Saturday, April 10, 2010
Six Months Into a New Life
Wow – it's been over six months here. We're told that we've survived the worst of it. We've lived through the winter without running back to sunshine.
Uh, yeah. And winter was a revelation. The stunning beauty of the countryside with drifts of snow along the roads looking like someone had sculpted beautiful sparkling white buttercream frosting into delicate swirls. Little farmsteads tucked back in trees stood out more in a landscape covered in snow. The weather was cold – brisk doesn't describe it; but you bundle up, and do what has to be done. The people moving snow are bundled in their snow gear, hats pulled tight on their heads. You learn to plan ahead here, plug your car in at night, make sure everything is "winterized", and know that any snowstorm can have the ability to keep you home for a few days.
Shoppers hurry from heated car to heated store, rural shoppers mindful that they should make sure that they stock up on things – just in case. People meet, linger, discuss, and in many stores find a table and sit and have a cup of coffee before they meander on their way. The checkers take their time, they visit with you while they ring you up – and the next person in line is patient, waiting for their turn to check out and get some conversation. The sales clerks rush to help you, in the hardware stores they'll give you advice on your projects and tell you where to buy those items you need but they don't carry.
Grocery shopping here has been a learning experience. Many of us have no idea how spoiled we are or should I say were. The produce aisles of the grocery store were loaded with an abundance of fruits and veggies from exotic places and people expected to see a variety of herbs, and items from around the world. Not so here. But we are adapting We have learned that we're going to have to plant a garden in order to have some of the things we're used to eating, and for the rest we'll buy what's available here – locally.
Spring was around the soggy corner. We were watching the masses of beautiful sparkling white snow turn into sodden piles of brownish white yuck that gets a bit smaller every day and makes the yard muddier. All those beautiful "inches of snow" are trying to find somewhere to go – and into the frozen ground in not an option. Low fields and ditches have combined to make "lakes" and if the road is under that lake . . . . oh well. You're staying home for a while. We needed continuing warm weather and wind now to dry things out. For a while the snow would start melting about mid-day when the sun came out, then at night all that melted snow froze harder than a rock. So the next day there's more stuff to melt, now the road that was under water had geese ice skating on it. And there was the hope that with enough heat (60 would be be nice! With 40's at night) and some wind for a few day maybe Lake 41st Street will subside and we could get to town.
Of course the freezer was being slowly emptied, and the fridge was getting down there - but no worries; I am known as the "great stocker". Food was fine, wine and cocktails were liable to get a bit strange by the end of an unplanned weeklong stranding on the farm. After 8 days we finally saw the road – soggy, but above water. The 9th day was perfect and off to town we went with our listsl
This amazing celebration of spring called for an amazing dessert. So the brain – after 9 days confinement; came up with an idea.
Chocolate S'mores Pie with Cherry Marshmallow fluff
1 graham cracker crust – I made a home made crust with organic graham crackers with no HFCS – Baked per directions
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup butter
1 ½ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa
1 cup evaporated milk
1 ½ tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350
In a double boiler over barely simmering water, melt chocolate chips and butter until the butter is melted. Stir until smooth, and whisk in salt, sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract. Whisk until well blended. Pour mixture into the crust.
Bake until the filling has puffed and the very center still wiggles just a bit. It will look something like a giant brownie – better a bit over baked than under. This will make a deep dish 9" pie. When the pie is done remove from the oven and cool completely. Chill until ready to cover with the fluff.
My splurge cookbook this Spring is "Marshmallows, Homemade Gourmet Treats" by Eileen Talanian. The reason I just had to have it is simple – I discovered the joy of homemade marshmallows! Generally I hate marshmallows, meaning the commercial junk in the store. I think it's for two reasons – they're tasteless and they're made with HFCS. Ms. Talanian advocates the use of pure cane sugar only.
While the pie was baking I started the Cherry Marshmallow Fluff.
Ms. Talanian makes the fluff in two steps. First the Marshmallow Syrup
2 cups of water
5 1/3 cups granulated cane sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
a pinch of salt
In a heavy 4 quart pan stir together all of the ingredients until the sugar is moistened with a heatproof spatula. Bring it to a boil over med-high heat and cover the pan for 2 minutes (so the steam can wash any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan).
Uncover the pan, insert a candy thermometer and increase the heat to high. Do not stir once you have removed the lid. Continue cooking until the syrup reaches 240 degrees F. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes. Pour into clean jars and cap.
(Author's note: Store it at room temperature for up to 2 months. If the syrup begins to form crystals in the bottom of the jar don't be alarmed; pour out the amount of syrup you need when you use it, without scraping the jar. Discard the crystallized part left in the jar.)
For the base:
¼ cup 100% tart cherry juice
1 cup marshmallow syrup
1 cup granulated cane sugar
Place the base ingredients in a heavy 2 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover the pan and boil for 2 minutes. Remove the lid, insert the candy thermometer. Increase the heat to medium high, and cook the base until it reaches 260 degrees F. Again, don't stir once the lid has been removed.
While the base is cooking place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
For the egg foam:
5 large egg whites at room temperature or the equivalent in reconstituted dried egg whites.
1/8 tsp salt
When the base reaches 225 degrees start beating the egg whites on med. speed until they are opaque and the beater leaves firm trails in the whites.
In a small bowl mix together the flavoring ingredients:
1/3 cup 100 tart cherry juice
¼ tsp. pure almond extract
½ to ¾ tsp. kirsch
When the base reaches 260 degrees take the pan off the heat and let it cool for 3 or 4 minutes. Stream the base down the inside of the mixer bowl, into the egg whites, with the motor running on medium high speed. Increase the speed to high and beat the fluff for 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the flavoring ingredients a tablespoon at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. When all the flavoring has been added, turn the mixer to high and beat for 1 minute.
The fluff can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Before serving the pie, generously cover with the Cherry Fluff. Garnish with chocolate jimmies or graham cracker crumbs as desired. Chill pie until ready to serve.
This pie just screams Spring to me! Sorry there's no picture of it - but we couldn't wait!