Thursday, April 14, 2011

I just realised

...I've been putting off (for months!!) writing an email to my very good friend in Canberra because I am too embarrassed about being a stay at home mum. Too embarrassed about not having a 'real job' to tell her about. Too afraid of being boring because all I want to do is rave on about how awesome Pippin is (which is HUGELY AWESOME by the way).

Whoa. What is that all about?

I am going to write her an email about my TERRIFIC and PRODUCTIVE and ENJOYABLE life of baking, crocheting, homemaking, gardening and Pippin-wrangling right now.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stuff I love: kitchen edition

In the spirit of celebrating what I already possess, rather than lusting after things that I want, here are three kitchen items that I totally adore and cannot live without:

My slow cooker. A gift from my parents a few years ago, it has come into its own since I have had Pippin. Seriously, there is no easier way to get dinner on the table. Also since I bought a kindle copy of Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cook Book my confidence in using it has greatly increased and I am much more adventurous.

This bread tin. An op shop find, it is simply the best tin ever. Nothing sticks to it; it makes an ideal loaf size-wise, shape-wise and burnished crust-wise. I don't know what it's made of but it is worth its weight in gold to me (and it only cost me about $4 or so).

Nigella's book How to Be a Domestic Goddess. We are serious Nigella fans here with all her cookbooks in pride of place on our already well-stocked shelves and HTBADG is my favourite baking book; I come back to it again and again.

What kitchen stuff do you love? Do share!



Friday, March 25, 2011

Things I know

Having my non-computer literate mum tell me to google something is hilarious.

If I had had any idea of the sheer volume of liquid poo that Pippin could produce I would have stuck with disposable nappies, damn it.

Crochet is the crack cocaine of the craft world. I am so addicted, I'm hooking it even as I write this post.

It is sheer bliss to not have the house surrounded by scaffolding, even though the renovations are still not quite finished.

Some days it is just absolutely necessary to make fairy cakes with pink icing and cherries on top.

Joining in with Shae for the week - see what other people know here!



Sunday, March 20, 2011

The green earth, say you?

...that is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day.

- Aragorn to Eomer of Rohan (JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sensationally Tasty No-Knead Sourdough Bread: a tutorial

I've been trying, over the last few weeks, to find a satisfying compromise that marries the deliciousness of sourdough with the convenience of not having to knead said damn dough. Because, when I need to fit in bread baking two to three times a week, it is just easier if I can spend two lots of ten minutes on it, rather than trying to get the timing right for mixing, letting it rest, kneading, rising, shaping, rising, baking.

(The eating part is not complicated, though.)

So, following round after round of extremely tasty semi-scientific experimentation, I feel confident in presenting you with a tutorial for no-knead sourdough bread that has a delicious chewy crust as well as fabulous tangy flavour.

And - it's easy. Feel free to follow along with my simple step by step instructions. I make baking fun!*

You will need:
150g ready to use sourdough starter
750g flour - one kind or a mixture (eg 500g bread flour, 250g wholemeal)
10g fine salt
500ml water
More flour (added after first rise)
22cm x 13 cm (9 in x 5 in) loaf tin, greased

Before we start: some notes about ingredients
I only have one sourdough starter, which is a rye one made using 1 part rye flour to 1.5 parts water. Based on my experience, though, you should be able to substitute an equal quantity of any other kind of sourdough starter if you don't have rye to hand.

I normally use about 40-50% bread flour, because it gives good lift and helps to support the heavier wholemeal (regular wheat or spelt) that I use to make up the rest of flour weight. You can use either bread flour or wholemeal flour to stiffen the dough after the first rise.

I don't measure the quantity of flour that I add after the first rise, either; I just chuck it in until the dough looks and feels right. This is something I've learned over the course of a year or more of bread-baking, so I can't really describe it apart from to say that the dough will be stiff, difficult to mix, not at all batter-like, and not sticky. I hope that helps.

Don't be astonished either if the dough just seems to keep sucking up the flour; for example, on really humid days it sometimes seems like it takes twice as much flour as on a drier day.

You may want to filter your tap water as well; I have read that chlorinated water can be death to sourdough. Mind you on occasion I have used unfiltered water and everything has turned out just fine.

Can we get started already?
But of course.

1. Measure your flour(s) into a large, non-metallic bowl (avoids the metal reacting with the acids in the sourdough). Add the salt and stir thoroughly to distribute.

2. Measure your starter and your water into a large jug and give it a good stir.

3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix thoroughly. You will end up with a shaggy sticky dough, like this:

4. First rise! Cover with cling wrap and leave to ferment for 12-15 hours at cool room temperature (too easy).

5. At the end of the first rise the dough should be bubbly and greatly increased in volume:

Give it a good stir to deflate it. It will be extremely sticky but much smoother than when you first mixed it.

6. Add in the extra flour, bit by bit, mixing well to incorporate each addition. You want to end up with a dough that is very stiff and hard to mix.

7. Even when stiff, this dough will be a bit softer than a normal dough, and consequently harder to shape, but it is also quite forgiving; so just scrape it out into your tin and smooth the top with a wet hand.

8. Second rise! Cover with cling wrap and let sit at cool room temperature for 2-3 hours.

The  dough might not seem to have risen very much (I would say mine normally rises about 30%? But that's just me eyeballing it) but fear not, there will be an awesome oven spring!

9. Half an hour before you will bake your bread, preheat the oven to 200C.

10. Stick the tin in the oven and bake for 60 minutes (if you have an oven that browns things readily, you may need to cover the top with foil before this time, so keep an eye on it). Check it by slipping it out of the tin; does it sound hollow on the bottom? If so, good, but no-knead breads are wetter than regular ones and take longer to cook. So stick a fine skewer into the thickest part; if it comes out with more than a hint of crumbs on it, pop the loaf back in the oven (with or without its tin) for another 10-15 minutes. I often end up cooking my loaves for about 80-85 minutes.

11. Allow to cool if you can before you enjoy your insanely tasty low-maintenance homemade sourdough bread!!



*with apologies to Strongbad.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Comfy Pants

The photo is not the best, but even so. I made them. Myself. From a sheet I got at an op-shop! It's the first item of clothing I've ever sewn!

They are comfy and AWESOME. I made them to be pyjama pants because I wasn't sure if I would do a good enough job to be able to wear them out of the house. I totally would wear them out though. So would my sister, but she is known for wearing pyjamas all over the place, frankly (hi little sis!).

The pattern is from Sew La Tea Do by Pip Lincolne of Meet Me At Mikes. I am going to be making more more more more comfy pants!!!

For more creative and hopefully equally comfy creative spaces pop in at Kootoyoo!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Struggling to understand

I am struggling (as many people are right now I am sure) to understand and make sense of the wave upon wave of natural disasters that have caused so much devastation in Australia, New Zealand and now Japan. I am so lucky; my home is safe and my family and friends are too. I am going about my daily business, cooking, reading, playing with Pippin, laughing, talking, blogging.

Yet there are people out there who are frightened, homeless, injured, in danger. I can barely imagine what they must be feeling.

If there is a loving God who created us, how can He let these things happen? If they must happen, why to person A rather than person B? What did I do to deserve the many blessings that I currently enjoy? What did someone else do to deserve the loss of their family, their home, their livelihood?

I left the Catholic church of my upbringing a long time ago; I have lived a number of years as an agnostic and even an atheist. Recently I have been trying to find a place for God in my life again. I would like a simple faith, if I could find one. But there doesn't seem to be anything simple about it, in the face of suffering of this magnitude. In fact it even seems more comforting to believe, as Tennant does, that the things that happen to us during our lifetimes are the result of pure chance and not in any way part of some grander design or controlled by any divine being.

Right now I don't know what to think, apart from just being deeply, deeply grateful for the fact that I am alive, safe, and drinking tea while Pippin sleeps upstairs and Tennant plays some questy-adventure game on his computer.