Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tried and true to something new

Time to experiment today: I frequently make the Chocolate Roulade from Julia and Jacques' Cooking at Home (Julia Child and Jacques Pepin): it is simple and sinful: but it is simple. A couple of weeks ago I gilded the lily by placing sliced fresh (and luscious) strawberries on the cake before I rolled it up.

Today, I'm going to try a step or two further: instead of rolling up the cake, I'm going to cut it into pieces, and stack them as a layered cake. For layers, one will be whipped cream as per the original cake: at least one layer is going to be a ganache of dark chocolate, and it will be either topped with strawberries or I will put sliced strawberries in one of the layers.

Oh, the lengths that LOML and I go to when our friends have birthdays:-)


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sausage rolls

Sausage rolls are a marvellous food. And Boo (4) and Skibo (2) both love them. And anything that gets those two to eat consistently is a good thing.

Sausage rolls the easy way: fly to England, go to a bakery and buy.
Sausage rolls the nearly as easy way: I use Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry and Snow Creek bulk sausage (buy local!). The pastry comes in two sheets folded into thirds, giving 6 pieces of pastry per package.

2 packages Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry
3 lbs bulk sausage

Take pastry out of the freezer half an hour ahead of time. Preheat oven to 425 F.
Cut each lb of sausage lengthwise into four pieces: roll each piece into a 16 inch cylinder. Put aside on parchment paper while you roll out the pastry. Cut the two packages of pastry into the obvious 12 rectangles. Roll each rectangle out on a floured board (cool marble works well) to a rectangle about 16 inches by 8-10 inches. Place a cylinder of sausage on a rectangle of pastry, and roll up, sealing the last inch or so by brushing with water.
Cut each pastry wrapped sausage cylinder into short pieces (I usually cut into either 12 or 16 pieces). Place these sausage rolls on an oven proof baking rack
(preferably non-stick) on a baking pan, and place in the oven. Bake until golden brown. Allow to cool before eating.

The rolls can be made longer, they can be brushed with eggs before baking, etc. Play with the recipe -- make it your own!.


A day filled with unfortunate headlines

Cultural monstrosities number 17: whaling.
Those of us in the non-blubber-consuming west consider this to be a heinous crime, almost as bad as eating flipper or lassie. I am as culturally sensitive to this as anyone else --- and the fact that the species being hunted are endangered makes it easier to employ this cultural rage. But I wonder which of our cultural habits enrage the rest of the world. Other than our attempts at world hegemony, of course: that one is obvious.

Other distressing headlines involved a baby surviving near death from hanging while siblings and mother died, another surviving falling in a pit teeming with maggots, and, seemingly, strife everywhere.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Claiming this blog

Technorati Profile
Activating Technorati! I feel like a miner, 49er, claiming a stake in the gold rush!
What a thrill!!!!


Memorial Day Party

The party of course went really well: a good chance for all the REU students to get to know each other, and for us to get to know them. They have now formed nicely into three groups, and chosen topics. Now comes the hard work, on their part and on ours, of getting them to the point at which they can solve some of the problems!


Memorial Day

Memorial Day. In the rest of the world, it takes place on 11/11 at 11, and is reverently remembered. In Britain there is a tradition that everything stops for a moment of silence and contemplation.

Here in the US, of course November is reserved for "Veterans' Day": and the remembering of war dead is in May. And there is never a moments thought given to those other than our war dead --- after all, it would be unpatriotic to spare a tear for a dead child in Iraq, let alone a member of an opposing force.

And even our military leaders, the chief of staff, can't keep track of how many of ours have died, say in Iraq.

Instead, we have a barbecue, we party.


Monday, May 28, 2007

How I came to bake bread

I've always loved bread --- it really is one of my favourite foods: and on moving here ten years ago I searched for a good local bakery. At that point in time, I believe that there was exactly one independent bakery within a ten or fifteen mile radius, together with several grocery stores with in-store baking: none of them, not one, made good bread. Determined to learn, I bought a copy of "Baking With Julia", a heavy duty stand mixer, and set to learning. Over the years I have picked up tricks and tips, books of recipes and books of stories about bread, and have experimented a lot: adding milk, milk powder, malt, molasses, citrus juice of various types, etc. I've taught dozens of people to make various kinds of bread: baguettes, focaccia, pizza, wholewheat, etc: the main lesson being that they don't have to be afraid of the yeast. I'm currently trying to learn that lesson myself: to not be afraid of the next step --- since I can't get access to fresh yeast, I'm planning to try maintaining a sourdough mother. Why exactly this is so intimidating, I don't really know.

Wish me luck!


Remember the fallen with a 'cue

reureuToday is Memorial Day here in the US, and as is traditional, everybody has a barbecue. Or more precisely, an outdoor gathering at which a gas grill is preheated, pre-prepared patties are charred and shared, hotdogs, both inedible and vegetarian are warmed through, and everyone has to endure the fact that the temperature here in the southeast is somewhere on the warm side of endurable.

We have a tradition of two parties for our REU students: one at my colleague's place for Memorial Day, and one later in the program at my house for July 4th. In an attempt to liven the food for MD, I usually make some focaccia, a roulade, and a couple of other things.

Yesterday, LOML went over to friends to cook --- they were going to experiment with some new dishes: our neighbours took our little ones with them to see show horses at the arena, and then to go swimming at the lake. So I was left with the kitchen to myself, and, I thought, lots of time to use it.

First off, make a poolish for the focaccia: then prepare the sausage rolls. LOML has been suggesting that I try vegetarian sausage in them for some time now, so this morning when we were shopping (sans children!) we bought some. Ugh. Nasty stuff -- horrid smell, unpleasant texture. An experiment, to be repeated once more with a different brand. More on the taste later. Then to make the non-vegetarian ones: aaahhhh.... much better: locally made sausage, much nicer to work with, and I know that it is going to be good.

LOML phones as I am finishing up the sausage rolls: in addition to having our friend Allan over for dinner, we have two more guests coming over. Now. Allan arrives too: and suddenly the kitchen is full of people. All my plans for roulade, focaccia, cheesecakes fly out the window. Many hours and much wine later, sleep beacons. This morning I threw together the dough for the focaccia: LOML is going to make the roulade and a carrot cake, and hopefully there will be enough for the vegetarians in the group to eat.

As for the vegetarian sausage rolls, I found them rather on the inedible side of inedible. Oh well. Our vegetarian friends will have to forgo the pleasure. Or in the case of some of them, temporarily regard pork as a vegetable!


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Zoos, gorillas, giraffes...

This morning, in the hope of serendipity playing a welcome role, we had planned to drive to the newly relocated (boo...) Freedom Aloft Weekend in Simpsonville. It was much more convenient when it was just down the road in Anderson, but need and greed must, and it has moved on.
Sprogs, however, were sleeping much too peacefully to be up in time to see the balloons aloft: we'd have had to be out of the door before seven, and in the end the little ones weren't even up by eight.
Still, we hadn't mentioned the balloons to them (how smart we were!) but had decided that if we were going to be already in Simpsonville, half way to the zoo in Columbia, then we should all visit the animals. Of course, the children we delighted with this prospect.

All in all, a lovely day --- we got to be within a (very heavy duty plate) glass width of two different gorillas, feed giraffes, and watch sea lions play in their swimming pool. Of course, I spent every couple of minutes thinking how lucky I am not to be in that sort of confined environment, and wondering if we are better off not introducing children to zoos, so that we don't encourage their use....
At the same time, there is something wonderful about their being able to see and even interact with those gorgeous animals. I suspect that the ethical answer is trivial, and that I am just doomed to be unethical on this issue.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Back in the house

Now that we are back in the house, it is time to start thinking of cooking again: and what do I discover, but that I have no good yeast. So, where should I look for good yeast? King Arthur sells vacuum packed packs of instant and dry yeast: but if I wanted to find real yeast, fresh yeast, in a nice big yeasty smelling block, where should I ask?