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Category Archives: Craft

Bitch about Stitches.

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HAHA! I finally finished!! For those of you poor uninformed souls out there – this was my latest knitting project.  I think I started in…October maybe? A good few months ago anyway.  This was my first non-scarf knitting project and it was a relatively simple (although not terribly clear) pattern.  It was supposed to be made out of luxury silk something something and would have been a lovely light summery kind of shirt.  Except that Saree isn’t rich and won’t be buying 7 odd balls of luxury silk yarn anytime soon.  I made mine out of Bamboo instead.  Much cheaper, still kinda light, and eco friendly too. Win! I love the colour, it turned out a lot shorter than I would have imagined before I sewed the seams together (it looked mega sacky before I joined it up), and it’s suprisingly heavy! But nice to wear.  As you can see, I even work it to work today! Not the most office-y attire, but I just had to.  Especially considering I knitted a fair chunk of it at work. 😛

If you can’t tell, I stupidly chose to knit it with idiotically small needles and idiotically fine wool, which resulted in lots of tiny stiches.  Looootttss of stitches. Tiny ones.  That means lots of knitting.  An idiotic amount.  Lesson learned.  Chunky knits, here I come.

Still – satisfaction galore! I really wish Nan could see it finished, I’m sure she’d be happy that the countless times she taught me to cast on, and off, and how to tell the difference between knit and purl finally paid off.  I love that whenever I’m knitting I’m thinking of her.

The biggest issue is now…what next?? Here are some options:

1.  Making the purple cord pinafore that I’ve been planning on making since I made my last cord pinafore.  Sounds weird, but it worked surprisingly well.  It’s kinda the pattern that the middle chick is wearing – except without the weird pocket/belt things in the middle.

2.  Jumping back in the deep end and making another quilt.  I never got to show you my first one on here, because it was actually a surprise present for Steve and Sammy’s wedding, and then…well I gave it to them.  And didn’t take pictures.  Urk.  But guys if you’re reading this – maybe you can whip out that SLR or whatever large camera it is that you have and take some super flattering photos of it for me one day.  🙂  Kaffe Fassett – need I say more? Google him.  

I can feel my Mum wincing from here.

I bought this book for myself at Christmas time, and his quilts are seriously dreamy.  And some of the designs even look feasible – he makes such incredible fabric that you really don’t have to do much more to it.  Yay! Yum.

The last option is more knitting…which is tempting because I can take it with me on the train and to work.  Plus I bought a really cute pattern from Sassafras last time I was there! Hmmm.  All so tempting in their own ways.

I really have one more update to write, but I don’t think I’ll make it tonight! Noooooooo!! Damn this need for sleep.

Hold out loved ones, I’ll be back. xo

How to: Sourdough

How to: Sourdough

Although it’s surprisingly simple to make, I have written a surprisingly long post about it.  Since I started making bread people have been giving me tips and books and information left right and centre!  So I’ve included some extra information, and there’s a recipe at the end so you can all get started on your own loaves.

So, as you all probably know, sourdough doesn’t use added yeast.  By letting some flour ferment and grow its own yeast, you can create a ‘starter’.  This is mixed into the dough and the bread still rises but with a distinctly sour (and delicious) taste.  Here’s some tips about making and keeping your starter:

  • It’s easier to grow in wholemeal than in white or 80 percent flours. There’s more nutrition for the yeast!
  • Keep it in the fridge, and if it gets too sour, keep 1 tablespoon and refresh your starter with more flour and water

The leavening in sourdough breads begins as a “wild” starter, a mixture of whatever microbes happened to be on the grain and in the air and other ingredients when flour was mixed with water. Seedy Sourdough

I don’t want to put you off eating bread by talking about the things that live in it, but this stuff is kinda fascinating.  Here are some facts I read about sourdough in a book called ‘On Food and Cooking, the Science and Lore of the Kitchen’.

Sourdough has bacteria in it that somehow delay the bread going stale.  It also has quite a bit of acid in it, and these acids fight off “spoilage microbes”.  This means not only does it taste better, but it lasts longer! (Depending on how many people live in your house).

It isn’t easy to make good bread with sourdough cultures.  One reason is because the bacteria grow faster than the yeasts, and almost always out number them.  Poor yeasts!  This is a problem because the tricky little things reduce the yeats’ gas production so sourdoughs often don’t rise very well.  Yep, that’s right.  The yeasts gobble up the sugars that are made by the enzymes, and fart out carbon dioxide – making little bubbles that rise in the dough. So these bacteria are kinda like a deflatulent for the yeast.  Interesting.

The second problem is that the acid conditions and bacterial protein-digesting enzymes weaken the dough gluten, which makes it less elastic and the resulting bread more dense.  A little…less interesting.

Ok, enough of that, here’s how you make it!

Illustrated Basic Sourdough Recipe

Step 1. Making a starter.  If you know anyone who bakes sourdough, you can always ask them to share!

– 1.5 cups whole-wheat bread flour (preferably stone ground)

– about 1 cup lukewarm water (35-40 degrees Celcius)

Mix flour and water together to make a very thick batter. Cover with a damp cloth and let stand for 3 days away from drafts, so it will absorb the yeasts in the air.  Re-dampen the cloth when necessary. After 3 days the starter should be smelly, gray and slightly bubbly.

Step 2.

Add your starter to ½ cup of lukewarm water and 1 cup of flour.  It won’t look like a dough yet, it should look a bit like thick pancake batter.  Put the cloth back on and let it stand for 24-36 hours, or until it is spongy and slightly bubbly.

Then add ¼ cup of lukewarm water, 2 tsps of salt and 2-2 ½ cups of flour.  Don’t put all of the flour in at once, only use as much as you need to make a soft, but not sticky dough.  Knead for about ten minutes (less if it’s a wholemeal loaf).  If you don’t know how to knead…I’m really not sure these pictures will help .  It’s hard to explain in writing.  This video seems about right – it’s essentially fold, squash, stretch and turn.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWj8oHMPFm0

Return to the bowl and let it rise at room temperature for 8-12 hours, or until doubled in size.

Step 3.

Punch down the dough. You heard me! Just not TOO hard. Also, this is the point that you cut off some dough to keep for next time!  Next time you can start from step 2.  Shape the dough or put it in a baking tin and cover again.   Let it rise at room temp until it has doubled in size again, about 8 hours.

Step 4.

Bake it baby! Heat the oven to 210C,  you can slash the top of your loaf to make it look pretty, and bake for about 20 mins.  The loaf should look golden brown on top, then lower the temperature to 200C and bake for another 15-20 mins.  The loaf should sound hollow when you tap it on the bottom if it’s cooked through.

And voilà! You’re done!  From here on out, it’s easy.  You can use different types of flour, different amounts will make different sized loaves.  You can put other things in too – at the start of the post is a picture of the seedy loaf I made the other day.  Sooooooo good, especially toasted!

Let me know if I left anything out, otherwise can’t wait to hear how it all goes!

xo

Any tummies rumbling out there?

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Any tummies rumbling out there?

Ready for another one?  Oooh, look here I go again! This catch up business is fun.  True to my warning…more food photos!  These ones are from a dinner party at my place last month. On a whim, I decided to make Ravioli.  Not from scratch – the pasta was bought from the South Melbourne Markets (although I have since acquired a pasta making machine, so next time will be different!).

Roast Baby Beets

We made two flavours; roast beetroot ravioli with sage butter sauce, and roast pumpkin ravioli with tomato sauce and parmesan. All I can say is, YUM!

Roast pumpkin

The filling was surprisingly simple and tasty.  After we roasted the vegies, we blended them in Mum’s ancient food processor and added fresh ricotta cheese.

A bit of garlic and rosemary went into the pumpkin mix, and I added some balsamic vinegar and sugar to the beet batch.  The colours were so vibrant, it was really a lot of fun!

Beetroot mixture

Pumpkin mixture

Such stunning colours

Luckily I had some help with the assembly!  After trying a few different strategies, we found it worked best to slice the past sheets in half, put the mixture on one half and fold the other over.

First attempt

After the pasta was in place and joined with a bit of water, we could slice the ravioli into individual squares and run a fork around the edge.

Not sure if you can anticipate the mess we managed to make from the photos.  Holy smokes, now that was a lot of dishes. Having said that,  it was totally worth every one!

The production line

The Ravioli turned out better than I could have hoped.  They were pretty big, and the sauces really brought out the flavour of the fillings.  The lasagne pasta sheets we used worked perfectly…the only problem was we were so busy eating that we didn’t get a photo of the finished product!

Here’s the pile just before we cooked them all, you’ll have to use your imaginations for the rest.  Steaming bowls of fresh deliciousness…heaven!

Finished Ravioli

Thanks a mill to Asanka for the beautiful photos, and to everyone else who helped out. It was a great night and I can’t wait to do it all over again!

Renaissance…I’m back! (with Bread)

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Renaissance…I’m back! (with Bread)

Ok, so the idea of a blog a day seemed much more reasonable when I was living in a lonesome kitchenless hovel and had no semblance of a social life.  But due to popular demand (and guilt), I’M BACK! Hurrah, you can all rest easy once more.  I guess, having now recognised my own short comings and realised a blog a day is not très achievable, I’ll have to modify the outlined goals of this blog.  However, don’t be disheartened, the underlying principle is still the same.  And my excitment about being back on the blogging scene, mixed with a morning spent reading Truman Capote is culminating in these long sentences that he seems so fond of.  Apologies for that.

Ok, so here’s a brief summary in pictures of my week gone by.  The theme is BREAD!! Yippee! Joining the Richmond library was such a splurge that it’s almost embarrassing to remember it was free.  Best borrow by far: The big book of Bread.  Baking at home has never been so risky or satisfying.  I must warn you, that the next few catch up sessions will be largely based around food – my holidays seem to have been overwhelmed by domestic cravings…cooking and stitching and other worldly goodnesses!  So, in case your breaths have been thus far bated, no more waiting! Yay!

Dough rising for the second time

The finished product 🙂

Man, this bread was tasty.  The cheese I sprinkled on the top just before baking was a nice touch too.  I must admit I love cheesey bread toasted with lots of butter and honey…might sound strange but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!  Anyway, yesterday I was craving a challenge.  So my newly bread-wise hands set out to make fruit loaf.  It sure looks pretty, and tastes darn good too, but the texture was less of a success.  The loaf didn’t rise as much as it should, so the end result was quite dense and a bit damp.

Fresh fruit toast for breakfast. Yum!

Well my friends, hope that’s made you sufficiently hungry.  I’m certainly off for a snack right about now.  Hope you’ve enjoyed feasting your eyes on my yeasty treasures, stay tuned for more mouth-watering updates!

Tchuss! xo

Day 25(ish) – Warning. This post contains graphic images. Chocoholics, beware.

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This weekend was the big experiment – making our own fairtrade chocolate Easter eggs.  I have to say, it was HARD WORK! My niece and I had a great time and made a huge mess together, so in those terms alone I would class our efforts as successful…but I just wasn’t prepared for the intricacy involved! May have been a lot to do with the tiny little plastic moulds we were using, but I can’t guarantee it.

Ok, so here’s how we did it.  I started with just plain Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate, and followed Mum’s suggestion of making hollow eggs.  We spooned a little melted chocolate in and tried to spread it around – the only trouble was it wouldn’t stick! I think the chocolate was too hot, but when I put it in the fridge it got solid really quickly.  This meant the chocolate wasn’t spread evenly and the eggs were a bit… well the picture probably puts it best.Plus, for some reason the shells were REALLY hard to get out of the mould.

The second try was more successful, firstly because we made solid eggs, and partly because we mixed a few different types of chocolate together.  The lighter coloured eggs are plain Cadbury Dairy Milk, but the darker ones are a mix of Dairy Milk, Green and Black’s ‘Mayan Gold’ (dark chocolate with Orange and exotic spices) and G&B Dark Chocolate.  YUM!! The solid ones came out of the mould a lot easier, and were easier to join as well.  I ran a hot knife over one base of a half egg and smushed it together with its other-half-egg-mate.  This was a pretty effective method, except for the fingerprints I left all on their pretty patterns… Gives a new meaning to ‘hot little hands’.  Well, actually maybe the first meaning is literal too.  Anyway, I digress.

Here’s one of my beauties:

Finally, in the middle of all this melting and freezing and accidental re-melting, I found an ice cube tray.  My niece and I got a little wild, and stepped out of the Chocolate-egg comfort zone.  These mamas not only were the delicious mix of Dairy Milk, Dark and Orange chocolate, they had surprises inside.  Peanuts! De-lish.

I had so much fun, and it was a special experience to share with my beautiful niece Miranda.  Even if it took four hours of fiddling to pump out 16 eggs and 14 chocolate-cubes, it was awesome.  I also have heaps of chocolate left over, so there’s plenty of time to learn before next year! I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for different and better moulds.  Woot woot!

What do you think? Does anyone have any experience in this sort of thing? Any tips or suggestions? Hope you all had a wonderful Easter break! xo

Day 23 & 24 – If you can’t buy fair eggs, make your own!

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After I shared the last post with my family, my Mum had a great idea.  She suggested we just buy lots of fairtrade chocolate – much easier to come across than eggs it seems, and make our own!  So my new mission over the last day or two, has been to find the supplies.

I found these funky moulds, originally designed for muffins more than easter eggs I’d say, but they still look like fun!

Next step was the choccy.  I stocked up on the fairtrade chocolate – mostly Cadbury dairy milk, but I was pleased to find some Green and Black’s ‘Mayan Gold’ fairtrade chocolate too.  I think a lot of G&B’s chocolate is made from well sourced products, because their dark chocolate didn’t have the fairtrade logo, but it says on the back that 70% of their ingredients are ethically and organically produced.  So far, so good! Dad picked up some little egg moulds as well, hopefully all of it will just melt down nicely and pour straight in! I’m excited to try it out with our lovely nieces and nephew.  They’re such a great age for it!

Finally just for research sake, I had a hunt for some fair trade eggs in some other places I’d read about  such as Target.  Guess what…I found it! Finally, the famous Cadbury fairtrade egg! This is it, next to a Lindt egg that I bought for comparison.  I know there’s too many variables to be a really valuable experiment, but I just wondered about the price difference.  My Cadbury egg weighs in at 65g and cost $4.  The Lindt egg is 66g and was a whole dollar more expensive.  I know it’s a different brand and a different quality perhaps, but I think the experiment has value.  It proves that fairtrade doesn’t have to be more expensive, it doesn’t have to be a harder option. Although at the moment it’s a little harder to source, I’m feeling excited about the whole situation.  I love that my Mum thought outside of the square, and suggested this creative little fairtrade Easter for us.  I like that when I asked the salesman at Target if he knew about Cadbury’s fairtrade egg, he didn’t just show me where to find it – but told me how he’d heard all about it on the tv that morning. 

The word is spreading my friends, the wheels are slowly turning.  Let’s keep it going!

Happy Easter/Passover/5 day weekend to you all!

Love, Saree.