Friday, April 22, 2011

Hot Cross Buns

I always intend to bake hot cross buns on Good Friday, but I don't think I ever have followed through. I not only followed through today; I was even a little adventurous. I baked hot cross buns with my sourdough starter. I often use my starter as a yeast replacement with rolls or pizza dough, which usually results in finished products that are good but not identifiable as sourdough, so I thought why not try using my starter with a hot cross bun recipe. After looking around,  I discovered  a good-sounding recipe at The Fresh Loaf  and set to work improvising. My family didn't go crazy over my "wild yeast" Hot Cross Buns, but everyone agreed that they were very good. I used a full teaspoon of cinnamon, but next time, I think I'll only use a half since they aren't supposed to be cinnamon buns, after all.

Wild Yeast Hot Cross Buns

Makes 1 dozen buns
1 cup recently-fed sourdough
11/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
11/2 bread flour
1/8 cup sugar
1 cup warm (90-100 degrees) milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins, currants, or dried fruit
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Glaze: 1/2 cup powdered sugar 1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a large mixing bowl, mix together sourdough starter, flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and spices. Add the warm milk and butter and mix until all ingredients are combined. I had to add a little more flour to get the flour to the right consistency, where it was soft but not sticky  I used my Kitchen Aid with my dough hook for about ten minutes and then added in 1/2 cup of raisins, kneading by hand. Place dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the dough has doubled in size. When it has risen, pour the dough out onto a cutting board and divide into 12 pieces. Roll the pieces into balls and place on a greased baking surface (I used a 9 x 13 pan). Cover the pan and allow to rise until they double in size again, typically 45 minutes to 1 hour.

While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When the buns are ready to bake, beat the egg in a bowl and brush some over the top of the buns. Then put the buns in the oven and bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 5 or 10 minutes.  While the buns are cooling, make the glaze by combining the lemon juice with the powdered sugar (you can also use orange juice, milk, or water if you don't have lemon juice around). I used a pastry bag,  to paint the crosses on top of the buns.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nemesis Sock Knitting

I've been on a yarn diet for most of this year, but awhile back, I gave in to the urge to browse through The Loopy Ewe's yarn and made a couple of purchases. One of them was some yarn from the Schaeffer Yarn Company called Gertrude Eberle. Being an ex-swimmer, I knew exactly who Gertrude Eberle was, an Olympic champion, who was the first woman to swim the English Channel. I also knew who I wanted to knit a pair of socks for with that yarn, one of my best friends from high school, who was a great swimmers as a teen. She's continued to swim for fitness and competitively since for the last thirty years. Among other accomplishments, she's swum from Alcatraz to Pier 39 in San Francisco, which makes her the deserved recipient of Gertrude Eberle socks in my book.

I decided to use the  Nemesis socks pattern from Knitty. We were meeting my cousin and her family at Cambria yesterday, so I was excited to have several hours in the car to knit on the way over. I printed the pattern, making sure that I also printed the chart. There was an option for a "large" or "small" chart, so, of course, I printed the large chart because I wanted to be able to see the pattern well! I didn't need the it for the first twelve rounds, which were just ribbing rows, but just as I was about to need the chart, I realized what I had done. I'd printed the "large size" chart. I don't know what I was thinking! I had a big car trip ahead of me and no pattern! I messed around for awhile trying to figure out the smaller pattern on my own, but I finally gave up. What a mini tragedy!

I downloaded the right chart this morning, and worked on it between working in the yard and baking bread. I enjoyed  today almost as much as the day at the beach yesterday. We had a great time, catching up and mostly just relaxing. My cousin's husband is from Nebraska like Russ is, and we made fun of the fact that they were dressed almost identically.

 We stopped by the Hearst Castle Visitor's Center, but didn't give ourselves enough time for one of the tours.

 It's hard to think of stuff to do with three teenagers and four adults, but everyone agreed that lunch at Main Street Grill in the West Village and ice cream at Rainbow Bean Coffee and Ice Cream shop in the East Village were super choices, and so was the walk on San Simeon Beach.
 I love walking through the gardens at Heart's Ease, and the kids didn't seem to mind it too much. Paige took a little rest under one of the arbors. Too bad, she couldn't find some decent jeans to wear, ha, ha.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Food On Friday #2

I bragged last week that we like trying ethnic food, but my biggest cooking success this week wasn't that exotic. Still, it was a little different and really good. Russ has bought Trader Joe's Cajun Salmon a couple times, and Kai had raved about it. I thought I'd see if I could measure up. Russ found me a recipe for blackened salmon at All Recipes. I improvised quite a bit, and we all agree that it was even better than Trader Joe's.

"Kinda" Blackened Cajun Salmon
  • 2 tablespoons ground paprika (I used smoked Spanish paprika from My Spice Sage)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  •   1teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme (I actually used fresh because we had some in the garden.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 salmon fillets, skin and bones removed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil with one Tbsp. melted butter added
  • In a small bowl, mix paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, thyme, basil and oregano.
  • Brush salmon fillets on both sides with olive oil/butter mixture, and sprinkle evenly with the cayenne pepper mixture. Drizzle one side of each fillet with some of the remaining olive oil. 
  • In a large, heavy skillet over high heat, cook salmon, until blackened, 2 to 5 minutes. Turn fillets, drizzle with remaining olive oil, and continue cooking until blackened and fish is easily flaked with a fork. 

I didn't blacken the salmon as much as I've seen in some recipes, which was fine with everyone. I was pretty proud of the rest of meal too; salad using lettuce from our garden and broiled potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, garlic from my dad's garden, and fresh thyme.
In other news, I have successfully defeated "Second Sock Syndrome," at least with this pair of socks with my beautiful yarn from Anne. I frogged  the insidious sock that I was nearly finished knitting. I just wasn't happy with the pooling around the ankles, so I went back to one of my favorite patterns, Calendula. I had Paige model them for me. She seems awfully interested in them. Unfortunately, wool sock weather seems to be a thing of the past. I just heard that a warming trend is on the way. I hope that means 80 degree, not 90!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Egg..cellent Gift

 I love reading novels that use food motifs to illustrate larger issues, but in the whole scheme of things, it seems to me that one of the most common uses of food (besides that whole needing nutrients thing) is to show someone that you like them. Unfortunately for my weight, I seem to have a lot of people who like me, ha, ha. We're not just talking kids offering to give me their cookie on "cookie day" once a week. Last week one of my students who is Indian-American gave me a little, colorful bag of Indian treats. She'd been to a traditional wedding in Los Angeles and had brought one of the bags home for me because she knew I'm interested in ethnic food. Paige and I had so much fun tasting everything.

Last week, another one of my students brought me a dozen or so farm-fresh eggs. I think I might have mentioned to her that I pay a little more for "free-range" chicken eggs at Trader Joe's, even though I'm not so sure those chickens are that much better off.  Several of the eggs of were larger than the others, and she told me that they were duck eggs. I told her that I at least wanted to pay her mom to cover the feed, and she said that her mom wouldn't take any money, so...I knit her a little duck egg cozy.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Friday! Friday!

Kai has a big swim meet tomorrow in Fresno, which is about a three-hour drive from us. At the beginning of the week, we'd planned to drive up today after school, so that we wouldn't have to get up on a Saturday at 4:30 for Kai to go on the bus with the rest of the team. By yesterday, we'd decided that we'd just tough it out and have Kai go on the bus, and we'd leave a little later six or so. That means that we're really enjoying our Friday, sitting in the living room with a fire in the fireplace, watching the rain come down outside, savoring the chilly weather. Last week, it hit ninety degrees one day...which pretty much sums up Central California in the spring. Here's hoping that it's not raining tomorrow.

I like how some bloggers do the "Wordless Wednesday" thing, and a while back Tracy either sponsored or encouraged "Pink on Saturday," or something like that. I've been thinking that I'd start having a "Food on Friday" theme. Russ and I both like to cook and love adventurous eating, not weird stuff (to us), but mostly exploring ethnic and fresh foods, so I kind of like the idea of recording some of our food "successes." It'd be fun if some of my blogging friends followed suit, so I could steal your recipes and pass them off as my own to my unsuspecting friends and family!

Today I'm going to share a food success that I had a couple of weeks ago. I'm in a small book club which meet every six weeks for so. We've had some truly memorable food experiences together, usually inspired from the book we're currently reading. Our last book was Mr. Pip, which I enjoyed, if you can say you've enjoyed a book with so much tragedy. The content of the book didn't lend itself to a food theme for our meeting, so we all agreed to have high tea, basically...with wine instead of tea, ha, ha.

I brought pimiento cheese tea sandwiches from my Teatime at the Inn cookbook. I love that cookbook;  the sandwiches remind me of a wonderful tea, which included pimiento cheese tea sandwiches, that Paige and I shared with my sister-in-law, Ann at the Haymarket District in Lincoln, Nebraska years ago.

Pimiento Cheese Tea Sandwiches

3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic
8 drops Tabasco
1 6-oz. jar pimientos, liquid drained and set aside
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley, chopped
12 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
 5 thin slices fresh tomato
alfalfa sprouts
10 thin slices whole-wheat bread, crusts removed

Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, Tabasco and pimiento liquid in a food processor and pulse several times; add parsley and pulse several more times. Turn mixture into a large mixing bowl. Stir in pimientos, cheddar cheese, and pecans. Chill for 6 hours. To assemble, place tomato and a handful of sprouts on 5 slices of bread. Spread pimiento cheese mixture on remaining half. Put tops and bottoms together. Cut each sandwich into 4 triangles.

I skipped the tomatoes this time since they're not in season, but they were delicious without them, and certainly very healthy, considering they had sprouts in them, ha,ha.

Thursday, April 07, 2011


So, I'm adding my niece to my list of people who know how to use positive reinforcement with me. She sent me a nice little thank you message on Facebook the day that she received the little sweater for her daughter, and the next day, she posted this picture. I think she looks darling! The sleeves are a little short, it looks like, but I'll just say I'd planned on 3/4 length. And I definitely will have to knit her another sweater in the future!