Sunday, July 31, 2011

Perhaps the Easiest Socks Ever

I finally finished up the socks I started while on holiday.  I've been wearing them around..... trying to decide what I think of them.  I think I will knit another pair...the pattern was very, very easy....the perfect nearly mindless knitting for traveling.  Next time though, I will use a smaller needle as these feel a little looser than I'd like.  Knit with Berroco Vintage in Colour Way 5192 'Chana Dal' with 4.5mm dpns, and pattern from Ann Budd from the2009  Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts Magazine.  
If you only buy one issue of Interweave Knits during the course of a year....the Holiday Gifts Issue is The One To Buy!  The recommended yarn for the project was Louet Gems Worsted which I was not interested in as it had no nylon content.  Who wants a pair of hand knit socks that aren't going to last.   And if you are gifting them....chance are not good that the receiver will be interested in darning them if they get a hole in them.  One skein of Berroco Vintage made with only inches of yarn left to spare.
This is really a great pattern for the first time sock knitter.  It knits up quickly, is a fairly easy pattern and they have a bit more interest than a very basic plain knit sock.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Frasier- Too much cake for Two

This month, the baker's challenge took me longer than I'd's always such a chore to begin....with so much going on around the house.  We it is.......It's a good one I think!
Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.
I chose to keep it simple and stick with the classic vanilla cake and strawberry fruit filling.  They are in season here and easy to come by.....and cheap right now.....let's not forget cheap.  Sadly for me I could not find marzipan in any of the grocery stores here......seems to be a seasonal I have seen it I found a recipe off the internet and gave it a go.  I decorated minimally to cover my less than perfect cake.....Did the chocolate squiggles avert your attention from the less than perfect details??
With DH away and 3 of our nearest neighbours all gone on holiday.........the remainder found a new home with some friends of Ike.
Basic Chiffon Cake:

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3 gm) lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar
  1. Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).
  2. Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
  4. In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.
  5. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
  6. Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
  7. Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  10. To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

Pastry Cream Filling:

Gluten Free! Vegans see the links at the end!
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon (1/2 ml) (¼ gm) salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (10 gm)cornstarch
1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz/30 gm) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (4 gm) gelatin
1/2 tablespoon (7½ ml) water
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream
  1. Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine
  3. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
  4. When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.
  6. Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
  7. Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
  8. Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.
  9. In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
  10. Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
  11. Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
  12. Heat the cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
  13. In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.

Simple Syrup:

gluten free and vegan!
You may choose to flavor the syrup. One way is to use flavored sugar (for example: apple cider sugar, orange sugar, or vanilla sugar) or to stir in 1-2 teaspoons of flavored extract. You may also infuse with herbs or spices, if desired or add four tablespoons (60 ml) of fruit juice or liqueur while the syrup is cooling.
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75 gm) of sugar, flavored or white
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) of water
  1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
  3. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.
  4. Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.

Fraisier Assembly:

1 baked 8 inch (20 cm) chiffon cake
1 recipe pastry cream filling
⅓ cup (80 ml) simple syrup or flavored syrup
2 lbs (900 g) strawberries
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm) almond paste
  1. Line the sides of a 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
  2. Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
  3. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
  4. Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
  5. Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
  6. Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of the pastry cream.
  7. Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
  8. Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners' sugar and roll out the almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  10. To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
  11. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Monday, July 25, 2011

That's what it's all about!....Hokey Pokey Biscuits

This biscuit recipe from the Edmonds Cookery Book has been on my mind for sometime now and I finally gave it a go.  The method of melting the butter rather than creaming softened butter with sugar is a little unusual for me.  I did have to let the mixture cool down quite a bit before adding my chocolate chips so they would not instantly melt into the dough.  I was quite happy with the end result and sent them off to daycare with Ike to share with his friends there.  The tin returned they are kid approved.  The only modification to the original recipe was in allowing the dough to cool completely, and the addition of the chocolate chips of course.  The traditional recipe contains no chocolate chips.  I will most definitely be making them again.......and perhaps again so I can try them without the chocolate chips.  Try just might like them too!
Chocolate Chip Hokey Pokey Biscuits
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp golden syrup (cane syrup rather than corn syrup if you can find it)
1 Tbsp milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Combine butter, sugar, syrup and milk in a saucepan.  Heat until butter is melted and mixture is nearly boiling, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm.  Sift flour and baking soda together.  Add to the cooled mixture.  Stir well.  Cool dough completely before adding in chocolate chips if adding them.  Roll tablespoonsful of dough into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets.  Flatten the balls of dough slightly with a floured fork.  Bake 350F until golden, 8-10 minutes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Beach Knitting, Fires and Slugs

I always like to have a small project to take along to work on while we travel.  This annoys DH to no end.  He likes me to watch the scenery as he drives.  Quite honestly he is in for entirely less bitching if I am not quite so focused on his driving prowess.  Between you and me.....his eye tends to wander....and so does the car........and I have seen a lot of trees in my day....lots!
I actually finished off another pair of fetching fingerless gloves in a pretty terracotta using Debbie Bliss Cashmerino on the trip, but gave them away before I had a chance to take a photo of them.  The yarn was just perfect for them, so I may order some more of it:)  Next I started on a worsted weight sock pattern.  I had some time to after walking the beach and watching the sea lions play a bit.....I started on the socks.  They promised to be quick and easy.......and they have been so far.....hopefully I don't wait three years to complete them. 
Ike and Matt had their own fun on the beach.  They lit their own fire for us to have supper around, and decided to try some roasted seaweed.  Apparently it is salty, but tasty.  I am taking their word on this one.
We took some nice hikes and saw lots of neat creatures.........and some of the biggest slugs ever!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Little Stitching

We are back.....just in case you noticed....we were gone!  We had a 2 week road trip down to and around Vancouver Island.......and we just pulled the camper van back into the driveway last night.  We saw and did many things and had a great time (aside from my cold....but I'm such a trooper....I forged onward regardless)....but a post on all of that is yet to come as we encountered a slight issue with photos requiring a bit of salvaging as many were inadvertently deleted.....oops.  (I wasn't by me, this time.....thank goodness)  But more on that later. 
One of the things I noticed about Vancouver Island is the alarming number of thrift shops and also antique shops if you are feeling a little more spendy.  I did manage to make one purchase in the thrift shops, and one in an antique store as well.  Being limited on space in the camper van....I limited myself to fewer purchases than I might have otherwise made.  The towel pictured above was a great thrift store find I made locally some time ago and found the perfect use for in an embroidered tea towel swap before leaving on my trip.  In retrospect, I might have chosen a brighter pink for the pink flowers........oh well too late now...........and the lady who received it is more than capable for fixing that if it is bothersome.   Now, I have three more of these towels in the cupboard waiting for a bit of embellishment.........I wonder what I should try next? 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Have You Tried Rhubarb Lemonade??

While hunting for great rhubarb recipes, I found a few references to Rhubarb Lemonade.  I chose to make a 1/2 batch of a recipe from All  Your really can taste the rhubarb........and I have really liked it.  The recipe makes a syrup which you mix off with water in a ratio of 1 part syrup and 3 parts water.  If you like the tart taste of rhubarb, you might really like this too!  It's pretty, pink, tart, and sweet.........certainly worth a try if you have rhubarb needing to be used up.  You could even bottle the syrup in a canner for longer storage.  We shall see how the rhubarb crop looks in a few weeks......I may need to make some for a winter time treat.
Rhubarb Lemonade
8 cups chopped rhubarb
3 cups sugar
3 Tbsp grated lemon peel
1 1/2 cups lemon juice

Put rhubarb, sugar and lemon peel into a large pot over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until all of the sugar has dissolved.  Strain to collect the juice, pressing the pulp to get as much syrup out of it as you can.  You can discard the pulp or use it like a preserve on toast if you like.  Add the lemon juice to the syrup and store in the fridge until needed.  Keeps two weeks in the fridge.  To serve, mix 1 part syrup with about 3 parts water or to taste.  It would also be nice mixed off with club soda instead of water.