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Epicurean Tours and back to cooking

It has been too long since I have added an article to this web site, so I am covering a couple things all at once. One item is the good restaurants at which my Seattle muse and I have eaten over the last year, and the second item is the recipes on which I have been working.

Let me explain that I had to stop some of my cooking experiments for a long while since I injured a leg and had a hard time standing for more than a few minutes at a time. Actually, before that, I had a scare with my blood glucose level while I was working on the Kouign Aman recipes and eating too many of the mistakes. So I really shut down for most of a year without baking.

This last month my Seattle muse gave me a few ideas for cookies and I know she likes Morning Buns so since I was standing better-(without a cane)- I decided to make her the Morning Buns and some of the cookies she had mentioned to me. The cookies were Kookie Brittle, the Ron Paul Black Angus and the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies. Neither of those latter two cookie recipes are on this web site just yet; I am having trouble with down loading my camera to the computer and want to get pictures to go with the recipes.

And when we were enjoying the Morning Buns, it occurred to us both that they seemed tight and we would like them to be softer and larger. So I am also experimenting with that idea. My first attempts have proved to be failures. But I have to eat my mistakes before I try again.

Taking my baked goods to Seattle to share with my muse is only the start of our fun when I am there. We also like to eat at different restaurants to see what they are like. I just looked back, and it has been 2 years since I mentioned the restaurants to which we went. I will try to capture some of what I should have mentioned a year ago or so. In general, we are trying to eat at the restaurants of Tom Douglas or of Ethan Stowell. Both these restauranteurs have proven to have multiple, excellent places. We started with Tom Douglas’s places and many are still our favorites. This recent trip had us going back to Catina Lena and Seatown.

Since we eat out every day, we limit ourselves to breakfast and supper, with a few snacks. Most recently for breakfast, I tried to see if any place could do better Eggs Benedict than our favorite Fat Hen. I think a close second would be Petit Toulouse. I also tried them at Salmon Bay and felt it was a good place to repeat for breakfast. I have to admit that at some place where I had eggs benedict, the eggs were over cooked and not runny. I do not remember at this time where that was- maybe Seatown? After a few mornings of eggs benedict, they all start to seem the same. However, we both decided that Fat Hen was the best, but you want to go on a week day and within the first hour after their opening at 8AM or you are going to wait for a table.

For our supper tour, I need to mention only a few places that are worth your time. First, if you want a hamburger, go to a place with the simple name of 8 oz. It beats all of the pub hamburgers we have tried hands down. Most of the places we try are okay, but not home runs. We always seem to get back to Catina Lena for at least one meal; that is a Tom Douglas place. Another Tom Douglas place we totally enjoyed and surprisingly was not overly expensive is The Carlile Room. And a couple Eathan Stowell restaurants we recommend would include Red Cow and Staple & Fancy. Mindy thinks we have never had steak as good as that at Red Cow and we go back there often. Staple & Fancy was a new experience for us and was very interesting. They ave a Chef’s Tasting Menu, which we tried and it must have had a dozen items before it was time to order Pasta and Secundo. It was truly an enjoyable experience.

I think that terminates the epicurean tour of Seattle for this time. I will try to keep better track of the places worth visiting the next time I take the tour which should be in December. Meanwhile, when I solve the camera /computer failure, I will start putting the new cookie recipes, and corrections to old recipes up on the web site.

Searching for Kouign Amann

About a month ago, I saw a rerun of a Julia Child Baking show in which the guest made a Danish Pastry Braid. That looked interesting, and I thought it would be fun to learn Danish Pastry, and how it differs from what I have been making.

Nouveau 001aBakery Nouveau Kouign Amann

As I started talking about it, my neighbor suggested I try a Challah bread which is also braided. And then my Seattle Muse said that rather than Danish Pastry I should learn to make the Kouign Amann (pronounced Queen Amahn). So I had another three projects ahead of me in almost no time. I was already trying new recipes for Chai Chocolate Truffles and Indian Butternut Squash Soup.

Kouign Amann comes from the Brittany region of France. The words mean ‘Butter Cake’ in the Breton language. It seems to be a somewhat catch-all name for a type of dough which people make into many different types of pastry; on the Internet, I find images that show it as flat pastry as I want to make, as taller pastry made in a muffin tin, as a large pie shaped pastry from which individual pieces are served like pizza slices, and as rolls much on the order of morning buns.

In Seattle, we had tried Kouign Amann at two bakeries- Bakery Nouveau and Le Reve. The former made their Kouign Amann in the form of the flat pastry, while the latter had the taller form. We decided that we liked the flatter pastry better and it is that experience I am trying to create. The only difference seems to be the container in which the pastry is cooked; a muffin tin or a pastry ring.

After researching the Kouign Amann, it appeared that I could use my Croissant Dough recipe, but stop at the third turn and switch to the Kouign Amann recipe. It is at the third turn that the Kouign Amann starts adding sugar to the dough. And while I wanted to make the Kouign Amann in pastry rings, I didn’t have those and most of the recipes said you could also make it in muffin tins. So to get started with the learning experience, I used my muffin pans. Finally, some of the recipes said to put the muffin tins on a sheet pan to catch the melted butter and caramel drips.

So that was what I did for the first iteration. And many things were not right. I didn’t like the squashed look that the muffin tins gave the Kouign Amann; they looked like poorly constructed buns. I did more research, and started looking for something to use as a pastry ring; most of the research I did implied that the 4 inch pastry ring was the standard.

Using the muffin tins created a couple other problems besides just looks. If the Kouign Amann aren’t removed from the tins while they are still very hot, the sugar will harden and they can not be taken out in a single piece. And by putting the muffin tins on a sheet pan to catch the drips, the bottom of the Kouign Amann are insulated from the heat and do not cook as fast as the tops, so when the tops start to burn, the bottoms are still doughy.

Also in my research, I found one chef who indicated that the dough for the Kouign Amann should not be milk based as milk (and egg used in Danish pastry) promote browning and there is already enough sugar and butter in the dough to cause browning. That means I shouldn’t use the Croissant Dough recipe directly, but should switch to a different ingredient list. It also appears that unlike most pastries, the Brittany pastries are made with salted butter. Interesting.

Finally, I experimented with making disposable pastry rings with aluminum foil and found they work without any problem. I will give directions for making the rings when I post the recipe. (It appears that commercial pastry rings are a little more expensive than I wanted to invest; they are multiple dollars each. So foil rings are the way to go!)

But, using 4 inch pastry rings raises a different problem. It is easy to fit 12 muffin tins in the oven, but I can only get 6 of the larger pastry rings in the oven, so I needed to create a way to make the 12 Kouign Amann in two baking cycles.

After making my second batch of Kouign Amann with foil pastry rings- they worked great- I shipped a couple pastries to my Seattle Muse and got taste-test criticism back. She suggested that I find a local bakery making the pastries and see where the best were. So I located three Portland bakeries that make Kouign Amann, visited them, and bought some product. With the photo of Bakery Nouveau’s product above this article examines those other three versions of Kouign Amann; I am sorry to say up front that I was disappointed in all of them. I then asked my Muse to stop by Bakery Nouveau and buy a Kouign Amann and examine it carefully so I had a better understanding of what I was trying to accomplish.

St. Honore Bakery.
StHonore 001Saint Honore

While I said that Kouign Amann seems to be a dough that is shaped in many ways, this one really surprised me; I can’t quite see what the shape is. I almost appears to be a roll that has had the center poked down to make a nice soft spot. The pastry is made with a 3 inch base, and then is sprinkled with salt. In the words of the bakery, “Buttery and flaky pastry, caramelized and finished with a touch of French sea salt.” I feel that there has been too much heat, and so the whole pastry is caramelized to the point of being uninviting; very crunchy! There is only a small amount of sticky caramel on the top of the pastry.

I think the dough is a good puff pastry that has only been cut into a cake-like piece, and then sprinkled with sugar and salt. The only sweetness in the pastry is in the caramel crust; there is none in the dough, and the dough is cooked very evenly except for the crusting on the exterior.

Little t Bakery.
Little t 001Little t

This is an interesting version of the Kouign Amann. It shows the corners of the pastry, but doesn’t have the soft center spot. It was made in a 4 inch ring. The top -corners- are caramelized nicely, but they are flat against the pastry. And the bottom is rounded. It appears to me that it was baked upside down and the bottom rose like a roll would when baked, thus the round bottom and flat top. The bottom is very dry, and there is a small amount of sticky caramel on the top of the pastry.

Roman Candle Bakery.
RomanCandle 003Roman Candle

This pastry comes the closest to what I am looking for, but has been ruined by having a lot of salt sprinkled on the caramel. The salt is overpowering. It is a 4 inch base, and the corners do stick up. I don’t totally understand the cooking as the bottom has a very deep concave shape that also shows the soft center spot. The bun is very sticky on the bottom but dry on top. The sticky bottom is different from what I am trying to produce

Reexamination of the Bakery Nouveau Kouign Amann
The photo at the top of this article shows the pastry in the same type of view as the other three bakeries’ products. More interesting is that the base of this pastry only measures 3.5 inches. There is a puddle of sweetness in the center of the pastry. My Muse reports that the outer layer of pastry is not overly sweet, but tastes more strongly of butter. The pastry is not sticky from caramel either on top or bottom. The crust pulls away easily and as you work your way into the pastry, it appears more moist in the center.

My Current State.
kouign amann 4 003Errol’s Third Attempt

At this point, I have got a very sweet taste with the soft center. It appears that I need to increase the rise during the proofing of the pastry, and then cook at a hotter temperature to more quickly caramelize the outside without overdoing the center. What is still an issue is the need to get the corners of the pastry to stick up and show off more. Perhaps the smaller pastry rings (3.5 inches) and the greater rise in proofing will eliminate that problem.

My next report on Kouign Amann will hopefully be a recipe with directions for making the Bakery Nouveau experience.

2015 Decorative Turkeys

2015turkey 001

I made more of the Decorative Thanksgiving Turkeys this year, but with a couple differences. The external differences are that I added eyes and a wattle. The other difference is that I used chocolate candy melt for my glue, as opposed to just a regular chocolate. Again, it only took about 4 ounces of the candy melt disks to do 30 turkeys. (I limited myself to 30 because that was the number of double stuffed Oreo cookies in the package).

Before I discuss the making of the wattle, I think I need to create a recipe. Last year’s article on the Decorative Turkeys did not give you an ingredient list and that was a mistake.

Decorative Turkeys

Ingredients

  • 1 package Double Stuffed Oreo cookies
  • 30 Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups
  • 30 Chocolate Malt Balls
  • 180 pieces of Candy Corn
  • 12 pieces of soft red candy (I used Swedish Fish) (optional)
  • 15 additional Oreo cookies (for the stands)
  • 4 ounces of chocolate to use as glue
  • 60 eye candies (optional)

Directions

  1. To start, insert 5 pieces of candy corn into the filling of the double stuffed Oreo cookies. This takes some care as the corn grows in thickness and will cause the Oreo wafers to separate if pressed in too far. And if you hold the cookie too tightly and press the corn in, it can even cause the cookie wafer to break.After inserting the tail feathers, I find it best to lay the cookies down and proceed with the cookie flat.
  2. Unwrap the peanut butter cups and take the paper off the candy.
  3. Now you need your glue. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 20 seconds, and then remove it, stir it and check its consistency. Repeat the microwaving and checking until there is enough melted chocolate to cover any remaining pieces. This time when you stir it the remaining pieces will melt and you have your glue. It took me a total of three iterations to get the melted glue made. Be careful not to exceed the 20 second rule; the chocolate can easily burn on the bottom of the dish.
  4. Dip the top of the peanut butter cup in the glue, and place it on the Oreo cookie with the candy corn tail feathers. Place it toward the bottom edge, away from the feathers.
  5. Dip the Malt Ball in the glue, and place it above the peanut butter cup against the Oreo cookie. This is the head of the turkey.
  6. Next, we cut the pointed end off the remaining candy corn to be the turkey’s beak. You can be the judge of how long you want the beak. I like to make the beak have just a tinge of the orange at its base. Once you have the beaks, glue it onto the front of the head. I use a toothpick to spread the glue on the back of the beak, and all the rest of the small parts- no more dipping.
  7. We will leave the turkeys for a moment- let the glue dry more. And we will prepare the optional wattle if you care to have that on the turkeys. Take a soft red candy, and roll it out with a rolling pin or piece of dowel to flatten it. Once it is flat and thin, cut it into small pieces- don’t try to be perfect but I think you should aim for about 1/8 x 3/8 inches. You need 30 of these pieces, so keep rolling and cutting.
  8. We are ready to put the optional characteristics on our turkeys. (You will probably need to heat the glue pot for 20 seconds in the microwave so it is liquid again.) I glued the wattle to the peanut butter cup, but positioned it to start just under the beak. And the eyes I glue just above and to the side of the beak.
  9. Finally, we are ready to put the turkeys on their stands. Separate the additional Oreo cookies. There are a couple ways to do this; one is to use a knife to keep as much filling as possible on one wafer, and eat the other wafer. The second way is the unscrew the two wafers from each other and have part of the filling on each wafer. I used the first method in 2014 and the second method in 2015. Now, dip the bottom of the turkey in the glue and stand it on one of the split Oreo halves; I would place it toward the back so the body of the turkey is still over the stand. (I said there would be no more dipping up above- sorry, my bad). In just a couple seconds the chocolate glue will be solid enough that it will hold the turkey upright.

And there you have your decorative turkeys.

2015turkey 006

While others use more of the standard Oreo cookies for the turkeys’ stands, and the turkeys are then standing in snow, I decided last year that I would stand my turkeys on grass, so I bought a package of Mint stuffed Oreo cookies just for the stands. You could also make fewer turkeys by making a turkey stand from a double stuffed Oreo each time you make a candy corn stuffed tail section or two- depending on how you split the stand Oreo. Of course, then you would have to eat the extra peanut butter cups and malt balls ;^)

I placed the steps for putting the wattle and eyes down as optional; last years turkeys had neither, and still were cute. The reason I added these characteristics this year are because I have learned some things about decorating. First, I learned that the bake shop – Decorette Shop– sells the candy eyes. Unfortunately, I don’t find them on the web site and have to walk in to get them. I just googled “candy eyes” and found them listed at a lot of places- places that carry Wilton products like Walmart, Michael’s, and Jo-Ann Fabric; even Party City. The one thing I don’t find is how to determine the size, or even if you can order different sizes; I know that the Decorette shop does have different sizes, and the ones I am using are about 1/4 inch in diameter. Anyway, if you check back to my exploration of cake pops, you will see that I started using them at that time, and I used a larger size on the Minion.

The second learning came from a book my sister Ann sent me- Hello, Cupcake by Karen Tack & Alan Richardson. It has some pretty wild cupcake designs, but more importantly, Karen shows how to roll out soft candies so that you can cut designs out of them. While Giada and others pipe frosting onto their turkeys to add characteristics, I felt that it would be better to use candy and cookie parts as much as possible. And this was an opportunity to experiment with the idea of rolling out candy.

Finally, the candy melt chocolate versus maybe semi-sweet chocolate chips as glue. I think you should use whatever is easiest for you. They are treated the same as far as melting and using. I happened to have the candy melt left over from my cake pop activity, but last year I did use regular old semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Seattle and the Wind Storm

A few months ago, the people of Seattle were getting concerned about the “Really Big One”, an earthquake that would wipe out everything west of Interstate 5. It had been an article in the New Yorker magazine. I tried to focus my daughter’s attention on the fact that most of the problem, if you survived the quake and tsunami, would be the loss of power and roadways; it would take days to restore each of those.

I made a quick trip to Seattle to help daughter Mindy celebrate her birthday. And while I was there- on her birthday no less, the wind blew and took the power out. It went out at about noon on Saturday and didn’t come back on until about 10 PM. After a couple hours in the dark, we went out driving and checked out the terrific wind damage. In one case, we were driving and actually saw a tree come down just a few hundred yards away. Of course, the traffic lights were all out, and many lanes of traffic were blocked by fallen trees, so driving wasn’t a lot of fun either. Going into Seattle later that afternoon, there had been a tree fallen onto the freeway and what was 4 lanes of traffic was reduced to a single lane while they cleaned up that tree.

Last Saturday was a small introduction to how the problems of a quick hitting natural disaster would play out. Once you lose power, you not only are in the dark, but you lose the traffic semiphores, street lamps, and gas pumps. And as a result traffic backs up at major intersections for miles.

I guess we were lucky that the power came on Saturday night; at the train station Monday morning I was hearing people say that their power hadn’t come on until that morning, like 2 AM Monday. Of course, the Comcast cable had also gone out and it hadn’t come back on when I left. (I left early Monday because Mindy had been summoned for Jury duty and had to report at 8 AM Monday).

Even though our weekend will be memorable for the power outage, we were still able to do our foodie thing and visit both some old favorites as well as some new places. Old favorites include Fat Hen for breakfast, and Molly Moon for the ice cream sundaes.

The new places we tried included Bluebird ice cream, where I would say you should try the snickerdoodle ice cream. This little parlor is listed among the 15 best ice cream places in the Seattle area. Actually there are a couple Bluebird parlors in the list, just as there are multiple Molly Moon parlors in the list. We visited the Bluebird that is on Greenwood at 74th.

Mindy likes to explore the various offerings of some chefs such as Tom Douglas and Ethan Stowell. So we visited Cantina Lena and Seatown in the Tom Douglas group, and Goldfinch Tavern in Ethan Stowell’s group. I think I said it more than once that with good restaurants, it is not the food directly that is good, but it is the way the food is seasoned that makes it so good. In all three of these restaurants, that was certainly the case. These restaurants probably are all considered downtown in location. Cantina Lena is on 5th Avenue under the monorail. Seatown is just off Pike and the Pike Market place, and Goldfinch Tavern is in the 4 Seasons hotel.

Finally, we had breakfast one morning at the Bakery Nouveau up on Capitol Hill. They advertise French café fare on the park. There is a second site over is West Seattle. All I can say is that you never knew so many ways to create a quiche or a croissant. I had a Spinach and Feta croissant, and then a Smoked Salmon croissant. I just looked at their web site to see if I could also name what Mindy had, but I didn’t find the names of her croissants. One was with scrambled eggs and bacon. I am certain that we will be returning for additional samplings of their fare.

Even though I made it a short trip so as to interfere neither with Mindy’s work or her call for Jury duty, we still had a good time doing our foodie bit. I also took her a dozen of her favorite Morning Buns, and tastes of several other cake products on which I had been experimenting and perfecting (see Ding Dongs, Black and White Irish Cream cupcakes, and Guinness Gingerbread cupcakes). And I also took her a birthday cake- the Italian Cream Cake– which she says is her favorite.

I’m sorry that I didn’t take photos at the new group of restaurants; I know Mindy did, and I think she places them on Instagram, but being a few generations older, I have no idea how one accesses them. In fact, this dinosaur doesn’t even have a “smart phone” yet so I can only give you Mindy’s link on Instagram.
“https://instagram.com/mindycrary/”

Another Seattle Trip

I made a quick trip to Seattle last weekend. The purpose was not a celebration or test new restaurants, but to visit a plant nursery. Swanson’s nursery carries an enormous selection of plants, and last summer I saw that they had plants that I was not able to find in Portland. So I told daughter Mindy that I would have to come back with the car (I had started to travel almost exclusively by train) and get plants this May. Between Mindy being busy and all, May was nearly gone by the time we were able to put a 4 day weekend together.

As for restaurants, we went to those that had always been our favorites; places like Fat Hen, Cactus, Skillet and Le Reve.

Before I left, I made a dozen Morning Buns to take to Mindy; they are her favorites, and I know how to make them consistently so I thought that would be a treat for her. She, however, out did me!! She had several cookie recipes that she wanted to try, and when I arrived, the last pan of cookies was just out of the oven and cooling. She had made a drop cookie, what I call a molded cookie, and a pan cookie.

The drop cookie started as a Browned Butter M&M Cookie, but she skipped the M&Ms and replaced them with chocolate chips. The author of that recipe suggested half M&Ms and half semi sweet chocolate chips because all M&Ms make the cookie too sweet.
Brown Butter chocolate chip

The molded cookie, which turned out to be my favorite, is called a Salted Caramel & Nutella Stuffed Double Chocolate Chip Cookie. In making it, a small amount of dough is flattened into a disk, and a cavity is pressed into it. Then the Nutella and caramel are placed in the indention. A second disk of dough is placed on top and sealed around the edges. Finally, coarse salt is sprinkled on the cookie before it is baked. Mmmm good!
Double Chocolate stuffed caramel and Nutella

The pan cookie is called Carmelitas. It has caramel, semi sweet chocolate chips, and rolled oats in the recipe. These were Mindy’s favorites (after Morning Buns).
carmelitas

Each morning when we got up, we went walking. For the last several months, Mindy has been walking around Green Lake, and she wanted to explore a couple other parks. So after a first morning of warming me up with a walk around Green Lake, we took the next two mornings to explore other parks. First was Carkeek park. This park has many trails, and is on the side of coastal mountains. After about an hour of hiking, we discovered that we had ascended over 450 feet. There were trail markers that pointed to ridges, but we thought we were doing well without going all the way up.

The second exploration was at Boeing Creek Park, which runs into Shoreview Park; I didn’t figure out when we were in one or the other. Again, there is plenty of elevation on the trails, and we decided that we ascended about 480 feet in our hour walk. I think Carkeek seems more wilderness, even though there is a play area and several picnic areas while Boeing Creek is more closely enclosed by civilization.

While we stopped at another nursery before going to Swanson’s, they did not have much selection. They did have some interesting Hosta, but not the other plants I wanted so I didn’t buy from them. Swanson’s had more than I wanted, and I had to stop myself from buying too much. I did end up with a new Hosta, a Helleborus, and a couple containers of Japanese Blood Grass.

Easter 2015

Although the recipes are in other articles, I thought it would be interesting to show pictures of the various food items I took to our Easter Celebration. Of course, I am the dessert maker, so all the items tend to be types of desserts.

Easter 002

I had chocolate Easter bunnies to mold for the kids, and so while I was molding chocolate, I made some small baskets. So this first dessert is various fruits in chocolate baskets- the whole thing is edible! I had a combination of blueberries, raspberries, black berries, green grapes, red grapes, and strawberries. The strawberries I decided to dip in chocolate at the last minute, and since I had cored them, I dipped the cored end while normally you see chocolate dipped strawberries with the leaves still on them by which to hold them.

Easter 013

And while we are on chocolate bunnies, I also made a few larger ones this year. I had the molds for the 2 inch 3D chocolate bunnies last year, and this year I bought a new larger mold. I think these are about 6 inch 3D chocolate bunnies. I try to hollow them out as much as possible because that makes them easier to eat. They looked a little plain and lonesome before I tied ribbons around their necks.

Easter 008

I used the smaller 2 inch bunnies in these cupcake size cheesecakes. This is a no-bake cheesecake divided into individual servings by making it in cupcake papers. Then on top I placed the small bunnies, and a few chocolate eggs to make them festive. While the cheesecake is a no-bake type, because I made it into individual servings, I had to do a small amount of baking on my do-it-yourself crust on the bottom. Normally, as a full size 9 inch cheesecake, you would buy a pre-made graham cracker crust, and the results would be truly no-bake. The recipe uses the citrus curd, and so the cooking of the eggs is in the making of the curd, and not in the making of the cheesecake.

Easter 011

Finally, I took a plate of cookies. These are the Bon Bon cookies with Rolos and York Peppermint Patties filled Bon Bons. I had just finished with the experiments in making the peppermint filled cookies and I had a bag of Rolos left so I decided to finish the dough with the salted caramel filling. You can see the markings I made on the cookies to tell them apart; the peppermint cookies are dusted with green, while I used gold dust on the salted caramel cookies.

New Menu Added

This is just a very short article to call your attention to the new menu option at the top of the page. I have added an index into all the articles that have been published over the last couple years. I know that I was having a hard time remembering what I had published, and then trying to search the site to see if there was an article already. There are over 150 articles published!

As I say at the top of the Index page, if there are suggestions for improving the index- to help see all the options that are available, please drop me a comment- use the “Leave a reply” button.

Thanks,
Errol

Christmas in Seattle

Once again, I went to Seattle for Christmas. There were some secondary reasons for the trip; Mindy wanted to see first hand how to make Morning Buns. But, as usual, we visited some of our favorite restaurants, and tried a few new ones.

We decided that I should take Amtrak again into Edmonds which is north of Seattle. There is only one train that goes north of Seattle; it leaves Portland about 2:45 PM and finally gets to Edmonds after 7 PM. It continues on to Vancouver, B.C. then returns the next morning on its way back to Portland. The first time I went by train, the return trip was somewhat delayed; the train had a “flat tire” the Amtrak people told us and was running a couple hours late coming back from Vancouver. I don’t really know what a runnable flat tire on a train is, but it did slow us down substantially and vibrate pretty badly. They put us on a different train in Seattle for the rest of the trip.

So again, going up to Edmonds was no problem, but when it came to coming back, there was a problem. There had been a mud slide north of Edmonds and they had routed the train onto a track that did not go through Edmonds. So they bussed us down to Seattle where we met up with the train.

Before I got to Shoreline, Mindy had made some Pecan Pie Bars. This is one of her favorite cookies, but I haven’t made it yet, and it is not in this blog. I will have to do something about that. I had brought a dozen Morning Buns to start us since they take a couple days to make the way I suggest in the recipe. Before I packed, I checked with Mindy to see how well her kitchen was stocked with what we would need for making the Morning Buns. Then I packed all the items that Mindy didn’t have, like the rolling pin, and a Polder timer/thermometer.

I promised Mindy that I would take her some more Kookie Brittle; I think that is one of her favorite cookies. I also took some Snickerdoodles and some Toll House cookies.

So going, I had my suitcase, and then I had a backpack with a pan of Morning Buns, a lot of Kookie Brittle, Snickerdoodles and Toll House cookies, a rolling pin, and a couple muffin pans. (Boy, we were ready to get snowed in and still eat well!)

I supervised Mindy making a second dozen Morning Buns so that she could do it by herself in the future. Of course, she will need to buy a rolling pin and muffin pans, and maybe some other ingredients that I have forgotten were in my backpack.

On Christmas Day, we made some cheese spread snacks- those are already published. We made Paté and Deviled Ham Cheese Logs.

The restaurant bit is an interesting exercise, and I have to say that Mindy does an excellent job of making our eating plan. The problem is that restaurants like to close on holidays, and some even close on the eve of the holiday. As a result, Mindy has to google each possibility to find out what its schedule is going to be. One time before she started doing the checking, we were surprised when the restaurant we were planning to visit was closed for the whole of Labor Day week. We had to make a last minute adjustment.

We are starting to believe that there are only a couple good breakfast places that we visit each time I go to Seattle. One is Fat Hen, and the other is Serious Biscuit. We both had a new treat here; baked eggs. They are cooked in a small casserole with a ham and cheese topping; very good, and they are still served with biscuits, but on the side.

We did find a couple new breakfast places that we felt were good, and deserve a revisit next time. They are Skillet Diner in Ballard, and Le Reve on Queen Anne hill. We both had a Brioche Breakfast Sandwich at this place.

Our supper places also contain some old revisited places, and some new. In the catagory of revisited places would be Cactus and Elliott Bay Public House and Brewery. And the new places include the BluWater Bistro near Green Lake, and the Metropolitan Grill in downtown Seattle. Mindy took me to the latter for my birthday dinner; it is very upscale, and I doubt that we will be visiting it again.

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable parts of my visit was discovering Green Lake park. That park has a walking/running path completely around it- they claim 2.8 miles, and it is level ground compared to anything I walk or run in Beaverton. We walked it 4 times while I was there for a week, and it just begged me to kick my heals up and run. You can’t possible image what level ground means to someone who walks/runs in the south part of Beaverton!

I hope my reporting on eating facilities in the Seattle area will help you find a enjoyable meal if you should be in the area. Now that we are repeating places, it should give you an idea of some very good places to try.

Decorative Turkeys for Thanksgiving

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I saw these little guys in a video that Giada de Laurentis posted to the Food Network site; I haven’t been able to find it a second time. In it, she gave credit for them to a young boy in a hospital she was visiting; I believe his name was Kaden.

Anyway, I thought they were very cute, and decided to post them to my web site.

The hardest part of all this was finding the candy corn; one grocery manager said they only had it available at Halloween. I went to 4 stores before I found it.

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Start with a Double Stuffed Oreo, and stick the candy corn in as the tail feathers. Once you have the tail feathers in, you will start needing your glue; I melted 3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave which is more than enough for a couple dozen turkeys. Just remember, melt the chocolate slowly so you don’t burn it; not more than 20 seconds at a time with stirring in between.

Use a small Peanut Butter cup as the body; dip the top in your “glue” and place it toward the bottom of the tail Oreo. The head is glued on next; it is a Chocolate Malt Ball. The beak is the tip of a candy corn broken off; again, glue it onto the Malt Ball.

At this point, I let the turkey rest for a couple minutes to let the “glue” dry; it seemed fairly solid in the laid down position. Once it seems stable, the bottom/feet of the turkey are dipped in the glue and then pressed into the open Oreo. Giada used some of the double stuffed Oreos as the base, making the turkey stand in snow. I decided to get the mint Oreos so my turkeys are standing in grass.

The one step further that Giada took and I have omitted is that she made some red frosting and piped a wattle on the turkey; I felt that wasn’t necessary, and wasn’t quite in keeping in the assembly of the turkeys where the only help needed from an adult is in melting the chocolate “glue” and keeping it warm. I had to reheat my glue between finishing 13 turkeys, and then mounting them on the grass.

Reducing Cookie Spread

The holidays are approaching, and more than one person has run into the problem that their drop cookies have spread from 2 inches in diameter to more than 3 inches in diameter, making the final cookie thin and crisp rather than fat and chewy.

Two years ago when I first started making cookies, I was occasionally disappointed in the final shape the cookie took after baking. I had some drop cookies that just plain got flat, and of course, they get crisper (crustier?) when they are thin like that. And I tried to make cut-out cookies, and the shapes would contort something awful during the baking process. I had to learn the causes of cookie spread so I could eliminate it. I will discuss several general areas that you need to investigate, but I don’t think you need to take all the possible steps in trying to reduce the spread; at one point, I found that the cookie spread was zero and the cookie looked just exactly like I had dropped it onto the cooking sheets.

Reduce the moisture in the dough.

One of the major contributing factors to cookie spread is moisture in the dough. That moisture might show itself as water, but it can also be hidden where you do not expect it. Butter has water in it; the amount can be as much as 20%, so that 8 ounces of butter could contain over an ounce of water. You may want to switch out the butter for shortening to help reduce the cookie spread.

And if your recipe is using oil instead of a solid fat, you may need to reduce the amount of oil and replace it with solid fat.

The same goes for liquid sweeteners; many of the vegan recipes use liquid sweeteners instead of sugar. Even crystalline sugar acts as a moisture, so you need to use as large a sugar crystal as possible- not powdered sugar but granulated sugar. You might need to reduce the brown sugar and replace some of it with granulated sugar.

Reduce the cooking pan action.

The cooking pan can act either to help spread, or reduce spread. If you are lubricating the cooking pan, don’t! You are making them slick and the cookie dough can slide more easily resulting in cookie spread. Instead, bake the cookies on silicon pads, or even parchment paper on the cookie sheet.

Thicker cookie sheets help reduce the spread of the cookie dough. Several years ago, a cookie sheet was introduced that had a double bottom- something called Air-Bake. This increases the time it takes for the bottom of the cookie to get hot and the ingredients to melt so that they can spread. This means the cookie sides will have a chance to crust before the dough melts and spreads. Before I had Air-Bake sheets, I had cookie pans that would nest, and used two pans nested to make the bottoms more insulated and slow down the heat onto the bottom of the cookie.

Reduce the time in which the cookie can spread.

Perhaps one of the best methods for reducing cookie spread is by reducing the amount of time the dough can spread. To do this, we want to put a crust on the edge of the cookie as quickly as possible after it goes into the oven so that the inner dough of the cookie can’t escape. There are a couple things that will help establish that crust quickly.

Raising the temperature of the oven (and shortening the total cook time) I often use an oven temperature that is 25 degrees different than what the recipe says, and in turn, I usually expect the cook time to be 5 minutes different. For some cooking, I decrease the temperature 5 degrees and cook 5 minutes longer; this is often cakes where I want the edges just inside the cake pan to cook slower so that the rise of the center dome is less pronounced. But with cookie spread, the direction is the opposite; I want the temperature hotter by 5 degrees and the cooking time less by about 5 minutes.

The second method for reducing the time the cookie can spread is to make certain the dropped cookie dough is cold in the center; this means that the edges will warm first, and crust, before the center of the cookie gets hot. So, after you have dropped your cookies onto the cooking sheets, put the cooking sheets in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, and maybe up to an hour. This was the trick that I learned with cut-out cookies that kept them from morphing into unidentifiable shapes.

Bottom Line

There are a lot of other ideas that float around that have to do with making the dough; most chefs feel we amateurs use to the mixer too long. You can see that on cake mix boxes where the directions say to mix the batter for just 2 minutes. I have also read that we over-do the mixing when we cream the butter and sugar, and that makes for some cookie spread. However, I think you will solve your cookie spread mostly with just a couple of the ideas I have given you.
I would start by refrigerating my dropped cookies before putting them in the oven; I think this will do the majority of your job. If you still need some help, I would take one idea from each section above, like changing out the butter for shortening (they do have butter flavored shortening now), and using parchment paper on the cookie sheet instead of a lubricant.