"Challah" La La LaLaLa La: Live For Today

Against my doubts, the challah actually turned out this time. Thank-you Jeffrey Hamelman of King Arthur Flour and his book, "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes."
For the record, tonight's dinner was:
Grilled Indian satays with peanut sauce
Moroccan couscous
Farm-fresh green beans
and (a few hours later)
my first ever attempt at a Bakewell Tart.
The tart was not exactly what Travis remembers having on his mission in Manchester, England, but oh well.
My new motto for 2008: Que sera!


Following the Breadcrumbs Home

Few things are more calming than these: cooking in my own kitchen, arriving home to a clean house, and sleeping children-bodies.
Right now, as luck would have it, I've managed to see all three of those come to pass.
In other words, we're back and the house didn't freeze over and all of our valuables were in place when we returned.
I'm making the challah bread I promised I'd make several weeks ago and I'm excited about new projects and winter movie nights.

If you're wondering what we did over the break, stay tuned. In the meantime, let this picture of a little flyer appease your curiosity!

(Notice how he's clutching his blankie oh so tightly!)


It's a Girl!
Mr. and Mrs. Larios welcomed little Ruby into the world yesterday.
With a beautiful crown of dark hair and long feet and fingers, she came!
Mommy did fantastic throughout labor and delivery.

Little Ruby was a champ. She came at 6:04 PM on December 17, 2007 and weighed 7 lb, 0.3 ounces and was 19.5 inches long.

She looks like her Daddy (says I) and we are glad she's finally here!


Dipping Chocolates How-To
This all started when I was asked to teach a class on dipping chocolates to the church lady-folk two years ago. The only problem was I had never dipped chocolate before. So, Phyllis Mason spent a couple hours in her giant kitchen showing me the art of dipping chocolates. She said when her children were little she would put her kids to bed, turn the heat down and open the windows and dip chocolates at night. We spread and worked the chocolate on her big granite countertops and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. She is one of the best cooks in Eastern WA! So you can thank her for this tutorial.
First, select the best chocolate you can find. The more cocoa butter the better. Stay away from confectionary coatings because they contain vegetable oils and cocoa powder, not cocoa butter. Winco sells bulk Guittard chocolate in both milk and dark that you can chop and use. I like to mix dark and milk, but you can do whatever combo you like. One friend of mine likes dark and white chocolate together. A good resource on dipping chocolate is baking911.com. Whatever you use, put it in a glass bowl and melt it on defrost in the microwave. Stir it every 30 seconds or so, then every 15 seconds towards the end. You want your last stir of the chocolate to be the one when all the little pieces are blended into the melted mixture.
Next, pour the melted chocolate onto a marble slab. If you don't have one, you can get them at kitchen stores for $10 to $20. If your house is warm, the marble slab won't get very cold, so you want to keep your house as cold as you can stand it. Also, you can put the slab outside to get it cold. You don't want it too cold though or else the chocolate will harden too quickly. Also, when working with chocolate, moisture is the enemy. Everything you use must be completely moisture-free or the chocolate will get grey flecks on it and look very unattractive. All utensils, hands, bowls, etc. must be moisture-free.
Then, you work the chocolate with your right hand. Keep your left hand out of the chocolate so you can grab what you're dipping with it. You want to cool the chocolate down to body temperature. Working the chocolate with your hands and scooping and moving it across the surface of the marble helps to evenly bring its temperature down. You work the chocolate like this until you feel that it is the same temperature as your hand.
Then, it's time to dip. You just put whatever you're dipping into the chocolate, and cover it completely. If you miss spots, the caramel or other filling will seep out later.Then, you put the piece on a sheet of parchment paper and finish it off with a little swirl of your finger. Professional chocolatiers have a different swirl for each kind of chocolate they dip to identify them later.
And lastly, you flick the little skirts and drips of chocolate off the bottom the pieces you've dipped and then package them how you like.
The best place to store dipped chocolates is in a cold, dark closet. Don't put them in the fridge or freezer as they will take up the moisture in those compartments. They do best in an airtight container with a lid and they will store for several weeks. Caramels tend to crystallize after a couple weeks, so you'll want to use those faster.
I hope you each enjoy the gifts of the Season and the gift-giving!
We take off tomorrow for the Homeland, aka Washington, so my blogging might become scarce for a while. But, Happy Holidays nonetheless!


(pronounced with a French accent)
Glimpses of my home today: the dining table. The wreath that Mrs. Claus made and gave me this year hanging in my dining room. I love looking at the neat vintage ornaments.
The front door.
View of my street and the snow.

I am enjoying the falling snow and the muffled noises of cars driving by. I love how snow blankets the earth and insulates it. It's as if Mother Nature were telling everyone to "shut-up" and listen. I think I'll do that today.
And, a big Happy Birthday wish to Miss Ivy today who turns 4! I hope you have a great day and that you know how much we love you!


Christmas Turtles How-To
I have to give credit to Phyllis Mason for this recipe and Brenda Wright for showing me how to make these. I have started the tradition of making them every year about this time and now you can make some too!
Start with a nice, heavy metal pot, a good candy thermometer and the ingredients listed in the recipe below.
2 cups light cream
1 cup Karo syrup
1/3 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
dipping chocolate
In a heavy large pan heat cream to lukewarm. Pour out 1 cup and reserve. To the remaining creamin pan add sugar, syrup and salt. Cook and stir constantly over medium heat until it boils. Very slowly pour in remaining cream so mixture doesn't stop boiling. Cook and stir in butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Turn heat to medium low and boil until it reaches 238 F or soft ball.** Take off heat and stir in vanilla. Set 2 or 3 pecans in clusters on parchment paper. Pour caramel over pecans and cool. Dip in melted dipping chocolate. Yield: about 60 turtles.
*Phyllis toasts her pecans at 275 F for about 15-20 minutes (depending on how you like them). I now toast all nuts that I buy this way because it brings out the flavor.
**I had to make several batches of the caramel before I got the right temperature of doneness. I found that on my thermometer 238 is the perfect temperature. It might differ by thermometer and personal preference.

Some things to know about candy-making:

  • Temperature is crucial. Take the pan off the stove immediately when you see it's reached the desired temperature.
  • When the caramel is at the right temp, I immediately pour it into a glass bowl, then I pour in the vanilla. This stops the caramel from cooking further in the hot metal pan and allows me time to get the vanilla out and measured.
  • I wait to put the caramel on top of the pecans until the caramel has cooled significantly and is very thick.
  • Use parchment paper! Waxed paper sticks to the caramel.

You can make your turtles as big or little as you want.

Now that you've got the caramel part done, you should dip it in chocolate. [Travis likes it without chocolate, so he eats them plain like this.]

Stay tuned for Christmas Turtles Part II: Dipping Chocolate


My Lil' Bernina
Not alot of time to post because this lil' gal's been working hard (the machine, that is).
These reversible pillows are for my bed. I got the forms at Ikea for cheap and the fabric is what Whit gave me and also some I found at a yard sale a couple Summer's ago.
Check back tomorrow and if you're wondering what I'll write about...dream of sugarplums!