Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Loving Long Weekends!

For me, long weekends and national holidays are an opportunity to cook and to hang out with friends and play boardgames. I detailed in a previous blog some of my struggles with pastry. Well I knew that I could make it on a cold crisp dry day, the time had come for the next challenge - Pastry in Houston Humidity.

I didn't want to just make another Apple Pie, I wanted to venture into new territory there too. Enter the Dutch Apple Pie. A dessert that I never encountered in my hometown of Norwich despite being only 152 miles from Amsterdam. Maybe the reason is that the pastry and the crumb topping don't travel across the North Sea very well?

I went to my trusty bible of cookery - Cooks Illustrated, and came out with a recipe. The pastry was great and the filling and topping cooked to perfection. There was I must confess a slight mix up in filling ingredients though. The recipe said 5 Granny Smiths (2 1/2 lbs) and 4 Large McIntosh (2 lbs). When I weighed 5 Granny Smiths it was only 1lb and the same problem with the McIntosh too. Figuring the weight was the more accurate measure I bought the specified weight and took them home.

My trusty Apple Peeler made short work of them - I peeled, cored and sliced 4 1/2 pounds of apples in 10 minutes. And when I had finished I had enough filling for 3 pies!!!! I guess I need to check the cookbook errata.

Anyway the finished pie was glorious!

The next task - which started on Saturday and finished on Sunday was a new challenge for me - a Lemon Layer Cake. It's something I wouldn't normally attempt given the complexity of the recipe. But my friend Paul had given me another Cooks Illustrated Cookbook for Christmas along with the accompanying DVDs of the series. Having watched them make it on TV I was confident I could do it.

And...I did :)

It was a lot of steps, but I took it slowly and it came together wonderfully. I had to buy a few extra tools along the way - offset spatula, cake stand, instant read thermometer, but the results were worth it. I will be making this again. The filling alone (home made lemon curd) contained 10 eggs!

It was a cross between cooking and chemistry because a number of the combined ingredients had to be heated to certain temperatures to allow reactions to occur. Too hot or too cold and disaster!

But no disaster here - it looked and tasted incredible!
Probably the best I've ever managed to ice a cake!

Here you can see the three glorious layers of lemon heaven sandwiched between light and fluffy cake bliss all smothered in icing perfection....you probably get the idea that I liked it.

All also made a Key Lime pie - no pics I'm afraid. I was a bit disappointed by the recipe and I need to do some 'tweaking' before I make it for a party Friday night.

So that's the breakdown of the cooking (not counting the regular meals I also prepared), what about the games?


Go - the ancient Chinese game I am still learning. I played better this time and actually had a win.

Zombiegeddon - a new game from the master game designer Reiner Knizia. It's an interesting set collection game that has some similarities to Go, but it is ruined by terrible graphic design. It is very difficult to tell pieces apart without straining.


Duck! Duck! Go! - a fun game of racing rubber ducks around a bathtub. Similar in feel to Robo Rally, but a lot lighter.


Discovery Island - an excellent 2 player game which takes about 90minutes. You parachute down onto an island and have to find out where you are on the map. You then have to get to different clues, work out where the treasure is located and dig it up. All the while racing your opponent who is doing the same thing.

Lost Cities - another game by Reiner Knizia. It's quick, strategic and very addictive.


I'm the Boss - a classic from American Designer Sid Sackson. It's all boardroom negotiation and brokering deals. It can get chaotic at times and I'm not very good at it, but it's a great game for 6 people.

Category 5 - a quick, easy game that plays 10 people very well.

Shadow Hunters - This one was a new one for our group. Three teams of people are around the table all with different (and conflicting winning conditions). The trouble is you have no idea who is on your team and who is an opponent. You are trying to deduce who is on your side and then gang up on the others. There is a lot of potential for suspicion in this one. It's been described as a cross between Bang and Werewolf. Unfortunately I omitted some information when I taught the rules that would have been helpful in playing the game. Hopefully we'll get it to the table again soon and we can partake in all its glory.

Stone Age - A resource management game. You need different materials to build huts and purchase cards that give you points, but you also need to feed all your workers. It's a fun balancing act.

So, quite a full Holiday weekend :)

1 comment:

Deidra said...

Are you sure yall don't want to move to Vegas. We could start our own little restaurant. I so wish I lived close enough to cook with you and try all the yummy food you make. Love Ya