Saturday, March 19, 2016

Spring has sprung and candied violets

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I'm soooo excited to see signs of spring. One, I might finally be warm when I'm writing during the wee hours of the night. Two, longer daylight make for happier kids because there's more time to run around and be active in the SUN. Three, we try to eat locally for the most part and by February/ March, we're looking at the pantry and saying, "Meh. Not inspired."
                                    
(photo credit: finedininglovers.com, gluten free cupcakes)
 For us, spring is the beginning of all good things, so when we spied violets in the yard, we knew it was time to start eating weird food!  (Click the link for a flashback of some of the weird food we love.) Violets have a long history of being candied and otherwise added to sweets (violet gum is very popular in some countries, you can buy it on Amazon), sort of like lavender. Probably the most common is Jordan Almonds. The next time you have some, close your eyes and smell. They're scented with violet water!
                                                    
So, step one: pick violets! Place in a bowl of water. You can leave them over night, or just for about 30 minutes. This is good for convincing bugs to leave. There's usually not a bug in sight but I'm picking about eating stuff out of the yard (we don't spray so although it's "organic" it might be a little too organic, if you get my drift).
An since we homeschool, it's a great way to talk about genetics. We look at Gregor Mendel's sweet pea charts and look at how the white, purple, and pink flowers happen.
                                                
Place the violets on a towels and gently pat dry. Pick out any that are missing petals or too old.
                                               
Mix one egg white with 2 tbs of water for easier application, mix lightly with a fork, and apply with a pastry brush.
Lift by the stems and dip in fine sugar. (We were out of superfine sugar and since the kids didn't care, I just used normal sugar.)
 Dry on paper towels (or toilet paper!) and let dry for approximately 24 hours. At that point you can snap the stems and apply to the tops of cupcakes. These will go on a cake I'm making this weekend with my new, super fancy bundt pan! It's my present for finishing my 14th book.
(Amazon.com)
This is the bundt pan I've been dreaming of every since I saw it in BBC's production of Emma in 2009. Well, I didn't actually see the pan. I saw Mrs. Weston's wedding cake and I hit pause so I could stare at that amazing bit of cakery.
The cathedral pan is traditionally in cast iron and I'd been looking on ebay, but then I heard someone complain about how heavy there were. YIKES. I tolerate my cast iron dutch ovens because they're so useful, but I don't really need one more thing that my husband needs to lift. So I then looked for cast aluminum.

(jakescountrystore.com)
 Here's a picture of the cake that comes out of the pan. I don't have a screen shot of the Emma cake. Hmmm. I should go find it... but anyway, back to the post.  But isn't this DARLING?? Doesn't it look like a European church in the snow??

 And then I read how hard it was to get the cakes out of the pans, an started to worry that I'd be spending $75 for a cake pan that was just another way to destroy a cake. Sooooo, I decided to go with a not-as-pretty, and a whole lot cheaper, bundt pan.
I'm going to try this multicolored cake from livforcake.com ( I just LOVE her site, so much cake beauty). I'll give the pan a few tries and if I can't seem to figure out how to get the cake out, I won't buy the cathedral. (See, this is me being RESPONSIBLE.) But I may just buy it for someone who's a better cook, like my sister. I'm sneaky like that! Then I can enjoy the beautiful cake and she can keep the pan...
Until next time! And happy spring! Be sure to check out my author page at Mary Jane Hathaway, my other author page at Virginia Carmichael, or my blog (which really never gets updated so only go there if you're confused about what I've been doing the last four years, hahaha.)

14 comments:

  1. Violets already????? Our temps are warming but that just means the snowline is receding. We're not there yet. I love the idea of edible flowers. I've had nasturtiums in salads but haven't tried decorating cakes with anything. Violets would be so pretty and so springy! I wonder if they cry out when you eat them? :-)

    And aren't you adventurous with the cake pan???? I barely get a regular bundt pan to release a cake. Can't imagine trying to get a pan with all those angles to willingly release a cake. LOL You'll have ot let us know how it goes.

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    1. It's almost out of the oven! LOL. I'll keep you all updated...

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  2. Really? Jordan Almonds are scented with violet water? I never knew. But this sounds like a good reason to buy some and actually notice.

    Years ago, I attended a dinner at the local botanic gardens. The fare featured all manner of edible flowers along with, or enhancing, more traditional food sources. The candied violets were very tasty.

    Let us know how it goes with the cake pan.

    Nancy C

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    1. I will! And I'd always noticed something about Jordan Almonds but couldn't place it, until I read that. *ding ding*!

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  3. I love Jordan Almonds but I had no idea they were made with Violet water. Cool.

    And the cupcakes look so delicious!

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    1. My kids really wanted cupcakes more than cake... maybe because they're sure I'm going to flip it over and it will fall into 8K pieces?? :D

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  4. I'm so glad I'm not the only one pestered by cool cake pans. I've had some ornate pans over the years, and when cake parts continually break here and there, it's beyond annoying. But I love the look of amazing cakes!

    I've never tried candied violets, but they look charming.

    Is it cheating to just simply pipe a pretty lavender and/or pink bloom on the top with buttercream???

    I know.

    Prosaic.

    When the violets bloom, I promise to try some. And I love that you give your children delightful experiences. That's so cool!

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    1. A friend of mine took a flower making/ cake decorating class and her cakes are SO beautiful!

      Maybe this is the cheater's way of making pretty cakes?

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  5. Okay, I can't stop giggling over the toilet paper!! :)

    The flowers are gorgeous!

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    1. HAHA! We never have paper towels. Like once a year when we go camping. We're kitchen towel types... but then we need paper towels and look quite low brow. :(

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  6. Replies
    1. It brought me back to all the tea parties I'd made for my girls. :)

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  7. Beautiful! Violets make the best decorations, especially when they're sweet and edible.

    I grew up with violets all over the place in southwestern Michigan. Every spring they were so common that I rarely even noticed them. Fast forward a few dozen years, and now I live in a semi-arid place (that I love), with few of the flowers I knew and loved while growing up. This time of year I really miss them. Enjoy yours for me!

    And I loved the way you threw that homeschool science lesson in there. A true homeschooling mom. :)

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    1. Heehee, we learn to slip that in on the sly otherwise school would "never end" in their opinion. But we all know school shouldn't have "hours" so I'm sneaky. :D

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