Posts Tagged ‘Baking’

A Little Egg with Your Tea

With winter finally baring its frigid fangs here in central PA, even I, a lifelong proponent of colder temperatures, have taken to wishing for warmer climes. But, with schoolwork and student teaching compelling me to weather at least one more icy winter here, I’ve resorted to finding (typically culinary) ways  to keep the brumal blues at bay! Lately, my quest for cold-dispelling recipes has led me to finally trying dishes that I’d favorited and bookmarked over the years, but had never actually attempted. First on this list of “eventual eats” was a recipe for Chinese Tea Eggs that I discovered here nearly a year ago. Captivated by the incredible look and purported flavor of these eggs, I knew I had to give ’em a go!

While the tea eggs are extremely easy to make, do ensure that you have enough time to allow the eggs to fully absorb the color/flavor of the tea! I made the mistake of starting my batch rather late at night, so the eggs I ended up with were a tad lighter than the traditional tea egg. However, even though the coloring was a bit pale, the flavor of the eggs was powerful and peculiarly delicious! Plus, as an added bonus, the tea and spices infused the kitchen with an incredible chai-like aroma while the eggs were steeping!

Chinese Tea EggsTea Eggs!
Cooking time: Approximately 2 hours

Ingredients

6 eggs
4 black tea bags, or 2 tablespoons of loose black tea leaves
2 teaspoons of Chinese five spice
1 tablespoon coarse salt
(Optional) Toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

1. Place eggs in a large pot and fill with enough cold water to cover the eggs. Cracked Eggs
2. Bring water to a boil over medium heat and let simmer for 12 minutes.
3. Remove the eggs from the water, and with a spoon, tap the eggs until the shells are covered with cracks.
4. Return the eggs to the pot of water and gently stir in the tea, Chinese five spice, and salt.
5. Cover the pot, heat gently, and let simmer for one hour.
6. Remove the pot from the heat and leave the eggs to cool in the liquid for 30 minutes.
7. Take one egg from the liquid, and peel to determine whether your eggs are dark enough, or if they need to remain in the liquid longer.
Marbled Eggs8. When you’re satisfied with the color of your eggs, remove the whole batch from the water and allow to cool fully.
9. With your eggs completely cooled, peel each egg (taking time to admire the fascinating coloration of the shells), and enjoy! You may also wish to garnish your eggs with toasted sesame seeds before serving.

Without a doubt, the process of creating a clutch of Chinese Tea Eggs wholly served to keep my mind off of the near sub-zero temperatures outside! I can only hope that they’ll do the same for you!

Until next time, happy cooking, gardening, and doing whatever else brings you joy!

Nate

A Scholar’s Return

If you’ve been counting (and I really hope you haven’t), it’s been a good year or more since I last wrote of my own volition. Throughout this past year, I have had to write countless classroom management portfolios, several declarations of teaching style, at least two reports on my effectiveness as a prospective educator (complete with pie charts and bar graphs), and, interestingly enough, one analysis of the Biblical book of Esther; but, until now, I have not  truly written for myself. And, for quite a while, I was more than ok with that. For a time.

Recently, however, my attempts at staving off the desire to assemble words have failed, and I have been led to attempt the act of literary creation anew. The first method which I found capable of sparking my writing spirit came in the form of a new haiku-themed Twitter account (which you can follow in the top-right corner of the main page), wherein I have been attempting to limit my thoughts to seventeen syllables (a delightfully mind-bending, yet altogether peace-bringing exercise). But, while I continue to enjoy the realm of measured, poetic language, I felt that a fresh foray into the unfettered fields of prose was in order. So, at long last, I will be again presenting you with written snapshots of the photographic records I’ve kept over the past year, as well as detailing my favorite plants, hobbies, and recipes that I’ve picked up throughout my travels in the Scholar’s Garden.

Since my time today is a bit limited (no matter how much you prod them, cowpeas just won’t shell themselves!), I thought I’d leave you with my most fun-to-make recipe from this past spring: robin’s nest cookies. I attempted this recipe during the Easter season, when my fascination with the rebirth of plants and animals was at its peak. And, while this cookie may be geared more for the vernal months, it really is perfect anytime you need a dash of springtime in your life!

Robin’s Nest Cookies

Ingredients for the Nests

1 cup of softened butter
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of finely chopped walnuts

Ingredients for the Eggs

2 tablespoons of softened butter
3 tablespoons of light corn syrup
Approximately 2 drops of blue food coloring
Approximately 1 drop of green food coloring
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks and stir in the vanilla. Stir in the flour until everything is completely mixed.

3. Beat the egg whites in a shallow dish (I used a small bowl) until foamy.

4. Spread the chopped walnuts on a flat surface, such as a plate or waxed paper.

I had a bit too much fun with my fondant...5. Roll a spoonful of dough into a ball, roll the ball in the egg whites, and then roll it in the walnuts. Place the balls 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Indent each cookie with your thumb, so that they take on a nest-like shape.

6. Bake nests in your preheated oven for 12 minutes.

7. While the cookies are baking, cream together the last 2 tablespoons of butter with the corn syrup, food colorings, and almond extract. Gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. After the mixture incorporates into fondant, begin rolling 1/2 teaspoons of the fondant into egg-shaped balls.

8. After the cookies have finished baking, place your eggs in the nests!

And that’s all there is to making a nutty set of robin’s nest cookies! Due to my lack of proper food coloring (I actually had to rehydrate the few flakes of pigment still left in the bottles), my eggs didn’t exactly capture the brilliant greenish hue that robin eggs are known for having; but, I did discover that if you add a touch of color to the fondant ball after its already in its final form, and then continue to fold it, you can create a rather striking marbled effect with your eggs.

Well, the garden, and its never-ending list of tasks, is calling my name; so, I must bid you a fond farewell for now!

Until next time, happy gardening, baking, and doing whatever else brings you joy!

Beginning Again

Wow, I can’t believe how long it’s been since my last post!
One thing that I’m quickly learning through my higher-education experience is that final-exam preparation for an English major is a bit more involved than the late-night cramming sessions that usually accompany this hallowed, college tradition. Instead of test-prep, my past few weeks have consisted primarily of in-depth literary analysis and writing a seemingly endless stream of papers.
But, now that my required list of writing assignments has been completed, I’m raring to start posting on a much more regular basis! Because so many blog-worthy events have taken place since my last post, I’ll be trying to bring you all up to speed with a series of rapid-fire postings that should give you a tiny glimpse into The Scholar’s Garden!

First up is a recipe that I’ve been dying to share ever since I wrote “An Overture to Proliferation.” I mentioned at the end of that particular entry that, if they passed a rigorous taste test, I would share the instructions for making a batch of white chocolate, cranberry cookies. Well, they were a hit at home and at school, so I am honor-bound to share the recipe!

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

What You’ll Need:

2 Greased Cookie Trays

1/2 cup/ 1 stick of softened butter

1/2 cup of packed brown sugar

1/2 cup of white sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon brandy (Since our house is almost entirely devoid of alcohol, save for a lone bottle of white cooking wine, I replaced the brandy with vanilla and they turned out just fine.)

1 and 1/2 cups of flour

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

3/4 cup of white chocolate chips

1 cup dried cranberries (raisins or currants would probably work extremely well, too- or, you could experiment with whatever dried fruit you have lying around your kitchen!)

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to 375° F

2. Mix together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth (an electric mixer will expedite this step).

3. Combine the flour and baking soda and pour into the original sugar mixture.

4. Add the white chocolate chips and cranberries to the dough, mixing thoroughly.

5. Drop spoonfuls of the cookie dough onto your greased cookie trays (these cookies had a tendency to hold fast to the tray, so, in this case, an above-average amount of cooking spray is recommended).

6. Bake for 8-10 minutes (don’t let them get too crispy in the oven, they’ll harden as they cool)

7. Leave the cookies on the trays for about 1 minute, and then transfer them to wire racks to finish cooling.

And there you have it! If you’re in the mood for a sweet snack with a tart undertone, these cookies can’t be beat!

Well, that’s the end of my first catch-up post! Tune in next time for the exciting arrival of the bees (yes, they did finally arrive!)!

Happy Baking!

An Overture to Proliferation

Wow! It’s been far too long since my last post; and, for that, I must apologize. As the end of the semester is fast approaching, I’m finding that I have far less time than normal! So, just so you all know, my posting is definitely going to be spotty until May 4, the date of my last final (oddly enough, that’s the same day as the last frost in our area…guess that means that I’ll have a LOT more time for the garden!). Although I really don’t have much time tonight (a modified lesson plan and a batch of white chocolate cranberry cookies that need taken out of the oven are calling my name), I thought I’d catch you up on what’s been happening in the Scholar’s Garden!

First off, I’d like to recommend a book that I’ve just begun reading: “Carrots Love Tomatoes” (truthfully, I’ve had this book for over a week now, but haven’t had the time to really crack it open until recently). If you’re interested in companion gardening, this is THE book you need (if you’re wondering, no, I don’t receive any kickbacks from the publisher). Companion gardening is an excellent way to get the most out of your garden. By placing certain plants near each other, a plethora of beneficial effects can take place. Not only does this book tell you which vegetables, fruits, nuts, and herbs make good garden-mates, but also what wild plants (that look like weeds) to leave in your yard, which weeds and leaves make the best compost, and how to design the ideal companion garden for the veteran gardener or for a yard teaming with children. With this book on hand, along with my very old copy of “The Square Foot Garden,” I’ve been attempting to design this year’s garden in a way that will make both me and my plants happy!

Speaking of making things happy, Eric and I have recently been as busy as, well, bees! In preparation for the bees’ arrival, we’ve been putting the finishing touches on our hive. Because of a scheduling delay, the delivery date of our bees has been pushed back (we were supposed to receive the girls this past Sunday); but, nonetheless, we’ve been hard at work making sure that the bees will enjoy their new home. In fact, I was able to take a few pictures of our final set-up that I thought I would share.

As we set out to put the beeswax foundation in our frames (the individual slots in the hive bodies that you can see in the second picture of the bottom row) we encountered quite a few problems. For future beehive construction projects, I’m going to definitely make an effort to remember to bring all of the screws and tools necessary to put the entire structure together (in lieu of a brad driver, we had to use a pair of needle-nose pliers and a large, flat-head screwdriver to secure our brads)!

And, just as a heads-up to anyone planning on assembling your own hive, make sure you save all of the wood that comes with your kit! Case-in-point: we threw away what appeared to be scraps when we first assembled the frames and boxes, but those flimsy, seemingly useless pieces of wood were actually supposed to hold the beeswax to the frame! So, as you can see in the second picture of the first row, we resorted to using paint stirrers for our supports. Despite these difficulties, the hive is 100% complete and ready for the most important part of this whole project: the bees!

So that’s what’s been going on in our neck of the woods! I do hate to run, but I must pull those cookies out of the oven (if they turn out well, I’ll be sure to post the recipe for you to enjoy…if they aren’t so good, we’ll just forget I ever mentioned them)!

Have a great night, and, as always, happy gardening!

%d bloggers like this: