Saturday Random Recipe: Sourdough Bread

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Bread, ready for the cutting!

Welcome to the latest way to use your sourdough starter, which you started a month or two ago and have since used to make endless waffles or pancakes and biscuits! Today, I thought I would share my all-time favorite bread recipe. It’s a versatile dough which I use for sandwiches, toast, to accompany soup (clam chowder is a perfect pairing!), or even for pizza dough.

Basque Shepherd’s Bread

  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (no warmer than 110 F)
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour

Mix together (don’t forget to feed your starter!), cover, and let stand overnight or up to 24 hours.

When you proceed, add:

  • 1 tablespoon dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 F)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour

Mix together.

For bread-making, it is way easier to use a heavy duty mixer for kneading – such as a KitchenAid, which we’ve used for years. However, if you don’t have one, kneading by hand can be quite a good workout. Simply flour a clean surface generously and knead for about 10 minutes until another 1-2 cups of whole wheat flour has been absorbed and a good elasticity develops.

If you use a mixer, gradually add another 2 cups of whole wheat flour. If it’s still sticky, sprinkle in white flour by the half cup. When it’s done, the sides of the bowl should be clean, and the dough should be elastic and resilient. This is usually after about 6 minutes.

Turn the dough into a greased bowl, cover, and let rise at least half an hour. Then punch it (a good time to take out your aggression!), cover again and let it rise for another half hour. A second rising lets the dough develop a good flavor and texture.

Divide into two or three equal portions, and shape into rounds or oblongs (roll a bit to let out any big bubbles that might have formed). Place on a baking sheet or stone (I love stoneware!), dust with flour, slit the tops, and let rise 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 375 F, and when it’s hot, pop in your dough (carefully so it doesn’t fall). Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown, and the bottoms thump when you tap them with your knuckles (yes, this will burn your hands – but that helps make you feel like a real baker!).

Now, the difficult part: You must let the bread rest and cool for at least half an hour – which is torture, because it smells delicious! But it’s very important to let it cool, so that it doesn’t become doughy and weird when cut.

Enjoy, with butter and local raw honey, or jam, or alongside stew, or torn off and dipped into cheesy fondue!

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Sourdough Bread (looking particularly artisan!)

A few variations:

  • Let the dough rise overnight and bake it early in the morning (a very baker thing to do!). This develops a distinct sour flavor, wonderful crustiness, and an artisan feel.
  • Use a quarter of the dough to make a medium-size pizza.
  • Make dinner rolls. Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Put into bread pans, for a sandwich bread look.
  • Form the dough into 5-6 inch rounds, bake, cool, then cut off the tops, scoop out the insides (useful for breadcrumbs or croutons!), and fill with clam chowder.

The possibilities are endless!

-Abigail-

Cogs & Gears: A Fairy Tale Month

A few days ago I told you all about my love of fairy tales, and how the genre inspires me, and exactly what I mean when I say “fairy tale” – which is complicated and interesting! Also, I directed you to our amazing “Fairy Stories” board on Pinterest (Check it out! It’s amazing! There are so many beautiful and unexpected pictures out there…). So – why all this talk of fairy tales?

Fairy Tales are my theme for this month. I’m working on editing my finished novel, which is a fairy tale. Etsy redesigned their shop site look, which I’m using as momentum to redesign my theme and “brand” – and since I’m “The Raisin Fairy,” what better look could I choose than a magical one? Plus, I decided to create a line of “Fairy Tale” Ephemeral Earrings. It’s all very exciting and wonderfully coherent. Have a look:

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My Fairy Tale – Reflecting on Curses

Remember when I told you about NaNoWriMo? There’s an easier, fun-themed version in April and July called CampNaNoWriMo, which has been dominating my life the last few weeks. A couple of years ago, I wrote (and finished! Yay!) a story of a cursed princess and an adventuring stable boy, whose paths fatefully cross. It’s called “Reflections – a Fairy Tale” and it’s full of magic and peril and perilous magic and romance and puns. And, since I wrote it longhand (with illustrations! those count as writing, right?), it has to be typed into a document to make it at all publishable. Excellent opportunity to edit and tidy up the storyline!

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The Raisin Fairy – Designing a New Look

I have lots of ideas for a new shop look. The Raisin Fairy is supposed to be about sugar and spice, and finding magic in the everyday. So originally I tried going with a brown and red color-scheme (still in place) – exactly the kinds of colors and motifs that make me happy in real life, but don’t exactly work on an Etsy shop. Instead, I might try drawing a little raisin fairy or something else magical, or possibly highlighting some of my products. So many options, so little time! Hannah and Sarah have both done beautiful things with their new shop designs, so I’m inspired to play a bit.

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Ephemeral Earrings – Castles and Magic and Keyholes and Such

And naturally I wanted to make some lovely earrings to match the theme. A little bit of beautiful paper, a few amazing die-cuts, embossing, beads, and a dash of magic – and there you are! They’re turning out stunning and enchanting, and will be up on my shop over the next week or two. I love them all – and I’m going to keep on experimenting with the idea even after my fairy-tale month is over.

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So – any ideas? What kind of fairy tale image should I put on my next set of earrings? Which Etsy shop design is your favorite? What was your favorite fairy tale growing up, or now?

-Abigail-

 

 

 

Friday Featured Favorites: A Few of My Favorite Things

I’ve been trying to look around at Etsy more, and check out new shops. Interestingly enough, the last couple of weeks I have literally found new shops. Some of them have opened in the last few months, so haven’t had much opportunity to sell anything.

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Well, I was trying to figure out if I wanted to mention some of these shops here, and when I saw the boxes, one of which is pictured on the left, from the Etsy shop aNewBeginning10131, I knew I had to feature this shop, among others.

What caught my eye with this shop is that, as some of you may know, I like painting boxes. So, when boxes were mentioned, I was curious what the shop had. And then there are flowers and pretty colors!

To be quite honest, besides my first thoughts of: “How pretty? Why didn’t I think of that? Wow, how did they do that? That looks really nice” I also thought: “They haven’t sold anything yet??!!!

Really, the boxes, among a few other things, sold here are so beautiful and fun, I have no doubt the owner, Laura, will be selling things soon.

So, here again is a link to her Etsy shop, aNewBeginning1013. Please, take a look! There’s a wide variety here and it’s lots of fun to look around.

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Another shop I ran across recently was SNSewingBoutique, with a dress from the shop featured on the left. Of course the first thing I noticed was that it was sewing shop, like mine – the second was that she has the same sewing machine we have.

I loved the dresses on this shop, owned by Susanna. The dresses are for girls made with fabric that’s really fun. The dress designs are really pretty and, as one person mentioned, the model is really cute.

Also on this shop are several beautiful and fun bags and wallets. They’re very nicely made and the fabric’s a lot of fun. They even have chevron!

Here again is a link to this beautiful Etsy shop, SNSewingBoutique. Please, check it out.

I really liked these two shops, but they are only two of the several shops I’ve run across recently. A couple other shops you may be interested in:

The beautiful Etsy shop called ElementalAddiction, where you can find some beautiful make-up, hand-mixed and clearly made with care.

And another shop, CountessZarah, who offers a beautiful and fun style with some lovely bracelets and fun scarves. There really is a lot of vivid life in this shop!

Well, like I said, these are a few shops I’ve discovered recently, so there may be more coming soon!

I hope you enjoy taking a look at these shops as much as I enjoyed finding them.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

  • Sarah

On Fairy Tales

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Urban magic

I’ve always loved fairy tales. The genre is the defining one of my literary appreciation, which is curious since I had no more exposure to fairy tales than the average American child: Disney princess movies, the odd story book, and an ancient Atari computer game which Mad-Libbed “Little Red Riding Hood.” Oh, and “Chronicles of Narnia.” But I loved the style and adventurousness so much that I made up my own fairy tales, and eventually searched out classics.

 

But here’s the thing: I mean something a little different by “fairy tale” than the tropes – “once upon a time,” sparkly princesses, perky fairy godmothers, and “follow your heart.” This is because I’ve read a few books that stretch my understanding, like “Look to the Lady” by Marjory Allingham and “Father Brown” by G.K. Chesterton and a few interesting essays by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald. These argue that fairy tales can be found in unexpected places. Here are a few parameters – a fairy tale should:

  • A walk in the woods:
    Be bold, be bold – but not too bold!

    Start with a normal, everyday situation where ordinary people are just going about their business.

  • Something extraordinary happens.
  • Have a very great evil threatening which must be fought.
  • Involve some kind of unusual effort – often a journey. Anyway, adventure of some kind.
  • Have goodness, in an unexpected place – something worth fighting for
  • Involve growth and change in the main character; often, how to use their wits, or courage, or love, or rediscovery of something good that was lost.
  • Usually end in the main character doing something extraordinary to fight the evil and reestablish good.
From a book "At the back of the north wind" by Jessie Wilcox Smith:
At the Back of the North Wind

And I think that covers it! A fairy tale doesn’t need to have magic, fairies, “True Love” or even “happily ever after” (although it helps, of course). By these criteria, I have discovered beautiful and amazing fairy stories in places you wouldn’t expect, like “Wall-E,” some mysteries, the book of “Esther,” and “Doctor Who.” I love all of these, as well as the classics.

 

Why all this talk of fairy tales? Well, they’re sort of my theme this month and I thought I’d explain my odd reasoning about them so you know what I’m talking about!

Here are a few titles to check out, if you want to explore fairy stories by my definition:

  • “Lady in the Water”
  • “Brave”
  • “MirrorMask”
  • “Doctor Who: Series 5”
  • “Kung Fu Panda” (3 especially)
  • “The Chronicles of Narnia”
  • “That Hideous Strength” (A “fairy story for adults”)
  • “The Princess and the Goblins” and “The Princess and Curdie”
  • “The Magic City”
  • “The Crime at Black Dudley”
  • “The Secret of Chimneys”

Narnia.:

Also, check out our totally awesome “Fairy Stories” Pinterest board. All of the pictures in this post come from there, and it might give you a bit more of an idea of what I mean!

Fight the Dragon:

A final thought from G.K. Chesterton: “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

-Abigail-

Friday Featured Thread

DSCN6296I’ll start off right away and say that this is probably one of the most important ‘Friday Featured…’ I’ll do. They’re usually pretty important to me, since I’m talking about a nice looking shop with fun items, but this is a little different, and I’d go so far as to say it’s essential for any Etsy or small (especially online) business owner to read. Of course, that makes it sound very important and slightly haughty, but I’ll be mentioning some pretty interesting tips here that I think a lot of people will find helpful. So, if you’re running a small business, or your self-employed or you know someone that is, please take a look!

A new discussion was started on the Etsy forums a few days ago, talking about some mistakes Etsy shop owners made that might help newcomers. Here’s a link to the discussion if you want to take a look.

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Abby, from FluffyPuppyQuilts  (an item from her shop is pictured on the left) mentioned some pretty classic mistakes, including not taking time over the photos of her items. She also mentioned spreading herself too thin by making too many things to sell, which it seems would be a very easy mistake to make.

The thing she mentioned that interested me was on shipping. She used to do flat rate, and now takes time to see what works best and usually ships first class. I found this interesting because I feel this isn’t one of my strong points.

Andrew, from the Etsy shop Theteepeeguy, mentioned that he should have dug deeper to see what people would buy online, since what they might buy in person is completely different. Also something I need to work on.

Sharon, who runs the shop MetalRocks, mentioned one of the most important tips. She said she used to work seven days a week for months and then years on end. She suffered a heart attack in 2014, and now takes time away from her shop.

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This was an interesting tip, because several other people commented on it. Most were in agreement, but a few mentioned that they were OK working seven days a week and taking small breaks throughout. It probably depends entirely on your own limits and happiness. Personally, I know I need to take a break, and here’s a link to a blog post I did on the subject.

Paulette, from dahliasoleil, tip was this: “The biggest mistake I made was charging prices that I would pay for something, instead of charging the market rates.” This is definitely something I’m working on.

Another tip I saw was the mistake people make in putting up twelve things and then giving up when they see little results, when there have been shops that have sold up to 10,000 sales.

Another thing mentioned was given by Osi from the Etsy shop MyDigitalDesignShop, when she mentioned her mistake was in trying to do a one-woman-show and running several shops on her own. I’m not at a point in planning on running any more shops, but I have often wondered if it would ever get too crazy.

Possibly one of the most important tips was given by Tina from HeartSmileFarms:First and foremost, don’t beat yourself up. Mistakes will happen.”

Well, as with most threads on Etsy, this one got pretty long, so I can’t possibly include all the advice given, even though there’s a lot of good stuff here. Here again is a link to the Etsy discussion.

Hope you all have a good weekend,  everyone!

  • Sarah

Cogs and Gears: New Look for My Shop

Hello everyone!

Just a little before the beginning of April, Etsy started sending out emails about how they where changing the shop layout for everyone’s shops, updating the look. I checked out what they had as an example, and I liked it. It looks crisp, modern and it’s even easier to navigate.

I had been thinking – and working on – updating the look of my shop a little, and so this came at a good time, giving me a little incentive to get a move on it. I can always use that!

So I got to work, whipping up a few ink drawings and filling them in with watercolors. Here are a couple pictures of the Little Dancy Ladies:

I liked how they turned out, and they were really easy to do, so I will definitely be doing a lot more of them. Actually, I have always drawn dancy ladies, in one way or another, but only recently have I added color to them like you see here. Here are two more:

Putting them together for the banner picture for the shop was interesting, and took a little rearranging, but I think it came out alright!

But really, the weird part was trying to get all of my updates to show up. They kept on getting stuck somewhere in the Etsy servers and nothing changed for a few days. But today, it did! (Just as I was about to ask a question from the Etsy forums too! Note to self: always check if the problem is still there before you ask for it to be fixed.) But I was so excited that it showed up that I had to show you guys the new look! So here it is!

The New Shop Look!

Also, I put in a few behind-the-scenes pictures on the about page, and updated the shop story.

I really like the new look and I can’t wait to keep adding to it. It really feels a lot more user friendly. But you’ll just have to check it out for yourself!

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One of my favorites – probably because I love the color of the dress!

 

Go check out Abigail’s and Sarah’s shops – hopefully they’ve got the updates actually working for them too. It didn’t work for them at first either!

Just for the fun of it, I’d like to see which of the Little Dancy Ladies is our blog reader’s favorite?

Do you like the new Etsy shop layout?

~Hannah

Saturday Random Recipe: Sourdough Biscuits

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A few weeks ago, I shared how to start your very own sourdough starter, and then gave you a recipe for waffles or pancakes to make with it. But… that was a few weeks ago. Since then, every week you have made nothing but waffles or pancakes until you’re getting a little tired of them (however delicious they were when you started out). So, here’s another scrumptious recipe to make, just to shake things up until a week or two from now when I give you the recipe for my favorite bread! But until then, enjoy these:

Sourdough Biscuits

  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sourdough starter

Whisk together the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter with a pastry blender. Add the sourdough starter and mix gently. (Don’t forget to feed your starter with a cup of white flour and a cup of water!)

Allow the dough to rise while you clean up a space on your table or counter and flour it, then turn the dough out and need it 10 times. (This makes it wonderfully flaky!) Pat or roll it out until it’s about a half inch thick (or up to 1 inch, if you want your biscuits tall), and then cut into 3-4 inch circles. Or, if you prefer (as my mom does), roll quite thinly, cut, and bake until crispy – a version we call biscuit-crackers.

Brush their tops with milk, and let rise for half an hour.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes about 12. (Perfect recipe for doubling!)

Serve with extra butter, local raw honey, a delicious berry spread, or alongside a cozy soup.