Friday, 27 January 2012

Oh Blogger

Since having a bit of a redesign of the site, I thought I would get myself a bit more organised by having a proper email account set up for the ellens52 blog.

Until now I have just used my personal one and things get lost and mixed up too easily, so I thought it would be neat and tidy to set up a new account. Easy peasy. You'd think.

One minute on google told me that Blogger doesn't allow this kind of logical behaviour. Nooo sir, not a single' update your email' button to be found on the dashboard. Instead, there are lots of frustrated people blogging about how they would like to update their blogger email account but have been scared off by the blogger 'help' desk. Blogger blogged up is the term for this.

Just one tip seemed to make sense: add the new account as a joint administrator, then just delete the old one. I clicked delete, and waited for the ticking of the disaster waiting to happen. But unless you tell me differently, everything still seems to be working. The only really niggly frustration is that all of the blogs I follow and check up on through google reader have been wiped and I'm having to start again.

So apologies to anyone who is seeing ellens52 pop up again as a new follower and to those I haven't re-followed yet, I'll get there soon.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Fresh from the Oven: Tangzhong bread

A bread I can't even pronounce.
I can't say there is any real logic to the recipes I would normally have a go at , but being relatively confident I could say the name of it probably is a common factor.

This month's Fresh from the Oven baking challenge, Tangzhong method bread, was set by the guys at mushitza. In many ways it is very familiar with no scarily unknown or untested ingredients, but it is put together in a way I haven't used before. I was really pleased with the end result although I am not altogether convinced I got every step quite right.

The first stage was to heat a four and water mixture to 65C, creating a thick paste (which I think I last saw when making papier mache at play school).

About right? No idea...
After cooling, the majority of it is mixed with the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, egg and milk to make the dough, which is then kneaded for at least 15 minutes. I used the machine for this bit and am pretty sure it wasn't quite how it was supposed to be, even though the recipe warns that the dough will be a bit wet.

Should it normally try to climb out of the machine?
Thought not.

I am pretty sure this was too sticky, but I have seen too many people fail for messing with Paul Hollywood's precise instructions on the Bake Off, so I stuck with it and just kept wrestling the dough back into the bowl and setting it off again.

I never got close to the transparency stage though. I think this is likely to be because the dough was clinging so hard to the hook that it wasn't being kneaded efficiently at all. But I left it kneading for ages and hoped for the best.

After the final bid for freedom, I left it to rise which went surprisingly well. It easily and quickly doubled, after which I split it into 9 buns and put it into a square cake tin for the final rise. Again, it rose well and I popped it into the oven, hoping for the best.

At this point I remembered the remaining bit of the dough paste which I had reserved to brush the top with. And then washed up. Oh dear.

This is the result:

I ate this one minute later.
The bread was really light and airy but still rich and buttery, a bit like a brioche.
It was lovely with butter and blackcurrant jam. Thanks very much Fresh from the Oven.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Strange meals, half lemons and no more Bones

This week has been a bit of a shocker, with friends going through far, far more than they ought to be and that HUGE sense of frustration from being able to do absolutely nothing to help. There is no point looking for a silver lining sometimes, there just isn't any redeeming feature.

I am also home alone as Tim has been away for a couple of weeks with work, which leaves both of us a bit out of sorts. I lived alone for a long time so I don't struggle exactly, but I do get a bit 'drifty' and unfocussed.

The combination of circumstances seems to have made me far more judgemental than normal and I'm breezing through a whole load of things I would normally just keep putting off. For instance...

1. Skybox clearout
Finishing the second series of The Killing, catching up with Downton, binning Bones as I just don't like it any more, speeding through anything with Christmas special in the description and deleting the entire series of Kirsty's Homemade Home. I really wanted to love it, I just didn't.

2. Fridge clearout
Part used tahini, jars that I can't remember opening, two dried up half lemons, the least appetising of three jars of wholegrain mustard, half a bottle of 'novelty' chocolate red wine, the green tomato marmalade I made as an ill-advised experiment and some red pesto that I found tasteless when it was fresh which was some time ago...

3. Ready steady cook meals
With the random ingredients that survive the fridge clear out I am making odd meals, by lining up ingredients and putting them hopefully together on a plate. Lunch today was defrosted soda bread with egg mayonnaise (no mayo so, peculiarly, Dairylea and mustard instead), the last two slices of beetroot and a spoonful of piccalilli. Who knows what breakfast tomorrow will be.

If my stomach survives I'll report back on how I get with finishing a quilt that has been half done for a year and getting started on patterns for some new bags. Hope you are all enjoying New Year spring cleaning too.

Monday, 9 January 2012

From 52 to 2012

I have discovered a very strange world after the end of the 52 challenge.

Having worked up to a frenzy by the end of the year, I thought I would be glad when it was all over. No more discipline of making sure I take photos of anything I might log as a challenge, or clearing time to make sure I could get online when I needed to.

But, come 10pm on 31 December, and the posting of my 52nd new thing, instead of feeling relief I suddenly felt ridiculously proud of myself. I had come up with this outwardly silly idea a full 12 months earlier and stuck with it all the way through the year. Some of the challenges were bigger than others, but all were important to me for one reason or another.

This followed naturally on with thoughts of what I would do next: what will I feel proud of in December 2012? There are a number of reasons why 2012 looms even more horribly than 2011 did, so what can I think of next?

52 more things is the obvious thing, but also a bit toooo obvious. Plus the discipline, while undeniably helpful, has been a bind at times.  Then there is the problem of the successes of 2011 spilling over into 2012: the choir continues, the scavenger hunt goes on, the successes of my little craft world in 'says alice' desperately need to be built upon, I'm speed reading for book club and behind in arranging the next film club get-together. Is finding more new things really the right thing to do, or would the whole exercise become counter intuitive?

We began 2012 with a wander to see the seals and hopefully seal pups at Horsey beach. Which is where it occurred to me that I really wanted to share the seals with the blogging community that I had found, even though it was too late to be a first. Which I then realised made me a bona fide blogger. Which I THEN realised meant I didn't need a challenge, I could always just, you know, blog.

I am sure most of you know this already and could probably have told me months ago. 

The end result is that after a morning of playing around with blog layout and getting very frustrated indeed with the tools in blogger, I have done a minor relaunch of the blog and will be taking it forward into 2012. It is strange not to have the structure of the challenge and we'll have to see where it goes, but I'm looking forward to it all the same.

For now, here are some of those wonderful seals. The sign on the walk up to the beach was a request from the local wildlife trust to ask us to keep to the dunes to avoid disturbing the seals and to apologise for any inconvenience caused by the seals pupping in the wrong place. I am rather pleased that they did.

I particularly like the big stripes they leave on the gravel when they drag themselves about. They really are quite ungainly and the pups look tremendously vulnerable as they can't escape to the sea until their fur is waterproof at 6 - 8 weeks old.

So, that's me as a blogger out there in the big wide world, Hope to see some of you along the way!