Friday, January 25, 2013

Inspiration: Anne Siems

Happy Friday! It's a snow day here and I leave you this week with a wonderful image from Anne Siems. I discovered her through this week's Tiny Showcase and fell hard for this gentleman rabbit. I hope you'll go a have a look through Ms. Siem's portfolio of work: It is a wonderfully magical way to start your weekend.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Challah Bread

Isn't she a beauty?! I can't help it—I am pleased. This is one pretty loaf of bread that came out of my oven.

I've been wanting to try baking challah for ages. I was working my way through overwhelming stacks of food magazines over the holidays and came across this recipe in Saveur that I decided to give a shot. I took it to a holiday party so don't have any photos of the inside, but it definitely held its own and was fantastic for a first go-round. Lots of oohing and ahhing. Cuz it's dang purdy.

The original recipe had you braid four portions, but … what?!? How does that work? Go for three, it makes life easy. And really, challah is not harder than any other bread as long as you can braid. Kneading, rising, shaping, proofing, baking. Try it. You'll like it! And then there's the french toast. Need I say more?

Challah Bread
Adapted from Saveur
Makes 1 loaf
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. milk, heated to 115°
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. active dry yeast
4 tbsp. unsalted butter,
melted, plus more for
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 egg yolk
Sesame seeds, to garnish

Stir together milk, 1 tsp. sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Let sit until foamy,  about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together butter and eggs. Add to yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add flour, remaining sugar, and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. 

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a lightly greased large bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Uncover, punch dough down, and re-cover; let sit until slightly puffed, 30 minutes.

Uncover dough, divide into 3 equal portions, and roll each into a 18"-long rope. Align dough ropes side by side, and pinch together ends farthest from you to form one end of loaf. Braid ropes and pinch ends together  and fold under slightly to seal.  Transfer braided loaf to a parchment paper—lined baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap; let proof for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°. 

Stir together egg yolk and 1 tbsp. water in a small bowl and brush all over surface of loaf; sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds. Bake until loaf is dark golden brown, 30–35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Business Tuesday: Better World Books

Big and green with "books" written all over it … hmmm? I recently noticed this large bright green donation box in the local Meijier parking lot. Intrigued, I looked it up online and discovered Better World Books

Better World Books collects and sells books online in order to donate books and fund literacy initiatives around the world. With stock of over 8 million new and used titles, they match every book purchased with a book donation. From a used copy of Design*Sponge at Home for $14.93 to a brand new copy of The Shadow of the Wind for $16.00, they have a great selection—and all books ship free worldwide! 

To date, Better World Books has donated over 5 million books to partner programs around the world. Their four primary literacy partners are Books for Africa, Room to Read, Worldfund, and the National Center for Family Literacy

They have a handy map of donation box locations. In Michigan, it looks like most Meijier's now have boxes as well as quite a few additional locations. 

So if, like me, you've finally finished your new year's cleaning rituals, you may find yourself with a stack of books just waiting to be donated. Now you know where to go! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

A day at the zoo

I firmly believe everyone should—on a regular basis—take a day off to visit the zoo. I took advantage of a sunny afternoon last week to do just that. I'd never been to the Detroit Zoo and had to be in the area that morning. I figured it would count as "reasearch," yes? Being winter, there were very few visitors. The air was crisp and cold, but the sun was a constant ally. You can't help but come away from an afternoon like that with a smile plastered on your face. … and a deep desire to have your very own red panda.

The tiger looked regal as could be. He marched around and even roared a bit. Though he looked like he could use a friend.

The lemurs were super cuddly and especially playful.

While the meerkat stared straight out to say, what the *#!?&* are you looking at, lady?
 You don't often see the backside of a peacock, do you? It's gorgeous in its own right.

This fellow got his lady friend knocked up. She was in the next room over with a January 28 due date. I can't wait to come back to visit the baby giraffe!