Assorted Finished Things

Silver Socks

When I was working on my MA, sock knitting was kind of THE thing in knitting at the time. (Then it seems like shawls/shawlettes were the big thing and now it’s . . .  Cowls? I’m not sure. Maybe the online presence of knitters has become big enough that there isn’t really a single thing anymore.) Of course, sock knitting is still a thing, and people knit and design lots of sock patterns. But at the time, the knitting world was kind of in the throes of sock mania. At the height of this, I tried a lot of complex, interesting sock patterns. And then, a few years into my PhD, I realized that I most enjoyed knitting and wearing very plain, very boring socks. I make all of Aidan’s socks in 2×2 rib, and all of my socks in stockinette with a simple ribbed cuff. It makes it very easy to start and finish a pair of socks since I don’t need to refer to any patterns or instructions while I’m knitting.

But lately, I’ve been feeling like the cuffs and insteps of my socks are just a bit too tight. So on this pair, I made the heel flap a bit longer to address the tightness around the instep and used a provisional cast-on for the cuff, which I finished with a more stretchy sewn bind off. The fit is definitely better and keeps me from having to cast on extra stitches at the cuff and decrease through the leg, which I don’t want to have to do. But the tubular bind off I used doesn’t look the greatest after it’s worked on the provisional stitches. I used the exact same bind off on my Grandpa Cardigan and it looks great there. I’m wondering if this is because, having used a provisional cast-on, the stitches for the cuff and the bind off are oriented in the opposite direction? I think next time I might try using an Italian Cast On. Actually, next time I might give this basic toe-up pattern a try. We’ll see. These socks are made with Regia 4-Ply Terra in the Silver colorway.

Dog Sweater

Back in November, my sister was having trouble finding a sweater to fit her dog, Mini, and asked me to try making something that might fit better. She sent me a few basic measurements and I used two different tutorials from Sew It Love It to make this–this tutorial helps you draft the pattern for the sweater and this one guides you through actually sewing the sweater up. It took me awhile to find the time to sit down and do the drafting and sewing (or really, it took me awhile to summon up the courage to try drafting something to fit a dog that lives hundreds of miles from me), but once I started working on it, I was able to finish it all up quickly. Sewing the sweater requires a single seam down the center front of the body, and then you attach bands to the neck, legs, and around the torso. I sewed all the seams with a medium zig-zag stitch, and then top stitched around the bands with a wider zigzag to keep them from flipping up. The fabric is just anti-pill fleece from JoAnn’s. I’m pleased with how it turned out and my sister said it fits well. She also said Mini found it unnerving to be photographed from the side, so that’s why she looks a bit unhappy in the first photo.

Bread!

I’ve been making a lot of bread the past two months, and this week I tried Julia Child’s White Sandwich Loaf recipe (found here, via Dinner With Julie) for the first time. This recipe produced the most beautiful loaves of bread I’ve ever made before. It’s a pretty simple recipe—no crazy ingredients and I was able to start it at around 11 am and have the bread finished before dinner. It’s especially simple in comparison to the white sandwich bread recipe that I’ve used previously from The Bread Bible. It rose up nicely and the texture is great—very soft and perfect for sandwiches. It isn’t as flavorful as the recipe from The Bread Bible, which is as delicious as it is involved, but Julia Child’s recipe contains less dairy and less sugar, which in addition to being very straight-foward, makes it a nice everyday bread recipe. I’m definitely going to make this again, but I might try using honey rather than white sugar to see if that makes any difference.

A couple of weeks ago, I also tried this Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread recipe from the King Arthur Flour website. (This is a cell phone picture taken at night in my tiny kitchen, so sorry for the poor quality.) This is a sweet bread, with a hint of cinnamon, and the oatmeal gives it a soft but chewy texture. It’s wonderfully fragrant when you bake and toast it. I ate this bread, toasted and smeared with butter, every morning for breakfast until it was gone. The next time I make it, I want to try using some of it for French Toast. This is sweet enough that it’s not the kind of bread I’d use for a sandwich at lunch, but it is very, very good. Plus, it’s a nice way to use up the bag of White Whole Wheat flour that I have in the cupboard but never know what to do with!

In other news, I’ve started reading Willa Cather’s My Antonia, and last night I got to the part where Jim kills a massive rattle snake with a spade and then drags the thing home to show off to everyone. Just in case you wondering what was keeping me awake at night lately, there you go. It is a truly beautiful book with 1000% too many snakes.

Beer Bread

The first and only other time I’ve made beer bread, I used a mix that someone gave me as a gift. I don’t remember what kind of mix it was or what kind of beer I used to make it, but while other people really loved the bread, I thought it tasted pretty flat. So when I decided to make beer bread again, I wanted to make sure it had plenty of flavor.

Beer bread via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

 

For this bread, I found a very simple, no-nonsense recipe on Food.com that had a lot of good reviews. I decided to use a bottle of Sam Adams Boston and swapped 1 c of all-purpose flour with 3/4 c of white whole wheat flour. (I had planned to use regular whole wheat flour, but it turned out that I only had white whole wheat on hand.) Thanks to the myriad wonders of winter-time artificial kitchen light, the bread looks a touch neon in these photos, but I was really surprised by the deep golden color the crust and crumb had when they came out of the oven.

This is a hearty bread with a dense, chewy crust. Because of its texture, you have to be careful about the way you measure and mix your flour or you’ll end up with a loaf of bread that’s more like a brick. The original recipe recommends sifting the flour, but since I don’t have a sifter, I make sure to scoop my flour into a measuring cup with a spoon and then gently level it off with a knife. Either of these methods will help ensure that you don’t throw off the proportion of dry-to-wet ingredients. As you mix the batter, you also want to be careful to only stir until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Once I had mixed most of the dry ingredients, I actually stopped stirring and started gently turning the batter over in the bowl to find and incorporate any remaining dry areas. Even taking into account those few careful steps, it only takes a couple of minutes to mix the batter up and throw it in the oven.

Beer Bread via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

 

This bread was really excellent–a major improvement from the first beer bread I made. The combination of the whole wheat flour and the lager gave it a rich, deep flavor that had a hint of sweetness balanced with just a touch of bitterness at the end. This particular version of this recipe would go really well with a bowl or chili or beef stew. Next time, I want to try using a lighter beer, cutting back a bit on the sugar, and stirring in some cheddar cheese and scallions.

I’m curious: if you’ve made beer bread, what’s your favorite beer to use?

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Beer Bread (adapted from Food.com)

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat, but regular whole wheat would also work)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c of sugar
  • 12 oz can or bottle of lager (I used Sam Adams Boston)
  • 1/4 c butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease a 9×5″ loaf pan.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Pour the beer over the dry mixture (it will foam a lot at first, but it will calm down quickly) and stir together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Be careful not to over-mix.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and spread it evenly in the pan. Pour the melted butter over the top of the batter.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, until the crust is golden brown and a tester inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Let the bread cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before cutting.