Monday, August 25, 2014

Baking Break!

We had Brett's cousin staying with us this weekend, so we made sure to focus on some fun activities that don't involve a sledgehammer. (Yes, there are things I enjoy besides smashing stuff.) For the purposes of this blog, I'll focus on what we did in the house: baking! We went to an awesome local-food potluck in the neighborhood. I wanted to make use of our amazing in-season Washington peaches, so I made one of the oddest, most magical recipes I know.

This is Peach Puzzle.

Whole peaches in a sweet biscuit crust with peachy butterscotch sauce. You're welcome.

What's so magical about that, you ask? The sauce ... drumroll, please ... makes itself.

That ramekin was empty when I put the dish in the oven.

However do I do it, you ask? Well, since you asked so nicely, I'll tell you the secret:
It bakes upside-down.

The crust sits on top, and the ramekin is upside-down in a pie plate. As the whole dish heats and then cools, a vaccum forms. It sucks the butterscotch sauce and peach juices that were loose in the dish up into the ramekin, so that when you flip it all over - voila! - the previously empty little cup is full of amazing yumminess.

Now that's what I call a "Before" picture.

Take that, Harry Potter.

Here's the recipe, with my additions and notes, adapted from America's Best Lost Recipes: 121 Heirloom Recipes Too Good to Forget.

Peaches and Syrup:
7 medium fresh peaches
3/4c packed light brown sugar
6 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt (I don't measure, I just use a pinch)

Prepare the peaches: Blanch the peaches to remove the skins. (Boil a medium pot of water. Fill a similar size bowl with ice water. Slit a small cross into the skin of the peaches. Put the peaches in the boiling water for a minute or so, then transfer them to the ice water. Do this in batches if you need to. The skins will slip right off.)

Turn a ramekin upside-down in the center of a pie plate. Arrange the peaches in a circle around it.

Make the syrup: In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, water, butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is combined, approx. 5 minutes. Pour over the peaches.

1 1/4 c flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp (yes, that's a tablespoon) baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled
6 Tbsp milk

Make the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the food processor; pulse until combined. Toss in the butter and pulse until the mixture is like coarse sand or cornmeal. Add the milk. It won't seem like enough moisture to hold the dough together, but if you press the dough together against the sides of a bowl, it will pull together.

Assemble the pie: Roll the crust out to a 9" circle and drape it over the top of the peaches. Do NOT let it adhere to the pie plate itself - just fold it over the peaches.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Let it cool for 30 minutes of a cooling rack.

Invert and serve! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Flash(ing) Dance

The new porch is underway!

Some assembly required.

We had been hoping to preserve the structure of the old porch, and just replace the top decking. Once we started pulling decking off, though, it quickly became clear that everything underneath was rotten, too. Cue the purchase of a whole lot of lumber, now blocking the carport.

Thank heaven for Brett, because while I thought this was just rotten luck (see what I did there?) he knew right away that it was from badly installed flashing.

I think I can be forgiven for the oversight, since until then I had no idea what flashing was. For the equally construction-challenged, it's a metal channel that diverts water away from the house. It should have been installed under the existing siding and doors, but it had just been stuck on top.

As I soon learned, that's probably because installing it properly is an enormous pain in the ass.

Un-flashy house (old flashing has been removed), siding removal begins

So instead of getting right to the making-a-new-porch-appear bit, we started by ripping off a bunch of siding. There's an addition on this part of the house, so naturally the siding is covered in places by  a bunch of trim, and, oh, a room. We had to do a lot of finagling and still managed to break a piece. It won't show, but we can't leave a hole in the side of the house, so I'm hoping to find some spare siding in the shed.

Thankfully, Brett spent a year leading Habitat for Humanity volunteer crews, so he 1) has built a lot of porches, and 2) knows how to explain things to absolute neophytes like me.

New flashing! It's the black stuff under the door.
The flashing won't really show when we're done (it's paintable), but it will keep the new porch from rotting away like the old one did. For now, I just come home and admire it while I can.

Next up: installing the ledger board. (I don't really know what that is either. Lots to learn!)

I call it Still Life with Siding, Sawzall, and Puppy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Smashy Smashy

There's not much to report this week. We had visitors over the weekend, and Brett hurt his foot and was out of commission for a bit, so we haven't really done much. Brett's ordering the lumber for the porch tomorrow, and we're planning to start building this weekend.

In the meantime, here are some more porch demo pics to tide you over.

At the dump, getting rid of construction debris.
Weirdly, I think this is my mom's favorite place on the island.

Ian is a superhero. The evil porch didn't stand a chance.

All gone!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Like a Wrecking Ball

We finally, finally, finally demolished the rotting front porch.

Okay, it's only been two months, but it feels like forever. I've been hesitant to have people over because I'm worried they'll fall through the porch (something the hubby has already done several times.) So it's a huge relief to have it gone.

You know the porch was bad when it's comforting to have a giant gaping hole in front of the house.

How exactly is that attached?

Brett has the eerie feeling that he's being watched.
Finding out what was underneath it was also an adventure. You know that memory game, Johnny has an Apple in his Pocket? (In his pocket, Johnny has an apple, a balloon, a cat ...) Well, under their porch, Audrey and Brett found:

Several bones
A milk jug
A long, coiled up wire that is attached to the house but goes nowhere
A doll shoe
A bowling ball

And that's just for starters. Hermione has been digging up bones from under the porch since we moved in, so mostly I'm just glad we didn't find a skeleton. CSI BI.

The bowling ball was kind of a surprise, though.

We had a ton of amazing help with the demo! A neighbor we know from Facebook, Bryan, came over to lend a hand despite never having met us in person. Then our friend Ian, who is stronger than all of us combined and owns a 3-foot crowbar, came in the afternoon and basically destroyed the entire thing in twenty minutes.

We then put our our resourcefulness pants and shoved a tree stump into the hole as a makeshift staircase.

(The next day we were given a set of temporary stairs, thank the lord.)

Now we're working on rebuilding. Brett is designing and re-designing away, and I'm sanding and painting the decking.

That's not a weird tan line - I'm covered in sawdust.

I know it's going to be a little while before it's done, but I can't wait!