Friday, February 6, 2015

The Cookbook Project - 5/52

Finally, I screwed one up!

It only took me more than a month, which I have to admit I found terribly suprising. I was sure that I would screw up the bread, but it stubbornly insisted on being delicious. I kind of screwed up the paprikash but it was still really good, too!

By that metric, though, I didn't really screw this one up either, because it was definitely delicious.

This week's recipe was Scandivanian Sunrise. It's a sweet breakfast treat, the kind of thing you make for a kid on a Sunday morning when you plan to shove them outside to run circles around the house shortly afterwards. It called for something called 'farina', which I had to look up. It's similar to Cream of Wheat.

So I figured I'd just buy some Cream of Wheat, right?


Publix, where we get our groceries, didn't have any Cream of Wheat.

I stared forlornly at about five shelves of hot breakfast cereals, with every single thing under the sun except Cream of Wheat.

Then... I saw it.

A tiny box of farina sandwiched between two different types of flavored oatmeals.

So they didn't have Cream of Wheat, given as the easier-to-find substitute, but they had farina itself! Victory!

What is farina, anyway? Turns out it's like oatmeal, if oatmeal were made of pulverized wheat. It's a little bit like eating paper mache paste, really. Or hot flour.

Hence... the sugar.

Ingredients - Amounts Omitted
For the Vanilla Custard:
Egg yolks

Red Fruit Sauce:
red raspberries or strawberries
red currants, cranberries, or tart cherries

For Final Assembly
farina, cream of wheat, or cream of rice cereal
ground cardamom
custard cream, see recipe
red fruit sauce, see recipe

This one was a little bit more of a complicated process, in that you had two steps to work on the night before, and then make the farina in the morning after the red fruit sauce and custard had set and chilled overnight. So Sunday night, I pulled together the custard first. Or so I thought.

I heated up milk and half-and-half (I didn't have cream) to what I figured was just under boiling, like the directions say. The thing is, "just under boiling" struck me as a terrible vague term and I think this may have been where things went wrong for the custard. Well, that or slightly later than that. We'll get there.

While that heated, I beat together the egg yolks and sugar until they made a kind of interesting-looking smooth paste-thing. Just a little of the hot milk and cream went into this to temper it - otherwise, when you pour the egg-and-sugar mix into the hot milk you're liable to cook the egg and ruin the custard. After adding a few tablespoons of the hot milk/cream, I figured things looked good and poured it in and began whisking quickly and constantly.

Here's where things went a little wrong, the second time.

You're meant to whisk constantly while re-heating to just under boiling a second time. I was very worried about accidentally boiling, and we decided to utilize our double-boiler pan. This, unfortunately, meant moving the mixture a little prematurely into a different pan, than trying to heat it again, and I think it never quite made it to the temperature it needed to be. In any case, we thought things were hot enough, so we stirred in the vanilla at the last second, moved our pa,n and settled it just on top of a large mixing bowl filled with ice water. If I had done everything correctly, cooling the custard cream quickly like that would have started the thickening process and led us to the correct texture.

While that cooled, I started on the fruit sauce. Instead of all red fruits, I used raspberries and blueberries. This was easy enough - toss berries into a saucepan, with a little water, heat until boiling and crush until you've got a lumpy fruit sauce. At this point, you are meant to puree in a blender and then strain through a sieve to strain out all the seeds, creating a smooth sauce.

Instead, we tried to use a food processor, promptly got raspberry-and-blueberry mush everywhere, called it good and moved it right back into the saucepan, seeds and all. Stir in the sugar and cornstarch, bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat and allow to start thickening.

We put both the custard cream and the fruit sauce into the fridge to chill and thicken overnight.

The next morning, the fruit sauce had become essentially a fruit jam with no jar - perfect. The custard cream, however, stayed resolutely thin and milky. We decided maybe trying to heat it up again would help. So while Jason worked on the farina, I got started on re-heating the custard. It did seem to be helping, at first, but while it thickened up just slightly, it never got any better.

We decided, fair enough, we like vanilla milk as much as the next person, let's just see what happens.

Farina cooks very, very, very quickly. Most of the cooking time, in fact, is in the initial boiling of water and salt. Then you pour your serving of farina in. It will look like it can't possibly be enough, but then the farina begins to thicken and you realize you could glue together the Statue of Liberty with what you just did.

Once it was done, we poured the farina into bowls and sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar. Making a depression in the middle, I poured in the custard cream... which meant I just poured hot, vanilla-flavored milk over the dish. I shrugged and threw the fruit sauce in the middle, but obviously that adorable sunshine-thing from the photo wasn't going to happen.

It was delicious.

Very, very sweet. A kind of dessert breakfast, like eating jam on toast but infinitely more filling. I could see this being something a kid might ask for as a special treat. What it made me think of was breakfast on a snow day, before you send your kid out to run themselves ragged in the snow. This is a breakfast you feed a child you expect to be running in circles for at least three hours.

I wish we had snow days in South Carolina.

Maybe I can feed this to Audra before I send her out to play on... um... ice days? Sometimes we have ice days, right? That counts.

In any case, the fruit-and-cream mix was so good we ate farina for breakfast the next two days after that, until we used it up. It's not something I'd do just any time, honestly. This was a lot of effort just for hot cereal and jam. I'd probably just buy jam.


I was kind of impressed with myself just for trying to make it.

Our last two recipes from The Farmers' Cookbook have been very sweet flavors. I'm excited to dig into something savory again. Next week is Clam Chowder, which I think we can all agree is a perfect winter soup! I'm looking forward to it. I won't lie; I've made the clam chowder from this book once before, and it was great then, although I didn't totally follow the recipe. Let's see what happens when I do!


  1. honestly it was probably the substitution of milk for the cream- fat is important in custard. still sounds yummy, so what if it's a little runny?

    1. Maybe. The recipe called for milk and cream, and I used milk and half-and-half (because that's what we keep in the house for coffee). You think the milk in the half-and-half is what threw it off? Or maybe when she said 'milk', she meant 'whole milk' (we use 2%). That would make sense... if I just knee-capped the fat content a little too much.


Comments make the world go round - please leave your thoughts and I'll make it my goal to answer!