Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cinnamon Roll Disaster

Just in case you were wondering if every culinary effort at the Miles house turns out well, the answer is "No!" Here you see the result of my first experiment with making cinnamon rolls. I thought about taking a picture of what they looked like straight out of the oven but I just wasn't brave enough to do it. I was also a little concerned for the grackles, but have not found any lying dead around the yard. They must have strong constitutions. This one does have an expression that looks something like "I'm going to find who did this and peck his eyes out."

So what happened? Well, surprisingly few cinnamon roll recipes are to be found in baking books. Cooks Illustrated did have one, but it sounded like one of their wacko we're better than everyone else because we're different affairs. I skipped it and went for my mom's old Betty Crocker recipe. I mean BC couldn't possibly let me down. Right? Wrong! The cooking time was WAY too long, and like an idiot I wasn't keeping a close enough eye on what was going on in the oven. And yes, I used an oven thermometer and had the oven pegged at 375 following the directions. The BC icing recipe is also way wrong, basically resulting in confectionary sugar concrete.

What to do? A trip to the library, where I found two books whose cinnamon roll recipes seemed like winners. My second attempt is from Abigail Johnson Dodge's The Weekend Baker, and the result was superb. :-) Abigail knows a thing or two about mixing up icing, as well. Heavy cream makes a much richer icing than milk! I haven't tried recipe number 2, yet, but will definitely give it a go. It's a potato dough approach and calls for Irish Cream liquor in the icing. Anyway, this is one of the Dodge cinnamon rolls. The grackles won't be getting any of these...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Easter Sunday

Elly, Basie, and I had a wonderful Easter Sunday. A few weeks ago I put up a new Spiral Feeder from backyard bird and the finches just love it. It's about 3 feet tall. They really like being able to slip along the spiral perches from hole to hole. So much so that our older finch feeder, with individual perches, only serves as a backup feeder now -- the birds spend 90% of their time on the new one. I took this picture Sunday afternoon.

We decided to spend the day at home (a typical holiday choice for us) cooking a multi-course dinner. Elly had the clever idea to listen to choral masses. We have a good-sized collection of classical CDs, both instrumental and vocal, but haven't listened to them much over the past few years. We listened to three Tallis Scholars CDs -- Palestrina Masses, Allegri Miserere, and a Josquin CD with Missa Pange lingua and Missa La sol fa re mi. We also listened to Dvorak's Stabat Mater.

Basie seemed to think it was good napping background music.

I started off making biscuits, following a recipe from the Cook's Illustrated Baking book. These turned out marvelously. I won't tell how many Elly ate. My first adventure in making biscuits.

Elly made a Gruyere and leek tart, combining multiple recipes, which turned out quite nicely.

And also a puff pastry with an asparagus and shitaki mushroom filling that was another triumph.

I took charge of dessert, making a parfait with layers of strawberries, lemon mousse, and white chocolate mousse. I used some more of the lemons from Dick Harshaw's yard in Phoenix.

Here is one of the parfaits. They weren't quite a photogenic as the Bon Apetite version, but they were delicious.

We enjoyed a terrific bottle of 2005 Treana Red supplied by my sister and brother-in-law (Karen and Tom) with our dinner and ate leftovers for days.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Back from Arizona

Questions have been raised, both on and off my blog, as to why it has been so long since my last post. A major reason is that I took a trip to Arizona last week to do some astronomy with friends in the Saguaro Astronomy Club. We observed from a site in the Sonora Desert. It was a great week! I put 3,029 miles on the RV. Lots of pictures in my Picasa album from the trip.