Wednesday, 24 April 2013

photo walk / look up

Blue skies have been sparse around these parts lately. But the last few days? There has been an abundance of blue, and I cannot get enough of this colour. Yesterday afternoon, while school work was waiting for me, I took a few minutes to go for a stroll with the sole purpose of soaking up the warmth and looking up at the trees. What better way to start work than with a refreshing walk?
The blossom + the branches, the buds + the blues...I am so glad that Winter always and eventually gives way to the beauty of Spring.
 {All photos were taken on a Canon 450D with a 24 - 105mm lens at ISO 200}

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

chocolate twister bread

The first time I made this sweet bread, it brought someone to tears. Before that moment, I never knew that food could bring such enjoyment to people. I had tasted food so good that I never wanted the meal to end, and cakes so delicious that I knew I would never tire of them, but tears? This was new to me. That moment was eight years ago, and last weekend, I finally got around to making it again.

This bread is a little bit ludicrous. It uses a whole lot of yeast, shed loads of butter, and is completely stuffed to the hilt with chocolate. Halfway through making it, I felt that slathering on 250 grams of butter, was a step too far in making this bread awesome, so I reduced the quantity to 60 grams. In hindsight, this wasn't quite enough, but I reckon 125 grams would have been the perfect happy medium between a healthy amount of butter and a heart attack inducing amount of the beautiful gold stuff.

I have reduced the amount of salt and butter in the ingredients list, as I felt they were a bit over the top. If I made them again, I think I would omit the pine nuts, and possibly replace them with hazelnuts. If you prefer food without nuts, then you could quite happily omit nuts altogether.

ingredients
3 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
30g honey or sugar
625ml tepid water
1kg strong white bread flour
20g salt
60g pine nuts
300g chocolate (I used a mixture of dark and milk)
60g - 120g unsalted butter (use more or less, depending on how buttery you'd like the bread to be)

method
1) Dissolve the yeast and honey in a measuring jug with 300ml of the tepid water.
2) Put the flour and salt n a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre, and add the yeasty water.
3) Slowly combine the flour and water, either with your hands, a spoon, or your mixer blade.
4) Combine in the rest of the water
5) Knead the dough for 5 - 10 mins either by hand or with the blade hook of your mixer. (If kneading by hand, knead for longer (10 mins) than with a mixer.)
6) See the photos below for the rest of the instructions!
7) Preheat the oven when you start to prove the dough for a second time

Friday, 19 April 2013

Polvorones

It feels like a good long while since I posted any baking recipes here. Don't be fooled by the absence of sweet delights into thinking that we have gone all healthy and sugar free around here. There has been a healthy amount of sugar whirling around this kitchen, but I have just failed to find time to write about them. So, here's to the start of changing that.
A few weeks back I was browsing the Pioneer Woman's website, and came across her recipe for Polvorones - a Mexican wedding cookie. I was seduced by her photos, and I loved the idea of a cookie designed especially for weddings. After reading the Pioneer Woman's post about these cookies, her images stayed with me, which I consider to be a good sign of a great food photographer and a potentially delicious recipe. The process of making these cookies involves clarifying butter, chilling it, then whipping it up into a frenzy which makes butter look like whipped cream. Fascinating. I wanted to try making them, just to see what happens when you whip butter that's been melted and solidified, so I gave them a try.
If you would like to make these, I'll let you follow the Pioneer Woman's instructions which are here and for now, I will just share my thoughts on these buttery bites. There was something very satisfying about clarifying the butter - this just involves melting it, skimming off the foam, them sieving the melted butter to separate any remaining milk solids from the pure yellow goodness. Next, you stir in sugar, then chill to let the butter solidify again, before whipping until fluffy.
In all honesty, this is a time consuming process, and a little bit of a faff. The end result of these cookies is a very light, melt in your mouth texture, and I loved the way they delicately cracked on the top, but totally held their shape. I think the next time I have a hankering for a buttery cookie, I'll stick to shortbread, which is a million times quicker to make! If you are in the mood to make something sweet, buttery and tasty, and have a leisurely afternoon ahead of you, I would recommend these, just for exploring a different method of cookie creating. They're quite pretty, aren't they?

Friday, 12 April 2013

Five Minute Friday / Here.

It has been a little while since I participated in Lisa Jo's Five Minute Friday writing link up, and I have missed it. Today, it's time to jump back in and get writing.
Here I sit, enjoying the fleeting moments of beautiful warmth as the sun appears from behind the clouds for just a few brief moments before disappearing again. And I think of how I adore the way the light fills this room in the afternoon. The moments of sunlight might be fleeting during this Spring season so far, but I know from memory the way the warmth feels. the way the shadows fall at angles across the walls, decorating the magnolia paint with cross hatched patterns. Here, I know the details of this room without having to think. I wonder about the house that we will soon move into. There, all is unfamiliar. I do not yet know where the light falls in our new house, but I cannot wait to find out. The prospect of the unknown makes me want to treasure the moments that we have left in this house, our first home. To hold onto the memories we have built while we are still here. I know the quiet and comfort I find here, in this space and wonder what the quiet will sound like when we live in a different house, surrounded by neighbours. Here, I know the patterns of the trees that adorn the little park outside our window. There, I do not know if I will be able to watch the trees dress themselves with blossom and leaves in Springtime, then shed their beauty down to the bare branches as Autumn closes. Here, in this home, I know that we cannot grow trees of our own, but there? Anything is possible.

Monday, 8 April 2013

bandana bibs take two

For the last two weeks, I have been enjoying the school Easter holidays. I took full advantage of having so much time on my hands, and worked on a second round of bandana bibs, after the first ones ended up being too small for the baby they were intended for. This time, I went with an even simpler pattern, based on a bib that Amy already had for baby Layla.
I used high quality cotton for the front fabric, and a soft, fine fleece fabric to back them, which should be more absorbent than cotton. 
The bibs fasten with metal poppers - much to my surprise - hand sewing on the poppers was the most time consuming element of making these bibs. I got a little faster by the time I was making bib number six, but I think if I end up making many more of these bibs, I might just invest in one of these handy tools.
After making five feminine bibs, I felt like I was on a role, and started to make some more masculine bibs. However, I only managed to whip up one, just in time for a baby shower I hosted at the weekend. I have plenty of friends expecting baby boys this year, so I am excited about the prospect of making more of these in the near future.