Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers-August

Due to a slight snafu with email, I did not get my first DB Recipe until later in the month. Rather than deal with more emails and explainations and excuses and delaying my membership by a month, I just baked.

And then I was done and remembered DH had the camera in another state. I did my best to preserve the remains but here is what was left after three days:

I love how this little creampuff looks like it's sticking it's tongue out at me.
The recipe was actually for Eclairs. I made some of those too, but they didn't make it to picture day. I kept a chocolate filling, but omitted the glaze. I also decided to veganize my filling (though my cream puffs were not vegan). I used a chocolate mousse recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Having a feti$h for Mexican chocolate lately, I tossed some cinnamon, nutmeg and chile powder in my filling--and I am shocked quickly I seem to be moving through chile powder and cinnamon.
I will also take this moment to tell you that I joined DB to challange myself. I'm happy to blog my adventure and post pictures, but I am not a photographer.
What I learned:
  • I had never made pâte à choux before. It wasn't hard.
  • My mom used to make cream puffs shaped like swans. I may have to pull out those instructions.
Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)
• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm
1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds bypositioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets withwaxed or parchment paper.
2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff.The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.
3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip thehandle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in theoven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continuebaking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total bakingtime should be approximately 20 minutes.
Assembling the éclairs:
• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)
1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside thebottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.
2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops ofthe éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill thebottoms with the pastry cream.
3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottomswith enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry creamand wriggle gently to settle them.
Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff DoughRecipe
from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)
• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour• 5 large eggs, at room temperature1)
In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to theboil.
2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to mediumand start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together veryquickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. Youneed to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the doughwill be very soft and smooth.
3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using yourhandmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again donot worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time youhave added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted itshould fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.
4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.
Chocolate Pastry Cream Recipe
from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé
• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.
2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.
3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.
4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.
5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mars vs Venus

Mid June:
Me: I think I want that corner unit in the basement to come upstairs.
DH: Why?

Late June:
DH: A coworker is switching apartments and needs help moving.

Early July:
Me: I want to bring up that corner unit. I need help though.
DH: (without moving) mm hmm

Mid July:
DH: My buddy needs help moving some furniture so they can refinish their floors.

Three Days Later:
DH: Buddy needs my help moving the furniture back.

Late July:
Me (to mother): I'm going to move this unit upstairs.
Mom: That would be perfect!

DH: I haven't lifted weights for a week! I need a workout.
Me: I need your help moving that corner unit.
DH: I mean a real workout. So why do you want to move it again?

This Week:
DH: Some coworkers had a disaster with their closing and they need help moving their stuff into storage tonight.
Me: ?!?
DH: What?
Me: I don't mind you helping. But I need you to promise you'll help me move that corner unit tonight.
DH: Okay, I'll do it when I get home. (In his head: Why does she seem slightly irrational? Must be That Time.)

Last Night:
Me: Look downstairs! I assembled five shelving units, picked all the toys up off the floor and moved the (250 lb)treadmill.
DH: Why didn't you ask me? I would have helped to move all that stuff.
Me (In my head): Because I don't think we'll still living here in 2015.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The WreckRoom

The gateway to My Sewing Room is an area the former owner set up for bachelor entertaining--perfect for a cheap kegger. There's a sink, and a space for a fridge, wood paneling, and a door that leads out to a patio area. He offered to install the rest of the neon (I kid you not!) and we declined.

We use it a playroom/gym. This is where all toys live when we have to clean and it's where I workout, when I workout.

I realized it was also a disaster area this week. The kiddos have been leaving toys in My Sewing Room because they are playing in it. I sweep all of it out and it comes right back in. I kept asking why until I realized:

They can't play in the playroom because it sucks.

Thus, we move on to the next project--Operation WreckRoom.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

End of Summer

Summer is drawing to a close. My kiddo starts kindergarten this week.

Overall, it was a successful summer:
  • No one got a sunburn (except DH, while he was telling sea-level visitors to put on tons of sunscreen)
  • No one got heatstroke
  • No emergency room visits

We also managed to find all the water features in the area and I got a healthy dose of Olympic coverage. Enough to tide me over for 18 months.

Now my favorite season starts.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Photo Finish and Why Do the Gods Hate Me?

Here is my Ravelympic FO. I love it. It fits nicely. I think it looks nice on me (perhaps not with a green polo) and I intend to wear it a lot this winter.

I was on such a high that I decided to take the opportunity to finish some dusty UFOs that had been lurking in the shadows and came to light while shoveling out my sewing room. I inserted a zipper, sewed some seams, knit a couple gussets for sleeves that were way too skinny for normal women, much less me.

Then I decided my mom had had enough of a head start on her race sweater. I started mine. It's a beauty from VK Fall 2008 that has a voluptuous cable traveling up the back and hood and up the sleeves. This sweater is luscious.

I started the sleeve first because I hate sleeves, well I hate the necessity of knitting two sleeves. I was knitting beautifully and the thing was flying off my needles. No sooner had I thought "Could I finish two garments by the end of the Olympics" when the knitting God(dess)--what is her name?--struck.

The cable is 22 rows, which are repeated as needed. I was supposed to knit 19.5 inches and end on row 1. My sleeve measured about 22 inches on row 1. I would have carried on but that little voice in my head kept nagging. I realized I had altered the cable to fit in an 18 row repeat. Which meant I had done one more repeat than necessary, and had really botched up the whole thing. Don't give me suggestions (unless it involves hard liquor or moments of silence)--It's too late:

I ripped out the cable (not the entire sleeve) and I am reknitting.

My only consolation is that my mom had to restart her sleeve 4 times.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Meddle Ceremony will be Delayed

I finished my Ravelympic Vest. It has been blocked and the ends are woven in. It has been gently folded and is sitting nicely with the other knitwear in my closet.

But you'll just have to trust me. It seems DH has taken my camera on a business trip. Talk about a gold meddle (mispelling intended).

A formal protest has been filed with the KOC (Knitting Olympic Committee) who will review the situation before awarding medals. I'm sure it will involve a photo finish.

Let's hope I pass the drug test.

School Shopping

Among the numerous supplies needed to send a Kindergartner off into the world:

4 boxes of 24 crayons
1 box of tissues

Shouldn't this be the other way around? I know my child won't go through four boxes of crayons in a year. He hasn't gone through one box in five years. But Tissue? Absolutely.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Out of the Mouths...

I have been joking to a few people about how much fun I have watching the Olympics--especially if the sport might exhibit Speedo-slippage.

I turned on the Olympics yesterday morning and I was explaining how the swim relays work to my kids. Then NBC did another article on Mr Phelps.

5yo: Is that the Slippo-speedage? He's fast.

Hmm..there are worse nicknames a swimmer could have.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Environmental Refugees--No Vacancy

Dear mice,

I am sorry you chose my basement as your refuge. I understand the the rain has likely flooded your usual homes and insurance deductibles are a bitch. Nothing sounds sweeter to a soggy mouse refugee camp that warm, dry, Mason de Mountain Mama.

But the cat was here first. It's nothing personal. If I were your size he would attack me too. It's just his way. I did my best to 'catch and release' you into the wild areas were you belong. But by kitty-catch number four, it was too dark and the kitty needs his exercise. And the extra nutrition.

And please don't pull the "abandoned baby" stunt again. It's just too cruel for all involved.

the management

Olympic Knitting Day 8

Who wouldn't want to knit when the weather looks like this?

I woke up and saw this beautiful drizzle and drank hot tea out on the deck for a couple minutes. Then I packed the kids up and took them to starbucks for hot chocolate (it's been so long since we've had hot chocolate) and went to the craft store for a rainy day project--iron-on transfers and t-shirts. Puddle jumping will be the order of the afternoon.
And I knit:

This is right before the armhole shaping. This means I suddenly have rows that are 40 stitches shorter and they keep decreasing. What is it about armhole shaping that gives me more mojo? My rows are shorter, but that means the futzy end-weaving comes more frequently. Anyway, I am cruising along. At this rate I will be on the neck and arm bands by Monday.
Barring disaster.

Favorite Things Friday: Olympic Moments

My favorite Olympic Moments:

The Men's 400 Relay That last leg is amazing. You can see the adrenaline burst out of those men as they cheer their victory. Mr. Phelps' swimsuit riding a little low on the hips is nice too.

Whitewater Kayaking Finals This is the Olympics at their finest. A man representing a tiny country I couldn't find on a map wins a medal. He is so excited he breaks his paddle and is still jumping around with excitement during the medal ceremony. Who wouldn't want to cheer for Togo after that?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Because Knitting Doesn't Cause Enough Tears

My California connection has just informed me that Trader Joe's has discontinued vanilla paste.

If you see a forlorn mom sitting at Starbucks wearing black and draping half a fair-isle vest over her head like a shroud while jabbing knitting needles through her recipe files you will understand completely I'm sure. Dark chocolate and mochas are always appreciated at a time like this.

Unreasonable Marriage Vows

Goal: Fifteen rows a day. I know I am capable. The real question is if I can be monogamous (to the project--as if!) until the project is finished.

Day 1: Cast-on. Rib (corregated ribbing no less) 17 of 23 rows. Cheer! This will be easy.
Day 2: Finish ribbing and started fair isle. Decide to incorporate Olympic Rings in the design because that would make it harder drive me crazy teach me a lesson look nice.
Day 3: Knit 23 rows but frogged 8. Curse Olympic rings in fair-isle knitting.
Day 4: Spend day at amusement park. Knit seven rows then fall asleep and miss Men's Gymnastics Bronze.
Day 5: Knit 12 rows. Take project to SnB and cruise through 3 rows. Realize I made a mistake and have to frog them. Teach SnB new swearwords. While falling asleep that night remember I am a day behind.
Day 6: Knit 16 rows. Am sick of my colors. The pile of laundry looks big. Decide I should do laundry and maybe cook a fancy, cuban-style dinner. And go out with my family for the evening.
Day 7: Project is definately too heavy. I might get carpal tunnel if I continue to torture myself this way. Fantasize about next project. 5yo requests a new sweater and I seriously consider entertaining request. I am halfway to my car keys when I check myself. Lose count of rows.

Ten more days!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lack of Dedication

We took the opportunity of having a teenager in the house (and grandparents who are retired) to go to Elitch Gardens.

I haven't been to an amusement park for a while and it was fun. Lots of fun.


I was only able to knit seven of my fifteen Olympic rows last night. I thought I'd be okay but I fell asleep while watching the Olympics. I missed the Gymnast's Bronze too. Not sure which causes more anguish.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Forgive my terseness. It's nothing personal.
Status Sunday morning:
The reason I ripped out about six rows on Saturday:
Worth it though, don't you think?

Dear Jane Squares

Sunday, August 10, 2008


You must forgive my absence.

The Olympics are on. Twice a year I am glued to the television. If this was the only television I watched I would be happy. It pretty much is the only TV I watch.

I also have some guests in town for a few days. Luckily they're easygoing. I am getting a glimpse into the future because one is a strapping gentleman of 14. The first thing he did was set up camp in the kitchen. I am going to entertain myself while he performs the much needed chore of eating all my food cleaning out my kitchen and pantry.

I am also doing a Ravelympics project--cast on during the opening ceremonies, be done by the closing. I'm doing a fair-isle vest and it's enough of a challenge that I can complete it in 17 days without obscenely neglecting my children.

But I fear I may obscenely be neglecting my blog. When I think about it, I'll post pictures of my Knitting.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Rumors, Heresay, Bunk

There is a rumor circulating that someone went to the Colorado Speedway to watch the races. The claim is that this particular person was knitting and eating a slice of Filbert Gateau while watching race cars crash and smelling exhaust.

You can't pin this on me. Would I do such classy pursuits as knitting with good wool and dining on European cakes at such a lowbrow locale?

I plead not guilty.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Whipping, Beating, and other Foodie Pastimes

One thing I noticed about the DB challenge were the numerous "DO NOT OVERMIX/BEAT/BLEND. Wise words to be sure, but I noticed a number of people having problems with the buttercream.

You probably underbeat.

I did an experiment a few months ago because I had some extra cream and thought it would be fun to make butter with the kids. I wanted to see how long it took to overwhip the cream. I whipped for about 15 minutes before I got butter. The cream stayed in a usable consistency for about 8 minutes. This is good to know, as before I was so scared of overwhipping my cream that I usually had more of a puddle than a dollop.

I have never beaten eggwhites so long that they collapse, but it seems a worthwhile experiment. Next time I make hollandaise, I may do just that. Then I'll have a handle on how long soft peaks are soft, stiff peaks are stiff and when destruction is eminent

Anyway, you cooks out there might want to try the same thing just to watch the changes that occur. You may find it takes longer to overbeat than you thought.

And your buttercream might be more successful.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Daring Bakers-July

The July Challenge for Daring Bakers is a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream. I don't know how DBs choose thier recipes, or how they choose the person who chooses the recipes, but you can follow the link above to get the recipe. I cut, paste, deleted all the info I didn't need and ended up with a three page recipe. That is a challenge! I'm still amazed I haven't found this group before.

Whenever I make a convoluted recipe I assemble all my ingredients to get a quick visual. Not only do I find out quickly if I have enough of everything, but it also gives me a picture to post here. This batch of ingredients is deceptive, most of them get used two or three times, as there are six different parts to this cake.

Another picture to entertain while I blather:

I immediately decided not to veganize. First of all, there were a million eggs and a fair share of cream and butter. Second, with all those eggs, I was in for a mess wih my altitude adjustments anyway.

Altitude adj for approx 5000 feet:
  • Increased oven temp 15 degrees
  • There were seven yolks and five whites--I used all seven whites.

The cake rose beautifully and (sigh of relief) stayed risen. It was perfectly risen--no dome or sinkage at all! And for some reason, no picture at all! The assembly was straightforward, though there were lots of steps.

New to me:

  • I've never successfully toasted nuts before this. Usually there are more cinders than nuts. I had to keep my wits about me (ergo I made the cake last night when everyone was in bed)
  • I've never made this kind of buttercream. It came out light and fluffy and perfect. I still don't like buttercream.
  • Never made praline, or praline paste. It was surprisingly simple.

I prepared everything last night except the ganache, which I made this morning (and put in my coffee, and debated puring on my eggs, and considered bathing in, but I digress). I had a dark chocolate ganache on my wedding cake (which my mom made) so there is a special place in my arteries heart for ganche.


Like my cakestand? The idea has potential--you could stuff a couple pretty flowers or berries in the wineglasses. I especially love the way my 5yo sauntered into the picture wearing only his underwear. All sorts of classy around here, let me tell you.

Friday, August 01, 2008

It's Not Easy Being ???

So, the grand finale of a tour of Brown Sheep is shopping in their Seconds store. These are the yarns that didn't make the cut. They may be off dye-lots, have lots of knots, discontinued, whatever. Of course, the yarn is sold at a discount.

The astute of you may notice a significant trend in my new stash entrants:

The other ladies in my group were giggling at this. I felt no need to justify. I know what I like.
But then my mother said

"You should see her house!" My face turned from sheepish (no pun intended) grin into mild horror.

Exhibit A: Yarn-"Cactus" Living Room Paint: "Olive Oil"

Exhibit B: Yarn "Pistachio" 5yo Bedroom: "Corn Husk"

Exhibit C: Yarn "Peridot", 2yo Bedroom "Grasscloth"

I did have a sweater's worth of a burgandy-ish color. My mom and I found a pattern we both liked and decided to each make it (as a race). When I saw the color she picked (a wine-y color), we knew we needed to switch one (we mean to swap on occasion). The only other color that appealed was, of course, green.
Okay. So I like green.
The other yarns are for a Christmas present. The roving is for a technique I want to try.

Favorite Things Friday: Foodie Stuff

I have an "exotic" ingredient I couldn't do without:

Trader Joes Vanilla Paste-The last time we found this was two years ago (T.J. being not in my area). DH was in Washington finalizing our moving truck and he called me from the store:
DH: They have Vanilla Paste. How much do you want?
Me: How much do they have?
DH: Plenty. Like 20 bottles.
Me: Buy 'em out!
DH: No really, how many?

He came home with six. I'm on my last bottle (serious rationing happening here!).

I've heard William Sonoma carried vanilla paste too, at about $20.00 a bottle. Trader Joe's is far more reasonable. If they are still making it, you have got to try it.
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