Saturday, June 28, 2008

Daring Baker Project #9 - Danish Braid

Matthew 4:4
Jesus answered, "It is written: 
'Man does not live on bread alone, 
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "

I was delighted to see that this months project was a Danish Braid. I've always wanted to try making pastries, but I've never done so. All I've made are cinnamon rolls, bolotchki, and tea rings. But those all use rich bread dough, not a laminated dough. Well it's been a really busy month, but then aren't they all. But anyway, I had it all planned that I would make this month's Daring Baker project on Saturday, June 28th. Then by the time I could have a chance to change the day, I found out that the weather people figured that that day was going to set a record for hottest ever recorded on that day - 100 degrees. So it seemed best that I get up very very early in the morning to start my laminated dough.

So my husband woke me up on Saturday morning at 4:30. My first reaction was "why are you waking me up!" He said, "You told me to." Well I found that hard to believe, but he was insistent, so I got up. By the time I got down stairs he had a great many windows and doors open, and it was feeling rather pleasant. But I don't really move too fast at that hour.

But by just before seven I was finally getting serious about making the Danish dough. I had everything ready, and I started in. It was so convenient to have all those 30 minutes in between. I mixed the dough by hand, though I used a hand mixer for the beurage. By 9:50 I had the turnings all done, and that was a good thing because it was getting really hot. Just as I was finishing up the last turn a daughter called. We talked for maybe 10 minutes, and when I got back to my dough one corner was melting. I tidied it up and hurried the dough into the refrigerator.

It was so hot for the rest of the day that I didn't get back to the dough until 9:15, after having made and cooled my rhubarb filling. My friend Marilyn gave me a whole bunch of rhubarb from her garden on Friday.

rhubarb filling:

1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and diced
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water

Put it all in a saucepan, bring to a boil, them simmer until the rhubarb is soft. Transfer to a heat proof bowl and put in the freezer to chill.

My mother used to serve this to us at breakfast. You can put it on your oatmeal.

I decided that since the rhubarb was tart I would put on a thin layer of sweet strawberry jam that I'd made first, then the rhubarb. But first I needed to get half the dough rolled out to 15 x 20 and 1/4 inch thick. As far as I was concerned that was next to impossible. I rolled and rolled and rolled and I never got it that big. And anyway, it seemed to be melting, so I stopped the rolling.

The cutting was tricky. But the filling and braiding were easy. By this time it was 10 o'clock and 82 degrees in the kitchen.I estimated that the dough would be ready by mid-night. Well by mid-night the dough was as flat as ever!!! I went into the living room and layed down on the sofa and waited for daughter #3 to get home from an outing with daughter #1. While asleep I dreamed that I didn't put the yeast in the dough. When I woke up, upon her arrival, I went to look at my bread. It was as flat as ever. I felt like a complete failure and decided that what ever it was I had made I was going to cook it. I don't think I'll ever know if I forgot the yeast until I make the danish dough again and see the difference. But in the end it looked and tasted pretty good.

Verdict: despite the obvious problem of possibly having forgetten the yeast, it really does taste good, as my family has assured me. Annie said it was scrumpdillyicious. Sarah and Zac and Riley loved it. Zac saw my left-over rhubarb filling and he spooned it over his slice of the braid. For all intents and purposes what I have made is really a ponsey-wonsey rolly-polly, a dessert I'm quite fond of. I'm definitely going to use the other half of my dough for a tasty something.

But when I do it over again, which is right now, I will leave out the vanilla and orange rind. Just as with the lemon meringue pie, I found the vanilla distracting. And of course, I would pile in as much filling as I thought I could manage.

There are so many fabulous fillings that all the daring bakers are coming up with. I think that the daring bakers are amazingly creative.

I think that I'm going to make enough of this dough that I can have several blocks in the freezer ready to go. When I lived in Hong Kong I would order my groceries over the phone. In all the time I did that there was only one mistake. One day I received a box with a block of puff pastry, which looked a great deal like the block of Danish dough. I didn't sent it back, and instead I had a lot of fun using it. I've always wondered why I can't find anything like it in America.

"Success consists of going from failure to failure 
without loss of enthusiasm."
Winston Churchill

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A day in the neighborhood with the kids

Mark 10:14
 (Jesus) said to them,
 "Let the little children come to me, 
and do not hinder them, 
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

Today was a beautiful day, so I decided that I'd take the kids first over to Starbucks and then to the park. So this is about what it's like to go moseying through my neighborhood.

We headed out at about 9:30, going north on the street in front of our house. Emily grabbed her hat before heading out, which then reminded me to get my hat. We also took the stroller with the baby bag and my camera bag. And Christian took his skate board.

Emily was really charming in her hat and new 70's dress. She found the hat at Goodwill, one of her favorite places to shop at.

It took quite a while just to get to the end of our block, as there were so many things to be checked out, especially with all the balls that the neighborhood kids had left out.

Christian waited patiently at the end of the block seated on his skateboard. When Emily finally got there we turned left.

Emily decided that she would like to take over the duty of pushing the stroller. She can push it a quite a clip, but she is poor at steering.

By the next block Emily was done pushing the stroller and decided that she would like to visit the one authentic Georgian house in the city. It really is a lovely house. It's actually a bed & breakfast.

But we moved on and at the next intersection Emily let her brother Christian help her across the street.

Now that she had walked three blocks, Emily decided that she would like to have her juice. It's carrot juice,one of her favorites.

A block and a half later Emily was still drinking her juice, but she was walking along at a good pace, maybe because she wasn't distracted.

Christian, of course, made it to the corner before Emily. So he sat on his skateboard to wait for her. When she got there she sat down on the board next to him, while they waited for me.

Eventually we made it to Starbucks, where we sat for a while, and Annie soon joined us.

At 10:30 we gathered our stuff up and headed on down the street, in the direction of Irving park. We passed many quaint little shops and such on the way.

We passed a very unusual house on the way, but I couldn't get really good pictures of it without changing my lens. I had my zoom zoom lens on the camera.

We finally arrived at the park. It's a beautiful neighborhood park that actually serves two neighborhoods, one that is sort of upper middle class, and the other that is a rather run down neighborhood. If you go east on Fremont street you come to a school with a very high percentage of kids in the tag program, but if you go west you soon come to the school with about the worst academic record in the city. The park serves both groups and has always been a lovely park.

We made our way up the hill into the park, past the area of the baseball diamonds, to the far side, where the children's play area is. It has swings and slides and climbing things, a surrealistic pretending play area, and best of all a spray fountain area.

We began by getting Emily's shoes back on her. She is always removing them when they are not necessary. Christian is very good about putting them on her.

They then headed off to find something to climb and slide on.

Emily can handle the climbing all by herself.

But Annie was soon very nervous about Emily's climbing and she was hot on her tail, for which I was very thankful. Christian zoomed off much too fast to worry about Emily for long.

Annie was a great help in keeping Emily under control, but still letting Emily have fun. This particular slide was quite a challenge, even though Annie is only 5 feet tall. But they made it.

It was a bit of a rough go,
but here they go.

Down they come!


Then - after about twenty minutes of climbing and sliding, Emily turned her attention to the fountain.

Christian, at this time, was busy climbing whatever high thing he could find.

Emily and I both think that this fountain is terrific. From my standpoint there is no need to panic as she plays in water. It's very easy to watch her at the spray fountain, and there is seating for the watchers.

The water was fun, but making new friends was also quite fun. This is Emily's first attempt at getting to know someone at the fountain. Unfortunately she was entirely too shy. So she went off to see who else she could make friends with.

After meeting another new friend, Emily introduces her to me.

Unfortunately her new friend had to leave shortly after they met. It's not easy finding friends to play with these days. 

So Emily went off to see what else she could do.

Shortly after 11:30 we headed home, this time with Emily in the stroller. She didn't protest too much, as she was getting tired.

At one point during our stay in the park Emily suddenly ran behind Christian, who was on the swing trying to see how high he could go. I yelled at Christian to stop as I rushed towards Emily. He knew he could just stop, so he leaped from the swing, landing on his back in the bark dust. He was noticeably in a bit of pain, and then went over to sit down by the spray fountain. I told him that as a reward for his heroism I would take him out for pizza. So after we got home we went to Olde Towne Pizza, where a good time was had by all.

"My books take place in a very specific neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. 
It must be the most stable neighborhood in the United States."
Beverly Cleary

Friday, June 20, 2008


1 Peter 4:10 
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, 
faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."

Yesterday my wonderful husband came home a bit early.  I was sitting on the far side of the living room on my computer and talking to daughter #2 and enjoying grand-daughter #1 as he came in and went through the entry hall into the kitchen.  He came back and greeted us and Emily ran to see him.  It then occurred to me that I need to pick up grand-son #1 at his friends house and get him back to our house before his mother came to collect them.  It was finally decided that Riley and Emily and I would go get him.  When we returned Heidi was just behind us, and she collected her kids on the spot, though I ran back into the house to retrieve Emily's shoes and socks.  At that I went back into the living room, where Annie was watching a black and white movie staring Carol Baker.  It took a while, but it was finally decided that she should just record the moving for later viewing, as it was a B movie.  I finished whatever I was going and got up to go into the kitchen to see about dinner.  As I walked into the kitchen I began talking to Riley about the jam I had made in the morning, and I'm telling him about the French process I had used, and then I looked up and oh my gosh!!!   There on my French stove was sitting an absolutely gorgeous jam pan!!!  And there was Riley, grinning.  What a fantastic surprise.  And for no occasion.  I then mentioned that I had spotted a really great looking jam book at Powells, and after dinner he said "Let's go to Powells".  The book is as amazing as my jam pan.  So I had now better produce really great jam.  My absolute favorite thing to eat at a French bakery is bread and jam - petit pain et confiture et beurre.  I later got on the internet to see what people have to say about the book and jam of Christine Ferber and it was nothing but rave reviews, except by the typical overly germ conscious Americans.

So now I need to be making some jam. On Monday or Tuesday I bought a flat of Oregon strawberries. They were absolutely fabulous. Some of the best strawberries in the world grow in Oregon. It's an real travesty that our wonderful berry fields are being paved over and turned into industrial parks. We used to always go strawberry picking each year. It took about 20 minutes to get to a field, and the berries were small and incredibly sweet and cost about 45 cents per pound. We always had kids with us. I told them that if they didn't pick the berries they couldn't eat them. We also picked raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, marion berries, and blackberries. Now I don't know where to find good u-pick berries.

So for starters I have begun two jam recipes from Chirstine Ferber's book - Gariguette Strawberry and Rhubarb with Whole Strawberries.

Gariguette Strawberry Jam

>Following Ms Ferber's directions, the first thing you do is weigh and prep the fruit. For the strawberry jam you have about 1 + kilo to start with, then you wash, drain, and hull the berries. The recipe calls for small berries and you don't cut them up. Then I placed the berries in a medium sized melamine bowl. The recipe called for a ceramic bowl, but I know she just didn't want you to put the berries into something that could react with the berries, and my ceramic bowls had gone missing. (This is a mystery at this time, but with four daughters, someone knows about the bowls.) You reweigh the berries to make sure you have a kilo. I had to add a few, as a daughter came by and ate some. Then you weigh out the sugar - 850 grams, and add to the berries. And finally you add the juice of a lemon. I did this, but my lemons seems a bit small, so I hope it all works. It seems that the lemons are a pectin. Then you give it all a wee stir and cover with plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator overnight.

The next day heat up the jam pan. I am really fortunate to have a French stove with a French plate in the middle. The jam pan is very large and it sat ever so nicely on the French plate. Then pour in the berries and bring to a simmer. Then pour the berries back into their original bowl, cover the bowl, and put back into the refrigerator for another day.

Next day: Get things ready for putting the jam into jars, because you will want them ready right away when the jam is done. Make sure you have sterilized jars, I do this by washing them in the dishwasher and leaving them there until I need them. I also put the rings into the dishwasher. Then I put the lids into a small pan and bring them to a boil. This is done right before starting the jam.

Pour the berries through a sieve and put the syrup into the jam pan and set the berries aside for later. It will take the berries a while to drain as the syrup is a bit thick. Bring the syrup to a boil over just under high heat and bring to 221 degrees. Then add the berries and bring to a boil, boiling for about 5 minutes. At this point you are supposed to check for a good set, but I'm not sure about the details for that. Pour the jam back into the bowl it came from before you put the jam into the sterilized jam jars. This is to prevent the jam from overcooking in the hot jam pan.

In a good workspace near to the stove I set up a doubled over tea towel, and them I put the rings and jars there. Then I get a fresh tea towel ready to use. Ladle the jam into the jars right up to the top. How you do this depends on the size of you jars. Wipe off the rim of the jar with a clean tea towel edge that has been dipped into the boiling water that contains the lids and wring the towel just a bit to make sure it doesn't drip.  Put the lid on, and then the ring, screwing it on tightly.  I find that when the jars are fill right close to the top they will seal with just putting on the lid.  When you've done with the jam let the jams sit for a while and then come back and tap the top of each jar with you finger and see if they've seal.  It will go thud and the lid won't budge.

"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."
 --Albert Einstein