Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers-September

Has this ever happened to you? You know you have something due and you choose this one time not to procrastinate and actually finish with lots and lots of time to spare, only to turn it in late.

I woke p this morning to discover my DB challenge is due today (granted it's a loose guideline but...).

This month's challenge was Lavash. An Armenian style cracker. A secondary challenge involved an accompaniment that was vegan/gluten free. As I spent six weeks last Spring teaching myself how to bake bread, but never made crackers, I went into this one with confidence.

The ingredients: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5

I cheat and use my Kitchenaid Mixer to knead the dough. I just turn it on and leave it until the dough is ready--usually about 10-12 minutes.

I rolled the crakers out to fit into my cookie sheet and knew they would be too thick. I'm okay with that.

I dusted them with Fleur de Sel and rosemary. They made a wonderful, thin, flatbread. A little longer in the oven might have crisped them, but my family had no problem polishing off the batch.

I served these with a Cuban inspired black-bean stew (ad lib from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian) and rice. The stew recipe escapes me but I know it was vegan. Cooked blackbeans, onion, green chiles, carrot, seasonings. The kids ate the crakers and rice.

What I learned:
  • I had never made crackers before. And I must admit I still haven't.
  • There was a gluten free version of this recipe. I had no desire to try it.
  • Given my past experiences with bread, these were relatively easy. I might consider making crackers more often (but, then, who am I kidding?)
RECIPE - Recipe Reference: The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Copyright 2001. ISBN-10: 1-58008-268-8, ISBN-13: 978-158008-268-6.

  • 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
  • 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
  • 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
  • 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
  • 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
  • Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings
  1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.
  2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).
  4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).
  7. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just Another Typical Naptime

I often get asked where I find the time to create. Answer: Naptime!

Today, during naptime, I finished a top (I just had to hem it--I didn't actually sew the whole thing today).

I'm wearing it to a wedding in October. And a dinner tonight with the extended in-laws.
But wait...What's that crawling on my shirt?
Meet Penelope. A quick whimsy I made when I decided I wanted a pin for the top when I wear it tonight. She helps me keep my sense of humor, i.e. like right now when I wish I was capable of taking a decent picture. Or later when I have dinner with the extended in-laws.
And that's what I do with my sparetime.
Instead of cleaning.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bat Cave to Cave of Wonders

Wreck room before:

Please note that I have nothing against bats. Or caves. However, I am not a bat and I am comfortable with the idea that my ancestors left their caves and started building their homes to suit.

Wreckroom after:
Light walls, floors are visible.

Dark paneling has been painted. TV is across from Treadmill.

The "Bar." I think I'll skirt the counter so I don't have to look at the plumbing.

Nesting is pretty much complete. Let the hibernation begin!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I don't like discussing politics. I was raised in a bipartisan home. My father argues with everyone, even if they agree with him. And my mom learned silence years ago.

But I have to say something.

Senator Palin was a brilliant move by the Republicans. McCain has taken a step back and is letting her do all the work. She seems just about perfect. Just rememeber...

...We are voting for the next president. Even if we vote for her, she still won't be Commander in Chief (unless something happens to McCain of course). I know there is a push to help Americans learn more about her (ergo the excessive presstime) but, again, do we want a VP we knew nothing about until 4 months before she took office?

And more importantly, where's McCain?

Just saying.

Constitution Day

My 5yo knows that on school days his job is to get dressed and brush his teeth before he goes downstairs to start his breakfast grazing. This gives me a couple extra minutes of sleep and I don't deal with the out-the-door-scramble later.

Today is Constitution Day. His school has requested all children wear red, white and blue. When I got downstairs I saw my son was wearing blue shorts with white stripes, and a red shirt. I praised him for remembering the day.

He pointed out the logo on his shirt has a little bit of yellow in it.

Infer what you will.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Tide is Shifting

Somehow, the Ravelympics inspired me to finish five sweaters in 30 days.

Granted, three of them have been hanging out for a while (years) but two of them were completed start to finish.

So as I turn over my Summer wardrobe (as I promised) I will discover that I have plenty of sweaters. Hats for the kiddos is the next order of business, and then maybe mittens.

But then what? How many stunning sweaters does a girl need?

So, I realized My Sewing Room (still can't help but capitalize that) should maybe get some use. I have a quilt, a duvet cover, other household projects in line. I also want a handbag, some nice fitting pants (oh what I wouldn't give for nice fitting pants), maybe some trendy little tops (as opposed to the cotton Ts I'm normally seen in) and a crafty project or two. . .or five.

And my knitting will be reserved for the car, the movie theater, and my SnB.

At least until the next VK comes in.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Makes Me Smile--Without Laughlines

5yo: Clive (our cat) was nine in that picture, now he's ten.
Me: Yes, and soon he will be eleven.
5yo: Why is Clive older than you, me and 2yo?
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