As anyone who lives in the Cambridge, MA area and has even the faintest interest in knitting—or a general appreciation for those one-of-a-kind shops that give a place character—already knows, a tragedy has struck Harvard Square. Woolcott and Co is no more. Let’s just say that I was more than a little devastated when I first heard. This place was my yarn haven through my four undergraduate years—but like any good yarn store, it was even more than that. It was an oasis for the soul, a needed retreat whenever academia-induced anxiety became too much to handle. Even though my life is a lot less stressful these days, it will be badly missed.
If there’s a possible bright side to this dismal development, it’s the fact that a closing yarn store means a massive sale on all fiber, sample knits, books, and notions. So to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation, and to say one last ‘thank-you’ to my beloved yarn store, I took advantage.
First of all, I bought this hilarious sample scarf. I’d always admired it every time I went into the store—it’s sort of Dr. Seuss-like, and I’ve been told that I dress like a Dr. Seuss character more than once. (I take this a compliment).
I also loaded up on Cascade Eco which is already inexpensive so I basically got it for free:
Sometimes yarn shopping is impulsive and done without any real end goal in mind. But I have plans for this lovely addition to my yarn stash (which, believe it or not, has been diminishing thanks to some diligent scrap knitting). I’ve already finished my Funnel Neck Pullover from Classic Elite Yarn’s “Weekend” pattern book, and I’m already eager to make another.
I used the called-for yarn, Kumara, which is lovely and soft. In fact, I’m pretty much in love with this sweater in every possible way. Designer Pam Allen is a genius. It’s slightly shaped at the hip, has this lovely cowl neck (though I think I’ll make it a bit looser next time with the next size up needle) and bubbly sleeves. You may have noticed that, for me, this sweater is shockingly… monochromatic. It must be because a design this fabulous speaks for itself. Then again, I plan on using my newly acquired, bubblegum pink yarn for the next one. You know my philosophy; find something you love, and make it in as many different colors as possible. Sometimes I’m a lot more productive than I expect—thank you, OCD, type-A personality—but I seriously don’t expect this one to go quite as quickly since holiday gift making has been taking up lots of time. Anyway, it’s always nice to acquire some new yarn—even better when you know exactly how you will put it to good use—but sad to lose Woolcott. I wish their former employees the best of luck in their future knitting endeavors.
On an unrelated note, I have a new holiday season habit: sweet loaves. I’m a bit addicted. They’re the perfect mid-morning snack, the perfect evening treat—not exactly low-cal, I realize, but a little extra insulation for the winter never hurt. It all began with that wonderful gingerbread, and continued this week with a new take on that recipe: pumpkin bread. Pureed pumpkin is wonderful for baking since it stays moist for quite some time—but it needs a fair amount of sugar to coax out its flavor. At least the whole wheat flour gives this cake-like bread the pretense of being somewhat healthy.
(Try it with fig spread and eggnog whipped cream)
- 1 cup pureed pumpkin
- ¾ cup honey
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsps ground cinnamon
- 2 tsps pumpkin pie spice
- ¾ cups brown sugar
- 2 cups milk
Beat together the pumpkin, honey, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and sugar. Add the dry ingredient mixture to the pumpkin mixture, alternating it with the milk.
Pour the batter into a greased 13″ x 9″ x 2″ baking pan, or two 9″ x 5″ loaf pans. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. It can be tricky to tell with pumpkin, since it’s very moist and slightly gooey. You may need to cut about an inch into the center with a knife; once it has a bread-like texture, it’s good to go, even if it still looks a bit wet—and it will firm up a bit as it cools.
This is another good one for dunking in eggnog–or, even better, eggnog whipped cream. I’ve also been slathering it with fig spread for an additional hint of sweetness.
As for yeast breads, I did a very little bit of fiddling with last week’s eggnog bread to make a cinnamon raisin loaf. I discovered that if you go easy on the cinnamon, it still works wonderfully in a savory sandwich (try it with turkey, any soft cheese, and sliced apples):
Savory Cinnamon Raisin Loaf
- 1 package active dry yeast
- ¾ cups warm water (100-110 degrees F)
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- ¼ cup milk, room temperature
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp white sugar
- ¾ cups whole wheat flour
- ½ cup raisins
- 1½-2 cups bread flour (I used whole wheat bread flour, but white would work as well)
Add the yeast to the warm water, gently stir, and allow to proof until foamy. This usually takes about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the vegetable oil, milk, and sugar in a medium bowl. Once the yeast has proofed, add it to the milk mixture. Mix in the whole wheat flour and raisins. Add the bread flour slowly until you have a firm dough that can be kneaded by hand. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 5-7 minutes, until it is slightly sticky and elastic in texture.
Place the dough in a greased bowl. Preheat your oven for one minute, then turn it off. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and place the bread inside the oven. Allow to rise for about 45 minutes, or until it has doubled in size. Knead the dough for about 3-5 minutes and shape into a bread loaf.
Place the loaf on a greased pan—again, I like using La Cloche. Cover the loaf and return it to the oven, allowing it to rise for another 30 minutes, or until it has doubled in size. Remove the bread from the oven, preheat it to 350 degrees F, and bake the loaf for about 40 minutes. If you use La Cloche, remove the lid after 30 minutes.
Ah, fresh warm bread. I just can’t get enough.
Oh, and I almost forgot. I’m behind on my nine-patch updates but I’ve made a couple new ones.
The first one is celebratory since it was made in honor of my sister’s 21st birthday which turned into quite the occasion. My brother’s birthday is actually the next day, but he’s off at Princeton so I had to send my birthday wishes from afar. The second nine-patch… I can’t really explain it, except that it fit my mood at the time. What can I say? Sometimes fabric speaks for itself.