Monday, October 31, 2005

Our Halloween Feast on the decorated table. Posted by Picasa

Our Halloween Feast: Meat Feet (ankle view), a Dragon's Eye, snails in the garden, and a molten volcano. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


A future customer of the Cracked Cauldron asked if we could bake a Bienestich for her to give as a birthday gift.

A Bienenstich is a very simple German coffee cake. It's a dense, slightly dry yellow cake topped with glazed almonds, and filled with Bavarian Creme.

It's a simple cake, really.

So, I made her one.

Instead of whole milk, I substituted almond milk to increase the almond flavor. I used my stash of vanilla sugar (sugar in which several vanilla beans are stored - it imparts a delicate vanilla flavor to the sugar and after a month or two, the vanilla beans are still usable for other dishes. It's 2 uses out of some expensive beans, which warms my frugal soul), and augmented it with some late season purple loosestrife honey. And I simmered the almond glaze with a cinnamon stick so it would take up a bit of the flavor without getting the speckles.

The cake came out very nicely. I was pleased with the color, texture, aroma, and flavor of the cake.

I baked 2 so I could sample and test market it with others.

Our Guinea Pigs mostly liked hte cake - but several said they felt it was better with hot cocoa than with hot coffee, and only one liked it with Earl Grey Tea - the rest preferred a tea like Prince of Wales or Typhoo.

No one liked it with orange juice.

No pictures because I forgot to recharge the camera batteries and both cakes were gone by the time hte batteries were ready.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mushroom Soup 

I got with the Mushroom Man last weekend, and we traded hunting secrets. He showed me where and how to find some really cool mushrooms, and I showed where and how to find some good herbs. Then, I went home and perfected my mushroom soup.

The mushroom-hunting was certainly a pleasure. We went into the wooded hills of northeastern Oklahoma. There, we found Satyr’s Beards, Doghairs, Sulfer Shelves, Oysters, and Shaggy Manes. These are some way cool mushrooms, and a delight to cook with. It turns out that under my cedar trees, I have some very nice puffballs growing, and those, too became a part of my cooking experiments. (I couldn’t take pictures because I’d lent the camera out to a friend who was taking a Ghost Tour).

Mushrooms the Mushroom Man expected us to find, but didn’t, were chantrelles and morels. He said it was too early in the season for them, but he’d sometimes found a few this early. But that’s OK, he cultivates them, along with lobster, porcini, oyster, and black trumpet mushrooms. I bought a mixed bag of mushrooms from him, and will continue to do so, as I am not brave enough to ‘shroom on my own.

‘Shrooming is as exacting and interesting as herb hunting. We both learned a lot. He gave me this nifty little mushroom knife, and I gave him a small herb sickle. I promised him I would mark the locations of any mushrooms I find in the future when I’m out wildcrafting, and now I have some new places to wildcraft my herbs.

Now, as for the mushroom soup: I have decided I do not like button mushrooms. At all. Not even as the cheap base of a mushroom soup. I will never again buy and use button mushrooms.

Anyway, once I got back with my lovely bags of shrooms and herbs, I set about making what I think is the perfect mushroom soup. I scrubbed and cleaned the shrooms, then divided them up, labeled them, and sliced them for sautéing in ghee.

First, I sautéed a bit of each mushroom and sampled it for flavor. Then I started mixing and matching the shrooms to get what I feel is a good blend – ½ cup at a time.

The first batch of soup used red lobster mushrooms, chantrelles, morels, and doghair mushrooms. Before I added the mushrooms to the hot ghee, I popped some black mustard seed. Then, with the mushrooms, I added some wild garlic. Once they were all soft and/or translucent, I pureed them in that Magic Bullet I bought. (As an aside – for small jobs, this Magic Bullet is a quick and easy to use machine, well worth the investment. If you are a single person, or you cook in small, experimental batches, I recommend it.) When the mushrooms were well pureed, they went back into the pot, along with some of last week’s duck broth, some thyme, parsley, and ground celery seed. I let that heat through, then added full cream – the kind people use for whipping cream. It was – OK. All right, it was far better than the canned stuff. But I still didn’t like it. Fortunately, I only made a half cup.

Next, I used Satyr’s Beard, blue oysters, black trumpets, morels, puffballs from my back yard. These were sautéed with a bit less wild garlic, some wild sage, and a dash of juniper berries. Before I pureed this, I removed the juniper berries. Then I returned the pureed mushrooms to the pot with chicken broth, thyme, summer savory, and just the smallest bit of tarragon. To this, I added a bit of full cream and topped with a bit of watercress taken from an Oklahoma stream. Not bad, better than the last batch, but not what I wanted.

The third batch used Satyr’s beard, dogshair, porcini, chantrelles, and black trumpets, seasoned with wild onions, wild carrots, and kudzu. This was pureed, filled with chicken stock, re-seasoned with tarragon, sorrel, and peppergrass, and full cream added and garnished will dillweed. Still better, but not quite there. Ha – you thought third time’s the charm. Nope.

So, the next batch was a blend of porcini, Satyr’s Beard, red lobster, blue oyster, black trumpet, and a dash of morel. This was seasoned with wild carrots, wild onions, wild sage, and juniper berries. The berries were removed before I purred them, then it was thinned with my golden vegetable broth, and reseasoned with thyme, summer savory, and parsley. I added the full cream – and viola – a winner! This is a mushroom soup even I will eat – and I hate mushrooms.

It was a really funny experiment, because I so dislike mushrooms, and it was all I could do to force myself to taste each experimental soup. But it was worth it because in the end, I discovered a mushroom soup I like, and would be willing to prepare and serve in the Cracked Cauldron.

And yanno – this mushroom soup was fantastic served with new potatoes and broad green beans.

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