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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Easy Pitta Breads

Pitta bread, also known as Arabic bread or Lebanese bread is a soft, lightly leavened flat bread. It's so easy to make these at home. They are crisp on the outside and soft and light on the inside and are quick to make as they only require one proving. I make the dough in my bread making machine, on the dough only setting, then remove the dough, shape and bake. If you are making them to toast later, then make sure you don't make them too big if you want to fit them into your toaster.

Pitta Bread

Makes 8 large breads
250 ml warm water
375g strong plain flour (bread flour, you may need a little bit more than this depending on how it absorbs the liquid)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast

Mix everything together in a large bowl, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, if it feels a bit too sticky add a little more flour whilst kneading.

Pop the dough into an oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until it's doubled in size, this will take 45 mins to 1 hour.

When the dough is ready, punch it down in the bowl and lightly knead on a floured surface. Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees and put a baking tray on the top shelf of the oven to heat. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each piece out until it's a few millimetres thick, I lay them on paper lined trays until I'm ready to pop them in the oven.

Remove the tray from the oven, quickly dust with flour and place the breads on it. Bake in the oven for 8 - 10 minutes, they will rise up quite quickly. Remove from the oven and wrap in a tea towel. Repeat with the remaining breads. Enjoy your freshly baked breads.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Anzac Biscuits

Today is Anzac day in New Zealand, so of course I had to bake a batch of Anzac biscuits. 

For people who don't know the story - Anzac biscuits originated during WW1 when wives and mothers would bake these oat biscuits to send to the Anzac troops fighting at Gallipoli.

These economical biscuits did not require any eggs, which were scarce during war time, the biscuits travelled well and didn't spoil due to the lack of egg in the recipe.

I love the coconut/oat flavour of these biscuits. When making them I bake half crispy and half softer due to family preferences. 

Anzac Biscuits:

Pre-heat the oven to 160 deg

Makes approx 18 large cookies.

Mix together in a bowl:

1 cup plain flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup oats
1 cup soft brown sugar
Melt together in a small saucepan:
125g butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 tablespoons water

Once the butter has melted add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to the pan and stir.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Form into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball (using wet hands is easier as the mixture is quite sticky).

Place them on a tray and flatten them out.

Bake 15 mins for softer chewy style cookies, 18 - 20 mins for crisp biscuits. Let them cool on the tray for 5 minutes or so before trying to remove them to a cooling rack. They will crisp up more as they cool.

I like my biscuits to be the same size, the way I do this is to use the base of a drinking glass (dipped in cold water) to flatten them out. It's the easiest and quickest way I've found, flatten them out until they are the same size as the base of the glass.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Oscar Wabbit, Spinning for Socks and a Cowl.

I've been grooming Oscar every 2-3 days to keep his coat nice, but I noticed over the last week his fibre is starting to shed when I comb him and he has been feeling the heat, so obviously it's time to pluck him. This doesn't hurt the rabbit, you are just removing the old coat and leaving the new short coat behind. It was rather time consuming as I went slowly, not wanting to frighten him with it being the first time either of us had gone through this process, but he was happy enough and enjoyed the cuddles and attention.
Here he is before plucking:

And after, notice how dark his new short coat looks compared to his old one:

Here's the box of treasure, it weighs just 28g.

The good thing about plucking as opposed to cutting the fibre is that you get the full staple length, whereas in cutting I would not dare cut near to his skin and would be lucky to get a 2" staple length.

I didn't cut the fibre from his ears or cheeks, but I did clip his legs and paws and trimmed his claws which were as sharp as needles before. 

Hopefully he will feel much cooler and will be easier to groom. Now I'm going to spin some of the fibre ~ another bonus being that it's already clean and not full of v.m...... unlike the alpaca's!

I started spinning some Corriedale sock blend fibre that I dyed a while back, more Autumnal colours:

Then I cast on for a cowl, and learnt a new method of doing a provisional cast on in the process:

The pattern is Callicarpa
The yarn is Sublime Yarns Extra Fine Merino Dk in Purple Plum.
Here's a link to the winding on provisional cast on tutorial.

And that's all for now folks!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Finish.

The HyperNoro scarf is all finished, I love the lightness of this scarf ~ it weighs next to nothing but drapes beautifully. The yarn felt quite crunchy before I soaked and blocked it but it's softened up nicely and developed a slight halo ~

And here are some pics of the Orchard fibre I spun, that's now finished too!

'N' plying

Finished skein
NZ Halfbred fibre
Orchard colourway
250 metres
Navajo Plied
sport weight

Now to decide what to make next. I think a bit more spinning, possibly this little beauty:

This is an 85% Polwarth & 15% silk blend and is dyed randomly. Maybe I will fractal spin this one and see what happens!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Spinning Autumn Colours

My HyperNoro scarf is off the needles and I will post more photo's tomorrow when it's finally dry.

I don't know what to knit next ~ so while I think about what to make I thought I would do a little spinning. This fibre is New Zealand Half Bred and the colourway is 'Orchard' a beautiful combination of Autumnal gold/tan, greens and plum-purple, just right for this time of year.

I've lightly drafted the fibre out and as it's dyed in a gradient colourway I'm going to spin it from light to dark then 'N' ply to preserve the colour changes. I will be aiming for a fingering/4 ply weight finished yarn.

Here's a shot of my HyperNoro scarf on the blocking wires. I'm really pleased with how it's turned out, it's big ~ 210 cm long x 20 cm wide. The first fan section took 15g, so I kept knitting until I had 15g left then knit the second, final fan.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lemon Curd

There's nothing like home made lemon curd, shop bought just doesn't come near to it in my opinion. This recipe makes a lovely curd that is very smooth in texture yet sharp with the tang of lemon. You can use limes or oranges if you prefer, which I sometimes do. I like lemon & lime curd best. It's not at all complicated, a very simple recipe that uses just 4 ingredients.
My recipe is from an old Woman's Institute Cookery Book. The eggs and lemon juice are measured by equal volumes ~ you will get a good set and to make it even easier it's cooked in the microwave.

Lemon Curd:

You will need 2-3 small to medium size sterilised jars with lids.

100g unsalted butter
350g caster sugar
finely grated rind of 3 lemons
150 ml lemon juice
150 ml beaten eggs

Put the sugar, butter, lemon juice and rind in a large jug or bowl that will fit in your microwave.

Cook on full power for 2 - 3 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the butter has melted.

Slowly add the beaten eggs to the mixture whilst constantly whisking. Continue cooking in the microwave on full power for 1 minute bursts, reducing to 30 second bursts as the mixture starts to thicken, whisking in between. It doesn't take long so keep your eye on it. Cook until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a large jug, this is important as it removes all the bits of rind and any specks of cooked egg.

Carefully pour the hot curd into the warm sterile jars and put the lids on immediately. As it cools it will thicken more. The curd will keep in the fridge, unopened, for 4 weeks. Once a jar is opened use within a week, that's why I try to use smaller jars when making this.

Once the curd is set, and using a doughnut filling piping nozzle - pipe it into some freshly baked lemon sour cream muffins.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Another Finished Hat!

Well I'm quite enjoying this hat knitting run that I seem to be on now the weather is cooling down. I think it's because I just don't feel like starting a big project although I have quite a few sweaters queued up waiting to be knitted. Here's my second cabled slouch hat off the needles:

I made this one longer by doing 2 repeats of the cable pattern.
The yarn is Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Mink Heather, it took just under 100g.

Once the hat was finished I cast on for this scarf:
I've knit this pattern before, it's called Hypernova.
The yarn is Noro King which is a 4 ply/fingering weight yarn. I have 2 skeins and have been thinking about what to make with it for a long time.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Cabled Knitted Hat

I have a finished project to show you:

The hat was inspired by another knitting pattern I saw.

The yarn is Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport Weight, colour is Dove Heather. 

I had 1 1/2 Balls (75g) and managed to squeeze this neat little hat out of it. It's basically knitted in a 3x3 rib with a 18 stitch forward & back cross over cables. I need to soak and block it.

I have 2 more balls of the same yarn in Mink Heather, this will be another similar hat but a bit more slouchy.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mocha Cupcakes

Chocolate and coffee what a great combination! These are for the Guild Area open day tomorrow.

I think there's nothing worse than getting one of those delicious looking, expensive, fancy decorated cupcakes and realising you can't eat it because it's basically 50% bland tasteless packet mix cake and 50% over-sugary buttercream.

Another thing that irks me is how you decide to bake some at home, follow a recipe to the t and end up with far less cakes than the recipe states but enough buttercream to frost 10 dozen cupcakes.

Well it's not going to happen here because this is one of my tried and trusted recipes, you will get perfect results with this and just enough buttercream frosting to cover 16-18 cupcakes, (unless you like it piled sky high then I would suggest you double it!)

These sweet little cupcakes are delicious, the cake part is nice and moist, very chocolatey with a background hit of coffee. The buttercream frosting is sweet, as buttercream always is, but this has a good depth of coffee flavour which cuts the sweetness nicely. They are easily decorated with cadbury's flake, as in the picture, but I have also just dusted these lightly with cocoa when I haven't had any flake chocolate.

For the Cupcakes:
1/2 cup hot freshly brewed strong coffee
11/2 teaspoons instant espresso or regular coffee
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract/essence
1 1/3 cups standard flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
100g soft butter
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light brown soft sugar
1 egg

For the Buttercream:
100g soft butter
2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract/essence
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water

The recipe makes 16 - 18 cakes, you will need a muffin tin/patty tin and paper liners. Pre heat the oven to 170 degrees c.

Mix the espresso powder into the hot coffee and stir until dissolved. Add the milk and vanilla then set aside.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Next cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, add the egg and beat well. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the coffee/milk mixture. Make sure the mixture is well blended.

Fill the paper cases 2/3 full. Bake the trays for 17 - 20 mins. They are cooked when they look well risen and spring back in the centre when you gently press them.

Cool in the tin for a few minutes then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

While they are cooling make the buttercream:
Whip the butter for 4-5 minutes until it becomes very pale and light, obviously this is much easier using an electric mixer. Then sift in the icing sugar and mix gently to start with, when it has all been incorporated add the vanilla and the coffee and whip/beat it for 2 minutes. It should be soft, light and smooth. Spoon it into a piping bag and decorate your cupcakes however you like. I piped a nice swirl on mine and crumbled some flake chocolate over the tops. The frosting can also be easily spread on with a knife if you prefer not to pipe.

Then came the giant oatmeal cookies, but I'll tell you all about them next time.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Welcome to Oscar...

Oscar has arrived, he's a Blue Agouti English Angora rabbit ~ he's so cuddly and absolutely gorgeous!

Look at all the beautiful soft fibre that he's growing for me to spin. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Bottled Black Boy Peaches

It's black boy peach season, they are beautiful eaten fresh when perfectly ripe but to be honest I prefer them cooked as I think cooking them takes them to another level. So, out come the preserving jars, pop them in a low oven to sterilise them at 120 degrees.

I make a basic syrup, 1 cup of sugar to 5 cups of water as I don't like them too sweet. Melt the sugar into the water over a low heat then bring to the boil, reduce the heat so there's just a gentle simmer.

While that's happening get on with preparing your peaches. When you have a lot of fruit this can become quite tedious and time consuming. For peaches that I'm going to bottle I have a cunning method: slice the peach in half around it's natural crease and twist apart, leave the skins on, remove the stone (which comes away very easily in this variety). Once you have done a good amount carefully put them into the sugar syrup. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on a low heat (they still need to feel slightly firm, don't overcook them or they will turn to mush). Scoop out the fruit and place it into your sterile jars (the wide necked jars are much easier to fill), the skins will slip off easily as you are doing this if you prefer them skinless. Ladle the hot syrup over the fruit in the jars filling to the brim, then run a knife down the edge of the jars to release any trapped air bubbles. Top up with the liquid to the jar brim again if needed then seal the jars. When they cool wipe them over with a damp cloth to remove any stickiness. Easy peasy.

I made 8 jars of bottled peaches and 2 jars of sauce. The sauce is made by cooking chopped peaches with 50% sugar, so if you have 500g chopped weight of peaches use 250g of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon, cook gently until the sugar dissolves then add 1 cup of water, keep cooking until the fruit is soft. Use a stick blender to puree the mixture then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and pour carefully into sterile bottles/jars. This is lovely poured over ice cream or greek yoghurt.

Now I'm waiting for the rest of these to fully ripen so I can make jam and chutney: