Monthly Archives

March 2013

Family Kitty {this moment}

{this moment}

29/03/2013

Raiding Grandma's loft

Joining in with {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.
To see more, check out the comments to Soulemama.

Baking Cooking

In which a baguette is not a Baguette

20/03/2013
Well after eight different loaves and ten bagels that all disappeared at speed, some sort of culinary disaster was inevitable.  The ninth?  Crashed and burned.
Well not literally burned, it hasn’t got to that stage quite yet.  But whilst this is a loaf of bread, and even in a vaguely baguette-esque shape, it is most emphatically not a Baguette.

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The taste was almost there; shades of a sunny French morning on H and my first wedding anniversary, sat people watching at a café in the shade of the Arc du Triomphe passed fleetingly across the taste buds before disappearing into the anonymity of plain white bread. 
 
The texture on the other hand was all wrong.  It just lacked that scrunch in the crust and the fluffy lightness of the interior that you expect from a baguette.  To the extent that this is due to the shape, I’m doomed, this is the longest a loaf of bread can be and still fit into my oven, even on the diagonal, so it will always be more short and squat than long and elegant.

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But I have a plan.  A real plan, not the plan to bin the bread, hide the book at the back of the recipe shelf and deny all knowledge that this family has ever allowed anything more exotic than an orange Warburton’s to grace our table, which I will neither confirm nor deny was the first thing that came to mind.
 
Plan number 1 is all to do with timing.  The recipe requires an overnight sponge (yeasty batter), which you turn into the dough early next morning, so that your petit mignon awake to fresh bread to go with their hot chocolate, bien sur (please note that in this particular fantasy they are both dressed like extras from Madeline with perfectly brushed hair and no sign of the rather fabulous bed head that Kitty develops overnight).
 
The potential issue is really what constitutes ‘overnight’.  Do you make the sponge at 9pm to use at 6am? Or earlier, later or somewhere in the middle?  I mean really, what is it with cookery book writers and their lack of specificity? Don’t they know that one day a Mama and occasional lawyer, with more than a touch of the control freak about her will stand in her kitchen with flour smears across her pinny, demanding answers from an inanimate book?  Clearly, these books need a defined terms section at the front, with capital letters and the judicious use of bold.  Or not.  
 
I made the sponge for this loaf at 3pm, and left it until about 9am the next morning.  At 8pm the yeast had risen and fallen which in any other dough I would consider strong evidence of overproving and start baking.  So it’s time to trust my intuition and bake.  Version 2 will get a sponge after Kitty has gone to bed, and a dough straight after breakfast. Depending on how sleepy/hungry she is, that’s about a 12 hour prove which I hope would get me more of the light and fluffy interior I’m looking for.
 
Plan 2 is the heat.  I’m going to turn the oven up at bit and check it with the oven thermometer before we bake.  Plain and simple.
 
And plan 3?  It’s time to go miniature.  I might not be able to make my oven longer, but I could perhaps make a couple of mini baguettes to get the proportion correct and see if that helps.
 
And if all that fails, denial and Warburtons it is.
Christmas Family Finished Knitting

Worth waiting for

19/03/2013
At approximately 7.57pm on Thursday night, in an occasion of great moment, I delivered what I am counting as the last of my Christmas knitting.  It’s not actually actually the very last bit of Christmas knitting because there’s still a ball of yarn in my car’s glove box that’s very slowly turning into a pair of socks for H.  Technically they will be H’s second pair of socks but as I’ve finished his hat and his first pair of socks, the second can be allowed to be Easter bunny presents instead. Or maybe birthday. Or Christmas.  It’s all a little dependant on two girls falling asleep at the same time while I’m not actively involved in driving the car, and yes that happens just as often as you might think.
I digress.  The gift in question was for my mother in law; whose appreciation for a good pair of warm hand knit socks is well documented, usually because they need new heels, and who is always happy to add to her collection.

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It might not have been my best ever plan to choose the weeks just after Elma’s arrival to be knitting in pattern, rather than plain and stripy, and it’s just possible that a good case of the newborn baby pink haze addled my brain to the extent that I needed to have the pattern open in front of me at all times, all of which probably slowed down production. 
But then, if speed was the primary consideration, I wouldn’t knit socks, at least, not in 4ply sock yarn on tiny, if rather gorgeous and very purple 2.5mm needles. I’d take up weaving, knit socks out of bulky yarn on broom handles, or even better, I believe there are magical places called “shops” where you can buy socks ready made, even in multipacks.
I know some people try to practice mindful knitting; thinking of the recipient or the zen of the process with each knit or purl and I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever successfully managed that, my thoughts run a little more like;
“…did I take the mince out of the freezer? …. is that Elma waking up? …. where did I stash the sock blockers? …. this is pretty… oooh, Pointless is on?… Military Wives choir, bet they went platinum, I’ll have that as my answer…. oh yes, nil point… now where was I on this row?”
I’m giving my time.  Time in choosing the perfect pattern and a yarn to show it off that won’t fall apart on the first wearing, and then hours of carefully knitting each little heather stitch, and more time than I’d have liked going back and reknitting a few bits where the pattern got away from me.  And if I just happen to rather enjoy the process, that’s what you might call a win-win situation.
For those whose interest in knitting only extends as far as the fluffy socks currently warming their feet (Hi Dad), this is the boring techy bit.  For anyone else who’s as enamoured of knitting and socks as I am; read on dear friend, read on.

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The pattern is Pointelle from Cookie A’s Knit. Sock. Love. and the yarn I think is an Opal; I found it in the stash sans ball band so I’m guessing by the feel.
They really aren’t as complicated a pattern as I made them (I’m blaming baby brain for that regardless of whether or not scientists currently believe in its existence), and they are beautiful.

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I love the curve of the diagonals as they wrap around your feet, and my little befuddled brain bows in awe at a mind that can visualise that kind of design and then make it so.  I’m seriously tempted to break out some handspun for a pair for myself.

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But these are for my mother in law, or at least I think they are.  I certainly gave them to Grandma but when Kitty was sat in my lap helping me edit these photos and I asked if she remembered my knitting them she confidently pointed a Crayola stained forefinger to the left foot,

“Dat Grandma sock….

… and dat [the right foot]  – Granda sock!”

Clearly she knows something I don’t.

Baking Cooking Kitty

Bagel Baking

14/03/2013
I feel a touch of the Arthur Ransome coming upon me.  When Nancy Blackett is struck down by mumps, thereby allowing almost all of the events of Winter Holiday to take place because of her absence, Ransome courteously declines to draw the fearless Amazon pirate in her state of quarantine and falls back on little circles containing a worded explanation instead.
I shall follow suit, and so I’m falling back on some pictures from early last week, or as we like to call it ‘PP’ (Pre-Pox).
Tired of serving up pepperoni pizza ‘cake’ to her teddies/mother/baby sister yet again, Kitty decided that we ought to do some real cooking, and as I’m still reeling from the epic failure of my attempt at a baguette (more on which another time), Mr Hollywood’s tome stayed firmly shut and we turned instead to someone whose recipes have always proved delicious, and who, more importantly, has road tested them in the presence/with the assistance of her children; the ever so talented Kat of Housewife Confidential and the instructions for Quick Bagels: Milla Style.
On a side note, if a Mama of many has made something and recommends it, you know it can be cooked with one hand, while simultaneously wiping superfluous milk from the baby’s chin and rescuing the butter from the eager attentions of the toddler, and therefore is worth its weight in gold.

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Kat’s recipe for plain or seedy bagels is delicious, and my first ever batch were nice, plain and simple, and disappeared at speed.  But you know I can’t resist playing with a good thing.  Our favourite bagels are cinnamon raisin so I thought we’d try a little tweak.

To whit, the additional ingredients: 

  • 100g of raisins (because that’s all I had in the cupboard), popped into a cereal bowl and covered with boiling water while the yeast and warm water frothed away in the mixing bowl.
  • 2 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon.

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I added the cinnamon to the flour as it sat in the scales and Kitty gave it a quick stir around with her fingers to mix it all together.  Then at step 3 of the original recipe, after I’d added about half the flour/cinnamon mix, I strained the raisins and added them to the dough, before tipping in the rest of the flour.

It comes together just like an ordinary dough, although occasionally the raisins will splat on the worksurface a bit, especially if your kneading technique involves the use of your entire forearm.

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As with, well, just about every bread dough or cake mix I make, the biggest challenge of this mixture was to survive the pillaging raids of the members of a certain tiny right hand which has not yet learned that dough tastes better baked.  I understand that an appreciation of delayed gratification comes later on the developmental charty type things than nearly two and a half, so it’s no surprise that Kit’s bagels always end up slightly smaller than mine.

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We’ve taken to shaping them by rolling the dough into 10 balls, stabbing them with a finger and then whirling that hand around a few times to stretch the hole.  The result is gloriously misshapen and defiantly homemade, just as it should be.

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And when they come out of the oven, golden brown and deeply fragrant, well you can see why it’s a minor miracle that seven of the original ten survived long enough to pose for a photo.

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As far as our tweaks went, if you like your bagels really cinnamony you could easily up the cinnamon to 3 tsp without it being overpowering.  I’m not sure I’d add any more than 100g of raisins (or other dried fruit) though as the addition does make the dough heavier and you do need it to rise, and have room for some bagel between the crust and the raisins.

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Ours have been eaten fresh out of the oven, chewy and warm a few hours later, and toasted with oodles of butter for breakfast, and one thing is certain; they don’t last long.