Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Making No-Knead Bread

A while ago I had bookmarked a blog post about making no-knead bread.  When I say "a while ago," I would estimate that it was at least 2 years, if not 3 years ago.  Sometimes, it takes me a while to get around to doing things!  Finally, though, I remembered that I wanted to try making this bread, and I bought my ingredients and set about trying it.

The blog post I used for my bread is here:
The original post gives a number of variations on this bread, all of which sound really good.  I wanted to try the regular version first, just to see how it worked out for me and whether I wanted to make it on a more regular basis.  I really like the fact that this recipe has an overnight raising time during which I do not need to do anything with it.  I also like the fact that the timing is flexible.  I'm not repeating all the details of the recipe here - please use the original blog source above.  I just wanted to show how mine came out.

The basics of this bread are so easy.  Just combine 3 cups of flour, 1 3/4 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of rapid-rise yeast, and 1 1/2 cups of water in a reasonably large sized bowl.  The dough will be sort of sticky and messy.  I had to add a little more water to get my flour incorporated.  As the source blog instructs, I covered it with plastic wrap and left it on the counter.  The recommended time is 12-18 hours.  I think mine went for about 20 hours, so don't worry about it if you're a bit over on the timing.  What was initially a gooey blob in the bottom of the bowl rose to become this:

The bowl is 10 inches wide and about 6 inches tall, so that may help with perspective.

I had set my oven to 450 F as required, and I used my red Kitchen Aid Dutch oven for this recipe, which I put in the oven to heat for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, I scraped the dough out of the bowl onto a heavily floured wax-paper surface, formed it into a round-ish shape, and put the plastic wrap over it again.  I then went away for 25 minutes while the Dutch oven was heating and the dough was considering its future.

At the 30 minute mark, I removed the hot pan from the oven, took off the lid, and dropped my dough into the pan.  At this point, it looks pretty pathetic.

I put the lid on and let it bake for 30 minutes as instructed.  Then, I removed the lid and baked it for its final 15 minutes.  Here it is just after removing it from the oven.  Let me tell you, the smell was amazing!

It produced a lovely loaf with a crusty exterior and a lovely moist interior.

This is the loaf after a couple of slices were removed - you can see that the interior is airy and not too dense.  I'll definitely be making this bread again, and will try some of the variations given in the original post.  The orange and cranberry sounds great, as does the lemon rosemary.  I do have a bread machine and I use it from time to time, but this recipe is just as easy and makes a delightful loaf.  I thoroughly recommend it!

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Wedding

I never blogged about the wedding.  I wasn't blogging much at the time, and it seems like such an afterthought to blog about it now, but I feel like I should blog about it just to record the memories. Marc and I were married on a beautiful September day, when the sun shone and the birds sang and there was a little bit of magic in the air.

I think that part of me had given up on the dream of a wedding day, or ever finding a person that would put up with my idiosyncrasies and peculiarities for long enough to want to share a permanent bond with me.  That made this day all the more thrilling and exciting for me, and I wanted it to be really memorable.  At the same time, I am now geographically very far from most of my friends, and haven't really made any strong bonds in this area, so it was with some sadness that I realized it had to be a very small wedding.  There's nothing wrong with small weddings, but there were at least a dozen people I wished could have been there, but whom I simply couldn't ask to attend, given the distance and the cost of travel these days.  As it was, we had 16 guests, mostly local, at the lovely Magnetic Hill Winery here in Moncton, New Brunswick.  The winery features a historic small barn that was just the right size for our small ceremony and dinner.

We had some difficulty in finding an officiant because neither one of us is religious, and yet we wanted someone who respected our wish for a meaningful ceremony.  We found the perfect officiant through the Unitarian Fellowship.  He has presided over a wide range of ceremonies including Wiccan and Pagan rituals, as well as mixed-faith marriages.  We felt a good connection when we met with him, and decided that he was our choice to perform the ceremony. We carefully studied a wide range of material for wedding ceremonies and selected wording that was meaningful and significant to us.  It made for a unique and customized ceremony that met all of our preferences.

The dress was an absolute fiasco that almost didn't happen!  I had ordered what I thought would be the perfect dress in a lovely pale silvery grey colour, and I had planned to do turquoise and green embroidered beadwork on the bodice.  Sadly, when the dress arrived, it was sack-like and shapeless and made me look like death warmed over.  I was crushed, and didn't know what I would do.  I turned to the internet and found Frock Follies, and ordered a crushed velvet custom dress 6 weeks before the wedding.  I didn't tell Marc much about it, but said it included dark green.  He went ahead with his order from the Gentleman's Emporium website based in the US, and didn't tell me what he had ordered either.  Marc's outfit arrived quickly (but I wasn't allowed to see it).  Meanwhile, I grew increasingly panicky about my dress since the dressmaker wasn't sending any updates and I didn't want to be a pest about asking, so I just kept quiet.  Almost miraculously, my dress arrived on the Monday of the wedding week (the wedding was on Friday).  My huge sigh of relief was heard throughout the city I'm sure!  Fortunately, it fit really well and was beautifully made.

The most amazing thing about the dress and Marc's ensemble is that they matched almost perfectly - as if they had been made to be together.  Even though neither of us saw what the other was ordering, or knew anything other than "dark green" being a colour, we both chose a nearly identical colour and we both chose the cream accent colour without knowing the other's choice.

Our rings were custom made by Magee's Jewelers in Fredericton.  They specialize in custom engagement and wedding rings, and were delighted to work with the stones that I had.  The stones included in our rings, as well as the gold, came from a number of different rings passed on to me from my ancestors, including my grandmother and great-grandmother on my mother's side.  Having rings made from the treasures of these strong and resilient women who were a part of my history made me feel as if they, too, were a part of our special day.  In addition, we had a large copper jug filled with fresh sunflowers. The copper jug belonged to my grandfather, so he too was there to celebrate with us that day.

I was absolutely delighted that my cousin Simon from England was able to attend.  I had not expected any of my family members to attend, apart from my parents.  I was really surprised and so pleased that he was able to come for a visit and he turned out to be an absolute champion at attending to critical matters that arose on the day, like helping to frost cupcakes and fill water pitchers.  It was truly a blessing to have him with us.

Having my Dad walk me down the aisle was one of the best parts.  I feel so lucky to still have both my parents healthy and able to be there for our wedding, not to mention helping with many of the preparations and decorating aspects.  It was extremely difficult not to dissolve into an emotional puddle on the walk down the aisle, but I managed to keep it together.  Only just!  Do take a moment to notice the stunning bouquet - my mother is an absolute whiz with flowers and she made it just for me.  The stems are wrapped with a lovely green ribbon.

We also enjoyed the musical talents of a wonderful harpist, Dorothy Brzezicki, throughout the ceremony and afterwards.  She was absolutely perfect.

We wrote our own vows from scratch, and Marc even altered his on the day of the wedding, which was a bold move, but we were able to read them from prepared, printed cards, so it was easy for him to make those last-minute changes.  I'm sharing a video here of the ring exchange and kiss, so if you weren't there, you can still share in a little piece of our day.   We didn't have a professional videographer for the wedding - this was taken by Marc's sister-in-law.  The lighting isn't perfect, but it is the words that count.

I was unable to find a local cake decorating person to create the cake I really wanted for the wedding, so I made my own cupcakes instead.  We had a sunflower theme, so I made chocolate and lemon cupcakes and frosted them to look like sunflowers.  (thank you Pinterest!)  My cousin Simon helped out with the frosting and we displayed them on a rented cupcake stand.  It was just right for the theme and everybody seemed to enjoy the cupcakes.

We were also delighted by Marc's Dad and his wife who surprised us with a musical performance, aided by the post-dinner jazz trio.  Martin played the keyboard and Holly sang for us - they are both extremely talented!

I felt tremendously blessed to have so many people who helped with making our day the magical moment that it was, and am thankful to have such wonderful, loving family and friends.  All in all, it was the perfect day and the perfect wedding.