Making Chocolate Buttercrunch — Photos

This weekend’s cooking projects from my collection of recipes included a plain cake with lemon sauce, more pickled eggs (darn those sales on eggs! 🙂 ), and the subject of this post, chocolate buttercrunch. As with previous posts on making pickled eggs and making bran muffins, while I have already made a previous post with some pictures on the subject of chocolate buttercrunch, this post is all about the photos taken while making the chocolate buttercrunch.

First, a bowl was placed on a kitchen scale and the scale weight was set to zero:

Kitchen scale set to zero after placing a bowl on it

Then semi-sweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate buttons (as well as a few rosettes) were taken out …

Semi-sweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate buttons

… and 150 grams of each were weighed out in the bowl, for a total of 300 grams:

300 grams of semi sweet chocolate chips and milk chocolate buttons and rosettes

The chocolates were then put aside for later.

Then, two 13″ x 9″ baking pans were lined with parchment paper, and put aside for later:

Two 13″ x 9″ baking pans lined with parchment paper

To begin making the buttercrunch part, margarine was scooped up in a paper towel …

Margarine on a paper towel

… and a heavy pot was coated with the margarine:

Heavy pot coated with the margarine

A pound of butter was taken out …

A package of butter

… and half a pound of butter was cut off to be used in the recipe, while the remaining portion was put away:

Half a pound of butter was cut off

The butter was placed in the greased, heavy pot, and the stove turned on low:

Butter placed in the greased pot

On a low heat, the butter was completely melted:

Melted butter

A cup and a quarter of granulated white sugar was added to the melted butter …

A cup and a quarter of granulated white sugar added to the melted butter

… along with roughly two tablespoons of maple syrup …

Two tablespoons of maple syrup added

… and roughly two tablespoons of water:

Two tablespoons of water added

The melted butter, sugar, maple syrup, and water were mixed together …

Melted butter, sugar, maple syrup, and water mixed together

… and then stove burner was turned up from a low setting to a medium setting:

Stove raised to medium heat

And the mixture was heated, while constantly being stirred, and the temperature being monitored with a candy thermometer:

Mixture being heated, while constantly being stirred, and the temperature being monitored

Once the mixture reached 300F, it was transferred to the baking pans lined with the parchment paper …

Hot buttercrunch mixture transferred to baking pans lined with parchment paper

… and immediately spread out using a stiff spatula:

Buttercrunch mixture spread out in the baking pans

As a cautionary mention, be careful not to overheat the buttercrunch mixture, since shortly after 300F, the pan will scorch (this picture is normal, but it is at the point at which the candy would scorch if the buttercrunch were left in the pot any longer):

Scorching pot bottom

The chocolate prepared earlier was placed in a microwave oven for two and a half minutes to melt, and partway through, I took it out to blend it so as to help with even melting and to avoid hot spots which would promote burning:

Partially melted chocolates

And then the fully melted chocolate was taken out of the microwave, and fully blended (Note that this photo is from a previous batch some months ago):

Fully melted and blended chocolate

The fully melted and blended chocolate was poured onto the still-warm buttercrunch …

Melted chocolate poured onto the still-warm buttercrunch

… and then the chocolate was promptly spread over the buttercrunch with a stiff spatula:

Chocolate spread over the buttercrunch

The chocolate was allowed to just about fully cool to room temperature, and hence once the chocolate was congealed, a table knife was use to break the buttercrunch into rough pieces:

Chocolate buttercrunch broken into rough pieces with a table knife

The trays of chocolate buttercrunch were then placed in a fridge to completely cool and solidify the candy, and then the pieces were gingerly broken apart by hand (be careful, too much effort or enthusiasm in doing so will separate the chocolate from the buttercrunch):

Pieces of chocolate buttercrunch separated from each other

And finally, the candy was separated into bags:

Chocolate buttercrunch pieces separated into bags

Of course, mom received the largest bag, while my brother will get one of the other two bags.

Yummy!!!

Making Plain Cake (With Lemon Sauce) — Photos

This weekend’s cooking projects from my collection of recipes included more chocolate buttecrunch, more bran muffins, and the subject of this post, plain cake, with the addition of a lemon sauce as an experiment.

I came about to learning to make plain cake from scratch after I attempted to make a New York crumble cake I’d seen being made on a Martha Stewart cooking show. Not only was the cake not as expected — we were expecting mostly cake with a modest but tasty crumble crust, instead of the actual small amount of cake and a sizable crumble crust — the cake did not bake well, and I was very disinclined to try it again. The next day, I looked for a plain cake recipe on the internet and found one, which I adapted to my format.

First, two cups of flour were placed in a mixing bowl:

Two cups of flour added to a mixing bowl

… to which two teaspoons of baking powder were added:

Baking powder added to the flour

… as well as a quarter teaspoon of salt:

Quarter teaspoon salt added to flour and baking powder

The flour, baking powder, and salt were blended with a fork:

Blending flour, baking powder, and salt

The bowl was then put aside until later.

Margarine was picked up on a piece of paper towelling:

Margarine on a piece of paper towel

… in order to coat the interior surfaces of the baking pan:

Inner surfaces of baking pan coated with margarine

Then, a bit of flour was put in the pan …

Flour put into pan

… and spread around to coat the margarine:

Baking pan coated with flour and margarine

The baking pan was also put aside until later.

In another mixing bowl, a quarter cup of shortening was added:

A quarter cup of shortening in a mixing bowl

The shortening was creamed with an electric mixer:

Creamed shortening

A cup of sugar was added to the creamed shortening:

Adding a cup of sugar to the creamed shortening

… and the sugar and shortening were blended:

Sugar and shortening blended

An egg was added to the mixing bowl:

Egg added to mixing bowl

… and the ingredients were again blended:

Egg, sugar, and shortening blended

A teaspoon of vanilla extract was added to the mix:

A teaspoon of vanilla extract being added to the mix
A teaspoon of vanilla extract added to the mix

… and again, the ingredients were blended.

About a third of the flour mix prepared earlier, and about a third of a cup of milk, were added to the ingredients:

A third of the flour mix and a third of a cup of milk added to the ingredients

… and completely blended:

Cake batter thoroughly mixed

The previous two steps were repeated twice until all the milk and flour mix were blended into the batter.

The batter was then transferred to the floured baking pan:

Batter transferred to baking pan

… and placed in a countertop convection oven preheated to 350F:

Cake pan in countertop convection oven

At this point, I was getting rather thirsty, so I poured myself some iced tea, and a bottle of my homebrew, a Belgian-style brown ale, made with water from filtered, melted ice from the lake at my cottage:

Some of my homebrew, and some iced tea
Aaahhhhh …

Since my mom suggested that a lemon drizzle be added to the cake, first a few tablespoons of icing sugar were placed in a bowl:

Icing sugar added to a bowl

… to which half the number of teaspoons of lemon juice were added:

Lemon juice added to the icing sugar

… and the ingredients were mixed, then put aside for later:

Icing sugar and lemon juice mixed together

Soon, the cake in the oven was puffing up and browning:

Cake baking in the oven

… and was taken out of the oven after 55 minutes of baking:

Fully baked cake

The cake was pricked multiple times with a thick needle …

Pricking the cake

… to allow for some absorption of the lemon sauce which was poured over the cake with a small plastic scoop:

Pouring the lemon sauce on the cake

… at which point, the cake looked like follows:

Baked cake with lemon sauce

When cooled, a knife was used to loosen the cake around its edges in the baking pan, and the cake was taken out of the baking pan:

Cake removed from baking pan

A few slices of cake were cut from the cake:

Cake with some pieces sliced off

And, of course, the cake was yummy! And mom said “Delicious!”

Making Chicken Soup — Photos

This week’s cooking project from my collection of recipes is my recipe for chicken soup. Originally, I put together the recipe to make soup on one of the occasions I did so for the coffee and social hour at my church (a different kind of soup from the vegetable soup I initially, and usually, make on such occasions), hence a volume of eight quarts; normally at home, I make four quarts of this soup. However, today I decided I would make the full eight quart recipe and test out how well it freezes, never having tried to freeze this soup before.

First, I emptied six 900ml boxes of store-bought chicken broth …

Six – 900mL boxes of chicken broth

… into my 16 quart stock pot:

Chicken broth transferred to a pot

Then, four pounds of chicken pieces …

Four pounds of chicken

… were placed into the chicken broth …

Chicken pieces placed in the chicken broth

… and brought to a boil:

Broth and chicken brought to a boil

While the broth and chicken were heating up and boiling for about 30 minutes, carrots were taken out (yes, these were a bit on the old side):

Carrots taken out

The carrots were cleaned and trimmed:

Cleaned and trimmed carrots

Then, they were quartered, length-wise:

Quartered carrots

… and then the carrots were chopped coarsely:

Chopped carrots

The chopped carrots were placed in a bowl, and put aside for later:

Chopped carrots in a bowl and put aside

Then, celery (a bit more than called for in my recipe) was taken out and cleaned:

Cleaned celery sticks

The celery stalks were trimmed:

Trimmed celery stalks

Then the celery stalks were were sliced lengthwise:

Celery stalks sliced lengthwise

… and then the celery stalks were chopped coarsely:

Chopping the celery

The chopped celery was placed in a bowl, and put aside for later:

Chopped celery in a bowl and put aside

About two pounds of onions were then taken out …

About two pounds of onions

… trimmed …

Trimmed onions

… quartered …

Quartered onions

… and chopped coarsely:

Chopped onions

The chopped onions were placed in a bowl, and put aside for later:

Chopped onions in a bowl and put aside

At this point, the chicken and broth had been boiling for about 30 minutes:

Cooked chicken after boiling for 30 minutes

… and the chicken pieces were taken out of the broth, and placed on a cutting board:

Cooked chicken taken out of the broth and placed on a cutting board

The heat under the broth was turned off for the time being, and the chicken put aside for a few moments to allow some cooling.

In the meantime, the chicken fat was skimmed off the top of the broth and placed in a fat separator:

Skimmed chicken fat in a fat separator

The soup fraction at the bottom was transferred back to the soup pot, and the fat was transferred to a bowl to solidify:

Liquid chicken fat transferred to a bowl

Should one not have a fat separator, the skimmed fat can be placed in a large bowl pot, and ice can be added to more quickly solidify the fat, allowing for its easy removal so that the (now diluted) soup fraction underneath can be returned to the soup pot:

Ice added to the chicken fat to solidify it and recover the liquid soup underneath

Returning to the soup ingredients, I separated the somewhat cooled chicken meat …

Chicken meat separated from bones, skin, and cartilage

… from the bones, skin, and cartilage:

Bones, skin, and cartilage separated from the chicken meat

The bones, skin, and cartilage were wrapped up in paper along with the solidified chicken fat, and the trimmings from the carrots, celery, and onions, to be placed in my curbside brown box for pickup for municipal composting.

The chicken meat was placed back on the cleaned cutting board:

Chicken meat placed back on the cutting board

… and the chicken meat was chopped coarsely:

Coarsely chopped chicken

The chopped chicken was placed in a bowl, and put aside for later:

Chopped chicken

At this point, I started “assembling” the soup, by adding the chopped celery to the still-hot broth:

Adding chopped celery to the chicken broth

… then the chopped carrots:

Adding chopped carrots to the chicken broth

… then the chopped onions:

Adding chopped onions to the chicken broth

… and finally the chopped chicken meat:

Adding chopped chicken to the chicken broth

Given that the commercial broth purchased for today’s cooking had sufficient salt content for my liking, barely a shake of extra salt was added to the pot.

The soup was brought to a boil again, and boiled for another thirty minutes:

Soup boiling again

Here’s the soup after boiling all the ingredients together for thirty minutes:

Cooked chicken soup. Yummy!

The cooked chicken soup was transferred to ten used yoghurt containers for freezing, and two more slightly larger containers (on the right) to put in the fridge for supper later on in the day:

Ten containers of soup for freezing, and two more slightly larger containers for supper

The soup for supper was great, and the individual containers are already in the freezer for future eating.

Making Stuffed Potato Skins — Photos

This weekend’s cooking plans from my collection of recipes included making stuffed potato skins (along with more bran muffins for my mom, and some chocolate buttercrunch.)

My recipe for stuffed potato skins is a bit of a no-brainer, whose formal existence as a recipe lies more in the documenting the amounts of ingredients required so as to minimize waste and leftovers, or scrambling about to prepare extra ingredients to use up other already-prepared ingredients. Originally, making the stuffed potato skins was both an effort to add to my collection of recipes that could be used to fill the freezer, as well as a response to a desire to make stuffed potato skins, critically, using items I normally have on hand (potatoes, cheese, and in this case, frozen cooked breakfast sausages); however, yummy as they are, there was no pretense to attempt to replicate some mythically great potato skins eaten at some hypothetical pub.

First, five potatoes were taken out …

Five potatoes

… and then washed — in this picture, save one, to show the comparison between cleaned and not (although the bag of potatoes does say “washed potatoes”).

Washed potatoes

Potatoes were halved along their length:

Potato cut along its length

The potatoes were then somewhat hollowed out (before cooking, instead of after, as mentioned in my recipe, so that I could boil the removed pulp later to make mashed potatoes), while leaving a generous amount of the potato pulp in the skins:

Hollowed out potato skin and removed pulp

The pulps from the potatoes were placed in water, to boil later …

Pieces of potato pulp hollowed out from the skins, to be boiled later

… and with which to ultimately make a bit of mashed potatoes to be used in a lunch in the next couple of days:

The mashed potatoes made from the pulp parts of the five potatoes used today, to be eaten at an upcoming meal

Back to the potato skins: The hollowed out potatoes were placed on a microwave-safe plate:

Hollowed out potatoes on a plate

The plate of hollowed out potatoes were placed in the microwave oven (1200 watts) for 10 minutes:

Hollowed out potatoes in the microwave oven

Once cooked (a few skins needed another couple of minutes to finish cooking), the hollowed out potatoes were placed on a flat surface (a cutting board), ready for stuffing with sausage cubes:

Cooked potato skins with plenty of potato flesh

Earlier, three frozen, pre-cooked breakfast sausages were placed on a cutting board:

Three frozen, pre-cooked breakfast sausages

The sausages were sliced lengthwise …

Sausage sliced lengthwise

… and sliced again lengthwise, making spears:

Breakfast sausage cut into spears

The spears were sliced cross-wise in order to make little cubes …

The spears were sliced to make little cubes

… which were then transferred to a bowl …

Sausage cubes placed in a bowl and put aside

… and which was put aside to be used at the point at which the cooked potato skins were to be stuffed:

Potato skins filled with sausage cut into little cubes

A block of cheese (cheddar in this case) was taken out, along with a cheese slicer:

Block of cheddar cheese and a cheese slicer

About 100g of slices of cheese were cut off of the block …

Cheese slices

… and placed on top of the potato skins filled with sausage cubes:

Cheese slices placed on top of the potato skins filled with sausage cubes

The potato skins were placed in a countertop convection oven preheated to 350F for 15 minutes:

Stuffed potato skins cooked in a countertop convection oven

The first batch of cooked potato skins were taken out of the oven, smelling yummy!

Cooked stuffed potato skins

Once all the stuffed potato skins were cooked and cooled, a couple of them were put aside for supper, while the other eight stuffed potato skins were placed in a container for freezing:

Cooked stuffed potato skins in a container for freezer as well as a plate for supper

Yes, they were yummy!

Making Bacon-Wrapped Chicken — Photos

Today’s cooking project from my recipe collection was bacon-wrapped chicken pieces, something I originally started making a couple of years ago for their value as an easy enough to make last minute hors d’oeuvres contribution for a party; now I principally make them for the value of having them pre-made in the freezer, including to possibly use at a later time as hors d’oeuvres at a party.

To begin, parchment paper was placed in a baking pan:

Placing parchment paper in a baking pan

Wooden toothpicks were also taken out:

Wooden toothpicks prepared

I cut a package and a half’s worth (375g each package, for a total of about 560g) of bacon into half-lengths, which worked out to 40 half-slices, the amount of pieces I target in my recipe.

40 half-slices of bacon, from a pack and a half of bacon (each pack 375g)

The rest of the bacon was placed in a bag and frozen, for later use.

Two chicken breasts were placed on a cutting board:

Two chicken breasts placed on a cutting board, beside a kitchen knife

The chicken breasts were sliced along their length …

A chicken breast cut along its length

… and then each chicken breast was cut into approximately 20 cubes:

Chicken breast cut into cubes

In this case, the pile on the left are the cubes to be used directly, while the pile on the right are smaller pieces which were bundled together two or three pieces at a time in half-slices of bacon as though they were full pieces of chicken.

The cubes were individually wrapped in a half-slice of bacon, and skewered with a wooden toothpick:

Cube of chicken wrapped in bacon, and skewered with a wooden toothpick, to keep them together

Smaller pieces of chicken were bundled together, two or three pieces at a time, and wrapped in bacon, then skewered with a wooden toothpick:

Smaller pieces of chicken bundled together

As each piece of bacon was wrapped in bacon and skewered, they were placed on the parchment paper in a baking pan:

Bacon-wrapped chicken pieces placed in a baking pan

Once all the pieces of chicken were wrapped, they were equally divided between two baking pans that fit (one tray at a time) in my countertop convection oven:

40 pieces of bacon-wrapped chicken divided between two baking pans

The first tray was placed in my countertop convection oven (and yes, the glass door was dirty, and was cleaned afterwards):

Tray of bacon-wrapped chicken pieces in the oven

Partway through the cooking (after about 25 minutes), the pieces were turned over (in this case, the three columns on the left):

Turning over the pieces of bacon-wrapped chicken

When the pieces were fully cooked after about 50 minutes, they were taken out of the oven:

Cooked pieces of bacon-wrapped chicken directly out of the oven

Cooked pieces were transferred to a clean tray to be placed in the freezer:

Cooked pieces were transferred to a clean tray

The first tray of cooked bacon-wrapped chicken was placed in the freezer to cool and freeze.

Meanwhile, the grease and drippings in the baking pan …

Grease and drippings in the baking pan

… were drained into a bowl, cooled and solidified, and then wrapped in paper, to be placed in the municipal brown box for composting.

Grease and drippings transferred to a bowl

The second tray’s worth of raw bacon-wrapped chicken pieces was transferred to the first baking pan, because of its deep sides and all the grease and drippings produced:

Second tray’s worth of bacon-wrapped chicken transferred to the first baking pan with its deep sides

The pieces of bacon-wrapped chicken were cooked the same way as the first tray, and once taken out of the drippings, looked like the first tray of cooked pieces:

Cooked bacon-wrapped chicken pieces on a tray, ready to place in the freezer before transferring to a plastic container

After the second tray of bacon-wrapped chicken had cooked, the frozen pieces from the first tray were transferred to a plastic container:

Frozen pieces of bacon-wrapped chicken placed in a plastic container to be placed in the freezer

Those from the second tray, once cooked, were also transferred to a separate tray, frozen, and then transferred to a plastic container.

All the bacon-wrapped chicken pieces are now in the freezer again, waiting to be eaten — some of them tomorrow!

Of course, the pieces were tasty (I tasted one to make sure they were good!)

Making Bran Muffins — Photos

Here is the next entry in my series of photo posts of me making the various recipes in my recipe collection.

This week, I took photos while I made more bran muffins for my mom, using a recipe I’d found on allrecipes.com and which so far I have not yet which I have now (20210214) converted into my own format. As a side note, I should I have now converted it to my usual recipe format, because when I make them, I use regular milk instead of buttermilk, and I normally make a major change: Instead of placing the batter into twelve muffin papers in a twelve-welled baking tin, I bake the batter in a six-welled baking tin (with slightly larger wells), lined with coffee filter papers, and the baking time was adjusted to 22 minutes.

This batch of muffins had a further deviation from the recipes above, which was the intentional omission of raisins for reasons beyond the scope of this post.

First, I measured out a cup and a half of wheat bran into a mixing bowl:

A cup and a half of wheat bran

A cup of milk was added to the bran:

A cup of milk added to the bran

The bran and milk were mixed with a fork, and put aside:

Mixing the bran and milk

A third of a cup of vegetable oil was measured out and placed in a separate bowl (the white dots are milk leftover in the measuring cup):

1/3 cup vegetable oil measured out

A large egg was added to the vegetable oil:

A large egg added to the vegetable oil

Two thirds of a cup of packed brown sugar were added to the oil and egg:

2/3 cup (packed) brown sugar added to the vegetable oil and egg

A teaspoon of vanilla extract was added to the vegetable oil, egg, and brown sugar:

A teaspoon of vanilla extract added to oil, egg, and brown sugar

The vegetable oil, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla extract were blended with a fork:

Blending of vegetable oil, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla extract

The vegetable oil, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla extract were added to the bran and milk mix:

Vegetable oil, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla extract added to the bran and milk mix

All the ingredients were blended together with a fork:

The ingredients were blended together

A teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda were added to a cup of flour — unfortunately, I forgot to add the quarter teaspoon of salt, to no apparent ill effect.

A teaspoon each of baking powder and baking soda added to a cup of flour; salt was forgotten

The flour, baking powder, and baking soda were mixed together in the cup, and added to the rest of the ingredients:

Flour, baking powder, and baking soda mix were added to the rest of the ingredients, and then blended together

Again, all the ingredients were blended together with a fork. At this point, I would normally have added three quarters of a cup of raisins, which I didn’t do this time.

I make double sized muffins for my mom, so I use coffee filter papers, for which I use a glass to help form within the baking tin:

Forming the coffee filter paper in the baking tin wells

The batter was spooned into each of the wells:

Muffin batter spooned into each of six baking tin wells

The muffin tin was placed in a counter-top convection oven preheated to 350F, and baked for 22 minutes (rotated 180 degrees part way through):

Muffins baking in a counter-top convection oven.

The muffins were taken out of the oven after 22 minutes and placed on a cooling rack:

Baked muffins placed on a cooling rack

After a few minutes, the still cooling muffins were taken out of the baking tin, and returned to the cooling rack to continue cooling:

Baked muffins placed on a cooling rack

Once cooled, I placed the muffins in a sealed container.

Mom was so impressed, she said that the following morning, she would have one from this batch, before eating the last muffin from the last batch!

Making Pickled Eggs — Photos

Although I have already done some posts on my pickled eggs, as per my recent wont of photo posts of me making my various recipes, I took a lot of photos yesterday when I made pickled eggs. Sigh, the stores know how to get me every time when they advertise eggs on sale!

Before I went to buy the eggs, I prepared some extra ice, which would be needed later on once the eggs were boiled:

Ice made before leaving to buy the eggs; photo taken later when the ice was frozen

Then I went out to do some shopping and I purchased three flats of 30 eggs each, for a total of 90 eggs, at the advertised price of $4.44 CDN per flat (14.8 cents per egg).

A flat of 30 eggs; I purchased three such flats of eggs.

I took out ten jars with mason openings; although the jars shown aren’t strictly speaking mason jars, they have mason jar threading, and I’ve never had trouble with them.

Ten clean jars with mason jar threading

Of course, I also prepared ten rings and lids (in this case, clean reused lids, since I expect that I will be eating the eggs from most of the jars):

Ten rings and lids for mason jars

Cold water was put in a pot and heated, for later use when boiling the jars.

Cold water put in a pot and boiled, for later use to boil the jars

I boiled and shelled the eggs over two sessions of 45 eggs each, one after the other.

First, eggs were placed in a pot:

45 eggs in a stock pot

Cold water was added to the pot with the eggs, covering the eggs.

Adding cold water to the pot with the eggs
Pot of eggs with water, covering the eggs and about an inch more of water

The stove was turned on, and I brought the eggs to a boil, and then boiled them for eight minutes.

During the time it took to heat up and boil the eggs, the first thing I did was pour myself a nice beer:

Don de Dieu, a 9% bottle refermented abbey-style triple wheat beer

Yes, that is a double sized, 750mL bottle of beer containing 9% alc/vol; it’s called “Don de Dieu”, and it’s a bottle refermented abbey-style triple wheat beer, from Unibroue, in Chambly, Québec.

Yummy!

Back to work, still while the eggs were heating up and boiling, I prepared some pickling solution:

My pickling solution uses 7% pickling vinegar, sugar, salt, and a commercial blend of pickling spices

Vinegar was measured out into a pot (in this case, 7-1/2 cups; according to my recipe, I knew I would need another 3-3/4 cups, as well as the commensurate amounts of sugar, salt, and spices) :

Pickling vinegar measured out into a pot

Sugar (in this case, 1 cup) was added:

Sugar was added to the vinegar

Salt (in this case, 3-1/2 teaspoons) was added to the pickling solution:

Salt was added to the pickling solution

A commercial pickling spice blend (in this case, 3-1/2 tablespoons) was added to the pickling solution:

Pickling spices were added to the pickling solution.

The pickling solution was covered and put aside, to be boiled later.

Soon, the eggs had reached the boiling point, and the eggs were boiled for eight minutes:

Eggs boiling for eight minutes

After eight minutes of boiling, the boiling water was immediately drained from the pot of eggs, and cold water was added to the pot of eggs, as well as ice:

The pot of eggs was drained of its boiling water, and cold water and ice were added.

The ice water and eggs were gently mixed by hand, in order to quickly and thoroughly cool the eggs, which takes a few minutes. This is necessary so as to avoid the development of a greenish-blackish ring around the egg yolks (which is harmless, but aesthetically undesirable), as well as to aid in the peeling; the sharp temperature change helps dislodge the membrane just inside the shell, which will then make it easier to remove the shells and minimize tearing.

The eggshells were then peeled:

Cracking the shell on an egg against the edge of my sink
Egg shells collected into a bowl, and eventually sent to the brown box for curbside collection and municipal composting

Shelled eggs were rinsed in cool water and placed in a couple of bowls:

Of the 90 eggs, the shells of 65 peeled nicely

Sometimes, there are tears when shelling eggs. In yesterday’s case, there were 25 eggs with tears; however, tears don’t affect the eggs’ ability to be pickled, they just make the eggs not always look as nice. As such, these eggs were merely placed in a separate bowl so that they could be bottled together for personal consumption, and to distinguish them from the nicely peeled eggs, should I decide to give away a jar of the “nice” eggs (see below).

.Bowl of 25 eggs with some tears

At this point, a few hand tools were needed: Some tongs, a ladle, a jar holder, and a slotted spoon. Not shown: mason jar filler.

Some tongs, a ladle, a jar holder, and a slotted spoon

At this point, the water which was heated earlier for the bottles was brought up to boiling again, and jars were put in the water once it was boiling:

Mason jars placed in boiling water

At the same time, the pickling solution was brought to a boil:

Pickling solution brought to a boil

In a third pot — the same one in which the eggs were originally boiled — fresh water was brought to a boil, and eggs (in this case, nine eggs at a time, the number of eggs which fit in the size of jars used) were added, once all three pots were boiling:

Shelled eggs reboiled for a few moments in a boiling water bath

Eggs are only kept in the boiling water long enough to take out a jar from the boiling water bath (just as the jars need only be in the boiling water bath for the time it takes to put the eggs in the boiling water bath.)

A jar is taken out of the boiling water bath, and the eggs in the boiling water bath are transferred to the hot jar:

Reboiled eggs transferred to the hot jar

The pot of hot pickling solution — which is kept simmering to boiling on the stove in between filling jars — is brought over, and hot pickling solution is added to the hot jar with the hot eggs:

Pickling solution added to the hot jar filled with hot eggs

The lids and rings were individually placed in the mason jar hot water bath and immediately placed on the filled jars.

Seven jars were each filled with nine eggs without tears, and three jars were each filled with nine eggs with tears.

Once all the jars were filled, they were placed in a refrigerator overnight to cool the contents relatively quickly, in order to avoid the development of greenish-blackish rings around the egg yolks (which is harmless, but aesthetically undesirable.)

Jars of pickled eggs placed in the fridge, with a divider to help quickly distinguish between jars of eggs with and without tears.

This morning, I took the jars out of the fridge, and wiped down the jars, since when filling the jars and putting on the lids, sometimes the pickling solution spilled a bit.

Wiping down the outside of the jars

This included taking off the rings to wipe down the necks of the jars, which wasn’t a problem since all the lids on the jars formed a good vacuum seal.

Wiping down the necks of the jars

I have a computer file of labels I use for my pickled eggs, which I printed out. I do both English and French parts because I live in a primarily French speaking area, and therefore it’s good to have both languages for when I give away and sell jars. I cut out the individual labels, folded them over lengthwise, wrote the date on the backsides, punched a hole in each, and looped an elastic band in the hole of each label.

Labels for the jars of eggs

I placed the labels around the necks of the jars. In this photo, the three jars of eggs with tears are in the front row and on the right.

The ten jars of pickled eggs I made yesterday.

Since I already had some pickled eggs in stock (a total of 91 over seven jars), which I made about a month ago, I moved them around to make space in the storage room:

Four of seven jars of pickled eggs I already had in my store room

Things were moved around, and yesterday’s jars of pickled eggs are now all put away, on the bottom shelf below the existing jars:

My collection of 181 pickled eggs over 16 jars

As you’ll notice, there are also three extra jars of six pickled eggs in the stock I’d already had, that were not in the above photo; these will likely be given as gifts before I give away any of yesterday’s production since new lids were used when they were made.

And if I don’t give out any jars as gifts? Then I’ll have enough pickled eggs for myself until at least early summer of this year!

ps: And the beer? Of course it was good! It’s a beer I’ve had several times before, it’s from my favourite brewery (Unibroue — no, not the multinational brewery with a slightly different spelling), barring the fact that my favourite beer is from another brewery, and I have a particular taste for Belgian abbey beers and wheat beers.

I Made “Blondies” Today — Photos

I made two batches of “blondies” today, and as has been somewhat of my wont over the past few months, I took a lot of pictures while I was cooking.

I started by taking some chocolates I received for Christmas from Santa Claus:

Chocolates received for Christmas

… which were partly pulverized in a food processor, and to which the same amount of chocolate chips were added:

One of two bowls of pulverized chocolates and chocolate chips

The chocolates were put aside. Then, flour was added to a food processor:

1 cup of flour added to a food processor

Baking powder, baking soda, and salt, were added:

Baking powder, baking soda, and salt, were added (not the boxes, of course!)

Brown sugar was measured out …

3/4 cup of brown sugar (packed)

… and added to the food processor.

Brown sugar added to the food processor

A large egg was added:

Egg added to the food processor

Vanilla extract was measured …

Vanilla extract

… and added to the food processor:

Vanilla extract added to the food processor

Margarine was measured out and added to the food processor:

1/2 cup margarine measured and added to the food processor

The ingredients were mixed with the food processor:

Mixing of the ingredients in the food processor

The mix of pulverized Christmas chocolates and chocolate chips was added to the dough …

Adding the chocolate to the mix
Chocolates added to the mix

… and the dough was blended again.

The ingredients and chocolates were blended

An 8″ x 8″ baking pan was lined with parchment paper …

Baking pan lined with parchment paper

… and the dough was transferred to the baking pan:

Transferring the dough to the baking pan

The baking pan and dough were placed on the centre rack in a countertop convection oven set to 350F:

The blondies being baked in a countertop convection oven

The blondies were taken out of the oven after baking, and cooled for a few minutes on a cooling rack:

Baked blondies cooling on a rack

The blondies were lifted out of the baking pan, and once completely cooled, the blondies were cut into 2″ x 2″ pieces:


Blondies cut into 2″ x 2″ pieces

Unfortunately, the two batches I made today did not fully solidify into a fluffy cake consistency during the baking process, and fell a bit, creating a consistency like brownies.

But were they tasty? Of course!

It’s Christmas time, so I made some shortbread cookies — Photos

My aunt has been making shortbread cookies for a long time, and used to even send batches of her shortbread cookies through the mail across the country to my grandmother. At one point, I asked my aunt to teach me how make her shortbread cookies so that I could make them somewhat more often and then bring them directly and personally to my grandmother. Alas, my grandmother passed away a few years ago, but I have continued making the shortbread cookies because they are tasty, and my mom has said “why should I bother making my shortbread cookies when you make them (an albeit different recipe) so well?” 🙂

I recently made them for the third time in the past month or so, this time to make as a Christmas gift for my brother who also really likes them; I reminded him that our aunt is the mistress, and I merely the student. 🙂

I started off by bringing a pound of butter to room temperature:

A pound of butter brought to room temperature

Then I creamed the butter with an electric beater (dating from the early 1960’s — it’s older than I am!)

Creaming the butter with an electric beater

A cup (packed) of brown sugar was added …

A cup (packed) of brown sugar added.

… and then blended with the creamed butter.

1 (packed) cup of brown sugar blended into the creamed butter

Four cups of regular flour were added, one cup at a time.

The first of four cups of flour added to the butter and brown sugar mix

Here is the dough after all four cups of flour have been mixed in:

Dough after all the flour has been added and mixed together

Next, flour was spread on the cutting board to avoid sticking:

Flour on the cutting board

The dough was placed on the cutting board, floured a bit on top to avoid sticking, and flattened with my hands:

Dough on the cutting board, floured and flattened out by hand

The dough was then further flattened out with a rolling pin.

Using a rolling pin to further flatten out the dough

The dough was then cut into strips about an inch wide, and ends were cut off.

Dough cut into roughly 1″ wide strips

I started to cut the strips into roughly two inch lengths.

2″ lengths of dough were cut

Cuttings from the edges and cookie pieces that broke were put back in the mixing bowl to be formed together again to cut more cookies.

Dough cuttings put back in the mixing bowl

The rectangular cookies were placed on cookie sheets.

Cookie dough rectangles placed on baking sheets

The cookies were then pricked with a fork. According to instruction #4 of the shortbread cookies recipe on the King Arthur Flour website (here’s my archive), it’s to allow steam to escape and avoid bubbling up of the cookies; to me it’s also been a matter of the traditions of the aesthetics of shortbread cookies; oh well, I do it because that’s how I was taught. 🙂

Pricking the cookies with a fork
Some of the cookies have been pricked.

And here are all of my cookies, at the end of the pricking.

All of the cookies, pricked, ready to bake
Yet another closeup of the cookies, ready to bake

The cookies were placed in an oven preheated to 300F and baked for 22 minutes. This could vary somewhat based on your oven and the electrical load in your neighbourhood at the time you bake, but take them out when the bottoms just start to brown.

Shortbread cookies baking at 300F for 22 minutes

And here are the cookies, cooling on baking racks:

Baked cookies on cooling racks

Yes, there is a broken cookie in the upper right hand corner, it broke when I took it off the baking tray. Anyway, I had to do a quality control test, you must understand … it was yummy!

The cookies are now bagged up carefully and the bags placed in a box, which was placed in the freezer until Christmas Day when they will be given to my brother as one of his gifts.

Cooking Beef Manicotti — Photos

A relatively long time ago, a neighbour brought over some stuffed pasta rolls au gratin, and they were rather tasty. I liked them so much that I decided to replicate them, and added the recipe to my repertoire of personal recipes.

I recently made a batch of my manicotti, and I took a lot of pictures.

First, I finely ground some carrots in a food processor:

Finely ground carrots

As a side note, I use carrots because I love carrots, and at the time it seemed perfectly natural to me add ground carrots to the filling mix.

I also add ground onions, which to me are also a natural pairing with the beef. The two ingredients extend the beef used in order to stuff more manicotti shells, or conversely, as tasty fillers, reduce the amount of ground beef required.

Then I ground some onions, effectively rendering them liquid:

Ground onions, at this point in near-liquid form

Ground beef was placed in an electric skillet:

Ground beef placed in an electric skillet

The ground carrots and ground onions were added to the beef in the electric skillet:

The mixture of beef, ground carrots, and ground onion placed in an electric skillet

The ground beef was broken up with a spatula, and mixed together with the ground carrots and ground onions.

Ground beef broken up and mixed together with the ground carrots and ground onions

The mixture was fried, while being constantly mixed:

The mixture of beef, ground carrots, and ground onion frying

At this point, I was getting a little thirsty, so I served myself some homebrew (an Irish Stout):

A serving of some of my homebrew, an Irish Stout

Next, some manicotti shells were taken out of their box:

Manicotti shells in the plastic trays from the box bought at a store.

The manicotti shells were then boiled, six at a time, in salted water with olive oil for five minutes:

Six manicotti shells in boiling water

The manicotti shells were then drained:

Manicotti shells in a strainer

At this point, I stuffed the manicotti shells, six at a time, with the cooked meat, carrot, and onion mixture, holding a cooling manicotti shell in one hand, while transferring the meat mixture using a small dessert spoon.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of me filling the shells — my hands were dirty and greasy, and I didn’t ask for a photographer’s helper. 🙁

At this point, I may have been getting a bit tipsy from my beer, so I drank some iced tea to help deal with the effects of the beer.

I drink lots and lots and lots of iced tea every day!

I stuffed a total of 22 manicotti shells. The stuffed manicotti shells were then placed in oven-proof and microwave-safe containers:

22 stuffed manicotti shells

Tomato sauce — in this case, a commercial beef and pork tomato sauce — was spread on top of the stuffed manicotti shells.

Tomato sauce spread on top of the manicotti

Mozzarella cheese was sliced off the block and laid on top of the manicotti.

Sliced mozzarella cheese laid on top of the manicotti

Freezer bags were identified with the intended contents and the date.

Freezer bags identified with contents and date

The manicotti containers were then placed in the bags, and then frozen.

Beef manicotti in freezer bags, ready to place in the freezer

When cooking, I defrost the manicotti, sometimes add a bit more cheese on top, start to reheat the manicotti in a microwave oven while preheating a countertop oven to 350F, and bake the manicotti until the cheese on the top is a desired level of browned and the sauce is bubbling up on the sides.

Are they tasty? Of course they are!