Monday, November 30, 2009

Beagle Creek

Beagle Creek is a piece of land that we bought a couple Months ago. It's about 4 acres located half of a mile from Lake Lemon. About 1/3 of the property is pasture and the other 2/3rds is forest. The boys named it Beagle Creek because it's a favorite outing for our beagle, Pongo, and also to honor the memory of Highway, another beagle who would have loved this place.
There is a one-car garage on the property which Keith uses as a storage shed. He has big plans for this piece of land. In addition to planting a small orchard and other produce, he has started a new business, Native Solutions, LLC, in which he will be growing and selling inoculum to restoration companies.
Keith and boys spend almost every weekend at Beagle Creek. They have been cleaning out the creek which is full of trash. Obviously, the previous owners must have mistaken the creek for a landfill. Keith has taken away several trailer loads full of old refrigerators, washers, car and truck parts, even a big natural gas tank. Apparently it's a very "Hoosier" thing to do -- dispose of your trash in your own backyard. It seems there is no shortage of junk in Beagle Creek, and Keith and boys have been hard at work removing all of it. The various metals (copper, steel, aluminum, etc.) are taken into town and sold for their salvage value, and much of what the previous owners considered "trash" will actually be put to use in the orchard and other parts of the property."

There is a small persimmon grove at Beagle Creek as well as a big sugar maple that we're hoping to tap for syrup in the spring. We're also looking forward to next summer when we can pick and eat all the chanterelle mushrooms that grow abundantly in our forest.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sweet and Salty Cake

I've been wanting to try this recipe for a few months now, ever since I bought the book, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking cookbook. A friend recommended the book to me, and I was able to check out a copy from the library. Well, after making several recipes that all turned out fantastic, I knew I had to buy it.

The special ingredient in this cake is Fluer de sel, a sea salt harvested from France. I bought mine at Williams Sonoma. You could probably substitute regular sea salt but I wouldn't suggest it; the Fluer de sel has a very unique flavor and really makes the cake special.

One thing I found with this recipe is that it has to be followed precisely. It requires making two batches of caramel, one salted and one not. I'm pretty much a veteran when it comes to making homemade caramel and wasn't intimidated about making the two different kinds, but I ended up throwing out my second batch. I ruined it when I waited a just a little longer than 1 minute to add the cream to the sugar mixture. The directions were to remove the sugar mixture from the heat and wait one minute before adding the cream, and I discovered that they mean exactly one minute, not two.

Aside from my caramel snafu, the rest went pretty smoothly. However, the process was quite time consuming as there are several steps. It took me most of the afternoon to make the caramel, the ganache, and to assemble the cake. That of course doesn't include the baking of the cake which I had done ahead of time.

All in all, I think the cake was delicious and well worth the effort. I will be making it again this week for a friend's birthday. I'm hoping the second attempt will prove to go a little more smoothly then the first.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Missing Little Ladybug

We spent fall break visiting family in Arizona. The kids had fun trick-or-treating with their cousins, and my mom, sister and I did our annual Christmas baking. Unfortunately while we were there my youngest niece, Madelyn got sick and had to miss out on all the festivities. And we were sad not to be able to spend more time with her!

Below is a picture of the kids on Halloween. As you can probably tell, my sister Photoshoped the missing little ladybug, Madelyn, into the photo. Pictured along with the ladybug is a mad scientist, police officer, owl, and Disney's Mulan.Instead of having fun with her cousins, Madelyn (along with her mom and dad) spent the afternoon in the doctor's office. Poor baby!

Below is a preview of some of the holiday treats my mom, sister and I baked all in one day......hundreds of cookies and some candy too. The baking was the fun part, hauling it all home on the airplane, not so fun.