Sunday, 23 November 2014

Mindblowing Bread!

We finally have our oven in the new Wailliewaillie home, but it remains unconnected for various boring reasons. We've been buying our bread, but it's not like real bread. This weekend I decided that surely there must be a way, made up a batch of basic dough, and bunged it in the slow cooker!

Please excuse the hole in the top of the loaf, I was testing to see whether it was baked inside. After the first rise I kneaded the bread and put it in the well-oiled slow cooker. I turned the slow cooker straight on to high, so the second rise happened while the slow cooker was warming up. I left the bread in until I could clearly see the golden crust forming on the bottom. It was about 2 hours, but all slow cookers are different. I know one of mine runs hotter than the other, so watch your bread if you're having a go.

In a predictable outcome, the (very soft) crust of this bread is on the bottom. It is beautifully baked, not doughy on squidging, and not at all crumbly. I did use conventional yeast, since I do not currently have a starter culture on the go, and I have never made such a beautiful loaf from conventional yeast. The softness of the bread makes it perfect for sandwiches. Husband and I couldn't resist trying it as soon as it came out, and it made a great toastie too! Home cooked ham from the slow cooker, of course.

Sometimes I think my bread might be a little too crusty for the boys, so I think this might be a good option for them, and next time I might try rolls. I'm so pleased that it worked out so well! Have you ever tried this? Will you be giving it a go now? I suppose there's no reason to unless your oven is broken or you are worried about your bread burning...because you might get tied up feeding a baby or something. Do let me know what interesting things you've had in your slow cooker lately!


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Pre-Advent Excitement

A busy week here! The Bun Hat for Husband is finished and looks pretty lush, if I do say so myself. I changed it a little by not reading the pattern and carrying the garter brim for 4 inches rather than 1, but the garter looks rather lush and I'm not bothered. I also added an extra inch to the flap, and just under an inch to the height, because Husband has big hair. He gets sore ears in the cold and wind, and this shape is going to cover his ears beautifully! The yarn is Twilleys of Stamford Freedom Spirit Chunky. It's 100% wool and 100% gorgeous! So soft, and it's going to be so warm. Sausages chose it for Husband quite some time ago, so I might see if I can manage a little bun for him with the leftovers. He has a massive head, so it might not be possible. 

This is only the first piece of Christmas knitting I have managed to finish so far. I think I might be in trouble, since it took me nearly a week to knit one little hat! Time is in short supply with two active boys to run around after. Bob in particular requires ten hands and ten eyes to manage!

I'm still working on what I was reading last week, and I've slipped in a few distractions. In my Christmas box, along with the decorations and wrapping paper bought last January in the sale,  keep a stash of Christmassy craft magazines. This year Husband has treated me to a couple more for the stash, and they both have little decoration kits on the front. I'd love to make these at some point! I love Advent, it's absolutely my favourite time of the year. I love the cold and dark, the preparation for Christmas, the sense of waiting. Last year we spent Advent waiting for Bob, which was rather magical. This year we are starting the prep early, and it's really making our new house feel like Home.

Christmas crafting with Sausages has begun. This week we made snowflakes by gluing sticks together and covering with glue and glitter. I also made a couple of Christmas tree shapes, and they look lovely together, balanced on or fanlights.

Sausages was the self-appointed guardian of the glitter. He measured every speck I used, while pouring entire pots onto his own snowflakes. He's the boss!

Have you started your Christmas and Advent prep yet? Do you have any craft suggestions for Sausages? Pop over to the Yarn Along and Keep Calm Craft On to see what everyone else is working on this week.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Snatching Time

Just a quick post to share what I've been knitting and reading this week with the Yarn Along and Keep Calm Craft On.

The desperate attempt to knit more Christmas gifts than I have time for has begun with this hat for husband, after a fruitless evening recently spend frogging the back of his Christmas jumper. It was supposed to be for last Christmas. Adult sized garments are a bore!

I'm reading the Newman/Pitman Guide to Breastfeeding where I can, and will post a review when I'm finished. It has quite a different layout to other breastfeeding books I have read (probably more than most!), and I'm interested to see how this works throughout the book.

I am keeping the Yarn Harlot in the car for sleeping child situations, but have only just read a couple of pages, because it is so rare that both boys are asleep at the same time. My, this woman is funny! I must pass this on to my mum to read when I'm finished. But she'll have to give it back afterwards! We finished listening to Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom in the car and Sausages has chosen Ngaio Marsh's Opening Act next, which we are enjoying a lot. Mr Fox is Sausages' favourite character, although I don't really know how much he is taking in. He requests it, anyway. I do like the gentle, dated style of Ngaio Marsh's writings, along with the other Queens of Crime: Agatha Christie; Dorothy L Sayers; and Margery Allingham.

What are you reading and crafting this week? I'd love to hear from you! Let me know if you have made the recipes from this week, I know some of you have through personal messages but I'd love to see the evidence!


Monday, 10 November 2014

Spicey is Nicey!

Autumn is such a richly sensory time; there is a panoply of sights, sounds, scents, textures and tastes that make the season. When we lived in the fens we had the ethereal mists, Ely Cathedral rising from a whitewashed landscape. Now we live by the sea we have sea fog and wet wind.

The boys and I met up with my parents at Hinton Ampner this weekend for a stomp, although it absolutely chucked it down and we ended up spending most of our time having a picnic and a cuppa under their giant umbrellas.

Their kitchen garden was a visual feast, and a testament to many hours, nay years of hard work.

At this time of year a hot drink can be a special experience. It highlights the contrast between warmth and the cold and wet outside. I have two favourite autumnal drinks to share with you: pumpkin spiced syrup; and mulled apple juice.

Above is a batch of cheat's mulled apple juice: a carton of apple juice heated with one of those mulled wine spice sachets, like a teabag. Obviously you can also make this by heating your apple juice with a cinnamon stick, a star anise, and a few cloves, maybe a teaspoon of mixed spice. This is one of Sausages' favourite treats, and, following the example of the forest school we used to attend before our move, we often take a flaskfull out and about with us. When you have adventurous children it always pays to have ways to warm them up when it's cold, especially if puddles or the sea might be involved.

I love the pumpkin spiced lattes you find at high street coffee shops at this time of year, but I haven't bought one since I made my first batch of this syrup last year. The recipe comes from Hannah at The Knit, and is delicious in coffee, hot milk, on pancakes etc.

2 (UK) cups of water
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp mixed spice
3 tbsp pumpkin puree

Reserving the sugar, mix everything else in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer to infuse for about 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into a clean pan and stir in the sugar. When it is entirely dissolved return it to a low heat and reduce to form a thin syrup. Pour into sterilised bottles and seal.

In my chaotic style I couldn't find a sieve (I suspect it may have disappeared into the attic with the homebirth kit, despite not being used), so I wrapped a clean muslin around the pan and used that instead. When I had finished there was so much sediment in the cloth that I decided to make a second batch. Unfortunately I am still waiting on my new cooker and cooking on a camping stove in the interim, so inevitably the gas ran out while I was making the second batch. It was perfectly syrupy, so I bottled it up, but you can see in the picture above where one jar contains half thick syrup from the first batch, and half thin syrup from the second. Are other people's lives as haphazard as mine? Husband says not. Please tell me things like these happen to you too?!?

Chaos notwithstanding, it was lovely to spend a little time in the kitchen making up these drinks this week. Without an oven and proper hob so much of what we are eating at the moment is a lot more processed than we are used to. Thank goodness for the slow cookers, which are doing tremendous service! I have to share with you a comment passed by a friend of mine this week, that she joined a facebook group for slow cooker recipes, and the first post she saw was of a vibrator in a slow cooker. I think this can be understood as a commentary on contemporary domestic glamorous cooking shows and gluttony are our pornography? Perhaps the person in question was too busy for either cooking or a sex life, hence their being in storage together? Perhaps they were just using it as a steriliser...whichever way, the juxtaposition is certainly unusual! I hope you have something more conventional and autumnal in your slow cooker this week. Can I recommend a squash or pumpkin curry? Delicious!