Saturday, September 29, 2007

I Feel Daring

Today, I make my debut as a Daring Baker. The Daring Bakers (or DBs as we are known) are a wonderful group of food bloggers who all bake the same recipe each month. This recipe remains a secret until we all blog about it on the same day. This month, the secret recipe was Cinnamon Buns and/or Sticky Buns from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

When I signed up to become a DB, I had to agree to the rules of the club. One of these rules (the one that will be hardest for me to stick to) is that recipes must be followed exactly as written, with no substitutions or variations allowed, unless an allergy or other health concern exists. However, I was eased in to the DB world with a secret recipe where we were actually encouraged to try variations with the spices in the cinnamon rolls or sticky buns.

Being somewhat of an over-achiever, I decided I needed to try both cinnamon rolls and sticky buns. I made one batch of cinnamon rolls exactly as written, with no variations. They were very good. I also made a variation of the cinnamon roll, which came out even better!

For these cinnamon rolls, I added some cardamom to the cinnamon sugar mixture for the rolls. I also experimented with the white fondant glaze for these rolls. I made two different glazes that I think actually worked quite well together. For half of the glaze, I added a couple of drops of almond extract, and some orange extract. For the second glaze, I dissolved instant espresso powder in some warm milk and used that milk to make the glaze. I drizzled both on the cardamom rolls. They were delicious! My dad claimed that they were the best rolls he'd ever had. He also said they tasted "like christmas." I think he was picking up on the cardamom and orange.

1 Tbs. cardamom added to the cinnamon sugar mixture
1-2 drops almond extract and 1/2 - 1 teaspoon orange extract added to half the fondant
1 Tablespoon espresso powder dissolved in the milk used to make the other half of the fondant

Here are my cardamom-cinnamon rolls, as a log, before proofing, and after proofing.

While these came out really well, I think next time, I will use a little more cardamom, and a little less almond.

Next up, the sticky buns. My inspiration for this variation on the sticky buns was apple pie, one of Psycling's favorite things.

I added nutmeg, ginger, and all spice to the cinnamon sugar spice mixture, and rather than raisins, I used chopped dried apple pieces in the caramel glaze. I think they came out quite well, though there are a few things I might do differently next time. I think I would add a little more ginger to the spice mixture, and experiment with adding about a tablespoon of apple juice concentrate to the caramel glaze, to see if it would amplify the apple flavor. But even without that these were very good sticky buns! They got rave reviews at the office!

Here are the sticky buns, before proofing, after proofing, and just out of the oven!

Now that I have you drooling with these pictures, here is the recipe.

Cinnamon buns and sticky buns from Peter Reinhart´s The Bread Baker´s Apprentice

15 minutes mixing; 3 1/2 hours fermentation, shaping and proofing; 20 to 40 minutes baking.
Yield: Makes 8 to 12 large or 12 to 16 smaller cinnamon or sticky buns


6 1/2 tablespoons (3.25 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter or margarine
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon grated zest of 1 lemon
3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast*
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature OR 3 tablespoons powdered milk (DMS) and 1 cup water
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, or any other spices you want to use, cardamom, ginger, allspice, etc.)
White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns or caramel glaze for sticky buns (at the end of the recipe.)
Walnuts, pecans, or other nuts (for sticky buns.)
Raisins or other dried fruit, such as dried cranberries or dried cherries (for sticky buns, optional.)

*Instant yeast contains about 25% more living cells per spoonful than active dry yeast, regardless of the brand. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or fast-rising.

1. Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening or butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand); if you are using powdered milk, cream the milk with the sugar, and add the water with the flour and yeast. Whip in the egg and lemon extract/zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

2. Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

3. Mist the counter with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Proceed as follows for shaping the buns:
(A) Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, lightly dusting the top with flour to keep it from sticking to the pin. Roll it into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick and 14 inches wide by 12 inches long for larger buns, or 18 inches wide by 9 inches long for smaller buns. Don´t roll out the dough too thin, or the finished buns will be tough and chewy rather than soft and plump.
(B)Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the surface of the dough and
(C) roll the dough up into a cigar-shaped log, creating a cinnamon-sugar spiral as you roll. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 8 to 12 pieces each about 1 3/4 inches thick for larger buns, or 12 to 16 pieces each 1 1/4 inch thick for smaller buns.)

4. For cinnamon buns, line 1 or more sheet pans with baking parchment. Place the buns approximately 1/2 inch apart so that they aren´t touching but are close to one another.

For sticky buns, coat the bottom of 1 or more baking dishes or baking pans with sides at least 1 1/2 inches high with a 1/4 inch layer of the caramel glaze. Sprinkle on the nuts and raisins (if you are using raisins or dried fruit.) You do not need a lot of nuts and raisins, only a sprinkling. Lay the pieces of dough on top of the caramel glaze, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag.

5. Proof at room temperature for 75 to 90 minutes, or until the pieces have grown into one another and have nearly doubled in size. You may also retard the shaped buns in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, pulling the pans out of the refrigerator 3 to 4 hours before baking to allow the dough to proof.

6. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) with the oven rack in the middle shelf for cinnamon buns but on the lowest shelf for sticky buns.

7. Bake the cinnamon buns for 20 to 30 minutes or the sticky buns 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. If you are baking sticky buns, remember that they are really upside down (regular cinnamon buns are baked right side up), so the heat has to penetrate through the pan and into the glaze to caramelize it. The tops will become the bottoms, so they may appear dark and done, but the real key is whether the underside is fully baked. It takes practice to know just when to pull the buns out of the oven.

8. For cinnamon buns, cool the buns in the pan for about 10 minutes and then streak white fondant glaze across the tops, while the buns are warm but not too hot. Remove the buns from the pans and place them on a cooling rack. Wait for at least 20 minutes before serving. For the sticky buns, cool the buns in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes and then remove them by flipping them over into another pan. Carefully scoop any run-off glaze back over the buns with a spatula. Wait at least 20 minutes before serving.

White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns

Cinnamon buns are usually topped with a thick white glaze called fondant. There are many ways to make fondant glaze, but here is a delicious and simple version, enlivened by the addition of citrus flavor, either lemon or orange. You can also substitute vanilla extract or rum extract, or simply make the glaze without any flavorings.

Sift 4 cups of powdered sugar into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract and 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup of warm milk, briskly whisking until all the sugar is dissolved. Add the milk slowly and only as much as is needed to make a thick, smooth paste.

When the buns have cooled but are still warm, streak the glaze over them by dipping the tines of a fork or a whisk into the glaze and waving the fork or whisk over the tops. Or, form the streaks by dipping your fingers in the glaze and letting it drip off as you wave them over the tops of the buns. (Remember to wear latex gloves.)

Caramel glaze for sticky buns

Caramel glaze is essentially some combination of sugar and fat, cooked until it caramelizes. The trick is catching it just when the sugar melts and lightly caramelizes to a golden amber. Then it will cool to a soft, creamy caramel. If you wait too long and the glaze turns dark brown, it will cool to a hard, crack-your-teeth consistency. Most sticky bun glazes contain other ingredients to influence flavor and texture, such as corn syrup to keep the sugar from crystallizing and flavor extracts or oils, such as vanilla or lemon. This version makes the best sticky bun glaze of any I´ve tried. It was developed by my wife, Susan, for Brother Juniper´s Cafe in Forestville, California.
NOTE: you can substitute the corn syrup for any neutral flavor syrup, like cane syrup or gold syrup.

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature.

2. Cream together for 2 minutes on high speed with the paddle attachment. Add 1/2 cup corn syrup and 1 teaspoon lemon, orange or vanilla extract. Continue to cream for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.

3. Use as much of this as you need to cover the bottom of the pan with a 1/4-inch layer. Refrigerate and save any excess for future use; it will keep for months in a sealed container.

These are extremely time and labor intensive, but well worth it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


There are very few things in life that make me happier than providing a delicious and nutritious meal for Psycling and I to enjoy together. Tonight, our Spiced Salmon with Roasted Red Pepper and Tomatillo sauce and a broccoli bake fit that bill. I have been making an effort to ensure we have a good vegetable side with our dinners (some days I'm more successful than others). For a while, I just made a basic green salad every day, but I was starting to get bored with that. So I decided I would just pick up some fresh veggies that looked good and were in season when I was at the Farmer's market, and then figure out something to do with them. This week, I picked up some nice looking broccoli. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, about five minutes of searching was about all I needed to find the inspiration for this yummy side dish.

Broccoli Parmesan Bake
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1/4 c. bread crumbs
3 Tbs. grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 Tsp. dried oregano

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Steam Broccoli until crisp-tender, just a couple of minutes. Place in small casserole dish.
3. Mix together bread crumbs, cheese, and oregano. Sprinkle over top of broccoli. Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes, or until crumbs start to brown.

I had some left over fresh oregano that I chopped up and sprinkled on top for a garnish.

After making this, I had some leftover bread crumb mixture. I put it in the fridge, and I have a hunch it will make it's way onto some chicken for dinner later this week.

I apologize for the lack of's amazing how life can run away with you. But I hope for a WIP post soon with lots of photos to make up for the sad lack of visual stimulation recently.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Famous First Sock

My first sock (and I) are on the Yarn Harlot's blog. Look for the September 21 entry entitled "Atlanta Charm." You'll see me holding my sock with the traveling green sock. Pretty cool, huh? Meanwhile, I'm making good progress on said sock...there should be a more in-depth post coming soon :-)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

September Cupcake Hero Challenge

Quirky Cupcake has decided to hold a monthly Cupcake Hero Challenge. Here's how it works: "Each month a theme ingredient will be named. The theme ingredient will need to be used in either the cupcake, the frosting, the filling or all of the above if you choose." The theme ingredient for September is limes. As soon as I saw this, I knew I had to try to re-create keylime pie in cupcake format. Ok, so I didn't want to juice all those tiny key limes, so I used regular limes, but still think I did a pretty good job.

I used Magnolia's vanilla cupcake recipe, with a keylime mascarpone filling and a meringue icing. When you got all three components in one bite, it really did taste like keylime pie! I served these at a dinner party, and they were a huge hit! When I took them into the office, they disappeared quickly. One of my coworkers even went so far as to tell me it was the best cupcake she'd ever eaten. She later bought some from me for a surprise baby shower.

Key Lime Cupcakes
For Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (1/2 cup-12 capacity) muffin tins with cupcake papers.
2. In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
4. Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before filling and icing.

For Filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup mascarpone cheese (about 1/2 pound)
2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream

In a bowl with an electric mixer beat cream cheese with sugar, zest, and lime juice until smooth. Beat in mascarpone. When mascarpone is fully incorporated, beat in cream, and allow to whip for another 30 seconds to a minute to lighten the filling.
Fill cooled cupcakes with your preferred filling method. I prefer to use a pastry bag to pipe the filling in through the bottom of the cupcake.

For Meringue Icing:
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup large egg whites -- (about 3)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. In a 3 cup saucepan, combine the water and 2/3 cup sugar. Place over low heat to dissolve the sugar, then increase the heat to medium high and boil, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reads 235 degrees. (Wash down any sugar crystals slinging to the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water.)
2. Near the end of the boiling time, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add the 2 tablespoons sugar, and continue to whip until the whites are stiff but not dry. With the mixer running, pour the syrup onto the whipped whites.
3. Continue to whip on medium speed, about 3 minutes more. Mixture will thicken, cool and form glossy, stiff peaks. Add the vanilla. Cool to room temperature, about 8-10 minutes, then frost cupcakes right away.

This recipe worked really well. It's a cupcake that manages to be both light and rich at the same time. The tanginess of the lime paired with the sweetness of the vanilla cupcake and meringue frosting are a match made in heaven!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An Evening with the Yarn Harlot

Today, The Yarn Harlot ventured out of Canada and into the American South. A wonderful local yarn store sponsored her visit. After a long day at work, and not nearly as much knitting time lately as I would like, it was great to join several hundred fellow knitters for an evening of yarn, needles, and laughter. Stephanie had as laughing all evening as she warned us of the hazards of CHOKE (Cultural Hatred of Knitters Everywhere), and came prepared with several lists of ways to wear down the CHOKErs of the world. I even got to hold the sock.

I brought my first sock (a WIP I have yet to blog about), and she admired it. She knew as soon as I showed it to her that it was Socks that Rock in the Monsoon colorway. Kinda scary. But it was a great evening. It was amazing to be amidst other knitters, to be in a group that is so diverse and accepting, to see so much knitting in public, and to spend an evening laughing and losing track of time. The evening only reinforced my belief that knitters are the most open, accepting, friendly, helpful community out there. I'm both proud and humbled to be a part of such a group...if that's possible.

This will definitely be an evening to remember!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Seraphim is ready to fly!

So here it is, my first FO of the blog! The Canyon Angel Seraphm Shawl is done and blocked! Just in time for the cooler weather.

Pattern: This is the Seraphim pattern from Miriam Felton.
Yarn: Malabrigo lace weight, double stranded, Sealing Wax colorway.
Needles: Addi Turbos size 5, 25" circulars
Modifications: I didn't make any modifications though there are a few unintentional "design features." But they are so minor that it would be hard to spot them, even if you were looking for them.

I love the lace detail on this shawl! Once I got the hang of it, it was a very easy pattern. It made for a great introduction to lace knitting. There is just enough interest to keep your brain intrigued, but nothing too complex and complicated.

I've loved kintting this shawl. I'm going to miss having it on the needles. But I love having such a wonderful FO to show off!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Recharging my Batteries

Life has been very crazy in the Whisks & Needles household. Knitting has been done, torn out, redone, blocked and there are projects in all stages of un-finish. I have been spending record time in the kitchen, trying to tweak and pefect recipes, feed Psycling and myself, and make sure the grad students at Georgia Tech have their weekly goody tray. With all this, keeping up with a puppy in heat, doing the regular "real job," I guess it's not surprising that I feel like I am always on the go, and never really have the time to rest and recharge.

This evening, after spending all day in the kitchen (literally, all day...I started baking around 9, and didn't finish til after 5), the last thing I wanted to do was cook dinner. So I called my dad and told him that if he could supply dinner, we'd supply dessert (the fruits of my all-day baking). He agreed, and a couple of hours later, my dad and brother were over, along with Moe, my brother's dog, and there was pasta cooking on the stove and salmon fillets going on the grill. As we sat down to dinner, I felt compelled to take pictures. Not necessarily because everything was plated to gourmet presentation standards, or because it was an unusual or complex meal. But because sitting down to a home cooked meal with my family reminded me of what is really important.

We had sliced heirloom tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with fresh ground salt and pepper. Dad picked up a roastd garlic ciabatta bread from the store, which we dipped in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and grated parmesan. We had a pasta salad with grilled salmon and fresh basil tossed with a lemon vinaigrette. And we enjoyed all of this with a nice crisp Pino Grigio that went very well with the salmon and pasta. It was a wonderful meal shared with loved ones, laughing, telling stories and jokes, and generally enjoying each other's company. Even Moe got in on the action! I realized as I enjoyed this homecooked meal that it was exactly what I needed to help recharge my batteries and rejuvenate me. Though still exhausted and ready to collapse at bedtime, I was content. I felt more centered than I have in a while. I felt ready to close the weekend and head into a new week. And really, what better way is there to end a weekend than to share it with the people (and dogs) most important to you?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Goat Cheese Stuffed Figs

DR of Tech Chefs requested my Goat Cheese Stuffed Figs recipe, so here it is.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Figs
1 quart size basket of fresh figs
1 4oz log of goat cheese
1 1/2 - 2 Tbs. honey (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg

1. Remove stem ends of figs, and slice in half vertically. Using the tip of a knife, scrape a small indentation in the center of the fig half. As you can see, it doesn't need to be a huge hole, just big enough to provide a place for the cheese to rest.

2. Place a small piece of goat cheese in the hole. You're not trying to pack it in, just use the hole as a "resting place" for the cheese as it fills the fig.

3. Once all figs are stuffed, arrange them on a tray or platter and drizzle lightly with honey. You can see I go for a very thin stream of honey that I drizzle over the figs. They shouldn't be overly sweet. Ideally, the honey should merely be a complement to the natural sweetness of a ripe fig.

Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and nutmeg and serve!

This dish makes a very stunning appetizer, and it will be sure to wow any guests you prepare it for.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tech Chefs: A History

When Psycling started grad school a couple of years ago, we met some other grad students who shared our interest in cooking and eating good food. We decided to start a little cooking club, and called it "Tech Chefs" since the primary members were students at Georgia Tech and their significant others. We get together once a month to prepare and enjoy a great meal.

The size of the group can vary, but as you can see, it can get quite large!

Here's how it works: Each month, there is an Executive Chef(s). The Executive Chef is in charge of planning the meal...setting the menu, doing the grocery shopping, and figuring out the logistics of the evening. The second saturday of every month, we get together to carry out the Executive Chef's vision. We all share the cost of groceries, and it is also the Executive Chef's job to ensure the cost never goes above our set limit of $20/head. So far, this budget has never proven to be a problem, even with wine included. Over the past two years we have had some wonderful meals!

We have had crepes, pizzas and pie, Mexican Food, Turkish Food, wine tastings, traditional English food (pictured here), European tapas, and lots of other stuff. We've never had a bad meal!

This weekend, we kicked off year three of tech chefs. It was a small group, but a fabulous meal, as always. Psycling and I served as Executive Chefs. We did a wine tasting of wines picked up during the summer travels of our members. It was fun to research the wine, and try to plan a meal around it. While we can both appreciate a good wine, we found it can be difficult to try to plan a meal around wine (rather than pick a wine to go with the meal). But I think we did a pretty good job.

We started with an appetizer of goat cheese stuffed figs, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg.

It paired quite nicely with our 2006 Sauvignon Blanc from Hart Vineyards. Our main course was a salad of watercress and cherry tomatoes, topped with zesty crutons and shaved parmesan cheese.

This salad, along with our Spinach manicotti with spicy sausage sauce paired very well the the Church Mouse Pinot Noir from Church and State Wines. It was a derivation of the Spinach Caneloni in the Classic Pasta at Home Cookbook from Williams Sonoma. We used manicotti, because apparently, it is impossible to get Caneloni in Atlanta. Who'd have thought that would be such a difficult thing to find? Also, the original recipe called for a regular spicy red sauce, but having read that this particular wine did well with meat and spicy red sauces, we decided that adding the spicy Italian Sausage to the sauce would work well. It did! There was nothing left at the end of the meal!!

For dessert, we had take one of my work-in-progress creation for the September Cupcake Hero challenge. But you'll hear more about that later.

All in all, it was a great evening of cooking, food, and good company.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Whisks And Needles FAQs

Question: Have you always liked to cook?
Answer: No. When I was going through adolescence, I shunned anything that was stereotypically a "woman's job." Cooking, sewing, cleaning, mending...I had a very limited and mistaken notion that feminism meant shunning the "woman's world" to live in the "man's world." As you can probably see by this blog, I have grown out of that phase and come to realize that true feminism is about making choices. It's about doing what I choose to do, and not what I have to do or am expected to do. This realization coincided with my discovery that I enjoy cooking, playing around in the kitchen, and sharing my creations with others.

Question: I've noticed most of your recipes are vegetarian. Do you eat meat?
Answer: I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat a lot of meat. I've never liked read meat (which includes pork), and so I stopped eating it about 15 years ago. Though I'm not strict about it...if there's some sausage here or bacon there, it usually doesn't bother me. Beef is the one exception...I really don't like it. But because my reason for not eating red meat is a taste preference, I don't cook with it. While I do cook with poultry and seafood, I find that the world of vegetables seems to offer much more variety, and for that reason, most of my creations tend to be vegetarian.

Question: So where do you get your ideas?
Answer: I just cook a lot. I've found that the more I cook and try new recipes, I begin to understand what flavors and textures work together. I become more bold in putting things together myself. However, there are several places that I tend to draw my inspiration:

I have been getting Cooking Light for over 5 years now, and I love it. It's where I get most of my "every day" cooking recipes. What I love about this magazine is that rather than lots of "low fat" s, the recipes focus on healthy ingredients and variety. I look forward to getting my new issue every month, and Psycling will attest to the fact that (other than a few staples) I rarely cook anything more than once. We've hardly repeated a recipe since we've been together (and we're going on five years this fall). But why repeat things when I get a new magazine filled with great ideas every month? I also love the Gourmet and Food and Wine magazines.

There are also certain cookbooks that I could not do without:

Back Left is The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg. It's really more of a text book and a cook book and really lays out the fundamentals of the techniques and theory of baking and pastry arts. I've learned so much from it. Back center is The Professional Chef from the Culinary Institute of America. Another text book, it is a great resource for good, solid, basic recipes, and a wealth of knowledge about preparation of different foods, and many different cooking techniques. Back right has the Complete Seasonal Cookbook representing my Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. I have never been disappointed by a Williams-Sonoma recipe. In the front we have more general cookbooks. I think How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman is a must have for every home chef. Bittman covers many different cooking techniques and understanding of different foods, and demonstrates how a few different changes to a single "recipe" can lead to vastly different, but still yummy dishes. It makes variety in home cooking easy and approachable. And finally, we have Pie by Ken Haedrich. If a recipe for a pie exists, you will find it here. And Ken Haedrich breaks down the fundamentals of what makes a good pie, namely the crust. There are lots of tips, and I have learned almost everything I know about pie baking form this book...quite a feat since I grew up under the influence of lots of Mennonite and Pennsylvania Dutch cooking (where pie is a staple of the diet).

So there you have it. How I came to discover my love of cooking, and the influences that have shaped it along the way.

Good Night :-)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Back In Business

Time for knitting, blogging, and just-for-the-heck-of-it cooking has been scarce around here recently. School is back in session, and thanks to Psycling, Sara's Kitchen has been busier than ever making goody trays for hungry grad students.

This tray has marble pound cake, mango ginger pound cake, blueberry muffins, banana muffins, snickerdoodles, and double chocolate meringues. I make a tray of assorted goodies (similar to this) for a weekly seminar for grad students and faculty of Psycling's research group. This week, though, I am also making muffins and biscuits for a breakfast meeting for Wednesday.

It makes me really happy to see my business doing well, but I'm staying very busy. It means knitting time is significantly reduced. But despite that, the Seraphim is coming along very well, and I hope to have it bound off within the next few days. I love how well the lace work pattern is coming out:

Almost everyday, I show it to Psycling and say "look how pretty it is." He indulges me, and acknowledges that it is very pretty. Once it's off the needles and blocked, I'll take lots of great pics for you!