Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bend Me, Twist Me, Any Way You Want Me...

Edit April 1, 2008: No, it's no April Fool's joke - my new Daring Bakers friend Chriesi, of Almond Corner, and I have decided to undertake a different kind of challenge! Since we just joined the DB's in March, we are going to go back and do all of the challenges that we missed - only then will we be TRUE Daring Bakers! See Chriesi's lovely, yummy post here!
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OK, so I tend to think of song lyrics &/or titles that are appropriate for most situations. I'll just tell you that right now.

In my last blog, I mentioned the Daring Bakers group. I'm like out-of-this-world excited to be joining them in their baking endeavours, but was saddened when I learned that I won't be able to officially START till the March challenge. But that's OK; totally respect that. I also thought of a great way to feel like I was doing something "with" them anyway. I don't want my excitement to die down while I'm waiting, dammit!

To that end, I decided to make something that the Daring Bakers have done in the past. Whoohoo! But...WHAT, I wondered? Since their inception in Nov. '06 they have made some beautiful, challenging, and (yes, I'm saying it) DARING recipes come to life in the pages of their blogs. The participants run the gamut, from novices to people who like to cook/bake to professionals. I'm not a novice, but I'm sure as hell not a professional; I didn't want to do something so freaking showy that I had no option but to fail.
I contemplated; I perused the blogs of both Lis and Ivonne, the illustrious founders. After much of both, I thought, 'What better recipe for ME to start off with than the one that started the group in the first place?!' Thus, I chose Hot Buttered Pretzels as my pseudo-DB challenge. It was easy to do since I already had the ingredients at home (yeah, even the yeast)!

I knew that this recipe would be a challenge, in that I used the aforementioned yeast to attempt to make a nice, yeasty bread around Christmastime. However...with much chagrin - and little surprise - it just didn't turn out for me. I don't know if it was just my inexperience with yeast, the fact that I put my lump of dough into a slightly warmed oven and forgot about it until I pulled a beige briquette out the next morning, or what. I'm still trying to figure that one out....but I digress. Making these pretzels was only the second time in my life that I've made something with yeast. I wondered what I was in store for, but took a deep breath and jumped on in.

When I started pulling out ingredients, I noticed that the yeast I had wasn't the instant the recipe called for - but after looking online I decided it shouldn't matter too much. I proofed it in the warm water before mixing it with the flour, and it seemed to do well. Being the parent to a 4-year-old, I was naturally going to have some help doing when it got to the kneading stage I let her have a little pinch of dough to do her thing with (this helped me immensely, by the way).

I really liked kneading, and started right-handed even though I'm a lefty (I don't know why; it just felt like the right thing to do - pardon the pun). When I changed hands I realized that I'm definitely a left-handed kneader. You get a little system/rhythm going on - I see why people say it is great to knead when stressed! After going for the instructed 8 minutes, I let it rise for a little over an hour, maybe 1:20 - I wasn't sure if it needed to sit longer since it wasn't the instant yeast, but really, it seemed to quit rising after the hour was up.

The dough was very elastic when first working with it. It'd spring back a good 2-3 inches when I rolled it into a rope. As I went along, however, it became easier, and although they didn't look like I'd been working in a bakery all my freaking life, they did look all right.

Just resting a bit before going into the oven - Hawaiian sea salt sprinkled liberally upon each

Finally - after letting them go an additional 3.5 minutes - they were ready! 'If these suckers taste anywhere near how good the dough tasted,' I thought, 'then I feel an addiction coming on.'

Let's just set up the IV right now, eh?

These little jewels definitely did NOT disappoint! And oh. ma. ga. they tasted like big ol' soft pretzels! Sweet mother of God, I had to stop myself from eating a 2nd one (this WAS after supper, mind you). Hubby's been sick so I didn't offer him one, but the Small One - who had been chomping at the bit - was quite pleased.

I love this precious face (and the person who goes with it) a gajillion times more than these pretzels - and that's a lot.

I would absolutely make this again. It was SO much easier than I anticipated - and so much more fun, too! Now I'm really looking forward to officially becoming a Daring Baker (maybe I'll learn how to trim down the length of a flippin' blog while I'm at it). Lis and Ivonne, I hope you are proud - I sure am!

Yomp, yomp! Slowwwwwly disappearing....

Saturday, February 9, 2008

One Eggcellent Breakfast

So it's a nice quiet Saturday morning here in our household, and weekends being the only time that I am able to leisurely make a nice breakfast, I decided to check out the fridge and see what I could throw together this morning. The hubby usually pulls out the leftover supper grub from the night before, which he had done; and he had gone off doing who knows what that guys do on weekends, so it was just the kid and me.

At first, I decided to make an omelet. However, considering how I couldn't lay my hands on the cooking spray (which I presently suspect is outside from D grilling kabobs for supper yesterday) I used the last oh, teaspoon of olive oil I had - yeah, I need to go shopping - and just did a nice little scramble.

First, I sauteed some garlic up with some mushrooms I'd chopped that were beginning to languish in the carton, and then threw some spinach in that I had pulled out of the freezer a little earlier. Once they were sufficiently cooked (a la to my liking, with a little dollop of balsamic vinegar toward the end) I poured in the eggs.

There they are....just a-bubbling away.

After stirring gently a few times, they were ready and I tossed 'em onto a plate. Topped them with a little cheese and a sprinkle of some Hawaiian salt that I got from Dean & Deluca a while back. Ah yes, and some bacon that I cooked in my favorite way - line a cookie pan with foil and throw into the oven at about 375F. No constant babysitting, and the only cleanup is pulling the foil out after the bacon grease has solidified and tossing it into the garbage. I must say it got a little crisper than I go for - I usually like it still a little chewy - but it's not thick sliced bacon (hubby bought this) and I also was playing with the convection oven to see how they would turn out. But hey, it's breakfast.

All topped off with a nice cold glass of milk


What really helped this along was that balsamic I put in there before I added the eggs. It wasn't much, maybe a teaspoon or so, but it gave a nice depth to everything. Parmesan would have been the best option for the cheese, but all we have in the house right now is actually that Mexican mix that Kraft makes. I know, how heathenistic! But it was still pretty darned good.

El Kiddo (that's how cooking with Mexican blend cheese makes you talk) had plain scrambled eggs with some cheese on top. She is a bacon fiend - yes! - so I'm surprised that she only ate the couple of pieces I gave her.

On another note, I found a really cool group that I'm excited about. It's called the Daring Bakers and is a group of a few hundred people who all do a common recipe once a month. It started off as two friends a little over a year ago, and has turned into this awesome little burgeoning group. I just happ'ed upon it and thought, "Cool!" I haven't actually participated yet, because I hit it right in the middle of one of their challenges (which I don't understand right now how that works, but will after I get more info). Thus, I must wait until it's time for the next challenge.

But I'm really psyched about this growing community and am looking forward to getting to know the people involved, as well as flexing my baking muscles and learning some stuff, as well. I hope it to be a really cool creative outlet - one of many that I'm cranking up.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Eyelet Love You....Eyelet Love You NOT!

The other day, I decided to go by the Tuesday Morning in our town and see what they had, since I haven't been there in quite a while. I was really excited to find a kit that I can use in scrapbooking to put eyelets on my pages. It was the whole deal - the eyelets, hole punchers, eyelet flatteners, and the hammer - so I thought, 'How can I go wrong?'


I can't get this sucker to work for crap! The instructions are easy: Punch the appropriately sized hole with your hole punch. Fit the eyelet into the hole. Turn the paper over and use the other tool, tapping it with the hammer, to flatten the back of the eyelet, thus securing it to the paper. Use the hammer alone to gently finish tapping the back of the eyelet flat to the paper. Simple, right? WHATEVER!
All I can say is, right now I make some crappy eyelets:

Maybe I just need more practice, but I'm wondering if my intellect (or the lack thereof) is hampering my progress. I've done several searches and can't seem to find anything that really helps, so I guess I will have to contact one of my friends who is a more advanced cropper than I am. Maybe she can straighten my crazy rear out!

Meanwhile...I remain...Embellishment Challenged.