Friday, April 30, 2010

Gooooooooood Mornin Chocolate Bread!

So yesterday after four hours of sleep I awoke to, "Honey, Audrey's sick and I'm calling her in to school."

Wha? I blearily asked for clarification and was told she "has a sore throat and a fever of 100".

Ahhh crap. For the first time in weeks I was ACTUALLY going to have 2.5 hrs to myself while the big monster was at kindergarden (dropped off by Dad, returned by bus) and the little monster was at preschool (dropped off by Gramma, picked up by Grammy). I note all the driving b/c I can no longer drive anymore due to health issues. Add that to our teeny tiny condo and I was really really craving 2 hours ALONE.

So. The Big Guy zips out of the house to head to his day-long class before I was even fully coherant and what do I find when I stumble into the livingroom? My eldest monster in footie fleece jammies, wrapped in a thick blanket, in an over heated 70 degree condo. I check her temp and it's 99.2. Ya think it has anything to do with being completely insulated? Really?

Normally I would just send the poached non-sick kiddo off to school anyway but, oops, I CAN'T DRIVE.


Goodbye nap. Goodbye catching up on sleep. Hello getting through the day without spontaneous combustion.

Somewhere around noon, I decided I needed to bake bread. I asked Audrey what her favorite kind of bread and true to Mendelian genetics the child immediately responded, "Chocolate". Mind you, I have never made, nor has she ever HAD, chocolate bread.

Sounds good to me. We winged it., basing it on a halved version of the Master Boule recipe in Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day.

These measurements are rough estimates and make one mondo loaf or two smallish loaves - adjust baking time as needed.

Holy Moley Chocolate Bread

1.5 cups lukewarm water

2tsp granulated yeast
1tsp kosher or other coarse salt
1/8c dark brown sugar
1 slosh real vanilla extract - interpret as you see fit
3 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
3 tbl cocoa powder
2 tbl instant espresso powder (don't have it? see adaptation below)
1/8c raw or granulated sugar
1/8c honey
1/2c chocolate chips or chunks (I like chunks better)
butter for loaf pan

Stir water, yeast, salt, brown sugar & vanilla together in a 5 qt bowl. Stir in flour till mixed - don't knead. If its not wet and gloppy, add more water in 1/8c measurements until you have a wet, sticky dough. remove half the dough and put in a 2nd large bowl. Lightly cover one bowl and set in a warm place to rest.

To other bowl, add cocoa powder, espresso powder, sugar & honey. Blend in gently - it won't be perfect. Add more water if not wet. Cover & set in warm place to rest.

Allow both doughs to rest 2.5-3 hrs. For ease of use I recommend chilling doughs at this point, otherwise dough is EXTREMELY hard to manage... but I didn't.

Butter a large (or two medium) loaf pan very well. I use the Pampered Chef stoneware loaf pan and I love it.  Dump white dough out onto a well floured surface and pat into a flat rough rectangle. Dump chocolate dough on top and spread it out a bit. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of chocolate dough (yeaaaaah baby). Roughly roll up dough forming a big lumpy sloppy log. Tucking ends under a bit, plop into pan. Cover with cloth and allow to rest 90 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F for 5 minutes, 30 minutes if you keep a baking stone in your oven for heat distribution (I don't).

If baking the whole recipe, bake 40-50 minutes. Allow to cool COMPLETELY before slicing - it keeps the bread moist but not gloopy.

The I-Don't-Have-Instant-Espresso-Powder Varition A
(requires coffee)
~ Mix up initial white dough as recommended above, but only add 1/2c of water (dough will be dry and crumbly). Split into two bowls. Add another 1/4c-1/2c water to white dough in 1/c increments until dough is wet and sticky. Add similar amounts of brewed coffee or espresso to chocolate dough. Continue as in main recipe.

The I-Don't-Have-Instant-Espresso-Powder Varition B
~ Um. Just leave it out. :D

Thursday, April 1, 2010

By popular demand ... Namaste Zuma Review

After I posted the review of the Namaste Laguna yesterday I had a few friends asking me to post one of the Namaste Zuma as well. I love both these bags, so I'm happy to!

I tend to like to carry as little weight as possible when I go out. As some of you know, I'm disabled and walk with a cane. Since I get tired easily, my life is an exercise in streamlining. When I go out to dinner with friends, all I carry is my JuJuBe BeMine, seen below, but in general I reach for my Zuma.

So here it is, in all its olive glory. And honestly, it is a GORGEOUS olive - buttery, rich and deep. Once again I am photographing it nestled cozily on my precious microplush Snuggy, next to an 8"x11" pad of paper for scale. True to form, I crammed it as full as I comfortably could ...

...with: a hardcover library book, a pack of wipes, my knitting, two boxes of raisins, an energy bar, two juice boxes, a bottle of spray handcleaner, a stack of tissues, my knitting patterns, my blackberry, my JuJuBe BeMine wallet, my eggplant Namaste Mini Cozy (holding scissors, pencil, pen & crochet hook), two pull-ups and a bottle of water.

That said, I could fit more. The front zipper pocket (where I slip my blackberry) has this interesting small accordion section. Would be good for dollar bills, business cards ... small light things. I could also fit more in the back zipper pocket - a PDA, wallet or small paperback might fit in there.

Here are the nuts and bolts on this bag. Namaste uses animal-friendly faux leather which feels more supple and spendy than most real leather bags. The color in real life is closest to the final photo. This bag is a handbag - no shoulder strap. I think it would be too much on this bag, so good call, Namaste. The handles are strong and sturdy, with a great hand-fell - not too hard.

The top is extremely well designed, opening up the full body of the bag - about a foot squared. It allows you to really use every inch of the large interior. Like other Namaste bags, it is designed with knitters in mind, keeping zippers to a minimum. It closes with THREE (that's right THREE) sets of magnetic closures. They securely, attractively close the top - nothing is falling out of this baby. As I mentioned above, there is a front upside-down-U shaped zipper pocket that has a PDA-sized front section and a unique small accordion pocket with a few sections. There is also a rear small to medium sized zipper pocket, almost hand's length deep and a hand's length wide. Interestingly enough, this pocket is the same size on both the Zuma and the Laguna. The base of the bag has the same super cute metal feet to keep your bag off the floor.

Moving inside, the bag is in some ways very similar to the Laguna. There are three internal pockets and they are all exactly like the Laguna in placement and size. On one side you'll find two side-by-side slide in pockets. One is large enough for a small to medium sized cell phone, the other for a PDA or wallet. The third pocket is a small to medium sized zipper pocket.

So. A friend asked me which bag would be better for her 9x6-ish inch Kindle. Well, the hardcover books in both bags are larger than the Kindle and fit in comfortable. If you want your Kindle to be in a separate zippered pocket, it would have to be in the Laguna, as none of the Zuma pockets are large enough. Another alternative (which I would LOVE a chance to fondle in real life) is the new this season Namaste Monroe. The Monroe is a true shoulder bag with THREE (swoon... thunk) truly separate compartments. A final option would be to snag a set of Namaste Oh Snaps!, slip your Kindle into one of those and slide the Kindle-filled Oh Snap! into your Zuma or bag of choice.

I hope that helps a little, ladies ... and I hope you are happy. Now I'm lusting for a Monroe to top off my collection ; )

Just wanted to add ... I've received no compensation for this review and all the comments/opinions posted here are exclusively my own! Thanks for reading.