Thursday, December 01, 2011

Handmade Holiday Workshop

Last Sunday, I spent a wonderfully peaceful and crafty afternoon at Maker Works in Ann Arbor with Siobhan from Blue House and a lovely group of crafters for a holiday workshop. It was cold and dark and rainy outside, but inside there was a jolly warm room full of smiling faces eager to make some handmade holiday ornaments and decorations. We had come up with three different projects, but by the end of the day there were many more variations and ideas flowing. Here's a look:

If you want to come and get in on the making, too, Siobhan and I are planning a second workshop session of holiday making at Pot & Box on Thursday, December 15 from 6 to 9 p.m. For more info and to register, email

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving favorites

Amidst all the traditional Thanksgiving favorites on our table last week, there were two unexpected standouts. Unexpected because neither is essential to a Thanksgiving celebration by any means. But that's all the more reason to share them with you here, after the fact.  The first is a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for sugar-and-spiced candied nuts. Be warned: These are extremely addictive!

Candied Nuts

1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound walnut or pecan halves or whole peeled hazelnuts or almonds, or some combo
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 300º F. 

Combine sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon in a small bowl, making sure there are no lumps; set aside. 

Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add nuts, and stir to coat evenly. 
Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. 
Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper. 

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. 
When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.

Here's a look at the turkey we made on the grill. It came out perfectly! Lovely and brown, super juicy, slightly smoky. We mostly followed these directions from the LA Times with some tweaks from here from Saveur. Mmmmm… we nestled one of those disposable aluminum pans you can buy at the grocery (this one specifically for BBQs) in between coals spread to the outer parts of the grill. This caught lots of lovely juice and drippings for some excellent gravy makings later.

But now, on to the other star: Parker House rolls.

Oh my goodness. I can't describe how intensely good these are. Fluffy, soft, lots of flavor, kind of dense, but in a good way. Brushed with melted butter straight from the over then sprinkled with salt. Ack. Make these, for goodness sake. The recipe makes a LOT, but that's okay. It's from Alex Guarnaschelli for Food Network Magazine and there is a great slideshow here for the step-by-step process. But in the meantime, here's the dirt:

Parker House Rolls
via Food Network

1 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
7 1/2 to 8 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus softened butter for brushing
2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling

Bloom the yeast:
Measure out 1/2 cup warm water and check the temperature: It should be between 110º F and 120º F (comfortable bathwater temperature). Sprinkle the yeast into a large bowl, add the warm water and whisk in the sugar. Let sit 1 minute (it should bubble and froth slightly), then gently stir in 1 cup flour. Set aside near the stove while you prepare the dough.

Make the dough:
Mix the melted butter and milk in a mixer with the hook attachment on low speed. Add the eggs and mix until blended. Scrape in the yeast mixture and mix until incorporated. Add 6 1/2 cups flour and 1 tablespoon salt; mix until the dough forms a ball, 2 to 3 minutes, adding up to 1/2 cup more flour if the dough is too wet and sticky.

Let it rise:
Brush a large bowl with softened butter. Transfer the dough to the bowl, cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place, 2 hours to 2 hours, 30 minutes. The dough should double in volume.

Shape the dough:
Preheat the oven to 375º F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dust a clean flat surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Flour your hands; gently press the dough into a 16-by-8-inch rectangle, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick (don't use a rolling pin).

Cut the dough:
With the short side in front of you, cut the dough in half lengthwise with a floured knife. (I found a bench/pastry scraper really helpful for this.) Then slice crosswise into 12 strips.

Shape the dough:
One at a time, fold each strip of dough unevenly in half so the top part slightly overlaps the bottom half, then tuck the overhang underneath. Place the rolls seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet in 3 tightly packed rows. (If making in advance, wrap the baking sheet tightly in plastic wrap and freeze up to 3 weeks.)

Bake the rolls:
Bake until the rolls are bursting at the seams and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. (If frozen, bake 25 minutes at 325 degrees F, then 10 minutes at 375 degrees F.) Remove from the oven and brush with softened butter. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Eat the rolls.