Sunday, March 27, 2011

Black Pepper & Pesto crackers

Today, I decided to give making homemade crackers a try.  I have a book, which has a basic cracker recipe in the first chapter.
Of course, I'm terrible when it comes to things with basic directions.  I rarely do things "plain".  Seeing has how I had a jar of pesto that we made a little bit ago in the fridge that needed using up, I decided to make pesto crackers.
Like all doughs, the basic steps are the same:
1) Mix dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, fresh black pepper)
In a separate bowl, mix together your wet ingredients (egg & oil - I should have probably added my pesto to this as well, but I decided to add it in later).
Then mix the two together until crumbly.

You then want to add cold water, a little bit at a time, until the dough comes together.  This was the point I added the pesto as well.

You then want to split the dough in half, and let it rest/firm up in the refridgerator for at least a half hour.

After you've let it rest, roll it out to about 1/8" thick, trying to maintain a rectangular shape (yes, I'm a dork who keeps a special 'kitchen' ruler).

Then, cut it into any size or shape you like. You could also use cookie cutters, or even a glass to get different shapes. You could also stamp them with a decorative stamp instead of pricking the dough with a fork.  I was feeling lazy, and decided to do squares and rectangles. Here's the squares all laid out on their baking sheet.
Here are the rectangles.
I brushed mine with a little bit of water, and sprinkled some extra black pepper over the tops.  Then I baked them at 375F until they were nice & golden & crispy, rotating the sheets every 4 minutes or so.

Now, if you want to store them, let them cool completely before putting them in a jar or other airtight container.  Otherwise, you might get condensation in the jar, and not so crisp crackers.  I'm not ashamed to say that I ate a bunch of them right off the bat.  They were delicious.
Mmmm . . . overexposed cracker.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Honour of St. Patrick's Day

In honour of St. Patrick's Day, I bring you an interesting, and little-known fact related to the Irish.

The term "boycott" came about thanks to them.

It turns out that boycott is one of those words that is based on an actual, historical figure - in this case, one Charles Cunningham Boycott.  Charles Boycott was an Englishman who worked as a land agent for one Lord Erne.  Most of the land was rented out to tenant farmers (as was large chunks of Ireland at the time).

After a couple of bad harvests in the late 1870s, a movement that had started in the early 1850s to get fair treatment of tenant farmers had started to pick up steam.  However, rather than advocating violence, the movement said that greedy landlords and their agents should be ostracized from their communities. Here's where we start relating back to Charles Boycott.

In 1880, the tenants on the land he was managing demanded a significant rent reduction after several bad harvests in a row.  Boycott's employer, Lord Erne, refused.  Boycott then started sending out notices demanding the rents, and set about evicting eleven of the tenant families.
Within a few days, Boycott had been completely shut out by the whole community.  The staff (maids, butlers, gardeners, farm labourers, etc) refused to show up for work.  Shopkeepers wouldn't serve him.  The postman refused to deliver his mail.  He had to start having supplies shipped to himself by boat from another community so that they wouldn't be turned back on the road into town.

Then, Boycott wrote a letter about his predicament to a major newspaper - The Times.

By the time the newspapers, and the local community, were done, British troops had been involved and Charles Cunningham Boycott was forced to return to England.

Here's the wikipedia entry on Charles Boycott.

Here's the wikipedia entry on boycott in general.

I hope you'll enjoy sharing that Boycott was a real person who ended up on the wrong side of the Irish this holiday.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Pi Day!

Today is March 14th.  This date can also be written as 3.14 . . . which means that it's pi (as in math) day!
There are plenty of math related jokes around the web, and not to mention some fantastic pie recipes, so I thought I would share some related links.

Wil Wheaton's blog has a link to a great song about pi.  It's matheriffic!

Wanda's Pie in the Sky is a great little bakery in Toronto that's filled with delicious things - especially pie.

Canadian Living's website has a ton of recipes for pie.  Here's one of their blueberry pie recipes.

The wikipedia page about pi is full of mathematical content.  It also has some fun facts like who holds the world record for reciting the digits of pi.

Then there's All-Recipes and their huge database of pie recipes.

Hopefully, you had time to eat some pie, while celebrating all things math today!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Damp Season

Saturday, it rained.  Then it rained some more.  Then it kept on raining.  I decided to suck it up and go to yoga class.  After all, it would give me an opportunity to not wear my snowboots and instead where my awesomesauce rainboots. You can see them here.  I've had these boots for a couple of years, but I love them.
On the way home from yoga, I started to think that my feet were feeling decidedly on the damp side.  By the time I got home, I realized the sad truth.  My skull & sword pirate rainboots were no longer waterproof. 
On the upside, this gave me an excuse to get some shiny new rainboots!  I ended up buying boots from a Canadian company - Kamik (my new boots are blue).  Some of you might remember Kamik's winter boot line from your childhood (they were right up there with the old school Sorel's for dealing with snow in the 80's & 90's). The boots are made in Canada, have a waterproof guarantee AND they recycle them when their life of keeping your feet dry is over!
I find the idea of getting your boots recycled when their life is over really fascinating and awesome and it makes me wonder why more companies don't do this sort of thing.
The sad thing is that I have not yet had a chance to test out my new boots.  Sometime Saturday evening the weather remembered that this is Canada and went back to snowing and hasn't quit since.  Back to snowboots for me :(