Friday, November 23, 2012


Well, now that the craziness of Thanksgiving is over, I can finally update you on how yesterday went!
My cream puffs, chocolate crinkles, elephant eats, cake, and pie on our dessert table

I got up early - very early for me - and started right in on baking my pie.  That was pretty quick since I had alread made the dough and the filling the day before.  I did decide to follow the recipe exactly and make a lattice top crust.  It came out really beautiful and wasn't that hard to do; it was just like weaving and I think it made the pie a lot more impressive than if it just had a regular crust.  As for the final result: the pies, as usual, are not big hits at Thanksgiving, and the first cut into it didn't come till late, when Christy's boyfriend told me it "needed sugar."  I had to find out if it was true, so I cut myself a slice.  Mark and I shared it and we both thought it was great.  Mark even used the word perfect!  The cranberries do add a tartness, but there are enough blueberries - more than cranberries - to balance it out.  Plus the depth of flavor from the cinnamon really makes the filling different.

Orange cake and elephant ears
The next dessert to finish was my elephant ears.  My mistake was thinking that I could remove the dough from the freezer and slice them immediately; I am an idiot!  If you have made these ahead of time, please wait for them to thaw before you slice.  They will end up crumbling and making you want to whip your dough logs into the sink.  Then once they actually do defrost, they are easy enough to slice, but you are supposed to roll each slice out to 6-7", and that is not so easy to do.  You have to use sugar to keep them from sticking, and let me tell you there is a reason we use flour for this purpose rather than sugar.  However with that said, I bet I will be making these elephant ear cookies again.  I got rave reviews.  I was even told by Susie and Clay, among others, that the elephant ears were their favorite desserts!  They were pretty good; the puff pastry swirled with chopped pecans is a winning combination in and of itself, but the cinnamon and sugar melt into a caramel-like layer that seals everything together into a delicious cookie.

Then... things started to go wrong.  It started to get later and later and closer and closer to Thanksgiving time, and I still had 2 desserts to finish!  I must have gotten sloppy, because mistakes started happening.  So... first I started to finish my croquembouche, also known as cream puffs filled with maple cream and drizzled with caramel.  I had made the puffs and filling already.  Kenzie helped me fill them; we quickly decided to cut them open and fill them that way, rather than the recipe's idea to poke a hole in the bottom with a skewer and then put the tip of the pastry bag in the hole.  It was hard to see if they were full enough so our way worked just fine.  Then I went to make the caramel, and disaster struck.  I was careful not to stir it at all, since the recipe warned that stirring would make it crystallize and ruin the caramel.  It was hard to just let it boil away, but when it was a perfect amber color, I took it off the hot unit and moved it to the back burner.  What I neglected to notice was that Kenzie had been using that burner to make eggs for devilled eggs, and it was still warm.  Okay, it was still hot.  By the time I was ready for the caramel and went to grab it, I noticed it was boiling, and was no longer amber; it was more like... black.  Yes, it was burned.  And tasted burned.  And when I went to wash it out of the pan, it turned into glass that sliced my fingers.  Can I just say I hate making caramel when I can't use my candy thermometer!  Why can't they  let me be exact!?  Anyway, I did not have the time, or the sugar, to make another batch, so I just piled my cream puffs on a platter and sprinkled them with some powdered sugar. They didn't have as much visual wow factor, but the taste factor was amazing.  People were snagging these little bites of amazingness way before dinner, and by the time dessert was on people's minds, they were gone!  They were a very big hit - perhaps bigger or just as big as the elephant ears.

My next disaster: I went to make the Swiss meringue buttercream frosting for my orange almond cake, and it just looked awful.  The recipe even says not to worry if it looks curdled; just keep beating it.  So I kept beating, and beating, and beating, and by this time it was 12:45 and the party started at 1:00!  So I was panicking and finally decided something somewhere was wrong, but I did not have time to make any more frosting!  My mom helped me try to spread it on the cake, and it was not looking great; it looked like cottage cheese and didn't spread easily.  We knew it tasted fine, but it just looked so gross.  I ended up covering as much of it up as I could using orange slices, and in the end it looked fine.  Not too much of it went at the party - which I expected, since I don't think anyone wants a big hunk of cake after a huge Thanksgiving meal - but Mom, Christy and Susie complimented me on it. 

My masterpieces! (Plus Kenzie's cheesecake in the back!)
I was kind of cooked-out today, but I did decide to make lunch with a butternut squash that has been hanging around our house for a couple weeks.  I had bought the ingredients for a creamy butternut squash macaroni and cheese last time I went shopping, and today was the day for it.  Any time you can eat mac and cheese and not feel like a fatty, it's a good thing.  And this was from the Eat Yourself Skinny website! Perfect!  You boil the squash in lowfat milk and chicken broth and then mash it up with garlic, stir in the cheeses and the macaroni, and bake it.  It was pretty easy, and I have to say that I love it.  Then again, I love anything with pasta and butternut squash.  It was slightly sweet and felt really unhealthy, but it wasn't!  Even my mother and grandmother who claim to dislike mac and cheese ate a bowl of it.  I doubled the recipe and made a huge casserole dish and half went, so I was happy.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you ate lots and lots of delicious food with wonderful family and friends :)

creamy butternut squash macaroni and cheese

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