Saturday, 30 August 2008

Bread for cheats

It's been a little while since I've done a foody post, mostly because I've been baking rather boring (though tasty) things like scones and muffins recently. One new discovery is worth a mention however: no knead bread. I had read about it some time ago but was very suspicious and not really interested to have a go. Loads of people in the ravelry bread and yarn group have been raving about it though so curiosity got the better of me and I jumped on the band wagon.

The idea is that you can mix up a big batch of dough and keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, ready to pull off a lump and bake on demand fresh every time. There is a book describing the technique and a whole series of variations upon the theme, and the authors have a blog on the subject here.

I tried their basic recipe for master dough, but found it quite salty so second time round I reduced the yeast and salt content. My master mix now contains 6.5 cups bread flour, 3 cups water, 1 rounded dsp dried yeast and 1 dsp salt. All that is needed is to mix these ingredients together to form quite a wet paste and that's it. You can see my tub of dough in the picture after an overnight rest in the fridge - it's quite bubbly and stretchy already. Because the dough is very wet and sticky it's quite difficult to handle, and this is the bit that requires some practice, but no kneading is required, just shape some dough into a round, prove for one hour and then bake. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the loaf, and it really only took a couple of minutes.

This morning I used some of the dough to make mini cinnamon whirls as suggested on the blog - I rolled out a piece of dough into a rectangle, sprinkled it with cinnamon and brown sugar then rolled it up into a long tube. I used kitchen scissors to cut the tube into whirls and baked them in a cupcake tray. umm, they've all gone already! I'd better make some more for the people coming over tomorrow.

And just to show you I haven't stopped knitting after all the ravelympics exciement, here's a preview of my latest project. Details to follow in a later post, but most of blogland seems to be knitting this one so maybe someone recognises the pattern? Yes I admit that I have been wearing it with one sleeve while I'm knitting the other one, it's cold in Dundee!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Ravelympic finish line

Today I finished my second project for the ravelympics, this time competing for team GB in the scarf stroke. As I dealt with the hundreds of ends that this kind of project creates, I was cheering on the real team GB as they got a good haul of gold medals in the sailing and cycling.

My scarf is made up from two types of 5 pointed crochet flower, with the two long strips of flowers joined together down the middle. The yarn is Gedifra chandra and I used a 12mm hook.

This weekend I also finished a felting project that I've been planning to do for ages. The pattern is here, and I followed it without making any modifications for a change. You can never have too many bags!

Here's a pic of the lopi roving at Twist Fibre Craft Studio, just about to be split up into 100g cakes...

Monday, 11 August 2008

Is it Autumn??

It's been a knitting-heavy couple of weeks what with the start of the ravelympics and everything, so I'm proud to present my two most recent finished objects to you. It seems like I'm very into leaf motifs at the moment, must be thinking of Autumn already. First of all, we have 'Iceland' from the Rowan 42 book in Cocoon (the shade is called tundra). It's been finished for a week or so, but I didn't get the buttons until we went to Twist Fibre Craft on Saturday. I modified it to make it a bit smaller than the smallest size. Follow the link to check out their updated website by the way - they've had a reshuffle in the shop and got in a selction of gorgeous fabric. More things to tempt my wallet!

The second FO is one of my ravelympic projects, the Kevat Shawl (kevat means spring in Finnish). I knitted it with the Utiku possum merino yarn that Jane sent for my birthday on 6.5mm needles. It's a nice easy lace pattern, easy to memorise and 'read' the pattern from the previous row of knitting, and it went especially quickly because I was using such big needles. Cast on at 1pm on Friday during the opening ceremony, cast off at 11.35pm on Saturday and blocked on Sunday! I'm wearing it right now to protect myself from this decidedly cold Scottish August.
Somebody on Ravelry tells me that the reason possum fur is so warm is that it has hollow fibres, which rings a bell now that I think of it. And apparently polar bear fleece is the warmest fibre of all for exactly the same reason.

Yesterday I made a start on my second ravelympics project, this time for team GB. I'm crocheting a scarf with large flower motifs. I've done about 30% so far, it's looking ok, but a bit skinny, I might decide to double up and do two flowers side by side if it's looking long enough by the time I get half way through the yarn.

Friday, 8 August 2008

ready, set, ...and they're off!

The ravelympics have started, hurrah! The ravelympic fever has even made it onto youtube here. As tensions mounted for the Olympic opening in Beijing, we ravelympic athletes gathered at Laurence's house for a casting on ceremony while we watched proceedings in the Bird's Nest stadium. Tasty snacks, tasty yarn, lots of excitement. We all knitted like mad to get going on our entries for team scots can do it too - see the before and after shots in the lower picture...

Follow the links to read more about Laurence's shawl for the shawl relay, and Diane's jacket for baby dressage.

I had a go at making some bread rolls from my new book to take along to the olympic gathering, using the recipe for scottish morning rolls. I made an overnight 'sponge' with a small amount of yeast, flour and water, then left it to grow for about 14 hours. In that time the yeast begins to grow, metabolising the nutrients in the flour as it goes and turning it into a bubbly sticky goo. In the morning, fresh flour and more water is kneaded into the sponge, and it is shaped into rolls after a relatively short rise.

Pittenweem Arts Festival

This week, the residents of Pittenweem in Fife have been flinging open their doors to welcome visitors to the Pittenweem arts festival. The whole village is taken over by resident and invited artists and every possible space, becomes a mini gallery for their work.

It was lovely to stroll around the pretty cottages and gardens looking at the work of some talented local artists along the way, and some of the gardens were almost like galleries in there own right with a whole load of summer flowers.

Every year, there is an installation in the harbour itself, and this year it was designed by Yoshihito Kawabata. He collected 1000 stones, labelling each one with a number, a Japanese character, and details of where and when it was found. The stones were then laid out in a huge circle, spanning across the pier, down onto the beach and into the sea. Over the course of the festival nature and human activity will take their effects and move around the stones to change their order and meaning.

As we made our way across the Tay towards Pittenweem I was amazed at how low the tide was and how much sand was exposed, so the following day I took a walk down the road to take a few pics. The tide was higher than the previous day and rapidly coming in, but still there was so much sand around. You can't see from these pics because they were too far away, but there were a couple of seals on one of the more distant sandbanks. When the tide isn't so low, only the bank nearer the wall is exposed so they sit much more closely in view.

On my way home across Magdalen Green, I got very excited when I discovered how many cherries there were in the trees lining the path. They look fab, and it seems like there are a few varieties because the fruit looked quite different in each tree. Some of it was ready for picking, so now I'm trying to pluck up the courage to go down there (maybe at night!) with a step ladder to pick some. Unfortunately they are all too high to reach without having someone's shoulders to sit on!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Summer's in the bag

It's amazing how many things become so urgent and important when there's the small matter of having to write a thesis on my mind. After a frantic few days of knitting (the results of which you'll see shortly once I've put the buttons on), I suddenly got the urge to dig out the sewing machine last night. I'm not normally good at sewing by any stretch of the imagination, but I came across a straight forward pattern for a shoulder bag here at tiny happy so I thought I'd give it a go.

The flowery fabric was originally a summer shirt that I persuaded Barry to buy last year, forgot to take a pic before starting, sorry. He's only ever worn it a couple of times and I suspect he didn't actually like it that much, especially since he decided to leave it behind here in Scotland. I decided to give it a new lease of life and convert it into something that I could use and enjoy, hope he doesn't mind hehe...

I need to sew on the central band (should have thought of that before I sewed the outer and the lining together!) and then find a toggle or button for the front. I cut out the existing shirt pocket and sewed it to the lining inside. All in all, I'm happy with the result, especially given my lack of coordination when it comes to cutting and sewing fabric. I've got loads of the lining material left so I'm thinking of making a slightly larger one with the beige fabric as the outer, then sewing on some flowers cut out from the leftover shirt material. My next challenge might be to work out how to incorporate a zip for that one.

I had some lovely boiling hot weather in Cambridge last week, and although it's definitely less warm and summery here in Dundee, I have sprung into summer eating patterns. For me, this is summer on a plate, yum yum! And ooh, look at those lovely yellow tomatoes! I would urge you to spend as much as you reasonably can on balsamic vinegar for uses such as this, you're looking for the thick and sweet stuff rather than runny and overly acidic. I'd say aim for the 4 leaves mark (balsamic is graded from 1 leaf up to 4 for quality/maturity etc), aged for over 10 years and priced at upwards of £10 to £12 a bottle. A little goes a long way and it's so worth it :)