Met a lovely young artist at the Amherst Winter Market the other day named Chaldea. She has this print for sale on Etsy of knitting badgers. Very sweet. Check it out.....
My next door neighbor at the Winter Market is Amy's All Natural Soaps. I am addicted to her Sweet Anise with Charcoal Bar which is at my kitchen sink. It is a pretty grey shade with dark charcoal flecks (reminds me of a tweed yarn). It smells divine and removes kitchen odors. I gave a bar to friends the other night and they are hooked. Check out Amy's website - she has gorgeous soap and all really lovely. Her Dad taught her to make soap and she has quite a biz going. She is so sweet on top of it all.
Do you know NPR's From Scratch? It is a podcast that is incredibly interesting. Jessica Harris, the host, interviews people in business and finds out how they got their start. The guy who started Etsy was interviewed and was a good interview. I love hearing how businesses began and changed. Fascinating stuff to me.You think businesses that have "made it" never struggle but they all do. Check it out.
I've got a new recipe for you all but you'll have to read through all this.... Remember my post about copyright and my stolen image for sale on Etsy the other day? (BTW, thank you for all the awesome support on that!) It has had me thinking a lot (a real lot) about what is original and what is not.
When I design knitting projects, I pull out my needles and my sketch book and start swatching. The design happens in my swatch. I very rarely look at knitting magazines anymore and don't buy too many knitting books. My shelves have lots of the old classics on them (Barbara Walker, Mon Tricot Stitch Dictionaries). As recently most of my design work has been in colorwork, I don't refer to my stitch dictionaries anymore - it is me and the graph paper and a pencil and eraser. Mostly I make projects up out of my head - ideas just come pouring out onto the needles. I'm sure I have such a backlog of ideas up there and each idea is triggered by something - either something I saw on the street, in a photo, in a fashion or decorating magazine, or from a past design that I made and want to update of improve upon. Mostly ideas are triggered by a deadline and a list of projects that needs to be made for a book project. If I have an idea which needs a stitch pattern, I may have to go to a stitch dictionary and check out how to do something. But mostly with cables, I just draw them out on graph paper and go directly to my needles. I am pretty much over taking a cable stitch out of a stitch dictionary and then turning it into a sweater. I find it pretty boring and unstimulating. I also see that that is what most of the new and trendy designers do now. Been there, done that, not very interesting to me anymore. I'd rather work up some beautiful color combo than lift a stitch out of a book and turn it into a sweater....
In my recipe development, I look at cookbooks all the time and read ingredient listings. So somewhere, I have probably seen something that I develop similar - or a version of it. But I usually just wing my recipes for my lamb recipe website, making it up as I add ingredients to a stew or soup. I do this pretty much every night when I cook dinner too! With recipes though, I take notes, list ingredients, and then re-cook everything to make sure it works. Oh, and then take a photo.
With baking, that is a different story - I usually follow recipes exactly so that they turn out. My friend Mike Dougherty (co-owner of 7 South Bakery Cafe in Bernardston) says baking is pure science. It wasn't until he told me this, that I started to think about baking that way. And he is right. (I guess that is why Alton Brown is so popular although I have never seen his show.)
It is only recently that I started fooling around with baking recipes and changing it up. So here's what I have for you today - a recipe for Gingerbread Loaf. It came about like this - I saw a recipe in Everyday Food for little gingerbread muffins. BTW, I do love that mag. Found it here on Martha's website just now..... So here is how I changed the recipe - I altered the spices, took out the pumpkin puree and added homemade applesauce, increased the butter (yeah, I know), took out the buttermilk, added yogurt, crystallized ginger and raisins. Put it in a loaf pan. Made it twice (the second time my niece made it and we increased the butter and it turned out much higher and prettier than my first time (which is when I took this photo). So is this recipe mine? I don't know. Maybe there is a cookbook author reading who could tell us all.
I welcome your comments today about originality, copying, etc today. And here is my Gingerbread Loaf Recipe. Really nice for a winter day, even if we have no snow. A bit of narrative too because this was going to be a post all by itself but then it morphed into something else.
Every winter I get a craving for gingerbread. It only happens in the winter when it is cold and I am craving things that make me feel warm and cozy. As far as I am concerned, there's nothing quite like the smell of gingerbread baking - the ginger, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the molasses - oh, the smell. I can't remember eating gingerbread when I was young; at least I can't remember loving it then. Maybe it is more of an adult thing?
Tea in a pretty teacup and spicy gingerbread on a cold winter afternoon. What could be nicer? This is one of my favorite teacups. A long time ago, my friend Sally and I went on a whirlwind trip to England. One of our trips out of London was to Oxford. Our first stop was the Oxford Museum of Natural History. What an amazing building and collection. The structure was overwhelming. My biggest takeaway was all the huge structural columns built out of different stones. They would probably never let them build it like that now but oh, how gorgeous. The second part of our trip was a long walk to find a place we had heard about called Isis Ceramics. We walked and walked and finally found it in an assuming neighborhood. I bought a few of these handpainted teacups and saucers (they were seconds). They all have different animals on them including cows, sheep, goats and chickens. You can learn more about Isis Ceramics here. I love how they look old-fashioned, almost like the transferware that I photographed the cup and plate on as a back-drop.
Back to the point of this post.... the gingerbread. This recipe makes a very moist gingerbread loaf. Baking it in a loaf pan makes it easy to slice and a nice thing to bring to a friend's house. This loaf keeps really well. Wrap it in plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator and it will last two weeks - that is if you have the willpower to not eat it. It actually tastes better after a couple days.
2 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a little bit of grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup applesauce (I used homemade, unsweetened)
1/2 cup molasses
2 large eggs - beaten
1/2 cup yogurt
1/3 cup candied ginger cut into 1/4" chunks (optional)
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
zest of one small orange
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan (mine was 9 x 5 x 3 1/2"). Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit your loaf pan with enough extra so there is an overhang to help pull it out when baked. (My gingerbread loaf stuck on the bottom of the pan and part of it was left in the pan. Next time I will use the parchment paper like shown here.) Grease the parchment paper on the top side so that it is easy to remove from the loaf.
Mix all dry ingredients (except sugars) in a bowl and set aside. Using a mixer, cream butter and white sugar until fluffy. Add applesauce, molasses, eggs, and yogurt and mix until just combined. Add dry ingredients. Fold in candied ginger and raisins if using. Pour into prepared loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes. Test for doneness using a cake tester or toothpick. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan after 10 minutes and let cool. Remove the parchment paper when completely cool.
Glaze: Mix 2 tablespoons water (or orange juice) with orange zest and confectioner's sugar. Using a pastry brush, paint onto the loaf. This will make it rather sweet so omit this step if you don't like things too sweet.
If you have the time, let the loaf age for a couple days. It actually tastes better after a few days because the spices mellow and blend together. Keep it wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge and it will hold for at least a couple weeks. It also freezes well.