Sunday, July 06, 2008

Danish Do-over

While I enjoyed the Danish braid I made for the Junes DB challenge, it's wasn't quite right. So another attempt. This time I warmed the milk and dissolved two packets of yeast in it, letting it get frothy before adding it to the flour mixture. I also left out the orange juice, using extra milk instead. And it rose! This time my braid is fluffy and flaky and wonderful.

For the filling this time I used the same cream cheese filling but topped with my blueberry compote. Even better than the raspberry. This recipe was definitely worth doing over. Time consuming but delicious!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

An anniversary and a contest

Two years ago I began my residency. It seems like no time has passed at all. I can remember it so clearly - walking into the hospital that first day and feeling completely overwhelmed. Making it through the first few days in the NICU felt like such an accomplishment, and I am so grateful to the residents and nurses who got me through it. I remember giving my first narcotic order for a newborn in a ventilator, being so worried that I did my math wrong, standing at the bedside waiting for the nurse to give it. She looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Don't worry, he'll be fine." Even giving Tylenol scared me! And now I'm halfway done. Just two more years to go... truly a frightening thought. So in honor of the day, a little contest. Just leave a comment before 6pm on Friday, July 4, and you could win some yarn from my stash (which has gotten completely out of control).

Last night we had a party to welcome the new interns, and I made a batch of oatmeal chocolate cookies. They were so good! I love the texture of oatmeal cookies - the whole oats, the crispiness - but I also love chocolate. So these were perfect.

1 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking or instant)
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces milk chocolate, melted and cooled
6 ounces (about 1 cup) bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. In a food processor or blender, grind 1 cup of oats until fine. Transfer the ground oats to a large mixing bowl; add the
flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.
3. Put the butter and brown sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat together using medium-high speed until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes.
4. Add the egg and vanilla extract. Beat together using medium-high speed until fluffy, about 30 seconds. Reduce speed
to low and add the melted, but cooled, milk chocolate.
5. Using low speed, stir in the flour/oat mixture just until combined. Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats and the bittersweet chocolate chips.
6. Spoon 2 tablespoon portions of dough onto parchment lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.
7. Bake for 14-16 minutes, until tops of cookies are cracked but remain moist between the cracks.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My first challenge

After being impressed by the baked goods all over the internet, I joined the Daring Bakers this month. My first challenge was a Danish Braid. I was a little nervous since yeast and I don't usually get along. And I should never do anything requiring kneading. I have warm hands and dough always get really sticky requiring way too much extra flour. My mom never let me help knead for this reason, and I've never gotten comfortable with it. But I went for it anyway.

Step one of this challenge was of course making the laminated dough. This involved making the dough (and learning that the dough hook of my KitchenAid does most of the kneading for me and eliminated the warm hands problem) and the butter block (learning that my KitchenAid can handle cold butter straight from the fridge). Then rolling out the dough, covering two thirds with butter, and folding into thirds. Then came the first of several rests - letting the dough sit in the fridge for 30 minutes before rolling and folding again. After four turns and folds the dough looks like this - see the layers?

After all this folding and rolling, it's time for a break. At least five hours in the fridge to rest; I left it in overnight and resumed the following day. Now to pick a filling. I made a cream cheese filling - super simple with cream cheese, sugar, an egg, vanilla, and lemon zest. After rolling the dough nice and thin again, I spread the cream cheese over the middle third then topped with some raspberry preserves. The comes slicing the sides and making the braid.

After 2 hours to proof it's into the oven and this beauty comes out.

It smelled amazing! And tasted pretty darn good too. My only complaint about this recipe is that it didn't rise much. Remember that yeast problem? It reared its ugly head and my braid didn't double in size during the proofing time like it was supposed to. But this tasted so wonderful that I'm going to give it another shot. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thanks to Kelly of Sass & Veracityand Ben of What's Cookingfor this challenge. I never would have tried this on my own, but now I realize that it's not so scary. Head over to Kelly's site for the recipe and step-by-step pictures. And check out the other Daring Bakers' work.

Monday, June 09, 2008

My attempt at making blondies

Back to work today after finishing my lovely week off. Fortunately I'm on elective this month, so I got off at a reasonable time. So I came home and made myself dinner - a hamburger seasoned with oregano, cumin, and coriander eaten in a pita with feta cheese and tomato with a roasted sweet potato on the side. Yum... but no photo since I ate it too quick. And while I ate my burger, I put a pan of blondies in the oven. I do have a picture of those.

Don't they look good? Well, they don't really look too luch like the thick gooey blondies I was anticipating. They have a texture very much like a giant chocolate chip cookie cake from the Great American Cookie Company. (Fond memories of having one every year for my birthday at school.) So not what I intended, but tasty anyway. Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, made with a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips. The best part about these - made with things I already had in my pantry in less than five minutes. The perfect after work treat.

Still working on my pink elephant sock, but not enough progress to deserve a photo shoot. Hopefully soon. I also was back and bought some new yarn. The Loopy Ewe is evil! I'll have a picture of my pretty new sock yarn for you soon.

Friday, June 06, 2008

On the anniversary of D-Day, from President Reagan's speech in 1984. To hear the whole thing go here.

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

...We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. But we try always to be prepared for peace, prepared to deter aggression, prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms, and yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bridge of Flowers

Today I went on a little road trip to Shelburne Falls, a little town about 30 miles from here. Shelburne Falls is known for the Bridge of Flowers - an old trolley bridge that is now a pedestrian bridge covered with flowers. I went a little nuts with my new camera, so be ready for a photo heavy post.

That's a view of the bridge from the regular bridge a little ways down the river.

The path across the bridge, flanked by flowers on either side.

Bridge of flowers with mountains in the background. A very overcast day, the completely gray sky is disappointing.

See how much fun I had with my new camera? I bought it with my economic stimulus check :) I spent a lot of time reading reviews online and finally decided on the Canon EOS Rebel XTi. Partly because of the good reviews and partly because my film SLR is an older Canon Rebel and I love it. All I needed to buy was the body of the camera since all my lenses will fit it. So today I played with all the settings and had well over a hundred shots when I got home from Shelburne Falls. Then came the task to downloading and editing, which actually didn't take too long. All I have is iPhoto, so there wasn't a whole lot I could do in terms of editing. I've been checking out a few photography blogs and have been amazed by what you can do with the right software. Unfortunately my laptop is about 2.5 years old and Aperture and Photoshop won't run it without some major upgrades. Anyone use anything else I should look into?

After walking all around Shelburne Falls and going photo crazy, I went shopping. I found the LYS Metaphor Yarns and bought a few things.

Two skeins of some sport weight wool and alpaca blend. It's from Foxfire Fiber and Designs; the yarn is local to the Berkshires in western Mass. Every step from raising the sheep, to sheering, spinning, and dying is local. I love finding small label local yarns in LYS. And I fell in love with this colorway - a beautiful gray with flecks of pink and purple throughout.

And because I can never have enough sock yarn, some Trekking XXL. In orange! I love all things orange lately.

Monday, June 02, 2008

I'm alive

Wow, it's been ages since I posted. Probably no one looking over here anymore, but hello to anyone who wanders over. I've been swallowed up by work for the past few months, but I'm finally getting a bit of a break. I have the week off and am really looking forward to having time to myself. Time to take a few day trips around western Mass and see the area some more, time to catch up on sleeping, reading, and knitting. Here's what I've been up to today.

Started the day with a yummy homemade breakfast - a far cry from my usual coffee and granola bar while driving to work. I had some leftover sourdough bread from a bakery down the road and a pint of blueberries. So of course I made myself french toast. The blueberry topping is amazing, one of my new favorite things. 1 pint blueberries, 1/3 cup sugar, juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 tbl butter, and a pinch of cornstarch cooked on medium-high heat until the berries start to split open, releasing their juicy goodness. Today I spooned some over crispy, buttery french toast and dusted with powdered sugar (ahh... heaven). It's also amazing on crepes, pound cake, and vanilla ice cream. This and a tall glass of iced coffee made my morning.

After breakfast I settled in with Indiana Jones and my knitting. Working on this lovely little sock. It's my first time using Claudia's Handpainted, and I really like it. I can't remember the colorway, but I'm naming it "Pink Elephants." I loved the way it was working on the toe, but it started pooling once I finished increasing. Oh well, I still like it. Using the baby cable rib pattern from Sensation Knitted Socks and my new Knit Picks DPNs (love them!). Putting the knitting away for now and heading out for a walk. Spring has finally arrived in New England, so I'm off to enjoy it!