Too many projects makes for little visible progress on any of them. I’m at the heels (if not my wit’s end) on the ‘dream socks’: I really, really think I prefer short-row heels. Not much experience to base that on, though.
Dedicated birders (ie those who watch our little feathered friends) often have Life Lists, a list of all the birds they’ve seen. I can add three locations to my KIP Life List thanks to those socks:
In my car on the top of the hydraulic lift as it was inspected for roadworthiness (someone has to twist the steering wheel, etc).
On the Northern Line. A nice lady said I reminded her of her grandmother[!!] who knitted everywhere, and told me about the fabulous shawl she’d knitted when her own daughter was pregnant. She became addicted to knitting, for weeks she knitted everywhere she went, and when it was presented as a gift at the baby shower it was eclipsed by a purchased Shetland Shawl given by the MiL. She doesn’t know what her daughter did with it in the end, “probably gave it to a charity shop”. I was horrified and tried to persuade her that her daughter was cherishing it as too good to use. I hope so, I really do. When we left the train at Euston I gave her my very best smile and said I thought she should knit herself a shawl to show her daughter how to use it.
In the waiting area for Rigby & Peller. The socks said they felt a bit intimidated by all the burgundy and gold, but we managed it.
As there’s no knitting worth boasting about, I thought I’d try some BIP (Baking In Public). Saturday is Pizza Day here. Homemade pizza, a salad, a bottle of red and Dr. Who. Bliss.
Ingredients: 650gm UK strong flour/US all purpose (US flour is higher in protein than the average UK flour); 2 tsp table salt; a scant 1 tbsp sugar; 1 tsp instant yeast; c.2 tbsp olive oil. Add c.400ml cool water. Knead well. I do it like this: with the heel of (here) the right hand *push* the dough
down and away, literally smearing it along the surface while your left hand holds the dough so the whole lump doesn’t move. Push from the shoulder; your arm should be straight. As you pull your hand back, curve your fingers down to pull the dough back with it. A lot will stick to the table; never mind, just push again. Build a rhythm. A dough scraper is useful to scrape those stuck remnants back into the ball every now and then; if you haven’t got one, improvise. Switch hands occasionally. Do all this with as little flour on the surface as possible: I don’t use any at all until I roll the final ball. Added flour makes for drier bread; moister bread is usually nicer. If you look closely at the photo you can see the ragged stringiness that indicates gluten development. Gluten is the protein that eventually forms the network to trap the gases generated by the yeast. Those trapped gas bubbles are what make bread rise, so gluten development is crucial. I knead for about 5 minutes, hard, to get this: a smooth ball. If you could see the surface as I can, you’d see there are bubbles trapped between sheets of gluten visible on the surface. That will be a good crust. Divide the ball into four equal-ish parts, shape each into a ball and leave to rise in a bowl of olive oil. After rising for an hour or so one of my four will go into the freezer for another day. If you want to eat in about 2-3 hours, leave the bowl at warm room temperature. If you’re planning ahead, put the bowl in the fridge to rise more slowly, and take it out about 90 minutes before you want to start cooking. Chilling or otherwise ‘retarding’ a bread dough to force a slow rise allows development of a richer, more complex flavour.
Not as well-risen as I’d like, but not bad. You can see some gas bubbles already; bodes well (I like a light crust). Note that he took the photos in which you can see both of my hands. A third hand of my own would be very useful; I’ll let you know if I work out how to acquire one. Preheat the oven; you want it HOT, mine is 250C/450F. Remember to have your baking stone/set of quarry tiles/slab of kiln shelf cut to c. 1″ less than your oven dimensions (my choice) on the shelf at the bottom of the oven before you turn it on. Use a baking sheet if you’ve nothing else, but ceramic is better because it holds the heat: for a good crisp, light crust you and your pizza need *bottom heat*.
Prepare to assemble the pizza(s)! I cheat, big time. I build the pizza on a re-useable sheet of teflon fabric. This means it never sticks to whatever I use to slide it onto the stone, no matter how long it sits in the kitchen, and there’s almost nothing between the dough and the hot stone. So I can make all three pizzas, put the first one in the oven, then sit and drink wine until it’s done. Anyway… pull one of the lumps free of the rest and start to gently pull (with the hand that’s not holding it) and spread (with the fingers of the hand holding it) that lump out into a flatter lump. If you look closely you might be able to see that the dough is actually spongy, full of gas. Don’t lose that! When it’s a bit flatter, spread and pull it on the teflon fabric until it’s the size you want. I make mine about 1″ smaller than the fabric. Some bits will be almost 1/2″ thick, others so thin you could read a paper through them: that means some bits will be thick, golden and chewy (my favourite) and others will be thin, dark brown and crisp (his favourite). Add the topping. I usually use 4-6tbsp of organic chopped tinned tomatoes in ‘thick juice’ sprinkled with chopped sage, but a cooked sauce is good, too. Dot with sausage (spanish chorizos) and cheese. I use a dry processed mozzarella because we like a dry crisp pizza; wetter ‘fresh’ cheese adds too much fluid. When you’re ready, just slide it onto a baking sheet or a peel, or even a big piece of sturdy cardboard and slide it off onto the hot baking stone. Peer through the oven window and watch while the crust just zooms up (well, that’s what I do). Mine take 13-14 minutes at 250C. Experiment: your oven will be different. I grate strong parmesan onto it, then sprinkle coarsely sliced fresh basil over everything (then eat the bits that don’t go on the pizza).
I don’t know what I’ve forgotten…