Saturday, November 28, 2009

my sad new haircut

People have been remarking on how long my hair's getting, accusing me of becoming a hippie, so I've been nagging Rachael to cut my hair. She wanted to give me a Louise Brooks hairdo,

while I hoped to look more like Ian Curtis:

I finally convinced her that I was too lazy to maintain such a smooth, nice bob--it would probably require products, or a blow-dryer--so she relented. My hair cut was going well till she got to the fringe. It felt like she was cutting it awfully short, and when she finished she began shrieking with laughter. It was less than an inch long! She quickly decided to give me an aging, punk-rock lesbian look, and cut it shorter all over. Sadly, I ended up looking more like GI Jane.

Ugly hair

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

bread troubles, and a little lesson learned, and a cake recipe

Last Friday we had Dakki's 85th birthday party, serving nice , soft, bland food because that's what Dakki likes best. We had baked spaghetti (with potato chips crunched up on top), cauliflower (the blandest vegetable), challah (the softest, squishiest bread), and pumpkin cake. Annie made a more exciting salad, with persimmons and candied pumpkin seeds, but Dakki never eats any salad anyway.

I worked the two days before the party, so my bread making time was limited. I planned to make my usual challah dough when I got home from work, adding a little less yeast so it wouldn't rise too much in the night. I got up in the morning to find that the dough hadn't risen at all! I remembered that I had never put in the yeast (it's funny how you can remember things like that after the fact, too late to be much help). I made a little dent in the dough, added some yeast, water, and flour, and re-kneaded the dough. An hour later, it was still an inert lump.

unrisen dough

brown bread crumb

I was sure my yeast was still fresh and viable, because I had used it to make the above bread only the day before, and it had risen very well. When I got the yeast out of the freezer to examine it, however, I discovered that the zipper in its freezer bag had broken and the poor little yeasts had been exposed to the desiccating freezer air for a whole day and were undoubtedly all dead.

Fortunately, I had some alternate yeast, my special osmotolerant yeast for sweet doughs, so I made another little yeast volcano and kneaded the dough yet again. At this point I was in a hurry, so I set my mixer on the floor to knead. This way it would be able to knead unattended with no risk of walking off the counter. This trick would not work as well in a house with a helpful dog in the kitchen, but I think it's what I will do from now on in my pet-free household.

The third time was the charm, and I ended up with some lovely, well-risen loaves:

challahs ii

Dakki's cake was a great success--even Pauline liked it--so I'll post its recipe even though I forgot to take any pictures of it.

Pumpkin Cake

250g all-purpose flour
2t baking powder
1/2t baking soda
1/2t salt
2t cinnamon
1/4t nutmeg
1t ginger
120g margarine
200g sugar
100g brown sugar
1/4C water, mixed with 2t each potato starch, tapioca flour, and flax meal
1t vanilla extract
300g canned pumpkin
a big apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
120g dried cherries
100g coarsely chopped walnuts

1/2c powdered sugar
2T maple syrup, or as needed

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9" Bundt pan.

Whisk the flour, powders, and spices together. Beat the sugars and margarine till light and fluffy, then add your fake egg (the water with flours and flax) and beat some more. Beat in the vanilla and pumpkin. Stir in the flour mixture till just combined, then the fruit and nuts. Pour into your prepared pan and bake for 60-70 minutes. Cool on a rack for ten minutes before turning out i=of the pan to cool completely.

When it's cool, make the maple frosting by mixing the maple syrup into the powdered sugar. You may need a little more syrup to make it a good consistency: spreadable, and only a little bit runny. Spread it over the top of the cake, letting it run artfully down the crevices.

dakki with candles

Monday, November 16, 2009

another easy fruity recipe

whole fruit

This is a nice autumnal dish to make when you've already got your oven on. It takes only a few minutes to prepare, and hardly any room in your oven.

raw fruit

Start off with some fresh and dried fruit, any combination you think sounds good. In this case I used apples and pears for the fresh, and apricots and prunes for the dry, but try whatever you have on hand. Peaches would be nice in the summertime, and I usually always add a banana. For the dried fruit, figs (cut in half) or cherries would be good additions.

Peel, core, and cut up your fruit into biggish bite-size pieces. Mix it all up in a casserole with a good lid, and add 3T apple juice concentrate, 2T water, the juice of half a lemon, and a big pinch of cinnamon. Bake for about 30-45 minutes. The baking time will vary depending on the dimensions of your casserole, the temperature of the oven, and how thoroughly you want your fruit cooked. Just check it after alf an hour to see how it's coming.

baked fruit

Sunday, November 15, 2009

tsimmes in the rice cooker

Work lunch

No matter that it looks like fish, or pork belly, above is pictured a tasty, entirely vegetarian treat I made recently in my rice cooker. I used the slow-cooker setting, and it only took about five minutes of preparation. You could use your crockpot on 'high' if you don't have a fuzzy logic rice cooker. I've written below the ingredients I used, but you could easily change things around: for instance, use potatoes or yams if you don't like parsnips.

Easy Squeezey Tsimmes
2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
1 pears, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
2 big carrots, ends cut off and cut into pieces similar to the apple pieces
2 parsnips, peeled and ends cut off and cut into pieces similar to the apple pieces
1 onion, peeled and cut into wedges of an appealing size
a big handful of pitted prunes
1/2t cinnamon
1/2C water
juice of half a lime
1-2T maple syrup

Throw everything in your rice cooker and cook on the 'slow cooker' setting for 6 hours.

Monday, November 9, 2009

vegan cookies take over your cookie jar


I made these vegan pignoli (the ones on the right; on the left are Mexican chocolate cookies made with spelt flour) for a recent work meeting, taking the extras to a baby shower at which I presented my Baby Surprise Jacket. I adapted the recipe to Rachael's tastes from this recipe, which can be found in a wonderful new cookie book, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I made them a little less sweet and bitter-almondy, plus used brown rice flour instead of wheat and increased most of the ingredients to accommodate my larger can of almond paste (I used Solo).


8 oz almond paste
pinch salt
120g sugar
1t vanilla extract
110g margarine
200g brown rice flour
1/2t baking powder
70g pine nuts
almond milk (or soy milk) for dipping

Heat oven to 350°.

Grind the almond paste, salt, sugar, vanilla, and margarine in your food processor till light and fluffy (it helps to cut the almond paste into several chunks first), stopping and scraping as necessary. whisk the flour and baking powder together, than add to the almond fluff.

Roll the dough into small balls, dipping each first into the almond milk and then into a little dish of pine nuts. Flatten each ball slightly, pressing the pine nuts in. Bake on a parchment or Silpat-lined cookie sheet for about 16 minutes, till turning color. Let cool for five minutes before transferring from the pan to a cooling rack.

bsj i