Sunday, May 16, 2010

More Yeasty Goodness

I'm not sure what it is about yeast breads that's so appealing, but I think you may have noticed that I'm on a big bread/yeast kick. I don't know why. Maybe it's the smell that permeates the entire top floor of the apartment building; there's nothing like the smell of bread baking. Maybe it's the satisfaction of having hot, fresh, homemade bread that you know has no preservatives, nothing unnatural in it. Maybe my body's trying to tell me something with this craving for yeasty things.

Oh well! Whatever the reason, the main thing is that I find baking breads almost as satisfying as knitting, with a lot higher sense of instant gratification. Yesterday, I decided to try baking soft pretzels. I understand that on the east coast (Philadelphia, New York?), you can get these soft pretzels from street vendors. Not on this coast, at least not here in Kelowna.

I watched an episode of Good Eats on YouTube last week, the one about pretzels and decided that it looked easy enough, so I decided to give it a try.

They were a lot easier to make than I thought they would be. And, let me tell you, there is nothing like a warm, just out of the oven (well, they did need to cool down a little!) soft pretzel. I don't think I'd make these on a regular basis, but they were certainly nice for a treat. You can find Alton Brown's Soft Pretzel recipe here. I'll also link to it in the sidebar. You can find the You Tube link to the show (it's in two parts) in the sidebar, too.

Today, I'm planning on making a loaf of seed bread (sunflower and flax) and another focaccia bread. I'm really enjoying the focaccia as a lunch bread. It's a good thing John's working today!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It Ain't Pretty.... Yet!

We had planned on going to the new place today to do some painting and cleaning (teal blue walls in the living room do NOT go with our furniture!), but we're both tired and more than a little lazy. Besides, the Preakness is on this afternoon and John wants to watch it.

I'm okay with that. It gives me some knitting time. The Lilac Shawl (from Nancy Bush's Knitted Lace of Estonia) is really coming along. I know the pattern now and don't need the chart to work this center section.

The pattern calls for 14 repeats of the leaf section, but I think I'll do a few extra. I'm using smaller needles than the pattern calls for, making the entire shawl/scarf a little smaller. Right now, I'm up to 9 repeats completed.

I must say that this project is living up to it's purpose. It's meant to keep me from going crazy with the whole moving thing. It really is helping to keep my stress levels manageable. Now, though, it's Preakness time... back to knitting.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

My Mother's Day Present to Me

Years ago, when our kids were small, we took them to Disneyland. It was there that we discovered Churros, a Mexican treat. There were churro vendors all over Disneyland and we were hard pressed to keep away from them. I think we all remember those churros fondly and have craved them ever since.

Yesterday, while doing some much needed grocery shopping, I picked up a magazine that was all Mexican recipes, including.... You guessed it.. Churros!

Today, being Mother's Day, I decided to spoil myself by making up a batch of these absolutely scrumptious treats. The dough is, basically, a choux pastry, the same kind of recipe as cream puff dough. They're crispy on the outside, soft and yummy on the inside. The recipe recommends a Mexican chocolate sauce for dipping, but I really don't think they need it. They're so good all on their own. Sheer decadence!

Start with 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup butter, 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Bring that to a boil and when the butter's melted, add one cup of flour, all at once.

Using a wooden spoon, stir it like crazy until it all comes together in a ball. Remove it from the heat. Let it cool for about 10 minutes.

Mix together 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour the egg/vanilla mixture into the slightly cooled dough and stir it with your wooden spoon until it's all mixed in. The dough will be quite thick and will stay in a ball.

Put the dough into a piping bag fitted with a large star point.

Pipe the dough onto a parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheet into 4" strips.

Preheat the oven to 300F and heat the oil to 375F. When the oil is ready, fry the churros 4 or so at a time until they're golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Line another baking sheet with paper towels. Drain the churros on the paper towels and keep them in the oven until all the churros are done.

Once they're all fried, dredge them in 1/4 cup white sugar and 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

And then....... Indulge!!!

John had never had churros before. His comment? "You done good!"

The diet starts tomorrow.

Saturday, May 08, 2010


And no, that's not Pain In The A$$.. it's pita bread and it turned out really well!

John has been in some pain today, and feeling a little under the weather, so instead of doing some of the things we'd planned, I had time to bake while he vegetated on the couch. I decided to make these pita breads after reading about them on a Ravelry thread. The recipe is very easy and it's fun to watch the breads puff up as they did.

If you'd like to try to make your own pita bread, the recipe follows:


Pita Bread


2 tsp. yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 3/4 cup bread flour (or 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp whole wheat and 2 3/4 cups bread flour)
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup water

Pour the warm water into a small bowl and sprinkle in the sugar. Do not stir. Add the yeast to the warm water, making sure each granule is moistened. Allow to sit for about 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture, olive oil and up to 3/4 cup water, enough to make a firm, but soft dough. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead until smooth, about 15 minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning to grease the top, cover and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk.

Punch down and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into eight pieces, form into balls, then roll each piece into an oval, about 9" long and 1/4" thick.

Cover with a towel and allow to sit until slightly risen, about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425F; when oven is hot, preheat the baking pans for 5 minutes. Dust the pans with flour, then place the dough ovals on hot pans and bake for about 10 minutes, until puffy (don't let them crisp). Remove from the oven and wrap in a clean cloth to keep from drying out. Store in a plastic bag.



I still had some whole wheat bread flour in the pantry, so I made the whole wheat version. I don't normally have bread flour in the house; use whatever all purpose flour you have (I used unbleached white all purpose flour; it works just fine)

I had to use closer to 1 cup of water to get the dough to the right consistency and didn't have to knead as long as the recipe calls for. If you've baked bread before, you'll know when it's ready.

Instead of allowing the rolled out ovals to rise on the counter, I put them on parchment paper cut to the size of my baking sheets, making it easier to transfer them to the baking sheet; I put three to a sheet.

I would recommend baking them in the lower half of the oven. I tried baking two sheets at a time, but the pitas on the upper rack didn't rise as well as those on the lower rack.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Quick Response to Shirley

Shirley asked if I've ever made a yellow mustard (like French's). She can't get it where she lives (Finland). In response, no, I haven't but I did find a recipe for yellow mustard here. It sounds like it's fairly simple to make, so I may have to try it next time we run low on it.

The recipe refers to something called Wondra flour; I'm not familiar with that, but with a little online research I found this:

"You cannot buy it in is an easy blend flour and the Canadian flour that is the same is Robin Hood Instant Blend flour...sold in an easy pour cannister type package not the typical bag like regular flour."


There's a new post over at Headline Hunters. If you haven't checked out my other blog, please do. And if you find typos or glaring mistakes in your local paper, please feel free to pass them on to me.

For Gloria, who asked about the mustard powder I used... I picked it up at the bulk food store. It is ground seeds, but not as finely ground as Keen's mustard. I wouldn't use Keen's; it's just too expensive seeing as the recipe calls for a cup of mustard powder. You can grind your own if you want, or find the ground mustard seed. Apart from the wine, by the way, the ingredients for my batch of mustard cost me under $2.00.

On the knitting/packing front, I've packed up almost all of my works in progress and now have (had) just the Shetland Christening dress handy for working on. The problem with that is that I don't want to work on true lace all the time, nor do I want endless garter stitch all the time.

And because I don't have enough projects on the go, I started the Moving Scarf/Shawl. It's just enough of a challenge that I need to keep the pattern handy, but it's simple enough that I can work on it while watching/listening to the TV. Every wrong side row is purled, so there's a reprieve from patterning and paying close attention.

The pattern is the Lilac Shawl from "Knitted Lace of Estonia" by Nancy Bush. I started it last night, while watching the Canucks/Chicago hockey game. I'm using the laceweight alpaca I bought at the Oyama Lake Alpaca Farm last year, and knitting it on 3.5 mm needles.

The scarf is started at one end and worked through to the opposite end, without the edging. The second edging is worked separately and then grafted to the rest of the scarf. Above is my progress to date. As you can see, there are also nupps in this scarf. I'm not sure how clearly you can see it, but if you look closely, you can see a pink stitch marker in the far left diamond of nupps. I didn't notice until I was well past it that I had missed one of the loops; after the body of the scarf is finished, I'll go back and suture that loop in place.

Until now, I hadn't been able to make up my mind as to what to do with this yarn. I'm really liking how this pattern is knitting up with this yarn; I think I made the right decision. Incidentally, I keep referring to it as a scarf but I think, once blocked, this will be more of a shawl or a wide scarf. For the picture, I didn't pin it out as much as I would if I were blocking it; the needle would have been to short for that anyway. I've only pinned it out enough to show the pattern.

I know, the last thing I need is another project, but this one just feels good. And that's a good thing!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

It Has Begun

Last weekend, we started packing. I hadn't intended to pack as much as we did, but we got into it and before we knew it, the dining room looked like this...

Both the cabinet and the desk are empty and we're using the dining room as our storage-for-boxes area. This weekend, we tackle this...

In truth, it isn't as bad as it looks because most of the boxes have been there, unopened, since our last move. I know there are some who would say that since we haven't even unpacked them, the stuff inside them really isn't needed so we should just get rid of it. That's a valid argument, but the reason we didn't unpack them is because we knew this place would be temporary. We will, however, be going through each box this time. I refuse to live with unopened boxes in the new place.

There are items in these boxes that I've been missing, but I haven't had the desire to even find the right boxes. We'll probably have a garage sale at the new place (we'll have room for one now) to help unload us of some of the stuff. Some of it will go to charity, some will be thrown out and some will be saved to pass on to kids and grandkids.

It hasn't been all packing, though. By now, I'm sure you've gathered that I like being creative. Knitting has been ongoing, but there really isn't much to show you. A few more rows of garter stitch really doesn't make for pretty pictures. I have, though, made progress on the second skirt of the Shetland Christening dress. I now have one lace motif left to do and then it's into garter stitch for that section as well.... endless garter stitch on 2.0 mm needles.

And then there's cooking. I don't know what inspired it, but last weekend I made this....

It's Dijon mustard. We were almost out of the commercial dijon, so I went recipe hunting. This one sounded like it could be really good, so I went to the bulk store next to the print shop where I work, bought the ground mustard I needed, got home and cooked it up.

It's a little thicker (I thinned one jar down with a bit of white wine) and a little grainier than the commercial dijon mustard, but the flavour!! Oh my, this is good stuff! As it ages a bit more (the recipe says 2-8 weeks), it should get even better. In all honesty, I don't think I'll ever go back to commercial dijon mustard again.

Oh, while I think of it... if you want to download any of the recipes in my sidebar, do so before the end of May. They're uploaded to my own web space and we'll be switching internet providers when we move and that web space will no longer be available. That also goes for any of the files on the Strings 'n Things Designs page. Once we move, they'll no longer be available there so get them while you can.

I will, of course, post them again at some point, but that will be some time down the road, after we're all settled in. In the meantime, I'll leave everything up as long as I can.

Now, where do we start with this office????