Friday, February 26, 2010

A few thoughts on Frugality

"Away with your expensive follies, and you will not then have so much cause to complain of hard times, heavy taxes, and chargeable families."

"What maintains one vice would bring up two children."

"You may think, perhaps, that a little tea (which used to be an expensive thing), or superfluities now and then, diet (food) a little more costly, clothes a little finer, and a little entertainment now and then, can be no great matter; but remember, many a little makes a mickle (a large amount)."

"Beware of little expenses: A small leak will sink a great ship. Who dainties love, shall beggars prove. Fools make feasts and wise men eat them."

"Buy what thou hast no need of, and ere long thou shalt sell they necessaries."

"At a great pennyworth (bargain), pause awhile. Many have been ruined by buying good pennyworths."

"Silks and satins, scarlets and velvets, these are not the necessaries of life; they can scarcely be called the conveniencies; and yet, only because they look pretty, how many want to have them! When you have bought one fine thing, you must buy ten more, that your appearance may be all of a piece. It is easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it."

All excerpts taken from
Enquire Within Upon Everything: A Victorian Almanac
London, England

Notes in ( ) are my own additions to help the modern reader understand the archaic language.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A New Experience

Yeast. An baking ingredient that I have never used before. I have always wanted to try some good looking recipes that called for yeast, such as a loaf of bread or cinnamon rolls or even dinner rolls. However, I have never actually made any of them. I have bought those packets of yeast numerous times over the years. I kept them until they expired, then was forced to throw them out having never gotten up the courage to try my hand at it.
That finally changed yesterday.

I recently instituted Tuesdays as my baking day. It's a day I have set aside to do any large amounts of baking that I want to get done for the week. For example, a large batch of biscuits with the extras going in the freezer to be baked later, or a big batch of banana bread to snack on all week. I had figured that one of these baking days I would finally get around to using some of that yeast I have been storing in the refrigerator.

So, searching around the web and my own stash of cookbooks, I picked out a few bread recipes that sounded good. Randomly picking just one, I eagerly set about whipping up my first ever batch of bread using yeast.

Here is the result. The taste of this simple white bread was amazing! The recipe called for yeast, water, sugar, butter, milk and flour. Nothing fancy, however quite tasty.

The picture is a bit deceiving, this loaf was a squat little thing. It was baked in a 8x4 loaf pan with the top baking up at just the height of the pan. Using a glass pan created a thick dark crust all around. Since glass is all that I have in the way of loaf pans, I will either have to be content with this kind of crust or go out any buy myself a new pan.

Over all, this was a good first try. I will look forward to other baking days when I can experiment again with a different recipe.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The birthday boy

Padraic turned 7 on Monday. I nearly cannot believe that it has been that many years since his birth. I remember being pregnant with him. He did not give me much trouble and he was such a wonderful baby. Now, these days he is a goofy boy, every day he seems to get sillier. He is such a blessing and I am proud to call him my firstborn son.

To celebrate, I made Padraic a cake from scratch. If you know me well you know that I make everything from scratch, however, I usually buy boxed mixes and frosting from the store to make birthday cakes. I know, I know *gasp* WHY? I don't know why, I suppose it is because I do not keep cake flour in my pantry and cakes usually call for cake flour. Reading a new baking book that the Painter bought me for Christmas, I was inspired by the author; she never uses cake flour and insists that her cakes come out just fine. 

So, flipping through my Joy of Cooking cookbook (if you don't have it, you need it!) I picked a recipe that I had all the ingreadents for. It turned out lovely. As it was described in the book, this cake is a dense cake and long keeping. It has a wonderful chocolate taste, slightly tangy because of the buttermilk. It would be great with mini chocolate chips to make it a triple chocolate cake.


Devil's Food Cake

1 cup suagar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup buttermilk
Combine and beat these together until well blended. Set aside.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
Beat until soft.

1 cup sugar
Add gradually to butter and cream until light.

2 eggs
 One at a time, beat eggs into creamed butter/sugar. Add chocolate mixture and beat.

2 cups flour, sifted before measuring
1 tsp baking powder (or soda)
1/2 tsp salt
Sift these three together then add in 3 parts to butter/chocolate mixture, alternately with:

1/2 buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

Beat batter after each addition just until smooth. Grease a Bundt or tube pan and sprinkle sugar over the bottom. Bake in a 350° oven for 1 hour. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn cake out onto the rake.

Chocolate Glaze:
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate)
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp sugar dissolved into 3 tsp hot water
 Heat all 3 over low heat, stirring constantly, until chips are melted. Cool slightly. Put waxed paper under rack with the cake.  Poor warm chocolate over top of cake. Wait 20 minutes before moving cake to a cake stand or plate.