Archive for December, 2009

Experimental Swift and Rake

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

While i have convinced myself that the half ounce of alpaca (tightly wound into a classic cat toy ball) is all i need to make my current project, the question of swifts and ball winders has stayed with me.

On Sunday i stopped at the hardware store to pick up Escutcheon pins ($1.79 for 1.5 oz). These were sharp enough to insert into a bit of balsa wood by hand at quarter inch intervals. I experimented with an e-wrap cast-on using #10 crochet thread. I now have an experiential understanding of the warnings about tension: getting the tension loose enough that one can move all the loops is a challenge when using thread. I’ll try some light yarn next. (If any alpaca is left over, that might be suitably springy, too.)

While at the hardware store, the issue of the swift and my more concrete need for an efficient way to create skeins for dyeing was in mind. It turns out that one can buy the ball bearing case for a lazy susan. I have the Shepherd Hardware Products Lazy Susan [product 9547 4" diameter, 100 mm ball bearings, 300 lb load, $4.49].

To make a swift (which turns as one pulls the yarn off) i just need four of the 6-32×2″ machine screws (I’d have called it a bolt), but a fifth for the center will allow me to install a crank (rigged out of a sixth bolt). (15 bolts: $2.04; 3 sets of six nits at $0.54 each.) The cross bars for the first draft of the swift are yardsticks ($0.99 each). The wood is soft enough that i was able to make the bolt holes with an awl. This is a sign that the yardsticks may not be durable. However, it remains to be seen if they are good enough for casual work.

My plan is to make four “C” shaped hooks from two wire hangers, and then use binder clips to hold those to the yardsticks. Figuring out the circumference of skeins should be a pleasant bit of geometry.

This leaves the challenge of *mounting* the lazy susan base. At the moment, it’s duct taped on two corners to a microphone stand. This is probably less durable than the yardsticks. I want to see if a standard broom handle fits in the mike holder: if so, wood screws into the mike holder and the mike holder on the stand might be satisfactory (although the mike holders were probably not designed to hold something undergoing torque.

While in the hardware store i bought two 2″ spring clamps ($2.99). I imagined extending the lazy susan base and clamping that to a table or chair back, but once home the thought of duct taping the thing to a five gallon cubic water bottle came to mind: for safety’s sake we should have water bottles around at all times, and the temporary solution is all i need. I suspect that people with wall space and workshops could mount the thing onto walls or tables for a permanent solution. Christine just happens to have two mike stands on which i stub my toe occasionally. The audio recording job she got them for never repeated, so she’ll let me use one. (Who knows, that might just be enough for someone to enquire after her recording skills again.)

I’m just left with the challenge of making a crank. The balsa i have was too fragile and did not survive the awl-piercing. A third hanger might provide another rigged solution. The next step, when i next have time, is to experiment with a mike-stand mount.

2000 yards of lace weight alpaca: advice welcomed

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

I have over two thousand yards (8 oz) of laceweight alpaca in a large skein. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Also, oh my heavens, it is softer than an angel’s kiss. I just hugged it for a while until i started panicking about how tangled it was going to get.

I spent some time (over thirty minutes on the phone, plus) winding it into a 0.5 oz ball — and then discovered my tight wind was bad for the yarn. That bit of yarn is probably OK for the time being — that’s all i’ll need, i suspect, to make alpaca angels. But what about the rest? Apparently $100 is the average price for a swift and a ball winder. Maybe i want the swift? Would that do the same thing my careful winding around my sewing board does to make skeins for dyeing? Ah, apparently i should have a niddy noddy for that. I almost think i could construct my own niddy noddy.

$40 + $25 for wooden swift and plastic winder

This is apparently a Good Deal. Suddenly the 2000 yards of alpaca got more expensive. On the other hand, dying yarn takes skeins, and skein management is time consuming.

Also, the tiny angel ornament i began crocheting lets me know that this is not as easy to crochet as crochet thread.

I am fantasizing about making a crochet and loom knit kimono-like jacket out of it. (See this design, but not a long kimono as diagrammed but hip length.) Not much shaping. I suspect i’ll be using this yarn in about ten years when my skill begins to reach the yarn.

Oh, and if i did that, the yarn could be dyed in multiple colors: first creating a long strip, weighing it, calculating numbers of strips to make the kimono panels…. (more…)

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: Olive Oil Bread

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Once upon a time i tried the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I made the half batch and it pushed the lid off the container the dough rose in. [Typo fixed]

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Today, i tried making the half batch of the olive oil gluten free bread.

Olive Oil Bread & CrackersOlive Oil Bread & CrackersOlive Oil Bread & CrackersOlive Oil Bread & CrackersOlive Oil Bread & Crackers

It did not rise nearly as much as the basic recipe of the previous book, although it did develop nice structure. I’m not sure if this is due to the coolness of my kitchen. If anything the dough was far too wet. That too is a bit of a mystery. The crackers, which are divine, took over twenty minutes to begin to turn golden. The bread is cooked but very moist.

I rolled my crackers out between sheets of waxed paper: the dough still needs lots of starch to keep it from sticking (another sign of the too wet dough?) . One set of crackers was made with cornmeal left over from the bread. This turned out wonderfully! Both sets of crackers had olive oil on both sides.

I still have a bit of dough left over and will try to let it come to room temperature in a warmer room and hopefully it will rise a good bit more before baking.

I wonder if replacing the soy flour with the chickpea flour could make such a difference?

Yuletide Experiment, to dye for

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

We’re planning on giving Heifer International’s gift of a llama to our family this year. I’d like to make something, too, and had been thinking about finally getting back to my dying projects and making up some shibori handkerchiefs for friends and family. Dharma Trading Company also has alpaca yarn: #YARN24 Alpaca Lace: 100% superfine alpaca, ~8 oz., 2,480 yds

I haven’t used my fire red dye yet. Hmmm. On the other hand, this angel pattern [Ravelry] is perfect for white yarn. But then there will be over a thousand yards left, surely.

Iowa weaver’s notes about dying wool with procion dyes got my attention. She links to this PDF instruction sheet, skipping the same mysterious special wool ingredient, using vinegar as i would. Dharma’s method is altogether different.

I also think i could stand to experiment with the silk ribbon and the mohops. Perhaps it will be a mistake, but i’m going to give the bias cut ribbon a try first. (Will it pull apart under the tension?)

Links to shibori sites after the cut. (more…)

Gluten free bread baking: ingredient analysis

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

I got Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (HBin5) and passed on my copy of their original Artisian Bread in Five Minutes a Day to my mother & sister when i visited family over Thanksgiving.

Now that i’m back home, i’m evaluating my cupboard to plan a trip to Whole Foods. First on the list: Xanthan gum. I’m ready to make that investment.

I’ve a yet unopened bag of Bob’s Red Mill GF flour, which includes garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, whole grain sweet white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour.

HBin5 doesn’t use any bean flour except 1/2c of soy flour out of 6 c total in the olive oil bread and in the cheddar sesame bread. I think i’ll skip using the Bob’s Red Mill flour in yeast breads, and use it in quickbreads (see after the cut). I’ll substitute garbanzo bean flour for the soy flour.

I’m planning on trying the near rye, the brioche, and the olive oil (OO) bread (p 238). All the doughs are described as keeping for just seven days: i suppose i could freeze the baked results? (I ask that here.) The olive oil dough can be used for pizza, a baguette, crackers, and bread sticks. Considering my rice cracker consumption, maybe i should just make batches of crackers, to use up the dough. (The teff crackers may be good as well.)

Xanthan gum
brown rice flour
	* 1 c for OO bread, brioche
	* 2 c for teff
teff flour * 1 1/2 c for teff cornstarch * 3 1/2 c for OO bread * 3 3/4 c for brioche tapioca starch/flour * 1 c for OO bread, brioche * 3 c for teff

UPDATE 2009-12-5, after shopping: I did very much like the
GF Hearty Whole Grain Bread
i made from mix. It included buckwheat and sorghum, not just teff. I note that teff appears to be twice as expensive at Bob’s Red Mill compared to the other two. (*headdesk*). The starches are the bulk of the substance in the recipe from HBin5, though. However, for flavor, it looks like i could carefully add the bolded ingredients in the following:

whole grain buckwheat, garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, cornstarch, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, whole grain sorghum flour, tapioca flour, evaporated cane juice, cocoa powder, fava bean flour, molasses powder (molasses, maltodextrin, silicon dioxide), xanthan gum, caraway seeds, active dry yeast, sea salt, whole grain teff, potato flour, onion powder, guar gum and soy lecithin.

Buckwheat: 	$3.56 / 1.5 lb
Teff: 		$6.81 / 1.5 lb
Sohrgum: 	$3.01 / 1.5 lb

And Zoƫ wrote back about the freezing:

When you mix up the gluten free doughs be sure to add the liquid ingredients gradually. Unlike our wheat based recipes the g-f will become lumpy if you add the liquids all at once. You may be better off making a half batch rather than freezing the dough. It is something that we have not tested well enough to feel comfortable to recommend. My concern is that the xanthan gum may not hold up to the freezing, but if you are compelled to try it please report back and let us know what you find.

Sine we’re a small household, i had been making half batches anyhow. I think making crackers may be the solution to too much dough.

Savory chickpea flatbread

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

This flatbread is like a farinata or cecina (Italian terms) Socca French. It’s inspired by a tortilla had by a NYTimes food blogger in Madrid, Spain. Mark Bittman’s recipe is for a thin pancake batter. I didn’t really note the *thin* when i was fixing mine, and made a thicker flatbread. All in all, fine with me.

1 c garbazo bean flour
a couple tablespoons of potato flakes [inauthentic addition]
salt, to taste but more than you might think
pepper, lots
1/2 tsp baking powder [NYTimes writer says makes it easier to flip]

1 c water (more or less)

mix in bowl then chop and add

1/2 c chopped savory addition
1/3 c chopped sweet onion
1/4 c chopped herbs

I used cooked and frozen Northern shrimp (believing those to be more environmentally friendly than the other options in the frozen section at my grocer). I can imagine mushrooms being divine in this, and would lean towards stronger flavored fish and shellfish personally. Smoked oysters, yum.

Fry up as you would pancakes or latkes , in olive oil (ideally) or other oil.

Surveying the chickpea breads on wikipedia, pepper seems to be a common ingredient, and the strong black pepper really did seem to be a good match for the chickpeas. The onion, cooked only briefly, seems like it should be sweeter than not.

The chickpeas do have a strong flavor and i have a harder time imagining this working with a sweet addition. Onions and apples, perhaps? Raisins and apples?

Oh, Christine suggests just making stuffing in a different shape: onion and celery, raisins and shredded carrots, chopped sage with cranberry sauce on the side. That may just be our Christmas main course.

The protein content of the chickpeas is pretty high, and i feel quite satisfied by my half of this recipe. It served as lunch for the two of us. I don’t know that i’d make it into four servings except as an appetizer. I can imagine that making them very small, around a whole cooked bay shrimp, with a tiny garnish of sour cream, could make a delightful appetizer.