lblanchard: (swannfountain)
I will have to ponder precisely what I did with this batch of springerle to make the dough behave perfectly. I think it may have been the extra few minutes I beat the eggs, the extra time I let the hartshorn dissolve in the milk, or perhaps the more careful measuring of the confectioner's sugar. Perhaps it is the new heavy-duty Wilton cookie sheets, or the new gingerbread cottage mold that doesn't leave a lot of design-free surface.

Whatever it was, they rose perfectly, evenly, with no wrinkles in the surface. And, I am even more delighted to report, the half teaspoon of lavender oil, the teaspoon of lemon oil, and the zest of one lemon created a balance of flavors that I found very pleasing. The lavender was pronounced but neither overwhelming nor oppressive.

The second sheet is baking now, and I hope that pride does not go before a fall. Also, I have managed to hold the line at eating one.

Springerle do not photograph well under the fluorescent lights. Photos will be posted tomorrow, when I have better light.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
The Schlumbergera are still blooming, and I have a batch of springerle half baked, half waiting to be molded with my new 12-days-of-Christmas molds (days 2-4, a gift from my kid). That's Christmas.

This morning I saw the first Hippeastrum scape of the year, from the Class of 2011a, Trader Joes x Gervase. Also the first leaf shoot from the Class of 2011b, papilio x chico.

And there was a Flower Show tour guide meeting.

In other news. a foot of snow is forecast for Thursday. That will play havoc with a meeting we have scheduled. There's been a lot of that this winter.

UPDATE: Today, February 11, I noted that H. 'gervase' has a flower scape peeking out from the bulb. So I will have at least two blooming this year.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
And I do mean epic. First of all, I misremembered the recipe and beat NINE eggs instead of SIX, and then wondered why I had batter instead of dough after adding an entire box of cake flour. Second, instead of doing my lavender experiment with 1/4 tsp or less, I put in a full tsp.

I tasted the batter and yecch. So I added enough all-purpose flour to make a drop-cookie type dough and baked a test batch of six to see if baking improved the flavor. It didn't -- it was a bit the way I imagine cookies made of pine needles might taste. But the texture of cookies made with cake flour, hartshorn, and 10x sugar was pretty nifty and I think I might experiment with that.

After that fiasco, something snapped, and I watched movies on Netflix for the rest of the night. An A&E biography of Charles Dickens, followed by the entire 2005 Bleak House in one gulp. I finally turned off the computer at 2:00 and wiped down the upstairs kitchen counter. The lavender-scented dishes are still in the sink.

Today is packed to the rafters -- dentist at 8:45, scamper up to Temple University and then back to the Academy of Natural Sciences meeting at 11:00 that will ease into lunch, followed by another meeting at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. All work-related, all on less than four hours' sleep.

I'm too old for such shenanigans. Well, at least I've finished my Christmas shopping for Roy -- on Amazon. So I can relax and ruin several more batches of cookies between now and Christmas.

My mouth still tastes of lavender. No more lavender springerle experiments!
lblanchard: (Default)
I've been watching the 'papilio' x 'emerald' floaters sprout ever so slowly in the glass of water. I'm confident about five four of them (I think I counted one twice) and suspect another three or four of sprouting. These were started 4/26. Two of the ones I planted in a pot 4/29 have sprouted. I can tell because the seeds are pushing themselves up as the sprouts make up their minds which way to go.

Bad things are happening in Tanya's tree pit out front. First, there's a quadrant, the southwest, where everything I've put in so far, except for some iris rhizomes, has rotted, and the iris are stunted. Second, I discovered this morning that the Rose of Sharon isn't exactly anchored in the soil. I suspect some motorist of hitting it with a car door.

Monday, which is the night before trash day, I'll pull the possibly contaminated soil out of the Quadrant of Death and replace with lovely new Miracle Gro potting soil. Then I'll try a disposable plant -- one of the many volunteer feverfew -- and see how it does. Meanwhile, I'll pot up another piece of hosta to try there again. The ones Sybil and I planted last fall died, and the one I planted this spring has also died. Perhaps a potted plant with a better developed root system will do better.

One of my wee maples isn't doing so well. Its leaves are crisping up. I think it's the one that was iffy earlier. But I have a replacement! I pulled it up from a crack in the walkway at the New York Botanical Garden on Thursday.

Tonight we're going to a Cinco de Mayo barbecue at a neighbor's. I'm taking springerle at their request.
lblanchard: (Default)
It feels as though my entire life is on hold, although of course it isn't.

I see things on the windowsill that need tending to. I really need to re-pot the Nopalxochia, based on what my friend Matt told me about overwatering. He said that overwatering causes root rot that will result in the bottom half of whatever's in your pot turning to muck. I overwatered last summer, having not yet learned that Nopalxochia wilt in the heat even when they're not thirsty. I also have a couple dozen Schlumbergera -- seedlings no longer, with full sized leaves and an appetite for growth, needing a little more lebensraum. But I can't do any of those things, because...

My "potting shed" is my upstairs kitchen, which is full of sheets of drying springerle. Cookies and potting soil are not a good combination for anyone except maybe a three-year-old.

On the work front, everything important is out for approval and the remaining tasks, such as filing, do not entice. And my brain doesn't seem to be set for flashes of brilliance that will create new projects at the moment.

The hippeastrum pods are in the final stages of maturity. The one of greatest interest, papilio x emerald, is starting to yellow and show deeper indentations at the "seams." In fact, one of the seams may be about to crack open. It's a bit like those last couple weeks of pregnancy -- come on, already. Come to think of it, I was in those last couple weeks of pregnancy at precisely this time of the year in 1973. I went into labor on April 24.

Well, hey-ho. The coffeepot just made its "I'm done" noise. Maybe after some coffee I'll feel like filing. Or otherwise cleaning my office.
lblanchard: (Default)
you can skip this trivia )

In other news, the leaves of the 'papilio' pup burst free of the papery cover of the mother bulb and it turns out to be two pups. This is a happy-making thing.
lblanchard: (Default)
My Hippeastrum 'papilio' is almost open for business -- the ladyparts of the first flower are beginning to loosen up and by tomorrow or the next day ought to be receptive. I'll be torn because once I pollinate the plant the flowers will wither immediately, whereas I could probably eke out a couple more days otherwise. Of course, it may not self-pollinate. Some clones do, I'm told, and some don't. I also have pollen from Hippeastrum 'emerald' (not 'evergreen,' as I thought) coming from a friend in Indianapolis. Emerald doesn't look as green as 'evergreen.' Here's a link to a Flickr photo showing 'evergreen' and 'emerald' side by side. There's some color variation in 'emerald' -- some are pinker and some are greener. I hope Rebecca's 'emerald' is more on the green side.

At any rate, here is my 'papilio' in all her back-lit glory.


I've been looking at my other Hippeastrums with a more optimistic eye. Neither the 'Gervase' nor the 'Apple Blossom' appear to be seriously affected by the virus. The Trader Joe NOID, on the other hand, has streaked and deformed leaves, possibly because of the stress of childbearing three of the past six years. All the children look streaky.

More thyme and windowsill basil are up. Pesto basil is still not. I have forgotten to proof any Rainbow chard but will do so today.

I have four dozen springerle molded and ready to go into the oven but will post no pictures as they would add no new information to my LJ. I took a step backwards and did the 100% canonical flavoring -- the zest of one lemon and a cookie sheet sprinkled with anise seed. The oven is warming and I'll be popping them in directly.

Today is Roy's birthday, but he had to go out of town, not to come back till tomorrow. We've agreed that the date for Roy's Birthday Observed will be Saturday, and I am looking for a restaurant that is 1) not the Union League; 2) a maker of fearsome Manhattans; 3) good with seafood; 4) not a place we've gone to repeatedly.
lblanchard: (Default)
Both 'papilio' blooms are mostly open. They should be fully-deployed by tomorrow. I've been taking pictures every day and iwll post another tomorrow.

Around the base of the 'papilio' are several dozen seedlings. I had taken out my saved herb seed packets to see what I had, and I dropped them on the kitchen counter, creating a commingled spillage. Sigh. So I gathered them up and sprinkled them on the 'papilio' pot. A couple of them are parsley. Most of them aren't.

A week ago today I also sowed some test seeds of my two kinds of basil and some thyme. A few thyme are up today. No sign of the basil yet, but I think they will want the full ten days on my chilly windowsill.

I am down to my last four springerle from the last batch, except for the dozen or so I kept to take to my son in April. So I have butter softening in the oven (the pilot light keeps it in the 90s there) and eggs warming on the kitchen counter. All the other ingredients, except for the milk-hartshorn mixture, are measured and ready to go. Almond was interesting, but I'm ready to return to the classic anise seed and lemon rind flavoring.
lblanchard: (Default)
The almond-lemon springerle are tasty. Note to myself: I used 1 tsp almond oil and 1/2 tsp lemon oil in a full batch of springerle dough.

Yield: 45 amo te hearts; 48 one-rose rounds (2-1/2", I think).

Baking time: 18-20 minutes in a 275 oven.

In other news, a 'Gervase' bud is peeking out from the bulb.
lblanchard: (Default)
There are only two springerle left in the cookie jar. I have new flavorings and a cookie cutter for the Amo Te heart. And Roy is off looking at train pictures with the guys. Imperfect but [one hopes] tasty almond springerle will happen tonight and tomorrow.

I have cleared most of the horizontal surfaces in my office in addition to those in the kitchen. I am determined to roll the whole batch tonight and bake them all tomorrow afternoon, after church.

In other news, it was a sunny day, not particularly cold or windy, so I biked down to deepest south philly to buy cheap cuts of beef at the Shop-Rite. Then it was off to the Big 8 for veggies and fruits. A very nice day.

Also: it appears my Yahoo! account was hacked, and I spammed addresses that haven't been current for years, so the hackers pillaged my old old old mail, bleah. I changed my password and am running a full system scan and hope that will do the trick.

Also also: five of the eleven Class of 2006 keepers are putting out leaves. A couple of them are in the habit of doing nothing and then suddenly sending up a flower scape, so I hope that's what they're up to right now. The discards are also sprouting in the basement, leaving me in a quandary about what to do about them. Exotica's offset is putting up a scape, woo-hoo. No signs of flower scapes from the Class of 2009 yet, oh well.

Now I am going to relax with a cup of jasmine tea, my crocheting, a slide show of 2010 photos, and some tunes before starting the springerle marathon.
lblanchard: (Default)
On an extended lunch hour today, I went to the Post Office, where my special cookie cutter for the Amo Te springerle heart mold was waiting for me. Then I went to Fante's, the font of all cooking supply wonderfulness in the Italian Market, and bought four vials of flavoring -- oils, not extracts -- almond, anise, lemon, and lavender. I have everything else I need. So I think that springerle is going to be GAME ON this weekend. I read another recipe that has another set of baking instructions -- put them in a 375 oven to set the design and then drop the temp to 300. Okay, I'm game for a trial of that method.

Meanwhile, back at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, I've been invited to become one of the bloggers on the official Flower Show blog. The dewy-faced laddie who does social media wanted to train me on the software. I got there and, sheesh, it's Wordpress. I've done my first blog entry and it's sitting in draft form waiting for his approval. The deal we struck is that he's going to provide secure storage for my Nikon so that I won't have to drag it along on the Show floor when I'm leading tours. I am hoping that I'll be able to transition from tour guide to social media and still retain the coveted access button at some time in the future.

It was a pretty nice day today, temps in the high 40s, so I biked about 8 miles. It felt awfully good.
lblanchard: (Default)
I still had dough in the fridge waiting to be rolled, molded, cured, and baked. So this time I rolled the stuff about as thin as I could, which means about 3/8". I did three or four "amo te" hearts, none of the big blobby roses, a heap of my single shallow rose rounds, and 20 of my smaller two-rose mold.

Just for grins, I plan to poke a couple holes in one of the amo te hearts just before I shove it in the oven. Perhaps just enough steam will escape that way. Or nor. Who cares at this point? The last batch were suboptimal, but they *were* cooked through and they taste fine.

UPDATE: the ones with holes poked in them didn't explode, but the holes are pretty visible. Also, I think I left these guys out too long and they dried too much. I do not heart their texture. I have plans to carpet the kitchen AND my office with cut-out springerle, an entire batch-full. Twelve hours later, let the bake-a-thon begin!
lblanchard: (Default)
I am not a happy bunny.

I thought I finally had rolled and molded these big guys thin enough that they wouldn't puff and split. Apparently not. At the moment, the alternate recipe (no butter, no hartshorn) is looking more enticing. Or perhaps the gingerbread recipe that has no eggs and hardly any baking soda.

It may be time to back away from the cookie molds entirely and do something else for awhile. I feel as though I've been in pink springerle hell for a lifetime, even if it's only been a few days.

lblanchard: (Default)
I have another three dozen springerle drying on their cookie sheets. Some of them are deeper molds. Roy says he likes the raspberry flavor. That is all.

Or maybe not. A picture is always worth a thousand words...


Well, a couple words are called for: I don't have the right size/shape of heart cutter for the "amo te" mold, but I've just ordered one from House-on-the-Hill.
lblanchard: (Default)
So the pink raspberry flavored springerle aren't exactly a fail -- but I don't think they'll be repeated.

The red food coloring produced cookies of a pale peachy-yellow, or yellowish-peach. Not objectionable by any means, but not the effect I'd hoped for. It's too much trouble to make springerle dough for me to carry this aspect of the experiment any further.

The raspberry flavoring was...interesting. Tasty, even. But it caused serious cognitive dissonance when I bit into a springerle and got raspberry instead of anise/citrus.

The one successful part of the experiment was the substitution of 10x sugar for flour in dusting the dough, rolling pin and molds. There's no white deposit on any of the cookies, anywhere -- the moisture in the dough took care of the few bits of white that were there at the outset. I think they're slightly glazed on top and I know they are on the bottom. The process is subtly different with the 10x sugar and I don't quite have it right yet, but I've only molded about 1/4 of the dough so I have plenty of time.

The cookies still rose a bit more than I would have liked, even though I reduced the quantity of hartshorn a bit.

And so it goes. Here they are after molding but before baking:


And here they are, after baking. I had to fiddle with these in Photoshop to make the color accurate. Also, the focus is a little soft -- the impressions are actually just about as crisp as in the "before" photo. It's a rainy day today, and yesterday there was sunshine, so I got nice raking light for the before photos.

lblanchard: (Default)
I've mixed the dough and made impressions for a little over a dozen cookies. First thoughts:

  • twelve hours or so into the process, the cookies look more peach than pink, but they've lost that nasty flesh-colored-crayon color.

  • And there are no white 10x sugar shadows on any of the impressions.

  • The dough rolls and molds better when it has warmed up from being in the fridge. Judging from last time, there's no significant difference in texture. I expect even less difference now that I'm using 10x sugar instead of flour to roll the dough.

  • I don't have enough time to bake a series of test cookies before heading off to a meeting, but I plan to do so this evening. I can hardly wait to see if the sugar makes a slightly shiny glazed top. (Oooh, that would be nice!)

  • The wee springerle bible says that flavor oils are preferable to flavor extracts, giving stronger deeper flavor. I will have to make another pilgrimage to Fantes to try that out. For now, it's raspberry extract. I wonder if they have peach oil -- that would go well with my peach colored cookies.

  • I'd like to try a deeper but still detailed mold. Unfortunately I don't have such a critter. My deeper mold is less detailed. Shopping may be called for.

  • My son has offered to eat all the springerle experiments I'm willing to mail him. My waistline thanks him.

Photos will be posted later. I have a couple shots of the molded cookies and will post those, plus shots of finished cookies, in Part II.

And now, off to my day job.
lblanchard: (Default)
Okay, I think I have the Perfection Springerle recipe down pat.

notes to myself for next time I do this )
lblanchard: (Default)
I rolled these a lot thinner (1/4"), dried overnight, and baked in a slow oven (225-250F) for 20 excruciating minutes.

They look a lot better to me. I'm still planning to try the no-shortening, no-leavening version. I looked at my Mixmaster beater holes and it looks like the bits that hold the beaters in are semi-stripped. That means, I think, that they'll be okay for light duty such as beating eggs but will come unstuck if they're beating something heavier. Much frustration ensues when beaters detach themselves.

I'm also thinking that the next time I tackle springerle after time off I should plan on making one really awful batch before I settle back into the rhythm. Maybe I should bake some with some other flavoring elsewhen so I don't fall out of practice so badly.

lblanchard: (Default)
The wretched things *still* puffed up too much and broke through the crust that keeps the designs from blurring. For the next crop I try a thinner cookie, a slower oven, and....after that...a different recipe. Later today I'll drag the Nikon upstairs so that I can document my humiliation.

But I *will* achieve springerle this season, or suffer a sugar coma trying.

(EDITED TO ADD: Rolled out the second half of this batch of dough, somewhat thinner this time, I think. I'll bake them at a lower temp, too.)

Graphic evidence of springerle fail 2



lblanchard: (Default)

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