Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gingerbread and the Science of Butter Cream Frosting

Gingerbread dough is pretty easy to make. Making a gingerbread house is, on the other hand, for the damn birds. It's hard. Especially if you ignore the fact that butter doesn't harden at room temperature. More on that later.

Laura was out shopping, so the kids and I were in charge of making the dough. It seems that I've been thrown into the baking realm these days, in spite of the fact that I am not a baker. Haven't we discussed this? I am a person who throws things in a big soup pot. I am a person who chops, braises, sears, sautées and simmers. I don't work well with baking powder. I make cream sauces and soufflés, not brownies or cookies. Nonetheless, I have children I can blame if anything goes wrong. And things did, indeed go wrong. Though, not with the making or baking of the gingerbread dough.

Cyd measured the spices. Fiona measured the more important ingredients. The hat? I knitted it for her last weekend and she's been wearing it every day and night for the past week. She is insanely attached to it. Which, frankly, warms my heart. Even when a kid at her school made fun of it. She didn't care. It's so "Coat of Many Colors", by Dolly Parton. (If that song doesn't make you weep, well, you are dead inside.)
Everything was going great. We can so do this.

And then they decided they wanted to LICK the counter. I let them because I rock as a parent. Plus, I have disinfectant.
Our dough came together beautifully.
A few hours in the fridge and we were ready to build. Laura was in charge of making the template and cutting out the house.

I would never have thought about labeling each piece. In fact, I would never have made the template to begin with. We could have winged it! But not really.
And then the real fun began. Well, until we realized our mistake.

The recipe called for royal icing, made with egg whites. With Cyd being sick, I didn't think eating raw egg whites was a great idea. Plus, who doesn't love butter cream icing? Nobody. We all agreed on the butter cream. Mistake. When we put the roof on, all the walls started to collapse because the butter cream didn't cement the walls well enough. We didn't give up. We put the half built house outside so the butter could harden in the cold, winter air. This is science. This is baking. This would never have happened with soup.

This gave Fiona time to decorate some gingerbread people. Hello, silver lining.
 Yes, she has green teeth. It's Christmasy.
Finally, the walls were solid.
A few more finishing touches and it was back outside. You can't tell from the photo, but there were snow flurries, which was festive as hell.
 The gingerbread kid's bleeding, but besides that, It turned out pretty good.

 I especially like the chimney.

 It was Fiona's idea to use the ribbon candy for a fence.

Happy, merry.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Candy Canes, Soup and the Power of Now

It's time. For candy cane straws in oranges.
 And festive M&M pancakes.
And excessive love for our cats.
And goofy photo sessions.

And Chicken Tortilla Soup:

You can get the soup recipe from Pioneer Woman's blog. Except, let it be known: I made my broth from scratch, with a carcass and everything. Pioneer Woman used a boxed broth, because she doesn't have that kind of time on her hands. She's too busy being a successful blogger. Unlike myself. So, actually, never mind about the broth. Use whatever you have in your pantry. Pioneer Woman knows what she's doing. Obviously.

After dinner, we went out to see the lights in town.

It was a good Saturday night overall. We had to stop at Burger King for a bathroom break, because my children's bladder is the size of a thimble.  But the good news is that we went to bed early. And this means that the children get up even EARLIER than usual.

Fiona and I were up first on Sunday morning. We played "Guess Who?" I guessed who first for all four games. Then we decided to make Laura and Cyd breakfast in bed.

The "puffed pancake" didn't puff even though we measured stuff like real bakers. But it was still tasty. We decided to call it "pancake cake" instead. It worked.

And now, it's Monday and I'm trying not to miss yesterday. Because Eckhart Tolle assured me that the present moment is the only moment during which I can find inner peace. I haven't found it yet this morning, but that may be because I haven't had a single drop of caffeine.

Enjoy your week. I mean, enjoy the now. Apparently, there's power in it