Bake

Monthly Archives: February 2013

Some Wins and Some Fails

So I had this fabulous plan for a post. I took great pictures, had husband help me, faithfully executed the experiment and ……FAIL!  I had read on the interwebz about using Kool-Aid to dye hair and I’ve been thinking about getting some tips done in purple and blue at a salon anyway so I thought, “Perfect!  I’ll get to try out the color and see if I like it!”  My hair is dark right now so I wasn’t expecting it to be vibrant like the professional grade would be but I was kind of hoping that it would show up a little bit.   I remembered dimly from my high school years that I had used food coloring to dye my hair successfully so I threw in some of that too.

I prepped the bathroom, gathered my supplies and dyed four sections of my hair trying variations to see what would work the best.

Grape Kool-Aid + Jojoba Oil = Nothing (smells nice though)

Mixed Berry Kool-Aid + Conditioner = Nothing (smells nice though)

Wilton Sky Blue + Conditioner = Nothing

Wilton Violet + Jojoba Oil + Conditioner (it wouldn’t make a paste with the oil) = A tiny tiny tiny tinge of purple.

I slept with foil on my hair and went to the bus stop this morning with my oldest looking like an idiot for NOTHING.  Sigh…I really want purple and blue hair.  Maybe I’ll try bleaching my hair a bit first next time…

DSCF6270

 

Anyway on to the Wins!  I went shopping yesterday and found some marvelous (to me) shoes!  I have very wide, thick feet.  It is very discouraging to try shoes on most places and especially in Target ( What, no one has fat feet Target? I beg to differ…)   But yesterday the Shoe Fairy must have been smiling on me cause I found not one, not two, but THREE pairs of shoes that fit the wide fatness of my foot!  Score!

 

I can’t wait till it warms up around here so I can wear them out and around with a skirt.  They will also be great for the beach when we go later this year. Yay!

Custom Candy Cupcake Garnish

The people my husband work for are really nice.  I mean really nice…like the kind of nice that might make you suspicious if you didn’t know they were genuine.  Example, one of the owners of his company bought me this:

image

Just because she thought I would like it…and we’ve never even met!  And she was right, I love it!

So as a thank you, I whipped up some vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and lemon curd filling.

image

As you know, I’m constantly on the hunt for garnishes that not only look cute but actually add to the flavor of the cake.  I love this garnish because the possibilities are endless.  Grab your favorite hard candy and an adorable cookie/fondant cutter and blammo – custom, edible cupcake topper that I guarantee will be eaten and not thrown away with the wrapper.

image

Here’s how you do it.

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut a small square of tin foil and brush with vegetable oil.

Choose your cookie/fondant cutters and liberally brush them with oil as well.  I’d say smaller is better for cupcakes, but what do I know.

Add 3-4 candies of your choice to the tin foil.  I wouldn’t recommend doing much more than this at a time because it will start to cool quickly once removed from the oven and be difficult to work with in large quantity.

image

Place on baking sheet and pop into the oven for 3-5 minutes – just until melted but before it starts to brown.

Remove from oven and immediately press your cookie cutters into the melted candy.  Obviously this will be very hot and the metal cutters will transfer the heat so use a spatula or pot holder to continue to press them into the mixture as it cools.

image

Allow to cool about 1 minute and then break off the excess candy around the cutter.  Pop out the candy shape and admire how adorable it is.  You will absolutely break some, so just be prepared and make extra.

image

So there it is – another simple, cute and tasty option to add to your garnish arsenal.  I know you have one.  And if you don’t, now is the time to start stockpiling people because I, for one, do not want to live in a world devoid of adorable cupcake garnishes.

image

Also, sorry for my extended absence.  I’ve been working through a week-long migraine that’s really been kicking my ass. I’m pretty sure I’m on the mend now and should be posting more regularly again.  I just can’t deprive my fans of my earth shattering baking genius for another week.

image

We Have a Baker Down! Repeat, We Have a Baker Down!

Hello everyone!  The title of this post is really dramatic but I promise it’s not so bad as that. Bake is just feeling a bit under the weather.  She’ll be back in fighting form in no time.  Meanwhile, I thought I’d post a bit about the home improvements in the Craft house.

We bought a 100+ year old shotgun house about 6 years ago.  Within a month of moving in the water line from the street to the house broke and (after flooding our front yard) had to be replaced.  It’s pretty much been going that way ever since.  We had to replace the rotten back entrance ( sliding doors now) and remove 2 ancient chimneys.  We insulated under part of the house and plumbed in a dishwasher (yay!).  We removed a giant sand pit that was in the back yard (was supposed to be for a hot tub at some point, but became the neighborhood litter box)  and made it into a brick patio.  We put in raised beds in the front and back and had a dangerous black walnut tree removed (take that, bastard squirrels!)  Repainted our bedroom (twice now, yellow and then grey) New floor, new paint, new crown in the kitchen. Installed shelving in the unusable closets. New paint and crown in the bathroom.  It sounds like a lot when you type it all out like that.

Most recently, we laid new flooring  and I have to say I like it a lot.  It’s pretty durable and didn’t need any special tools or extra hands to lay in.  It’s this brand of flooring.

It really lightened the place up. The old floor was so dark, especially since we don’t get a lot of light from the windows.

Once we had new floors it didn’t make sense to leave everything else old and shabby so we (and by “we”, I mean ME) began hunting through paint chips and trying to figure out something that suited our tastes but remained neutral enough to sell (if hubby gets a new posting in a year or two). Before we could even start on that we had to repair the 100+ yr old PLASTER and LATHE walls………I hate plaster walls and our house has many original plaster walls. I tried out lots of paint samples (does everyone love those as much as I do?) and finally settled on Stucco from Sherwin Williams.  I have to say I like their paint a lot.  The low VOC line is awesome and it covers so well.  Pricey but worth it to me.

The plan is to bring in accent colors like corals and turquoises and bright whites on picture frames and art pieces to break up the beigeness of it but also be removeable in event of selling it.  I’ve got some ideas for some shadowbox like shelves painted in the accent colors, stuff like that.

The windows are really tall and face the house next door (very little space between houses).  I’m planning on covering the bottom( the top has Wisteria Artscape cling on it right now) with some sort of window film or art project and leaving the top open to let in more light.  I used to have cafe curtains (one of my first sewing projects) up but they won’t be coming back.  We painted the trim around the windows bright white and tried to clean them as much as we could, the frames are original to the house and probably over 100 yrs old or so.  There are two of these about three feet apart on the same wall.

DSCF6213

We finally put crown molding up too. It really balances the room to have the tall molding up there.  Our ceilings are really tall so we used the widest pre-made crown we could find.  Painted it bright white too before we hung it.  We have a bit more caulking (it sounds so rude to say that word out loud) to do and then that part is done.

DSCF6215

Last night we rented a door planer and tried to fix the door frames to our pantry (littlest door) and coat closet (bigger door).  It worked…mostly.  We had to sand out some roughness (a.k.a. gouges) and stuff but it still looks better than it did.  These will get some primer and then some bright white.

The doors of these closets might just be getting painted in the accent colors, sorta like this:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-vncFf51HmS0/T1zjW2QKijI/AAAAAAAACB8/GZIHfcB1L98/s1600/Finished.jpg

 

I haven’t decided yet.

Now that this room is all shiny and new it makes me realize how awful the front room is.  Next on the list, I suppose. We also have some big plans (that may involve tearing down walls) for the children’s tiny bedroom (and weirdly shaped completely unusable closet).  Husband is trying to back out on these plans so we’ll see if they get executed.  Stay tuned for more home improvement updates!

Fabri-holics (Not So Anonymous)

Hiya!  I’ve been trying hard lately to use fabric from the stash and not go to the fabric shop unless I had a (very) specific fabric in mind.  I’ve been doing really good too. Until Friday…..I seem to have binged just a teensy bit..

I purchased this very fluid/drapey green knit to make some shirts out of.  I haven’t sewn many garments for myself and no shirts lately so we’ll see how that works out.

DSCF6155

These 2 faux silks are for an embroidery project I have simmering in the back of my mind, more on that later.

DSCF6202

Two more sweet flannels to add to my baby gift stash.

DSCF6167

Some beautiful kona cotton in a familiar shade of blue.  Special project planned for this one.

DSCF6172

 

And then a whole lot of sweet dots and chevrons that are just perfect for quilt binding or ruffles or just staring at….(seriously, loving these prints).

DSCF6193

 

DSCF6194

DSCF6197

DSCF6198

 

Sadly, I can’t play with any of my new lovelies because we are doing this (finally)

DSCF6149

 

Painting and putting in crown molding.  We really don’t have too much left to do. Yay!

 

Last Minute Minis

It’s the same story every year.

“Let’s not get each other anything.”

And then I walk downstairs to find this:

photo(6)

So, in a fury I whipped up these sweet little cuppies and with the help of google found some adorable free printables that totally saved my ass.

photo 3(1)

I used my go to chocolate cupcake and cream cheese frosting recipes and used pink candy melts for the garnish.

Adorable printable treat box found here.

photo 1

Printable card and envelope found here.

photo 2

Voila!  Valentine’s Day in a flash.

photo 3

Now off to make the house and myself presentable.  Cheers!

Kitty Quilt

This will be a picture heavy post.  I finally finished the Kitty Quilt!  Yay!  This is a baby gift for a new little girl but it wouldn’t be too hard to do a similar one for boys.

DSCF6037 DSCF6039

I thought I’d put my quilt process into this post.  I haven’t posted many quilts on the blog yet but I’ve done a fair few and I am not a traditional quilter.  I don’t generally do patchwork.  I prefer big solid backgrounds and detail applique and embroidery work.  Those are the ideas that seem to come to me so I go with them.

So for this quilt I was thinking of kitties looking out a window at evening time. The background is a soft greyish-purple and the window pane lines are just some purchased bias tape in grey.  I hunted around online and found some kitten silhouettes that I liked and resized them till they suited me, traced and cut them out of different fabrics.


The moths were a lot of fun to do.  Same process as the kittens. Found silhouettes online, resized till satisfied and cut them out of flannel stitched them down leaving a little edge free so they would fray gently and look fuzzy like real moths do.  I added a bit of hand embroidery to make them pretty.

 

With the top done I had to pick out something for the back and binding (always the hardest parts for me).  The back is a light grey polka dot and the binding is a seer-sucker type fabric with green and purple and aqua pin-stripes running through it.  I made the binding with this tutorial.  I’ve used a lot of bias tutorials but I really like this one.  It’s easy to understand and requires very little measuring (score!) You can also use it very effectively with different amounts of fabric.

DSCF5993

Okay, we got the finished top and the batting and back ready to rock.  Lay out your backing fabric on a flat surface, I use my floor.

Tape the corner and sides of the piece, gently stretching it to get it nice and flat.

DSCF5938

Spread your batting over the back and cut it to the size you like.  I always use Warm and Natural brand.  I love how easy it is to work with and how warm it is.  It doesn’t shift around while you quilt and is easy to piece if you have to.  Using this batting, I have never really needed the extra 4 inches around the edges that all the quilt tutorials recommend.  I also don’t quilt a crazy amount on my quilts so maybe that’s why I haven’t needed the extra on the edges.  Anyway, smooth out the wrinkles and then tape the corners and sides of that too.

DSCF5940

Next, put the quilt top on it and baste it with a few safety pins.  Another nice thing about this batting is you won’t need nearly as many pins for this part.

 

Take it to the machine and quilt it.  For this one I just quilted on the lines that were there from sewing down the window panes.  I started out doing it the “right way” beginning in the middle and sewing down and then coming back to the middle and sewing the opposite way.

Yeah, that didn’t last long.  I just started on an end and zipped all the way down the binding, skipping over cross pieces, repeating that for the rest of the panes. It worked out just fine this way.

DSCF5966

 

Finished with the quilting, I trimmed the edges to prepare it for binding.

 

I used the binding just like purchased binding, sewing it down in one swoop (I don’t hand stitch it).  At the corners, stop before the end and backstitch.  Fold the binding over and hold it or pin it in place and continue stitching it down.

DSCF5998

Joining the ends is tricky for me and hard to explain so no pics of that.  You’ll figure it out.

 

The other blankets are just like the last ones I posted, one yard flannels serged on the edges and one of them with a crocheted edge.

 

The softie is an original. It’s made out of fleece with embroidery for the features, fused on felt for the ears and a bit of ribbon for the collar.  All baby safe.

DSCF6075 DSCF6080

 

I drafted it from these kitties:

DSCF6081

I’ve misplaced my pattern or I would post it for you.  Whew!  I think that’s the end of this post, any questions?

 

Stirred Vanilla Custard Parfaits

image

As you know, my oven is in critical condition.  The diagnosis is good but we’re still a few days out on a full recovery. Since going a week without dessert is not an option, I was forced outside of my comfort zone and onto the stovetop.  My relationship with the stovetop is what you might call hot and cold (get, it?).  In my experience, the stovetop is susceptible to erratic behavior – not like my solid, dependable oven – but unpredictable can yield some exciting results and there is no denying the appeal of an open flame.

I will say the road to sweet, creamy custard perfection was not an easy one.  I won’t get into the gory details, but just do me a solid and skip the double boiler on this one.  I know there is a perception out there that stay at home moms have all the free time in the world but suffice it to say, spending an hour at the stove is a luxury I can’t afford.  It is,however, called stirred custard for a reason.  The stirring is essential and you are going to have to babysit this one.  Sorry, no texting while cooking.

image

My first attempt at the caramelized sugar garnish was also depressingly bad and spawned a stomp out of the kitchen kind of meltdown.  Literally, all you do is boil sugar and water and I botched it somehow.  The sugar simply didn’t caramelize. I had it on the burner for 45 minutes and it barely turned a sad, pale yellow color.  My words of wisdom – reduce the amount of water and crank the heat.  Also in complete juxtaposition to the custard, you do not want to stir this at all.  Trust me, resist the urge.  I don’t understand it, but its science.  With this approach, my second go round produced beautiful, golden caramel in about 10 minutes.

These petite custard parfaits are pint sized perfection and can be paired with just about anything.  Garnish them like you would your favorite ice cream sundae and its sure to be a win.

image

Stirred Vanilla Custard Parfait
2 & 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons corn starch
2-3 medium bananas (optional)
Heath milk chocolate toffee bits (optional)
Whipped cream (optional)

In a small bowl whisk together 1/4 cup of whole milk and egg yolks, set aside.

Add sugar, cornstarch and salt to heavy bottom saucepan and whisk to combine.  Add in the remaining 2 cups of milk and 3/4 cup cream a little at a time whisking until smooth.  This will help prevent lumps from forming.  Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat proof spatula.  Scrape the bottom and sides of the pan as you stir to ensure it is thoroughly mixed.  Scoop some of the hot pudding mixture into your bowl of egg yolks and whisk rapidly.  Repeat this two times.  This is called tempering the eggs and it keeps them from curdling in the pan.  Add egg yolk mixture back into saucepan and reduce heat to medium low.  Continue stirring until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of spatula – about 3-5 minutes.

At this point, if you feel your mixture is lumpy you can strain it through a fine mesh sieve.  If not, just transfer it to a mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Press the wrap directly onto the surface off the custard to prevent skin from forming.

Allow to refrigerate at least two hours.

image

Layer custard, chopped bananas, Heath Bits, and whipped cream in single serve parfait dishes or larger trifle dish for sharing with two…or three if you’re into that sort of thing.  I also added some crushed caramel pieces for color and crunch.

image

Feel free to substitute any toppings you wish.  I made these with strawberries and crumbly streusel topping.

image

You can also go super simple and just serve with some fresh fruit in a cute dish:

image

Caramelized Sugar Garnish
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
Pinch of salt

Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Bring all ingredients to a simmer over medium high heat.  Do not stir!!  Allow it to continue to simmer until it reaches a golden amber color – about 4-6 minutes after it comes to a boil.  Remove pan from stove.

Using a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula, drizzle the hot caramel on the parchment paper.  There is no wrong way to do this, go nuts!  Just make sure you get plenty of intersecting lines so the shape stays together.  Once cool, you can break off small pieces to garnish your custard!

image

For those of you who aren’t stovetop challenged like me, this really is a simple dessert with a fancy facade.  It’s easy enough to be whipped up last minute but sure to impress even the snootiest of dinner guests.

image

Baby Blankets and Stuff

Hello!  I finished a few of those projects I mentioned so I get to blog about them!

First up is the Dotted baby blanket trio.  When I make gifts for babies I like to include receiving blankets.  Not only are they easy (and cheap) they are always needed.  I don’t care how many you have, it is inevitable that you will wish you had one more.  So I round up the cutest flannels I can get my hands on and purchase them when they go on sale (2.99 a yd usually) .  I start with a whole yard of the material.  The bigger the better, you can use them longer that way. After washing and serging the edges it ends up just a bit under a yard.

DSCF5859

DSCF5816        DSCF5819

The bigger blanket is green and I have crocheted an edge on it to make it a little fancier. It adds a little bit of handmade love to the gift and is super easy to do (tutorial here). Plus,  I love having handwork to do when I want to be lazy and watch Netflix.  Makes me feel like I’m getting work done even while I’m slacking. The one here is a little different than the tutorial.  I used a thicker cotton yarn and fleece fabric.  Fleece is a bit harder to edge crochet than flannel, you’ll need to go through and pierce the fabric first (use the little crochet hook from the tutorial for this) and then come back through with the thicker yarn and a bigger hook.  I finished this one while watching the Super Bowl.

 

 

Next set is Sea themed,  3 blankets and a softie.

DSCF5820

I did the same crochet pattern around the mermaid flannel using a pearlized cotton embroidery thread and the small hook.

DSCF5822

DSCF5823

I’ve had the other two flannels in my stash for a couple of years and just now brought myself to use them for something.  I love the tiny pink whales!  Too cute!

DSCF5832

 

The softie is from the book Wee Wonderfuls.  I’ve only made a few things from it but I do love the designs in it. The mermaid turned out really cute and I hope she’ll get lots of love when the baby is older.

DSCF5841

DSCF5837

 

Last thing is a sneak peak on a not yet complete project that is all original.

DSCF5856 DSCF5853

 

More on that when I get it finished.  That’s the news for now, see ya!

Exploding Ovens and Lemon Cheesecake

My oven exploded this weekend.  It wasn’t in use at the time and thankfully we weren’t even in the same room.  Luckily, my husband was here to witness it as well.  I can just imagine trying to prove my innocence on this one…the scene of the crime covered in my fingerprints, recent increase of baking activity, dirty apron found stuffed in a drawer.  It wasn’t me, I tells ya!  You got the wrong girl!!image

RIP oven.  You were taken from us far too soon and you will be missed dearly.

I was able to get two last baking projects out of her before she kicked the bucket – both with a lemon theme.  Why? Because it’s been snowing for 6 weeks straight, and lemon makes me think of happy summer times, and its my blog and I can do what I want.  The one I’ll be sharing with you today combines a lemon sauce with a vanilla cheesecake and a Girl Scout Cookie crust – how could you possibly go wrong!  Also, it’s tiny!

image

Speaking of tiny, the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin are no joke.  I saw two mini scouts trudging through snow and single digit weather peddling their goods door to door.  But these people are like Inuits, winter weather doesn’t seem to phase them. Look out your window in the dead of winter and it might as well be a beautiful spring day; people jogging, walking dogs, pushing baby strollers.  Meanwhile, I’m layered up and shivering inside!  It’s just in their blood I suppose.

image

The crust
6-8 Lemonades Girl Scout cookies, crushed
4-5 tablespoons melted butter

Combine cookie crumbs and butter in a small mixing bowl.  Press mixture into bottom of 12 paper liners.  I used these baking cups from Paper Eskimo.  They provide a perfectly circular, ridge free look to the cheesecakes.  This may seem like a wasteful use of really cute baking cups but I’m just not a huge fan of the way cupcakes look in them.  Refrigerate the crusts while you make the filling.

The cheesecake
2 – 8 ounce packages of full fat cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

In a large mixing bowl beat the cream cheese on low speed until creamy and smooth.  Add the sugar and salt and beat until combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and sour cream and beat until incorporated.  Remove the crusts from the refrigerator and evenly divide the filling among the 12 muffin cups.

Bake for about 18 – 22 minutes or until firm but the centers of the cheesecakes still wobble a little.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack.  Let cool and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

image

The lemon curd sauce
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in double boiler over medium heat.  Whisk continuously until mixture thickens and can coat back of a spoon.  This is kind of a slow process.  You will be whisking for what seems like forever.  Place in refrigerator to cool completely.  Once cool, you can thin the curd to desired consistency by adding additional lemon juice and stirring.  Transfer thinned mixture to squeeze bottle.

image

The garnish
1 large organic lemon
1 cup of sugar plus extra for coating

Remove the peel of the lemon using a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler trying to avoid the white pith as much as possible.  You can cut into small vertical strips or remove larger portion of peel to cut out shapes.  Once you have your peel removed, using a sharp knife shave off as much pith as possible.  Using mini cookie cutters or fondant cutters, cut out desired shape.  It’s tough to push through the peel but you’ll get it.

image

Add the peel and 1 cup of cold water to saucepan.  Bring to boil and allow to simmer for 30 seconds.  Drain peels and repeat this process two more times then remove the peels from the pan and set aside.

Measure 1 cup of sugar into the pan and add 1/2 cup water, whisking until the sugar dissolves.  Add the peels and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the peels are tender and translucent, 10 to 15 minutes.  Drain the peels and place on drying rack to cool.

Add some sugar (roughly 1/4 cup) to a bowl.  You can add a drop of yellow food coloring to the sugar to make the color of the garnish more vibrant.  Toss the candied lemon in the sugar and tap of the excess.  Store in airtight container.

Assembly
You can assemble this baby cake any way you want but here are a couple of options:
Squeeze some lemon sauce onto a plate in an esthetically pleasing way.  Place cheesecake onto sauce and add candied lemon peel on top.  Add a couple of sweet swirls of homemade whipped cream.

Or…swirl some whipped cream on top, drizzle the lemon sauce over and add the candied lemon peel garnish.

image

Just look at how teensy it is!

This would be a really cute dessert for a springtime luncheon, a baby shower or when you’re looking for a little pick me up in the dead of a seemingly never ending winter.

A Little Monday Envy…

Today is Bake’s birthday!  Happy Birthday, dear Bake!  I do hope her package reaches her today because this time I actually mailed it before the date. She get’s today off posting so you’re stuck with me.

I have no crafting to share even though  I’ve been busy, really, I swear.    I have 3 separate projects going on at this moment. And I’m not finished with any of them so I can’t blog about them….So I have a bit of  fantasy wish list to share instead.  We all do this ( don’t we?)  Make up lists of things we love and wish we had but are too impractical, expensive, or weird to admit to or ever purchase?  Well, here is a little snippet of mine.

 

Craft’s Wanty List

 

  1. Baby Lock Ellisimo Gold sewing machine.  BEAUTIFUL.  No other words, none.
    BLSOG_1_lrg
  2. Chaise lounges.  I love them.  The fancier, the better.  Like this one:
    product_chaise_lounge
  3. Sweet little beach cottages. Not too fancy, just big enough for two and right on the sand.  Heaven.

    beachhouse

  4. A crafting room of my own.  Anything with a door on it would be great but something like this would be awesome.

    room6

  5. Roses. Specifically, roses that grow like trees and smell really good.  I have a few small roses around but nothing as lush as this.

    rosetree

    There you have it.  A peek into the mind of Craft as seen through a sampling of the things she desires.   Have a good day!