Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Recipe: Herman Starter Dough

My office love to bake.  But in December, knowing that post-Christmas we'd all have mountains of leftover food, cakes and chocolate, we agreed that January would be a cake-free month.  Our office wasn't to be used for the family leftovers. We'd leave them at home, and the cupboard in the centre of the office that's normally over-flowing with unhealthy treats would be instead filled with fruit.

That didn't last long...

The thing is, we heard about Herman.

One of our colleagues told us that at her last job her boss turned up one morning and left a strange yeasty smelling pot on her desk... (no puns please).  It turned out that the goo was dough and that her boss wanted her to make a cake out of it.  It sounded such a strange thing to do, to pass on cake-mix friendship-letter like, but at the same time it sparked our imagination... And so a date was set for the Inter-Office-Herman-Challenge.

Essentially Herman is a starter dough which can be included in lots of recipes - it's yeast based, so it "grows" if you look after it properly, which means you should end up with enough mix to make cake for yourself and to also pass on some to friends who can either get baking, or to grow more Herman.

I agreed to get the chain started.  I'm currently on day five of 10, carefully nurturing Herman so that he matures enough to split up and dish out to my colleagues.  So far, so good.  I've not killed him (he stops bubbling when he dies poor thing)- in fact, he's been growing so fast that I've had to invest in another mixing bowl to contain is girth!

I don't know what Herman will eventually turn into - that's up to my individual colleagues to decide, but if you'd like to start your own Herman this is what you will need:

1 packet of active dried yeast
2 tbsp lukewarm water
240ml warm milk
150gm plain flour
225gm caster sugar.

  1. Dissolve yeast in water for 10 minutes and stir.
  2. Place flour, sugar and yeast into a large bowl and mix well.
  3. Slowly add milk and stir until combined - you'll be left with a strange thin custard-like mix.  Cover this with a clean teatowel and leave somewhere warm - it doesn't need to be anywhere too special, the dining room table works, or the kitchen side.
  4. For the next 3 days stir well once a day.
  5. On the forth day, add one cup each of flour, caster sugar and milk and cover again.
I am currently on day 5, and I think Herman really enjoyed the meal I gave him yesterday as when I went to stir again today he looked like this:

The best bubble-reaction so far!  A little bit like AngelDelight I thought, but it certainly won't get mistaken for a pudding... by now the yeast is having a real feast and it smells really strongly!  If you visit your Herman for his daily stir and his surface isn't covered with bubbles its an indication that your yeast has died and that you need to start all over again from scratch.

Assuming that your yeast remains fine and dandy keep stirring once a day until day 9, when you again add 1 cup each of flour, caster sugar and milk, and then on day 10 you can finally split the mix into four and give away a section to three friends for them to either grow their own Herman from, or to bake with.

It's really strange how attached I've got to this strange bowl of goo sitting on my worktop over the past few days.  But I really feel like I'm caring for it, feeding it when it's hungry and offering it a new home when it out grows its current one...  In a way I am not sure how I feel about splitting up Herman and chucking him in the oven.  I'm sure I'll get over it though.  I'm already on the hunt for a good Chelsea Bun recipe.  I can't think of a better way to treat Herman, than to transform him into a bun!

Have you tried Herman before?  What did you make?

Sunday, 13 January 2013

I Knitted Mittens

I've made no secret about wanting to become more craft-able.  My first challenge I set myself was making a poncho, and that seemed to turn out okay.  Next, Hubby and I made some Christmas presents for certain members of the family - they too were well received.  So for a completely novice crafter I think I'm progressing well.

Then on Christmas day my Mother-In-Law presented me with my next challenge - a subscription to a knitting magazine!  Every month for the next year a little parcel of wool, needles and patterns will arrive so that I can flex my knitting skills.

It seems that I'm surrounded by pregnant ladies at the moment - my best friend, a couple of cousins, colleagues  people at my theatre group - so I'm sure in the next few years I will be able to find endless excuses to knit little bits and bobs for little-people.  But I decided that my first knitting project from these magazines had to be for me (it was a Christmas present after all).  So a few nights ago I sat down with my large wooden needles and chunky thread, and after some dropped stitches and a couple of snarl-ups I managed to work my way through a whole pattern and produce a pair of finger-less mittens!  I'm very pleased!

So what if the thumb hole is almost as big as the whole for the rest of the fingers combined? Or that one glove is slightly smaller than the other as I ran out of wool for the last few rows?  They are my mittens, and I made them.  I just won't look to closely. They will live pride of place in my glove box, and if the weather turns as chilly as is predicted in the next week I bet I will be pleased to have them!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

How to: Bright French Manicure

It's January. It's cold and it's dreary. I took a look out of my window this morning and it was a struggle not to grab my duvet and hide.

I love bright crisp winter mornings, but today it's just yuck.

And last week was also back to work, which means packing away the Christmas jumpers and tinsel accessories as office wear is firmly back on the horizon... So this is my solution to a bit of creative nail work for the office. A beacon in the dark at this time of year: a bright French manicure.

Okay, so it's not really a French manicure, it's just bright coloured tips, but having just that little flash of colour really makes all the difference.

Paint a base coat with a pale colour - I used a silvery beige (sorry I can't share the name exactly as it came from a trip to France...) - and then once dry select a bright colour of your choice - I used Barry M in Turquoise.

Carefully remove the excess paint from the brush and then paint the tips. I find that the best way to do this is in small stages moving vertically. First paint the very tip of all your nails, and then go back over them to increase the spread of colour, always working with your brush ending up at the tip. Don't move your brush horizontally across your nail, it might seem quicker but it is really hard to keep control.

If you don't have a steady hand you can even use masking tape trimmed into ovals to help, but make sure that your base colour is completely dry before using tape.

And there you have it. Nails suitable for the office, but with enough brightness to help banish the January grey.