Monday, December 31, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows

We made homemade marshmallows around Christmastime a couple years ago, and I wasn't impressed enough to make them a second time. But Abe and Seb, apparently, remembered things differently, so they were asking and asking if we could make them again this year. I said yes, if we could try a different recipe. I think I was out of something last time . . . gelatin? or eggs? . . . so I looked specifically for a recipe that didn't use whatever-it-was. And as I said, they were okay, but not amazing---they were sort of flat and, after a few days, sticky.  This time, unfettered by missing ingredients, I chose this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which promised "springy" marshmallows.

And they were great!  It's a good recipe, not difficult to put together, and just as springy and fluffy  as promised. And they were delicious in hot chocolate. We did try s'mores with some of them, and I didn't think the marshmallows held up that well for s'mores. Maybe it was that we didn't have a good campfire to roast them over, but they never developed that nice crispy shell on the outside---they sort of just got dark brown, and too melty on the inside. So I don't think I'd make them just for s'mores. Maybe for s'mores bars? But I don't know.

I guess to be honest, I don't love marshmallows that much plain anyway. I like them in things (hot chocolate, and s'mores) but I don't think homemade are SO MUCH better as to make them one of those "you-MUST-make-the-homemade-kind" treats. However, as something fun to do with the kids in wintertime, and as something to make your hot chocolate seem extra-special, I guess I might make them again. Am I overselling them? :) Let's just say if you WANT to try homemade marshmallows, I think this recipe is a winner. (And they are so CUTE! Very photogenic; I couldn't stop taking pictures of them.) If you simply want to make some sort of homemade candy that's really much more amazing than the storebought kind, try homemade twix. :)

Still here? Let us proceed. My notes are in italics.

Recipe from Gourmet, via Smitten Kitchen

About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin--(I went ahead and used a full 4 envelopes)
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla

Oil bottom and sides of a 9x13 cake pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes (Took more like 6 minutes for me). Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With standing mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer.

In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan. Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.
Nice and spongy!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Good things about Christmas Break

Little Eskimo in her furry hood

I've loved our Christmas Break this year. It was fun to be busy with preparations, and then it was just as much fun to be DONE with everything and just rest for a few days. Ahhh. It has been SO nice to sit around doing (practically) nothing.
Happy train-riders

Worried Santa

Sam got a wood-burner earlier this month and has been going around the house burning designs into any wood object he can find. I love the things he makes.

I crocheted a mama penguin. She has an egg tucked inside her, which turns inside-out to become a penguin chick. Because I was making up the pattern as I went, these penguins went through some very interesting iterations.
This is my first attempt. The poor sad baby!  But Daisy loves him anyway (this one went to her), so it's okay.

Here is Malachi coming in all rosy-cheeked to tell me about his adventures sledding---while I sit tucked warm in my bed. Oh how I love having older boys that can take the younger ones out into the freezing world so I don't have to!

Junie gets in on the picture

"FBI warning: if the athority is prospected you can coppy this movie but, if it isint you will be cot! thanks!"

Sebby was making a movie (out of paper . . . yes, it had many pages) and this was the FBI warning "screen."  I love it so much. It has just the right type of meaningless bureaucrat-speak, combined with appropriately dire threats. And the falsely bright "thanks!" at the end for good measure.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Lussekatter (Saffron Lucia Buns)

I can't believe I've never made these buns before. They are SO good, and the more I ate them, the more I liked them! They're just slightly sweet---not quite like a cinnamon roll. They're soft and fragrant and the pearl sugar adds a delightful crunch on top. I hadn't ever cooked with saffron before and it gives them such a gorgeous color, and flavor. Saffron is expensive, but I found it at World Market for a pretty good price. And having tasted these buns I would buy it again! I think we'll make these every year.

The Swedes (and the Danes) make these for Santa Lucia Day on December 13th. The oldest girl in the family wears a white dress with a red sash, and crown of candles on her head, and serves these to her family. When I was little I wanted to do this so much!
We have a candle crown, but it's too big and heavy for Daisy! And my mom made her this little white dress.
Luckily we had a paper candle crown, too. Much lighter.
She looked so cute.

On to the recipe! I found it on this excellent blog, and there's really no need for me to reproduce it here because he does it so well, except that maybe you wouldn't run across these buns at all otherwise. So I can at least introduce you to the idea of them!
Look at the beautiful yellow of this saffron-infused milk!

(recipe from here)

1 gram saffron threads
16 ounces (2 cups) milk
7 cups (2 lbs. 3 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 c sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons instant yeast
8 ounces sour cream (room temperature)
3.5 ounces (7 tablespoons) soft butter
egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 T. water)
pearl sugar* or coarse sugar

*I got my pearl sugar at IKEA

Crush the saffron threads with a mortar and pestle or in a bowl with the back of a spoon as best you can. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan just to the simmer and add the saffron. Stir it, turn off the heat and let it cool until it’s just warm (about body temperature).

Meanwhile, stir together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Pour the milk mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Add the the sour cream and stir to combine. Add the flour steadily and stir until a dough forms. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough about 7 minutes until it’s very elastic and comes away from the sides of the bowl. With the machine running, add the soft butter about a tablespoon at a time until it’s all incorporated.

Turn the dough out into a large bowl, cover it with a cloth and let it rise about 40 minutes or until about doubled in size. Flour a work surface, turn out the dough and cut it into 35 (or so) pieces. Roll them out into snakes about 14 inches long. Flatten the snakes slightly with a pin, then roll the strips inward from each end into an “S” shape. Lay them on parchment lined sheets to proof, about another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, set your oven racks in the lower half of the oven and preheat to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Paint the rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake 8-12 minutes until golden.
These are really fun to roll up, even more fun than cinnamon rolls!
Seb and Abe loved helping
Here they are on the pan. Their name means "Lucia cats," and can't you imagine them as cute little cats sitting up with their tails curled? Adorable.
And ready to serve, with some hot cocoa. Yum!

Various people, mostly small ones

A funny hat

They go

Sunset at Temple Square

Junie wrapped in packing material (this was not MY doing)

The Young Women gathered adoringly around Daisy

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

California visit

Last month I told the boys we were going to have a quick* visit with Philip and Allison and Benjamin in California, and the first thing they said---I'm not kidding---was "THE HOOVER DAM!!" We had told them we'd visit it next time we drove to California because it was sort of on the way, and they remembered and held us to it. The wrinkle this added to our schedule was that we had to break the drive into two days (usually we plow through in one), which meant staying at a hotel on the way, which was yet another bonus feature for the children. They looove staying in hotels.
*It seemed too quick to us, but for Philip and Allison who had to make quadruple amounts of every meal and listen to children rampaging up and down the stairs and in and out the door every few minutes, it was no doubt quite sufficient.
The hotel had swans in it.

The Hoover Dam was a worthwhile stop; very interesting and beautiful. I believe it was all the boys had hoped for. (!)

Then it was on to Philip and Allison's.
I wish I'd gotten more pictures of their backyard. It rained near the end of the week and I forgot to go back out there, but it was a veritable vegetable paradise. Allison's flowers are amazing! And there are SO many things for kids to enjoy. Junie loved the sensory table with beans and fish (at separate times) and the boys and Daisy could have jumped on the trampoline all day. And there were a bunch of monarch caterpillars and chrysalli (?) getting ready to hatch. I fully intended to watch one emerge, but again I didn't. I'm sad about that.

We spent a couple days at Disneyland and had a great time. The last morning, it rained and the place was practically deserted. We loved it!
The new Cars Land, unlike the rest of the park, was quite crowded, but it was really cool to see. It's amazing the way they make the landscape look so vast and imposing. We felt like we were back in Bryce Canyon or something.
There were lots of cute, funny little touches--like this restaurant where your table is next to a gas pump, as if you're a car filling yourself up.
Abe wanted a picture of this bear
And Daisy wanted a picture of herself by the "yocket."

She didn't even know the name of Mickey Mouse when we arrived, but when we saw him and Minnie on the second day she was so excited. "TWO Mickey Mouses!" she squealed, running to hug them.

The Small World ride is always one of my favorites. It's all decorated differently for Christmas, and the lights outside are lovely.

No sooner did I re-braid Daisy's hair then it wisped its way out of its braids again. She was constantly pushing it out of her eyes, poor thing.

Wet and curly after the rain.

One night we got to go to a concert with Philip and Allison, at this beautiful concert hall. It was so good---beautiful organ playing and singing and a huge orchestra. We loved it.

My other favorite thing we did on this visit was exploring at the Tide Pools. We found lots of hermit crabs and anemones and other interesting things. When I wasn't fearing for Junie's life (I was picking my way around the rocks carrying her in the front pack, and I was sure I was going to fall on her), I was enjoying the lovely, wild ocean view. Rocky coasts are so beautiful. Sam almost caught a crab for us to look at---well, he DID catch a crab---but he lost his balance and nobly let go of it to save Junie instead (HE was holding Junie at this point). It all worked out okay because Sam's sister coincidentally GAVE us a hermit crab as a pet, for Christmas. Everyone loves him, especially Junie, who yelps "CRAB! CRAB! DADDY'S CRAB!" ecstatically every time he comes out of his shell.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I love this time of year. Luminarias.


Æbleskiver. Really the very cutest breakfast (or dinner), as I always say.

And soft, stripy pajamas.