Friday, January 27, 2012

You say biscuits. I say scones. Or vise versa.

This month we made scones. Or biscuits*. Or something resembling them.

It was back to basics time.

This month was all about experimentation, and learning about the chemistry and science of baking. Fat plus flour plus kneeding or folding equals light and fluffy or soft and gooey or layered and flaky.

Or something.

Blog-checking lines: Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!


Which is to say, were it a different month, I might have made four or five batches of biscuits/scones (especially because this recipe is tiny tiny so you can make them for two people and eat them ALL for breakfast/dinner and not worry about it one bit) but this month got away from me and it never happened.

Alas, I only made one set, but I will make more in the future.

ready for the oven.
This is one of those recipes that is so easy it's hard. For example, there are just five ingredients, so there's no place to hide old baking soda or non-sifted flour. In fact, for these scones I actually triple-sifted the flour. Triple. Sifted. (And I guess you should too.)

And! The sifting occurred from a great height, so as to incorporate as much air into the flour as possible. (And, by the way, to create as big of a mess as possible.)

After triple sifting, you get to rub in the fat with your fingers. I am all for any recipe where I get to use my hands. I love the feel of the flour and the butter and the goodness all in between my fingers. Oh yes I do.

Also, this recipe suggests grating the butter and then freezing it for a bit before incorporation. (I might need to admit that grating butter was also one of the most fun things I've done in the kitchen in a long time.)

breakfast accompaniment, but sweet. in this way I am honoring both America and Australia*.
The recipe becomes a choose-your-own-adventure-experience at this point, when you get to decide if you're going to knead or fold the dough.  Kneading makes soft lovely scones and folding makes flaky layered scones. Either way, the dough is sticky and it makes you worry.  (I folded.)

Don't worry. It will work out.

Cut your scones using a floured cutter that is open on top and round and thin-walled and blah blah blah you're going to end up just using a butter knife and cutting them apart because you have nothing resembling a biscuit cutter in your house and the description in the recipe makes you nervous.

Note: I need a biscuit cutter. Apparently the method of using an over-turned drinking glass just isn't going to cut it any more (pun definitely intended). 

layers? almost.

Results were mixed. Joe thought they were divine and I thought they needed work. Sounds about right, doesn't it?

Next up: I'm going to make something that our host Audax calls a "fairy ring" in which he adds sprinkles (which Australians call "hundreds and thousands") to the dough and then ices and adds more sprinkles once baked. Anything with sprinkles is good by me.

Really. Anything.

* Apparently, in Australia these are called scones. They are usually cut out but then put on the baking sheet so that the sides touch and everything stays soft. They are eaten with jam over tea. They are not the North American scones (which are wedge-shaped and lumpy and fruity and dry and wonderful) but rather what are called baking soda biscuits in the States, which Americans eat with butter and turkey for dinner as a savory side. (Which, by the way, Australians would call "savoury.")

Also, one should note that buttermilk biscuits (to Americans) would be called buttermilk scones to Australians, and would still be eaten as a sweet, not with chicken-fried-chicken. These are American, according to our Australian host. And so, I thank you, Southern America, for buttermilk and the biscuits that come from them. But I didn't make those this time, because it seemed beside the point.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

For external use only

The second of my disclaimer series. 

embroidery on former bed sheet (cotton) in super awesome (and by awesome I mean gaudy/ridiculous) Goodwill found frame.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Eating citrus rinds

is delicious. Once they're candied.

Here's how to make your own:

1. Juice your citrus. I used three mid-sized grapefruits, but any citrus will work. (Drink juice.)

2. Cut citrus into fourths and use a grapefruit spoon to scrape out the insides--all the fruit and casings--leaving just the beautiful white pith and rind.

smoosh like so.
 3. Smoosh the quarters of rind with your hand and cut into strips.

cut like so.

4. Boil some water. Throw the strips into the water and simmer for five minutes.

strips awaiting three boiling sessions.

5. Drain. Boil some more water. Throw the strips into the water and simmer for five minutes.

6. Again (three boil sessions). (You're boiling off the bitterness.)

7. Now put a cup of water and a cup and a half of sugar in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and bring it to a boil.

8. Add the thrice-boiled rind strips to the sugar syrup and simmer on medium-low for about 90 minutes, or until soft and amazing.
strips soaking up sugar and love.

9. Using tongs, pull out the rinds a few at a time. Roll them in sugar, and leave them on a drying rack to dry.

10. Eat. Yum. Seriously.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How I like to party

stairway bunting

With bunting. (as if you didn't know!)

We held a dinner party to celebrate my birth, and I decided that we needed a bit of updated festivity.  With fabric scraps in hand, I added said festivity in a matter of hours.  You can too! Here's what I discovered: you can sew a zigzag stitch right over yarn!

This means sewing bunting is amazingly easy.  No need to sew each flag separately; not cutting thread between them and back stitching and blah blah blah.

Here's all you have to do:

1. Cut triangles of fabric
2. Pull out spare yarn
3. Turn sewing machine to zigzag stitch
4. Place yarn under needle

Fireplace bunting
5. Sew a few inches
6. Place triangle wrong-side-up underneath yarn
7. Sew
8. Repeat steps 5-7 until you've used up your triangles
9. Hang

Spurred on by quick bunting, I opted to make a table runner the same way. This time I pinned the triangles and yarn, but still zigzagged my way across the swath of fabric (a sliver of a drape I scored at Goodwill for something like four bucks.)

party on the table.

Also, I made a baby bunting for the cake.  This required bamboo skewers (two), twine (mine was black), and tiny tiny diamonds of fabric (double-sided triangles).  I folded the diamonds over on themselves, over the twine, and used glue dots (you know, the scrapbooking kind) to keep them closed. Tie the twine to the skewers, skew, and you're ready to go. Instant cake party.

Instant cake party

And lastly, scraps of joy for the light fixture. (These are modeled after miss dottie angel's sprightly spring scraps. Hers are vintage wallpaper scraps, but mine are actual scraps from the bunting.)

This is particularly difficult to photograph in my not-very-sunny house. Also, these photos were all taken pre-dinner-party, when it was already dark out and we were in a massive dash to put the finishing touches on...just a little bit of handmade pasta.

Please note: This pasta has not yet been cut into its appropriate strips. also, the yellow dog was not allowed to eat the pasta.

Friday, January 6, 2012

34 things to do before I turn 35 (or not)


I failed to do most of the things on my list from last year. Big Fail.

It's pretty artificial, however, to make a list in December for the following year. Do you know how much changes in a year? I can't even begin to imagine who I will be and what I'll be excited about in the next two months, much less twelve.

So, I give you:

Things to do (or not) this quarter:
  1. Crochet a blanket made of colorful granny squares. (i.e. use up some of my random yarn).
  2. Crochet a rag rug.
  3. Be awesome.
Things to do this year:
  1. Take a segway tour. (seriously. i need an anonymous donor to fund this...)
  2. Have a show in a gallery/public space. (wow. did i really type that?)
  3. Move to Minnesota. (eek. doesn't that sound hard?)
  4. Write about the hard stuff.
Oh! And happy birthday to me!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Blogging a Christmas

Portrait session with a cardinal.
To wit:
I received three of the five things for which I asked the Internets. (And by that I mean the people who read my blog, and by that I mean: my family.)

From both my parents and my in-laws, the earrings (two pairs! if only i had four ears.)

From my in-laws, the instant camera. (see above)

horrible photo quality, but the sun hasn't been out in days. what are you going to do?

From my dear husband, the gemsboks. (OMG folks, it is SO much more awesome in my home than it ever was in the store.)

Also, Jene: Don't you worry, Joe was all about festooning the bok with holiday cheer. I just can't wait to decorate him for each and every holiday. (Insert Joe's groan here.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sans Rival...with chocolate and pecans

In a fit of Christmas spirit, between doses of Percocet, advil, aspirin, and massive amounts of coffee, I made another Sans Rival, this time with a chocolate walnut daquoise and chocolate buttercream frosting.

Which is to say two things:

Thing one
I returned from Saint Pete's (the Burg), Florida, only to wake up the following night with a throbbing wise tooth. A throbbing like no other pain. The kind of throbbing that makes you want to bash the side of your face with a brick. If you could just find a brick. Or maybe (you start to think as you're laying in the fetal position on the couch softly moaning, tears streaming down your face) you could bash your face into the corner of the back of a kitchen chair.  Or the side of the table. Anything with an edge...

I spent the mid-night hours googling emergency dentists on my phone. I called one the second it opened, roused my husband for a ride, and promptly had a tooth pulled.

adding cocoa to the daquoise--makes it comes out all chocolatey and amazing

The tooth pulled? A wisdom tooth I had an agreement with for the past ten years (this is the same agreement I have with all insects/spiders in my house)--you don't bother me, I won't bother you.   

Well tooth: Agreement broken. Time to go.

An aside: Did you know that they don't anesthetize you when they pull out a tooth? Don't get me wrong, the doctor (who was twelve, I swear, and also wearing a holiday tie but not a white coat) stuck me with four shots of the most heavenly Novocain I've ever been alive to experience. However, I was fully awake for the pulling procedure, telling myself that it was all normal and good. (It wasn't, but I didn't care anymore. I was just so excited to be numb.)

the makings of buttercream. sugar boiled with water until it reaches thread stage
I saw the pliers and the tool that looked a lot like a screwdriver with which the twelve-year-old dentist (the end of his holiday tie now contained inside an opening made by unbuttoning the center button of his shirt) used as if prying off the lid on a paint can--all simple machine lever-like to pry out my tooth. Then I closed my eyes. I decided that I just didn't need to see the blood and any more creepy metal tools.

Also, at this point I was in supreme denial. Sure that after the initial recovery time, my life would be so much better. No more fetal position for at least a few more months.

Meanwhile, behind my closed eyes, it was clear that said tooth wasn't coming like it was supposed to. No matter. More levering, more pulling, more prying. It came out all blood and spit and Twelve Year Old Holiday Tie said, "AH HAH, the root is hooked!"

I love that you can whip egg yolks until they bubble and froth. who knew?

I asked to see said tooth and hook. And he was right. The tooth was hooked like hook. Apparently it had come in as far as said hook would allow, and instead of coming up like the well-behaved tooth I had expected it to be--straight and even, like a well starched shirt--it was skirting sideways across my face like the Hook of Darkness, pulling my gums with it. Or so it felt.

Long story boring: I went home, took a bunch of Percocet, and a few naps. Holiday Tie had given me a double-sided mimeographed (copy of a copy of a copy) of emergency impaction tooth extraction aftercare which I followed to. the. letter.

(I'm good at directions.)

assembled. still ugly. also, it turned out to be the leaning tower of sans rival. no matter.

No matter. Two days later I was back in the fetal position, the Percocet not even beginning to touch the pain in my tooth hole. I called Holiday Tie to say...I think I have a dry socket.  His secretary got me right in.

Yay! I was right. Dry Socket.

I complained to Holiday Tie (no longer in said tie, and strangely now wearing a white coat). I followed your directions.

Yes, he said. But you're a young woman.

True, I said. (Waiting for it to become more obvious what was going on in our tete-a-tete. It didn't. I was forced to force the issue.)

What does that have to do with this? I asked.

Young women have hormones that don't allow a blood clot to stick around very often, he explained.

Super, I said. One more reason it's AWESOME to be a woman. I'm going to add that to my EVER-GROWING list.

There's a lot more drama in this story, but I'm getting exhausted telling it and reliving the jaw-aching, pain shooting down the side of my neck and into my arm experience. So I'll shorthand it for you like this: it's been over four weeks. I still have jaw/hole pain when I eat or breathe. I also get food stuck in said hole every time I eat, which makes everything hurt more. (YUM!)

So, when Holiday Tie told me that I was eventually going to have to get my three remaining wise teeth extracted, I wanted to slap his twelve-year-old face.

aerial view
Thing two
My dear friend Miss C held a small holiday gathering at her home. I asked (like the fabulous guest that I am) what I could bring. She answered, and I quote: "If you feel up to it I always welcome one of your desserts but no pressure."

Guess what I made?

Also, just for the record, it was delicious.