Monthly Archives: March 2014

More Pink

With the delay of spring here in this part of the world, I find myself looking to create a little spring of my own wherever I can. This is manifesting itself mostly in yarn and in pink.

IMG_8345

First, my Brandied Cherry sweater is all done. The depth of color on this yarn is difficult to capture in photos. The pink is dark and vibrant.

IMG_8334

Before I seamed, I blocked my sweater pieces. This is something I used to never do, but now I do it every time because it really makes seaming much easier. One thing I noticed about this yarn is that it really stretched out in blocking. I was expecting this since it is a superwash yarn and don’t mind extra length in my sweaters. I find, in general, that you can really stretch out SW yarn when it is wet, but once it is dry, it usually bounces back a little.

IMG_8335

I used some of my new clover clips to help out with the seaming. They are really handy and easy to use and reposition.

IMG_8336

My row gauge was a bit long, so my sleeves turned out a tad longer than I expected, but there is a cuff incorporated in the pattern that is meant to be folded back, so all is well there, too.

IMG_8341

I am very happy with how this one turned out. It is a warm, cozy sweater in a happy color.

IMG_8339

As soon as I was done with this, I went back to work on my spring mystery shawl, in a very similar pink color.

IMG_8346

Additionally, I am already planning another sweater in (surprise!) pink, though this one is a little more muted in its tone.

IMG_8332

This yarn is from The Woolen Rabbit and is made of 85% Polwarth wool and 15% silk. It has a lovely sheen from the silk and is very smooth to knit with. My plan is to make this sweater with it. The blue sock yarn just came along for the ride because even though I am very smitten with pink right now, blue is my true love.

Usually at this time of year, we have some flowers and budding blossoms, but this year we are still stuck in the polar vortex. Any cherry blossom color around here is coming from this gorgeous yarn by the same name.

IMG_8342

Yes, I am a little obsessed with pink and likely will be until the riot of spring colors finally arrives. Then, maybe I’ll go back to gray or brown. For now, I need pink.

Advertisements

Transformation

Remember when I showed you my lace shawl from last week? It was wrinkly and scrunched up and no one could tell that it was really lace. I’ll show you again.

IMG_8299

After a little bath and some help with pins, that lace shawl now looks like this.

IMG_8310

Framed in the window, the shawl looks even more striking.

IMG_8309

It always amazes me how a little ball of yarn can turn into something so beautiful that people will ooh and aah over it. A few hours of work (ok, sometimes a lot of hours) and attention and you have something that could be a family heirloom. This is the kind of thing that compels me to keep knitting.

More details can be found here.

Cake: Good, Bad, and Chocolate

A few weeks ago, I was afraid that I had lost my cake mojo. I have been baking cakes, but they have not all turned out to be good. Since posting my last cake recipe, I have probably baked a half dozen different cakes. Some were good, others were not. Let me start at the beginning.

Really, my downward slide began with the chiffon roll for twd way back in January. To be honest, no one really liked that one. Next, I made a sourdough chocolate cake. It seemed like a good idea to use some of my sourdough starter to try this. It was a moist cake, but not terribly chocolatey. And, something about the sourdough made the cake seem more like bread. It was odd, but it did look good. The bonus with this one is that I learned that coconut oil is really yummy in frosting, but I will have to revisit that another time.

IMG_8081

Next on the cake roll was a nutty pear cake. This one turned out well, but was one of those recipes that required a crazy number of bowls and different components mixed together. For something that turned out to be a simple looking coffee cake, it was too much trouble.

IMG_8133

Then, I got an idea for a cake into my head. In my head, the cake was moist, gingery and orangey. Most of the time, when I think of something I want, I go looking for a recipe that might fit or be adapted to fit what I want. So I consulted my library of cookbooks and found a recipe for a whole wheat marmalade cake in Nigel Slater’s book, Ripe. It was a yummy cake. But it was dry and dense and more like fruitcake, not the moist fluffy cake I had in mind.

IMG_8193

I thought I had found the right recipe for what I wanted when I found an English ginger cake recipe in Rose Levy Berenbaum’s book, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes. It used Lyle’s golden syrup. Actually, it used almost an entire jar of the stuff, and even though I followed the recipe and baked the cake in the right size pan, it did this.

image

At this point, I started to seriously doubt my cake baking abilities. I had not had this many disappointing cakes in such a short period of time in the whole of my baking life. I thought I would take a little break from fruity things and revisit the chocolate cake thing. But, this, too proved disastrous. I have no pictures of this cake disaster, but I will tell you that a cake with no vanilla and an oil/sugar/egg mixture that never emulsifies does not turn out well. I had tried a new recipe from a new bakery cookbook. It was another one of those overly complicated recipes. Too many bowls and too many techniques for just a little cake. After this, I made one more cake recipe from the same book that turned out ok, but the streusel topping was a disaster. I have no pictures of these last two cakes because I had sort of lost hope in cakes and I am not disclosing the name of the cookbook here because I think it may have been just me.

I took a little break from cakes (a week, or maybe two?) and when I felt the need to bake a cake last weekend, I made sure to pick one that was simple and with few ingredients. It was a recipe that originally called for rhubarb, but as much as everyone is wishing for spring here, it has not yet arrived, so I subbed in raspberries from South America instead.

IMG_8305

This was a simple pound cakey sort of recipe that I found in Rustic Fruit Desserts and it was perfect. Packed with zingy lemon flavor and polka dotted with raspberries, it was a spring-like cake that cheered us up.

IMG_8308

We ate it up so quickly that it was almost gone before I thought to take a picture of this cake win. I had almost given up on taking pictures of cakes as they all seemed to be turning out badly. But, this one was a winner.

IMG_8315

Now, after all that cake history, you can understand why I was a little wary of this week’s twd recipe for Mocha Brownie Cake. But, after my lemon raspberry success, I was willing to give it a try. The batter was pretty easy to mix up, except for the folding in of the sour cream at the end. It was super thick and I wasn’t sure it was going to fold in thoroughly. In fact, after I split the cake, I saw that there were little pockets of sour cream that had not been mixed into the batter. I hoped that would not affect the texture or taste of the cake and I am happy to say it did not.

IMG_8322

I did follow my cake instincts this time and lined the cake pan with parchment. I am glad for this as the cake looked wonderful after it was turned out of the pan.

IMG_8325

In an attempt to make the cake a little less rich for us, I decided to halve the ganache recipe and just cut the cake into two layers instead of three. Partly, I was worried that it would be difficult to cut one layer into three, but after having done one cut, the cake seems sturdy enough that I would probably try two next time and use the full recipe of ganache.

IMG_8324

It came together easily. I frosted the entire cake all at once and dispensed with the springform pan and cooling times. The cake seemed cool enough after I cut it into layers and I was worried that the ganache would get too thick to spread if I did not use it all at once. After assembly, I put the cake in the fridge overnight.

IMG_8326

Today, I took it out to come to room temperature a couple of hours before dinner. I like my ganache frostings at room temperature because they melt in your mouth a bit more easily.

IMG_8331

The final cake is beautiful, easy to cut, and beyond delicious. It’s intensely chocolatey without being overwhelming. The cake is really soft, but not mushy. The ganache melts in your mouth and some of us wished that there was more, but I liked it fine with just that thin layer. It alleviates a little bit of the guilt associated with eating a cake like this so that you can feel good about having an extra big slice. In short, I think this is the best chocolate cake I have had in recent memory and I hope it means that my streak of bad luck with cake is over. This recipe alone is worth the price of this cookbook. If you don’t have it, I urge you to go buy it now.

Marching On

Hi there! Boy, it’s amazing how a few extra things on the calendar can make an already busy schedule seem kinda crazy. Throw in the fact that everyone had a cold at sometime during the past week and a couple of days with the husband out of town and a week just flies by in the blink of an eye.

IMG_8298

Still, there are some compensations. That three hour meeting I went to resulted in at least four inches of knitting done on the back of my Brandied Cherry and a soccer game helped add on at least one more inch. It would have been more, but my little soccer player was the goalie for the last 10 minutes of the game, which is totally nerve wracking for me. I can knit pretty much through any other sports activity and event except when one of my kids is in the goalie box. I don’t know how parents of regular goalies handle the stress!

IMG_8297

Anyway, the front of the same sweater was finished the following day. I am hoping to have this sweater done by the end of the month because, frankly, there are not going to be too many more days this season when a worsted weight cabled sweater is going to be needed. There are more days that are above freezing now than not and we have even had a couple that have been so warm we have not needed jackets!

Also, my pink mystery shawl is finally caught up. I was behind in the clues until this week, but got caught up while the husband was out of town. I won’t show you in case one of you is working on this and don’t want the mystery to be spoiled. I will say this, though. It is a very enjoyable project. Some lace projects are lots of work because the chart is constantly changing and you have to be on your toes counting to make sure everything lines up just so. This one is very intuitive and, even though my rows are close to 400 stitches long, they don’t seem long because the pattern makes sense.

Every once in awhile when I am weary of the pinks, I do a row or two of this old blue shawl project.

IMG_8293

It’s growing steadily. Each row is getting longer, so it feels slower now, but it will get done.

Speaking of getting things done, I really am almost done with my Follow Your Arrow mystery shawl. I am a month behind schedule, but hope to be done and blocking in the next few days. Grey is not a color that is calling to me right now and the only thing keeping me going on this one is the fact that I really only have five rows left. Five really looooonng rows. I am eager to see how this looks all blocked out, because it doesn’t look like much right now, to be honest.

IMG_8299

Here’s a sneak peak at the color of my next project. Yes, I am already thinking about my next few projects! It helps to give me a little added motivation to finish the ones I have going.

IMG_8289

Yay! Blue is my favorite color. I pretty much love all shades of blue from darks to brights, like this one.

IMG_8300

I think this lovely aqua colored yarn is going to be a Cape Cod sweater. I may not be able to wait until the pink one is done before I cast on. Knitting the gauge swatch did not help. The yarn is Haven, a lovely merino and silk mix that is surprisingly lofty and squishy.

IMG_8301

And that’s it for the knitting news. Maybe next time I will tell you about all my cake disasters.

Orange Cranberry Scones

It’s been awhile since I have made scones. I don’t know why I don’t make them more often. They are easy, fairly quick, very tasty, and the freeze and reheat well. What’s not to like?

IMG_8269

In fact, for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Buttermilk Scones, I decided to double the recipe because I knew we would like them. Plus, I had a couple of organic oranges sitting around. To help make the cutting in of the butter easier, I enlisted the help of my trusty food processor.

IMG_8263

Then, I added a generous amount of dried cranberries because they go so well with citrus and are really tasty in a scone.

IMG_8265

I made twelve regular sized triangular scones and twenty-four small square shaped ones. I sprinkled them with coarse, raw sugar instead of the regular sugar that was called for in the recipe. I love how the cranberries look like jewels.

IMG_8267

We loved them. There were some wonderful layers and eaten just warm, they were soft and fluffy on the inside with a little crunch from the sugar on the outside. They make a great companion to tea or coffee breakfast or snack time. I’m thinking of making some more, but subbing the orange zest for lemon and using blueberries instead. Or chocolate.

IMG_8273

Really, I think you could add anything to these and they would still be good. They are perhaps not the best scones I have ever made, but it is one of those recipes that is simple, reliable, and just plain good. You can’t really go wrong here.

Orange Cranberry Scone
adapted from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

3 cups (15 ounces) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (2.5 ounces) sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk, plus more if needed
Grated zest from one orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries

For topping:
3 Tablespoons melted butter
3 Tablespoons coarse or raw sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Combine flour, sugar baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest in a food processor bowl. Pulse a few times to mix the dry ingredients together. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the pieces are no larger than a pea, about 8-10 times. Pour into a large bowl.

Stir the cranberries into the flour. Then, add the buttermilk and toss with a spatula or fork until most of the flour is moistened. If it seems really dry and won’t hold together when you squeeze a bit of it with your fingers, then add extra buttermilk, a tablespoons at a time, until the dough starts to come together. There will still be some crumby bits in the bowl, though.

Dump out the dough onto your counter or pastry board and knead gently until the dough is more or less one shaggy mass. If you bowl is big enough, you can also do this inside the bowl and it will be less messy. Divide the dough in half. Pat each half into a 1/2 inch thick 7 inch diameter circle. Using a sharp knife, cut each dough circle into six wedges and transfer to your baking sheet with at least one inch of space between them.

If you want to make smaller scones, pat the entire amount of dough into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle, roughly 8 inches by 12 inches. Then, cut into twenty-four two inch squares.

Brush each scone with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until slightly browned around the edges, about 13-15 minutes for large scones, 10-12 for small scones. Serve warm.

These will keep for a few days in a sealed bag, but should be toasted in the oven for a few minutes before eating to crisp them up. They can also be frozen, already baked for several months. Thaw and toast lightly before serving.