Sunday, 13 January 2008

Going to a blog party!

I’ve been reading blogs for some time, and thinking about writing my own for a little while, too, but I never realised until I started actually taking part that there could be a real sense of community among bloggers. Blog 'events' are easier than real life ones - you can invite yourself, 'attend' from your own living room, and then share in the glow of meeting new people without the hangover and the taxi fare home. I have discovered all this this week, after stumbling on a reference to Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness monthly cocktail parties. It looks as though they’ve attracted a bit of a following, and judging by the ‘attendance’ they’re pretty desirable events. The way they work is that hostess Stephanie issues an invitation to a themed canapé and cocktail party, for which people then send in photos of their contributions. Once all the guests have sent in their offerings, Stephanie draws her party together with a little background music and description, and then introduces everyone.

It was a lucky chance that the first time I stumbled across one of these invitations, the themes was ‘veggie’. ‘Perfect’, I thought. The trouble was that there were too many things I had on my list of things I wanted to make, and I also had to bear in mind that they be photogenic (so far, not my strong point. What on earth possessed me to place Kiwi Sis’s cake on a 70s-green plate??). What clinched my choice of offering was a recipe I found on Baking Bites blog for home-made bagels. I’ve been trying to experiment and get better at bread making for some time, and now have a little repertoire of grainy breads I like to make for toast and sandwiches. I’ve tried bagels once or twice and have always found that they turn out rather small and dense - think hockey puck rather than New York deli. This recipe, however, promised to be fool-proof, and there were lots of handy tips posted by other readers in the comments. I resolved to try it.

I was really pleased with the results. I followed all the hints and tips in the comments (keep the water at a gentle boil; don't incorporate too much extra flour when knocking back; add a little sugar to the boiling water; check the temperature of the water in the mix) and the dough did rise much better than I've found before. I wonder if usually I use water that's too cool for fear of killing the yeast; this time I measured the temperature and I think it was hotter than usual (can't be sure because when I accidentally knocked the sugar thermometer I realised that the card marked with the calibrations happily jiggled about with no regard for accuracy). Anyway, all this resulted in some bagels which were actually worthy of the name. I have so far tried them warm straight from the oven with jam, toasted in my beloved George Formby grill (as The Scientist calls it after Munchkin Granny got confused between her heavyweight boxers and her ukelele players), and buttered to accompany soup. They were all great. I learnt what it was to kvell.

Ok, so the next stage was crafting the canapes themselves. I had planned to do a platter of mini bagels with toppings, but the bagels had risen so nicely that they no longer looked very canape-like. I think I'd be quite alarmed if I was offered a whole lunch serving as a canape, and might feel the pressure to match it in drinks (which given my tolerance for alcohol would be briefly amusing and then messy). So I had a quick revision of the plan and made bagel chips instead.

Bagel chips are very easy: just finely slice the bagel and then bake them with a haze of cooking spray, in a medium oven for about 15-20 mins. Watch them to check they don't burn, and turn over when they look crispy on the first side. You could also add herbs, garlic or cheese, which I think would be v nice indeed. I realised at this stage that I had got so carried away with the bagels that there was no actual specifically veggie content to my canape (perhaps you're thinking I'm taking this all a bit seriously, but it was my very first blog party and I didn't want to embarrass myself). So I got creative with the ingredients we had in the fridge, and conjured up some black bean tomato salsa, and some marinated mushrooms with sour cream and chives (mushrooms cooked gently in marsala and soy sauce). Phew - that turned into a very long-winded story. This is what the platter looked like (beautifully presented on Scientist Sister's house-warming present - thank you very much!):

The party invite also asked for a cocktail, and there I had no hesitation, and a complete disregard for what might actually go with the food. The Scientist had recently given me a rather fancy looking bottle of chocolate-orange liqueur which I haven't tried yet. So I served that up over ice in one of our new brandy glasses (neither of us drinks brandy but I love their satisfyingly bulbous shape. I'll drink fruit cordial out of them if necessary).

So there we are. The party takes place next Saturday, so I'm just hoping that Stephanie likes my offering. The Scientist took care of the actual bagel chips (all of them in one go, which I took to be a good sign).

In my customary postscript news, I have actually spoken to Kiwi Sis in person! I was so excited. This also means that the Munchkin himself can feature for the first time here: he is settling in well, loves the sun and the local ducks, but is sorry to have lost the sheep from their initial farm-stay rental. He can now also baaaa. What a love.


Ilana said...

i think your canapes and cocktail are very beautiful, and the shadows are very artistic


Lysy said...

That's very sweet, thank you, especially coming from someone much more proficient than me at photography! I might have to ask you for a mini masterclass at the weekend

LisaRene said...

Wow, you went all out making bagels from scratch and then bagel chips from the bagels. What a lot of hard work, but it looks worth it!


Lysy said...

I can recommend the recipe - it was really fun and they taste great! I've just been over to look at what you brought to the party and they look truly amazing - can't wait to try a few of them!

Pixie said...

Bagels are high on our list of things to cook next!

Ivy said...

Hi, please join me in for those photography lessons. Your bagels look great, this is a challenge I would really like to try one of these days.

Lysy said...

You should go for it - as well as tasting great they will make your kitchen smell SO nice! I turned up my nose at the artificial (though enticing) smell of fresh-baked bread in the supermarket today.