Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Crochet Up A Storm

Has this happened to you? You want to sew but your mind keeps wandering and you do anything but sew.

The last time I worked on my bag pattern was before I attended the Puff Pastry classes and that was in June - almost a lifetime ago in my current state of mind. After puff pastry, I had Danish pastry and croissants classes and that ended in early August. So I had a good 2 months break from sewing. After my classes ended, I thought I could dive right back into my bag pattern. So wrong. I read my notes, looked through what I had already written in Indesign and nothing. I couldn't motivate myself to get the groove back. So I did the only sensible thing I could think of.

I dove into another craft - crochet. You may think it's crazy to engage in another craft when it's sewing I should be doing. Let me explain. This is a strategy I have employed before. When I can't get into the mood to do sewing, doing another craft helps. I don't exactly know the science of it but getting the creative mojo back via another craft will somehow kickstart my sewing mojo. I chose crochet because it's a craft I am comfortable with. I'm not very good in it but I can make stuff and understand instructions. I mean I wouldn't choose a craft that I would struggle with like knitting because that would not work.

Here's what my crochet mojo produced! Grannies and hats.

I started with a simple hairband for my Journey Girl doll - Dana. What did I use? I think it's treble crochet(US).

I felt kinda guilty that I was always making stuff for my dolls that I made a similar hairband for my human daughter. She was very happy with it.

I had these small amount of yarn that was not enough for any big project and I just wanted to get rid of them so I made grannies.

I did not give this granny enough thought. It looks weird and messy.

This one was just to use up the itty bitty bits of yarn. These grannies are good for my dolls to sit on.

Then I decided to make the granny larger so my dolls could lie on it.

I gifted the large granny to my TangKou doll. I forgot to keep her in the box and she's a bit grimy. Also, I didn't even make a decent dress for her, just something slapped on. Poor girl. Does she look creepy or does she look like she's saying: SAVE ME?

I don't know if you know this but Lammily is my favourite doll. (shhhh) The reason is she's a very hardy doll and extremely low maintenance. I don't keep her in a box. I made her a hat. It took like 5 minutes to make it because she has a small head unlike the TangKou doll.

Lammily's hat is mostly double crochets(US). On her, the yarn looks bulky but they aren't.

Dana got a hat too. Gosh, I'm spoiling her.

Anyway, I took a break from sewing to write this post. Yes, I did it. I dove back into working on my bag pattern. Mission accomplished. Thank you crochet.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Baking Bread with Water Kefir and Milk Kefir

I had a very fruitful day last Thursday. You may remember I started baking bread with water kefir grain starter in June after attending a workshop. I was never really happy with the taste and quality of the bread I baked using this method. Somehow something was off. When BakerzatWorkAcademy offered a one-day class in baking bread with water kefir and milk kefir, I signed up.

The one-day class is not cheap and there is no funding from any government agencies. On the other, although the puff pastry and Danish pastry and croissant class were 90% funded by a government agency, I still coughed up slightly more money than the Bakerzatwork class due to all the hidden costs. (registration fee, materials, exam fee, apron, hat) Potato, po-tah-toe.

Before I signed up for the class, I received a text msg that the government had credited some cash into my bank account(something, something GST voucher). It's almost as if I asked the Universe for some spare cash and it delivered!

The class was from 10am to 4pm. We learnt 3 recipes. The first bread we made was a sweet braided loaf using water kefir starter and milk kefir. Milk kefir is very new to me and I have zero knowledge. The class covered very briefly how to culture milk kefir and water kefir. After listening to the culture segment, I realised I had made a big mistake during my June experiments with water kefir starter. I had used the water kefir to make the starter after fermenting for 48hrs. I need to do it for 72hrs! That's a big difference.

 This is water kefir starter premade for us.

This is milk kefir with whey and buttermilk. I have to confess the fermenting of milk kefir is out of my depth at the very moment. Also premade for us.

There were 8 students and we paired up when it came to mixing the ingredients. We used this huge mixer. The teacher bakes using smell and touch. Well, he uses his eyes as well! We had to feel the dough at specific milestone. This is something I should put in practice instead of following a recipe blindly. I would like to become someone who bakes with her senses.

If I could achieve this kind of stretchy windowpane at home I would be in windowpane heaven!

My braids. These were not easy to make. As you know, my shaping has always been my major weakness. Luckily, the teacher, William Woo is not a bad teacher and able to point out what you're doing wrong right away. After much experience in the past with half-past six teachers, I'm very happy to find a teacher who doesn't run away when you're struggling, give bullshit answers and most importantly doesn't answer your question about why something isn't working with "there are so many factors...". I think I shaped my braid quite well! Yes, of course there's room for improvement one of which is I shouldn't put so much flour on the table.

From the same dough, we made "pretzels". You may not know it just looking at the "pretzels" but they were extremely hard to shape. I kept trying and trying and finally got it really long. There is a trick to it. ;)

I wished I had added more sesame seeds! They added a nice flavour.

My "pretzels" were a little wrinkled due to drying out of the dough. Yep, too much flour on the table!

From 10am to 2:30pm (when we broke for a 1/2 hour lunch), we were kept busy working on one dough or another. We had to stretch and fold our 3 dough according to the schedule. This is my partner whom I'm afraid did most of the dirty work!

The second bread we made was a lot easier mostly because it's a boule and my hands are pretty good at shaping rounds.

I did quite well scoring the first boule but for the second one, I hesitated a lot which is why there are so many jagged edges. Scoring - another weak area of mine. The trick is not to hesitate - easier said than done. Also, I find I dare not go deep enough.

First boule - Does this qualify as an ear?

2nd boule - hesitation is costly.

By the way, when these two dough were proofed, they were not this size. After going into the oven, on the baking stone, the oven spring happened - seeing is believing.

My crumb. This bread was delicious! It tasted even better the next day. However, on the third day, it became harder. Still edible but not as good. This bread seems to be a clear favourite in my home so I will try to replicate it in my home oven.

The last bread - a 2 toned bread was extremely tedious to make. It consists of a white dough and a charcoal dough. These are rolled out, put together, rolled again, sliced and braided. Whew! I think we took far too long to make this bread and there was insufficient time to proof it.

The bread looks interesting but in terms of taste, it wasn't sweet enough. Also, it was a bit underbaked or maybe it was due to insufficient proofing? Even hubs who eats almost anything didn't want to eat it. It would have been better if given an overnight proofing, methinks. (the teacher did suggest we bring the dough home to proof further but I declined! Regrets.)  Now ordinarily I would have ranted and raved (over this bad bake) but I learnt a lot during the class, way more than at BITC Artisan bread. So I'm very forgiving. Honestly, 3 different kinds of dough in one day is a bit too challenging. When I finally left it was close to 8pm. Totally and utterly exhausted. But extremely satisfied. I can't wait to bake the same bread in my kitchen. Poor hubs. Let's give him a break from my bread for a while?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Performance Series Run @Punggol East/Coney Island

I think I told you guys before that I've lost interest in running events. Also, I want to stop running 10km for the sake of my neck/spine issue. Okay, mostly it's due to laziness and tiredness. When I made the decision to quit 10km, I had already signed up for 3 10km Performances Series runs. And today's was the second one. One more to go and I'm free...

This morning's run was at Punggol East, a part of Singapore I have no reason to visit. We paid for a seat on a chartered bus because you know, Punggol East is extremely hard to get to. As such we had to wake up at 5am. This is the part I hate most about running events - waking up so early.
Last year I too ran the Punggol/Coney Island route but because I took part in the 5km run, it did not include Coney Island. I was so sad I didn't get to see Coney Island. I've lived in Singapore for so many decades and I've never visited this island. So I was pretty excited to see Coney Island this round.

Yep, this is Coney Island. Quite disappointing. It's just a park on an island. We accessed it via a bridge. Of course I didn't get to explore the whole island but it doesn't look promising to me. It might attract the nature lovers or bird watchers. I'm more of an indoor air-conditioned person.

I wore a new visor which had a strip of rubber to prevent sweat from pouring down the front of my face. It didn't work. Sweat poured down my face, here, there, everywhere.

According to my app, I ran more than 10km. The timing is not too bad. It was an exhausting run, more so as I haven't been training.

Hubs ran the 21km run and he was in a bad shape from the start. His heel has been hurting for the past week and hasn't healed. I tried to talk him into running 10km with me but he was too stubborn. I don't know how he managed to run 21km with a bad heel. After the run, he started to feel faint and I was very concerned. Fortunately, nothing happened. I think he was just very, very tired.

My medal. I got a finisher tee as well. Honestly I was just hoping to get a banana.
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