(Little, all tangled up in Christmas wrappings.)
For me, the holidays are so much about baking, it’s difficult to separate the two. Holiday = baking. Baking = holiday. They are that intertwined.
I had to survive a holiday without baking. At least, not in my oven. Luckily, I already had all the Christmas tree cookie ornaments made. But cookies to eat? There wasn’t much of that or anything else baked. NO PIES. Our power went out early in the morning on December 19, just as I was preparing to launch full-force into baking, for our holiday here and for gifts. NOT TO MENTION PIES.
Anyone who has been without power for an extended period knows–it’s a different world. Your life takes on a surreal perspective. Even with a generator, it’s not “normal” life. You survive and take care of your food stores and your animals. You can’t just up and head for greener pastures–a motel or a relative’s house–for the duration. Everything is difficult and there is a survival mode that takes over. Certain accustomed basics go by the wayside as if they never existed. Standards change. True necessities rise from the rest. And you find ways to make things happen that are special to you.
I was determined to not let the week-long power outage defeat me. I experimented with some alternative baking. (I honed the art of wiping out and scraping out mixing bowls to re-use because I couldn’t do dishes. We had water, but it was carefully rationed.) We have a wood stove, a gas grill, and a gas stovetop. I tried biscuits in the wood stove.
Our wood stove isn’t cut out for baking. I would love to have a wood stove that was one of the real old-fashioned cooking wood stoves, but we don’t. It works well for simmering chili and beans on top and heating water or coffee.
Baking? Not so much. I burned the bottoms of the biscuits. I just couldn’t figure out a way to set it up in there so that 1) the biscuits would actually bake but at the same time 2) not burn on bottom. (I even set the pan with the biscuits inside a cast iron pan with a rack, but it still didn’t work right.) Some type of real baking rack setup would help, but the direct fire under the biscuits is what burned them and our wood stove isn’t large enough inside to really avoid that problem.
I made a second attempt on the gas grill, which worked out much better only I baked them in a glass pie pan, due to the dearth of clean dishes, and the glass pan exploded, taking the biscuits down with it as it shattered. I WASN’T MEANT TO HAVE BISCUITS. I was successful baking pizza on the gas grill. I didn’t burn it, nothing exploded, and we had pizza for dinner two nights.
Our gas grill has four burners (plus a side burner).
To bake in the grill, first I’d heat the grill to the temperature I needed.
Once it reached the right temperature, I turned off two of the burners and placed the baking pan over them so as not to bake over direct fire. It took twice as long to bake anything as normal, but this method avoided burning the bottoms. (Baking a cake here.)
Christmas Eve dinner without an oven was ham, corn, green beans, and no biscuits, by candelight.
But we had cake (Pictured here the next day, in the light.)
The cake took FOREVER to bake (at the right temperature) in the gas grill. Obviously, there are major differences in baking inside a gas grill than baking in an oven because the right temperature didn’t get things done in the right time. Even keeping the cake pans away from the direct fire underneath, the bottoms were overdone. Not burned, just tough, from such a long bake time. What I ended up doing was slicing off the bottom of each cake layer. I made the cake twice because of that and had four thin layers to work with after slicing off the tough bottoms. I made a double batch of butter cream icing (no electric mixer! real old-fashioned here–hand whisking) and the cake turned out delicious. I MADE A CAKE. Under the most trying of circumstances. We had Christmas Eve dinner WITH DESSERT.
Morgan asked if it was sugar cookie cake (because of the thin layers). Hmm. That sounds like a good idea! I crushed peppermints to scatter on top and called it Christmas cake.
We had a lovely Christmas morning, and as I look back on it now, I can’t see anything in my memory relating to power. I just see my children. As a late breakfast, we had bacon, eggs, and crullers. Crullers are fried, so it made a suitable sweet bread replacement for biscuits, which I didn’t want to attempt again. A fried bread was so much easier to deal with and I was still worn out from spending an entire afternoon baking that cake on Christmas Eve. The crullers recipe comes from my great-grandmother’s cookbook, so it seemed fitting for our truly old-fashioned Christmas with no electricity.
In a seeming Christmas miracle, on our seventh day without power, the electricity came on just as I finished frying the crullers. It stayed on for about an hour. We spent the hour restarting the well pump and getting water up to the house. I got the dishwasher loaded–but didn’t have time to push the button to wash them.
The power went out again. One hour. That’s all we got.
We waited hours then finally gave in and hooked up the generator again. I was a little depressed. I read half a book then did some knitting and worked on my outage attitude.
In the second Christmas miracle of the day, the power came back on in the evening. I AM SO BAKING BISCUITS THIS MORNING.
IN THE OVEN.
By the way, do you know how nice it is to turn the light on in the pantry instead of searching for things with a flashlight? I want to turn the light on in the pantry every day for the rest of my life. IT’S MY NEW PASSION. That, and opening the refrigerator door WHENEVER I WANT TO.
A number of people have asked to see my entire Christmas tree.
Yeah, that’s Dookie, the farm shih-tsu down there.
It’s difficult to take a photo of an entire Christmas tree because you lose all the detail.
But here it is! (As entire as I can get.)
(That’s a corn husk angel on top.)