Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baby Blanket

I knitted this baby blanket from acrylic yarn for my cousin and his lovely- and very pregnant- wife.  They're not internet folk, so I'll just show the blanket, not their happy faces. 

I only knit square things right now, since I can't even count that well.  I'd need a PhD to increase and decrease, let alone change colors or something. Too much thinking. 1, 2, all I can do!

I hope the little pooper drags it all over the ground, pukes on it, all the usual baby stuff and wears it out.  Or at least doesn't lose it at the park.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Garlic Baguette

Inspired by Elaine's delicious-looking Garlic Loaf, when Jim baked the latest loaf of no-knead bread (it never lasts in our house!) he reserved enough dough to bake a garlic baguette. He roasted the garlic in the oven in a foil packet with some olive oil and added it to the dough. We used about a dozen cloves, but it could have used more. In any event, it was gone by the end of dinner. My only regret was not using the additional cloves of roasted garlic as a spread, because that would have been beyond delicious. Next time, for sure. I just won't be kissing anybody, especially any vampires.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Collaboration with my little buddy

I've been working with my 4 year old son on doing chores regularly, and what motivates a kid like stickers and prizes?

He and I put together this little sticker chart.  It was actually really hard to find stickers that symbolized making the bed, and I'm not a good drawer!

But we used what we had.  But once this chart is full and we need a new one, I bought the Cricut Chore Chart cartridge!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Roasted Garlic Bread

I wanted to try a roasted garlic bread, because the ones they have at Wegmans are so addictive. I selected a basic sourdough bread recipe that I got from a friend, which I had made once before as a plain sourdough. I'm not sure where it comes from, he only provided me with a copy of the recipe page. He also gave me a sourdough source which he has been festering for a few years. The sourdough mother is fed by adding equal parts of milk and flour, which was something new to me. It lives in the refrigerator, and when I want to use it, I take it out to let it get to room temperature, then add flour and milk. It percolates, and then I start proofing the yeast and making the dough.

In any case, this variation was the roasted garlic and an all bread-flour version of the dough. The recipe makes two loaves, so I roasted a whole head of garlic. Separate the head into cloves, but don't peel them. Put them on a piece of aluminum foil, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil, then wrap it up and leave it in the toaster oven at 325 degrees for an hour. Your garlic will be lovely and brown! When it's cool enough to handle, you can spread it out into your bread dough, the papers separate very easily from the roasted garlic. Or just eat it on crackers, it is that delicious. Here's a picture of the roasted cloves after removing the paper.

I folded the cloves into the dough after the first rising (which is done in the mixer bowl for this reason), at which time more flour is added. So the cloves were totally incorporated.

I'm not quite sure if I added too much flour, or the garlic thickened the bread, but the result was actually a fairly dense bread, a bit different from the last time I tried this recipe. I also forgot to check my pan of water through the baking, and the pan of water which is used to humidify the oven baked dry, so I think I lost some of the moist oven action which causes the characteristic sourdough crust. Here's a picture of the final product, the near loaf did not appear to have the same texture crust as the far loaf, even though I baked them at the same time.

In any case, the house smelled heavenly garlicy while the bread baked. I wanted to chew my arm off, I was starving. I loved how the garlic made each slice smell (and turned the interior of the bread a slightly golden color). I thought I should have used another head of garlic, but my husband thought the bread was overpowering and "stinky" in his lunch bag.

So.... mixed results, but definitely interesting. I think I might have changed too many variables at once, with adding the garlic AND substituting bread flour for all-purpose. I also did convection bake instead of regular, so there's three things I have to work on for next time!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cheesy Mushroom Spinach Bread

I made this AWESOME pull-apart bread for a party. It was gone in minutes. I used this no-knead, low effort recipe (actually, Jim baked it) and this recipe. I added the spinach, sauteed in garlic, olive oil & a pinch of cayenne. Make this, friends!!!!!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pizza craft

Here's a few shots of my pizza craft. The basic recipe is from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, with the addition that I add 4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese to the dough, and I replace half the unbleached all-purpose flour with bread flour. And I just can't get the yeast to proof without adding sugar, no matter how hard Deborah has tried to convince that it is not necessary. So I use equal parts yeast and sugar.

Here's a basic Sunday night attempt. While the yeast proofs, measure out the whole wheat, bread, and unbleached flours. Combine the parmesan, olive oil, and salt in the mixer's bowl.

After about 10 minutes, the yeast should be foamy. This yeast in the picture below (at least, I hope it looks like below to you) is not quite as foamy as I would like, the water was a little on the cool side, and I think my yeast is starting to get old. But, it did proof, so it is good enough.

Combine the remaining water and the flours, and get the mixer going. It is done once the dough makes a nice ball on the mixer's dough hook. After taking it out of the mixing bowl, knead for a few cycles by hand. For a thin crust, the dough should be moist, but not sticky. The drier the dough, the more bready and high-rising it will be, in my experience.

Shape the dough into a ball, and put it into an oiled bowl to rise. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm spot for an hour.

The dough is done after it has doubled in size. Punch it down; if it stays dented, it's ready.

Shape the dough into two balls, and cover with a cloth to rest for about 20 minutes. While the dough is resting, get the toppings ready! Prep the veggies. If using hard veggies like broccoli or fennel, blanch or saute them now. Tonight's pizza is going to have onions, prosciutto, roasted red peppers (from a jar!) and Wegman's awesome tasty hot banana pepper rings. There will also be cheese and sauce. Our favorite sauce is Wegman's chunky pizza sauce. It's like $1.29 a jar, and one jar makes two pizzas. Preheat the oven. Deborah says the crispest crusts come from the hottest oven, so I go for 500 degrees.

Also, prep the baking pans if you do not have a pizza stone. I don't have a stone, but I like the flavor of the corn meal on the bottom. So I prefer to use corn meal, as opposed to semolina flour. I also like to bake two pizzas at once, which I couldn't do with a stone.

Roll the dough out to match the size pizza you want. I like to use a rolling pin, as opposed to stretching or flattening by hand. It's a texture thing.

After the dough is rolled out, let it rest for 10 minutes before topping it. I think this is a good step, and if I am short of time, this is not the step I skip, because I think this keeps the crust from being soggy. If I'm short of time I'll do the first rise for 40 minutes, and practically eliminate the second rise.

Once it's topped, it's ready to bake! In my convection oven, two pizzas will bake for 13 minutes at 500 degrees. Peppers are kind of juicy, so you definitely need to make sure it is baked long enough.

And that's it! Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

February Challenge - Consumable Crafts

Well, I continue my inability to complete a craft by being unable to post the theme on time! This is doubly duplicitous on my part, since February is short by definition, even with the bonus day.

Luckily, my favorite craft to make doesn't take as much time as most crafts. This month's challenge, which I titled Consumable Crafts, is meant to showcase that craft which currently provides me the highest sense of accomplishment, many hours of entertainment, occasionally more excitement than I would like, and is ultimately useful.

For me, that is making bread! I challenge you super-talented ladies to demonstrate and experiment with your bread making and baking skills. If you haven't tried making a yeasted bread before, I encourage you to check out some recipes and give it a try. Although rising does take time, it is unattended time, and the amount of ingredients can be small, and the smell of bread baking in the house is just full of happiness. Try a braided bread, or pizza dough. Homemade bagels, pretzels, focaccia, or even a yeasted savory tart. Go for everyone's favorite and try a sourdough bread! Or perhaps even homemade crackers.

Another advantage, if you enjoy baking bread, is that since it is consumable, you can keep making more. And, if you are as lucky as I am, even if the product is not to your or your family's liking, you might have a group of co-workers who will eat anything, no matter how awful you tell them it is.

I look forward to seeing the photos, and exchanging the recipes!