Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sheep, Sisters, and Basketball

By now, I think I have established that I like projects that involve sheep. I thought I would use this entry to share another sheep project - this one has ties to my sister as well as to the NCAA men's basketball tournament. I know this may sound a little strange. Hopefully, I can tie all of the pieces together.
Although my sister and I enjoy a number of the same things, we are also quite distinct in our interests and skills. I've come to describe myself as the "frou frou" sister. I like the frills and dressing up. I also am the one who is more inclined toward the handwork projects. My sister is the more outdoorsy one and is the one who excelled in team sports. In more recent years, she has been putting her outdoor skills to good use by participating in Disaster Relief teams to help minister to people who have been affected by natural disasters. While she has become adept with a chainsaw, you wouldn't want to be around me if I was the one holding it.
Some things we both enjoy are sheep and watching sports together. Here we are feeding a couple of our bottle lambs. I think we were about 4 1/2 and 3 years old.
As teenagers, I think we watched about every televised moment of the Los Angeles Olympics during the summer of 1984. Among our favorites was watching women's volleyball.
Somewhere in our high school years, we also started paying attention to the NCAA basketball tournament and all the fun of March Madness. Our favorites have been, and still are, the underdog teams. To be honest, sometimes, we just go for the team with the cutest mascot. Last year, we found ourselves rooting for the Wofford Terriers. They didn't make it out of the first round, but they did put forth a good effort against a higher ranked team. You have to admit, the statue featuring their mascot really is cute.
So now, how does this all tie together …
For each of the last two years, we have been getting together for a March Madness weekend during the first week of the tournament. That week really is my favorite with all of the games and upsets going on. 
In 2014, I gave my sister a small quilting kit that featured a sheep. (I got one for myself as well.) During our 2015 March Madness weekend, we began working on our projects. We got the top portion pieced together and then packed our kits up and stored them in my sewing room for another day. The picture below shows the initial piecing along with the machine quilting to hold the top, batting, and backing together.
This year, we continued our work on the kits. We added the wool appliqué sheep and the log cabin block for the upper right hand corner. 
Now, the question remains, will we finish these projects completely before the year is over, or will we leave that task for the 2017 tournament. As King Solomon might say, to everything there is a season …
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Cinnamon rolls and a new mixer …

This past Christmas, our children surprised us with a Kitchenaid mixer. To be honest, I really hadn't ever thought about getting one for myself. I know of others who have acquired them and enjoy using them. Over the past few months, we have definitely but ours to very good use. We have particularly enjoyed making bread-related products with ours. 

This post features homemade cinnamon rolls. I wish I could take full credit for the recipe, but it is one that is a Paula Deen recipe from the Food Network's site. Of course, I will be including some of the ways we have individualized this recipe.
We enjoy Saturday morning breakfasts, probably because our weekday schedules don't allow us to sit down to enjoy breakfast together. Back in January, I decided that cinnamon rolls sounded like a good idea. We first thought of buying some Rhodes bread dough to roll out. That thought was rather short-lived when we realized that, with the new mixer, we could easily just make some from scratch. 
Here is the recipe. I'm also featuring the attachments to the mixer that we use when making the cinnamon rolls.

Dough ingredients:
1 package of yeast 
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 - 110ºF)
1/2 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 1/2 - 4 cups flour

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar in the warm water. I'm someone who  does take the time to measure the temperature of the water before adding the yeast and sugar. I've had too many failures as a result of the liquid being either too hot or too cold for the yeast. If the yeast "blooms" as in the picture below, you have a marker of success. Note, you can substitute Rapid Rise yeast if you wish - just note that the temperature of the liquid will need to be 120-130ºF.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the milk, 1/4 cup sugar, melted butter, salt, and egg. To mix these ingredients together, I use the general mixing attachment pictured below. Mix until they are smooth.
3. Switch to the dough hook attachment and mix in 2 cups of flour until smooth. Add the yeast mixture and enough additional flour to make a dough that is easy to handle. Here is where the best part of the dough hook comes in. Instead of taking the dough out and kneading it, let the machine run for about 5 minutes or so to do the work of kneading for you. The result will be an amazingly smooth dough.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl, spray the bowl with cooking spray, spray the top of the dough, cover with a towel, and let rise for about 1 to 1.5 hours, until the dough is doubled in bulk. Our oven has a proofing setting which is great.

5. After the dough has doubled, punch it down and roll it out in the shape of a rectangle, approximately 15 x 9 inches. Don't get anxious about measuring the dimensions, just do your best not to get the ends too narrow. Now it is time to make the filling.

Filling ingredients:
1/2 cup melted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins and/or nuts (optional)

6. Mix the butter, sugar, and cinnamon together either in the microwave or on the stove. Spread them out over the dough something like this. If you are going to add raisins and/or nuts, you can stir them into the mixture or sprinkle them on top of the butter, sugar, and cinnamon mixture. 
7. Now it's time to roll the dough up. There's now way around it, the process is going to be a bit messy. I have a couple of large cutting boards that I sometimes use since I can pick them up and run them under the sink. I find that I am doing a combination of rolling and lifting to keep the butter, sugar, and cinnamon mixture from pouring out onto the counter top. When I am nearly finished, I bring the remaining side up and do my best to "seal" it to the rest of the roll to keep the filling mixture tucked in.
8. Cut the roll into 15 or so slices. The width of each slice is really up to you. I typically can get 18 slices. 15 will fit nicely inside a typical baking pan. I just put the others in a bread pan. Prepare the pan by rubbing it down with some butter and then sprinkling it with sugar, much as if you greasing and flouring a pan for baking a cake.
9. Let the rolls rise for about 45 minutes and then bake at 350ºF for about 30 minutes or until they are nicely browned like this. The cinnamon rolls have finished baking, but they are not quite ready to eat. Now, it's time to make the frosting.
Frosting ingredients:
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (if you are using a stronger preparation such as Watkins, you can cut the amount in half)
3 to 6 tablespoons hot water

10. It is also time to change to a new attachment for the mixer. I like using this mixing paddle with the silicone blade to scrape the sides of the bowl. This attachment doesn't come standard with the mixer, but it is available at most stores. 
11. Mix the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla together. Add in the water, one tablespoon at a time until it is the desired consistency.

12. Spread the frosting generously over the rolls once they have cooled slightly. Eat and enjoy!