Friday, May 23, 2008

Cookies and biscotti

I have been baking, but got a bit too lazy to take pictures and then too busy to bake a few weeks.

so, a brief foody update and later i'll take some pictures of the string market bag i finished and put those up. Also, an update on that cell phone cover i crocheted later.

NE plus Ultra Cookies
from Martha Stewart's Cookie Book
A few weeks ago, my dad decided to pick up a new cookie book. I've made a couple out of there and this one got rave reviews. They are a slightly cakey cookie, but there is so much goodness in them (raisins, chocolate chips, and walnuts) that it's harder to tell. I intended to put coconut in the mix, but didn't remember til after I baked them. They hit the spot when you want a nice, big, chewy cookie

Cranberry-Walnut Biscotti
also from Martha Stewart's Cookie Book
It originally called for cherries and almonds, but we tend to have cranberries on hand 90% of the time and rarely cherries... and walnuts seemed to go better with the cranberries than almonds. These were liked much more than the spiced biscotti, (though those were pretty good), perhaps because they were a bit softer and more like a cookie. These came out a bit more cake-like, I think because of the butter content. I didn't follow the recipe's directions of simmering the berries in almond liquor, instead I followed a America's Test Kitchen tip: I soaked the cranberries in orange juice for about 15-20 minutes. They plump up and take a bit of the citrus flavor with them but not in an overwhelming way. I question the point of this a bit because biscotti has a bake all the moisture out of them, but it tasted good. They batter rose quite a bit from the baking soda (it was HUGE, much bigger than I expected) and seemed a bit like a buttery shortbread- but it's been forever since I've had shortbread, so don't take my word for it.

I made some of my favorite rosemary whole wheat bread the other day, but it got compromised. I had put it in my warmed oven to give it an ideal place to rise as dinner was being prepared, but then we unexpectedly decided to use the oven to warm some chips and my mom turned the oven on! I didn't realize for a bit and by the time i noticed, the yeast had denatured and wouldn't recover. It rose a tiny bit more, but it had a pretty decent "skin" of too warm/heated/ruined dough on top. The bread came out tasting fine, but only about half the rise as usual. It was a bit disappointing, because it was two loaves instead of one. This week I plan on making a apricot/walnut bread.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bread, Biscotti, and Bagels

This week's attempts:

Buttermilk Oatmeal Sandwich Bread
a combination of variations in The New Best Recipe Cookbook from America's Test Kitchen
verdict: excellent. I highly approve. I wish I had a bread pan with a lid so I could get a more square shape.

The New Best Recipe Cookbook
verdict: quite good. Biscotti is supposed to have all the moisture baked out of them and therefore they have a quite long shelf life. However, having all the moisture baked out of them means they are super crunchy/dry. Remind me a bit of the texture of a dog biscuit... but would a dog biscuit taste so good when dunked in a convenient cup of tea? I don't think so. The tea (or coffee if one is so inclined) re-hydrated it perfectly to be more a melt in your mouth sort of thing.

also from The New Best Recipe Cookbook
verdict: less than stellar. In fact, worst bagel ever: very chewy (like silly putty!), little taste, and the appearance was a little bit disgusting. I think I'm doing something wrong when making the dough. I can't get it smooth like the book says it should be and I kneaded extra (after two nights of failed attempts) this time! I didn't have a lot of hope for these after having so much trouble with the dough, but the pictures are kinda cool. I wish I'd taken a picture before they went in the oven.

Monday, April 7, 2008

cell phone cover- now with plastic! (crochet)

first off, I HATE ipod socks and cell phone socks and find them pointless to knit/crochet or buy. (I do, however, regularly get teased for using a real sock for my camera... it's convenient and very un-bulky when placed in a purse).

SO, I got a new cell phone and free case and realized that even though the cell phone cover was manufacture made for the phone and and very nice leather, it had some things that I hate. First, it had a belt clip. I honestly don't know of a chick that uses a belt clip. Second, it didn't cover the entire keypad. Have you ever seen the oil and gunk that comes off your face and cakes on cell phone covers as you cradle it on your shoulder? yuck. it's worse if there is makeup involved. So I definitely wanted full keypad protection. I couldn't find any templates, suggestions, or even the hint that this has been done before (though I'm sure it has) so i decided to fake knowing what I was doing try. Stich 'n' Bitch: The Happy Hooker had a pattern for an ipod cover with a plastic screen protector (another thing i haven't seen online) so I decided to take that idea and roll with it.

What follows is a general idea of how to craft something for your cell phone (they're all different, a real pattern probably wouldn't help anyways) and what worked for me.

- medium-small crochet hook (I used F, it was the smallest I had at the time. Just got a D, I might attempt another with that)
- yarn, preferably cotton or a cotton blend (I used Lion Brand Cotton Ease which is 50/50 cotton acrylic)
- tapestry needle
- thin plastic (no idea where my mom got this, but it works great)
- paper/pencil/scissors (to make a pattern for the plastic)
- nail or awl (to punch holes in the plastic)
- hammer
- snaps or velcro or buttons. basically, some sort of detachable attacher to join the two pieces when they are on the device (i used Dritz Gripper Brand Snap Fasteners for thinner fabrics, size 15 (10mm). They're pretty old- my mom's kind of a packrat of sewing stuff- and something for a thicker fabric probably would have been more appropriate, but it works.) Velcro would work, so would buttons. I was just mimicking what the leather ones have.

paper, pencil, scissors, and the cell phone. figure out where you seen to be able to see the actual phone and not yarn: that means the keypad, display screen, and if you have a front display, that too. Your phone does not made to close with yarn in it, so the template needs to account for that and be cut slightly bigger than the actual dimensions. This allows for the holes to be punched along the edge and the yarn attached about where it closes. Draw (trace if you can) on paper, cut it out and see where it needs to be smaller/bigger.

awl or nail, hammer. When you're satisfied with the paper cut-out, trace/cut it out in plastic. I highly suggest paperclips to keep the two together. Clear plastic is hard to see. Also, I suggest drawing a border on the paper where you want the holes to go and using the paperclips to keep it all together while you punch. Oh, and think about where you want to punch. try making a swatch of your crocheting and seeing how far apart the holes would need to be. closer is better, particularly on the corners, BUT not too close because you don't want them running together or getting too close to the edge. I suggestion extra plastic for practice. No holes in the bottom of the display and top of the keypad piece! no yarn will be there!!

yarn time. Now, cast on to the plastic. I started with the front cover piece because it seemed easiest. Of the 3 pieces, it was. I cut off a piece of yarn about 3x the size of the area I was casting around and used a tapestry needle to poke it through each hole because my hook wouldn't fit. For some reason I couldn't figure out how to do this with the same yarn i was crocheting with.... see the picture. When I was just short of the edge of the cover, I bound off. Then, I cast on to the plastic display piece and used the tail to bind it to the front display piece. Keep the cell phone handy and try it on a lot. I had to take a row off. The goal is snug.

more yarn. This time the keypad piece. I cast on one row and then decided to go across the row instead of trying to figure out how to do some sort of circle. I know it's probably possible, but this way seemed simpler. I also did not join it at the bottom so as to leave room for my charger without taking off the entire cover. Then I wove things in (which I hate doing) and took pictures.

the flaps. They kind of look like overalls to me. tiny, pink overalls. They are simply a rows of four sc. I like the placement of them because they protect my corners. I drop my phone. a lot. In fact, I have what one might call butterfingers. anyways, a few rows of those, leave room so that you can put a snap backing in the bottom piece and snap piece on the flap. Ok, this might seem sort of silly... but you can't crochet these two pieces together. I'm sorry, it would look a lot cleaner, but if you join the two pieces, you'll never get the thing off your cell phone without destroying it. not cool. Your battery (and in my case, also my sd card slot is under the battery cover next to the battery) is there and if you need to clean it or something, you want to be able to remove it. Oh, if you plan on buttons, now would be the time to make button holes

the detachable attachers. Velro or buttons or snaps... all good. my snaps had directions with them involving placing the pokey thing in the back piece and poking it through the fabric and hammering in the male or female part, then matching where that is on the flap, placing the pokey thing and hammering the corresponding part.

Done. :-)