Where’s my Wednesday at?

Smitten Kitchen cookbook plus scarf

Hello fellow Yarn Along-ers! Yes, I’m still around, and yes, it is high time for another Yarn Along post. Especially since I have a new wip to share with you. I managed to finish my Paraphenalia socks – yay! – and decided to cast on for something new instead of finishing up one of my old wips.

But first things first. Were you able to figure out what I’m reading? Yes? Or are you distracted by the image of the luscious lemon square? I can tell you that I have a serious hankering to bake some right now. I may just head out to the store later to buy some lemons… I guess that’s the mark of a good cookbook, that it serves to inspire you.

So – in case you didn’t guess, this is the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I’d actually planned to attend one of the book signings, but life interfered. In the end, I guess I was better off not going, given how overcrowded and incredibly long the book signing was. And so I ended up borrowing the book from the library… I have to say, I do enjoy it, but it after all they hype, it wasn’t the best thing since sliced bread. A good cookbook but not the best one ever. It didn’t knock me off my socks. I know, heresy. Especially by me, an avowed Smitten Kitchen lover.  I do like it, but I think I’ll be just fine with the website. Unless of course someone wants to gift me with a copy of the book – I won’t say no (hint hint, family).

I guess that’s the problem with hype – it raises your expectations to a level that will almost always cause a let-down when you encounter the real thing. I’ve felt the same way about Argo or Forrest Gump. Really good movies, but the hype was just way too crazy. I was kind of disappointed after watching them – although I actually enjoyed Forrest Gump more the second time around. I’m guessing that’ll be the same case with Argo.

yellow and grey yarn

Back to the knitting. I’ve been on a yellow kick lately – the color just makes me happy. Plus it’s perfect to put you in a spring kind of mood. And even though the original prototype of the pattern sports a shawl knit in red and grey – MadTosh tart! – I decided on yellow. A mellow yellow, matched with a mellow grey so the scarf would be easy to combine with all kinds of clothing. I’m really happy with the final color selection. The yarn is MadelineTosh fingering merino light, in the colorways Whiskers and Winter Wheat. Pretty!

The pattern is Elinya – it’s a scarf/narrow shawl with  alternating stripes, knit in garter stitch. This is definitely a good design for beginners. As to me, I’m already bored out of my mind, and I’m only 30 stripes in. Oy. And this brings me to another point. This is a pattern you have to pay for. $4. I thought there’d be some short rows or some kind of shaping, something worth paying that much for. And yet all it consists of are garter stitch stripes, with increases at the beginning and end of each row. That’s it. I feel ripped off. I could have come up with that on my own, thank you very much. Sigh. But more on the topic of patterns, and pattern pricing another day.

And now for the blog hop part: I’m linking up with this week’s Yarn Along, this week’s Tami’s Amis WIP Wednesday and Frontier Dreams’ Keep Calm and Craft on (KCCO) blog-a-long. Check out some of the other awesome wip posts.

Yarn Along

 

Advertisements

Homework

lemon tart

shallow depth of field

 

Hi! If you were expecting a Wednesday Yarn Along kind of post, there’ll be one of those next week. I’ve actually made some progress on my socks, and I think I’ll be casting on for another wip (work in progress), to give me a bit of a break from knitting socks. And I really need to get back into the groove of blogging regularly. Even though it’s kind of hard with the household that I’m currently living in. But more on that another day.

 

For today though, I’m sharing my homework with you. Yes, homework – it’s so weird to once again have assignments that have to be turned in. But this homework is all my own fault. You see, I signed up for a food photography class, and as part of our current homework, we were asked to take two photographs, of two food-related items. They could be anything from a finished food items to ingredients to herbs and spices. The assignment was two take two type of photographs – one with shallow depth of field, and one where the entire photograph, with all the components were in focus. The next class will deal with lighting, so this is a good prep for that class. So, in case you hadn’t noticed, the top photograph was the one with shallow depth of focus, and the following one is with everything in focus.

 

lemon tart bite

everything is supposed to be in focus

 

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you might recognize the tart. I’ve made it before  and blogged about it too – it’s the whole lemon tart recipe from smitten kitchen. I’ve made it before, and quite successfully so. I’ve definitely gotten positive feedback from all the various consumer’s of the tart. This time around though, I made some changes. I used Meyer lemons instead of regular lemons, and it really does make a difference in the taste. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. Honestly, I can’t tell you that I liked one or the other better, they’re both good.

 

I also used smitten kitchen’s great unshrinkable tart crust recipe instead of a Mürbteig base (classic German basic crust recipe). The crust was good – but not “oh my God, this is out of the world great, this is now my go-to crust recipe” great. I think I might stick with a regular Mürbteig. I like the texture better. Oh, and for the sake of the little person with dairy allergies I used Earth’s Balance soy-free butter sticks instead of butter – yes, also for the filling. I’m not a fan of margarine generally – the whole hydrogenated fat thing is a turn-off – but, well, if I want to make this a dessert that everyone around here can eat then there really isn’t much of an alternative. I did find the texture of the crust to be different though – it was so ‘buttery’ that I added extra flour to the crust in order to get a more of a dough and less of a buttery consistency. I have no idea how people got a crumbly kind of mixture in their food processor. I guess I should try making the version with butter before I render my verdict on the tart shell. And I do have some leftover dough which will probably be transformed into Easter cookies.

 

 

And that’s it from my end for today. Stay tuned for more of my photography adventures. I should have a new post up in a few days, probably on Friday. Until then!

 

sugar apricots

I came back with a bunch of Turkish sugar apricots from my latest grocery expedition. They looked so cute and delicious, and they’re quite a bit smaller than regular apricots. And yes, they live up to the expectation of the name – they really are sweeter.

So what to make with them? This nectarine galette came immediately to my mind – rustic and flaky, and perfect for fresh seasonal fruit. It’s easy enough to make – I used a bit too much water while bringing the dough together, so it was a bit sticky, but sticking it in the fridge helped . I forgot to take it out in time to roll it out, and since I didn’t want a finished tart that was done around 11pm, I placed the rolled out dough in the freezer, just long enough for the dough to firm up, but not long enough to freeze. If you’re doing the same thing, make sure you check on your dough frequently and that you don’t get side tracked, otherwise you have a frozen dough with lovely cracks. Which defeats the whole no-tear concept and the juices will run out.

I used up every single apricot – sadness, since I wanted to eat at least one. But it sure did look pretty, with all those apricots arranged. I placed the tart on a pizza stone, which was great, and the tart came out really nicely. It’s easy peasey to make (God, I sound like one of those Food Network Chefs – I can’t remember who says that), and the crust is lovely and flaky and delicious. I made one with plums, and it’s just as good.

fruit tart

apricot tart, plum tart – baked on a pizza stone

The idea is good, but…

Sometimes an idea is better than the result. Such as in this case. I thought that brownies in a mini-muffin pan = perfect Toddler distraction technique. My nephew is a chocaholic, so instead of making a chocolate cake, I sold him on making chocolate ‘cupcakes.’ The recipe mentions that Deb from Smitten Kitchen had made them as mini cupcakes – the perfect small serving, especially for a toddler. I figured that he’d probably ask for frosting, but I think adding a chocolate ganache would be overkill. These brownies are decadent enough as it is.

The specific recipe is the ‘outrageous brownies‘ recipe – very yummy, and very chocolatey. But I do have to say that while delicious, I wasn’t that knocked off my feet. Then again I did modify the recipe. When I saw that 1 lb of butter would be required, I figured that the butter and chocolate content is the outrageous part. I mean really, 1 lb of butter? I can hear my arteries – and my stomach – groaning. Not to mention toddler teeth, which are hard enough to brush: “No! I want to do it myself” – which means lots of toothpaste eating with little brushing. Ah, the (nighttime) power struggles.

Back to the recipe. I had only half the amount of chocolate chips required in the recipe. But I did have a batch of chocolate truffles that had an unfortunate encounter with sunlight, resulting in a truffly mass. I figured that using that would approximately amount for butter and chocolate in the recipe. So instead I only used 8 ounces of butter (which is still plenty) and a bag of chocolate chips, which I melted together in a microwave. A double boiler is just too dangerous when you have a toddler stranding beside you who wants to help and stir every step of the way. Normally chocolate easily burns if you heat too long in the microwave, resulting in rather charred chocolate rather than a delicious chocolatey goo. But melting both butter and chocolate together seemed to do the trick. Then I softened the truffle mass in the microwave and added it. I didn’t include the 6 oz of unsweetened chocolate.

Brownies in cupcake shape

If I’m baking on my own, I don’t really mind multiple bowls. But with mister “dump it into the bowl?” assisting, I decided to add the eggs directly to the chocolate mix. I have to say though that by the time I added the eggs the mixture was still liquid, but only room temperature. No chance of chocolatey scrambled eggs. I used a lot less sugar, maybe 1/3 of a cup since the truffles were plenty sweet. I also omitted the coffee – I really don’t need a hyper toddler running around. He’s already energetic enough. I used baking soda instead of baking powder and left out the walnuts.

I baked the brownies in a mini muffin pan – and I ended up with 40(!!!) brownies. I should have stuck with my original plan of halving the recipe. And it was a good reminder that baking basically is about chemistry – if you mess too much with the recipe, you’re also messing with the proportions. There should sign for bakers saying: “Mess with the proportions at your own risk.”

Still, the brownies are delicious, but they didn’t meet my expectations. They aren’t the best brownies ever. They’re probably a lot better when the proportions are right, but really, 1 lb of butter? There are other great recipes out there. I’m going to have to try out a few other recipes on my hunt for the best brownie. Only my waistline will be complaining.

Risotto di asparago, carciofi e funghi

When guests don’t show up for dinner (last minute changes), well then you simply get a larger portion. If they knew what we had for dinner, I’m sure they’ll regret not coming over. Cause they missed out on this awesome asparagus, artichoke and mushroom risotto. I wouldn’t have thought to put this combination together. Actually, scratch that. I did put roasted artichokes into a pasta dish where it mingled nicely, so I probably would have imagined roasted artichokes as a great addition to a asparagus and mushroom risotto. I bet fresh artichokes would be even better. It’s just that I haven’t trimmed artichokes before, I’ve always been too intimidated. But I’m sure you could come up with all kinds of artichoke risotto combinations.  Jamie Oliver has a recipe for a very basic artichoke risotto (boy, that photograph is terrible), this recipe makes a fresh artichoke and pesto risotto, or how about this recipe from Gourmet for artichoke, prosciutto and bell pepper risotto? Yum. The asparagus, artichoke and mushroom combination was so delicious, this will surely be a new staple in the family (yes, another smitten kitchen recipe). Risotto is one of those things – it has to be stirred constantly, a good broth makes a world of a difference, it really should be served al dente and then eaten right away. My parents never really got the point of making risotto since their restaurant risotto experiences weren’t that great. But now, now they are converts. A good risotto is a great thing, especially when it’s not too heavy. It’s a great accompaniment, but also great on its own. My aunt makes these risotto balls, which are another great way of eating risotto. This risotto was quick and easy, especially since I used those marinated artichokes. Dad is allergic to mushrooms so I just separated out some risotto at the end, after adding the asparagus and the artichokes. The mushrooms were then added to the remaining batch. That’s an easy way to modify a risotto, but also all kinds of recipes if you have someone with allergies, but you really want to also eat the original version.

Asparagus, artichoke and mushroom risotto

Failure. Tasty, tasty failure.

Last time we had blackberries, I’d planned to make these blueberry muffins, substituting blackberries for blueberries. But my berries were a bit smushy, so I wasn’t sure how they’d hold up in the muffins. So instead I made blackberry butter bettys, with blackberries rather than strawberries (obviously). I had too much filling, so I quickly made a few more toast pieces brushed with regular butter (I’d used up all my brown butter), filled all the little tarts, and popped them in the oven. Btw, if you’re using other fruit that you’re not cutting into pieces, make sure you make less of the crumb filling – the filling sticks to the cut sides of the fruit, but if you’re using whole berries or other whole fruit, they won’t really stick, so use less crumbs. Or you could sprinkle them over some yoghurt with fruit. Or make sweet dumplings and coat them with the crumb mixture.

The blackberry bettys were so delicious that I scalded my mouth a bit while trying eat them while fresh out of the oven. (Note to self – baked fruit can get really really hot). I did eat one with a dollop of creme fraiche, which was an excellent serving suggestions. The blackberry brown bettys were polished off so quickly, I’ll have to make them again. Plus, they’re an excellent last minute dessert – you just need some toast and some fruit, some pantry staples, and you can easily toss this together. I bet the betties would be great with apples, too – a quick non-pie apple dessert.

Blackberry sinkhole

Back to the topic on hand. We were invited to our friends’ place for a birthday party/barbecue/cookout (remember my post on the birthday dress and apron), and they have cherry trees, red currant bushes, a gooseberry bush, apple trees and a lovely lovely blackberry hedge. What’s better than eating sun-warmed berries directly from the bush? We went blackberry picking together and a took a portion home to eat with yoghurt for breakfast. I couldn’t finish up all the blackberries and so here was my chance to try and make those muffins. For breakfast. Yum!

I started mixing the butter and the sugar and started whipping them up. In the meantime, I measured the flour, got my other ingredients ready, and went to get out my eggs. But – no eggs. They were all gone. Even though there were still 2 left the day before. Someone – you know who you are – was my saboteur and didn’t tell me they’d eaten my eggs. If I’d known that I didn’t have eggs, I wouldn’t have started making the muffins. And I didn’t have any of the common egg substitutions on hand – no tofu, no smushed bananas, no egg substitute. I did have homemade apple sauce that a friend had made, but when I opened the bottle, the apple sauced started foaming. Not a good sign. It probably wasn’t conserved properly. So no apple sauce available. I guess I could have tried soaked flax seed as a substitute but I just couldn’t imagine it.

Then I started searching for recipes of muffins where the butter sugar mix would fit ingredient-wise – btw, I’d already buttered the pan. I also wanted a recipe where I could use my blackberries. I finally found a recipe for black-bottomed cupcakes. They called for a cream cheese filling with chocolate pieces – yum! – and though I didn’t have any cream cheese, I figured I could try and mix up a filling out of blackberries, yoghurt and bread crumbs that could kind of work.

I had to do some math to figure out all my substitutions – I didn’t have enough brown sugar, I added some oil to the butter (and had to do some match to figure out the additional moisture requirement), and left out the cocoa powder. I had some doubts if all the recipe would work out with my modifications, but hey, I figured it would be worth the experiment. I added my ‘filling’ and, taking care not to overfill the forms, I sent them off into the oven.

Well, I’d overfilled the muffin forms. I got quite a bit of muffin top (which btw tasted delicious). And then I tried to get a muffin out of the form. Which I’d made sure to butter beforehand – but failed to put in cupcake liners since I didn’t have any. Clearly I need to stock up my pantry, because I seem to need to replenish my staples. Anyway, the cupcakes refused to leave their forms. No amount of loosening along the edges and careful prodding with the spoon got them out of their form. Finally I ended up spooning pieces out and eating them right then and there.

blackberries in muffins

As you can see, I had some ‘release’ problems

Since I couldn’t get them out of their form, you get a photograph of them pre-‘release.’ The berry filling made for a sunken filling – but also tasty. Overall, the muffins were soooooo delicious. They were a bit more cakey, which probably was part of the problem with them sticking. This is a recipe worth tweaking I bet I can ultimately get some awesome blackberry muffins out of this. Ultimately, this experiment was a failure. But a very very tasty failure. And it was a good reminder that baking is really about chemistry, about proper proportions, and that you just can’t substitute all over the place.

Or, I could just try and make these lemon ricotta blackberry muffins instead. Don’t they look delicious?