salad in the dark, so I thought I might make a fruit salad.

But neither the bananas, nor the pears in the fruit bowl were ripe yet, and that left just apples and mandarines. Pretty boring fruit salad.

How could I make plain old apples exciting?

Turn them into swans, of course!

I found instructions for these fun little fruit birds on the Curious Little Kid blog. Hers are much prettier than mine, but mine got a laugh at the table all the same. They turned boring apples into an exciting side dish.

Homemade Oreo Cookies

I’ve had a hankering for my ice cream sandwich cookies for weeks, but it’s midwinter—who wants to eat ice cream sandwiches?

But yesterday I had an idea. What if I turned those same cookies into homemade Oreos?

Oh. Yes.

I took my ice cream sandwich cookie dough and, rolled it out a bit thinner than I do for ice cream sandwiches. Instead of cutting it into rectangles, I cut circles with a cookie cutter. I baked them for 8 minutes at 190ºC (375ºF), and then let them cool completely on a rack.

When cool, I stuck them together with the following icing:

60 g (1/4 cup) softened butter
60 g (1/4 cup) Olivani at room temperature (shortening will work, for those in the US)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups icing (confectioners) sugar

Beat butter and Olivani until smooth and light. Add vanilla and beat thoroughly. Sift confectioners sugar over the butter mixture and beat until smooth.

The icing was too soft at first and tended to squeeze out of the cookie when we bit into them, but it hardened overnight into the perfect Oreo filling consistency. I found this quantity of icing perfect for the number of cookies, but if you like double-stuff Oreos, make twice as much filling.

It has been decades since I last ate a real Oreo cookie, so I can’t say whether they are exactly like Oreos or not. But they are FANTASTIC!