Still curving.

I've come to realize that my learning curve looks more like a roller coaster, or a parking lot exit ramp.  Round and round and round with no hope of escape.    

Case in point.  I've been testing new thermometers for over 3 months now.  One worked once.  Yes, once.  Steamed up.  I dug out the receipt and promptly exchanged it for another one, with similar, but not quite as immediate results.  That one worked twice.  

So I didn't try that brand again.  I learned quickly that time.

However, within my sphere of accessibility, only a certain number of brands of thermometers exist.  Every shop seems to carry ones that appear to be blood relatives.  Twin thermometers by different manufacturers.  I find one.  The clip breaks.  I find another.  The plastic lid comes off.  Yes, there is the internet.  But returns and speed of availability become an issue when I need caramels tomorrow and my tool doesn't work.  Again.

This leaves me wondering how long this is going to continue.  

Because I could keep doing this and never really own a thermometer.   

Then I tried my mother-in-law's version of my now broken one.  This is great.  It's almost exactly like my grandmother's.  Hers must have been handed down in her family, too.  After one millisecond of joy, two treacherous thoughts race by.  One - I can't keep it.  It has another home.  And two - what if I break it??  Maybe I should hope it doesn't work.  

More like my eyes can't find the mercury, if it is working.

Rats.  Still riding that curve.  

But while on a trip in Wisconsin with my hubby, we stumbled on an antique store.  Stumbled on really isn't the right word, since we hunted for it in the local paper.  And right next door was a thrift store.  Score.  

After combing the store twice, due to its state of organized disorganization, and thinking of all the many possibilities for staging photo shoots and table dressings for tastings, I spotted it.  A long, narrow box in a basket of misc. kitchen tools.  How did I not see this before?  A retro design and an unimaginably reasonable price.  And that was just the outside.  So I had to open it to see.  Will this be my new, permanent replacement for my beloved and well-used gauge?  Am I done looking?  Is this it?

I held my breath and opened the box.

Inside its original box from the 50s was not just any thermometer, but a metal casing all around it to protect the mercury from the heat of the pan.  Amazing.  It was completely sealed.  No leaking.  It would be harder to break because of that lovely metal casing.  And the clip to anchor it on to the pan was solid, not jointed.  Oh, yes!  This was going to be my new best friend!  

Next step, testing.  You know what's coming.  

Being away from home, not having my tried and true caramel-making pot, I decided to do my first trial run on a recipe I'd been desperately wanting to try.  

What was I thinking?  Curve.  Really big curve.   

I must have been hoping for beginner's luck because new recipes bring a myriad of problems.  Untested pots with new recipes bring even more.  But much to my surprise the candy turned out well.  Now begs the question, could I repeat this at home with a different pot, on a different day with different humidity?

Careful, nearly perfect attention to detail resulted in disaster.  Rocks.  I made rocks.  

I am not currently a geologist.  I cannot eat or sell rocks.  Well, I could look in to selling rocks to the Science Museum store, but since that's not my desired goal, I'll set that option aside.

The third time is the charm, my Dad always said.  Dad was a bevy of that kind of information.  Knowing that I was going to present this candy at the Tasting Party on Saturday I was hoping he was right.  

Admittedly, Dad was close.  The candy turned out less hard than rocks, but it wasn't as charming as I'd hoped.  And I dropped the temperature 15 degrees.  So I'm thinking more experiments are in order.  

Still curving.  Anyone want to join me?  I'll have Pistachio Nougat Candy for you to taste as we ride.  Arms up and here we go.  

 

Pistachio Nougat (1 dozen)

Creamy, crunchy, nutty sweet!  

That kind of thing never works.

Most of the orders I receive are from women.  They tend to be the planners of life.  The get it done, down to the details types.  Not to say that men don't ever do that, but in the general ways and means of things, I hear it over and over again.  "My wife plans the calendar.  I'll check with her."  "She's the one that would arrange that.  Why don't I have her call you."  "Really, you should talk to the planner.  She knows what's going on."   

So that certainly makes the last 3 weeks memorable in my book. 

The story begins with my van going to the shop.  For 3 full days it was getting gutted and transmogrified in to something better.  I hope.  For that price.  So, on a whim, when I went in to pick up my loaner car, I took in some truffles for the workers that were left from a recent batch.  Cheap advertising, right?  

That kind of thing never works. 

Wrong.  When I went in the next day to pick up my rehabilitated vehicle, I was, in order to take the van off the lot, shall we say, poorer.  Let's just leave it at that.  But the shop owner asked how much lead time I needed to fill an order.  Because it was his anniversary.  Today.  30 seconds of banter about his chocolate-fanatic soul mate and I was off to the market to procure the necessary items to redeem the day.  At least for him.  Triple Chocolate Torte.

She loved it.  They all loved it.  Success.

So the next week he called to laud on the cake, and to order the Chocolate Box with Caramel Mousse and Berries for his daughter's 16th birthday.  And she loves, loves, loves strawberries.  No blueberries, please.  Just strawberries.  

Great, I think.  But it's the hottest day of the year thus far.  Even with the air conditioning on, that chocolate box is all too quickly becoming a chocolate wobble.  And the whipped cream on top is wilting.  I retrieve it from the freezer when he arrives to pick it up, suggesting that it is very fragile and needs loving care to make it to his home.  

I'm afraid to call him to see if she loved it because I don't want him to tell me it's time to take my car back in.  For any reason.  Whatsoever.  Or that it melted in transit.  

No comment.  Moving on.

Friday, my hubby has a meeting and he wants to take treats.  It's a morning session so we decide on Mini Caramel Rolls.  Two dozen sweet, addicting little bits of goodness.  Free.  Advertising.  Again.

Remember, that kind of thing never works. 

Wrong again.  Hubby's co-worker placed an order for a baby shower planned in July for another co-worker.  Okay, okay, it's a women's event, planned by a woman.  But it's my husband's fault, so he gets the credit.  

Tonight this hubby mine is going to be with his gentlemen friends.  I'm using that term loosely.  These males head up to the Boundary Waters every year to get away from it all.  If you're not from Minnesota, the Boundary Waters is real.  And remote.  No cell phones.  No electricity.  No toilets.  No cars.  No motorboats.  Lots of lakes, trees, bugs, and some moose, bear and wolves.  

They love it.  Man showers also known as lake dips.  Man faces, or no shaving.  Why?  Man jokes.  Clean, mostly, or at least so I'm told.  And man food.  After all, who's cooking?

But last year these men, who never invite their wives to join them because this is a man's trip, complete with cigars and the occasional comfort noises, requested that I dispatch a cheesecake with them.  To the Boundary Waters.  Camping.

Men. 

So, tonight they have been bequeathed my latest whimsy, Banana Split Cheesecake.  It's a bit feminine to transport to the Boundary Waters.  So we'll see what they think.

Besides, that kind of thing never works.    

Power baking.

We never realize how dependent we are on something until it's taken away.   

Last Friday night our city experienced a bit of a storm.  It knocked out electricity for not a small amount of dwellings and businesses.  It changed the topography as well.  There is a pile of wood sitting on the edge of our neighbors front lawn that used to be their neighbor's tree.  Still, four days later, driving or walking nearby, when you can get through, I'm finding this an all too common sight.  

Once we knew the neighbors were safe and their home was bundled up to keep it dry from further invasions of rain we settled in at home with candles glowing, cold sandwiches and fruit aplate, and the Cribbage board ready.  

Then it hit me.  I have another kind of emergency brewing because of this storm.  I have to bake a cake, chill mousse, melt chocolate, and beat eggs and whip cream, all with no power.    Then, after it has magically transformed in to a sumptuous and stunning dessert, I have to keep it cold.   

Uh-oh.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I love a challenge.  Odds against me.  Underdog.  Conquering the unconquerable.  Mounting the insurmountable.  I'm at my best when it's me against the world, so to speak.  I'm not easily daunted.  I get an adrenaline rush from doing the impossible, and more so at the last minute.  But when someone else is counting on me, when it's not just me counting on me, that's when the pressure mounts.  That's a cake with a different frosting.  

So, here I am, 10 p.m. and a cake to perform by 2 p.m. tomorrow and no power, quite literally, to do it.  

I have to say that I felt ridiculous using my cell phone.  No one died here, nor was I asking after anyone who might have.  But our home phone did, die, that is.  So, after not a few texts and several phone calls, clogging up an otherwise understandably busy cell circuit, I find a power-filled and available kitchen/oven.  I begin to see the light.  Then I begin to think.  All night I think.  I get so tired I fall asleep thinking.  I wake up thinking.  

How am I going finish this cake?  On time.

Because I realize baking, whipping and chilling are not the only mountains I have to climb.  This range is full of other steep ascents.  This is going to push me to new heights.  

I should have been working out more. 

My mind stretches and leaps as it all becomes one great list.  Stuff out.  Stuff packed.  Stuff in car.  Drive across town.  Stuff out of car.  Stuff in new kitchen.  Stuff unpacked.  Stuff mixed.  Stuff baked.  Stuff cooled.  More stuff baked.  More stuff cooled.  Stuff repacked.  Stuff iced.  Stuff loaded in car.  Check, check, and check.  

Hours later, one trip across town and two stops on the way home for emergency necessities, and I can stand in my work space, with power returned, and finish the cake.  More mental exercise.  Cake cut, cake layered, cake berried, cake moussed, repeat, and repeat.  Cake topped, cake iced, cake on stand, cake shot (for posterity's sake), cake in box, cake on ice, cake in cooler, cake picked up.  Check, check, and check again.  Whew!

Now what do I do for fun?  

Oh, right.  I've got an order for tomorrow.  I better get at it before the power goes out.

 

 Strawberry and White Chocolate Mousse Layer Cake with Cheesecake topper.  

Strawberry and White Chocolate Mousse Layer Cake with Cheesecake topper.