Saturday, October 31, 2009


I was making apple dumplings today and wearing an apron I made.  I've seen some pretty darn cute aprons out there in shops lately.   In my mother's kitchen, aprons were just taken for granted.  They weren't cute--they were utilitarian.  Before we started cooking, the aprons went on.  They were old, faded, thin in places, but really soft and so useful. My mother would start cleaning some chicken and send me to the garden for whatever veggies were ready, for some dill or parsley and, perhaps some cucumbers.  I ran out and just gathered up my apron and started filling it.  Back inside, I'd sit down with some peas to shell.  My apron would be a protective towel over my lap while I shelled peas into a bowl on my lap.  When I was finished, I shook out the debris off my apron into the compost container.  After I rinsed the peas, I might just quick-dry my hands on it. An apron served as an always-handy little towel.   We used the pockets to carry all kinds of things around the kitchen or outside--some clothespins to hang out laundry--a couple things on the table that should be put away upstairs, etc.  I still take aprons seriously.  I like a full-size apron that fits smoothly and has a bib for serious baking because it holds my clothes out of the way when I'm rolling out dough and working around the oven.  For cooking I like a gathered half-apron with pockets for all the handy uses I mentioned above.  The design of the one here is a particular favorite of mine for all-around use.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

BBA Challenge Goes To School

Add bleu cheese to the picture and what do they have in common?  All three belong to the Kingdom Fungi.  In my science classroom we are about to dissect mushrooms, make spore prints and explore the fascinating world of yeast.  I'm going to share with my students what I've learned from the BBA Challenge--that wild yeasts are all around us and we can use them to make some delicious bread. We're going to capture some using Reinhart's recipe in his newly released book, artisan breads every day.  We'll mix some bread flour and pineapple juice and stir and watch until it is active and bubbly. I'll bring it home and bake sourdough bread for the students to sample.  I just received my copy of this bread book and am anxious for Friday night to curl up with my tea and my new book to select the bread for my class.
This weekend is time for our next bread, also, for our challenge.  Karen is planning to make the Rich Man's Brioche and I'm making the Middle-Class Brioche so we can compare the two.  I'll let you know Monday what our vote is.  Reinhart offers to send his readers an autographed bookplate to place in his new book if you send him an sase--check his blog.  Mine came today!  Just in time for my new book!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

BBA Challenge and Bagels

I had trouble with this challenge.  Karen made the same ones but hers turned out perfectly.  The only differences we could come up with in our handling of the dough was that I didn't have oil spray, so I brushed my dough with oil before the final rise.  She lightly sprayed hers as the recipe instructed.  When we put the bagels into the water, I added the baking soda and she didn't.  Hers puffed right up as she put them into the boiling water.  Mine stayed flat.  In the oven mine stayed flat and just wouldn't brown.  I kept them in longer hoping for some browning.  It never happened on top, although the bottoms did darken, as you can see on the picture.  As a result, my bagels are tough from overbaking and somewhat denser as they didn't rise well.  The taste is very good.  I think my problem was too much oil before the final rise???  The baking soda in the water shouldn't have affected the rise, should it???  I'll try these again--but I'll have to get some oil spray first.

This is my day of bad beginnings.  I discovered my socks were just too small.  I checked my gauge--a little late, don't you think?  It was quite a bit off.  So these are my socks now.   They were prettier yesterday.  I guess I'll check the gauge with size 3 needles--blagh. 

My daughter drove to State College, PA, last night with some friends.  It's the middle of October.  Did you hear what they had in State College?? SNOW! 

I felt a little better after a bowl of warming potato soup and a soothing dessert of rice pudding.  Tomorrow I'll make a whole pot of tea and start on my socks again.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Socks and Pumpernickel Bread

I've started my fall socks.  I'm racing
with autumn now.  I have to get this pair completed before my fall flowers stop blooming.  Lucky for me these flowers bloom until really late in the fall.  This yarn is made in Germany, Schoppel wolle, Zauberball and is 75% virgin wool and 25% nylon.  It is fingering weight and I'm using size 2 needles.


We're not due to make another Reinhart bread until next weekend, but I was making pork and sauerkraut for dinner today and really wanted some rye bread.  I took out some of my frozen barm, let it thaw and added some pumpernickel flour and water.  Instructions said to let it sit out about 4 hours and then refrigerate overnight.  I let it sit and sit and it didn't bubble up and ferment like I expected, so I let it sit out until evening.  Then I looked in the book again and noticed that I should have taken it out three days before I needed it if it had been in the freezer.  I went ahead with the recipe anyway.  It had started to bubble and had increased in size somewhat.  I also decided to use loaf pans today since that was easier and I had family over for the day.  The only loaf pans I have are larger than the ones needed.  The result was that the bread is still really really good, but it isn't as tall as it might be if I had the smaller loaf pans.  I'll make it again with Karen when its turn comes for our BBA challenge--next time I'll take the barm out sooner and I'll make the sour dough version and put the loaves directly on parchment paper and my baking stone instead of loaf pans.

Friday, October 9, 2009

How Many Days Until Christmas??

Is it too early to start Christmas??  Not that I don't love all of fall and Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie--'cause I sure do!  But I'm thinking about my mother's Spitzbuben christmas cookies today.  I'm going to try to reproduce them this Christmas.  I've checked out a couple recipes but one uses ground almonds, which she never used in her baking, and the other uses confectioner's sugar, which I'm sure she didn't use in those cookies.  So I'll be searching for Spitzbuben's like Mama's.  I used to bake bushels of Christmas cookies many years ago just for us because it was Christmas and we had to have lots and lots of cookies.  I don't make as many now but I want them to be special and festive--not a cookie you can have everyday.  Gingerbread  is one of my favorites and can be baked ahead of time and frozen or just stored in sealed tins.  I'm not starting quite yet, but this year I plan to begin trying new recipes right after Halloween before the serious Christmas preparations begin.  Of course, Reinhart's Panettone and Stollen will be part of our holidays this year.  I'll share the recipes I like here.

                                      Gingerbread Cookies

1/3 cup shortening
1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1-1/2 cups mild flavored molasses (you can use dark if you like)
2/3 cup cold water
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix shortening and sugar well.  Blend in the molasses.  Stir in water.  Mix the dry ingredients and add them to the mixture.  Chill the dough for at least an hour--overnight if you like.
Heat oven to 350 deg.  Roll out dough on floured board.  This is a sticky dough so keep flour on the board and rolling pin.  Cut out with cookie cutters and place on lightly greased cookie sheet.  They will spread some--don't put them too close together.  Bake 10-12 min or until there is almost no imprint when you touch them lightly.  Don't overbake or they will become hard.  Ice cooled cookies.  These keep well if frozen or stored in an airtight cookie tin.  The flavor and texture improve in a day or two.

Icing for cookies:

1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 Tbsp. cream

Blend all ingredients.  If too thin, add more sugar.  If too thick, add more cream.  Decorate cookies with an icing bag or cookie decorator.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I finished another pair of baby booties.  I love the little purled ridges around the bottom of this pattern.  I changed the proportions of the original pattern to make them a little less boxy than the first one I tried. 
I have an adult pair of socks on my needles now.  I'm using some of the yarn I bought in Baltimore.  If you check my previous blog, it's the multicolored yarn at the front.  They should look good running through the autumn leaves while we're waiting for Christmas, don't you think??

Sunday, October 4, 2009

BBA Challenge Greek Celebration Bread

Bread 2 in our BBA Challenge turned out beautifully.  I opted to add the glaze and felt it added the sweetness that enhanced the bread just enough.  The glaze is a bit sticky, however, if that bothers anyone.  The bread itself has a good mildly spicy flavor from all the flavorings added and an excellent moist texture.  I added equal amounts of light and dark raisins, dried sour cherries and walnuts.  The bit of tang from the cherries and golden raisins was sooo good and balanced by the sweeter dark raisins and the honey glaze.  I had some organic sesame seeds that tasted somewhat raw to me so I toasted those for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven before I sprinkled them on top.
I am considering making this bread for my little grandson's baptism as it is a Celebration Bread.

The barm was the starter I chose for this bread.  It was an interesting process.  If anyone saw the old movie, "The Blob," this seemed to fit.  I found, twice, that I apparently had a very healthy, perhaps somewhat aggressive, starter here.  The first time I misjudged the size of the container I would need and it crawled out from under the plastic wrap and ended up coming down the side onto the counter.  The second time I had refreshed it and let it sit out to ferment--planning to refrigerate it about 4 hours later.  I fell asleep watching "Top Chef" and woke up to go to bed.  Barm sat on the counter all night.  The next day it was out of its jar, on the counter and onto the floor!  It's still fine and I have now tucked the remaining barm into my freezer to slow its growth until I need it again.  Karen's barm has not risen so aggressively--we can't figure out the difference.  I did have some wild grapes in my kitchen a couple days so I wonder if some wild yeasts from the grapes could have affected my barm.  Anyone know??