February’s personal bread challenge was a pretty open one, Jenny and I both decided we wanted something simple because of our schedules so we settled on pizza.

I’ve made thin crust pizzas before but never attempted a deep dish style so after getting confirmation that others would eat one I picked out the King Arthur Flour Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza recipe. Since I don’t own a large deep dish pizza pan a 12″ cake pan worked as a substitute plus I had enough dough leftover for a small 6″ mini pizza.

The addition of cornmeal to the crust added a great crunch to the dough without having to bake the pizza forever plus the combination of olive oil and butter gave the crust a nice flavor.

Of course no deep dish pizza would be complete without toppings. I loaded mine up with pepperoni, sweet italian sausage, onions, mushrooms and lots and lots of mozzarella. Lots of mozzarella.

I may blog while I’m gone but I make no guarentees. Flickr and Twitter should be updated regularly. Be back in a week.

If you hear that London ran out of Cadburys and Strongbow you know who to blame.

Tiramisu.

Let me just say I love tiramisu. It isn’t a dessert I have often (and make even more infrequently) but when you find a good version it’s divine. I think the last time I made ladyfingers might have been shortly after leaving pastry school so it’s been a while but by themselves those delicate cookies are wonderful. They just usually aren’t my first choice for easy cookie baking.

My initial thoughts when finding out that February’s challenge was tiramisu from scratch, as in your own ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese was to play with the flavors a bit. I still have a tub of passionfruit puree in the freezer I need to make good use of. However by the time it came to bake this month I was craving the traditional coffee and cocoa version.

I started off with the zabaglione but used the fresh brewed coffee variation since I was apparently out of both marsala and port. A few drops of lemon oil worked as a great replacement for fresh lemon zest (yet another thing I was lacking). I swear I did actually plan on having everything but the baking day came a lot faster than I expected this month. The recipe says the sauce will thicken to a custard which is a deceiving description. Zabaglione is more like a thick cooked foamy sauce and I consider a custard a much smoother and certainly not an airy mixture. It was easy to make though and added a wonderful flavor to the finished filling.

Next up was the “pastry cream” which was not pastry cream. Yet another easy to make sauce but it’s a creme anglaise not a pastry cream. I got a call one night from Jenny asking if mine did the same thing hers did. We both had expected a thick custard, an almost pudding like texture which is what pastry cream should be. This was a delicious yet runny custard sauce. It is also a runny custard sauce I forgot to take a picture of.

The only part of my dessert that didn’t use the challenge recipe was the mascarpone cheese. I had just taken a feta cheese class and had a recipe for mascarpone that the instructor provided so I wanted to try hers out. My yield was much bigger so now I have extras for a cheesecake later on but I did add more cheese to the filling than called for. I felt that 1/3 of a cup of mascarpone in 3-4 cups of filling was just too low of a proportion so I think I added almost a cup.

The ladyfingers I made exactly according to the recipe given in the challenge for a couple reasons. For one thing I figured the proportions would be right for the amount of filling I had but also this recipe was assembled opposite from what I learned in school. I was taught to whip the egg yolks with the sugar till thick, fold in the beaten egg whites and flour.  The challenge recipe whipped the whites with the sugar, folded the barely beaten yolks in and then the flour. I was curious to know if what I think is a more foolproof technique would achieve the same results.

Aren’t they pretty? I did make one small change with how I baked these. The recipe says to dust with powdered sugar and pick up the parchment before baking to shake off the excess. I couldn’t be bothered to do that and the 2T of powdered sugar I ‘wasted’ was worth not having to pick up a filmsy piece of paper with soft wet cookies on it. I personally think the risk of damaging your cookies isn’t worth that small amount of sugar.

As for the difference in technique, I think the easier method of beating the whites with the sugar to form a very stable meringue is perfectly fine. Folding in regular beaten egg whites into the thick beaten yolks and sugar can be tricky if the textures aren’t ‘just right’ so this more stable method makes it much easier to achieve that light airy cookie texture.

What I loved about the challenge was the different skills required, the 2 sauces, the cheese and the ladyfingers all used different baking skills without any of them being too hard. Tiramisu is an impressive dessert that requires a little time and a light hand. What I didn’t like about this challenge was the specific recipes, the filling was delicious but far too runny, a true pastry cream might have held up better but even with more cheese to firm up the filling mine oozed everywhere even after an overnight chill. The amount of ladyfingers made was barely enough to make one dessert, now granted I used up more because I lined my square pan vertically first but I was 1 ladyfinger short of having full layers in my tiramisu because I ate one as a tester. I cut it that close and since the cookies were good I would have like the recipe to have made more.

It was delicious though, rich and creamy without being overwhelmingly sweet. The tang of the lemon oil and flavor of the coffee played really well in the filling and with some tweaks I can see myself making it again.

I’m going to be lazy and direct you to my friend Jenny’s blog. We both worked at the cafe and restaurant together and shared our love of the broa. She is also joining me on my new bread a month goal this year so each month we will trying our hands at a new type of bread..but not always the same recipe.

Recipe to be found here.

It makes 3 LARGE loaves and the full sheet pan mentioned is the size that fits in commercial ovens. I ended up halving the recipe and making 2 smaller loaves that fit diagonally on a ‘normal sized’ sheet pan. You can knock off about 5-10 minutes from the baking time depending if you make your loaves smaller.

I encourage you to try the bread and please let me know what you think.

I swear I made this bread in January even if I have taken weeks to blog about it. 🙂

I can’t recall if I ever mentioned the Portugese Broa recipe I love/adore/obsess about. It’s a recipe from my days as the bread baker and then asst pastry chef at a tapas restaurant in Seattle. (the bread baker job was at the shortlived sibling restaurant). The Broa was our made in house bread that we baked off daily. It’s hearty and versatile and it keeps fresh for longer than typical artisan style breads. For those of you unfamiliar with Broa it is a dense cornmeal bread, my recipe uses honey and olive oil which adds a fabulous flavor and excellent moisture retention.

When I left the restaurant back in 2004 I took with me several key recipes I wanted for my own personal use (the famous spiced chocolate dessert will have to wait for another post) but I promptly lost those precious papers before I could ever bake the first loaf. Those recipes remained lost until this year (yes I know…6 years…I hate cleaning ok) and the glee I felt when I worked my way through a stack of random paperwork only to unearth them was pretty juvenile. I think there was jumping involved.

I had found my January bread recipe. My goal for the year is to bake a new bread recipe each month and while technically this isn’t “new” I figure 6 years is long enough to call it close enough.

Check out that lovely golden crust. I used medium yellow cornmeal, cheap clover honey and SAF Instant Yeast.

What I love about the Broa is how versatile it is. It tastes great just sliced and buttered, it’s delicious toasted with a little butter and honey, hearty and filling when served with sardines and avocados. Best of all once it’s a little past its prime it works great in a bread pudding.

I like it best with bittersweet chocolate and cinnamon, served with a little creme fraiche or whipped cream.

Month 2 of my Daring Bakers Challenges.

Gluten Free Graham Crackers and Nainomo Bars.

I was initially excited about the idea of a GF challenge which then dissipated when I realized I didn’t really want to eat a GF graham cracker let alone make an entire dessert out of the stuff. I carried on however with the actual GF baking mostly so I could work with unfamiliar ingredients. The whole point of DB is the challenge right?

I followed the posted recipe exactly although my hunt for sorghum flour was almost the dealbreaker. The finished dough was very soft and sticky but the baked cookies were actually pretty good. I only nibbled on a small piece since I needed the rest for the Nainomo bars.

This is where I would insert a photo of the finished graham crackers but in my eagerness to move onto the next step of the challenge I kind of forgot to actually take a picture. Oops.

Now on the Nainomo Bars.

Immediately after looking over the posted recipe I decided I needed to make a major change (or two). I don’t like coconut. Or more specifically shredded coconut. I’m ok with coconut milk, essence etc. Just no shredded pieces please. Mixing the coconut with graham crackers, sugar, nuts and chocolate wasn’t going to make me hate it any less. So bye bye coconut. Hello rolled oats.

From there it was a slippery slope to more changes. I got excited over the ‘custard’ layer until I realized the Birds custard powder (which I always have in the cupboard because I grew up with the stuff and as far as I’m concerned it IS a staple) was merely a coloring and slight flavoring agent in the custard layer. That custard layer I was excited about is in essence just yellow icing. I began to wonder if maybe I should skip the challenge.

Instead I bring you a Nainomo “inspired” torte.

The crust was made according to the posted recipe with 2 substitutions… no coconut (used rolled oats) and pecans instead of almonds (that was what I had on hand). I also decided to grind everything together for a less chunky cookie base. The “custard” layer of yellow icing was replaced with a vanilla bean homemade custard and I used semi-sweet chocolate for the top.

Rich and seriously easy if you use store bought graham crackers.

Having never eaten an original Nainomo bar I can’t say if I’ve bastardized the original concept or simply paid homage to it with a dessert you can impress dinner guests with. Either way I kind of like what I did.

This year the goals will be a little different. In addition to knitting/spinning goals I’m also adding some baking goals as well.

Knitting:

1: Steeks. Doesn’t need to be a BIG project but I’ve been putting this challenge off for years and it’s time I face it.

2: Knit at least 1 sock yarn shawl. I have 78 skeins of sock yarn and it will take me YEARS to knit that all into socks.

3: Knit something out of one of my precious Wollmeise sock yarns. I’ve got 4 skeins that deserve to be knit up.

Spinning:

1: Spin my Fair Isle sweater yarn. This was started for Tour de Fleece 2009 but never made it past 12oz of singles. I still have 1.25lbs of grey left to spin plus about 12oz of white left to spin and ply up before I can call this project complete.

2: Spin a true laceweight yarn.

Baking:

1: Participate in all the Daring Bakers challenges.

2: Try at least 1 new bread recipe each month.

I think I’m going to have a busy year ahead of me.

Did I make it?

January 1st 2009: 233 skeins of yarn

October 1st 2009: peaked at 254 skeins

December 31st 2009……

185!!!!!

Oh hell yes I made it 🙂

The plan was to aim for a 20% reduction of my stash which would have brought me to 186.5 skeins. I managed to squeeze in just enough knitting at the end of the year to make it possible although without a little destashing in October/November I probably wouldn’t have made it. I managed to sell off a few projects worth of yarn that I just wasn’t going to put to good use.

The stash is still pretty substantial but it felt good to whittle it down just a bit this year. It made me really look at what I’ve bought over the years and where the ‘holes’ in my stash are. What I lack in heavier weight yarns or large project sized quantities I more than make up for in sheer volume of sock yarn. Holy crap I have a lot of sock yarn. 78 skeins of sock yarn to be exact.

Yes out of 185 skeins of yarn in stash, 78 of them are sock yarns. 42%. Ridiculous.

I finally did it after months of waffling. I signed up to join the Daring Bakers Challenge although due to my inability to follow clearly explained timelines I signed up a month earlier than I should have. Oops.

It all worked out though because when I found out what the December challenge was it fit in perfectly with a baking project that the Sis wanted to tackle.

Gingerbread House.

First off let me warn you I am not an architect and Dad refused to use his skills in this dept to help us out. I think he realized how poor my construction skills were going to be. My one and only previous attempt at a gingerbread house was back in college (many many years ago) and it was a log cabin. All the skill required was rolling gingerbread into logs to be stacked into a cabin-like shape.

I decided to go with a basic house design and hoped all would go well. The Sis and I spent way too much time checking out the bulk candy section analyzing each option for it’s gingerbread house potential.

Check out our peppermint candy fence.

The Sis carefully laid our chocolate brick walkway with ‘decorative’ chocolate rock landscaping.

I’m particularly happy with how the wafer roof shingles turned out. Each wafer was split in two and glued down with royal icing.

Our snowman attempts were not as successful as the house construction. 2 attempts were made  to shape snowmen out of the white cotton candy we found (they even had black peppercorn eyes and cinnamon stick arms) but sadly the fickle nature of cotton candy proved to be it’s downfall.

Both dissolved from the moisture in the Pac NW air. Attempt #1 looked like he was trying to limbo as he melted backwards while #2 just shrank overnight.

Each window was made with poured sugar. I wanted to see if I could get a windowpane effect so I shaped foil over a baking rack and lightly oiled it. The foil was then moved to a Silpat along with the house pieces and sugar was boiled to the hard crack stage before being poured into each opening. This is where the oil proved to be a poor decision as it clouded up each window so I lost the clear glass look I was hoping for.

Not all was lost though and if you check out one last photo you can see why I wanted so many windows.

Lights!

I cut a notch out of the back piece large enough for a Christmas light cord and when the house was assembled we laid our 35 strand of yellow lights inside. Once the house was assembled we plugged it in and got the full effect of the lights. In some ways the ‘frosted’ glass makes the lights look even better since you get the glow without seeing the individual bulbs.

Next year I’m going to start planning earlier but I definitely see another gingerbread house in my baking future.

Oh what a month can do to change your stash stats. I managed to destash a sweater’s worth of Malabrigo in November, it was a color I liked but I knew deep down that I wasn’t going to knit a sweater out of that yarn. Mal might be a wonderful yarn but I have an aversion to using sweater stones on my knits. I have one and I know they work well so ultimately it comes down to laziness. I’m just too lazy to knit a sweater that will require frequent shaves in order to look presentable half the time and a soft single ply yarn is just not known for it’s durability.

Dec 1st details.

Miles: 27.1

lbs: 31.9

Skeins: 206

The numbers would be more impressive if I hadn’t succumbed to the Black Friday sale of Sugar n Cream. I managed to pick up 5 balls despite the store being out of stock of the color I really wanted ($1.43 per super sized skein..how could I resist).

There has been a flurry of holiday knitting going on lately. The mittens for the sister are sadly waiting to be frogged, the pattern is lovely, the yarn is great, the two just didn’t want to work together.

Rather than giving up on the knitted gift idea for Sarah I decided to finally cast on for the RLS hat that I planned to knit for her when the pattern first came out. As soon as I bought the yarn and finished mine she announced the plan to move to LA where of course there is little need for a fair isle knit hat so the yarn went back into the box and there it stayed until a few weeks ago.

I had knit mine to gauge and it turned out too big for my head so this time I went down 2 needle sizes and cast on. All was going well until I got about 3/4 of the way through the hat. I weighed my remaining yarn to confirm my suspicions and yes I was going to run out of the main color.

A quick check of Ravelry only gave me one person with that dyelot in their stash but she was in Amsterdam and hadn’t been active for months. Another search led me to another Raveler who had a partial skein of Chestnut leftover from a project that was made around the time I bought the yarn. Keep in mind I bought this yarn in late 2006/early 2007. I figured a dyelot match was impossible but maybe I could get close. A few emails later and the yarn was on it’s way to me. Same freaking dyelot!!!!

While I waited for the emergency yarn to arrive I mulled over the other Christmas knitting and settled on a hot water bottle cover. I had 4 skeins of Imagination in the stash in Frog Prince and Wicked Witch that I bought when it first came out. I think my plan was to make scarves since it was way too soft and loosely spun to be a good sock yarn. I wanted the cozy to be thicker and more importantly a  fast knit so I wound off all 4 skeins into 1 cake of each color. I followed the free Blue Sky Alpaca pattern on Ravelry and I was off.

Doesn’t look half bad. The two colorways both had the same froggy/witchy green and once the yarns were doublestranded the handpainted effect was really broken up. The checkerboard patterning is almost too subtle to see but all in all I really like how it turned out. I have enough yarn leftover to make one for myself and conveniently I also have a nekkid hot water bottle. Mine will likely be stripes.

I’m now this >< close to finishing the RLS hat since that arrived today, the second sock for Mom’s Christmas socks is now cast on, the yarn for some robot mittens is ready as well. My Christmas knitting list suddenly looks manageable.

Oh and I do have something very special to show you. Well technically two things.

I kind of went shopping on Black Friday (first time ever).

Picked up a giant 1kg bar of Cadburys…not the crap Hersheys makes and distributes under the Cadburys name but the real deal. I’m in heaven.

Oh and I picked up a shiny new laptop. I call it Serenity. Yes I realize that makes me one hell of a Firefly geek.

Flickr Photos

blackwork sampler

More Photos

Dragonfibers

On the needles

February Fitted Pullover

Sapphire Waves of Grain

On the Bedside Table

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (ok not really since I can't find the book anymore)

on the wheel

Absolutely Nothing.

Stashdown 2009

January 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins of Yarn: 233 Total Weight:33.13lbs Total Miles: 27

February 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins of Yarn: 213 Total Weight:30.09lbs Total Miles: 26

March 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins of Yarn: 218 Total Weight:31.95lbs Total Miles: 27

April 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins of Yarn: 217 Total Weight:31.45lbs Total Miles: 26.5

May 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 229 Total Weight: 33.8 Total Miles: 28.4

June 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 210 Total Weight: 31.9 Total Miles: 27.7

July 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 201 Total Weight: 30.5 Total Miles: 26.5

August 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 228 Total Weight: 34.0 Total Miles: 28.8

October 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 254 Total Weight: 38.2 Total Miles: 31.8

November1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 224 Total Weight: 34.9 Total Miles: 29.9

December 1st 2009

Balls/Skeins: 206 Total Weight: 31.9 Total Miles: 27.1

KAL

World Bread Day '07

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