Friday, February 29, 2008

Clivia Watch 2008

Clivia "A" has finally blossomed! And Clivia "B" is making steady progress towards the same goal. Not bad for a first-timer!

The keep the blossom stalk growing tall and graceful I didn't put the plant into the best sunny spot until the blossoms were imminent. Too much sun and I've heard that the stalk doesn't grow and the blossoms get stuck down in the leaves.

It has been snowing off and on for the past week, big pretty flakes that draw one to the window to watch. Here is the view out our south windows.

The barn belongs to a neighbor but we're happy to get one of the best views of it from our house. I'm not sure how old it is, but some of the main beams bear the marks of being hand-hewn.

When its snowing I feel more energized to get things done and particularly excited about cooking and baking. My latest experiment was this Cardamom Wreath.

The recipe is available in a variety of places, including this website. It's more of a subtle sweet yeast bread than a coffee cake, and it's perfect for breakfast or with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The recipe suggests topping with slivered almonds but I decided to try it on its own, although I did make the cardamom butter recipe that accompanied the bread since I had some orange zest left from the bread recipe. The bread keeps well for several days, especially if you wrap it in a linen tea towel and store in a bread box.

If you decide to make the bread I can offer a few bits of feedback: I started the wet ingredients in my kitchenaid mixer with the batter attachment and switched to the dough hook after adding the first two cups of flour. (If you start with the dough hook you won't be able to mix the butter, sugar, and eggs well enough.) The dough was quite moist and sticky so I kept adding flour while the machine kneaded and until I could handle the dough without getting stuck in it. I was worried I'd overwork the bread but it appears to have survived and is still soft and tender despite lots of kneading. Lastly, my ground cardamom was probably fairly old and it wasn't very fragrant anymore so I decided to use a mortar and pestle to grind some cardamom seeds myself (just remember to take them out of the pods first). The result was incredibly fragrant and fantastic but it didn't overpower the recipe. With the freshly ground spice and the orange zest my kitchen smelled wonderful!

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