Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In a Jam (Donut)

I've just come in from feeding Clarence, the neighborhood stray. He's got his routine down pat. First he peers through the glass on our screened-in front porch...got any grub today?

Then he has the requisite stare-down with Bosewichte. Yeah, I know this is your house...but a guy's gotta eat!

Then, success! A handful of cat food, eaten in the shade of our big viburnum bush.

Finally, the full-belly catnap.

Clarence isn't the only one out and about. My oriental lilies have been blooming for almost two weeks. I never expected such a performance from one lone stalk, but it's produced at least ten blooms that seem to open, as if one cue, as the one before it wilts.

I have some healthy Feverfew plants just budding out. Feverfew, steeped in water and sweetened with a bit of honey, is perfect for headaches, upset stomachs, and even arthritis!

To me, these brilliant cosmos petals look as if they were painted on with a bold stroke. I have white, pink, orange, and purple cosmos and they are tall, stately beauties.

I'm always on the search for flowers that bloom in this vibrant green color. My marigolds, already five feet tall, are finally beginning to flower.

I grow marigolds around my tomato plants, because the pungent smell drives away certain invasive pests. I would grow marigolds even if they served no purpose, of course, because I love their bright faces.

I was gratified to see this honey bee on my bee balm plant. I was forever getting stung as a child as bees swarmed thick on the wild clover in our yard, but every year it seems like there are fewer and fewer of them around. I've heard reports that many hives are suffering from Bee Colony Collapse, caused by a combination of environmental stresses and mites. I can't wait to start my hives to help build up the population a bit in my area!

Buoyed by the flowers on my Bronze Fennel plant, this tree wasp pollinates as it travels.

This brown cricket is one member of a bustling colony that makes its home in a yarrow clump. I grew up listening to crickets chirping, and I like the sound. Only male crickets chirp, and they do so to attract a mate and to warn off opposing suitors. An interesting old wives' tale says that if you count the number of cricket chirps you hear in 15 seconds and add 39 to that number, you'll have the temperature!

There are over 24,000 different varieties of butterflies. This one uses his proboscis to sip nectar from the flower.

I had to get on a stepladder to get a good shot of this jewel-like insect, called a Green June Beetle. They can grow to almost 2 inches long, and have a special love of the soft, rotting fruit that carpets the ground beneath fruit trees at this time of year. Their grubs can be quite invasive.

This butterfly might be a Grey Comma, the most social of butterflies. He certainly didn't mind my presence as he gathered nectar from this cosmos blossom.

I've been digging around in my knitting basket lately. I want to continue to challenge myself, so I learned a new method of sock knitting this week...toe up! It's a bit fiddly to begin, and after several needle stabs to the fingers I almost gave up. But once I got an inch of fabric and continued to work my way up, I began to relax. Many people knit their socks two at a time, and if you'd like to use every bit of your yarn on your particular socks, toe up is an attractive method. As soon as you see your yarn running low, you can quickly add a few rows of ribbing to complete the socks, then bind off. Not so easy if you're knitting top down, when you're at the mercy of your ball of sock yarn, spending the last few inches of the sock crossing your fingers that you've estimated the amount correctly.

I finished a project for a friend's son this week, too. It was meant to be a soft ball made up of 12 gently sloping hills, but I ran out of yarn two 'hills' from the end. I have no idea where this yarn came from or its name. Thankfully, necessity is the mother of invention. I decided to knit two final 'hills' topped with red button 'eyes' that were meant to mimic eye stalks on a slug or snail. I'm not entirely sure I was successful.

Here is a view of the 'normal' and more respectable angle.

A bit of a disaster in the kitchen this week, too. I found a recipe for baked jam-filled donuts on the My Kitchen Snippets blog. Certainly healthier than the fried variety, and what a treat to bite into an innocuous-looking bun and discover the fruity center! I decided to try it. Armed with my icing piper and some watered-down jam, I contemplated the pile of smooth, golden biscuits and fearlessly seized the first one. How hard could it be?

It was an unmitigated disaster. The bag split. Seeds clogged the icing spout and great clots of jam sprayed the wall like an abattoir when I tried to use pressure to force it out. The small amount of jam that did make it through the spout refused to fill the bun but instead, resentfully, leaked out the bottom like a weeping sore.

However, the biscuits were delicious. Soft, light, and faintly sweet. Served jam-less but with a tablespoon of honey on top, they were divine. Have it either way!

Baked Jam-Filled Donuts
Taken from the My Kitchen Snippets Blog


¼ cup lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dry yeast
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp salt
¼ cup sugar
3 tbsp melted butter
1 egg
¾ cup lukewarm milk

1. In a small bowl, mix the yeast, 1 tsp sugar and 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Set it aside until foamy.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and 1/4 cup sugar. Pour in the yeast mixture, melted butter, egg and the milk, use a mixing spoon and keep stirring until everything well-combines, for about 5 minutes. (The dough will be super sticky, pretty similar to cake batter)
3. Cover the bowl and let the dough proof until double its size. Prepare and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
4. Since the dough is super-sticky, make sure the work table is well-floured, and pour the dough on the table; it would spread out by itself since it's very soft and lumpy. Do not knead or pat it too hard (as it will deflate the air bubbles and your donuts won't be that airy).
5. Pat the dough lightly to about 2 cm. Dip the round cookie cutter with flour first and cut the dough, use a spatula to help you transferring the round dough onto a large baking tray. Cover the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degree F. Brush the donuts with some melted butter and baked the donuts until lightly brown. It will take about 12 minutes (depending on your oven). Cool the donuts on a rack.
7. Prepare a pipping bag fitted with a long round cake decorating tip (I used Wilton No 402-23o round tip). Fill it up with your favorite jam or custard and pipe it into the donuts. Lightly dust it with some powder sugar before serving.

Jam-less though they were, these donuts were still a nice after-supper treat. I don't know if I've ever worked with such a soft, silky dough. If you're feeling lucky, try the piped method, or simply spoon it on top for a stress-free treat.


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