Saturday, 19 October 2013

Rose Anne's Block

I finished the embroidery on Rose Anne's block this morning. My very first seams on my very first block of my very first Round Robin. I have to say, I quite enjoyed it, and am very pleased with how it came out

The finished work

Her naked block was largely in brown tones, not a colour range I usually work with, and when she first posted the picture of her block I confess my mind just went blank. However when it arrived and I saw it in person - so to speak, ideas began to come out of hiding. Rose Anne's copious use of silk fabrics (my favourite fabric) gave the whole block a wonderful metallic sheen, which was accentuated by the fact that two of the fabrics had small sequins attached. So it seemed to me the natural choice should be metallic threads and silks.

The naked block

On the smaller inner seam, I used a wonderful copper metallic (DMC 'Precious Metals'), a grey greenish blue stranded silk, and seed beads - reddish gold, and pale peach. The wave is a combination of blanket stitch (crests) and stem stitch (troughs), with detached chain, straight stitch, couched straight stitch, and beading.

Close up of the smaller seam

On the longer outer seam, I used a rich chocolate Rajmahal Art silk, an 'antique' gold metallic (DMC 'Antique Effects'), a soft blue stranded silk, and seed beads - antique gold, and glacier ice blue. The initial row of herringbone stitch was overlaid with Cretan stitch, and detached chain and beading were added.     

Close up of the longer seam

Now I just hope Rose Anne likes it.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

No Fail Pizza Dough

No Fail Pizza Dough

Here is my 'you cannot fail' pizza dough recipe.

In the time it takes you to get in the car, fight the traffic, find a park, get into the shop, find the crappy pre-made pizza bases (or order your pizza at the pizza parlour if you have taken that route), check out, get out of the parking lot, and get home, you could have a wonderful homemade, yeast raised pizza base, loaded with extra everything at a fraction of the cost (and stress).

So lets get started.
This recipe will give you one large, or two small bases.

3/4 cup of warm water
1 teaspoon of sugar (I use brown sugar, or sometimes honey)
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups High Grade (Bread) flour
2 tablespoons oil (I use olive oil)

In a small bowl dissolve the sugar (or honey) in the warm water. 
HANDY HINT: use 1/4 cup of HOT water to dissolve the sugar more easily, then add 1/2 cup of COLD water to bring it down to the right temperature for the yeast.
VARIATION: Once you have done this a few times, and are more confident, try substituting 1/2 cup cold beer or cider for the 1/2 cup cold water. It makes a really nice variation, especially good for gourmet pizzas.

Sprinkle the yeast into the sweetened water, and set aside for a few minutes. Don't worry if the yeast doesn't go all 'frothy' - often it doesn't, but that doesn't mean there is anything wrong with it. The point of doing this is to dissolve the granules so they will be evenly distributed thru the flour, and rehydrate the yeast 'beasties' to 'wake' them up.

While you are waiting for your yeast to wake up, in a larger bowl mix the flour and salt. Pour in the oil (but don't mix yet). Now pour in your yeast water mix. Using a spoon or fork, start mixing the whole lot together. When it gets too stiff to mix with the spoon or fork, tip it onto a clean bench, make sure you scrape it all out, and start squishing it with your fingers to get all the flour mixed in.
HANDY HINT: When you are done, your hands will be all gooey with dough. Make a dent in the dough ball, dip your hands in flour, shake off the excess, then holding your hands over the dough and start rubbing your hands together. The flour on your hands will make it easy to get all the dough off. Press all the bits that come off your hands into the dent in the dough ball.

Now plop the whole thing back into the bowl. Cover the bowl, and leave in a warm place for 40 - 60 minutes, to rise (basically, 'til it has roughly doubled in size).
HANDY HINT: Turn your oven on to 'Lo' (definitely NOT any higher!) and put your bowl of dough in the oven to rise.

While you are waiting for the dough to rise, it is a great time to get all your topping prepared. Slice, dice, chop, and grate all the things you want. Put them in bowls and on plates, then, if you are doing small individual pizzas, everyone can put what they want on their own pizza. This also the time to make your pizza sauce. Don't groan and roll your eyes - I have a 'no fail' recipe for that too that takes only 5 minutes to do. Seriously, only 5 minutes! It's at the bottom of this recipe.

When your dough has risen sufficiently, it is time to flour your bench. You didn't need to do this before because there was plenty of flour not yet mixed in, but now your dough will be sticky. So flour your bench.

Take your dough out of the oven (if you have been raising it there), and turn your oven up to 200C (400F). Now tip your bowl of dough over your floured bench, and using a rubber or silicon spatula or spoon, scrape the dough out of the bowl. If you are wanting to do small, individual pizzas, divide the dough in half (or even quarters for mini or kids' size).

Either roll your dough out using a rolling pin (or wine bottle if you don't have a rolling pin), or just press and stretch it out by hand. Remember, it doesn't have to be round. You can make it square, oval, or just generally wonky shaped - which mine usually are because I prefer to hand stretch my dough. It can be as thick or thin as you want.

Pull out a cookie sheet, and either put baking paper on it, or flour it - no, don't oil it, flour it. It will be SO much easier to get it off when it is cooked if you flour rather than oil.

Plop your base(s) onto the cookie sheet. Now, you can either "dress" it immediately, or leave it in a warm place to rise for 20 minutes - this will give you a fluffy "bready" crust.

When you are ready, "dress" your pizza. Spread a thin layer of sauce over your base, right out to and over the edge - just like the pizza places don't - no more dry crusts! Yay!

Now start putting your toppings on.
HANDY HINT: Put the cheese on last instead of first. It cooks much better that way.

Slide the whole thing into the oven and cook for about 30-35 minutes. Add another 5-10 minutes for a particularly thick crust, and subtract 5-10 minutes for a really thin crust.
When the cheese just starts to brown, that's when it's ready.

Viola! Homemade pizza.

No Fail Pizza Sauce

So you are cruising the supermarket isles getting the stuff to make your pizza. Fantastic! Put down that expensive jar of insipid, preservative laden premade pizza sauce. I said put it down! Now go get a nice, cheap, homebrand (generic) tin of tomato puree - it's around a third to a quarter of the price, isn't full of ingredients that have numbers and unpronounceable names, and is going to taste SO much better.

When you are ready to make the sauce, get out the can opener. Open the can. Tip all the puree into a large, clean jar. Squash a few cloves of garlic into the jar. Put herbs in - thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil. I use fresh herbs from my garden, but dried ones are just fine. Between 1/2 teaspoon and 1 teaspoon of each, depending on your tastes. Put the lid on the jar. Shake. Viola! Pizza sauce. Store unused sauce in the fridge. If you have a little more cooking skills, fry up some chopped onions, and put those in the sauce as well.
HANDY HINT: Makes a great pasta sauce too. Add olives, capers, maybe an anchovy or two.

First Post

People have been saying to me for some time now "you should be doing a blog", "why haven't you got a blog?". Yeah, Right! Just what the internet needs - yet another somewhat crazy stay-at-home blogger!
However, here we are. My blog. Blogging my way to health and happiness - snort! OK, not so much, I just thought that that sounded like a good cheesy thing to say.
How about - chronicling my adventures and misadventures in crafts, gardening, cooking, and preserving, periodically punctuated with opinionated apostrophizing. Far more accurate.

I have fairly recently joined CQI, an online crazy quilting group, and have embarked on my first ever Round Robin. That's where a group of - in this case five - people each make a block (or several blocks), then sends that block (or blocks) to the next person in the group. That person embroiders 1/5th of the total number of seams (or one block if you are doing the 'several blocks' version), then sends it all to the next person who does their embroidery, and so on, until it comes back to the person who made the blocks. In the end everyone has a block (or blocks) that has been embroidered/embellished by each member of the RR (Round Robin) group. The block(s) can end up going all over the world, depending on who is in the RR group.
For this RR, we have one person in New Zealand (me), one in Canada (that's the person sending to me), and 3 in the U.S. I received the first block yesterday, and have started the embroidery. I have to say, I am quite pleased with what I have done so far, I just hope Rose Anne likes it.

I have also signed up for the 2014 crazy quilt Journal Project (there is a link for it on the right hand side of the blog). That will be great, and quite a challenge. It will be my first patchwork/quilt done with the block method. I normally do all my patchworks/quilts with the 'whole cloth' method, to make them fit the sheet I am using as a backing. I have been wanting to do a full size, fully embellished CQ for some time, and have been collecting the fabrics, threads, charms, etc. for it for a while. This is the incentive I need to actually get started.