Fingers Crossed

I was a little worried that it’d be hard to wrap the cookies with the caramel drizzle on top, but thankfully, it seems to work fine with plastic wrap. Whew. Assembling Patreon treat boxes today, should be able to ship them out by end of day, fingers crossed.

This Worked Very Nicely

Sugar cookies with a bit of caramel in the royal icing, drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with salt. Standard iced sugar cookies are a little too straight-up sweet for me, but these, I could eat rather steadily, esp. with a nice cup of coffee or tea. And so pretty too!

Baking a Bit

Putting together the autumn treat boxes tomorrow, to ship out to Patreon subscribers. So I’m baking a bit this weekend — made half a batch of sugar cookies yesterday and will bake the other half batch with the kids later today. I find that if I divide it into two batches, and do one batch on my own when I can be peaceful and obsessive, I have way more patience for baking some cookies with the kids. For the cookies themselves, I used the Sweetopia sugar cookie recipe, which I find perfectly reliable.

But I felt like experimenting a little bit with the icing — I’m using Alton Brown’s royal icing recipe, which is great and also reliable, but I stirred in a few spoons of caramel. (I thought about making caramel from scratch, but y’know, they had dipping caramel near the apples at the store yesterday, so I just picked up some of that, and I think it’ll be fine.) The caramel only flavors it slightly, but it does give it a lovely color.

My plan is to ice the cookies (the lazy way, just dipping them in the bowl of royal icing and lightly scraping off the excess), and then drizzle caramel over the top and sprinkle with flake salt.

That’ll have to wait a bit, though, as I need to go shower and get ready for the podcast recording session with Jed Hartman and Benjamin Rosenbaum
this morning. We’re planning to talk about editing today, and what makes a story good, if there is such a thing. 🙂 If all goes well, we’ll be launching a Kickstarter for it on October 1st, so watch this space. Would love your support.

But later, salted caramel cookies!

(I also put a spoon of the caramel in my coffee this morning, which I feel was a truly excellent life choice.)

NOTE: If you sign up for a treat box now, your next box will be in December. If you want the September box too, it’ll be an additional $20, which we can arrange via PayPal.

The Coconut Grater

It hurt. That’s what I remember
about scraping coconut as a child,
struggling with dark metal clamped
to the edge of the kitchen counter,
afraid of the sharp grating blades.
My arm, unmuscled and unaccustomed,
ached after just a few cranks round;
my mother mostly offered critique,
rather than praise for my efforts. Too often
I would scrape and scrape, ask if I had done
enough. She came to inspect, sniffed –
there is so much meat left on there still!
I’d try again, and err in the other direction –
no, no – don’t scrape it so thin, you’re getting
husk in the coconut! Amma would have
excelled in a classic French kitchen,
exacting and precise, demanding perfection,
always disappointed in my failures.
I went away, and for years subsisted
without coconut. When I started to cook,
I bought sweetened coconut by mistake
in the baking aisle, and ruined a curry.
Eventually, I found dessicated coconut,
learned to rehydrate it with a little hot milk,
or better, coconut milk – just thirty seconds
in the microwave. Ammama, my grandmother
in the old country, had no such devices.
Frozen coconut is better, found on Devon or
in Westmont, where South Asians gather,
though once you thaw it, you must use it all
quick quick; it won’t keep long in the fridge.
Ammama didn’t grate her own coconut.
Labor was cheap; every morning, their cook
rose early to grate coconut for the day,
fresh from the tree. A little pol sambol to
accompany a fresh egg hopper, and another
servant chasing me around, begging me
to eat, just one bite, please. If I ate,
they could have their own breakfast, finally.
Now, living near cold Chicago, I shop online
for a coconut grater. I peruse suspiciously,
read reviews, trying to decide whether
to go old-school or modern in design.
A part of me doesn’t trust that ergonomic
will grate correctly; a little pain is required
to create the tastiest dishes.
When it arrives, I will try to persuade
my own children to help me grate
the coconut. Not because I need the help
of their unmuscled, unaccustomed arms!
But if they grind a little sense-memory
into their bones, then someday, maybe
they will buy their own grater, knowing
fresh coconut is best. It will sustain you

down the years, across vast distances.

*****

M.A. Mohanraj
9/19/20

Logo Design, Draft 2

Kavi’s and my logo design for Serendib Kitchen, draft 2. I think it’s pretty close at this point to a workable draft! We invite your critique to refine it further.

The text is in my handwriting, which is not the most beautiful, but does gives some of that homemade charm, or at least so Kavi assures me.

The first is the actual logo. The second version, with the words on the rug, I’m not sure we’ll use, but it did make me laugh because it reminds me of the Star Wars scroll, so wanted to share it.

The circle is just starting to futz around with what might make a nice small image for a sticker or a design element on a book or some such. I think we’re going to make the line weight heavier on the SK — I was getting sleepy at 11 p.m. last night, so I made her stop working…

As a side note, I’m really liking collaborating with her on art stuff — we’re working on a 2021 tea towel calendar for the next Spoonflower design contest now — and I’m now thinking that if we keep doing a lot of projects together, maybe we need our own little design studio that has a different name, not Serendib, to make clear that it’s at least half if not more her. Something to think about. 🙂

Mulled Apple Cider, Honey, & Jaggery Marshmallows

Cider marshmallow experiments. I made my mulled apple cider marshmallows with corn syrup and white sugar first, per usual, but for the second batch, I tried swapping those ingredients for honey and jaggery.

The honey makes the syrup boil up much higher, so you do need to use a bigger pot, or be extra careful watching the temp, or you’re likely to have it boil over. And the honey/jaggery version gave a stickier marshmallow, needing to be tossed in powdered sugar a second time. But I like this version better, with more complexity to the flavors.

I would still like a little more brightness of apple; the mulling concentrates and changes the flavor. Maybe adding a little apple extract next time? Hmm…

4 c. apple cider

4 sticks cinnamon

12 cloves

3 packages unflavored gelatin

1 c. jaggery (or dark brown sugar)

1/2 c. honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

butter (for greasing the pan)

cinnamon powder for dusting (a few T)

powdered (confectioner’s) sugar (about 1/2 c.)

  1. MAKE MULLED CIDER: In a small pot on the stove, heat cider with cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and simmer 10 minutes or so. Remove 1 c. for marshmallows, sieving out any whole spices; drink whatever remains. (Can be done in advance.) If you simmer for longer, the flavor concentrates more; you can simmer it all the way down to 1 c. if you like, but it’ll take quite a long time.
  2. Empty gelatin packets into bowl of stand mixer (whisk attachment), with 1/2 c. of the mulled cider. Stir briefly to combine.
  3. In a small saucepan (a bigger one will be heavy and hard to hold steadily at a later stage) combine the other 1/2 c. of mulled cider, jaggery, honey, and salt. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (240 degrees if you have a candy thermometer), approximately 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from heat; if it continues, it will swiftly turn into hard candy.
  4. Turn mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Be very careful with the sugar syrup, as it is scaldingly hot and will burn you badly if it gets on your skin.) Once you’ve added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high.
  5. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 minutes. Add food color if desired.
  6. While it’s whipping, butter a large 9 x 12 pan. Prepare an oiled spatula. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly (and swiftly) with the oiled spatula.
  7. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and dust the top with enough of the powdered sugar to lightly cover. Reserve the rest of the powdered sugar for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  8. Turn onto a board, cut into squares, and dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining powdered sugar, using additional if necessary. May be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or frozen.

So Good, So Easy

I looked at a bunch of recipes with herbs and other seasonings, but in the end, I just used olive oil, salt, and pepper on the roast, and it was perfect.

Preheat oven to 375F, cut up red onion, carrots, gold potatoes, toss with seasonings and oil, pat dry Cornish hens and season the same way, roast for about 1 hr 15 minutes. If they’re not browned enough by that point, bump the temperature to 425F for five minutes or so at the end. So good, so easy. Dinner for four.

Worth the Extra Step

This is the last of Kevin’s birthday meal kits from Girl and Goatceries, their SE Asian green beans. I’ve never used meal kits before — they’re pretty pricey, but on the other hand, they do seem like a great way to teach someone how to cook (or to remind yourself how to cook).

Taking some of the labor out of things like cleaning and prepping the green beans, or out of shopping for groceries, etc., makes it easier to actually get through a recipe. And their pre-made sauce was certainly convenient.

This one called for me to blanch the green beans, and I admit, I might normally skip that and go straight to sautĂ©ing, because it seems a little more fussy than I want to bother with. But y’know, if you blanch the green beans, you do get a lovely bright crispness to them.

So okay, when I have the time and energy, it’s probably worth that extra step. 🙂

Now I’m thinking about what I’d put together in a Sri Lankan meal kit, if there were such a thing….

Girl and Goatceries Elotes Kit

This is the Girl and Goatceries elotes kit. It is yummy. Yes, I could get most of the components separately on my own, but they do have an interesting house-made sauce that comes with, and some nights, you just want someone to put it together for you…

Just grill the par-boiled corn for a minute or two (stovetop grill pan makes it easy), and assemble: kewpie mayo, cheese, cilantro, lime, Yucatan sauce. Adding a little cayenne wouldn’t hurt either.

Like a Freight Train

I made up little packets of apology postcards and stickers to go out with these book / curry powder orders. Sorry they took a few weeks longer than normal, folks. The semester fell on me like a freight train, but I’m getting up now. Whew.