Monday, 28 November 2011

A Veritable Kitchen Marathon

Hello, hello,

as announced earlier, I am still in the kitchen. I leave it for an instant because I wish to upload tons of photos I have been taken and say hello to Anna - thank you for becoming a follower!

I counted the photos: back in the analogue days, this posting would have equaled one 35mm film, the big one, with 36 pictures. That's a lot.

The baking marathon started a few days ago with something I can only call a failure. Cream Cheese Brownies were what I aimed for but what left the oven in the pan lost every bit of Cream Cheese.
What should have become beige, turned mocca.

Austrians can get confused with 375, 350 and 400 Fahrenheit. Because my oven speaks Celsius only. And when the recipe asks for a 9" pan, a 12 x 16 is probably not the best idea. The dough hardly coverd the pan and was too thin.

A double-printed version of the recipe, where comments overlay the recipe does not help either.

I figured out what caused the failure: oversized pan & burning hot oven. Having figured that out, I stepped in for a second attempt. And see, it worked out!
Sometimes you have to (l)earn it the hard way

By now Mr Paula is reassured, he lives together with a maniac. I convinced him that I just love my hobby (=baking) and that is totally normal to re-bake a recipe the same evening, because a hobby-baker just wants the recipes to work out. Otherwise the baker would have to leave the kitchen in a depressed state which is unbearable.

Inbetween the baking sessions I also left the house ...
... noticed how the Christmas season arrived in the street.

The fog was insane, well, at least unhealthy. While Italian politicians force their communes to leave the car at home, Austrian politicians are to afraid to act. The fog lasted for over 10 days and the fog became smog. The photo above was taken around 9.30am. It was dark like late afternoon.

I ran into one of the probably strongest brands I remember from my childhood:
No re-brand, but plain 1980's design. I am loving it!

Apropos loving it: To the Paris-Lovers out there: please, see for yourself: Vienna can easily hold up with Paris, no? So change your flight schedule and come over here. We have it all: the lamps, the wrought iron, the old advertising pillars. And we could go out, drink Coffee together, or de-caff if you prefer.

Back home, the fog had inspired me to create some homemade fog by blanching 300gr of almonds:
Basic work is always part of baking the most delicate, delicious cookies
My nut-cracking has nothing in common with any lovely ballet music.
Mission accomplished. Almonds ready to be transformed into Vanille Kipferl.

So many recipes ask for vegetable shortening and you simply would not find it in Austrian supermarkets. But there is a subsitute available which is at least as unhealthy as vegetable shortening:

Ask Paula:
Q: How Can I Substitute Vegetable Shortening?
A: Take solid coconut oil!
At room temperature it looks like this:
I tried it both: butter and coconut oil as a substitute and what can I say - the coconut oil works perfectly! Best prove: a traditional American Apple Pie:
The crust was the best I've ever made. And I have been baking the pie for ages!
The Apple Pie somehow happened to take place. I could not resist a new BILLA bucket. Which comes with apples. Or oranges. Because I had them before. This time I felt more like peeling and slicing instead of squeezing.

I am running out of time! By now it is Saturday, 5pm and the Advent-wreath to be sits patiently in a corner:
The wire that fixes the candle gets through any candle, no matter how solid it is, when hot.
This time I like it really hot.
Lets be precise: the wire should not go in too far, because it can cause the candle to melt when the wire gets close to the flame.
And we want to light the candles for the next 4 weeks.

Mr Paula was a bit out of focus, but you should still get the idea.
Not much later, and the candles are fixed.

Find the 12 differences in the picture below:
Add half an hour and another mission is accomplished.
This incredible handy machine was not my only helper while baking ...:
Niece Paula is developing serious skills. Can you not love the concentration of children?
Or their artwork?
As the ideal assistant, she made notes.
Cup-measurement-analysis (1/2, 1/3, 1/4) lead straight to a swimming pool, incl. pool ladders.

As you can imagine, there is no time for full cycles:
The dish-washer gets to know the quick-programme quite well these days.
Meanwhile the army of ingredients sits in a corner and waits for what is to come:
Pecans and cranberries for another box of Cranberry Noels
3 baking trays are the minimum in my kitchen.
And there is still a lot that gets washed by hand.
You can see why a Kitchen Aid machine would not work for me: I need 5 bowls at least!

The last evenings in the kitchen have worked for me as a kind of kitchen therapy. Mr Paula and I have experienced a lot of emotional stress, we lost a friend our age to an accident. Accidents are always sudden. It does not make any sense. Over the past days, every conversation Mr Paula and I had lead, ended with me, mentioning the friend, the accident ... I feared to get lost, to demand too much of Mr Paula. That's when the baking marathon started. And somehow it really helped me, especially the company of Niece Paula. By now I am soooo tired, I am sound asleep the moment I go to bed. Sad and confused, yes. But not daunted, not restless.

Take care

PS: In case you like to know a recipe, please leave a comment or contact me via email, I will be pleasesd to edit the posting and add the recipe.

PPS: I just realised, this posting is like a typical conversation I've had with Mr Paula over the past days: starts in a happy mood and in the end I can not help but return to what has been on my mind all the time.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Pointless Posture

There is a fashion trend that turned out to be one of the most persistent and ineradicable and unfortunately 100% misrouted fashion trends: The Pigeon Toed Pose

Drollgirl shares my aversion on the pigeon toed pose. Already in February 2010 she wished this trend would end. It seems more persistent than other misrouted trends.

In case you wonder why people pose in this silly pose, at the bottom of this following posting, by Max Sidney, you find a thorough exam: Why East London boys stand pigeon toed

Quote: "Visually, posing pigeon toed is shying away from the eye of the lens. Its an attempt to look shy, socially awkward, inward looking, introspective."

Inward looking and introspective? Good point!

Let me finish with bad posture in general: Bad Posture

There are little things I loathe more than bad posture. I have my fathers words still fresh in my mind: He used to say "Sit up straight!" everytime he saw me slouching at my desk during my highschool-years. Years later I find myself adoring the posture of Japanese men and women. Their efforitless, upright posture seems intriguing, almost mesmerizing. An upright posture can alter the way you see the world around you. A bad posture ruins any outfit. An no doubt it changes the way people see and meet you. A few weeks ago a saleswomen asked me if I had taken ballet classes because she hardly ever sees women with such even shoulders. Actually I think she was excited about my posture. I should thank my father. And the Japanese people who set a good example.

If my point of view is just too much for you - which I can totally understand - how about a decent stretch, right now, in front of the computer? (To my dear iPad readers: Sorry, you might have to put your pad down to join the stretch.)


Monday, 21 November 2011

No No-Knead Bread

Ha! Who would have thought the No-Knead-Bread-Hype could lead me back to traditional bread-baking?

A few years ago I used to bake sourdough bread. Until I found out rye does not suit my digestion.
Having seen lots of postings on No-Knead-Bread I gave the classic bread a try and see for yourself - I am more than happy with the result and the process is simple. The part I love most is when the dough drops out of the bowl without any mess. The recipe is - surprise - by Jamie Oliver. It's nice having bread-recipes next to soup and pasta recipes in one book.

chop chop chop

chop chop chop
When I am running short with raisins, I add cranberries. Anything goes.

2 minutes later
The dough now sits in the bowl

Who does not use the worktop as a board?
There is no need to roll the dough.
I enjoy it, since the dough is really easy to handle, not sticky at all!
40 mins later:
Cool down under a blanket over night.

Texture, taste and scent are perfect. Can you see, why I bake no No-Knead Bread? I almost forgot the main reason, why I prefer this traditional way: I just could not integrate the 12-15 hours resting time the No-Knead Bread requires in my schedule. This bread does not take more than 3 hours, I can to it any day, after work.

More kitchen stories to come soon!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Shine Your Sink

Hello, and a warm Welcome to the new followers out there!

I am still in the kitchen ... and I might stay there for a while.

Did you ever hear the slogan "Shine your sink"? I heard it first from the FLY Ladies. FLY Ladies is a former initiative, now a company, which has been originally developped to help women find their way out of the misery of clutter. They adress messies. I am no messy myself but I like most of their ideas, since they obviously improve the quality of life.
FLY is short for "Finally Loving Yourself". The FLY Ladies found out, that women who live in a mess often don't love themselves but disrespect who they are. The FLY Ladies ask you to lace up your shoes in the morning - which means, Staying at Home mums should not spend their day in the pyjamas.
I love my weekends in pyjamas. But I don't like how stuff can overwhelm me.
FLY ladies offer plenty of routines, which never overwhelm you. And this is what makes them special: people who live in clutter and in a mess get overwhelmed by the tasks that wait everywhere. The FLY ladies tell you to set a timer and after 15 mins of de-cluttering, give yourself a break. I guess what I like most about them, is the tender voice that shines through, respectful, patient and friendly, 100% inviting, take the 27-fling Boogie. I could not resist but had to try it and it was fun. And satisfying.
They also came up with a blog-radio-show and I particulary enjoyed one show that was about your mum visiting you at home. How to get your home mum-ready in 2 hours. Fabulous!

By now their whole initiative turned into a huge business, which does not diminish the value of their work. You can find a lot of tipps for free, I never spent a dollar.

Back to the slogan "Shine your sink". One basic advice from them would be to shine your sink every night, before going to bed, because you don't want to wake up and walk into a kitchen and be greeted by dirty pots and fatty stains in the sink. At least I don't.
Mr Paula does not understand at all, why this is important to me. He has no problem getting up in the morning and doing the dishes the next day. Maybe I read too much about Feng Shui and so, how energy flows and how you feel what is around you. Clean surfaces seem to reward me with energy.

The truth is, 6 out of 7 nights, my sink does not shine. But when it does, it feels just right. Most of you probably leave their kitchen in an impeccable state at night. I don't. Guess what, by now it's already 1.20pm, and my sink is far from shining.

Have a fabulous weekend and who knows, maybe you want to get ready for the upcoming Visible Monday?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

You Know It's Winter ...

... when your Thermos bottles come out of hiding and form a skyline in your kitchen ...

... and Austria is turning turquoise (= -2°C = 28.4°F)