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Yup, I finally picked a new blogname. It’s apparently a lot harder than I expected it to be but after pestering friends and family I finally settled on one.
I wanted a blog that could encompass everything I’m inspired to do beyond just knitting and other fiber arts. So many of my recent posts are about baking even though I am still knitting. I find my knitting less blogworthy while my new adventures in the world of sewing (who needs a grocery tote?) are just begging to be blogged about.
Yarn4brains has been a wonderful place for the last 3.5 years but the name has never felt ‘right’ to me. I won’t be deleting anything here and may migrate what I can over to the new blog but I expect this will be my last post here.
I’m thrilled to be starting over at CookCraftGrow where I hope you will all join me in learning as I go.
I admit I had never heard of these little rolls until Jenny brought them up as her suggestion for the May bread. A quick search online shows that while beautiful when made correctly they are also labor intensive and fussy enough that there are very few photos or mentions of this roll anywhere.
The rolls are made of crusty white bread but assembled in such a way that this is not a roll you should attempt for a large group. Each roll is made by carefully flattening out a small ball of dough, placing a cube of cold butter and pinch of fleur de sel in the middle. Then the tricky part is carefully pulling out the dough and folding it over the cube of butter 4-6 times, turning 90 degrees after each fold. The assembled roll is then placed topdown in a bed of flour and then placed flour side up on a baking sheet. The end result is a fancy looking roll that will blossom open in the oven like a flower.
I used my trusty starter and decided on the basic Sourdough bread from The Breadbakers Apprentice as my crusty white bread. I remembered a little late in the day on the 30th that May was almost over so I quickly made my dough and let it hang out in the fridge overnight. I pulled out the chilled dough around 1pm today and let it slowly rise in the cool kitchen. I wanted a slow rise to help develop more flavor so it hung out in the kitchen for almost 6-7 hours before I assembled the rolls.
The rolls may not have looked perfect but the little pat of butter kept the roll moist on the inside while the high heat of the oven created a crisp roll with a little chew from the sourdough. The sprinkle of salt inside isn’t enough to make the roll salty but adds another dimension to a little white bread roll.
My single batch of sourdough bread made 28 little sacaduros rolls, some will get stored in the freezer for later but the rest are getting saved for tomorrow’s dinner.
Big thanks to Jenny for introducing me to the sacaduros, they are a great way to change up a typical bread roll into a fancy little treat.
The Croquembouche is a deceptive pastry, it’s visually impressive when done right but the pieces are fundamental pastry techniques that are easy to master. It isn’t something I’ve made more than once before and that was many years ago so I was looking forward to the May challenge.
I contemplated all sorts of intricate structures and flavor combinations but eventually I went with the classic tower with vanilla pastry cream.
I kept the pieces simple, a classic pate a choux recipe, simple vanilla pastry cream lightened with whipped cream and caramel. One thing I like to do when making caramel is adding a healthy glug of honey to the amber colored sugar at the end. It adds a great flavor and definitely something I recommend trying if you haven’t already.
I’ve been thinking lately about how this blog doesn’t seem to meet my current hobbies/interests/random crap I decide to try. I’m not sure what has caused this shift from knitting and spinning to more food based activities but I’ve decided to embrace it.
Don’t get me wrong…I still knit but what I work on now doesn’t seem worthy of blogging. I can’t imagine not knitting but lately what draws my interest is working in the kitchen and garden again. I took such a long break from enjoying the process of making food that it seems so wonderful and new to rediscover it again this year. Couple that with this being my 8th year of owning my P-Patch plots and a renewed interest in trying new food I find I’m posting more about bread than I am about yarn.
Of course having a shift in focus when your blog is called Yarn4Brains means you need a new name.
Please post any and all suggestions for a new blogname(even the crazy ones).
It’s my Birthday!!!
I decided to take the day off for a couple of reasons…first being the whole birthday deal. Second I have an aunt and uncle coming through town with their respective families and they will only be in Seattle for a few hours. These are the only two siblings that are younger than my Mom and by far my favorites out of the whole bunch. It’s a big bunch btw…Mom is one of 15.
Taking the day off when no one else will be around has both its perks and drawbacks. I get to avoid anything to do with work for a whole day, I get to only deal with personal email and I can lounge around knitting and watching tv for most of the day. Drawbacks however involve having to make a nice late lunch for the extended family (9-10 total) and the kicker….making my own birthday cake. Anyone who is willing/able to make me a birthday cake ie Mom will be out of town till that day. Last time the Sis decided to bake me a cake I did most of the work.
The plan is to suck it up and not only bake my own birthday cake but also get my annual doc visit out of the way. Cuz nothing says Happy Birthday like an appt with stirrups
It took a while after my trip to London to get back in the groove for knitting. Almost a month in fact since I had picked up the needles. I managed to find other crafty projects to occupy my time but eventually I pulled out a wallowing project and gave it some love.
When I last worked on the February Fitted Pullover I had just started on the sleeves before realizing that no amount of knitting time would make it possible for me to take on my trip. It went in a bag and there it sat until late March. It’s a little embarrassing to admit it took a little bit to get back into the rhythm of knitting again but eventually I got the hang of it (just don’t stare too closely at a certain spot on one of the sleeves)
I used some black Adagio yarn I stashed last year during my time working at a LYS and the silk and llama blend was heavenly to work with. The yarn is a looser 2 ply, the silk has a subtle sheen and the llama ends up with a nice soft halo. Due to the fiber content the yarn doesn’t have a lot of bounce but it worked out wonderfully in the simple lace pattern of the FFP. The Adagio does shed a little so I expect to be cleaning my shirts of the extra fuzz for a bit but it’s worth it.
I of course finished the sweater just in time for a warm Spring so it will get packed away until Fall but I’m thrilled with how it turned out. I had a few issues with the decreases on the front so had to redo the left side but it was my lack of ability to knit to pattern than anything wrong with the pattern itself. All in all I’m loving my new sweater. Even if I can’t wear it till October.
As for getting those 10 balls of yarn to stretch when I decided to add several inches to the length of the body? Well I shortened the sleeves (and the drape of the Adagio made this barely noticable) and squeaked by with just enough yarn.
I admit to letting loose a little squee of joy when I saw what the April Daring Bakers challenge was. I logged in to find out the recipe right after I got back from my trip to London and wouldn’t you know it…the challenge was English Steamed Puddings!
I had a delicious steamed syrup pudding my first night in town at a pub in Covent Garden and picked up some individual pudding molds while I was in England so I could experiment at home. The April challenge was perfect for me!
The challenge was to make either a crust or sponge style steamed pudding and I decided to try both. The original plan had been to make a savory crust pudding and a sweet sponge pudding but when the time came I ended up with 2 sweet ones.
First up I tried the Sussex Pond Steamed Pudding. The original recipe calls for making 1 large pudding, lined with suet crust and filled with a whole lemon (yes you just toss in a whole lemon), butter and sugar. It’s sealed up with more crust, steamed and when cut into you have a buttery sweet lemon sauce inside. Not heart healthy at all.
I had visions of a huge buttery sugar mess if I tried the large size so I opted to make individual puddings using this recipe from Delia Online.
It’s a lot of butter in each one of those molds. 2Tbs worth in fact. (told you it wasn’t healthy).
After steaming for several hours my Sussex Pond puddings were ready.
Looks fine. Tastes….um…ok.
I liked the flavors just fine but the steamed crust was odd. It was cooked yet texturally was so different from pie crust. Firm yet not dry, slightly chewy in rfact. I admit to eating a whole one but wasn’t loving the texture despite the flavor being nice.
I then opted to wait a week before trying a sponge style pudding. This time a Steamed Treacle Pudding (also from Delia Online).
Sponge puddings are what I typically think of when I think of steamed puddings, could be that is because it’s what I have been exposed to but also I think it’s because it’s so much easier to make. The crust was tricky to put into a mold without tearing but the sponge was just like any other cake batter. I love that the sponge pudding only requires very soft butter and you toss everything in the mixing bowl together, no extended creaming of the butter and sugar. Talk about easy!
The treacle pudding had a few Tbs of golden syrup in the bottom of the mold and the brown sugar/treacle batter was spooned on top. I steamed mine for about 90 minutes (my large mold is more of a bundt shape for faster cooking). For those without golden syrup or treacle in the cupboard (both are staples in my house) you can omit the golden syrup and sub in molasses for the treacle. I also tend to mix light and brown sugar in my house so the finished pudding had a very toffee like flavor that would be more subtle if you only used light brown sugar.
Delicious with a little custard poured on top.
I never grew up eating a wide variety of breads, our options in Hong Kong were typically limited to basic variations of white or wheat sandwich bread or Chinese steamed buns. I’m also the only one in my family who loves bread, the rest are in the range of “eh whatever you have works” to “Screw the bread, give me rice!” It wasn’t until I went to culinary school that I got to try a lot of different breads, one of which was Challah. Even then it wasn’t until I started working at La Tienda Cadiz that I really grew to like it. Every morning I made a batch of saffron Challah buns sweetened with honey for sandwiches and every weekend I also made large braids for the cafe to sell.
It wouldn’t have been ‘right’ to not taste test the buns frequently…very few things are better than a hot saffron honey Challah bun slathered in butter. I did this for about a month before I realized I’d gained 5lbs just from eating that damn bread every day.
During the cleanup when I found the beloved Broa recipe I also found the original Challah recipe. Over my time at LTC I had tweaked the honey amounts a little but never wrote down what I did so when it came to make the April bread I stayed true to the original.
I opted to pull out my Pullman loaf pan for this bread in the hopes I would have some wonderful french toast Challah. It’s a pan I don’t use often and as a result I’m never really sure about the amount of bread dough that it can hold. I’ve underfilled it before and this time I overfilled. There was a bit of mess but thankfully no actual bread explosion.
A little pale, a little crumbly overall still tasty.
I will be trying the Challah again but make a braid and some buns. I’m not sure if the Pullman pan created issues with baking properly or if it had just been too long since I’d made it and lost the ‘touch’.
Challah french toast with a side of homemade bacon. Not a bad breakfast at all.
I fully admit I’m not a huge fan of rye breads. They are usually heavy and since I don’t love the taste of caraway seeds I’ve just never tried a lot of recipes. However the Year of Bread was meant to push me to try breads I don’t typically make so rye fit that bill perfectly.
I did decide to make baby steps when it came to making rye and picked a recipe that promised me a soft sandwich rye but with an interesting surprise ingredient. Once again I searched the King Arthur Flour recipe archive (they also have a killer cinnamon roll recipe btw) and found Sandwich Rye Bread.
What grabbed my attention when searching for rye recipes was the secret ingredient…dill pickle juice.
I wasn’t sure what the pickle juice would do and since I had just tossed the remaining juice from my homemade dill pickled zucchini (made last summer) I had to rely on storebought pickles. I feared the juice would give the bread an unpleasant sour flavor but maybe it’s because the rye, caraway and mustard held their own. I did ease up on the amount of caraway seeds called for and eliminated the dill seeds completely since I didn’t have any. I also couldn’t find any pumpernickel so substituted organic dark rye instead.
The end result was a soft rye bread that isn’t too assertive so it wouldn’t be limited to just traditional rye bread combos. I had a couple slices with a creamy broccoli soup. Tasty.
I got to use one of my new 2lb loaf pans that I picked up in Bath during my trip to the UK (lets not dwell on how I visited a kitchen store when I could have been sightseeing). I definitely don’t have a shortage of pans but I loved how the new ones are slightly shorter and taller than the typical US loaf pans. I ended up with a lovely tall loaf that looked so much better than my previous loaf pan breads.
Well ok technically Damson was finished in Dec 2009 but it’s taken me this long to photograph it. I can’t wait till Spring shows up and I can actually see that unfamilar yellow ball in the sky again.
3 skeins of Malabrigo Silky Merino in Turqiouse bought at Little Knits right before Seasocks 2008. 450yards of lovely bright blue dk weight yarn just wallowing in stash before I could decide on what to make. Then along comes Damson and while the original pattern used fingering weight I wanted to see if I could ‘make it work’.
I came close.
I realized quickly that I was going to run out of yarn if I knit to the original pattern so I stopped at row 63 and with some creative math I smushed the lace pattern to fit the stitches I had. It involved starting on row 3 of the lace pattern and after the double decreases in that row I added a k2tog. I probably could have made a triple decrease but honestly it didn’t occur to me until afterwards to do that.
I happily knit along until once again I realized that even with my mods I was still going to run out of yarn. Sigh. So I cast off about 5 rows early instead of finishing the entire chart. There was no way the loopy edging was going to happen. I had less than a yard of yarn leftover.
Thankfully despite the mods the heavier yarn still makes this a good sized shawl, 4 skeins would have been better but 3 skeins with modifications are still a pleasing result. Damson made the trip to London with me this month and held up well to being bundled underneath my jacket for my long walks around town.
Now for Damson project #2.
Doesn’t it look lovely?
If you recall I started this project of Damson Liqueur back in August 2009. Once the plums, sugar and alcohol were bottled up I stored them in a dark corner of the garage. I had originally planned for the liquer to steep till just before Christmas but I kind of forgot about them.
The plums quickly took on a creepy wrinkled look as they infused the alcohol, I’ve read some posts about how people keep the shriveled plums for another batch or to cook with but I decided to toss them. There really wasn’t any flesh left on mine and I couldn’t really see the point in keeping wrinkly plum pits.
It’s a stunning garnet color and quite delicious. I ended up making 3 jars with vodka and 1 with gin to see if there was a flavor difference.
A bottle is heading over to Jenny while I might just hoard the rest for myself.