Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Finished Objects and Other Strange Tales

I finished (and almost finished) some stuff while on vacation! Lilah and I headed out to California for our pre-holidays trip to visit the family. We had a great time. When we got back, it was Highland Games time in our area, so we took Lilah. She LOVED the sheepdog trials and the falconry exhibition. Matt and I didn't get to do the kind of shopping we used to at these sorts of things--Lilah wanted to squat on a stump for about 15 minutes watching an ant, and she sees a field of grass and can't help running. It was really fun to watch her enjoying herself, though!

This is a long post, and I have finishing touches to put on Lilah's sweater and the bonus FO, so I will post this now and do FO pictures later in the week.

Reading: I just reviewed Shirley Damsgaard's Abby & Ophelia mysteries, a recent favorite series of mine. I also enjoyed Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, though I didn't like their first collaboration, Don't Look Down. And I read a plethora of cozy mysteries as well. I have Dewey: The Library Cat... to review (from the publisher! Isn't that fun?) and the new Kate Atkinson that I can hardly wait to read. As soon as I finish Murder Most Maine, the third Gray Whale Inn mystery by Karen MacInerney, I'll read those two. I really should take a picture of my To-Be-Read book piles to shock and horrify you, since it is the Halloween season.

Writing: Still at 12,294 words, and with a subplot to go back and fix. Lilah and I were visiting my parents in California, so I didn't get anything done. Hopefully, the jet lag will wear off soon and I can get us back on a good schedule that allows for writing. November is National Novel Writing Month, and though you're technically supposed to start AND finish a novel during the month, if I can use that to get a jump-start on my current project, so much the better.

Cooking: I am not a particularly good photographer, so I haven't gotten into food photography. That and the lighting in our house is awful and makes food look weird. If I find a way to take appetizing photos, though, I will! I am making apple butter this weekend (until I get my website set up, leave a comment with your email address if you'd like to place an order), so maybe I will try then.

I forgot to post two recipes last time, which is good, as I have not been cooking (traveling). One is for the magical whole wheat scones, and the other is for Spicy Cheese Rolls, a French roll with sharp cheddar and a bit of cayenne, inspired by Stella's Bakery in Madison, WI. Meanwhile, I helped Matt through hosting his coworkers for a dinner thing while I was out of town. We picked an African peanut stew and a pear crumble (both based on Cooking Light recipes). I helped him modify the peanut stew for the Crockpot so he wouldn't be babysitting the stove. And the crumble is nice and simple. I had him substitute cardamon for the cinnamon, which makes it a touch exotic and goes wonderfully with pears. He rounded out the meal with baguette, Brie and goat cheese (rolled in thyme and black pepper), and olives, and a salad with sliced almonds and dried cranberries. He's not very used to cooking, so I was really proud of him for pulling it off!

Amy, I use regular old whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, and white whole wheat flour. Bread is tougher to substitute whole wheat flour in than pastries and such. You're generally not going to get the same light, airy results with whole wheat, no matter what kind. I've had great success in using white whole wheat flour in place of all or most of the white flour in cookies, but there's a slight "healthy" taste (as my husband would say). I usually use whole wheat pastry flour when I'm not trying to hide it as much--that's what I used in the scones, along with regular whole wheat flour (for the nuttier taste). With bread...it's been a while since I've done whole wheat bread. I personally like the taste of whole-wheat flour, so I would just use 100% whole wheat flour, though I used to make baguettes with half bread flour and half whole wheat (along with cracked wheat soaked in hot water and drained...yum). With bread, whole wheat pastry and white whole wheat flours are too low in gluten to make a good substitute in bread. But regular whole wheat flour (which is made from hard red wheat) is fine. But it's always going to be denser than regular old white bread. Oh, and my vegetable stock recipe is linked at the left (My Recipes), but you can throw whatever veggies you want (except very strong tasting ones like cabbage or broccoli) in a pot, cover with water and cook until you like the color :)

And I forgot to respond to you last time--I get a lot of recipes from Cooking Light. You can get a code for online use from one of their books or a newstand magazine (at least that's how you used to do it--it might be open now), or if you're a subscriber, you put in your number. I actually might not renew my subscription. Even though it's not a vegetarian magazine (and those are no fun, I've tried), it's always had vegetarian recipes well-represented. But they dropped their Inspired Vegetarian section this summer, and the last issue had 17 pork main dish recipes in the index and 3 vegetarian. I am a subscriber, and I buy the Annual Recipe collection every year (this is the previous year's recipes--every single one, but indexed, so it's easier to use than 11 magazines), and I'm a bit taken aback by the change. I actually wrote in to ask what was going on, but they're treating it as a letter to the editor submission, so no one's given me any answers. Getting my new Cooking Light used to be a highlight of the month, but the last two magazines, I haven't marked a single recipe as "must shop for ingredients now!" Anyway, enough of that...on to the recipes!

Whole Wheat Scones

4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
12 oz. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 vanilla bean, scraped (for vanilla version) or 2 tsp cinnamon (for cinnamon version)
1 1/2 to 2 cups whole milk (start with 1 1/2 and then add a tablespoon at a time)
additional sugar and cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray.

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter using a food processor, pastry cutter, or forks (I usually resort to my fingers, even though you're not supposed to). Add eggs, vanilla extract, and 1 1/2 cups milk). Stir to combine, adding more milk as needed. The dough should be a bit sticky. Divide into four balls. Sprinkle sugar on a flat surface. Place one of the dough balls on the sugar and turn to coat. Pat down into a round about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 6 wedges. Repeat with the other three balls. For cinnamon version, sprinkle tops of scones with cinnamon. Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Spicy Cheese Rolls

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 TBL active dry yeast
2 TBL sugar
2 TBL olive oil
1 tsp salt
4 cups bread flour
4 oz. extra sharp white cheddar, grated
cayenne pepper

I put everything except the cheese and pepper in the bread machine and put it on "dough." (I love the bread machine!) Divide into 16 equal pieces. Stretch each piece, top with cheese and a sprinkle of cayenne, then fold over. Cover and let rise an hour, until doubled. Bake at 400 until lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.


Amy said...

Love it, fabulous, all of it.

Thank you for all of the diligent question-answering. I feel like less of a ding dong since clearly the whole wheat flour question isn't super straightforward. Your advice gives me something practical I can work with (the web was just spitting back too many different opinions on this, and I didn't know who to trust.).

Can't wait to see your FOs, including the bonus one, fun fun.

Who writes an entire novel in a month? Crazy talk. Jump-start on current project is good enough, I say.

Am WAY impressed with Matt's dinner party-throwing skills! Can't imagine this working in my house, no matter how heavy the remote coaching.

Oh, yes, all those links you have over there on the left - they have a purpose! What have I been missing? Foofy Citrus Cocktail? Oh my goodness. And the stock recipe is helpful, too. Once again, I've had too much varying direction in the past. I'm going with the Allison Method.

Amy said...

Oh yes, and I want to place an order for your apple butter.

Just tell me where to send the moolah!

Corinna said...


I'm delurking to ask for your modification to the African Peanut Stew recipe to make it in a crock pot. How did it turn out? We love that recipe, but it would be nice to simplify it a bit! I will also have to try your recipe for the cheesy bread. After living here in Madison for 5 years, I got to taste some of Stella's version this past weekend at the Westside Community Market and am hooked!

KnitPastis said...

Hey! You are back from CA. So glad that you got to see your family! You are cooking up a storm here:)

You could go outside to take photos of your jams or anything.