Wednesday, December 26, 2012

She's Three!

note: there are two cameras being used here, which is why the colors are different in the photos. THIS photo accurately reflects how. darn. pink. this sweater really is.
My favorite niece turned the big THREE recently, and to celebrate, her mom made her a Minnie Mouse cake. (Pink.) This was the big request.

She's into pink right now, which is also why the sweater I made her is...wait for SO pink, might I add.

The news is this: I haven't seen this favorite niece since she turned one (one! remember?) and that just stinks. SO. In about a month Joe and I are flying to our homeland to attend numerous baby showers/festivities/proclivities with our families, and in attendance will be my awesome sister and her super awesome (two years older) daughter. Huzzah! Family fun time win.

pink sweater

But back to the sweater. This sweater is called the "Baby + Toddler Tiered Coat and Jacket" and is a pattern of the lovely lady Frogginette, who apparently speaks a lot more French than I do. You can buy this pattern online for $5, but the way to get to it is through ravelry, which you need an account to access, but it's free, and trust me, if you are a yarn person you should already be a member. But I digress.  (In totally unrelated news, I just realized that the lovely Frogginette also designed the sweater pattern (the Baltic Baby Sweater) with which I will be knitting my two unborn children their first sweaters. Apparently this woman has great style and taste. As do I.) Okay. Enough with the obscure linking.

The sweater is fun and simple to make. I mean, simple in the sense that if you are me you will still have to frog large sections of it more than once, but that is just par for the (perfectionist's) course. Finish the thing off with butterfly buttons, and you're golden.
back of said pink sweater

Note to the reader (who probably doesn't even care): I actually blocked this sweater. This is new for me. I am usually too busy/lazy to bother. But the collar is supposed to fold over, and it just wasn't going to do that without some assistance. So there. I can block. I can be patient. (sort of. the truth is that the blocking set me back two days in drying time, even with the big fan pointed at it--why does it take so long to dry?!?!--and now the present is late for the birthday. bah.)

wet sweater blocking

Hopefully it will arrive in Alaska soon, and hopefully it will fit, and hopefully the pink will not be too pink but will be the right amount of pink.

And hopefully miss Anika, now three, will make the sweater that much more adorable, and hopefully she will forgive me for making her clothes every year. (I promise that I bought her toys for Christmas.)

Happy birthday, sweet Anika! I hope your Minnie cake was everything you dreamed of, and I hope this year treats you well.


Monday, November 26, 2012

While I was away...

I was building two humans. (I guess I still am.)

That's right! I'm pregnant. With twins. (I put party hats on them so you could tell what you're looking at. Ultrasounds are hard. It's much easier to photograph babies when they're out of the womb.)

They are currently 18 weeks and two days old, and my belly has started protruding, lest I wished to keep this news to myself. You can't see my belly from where you sit, so you'll have to trust me.

In the meantime, I've been throwing up and knitting and sleeping and attending multifaceted doctors' appointments. Lots of them.

Comes with a free wish.

I also made this cake again for Thanksgiving. But really, that's all I've done.

Actually, now that I look back, I've done a number of crafty things.
silk fibers + something I wrote down = fabric

Thing one: I flew to Minneapolis (before I was pregnant...) and took a two day be so crafty with fabric class with my mother and sister.

this cake gets around.
Thing two: While in MSP, we made this cake again. (It's a theme.)

Thing three: I crafted a felt belt and hat and was a garden gnome for Halloween.

Thing four: the knitting. (It's a surprise for one of my favorite small people who is about to turn three!)

Okay, that's really all. I swear.

Over and out.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Battenberg or How I Came to Make Marzipan

YUM. And so pretty, am I right?

Took the month of June off from the Daring Bakers, mostly because I was too busy to bother, and when I logged in last week and saw what I missed, I knew I had to immediately correct my course.

Back. On. Course.

Blog checking lines: Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge!  She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

marzipan ball. see the white stuff? that's powdered sugar!

Mostly because this recipe allowed me to make my own marzipan. (You can too! Click here.)

I thought--gee, you can make that? And then immediately felt stupid because, yes, you can make almost all the things you can also buy prepared. Some--like butter--are probably more work than they're worth. Marzipan? I was willing to find out.

marzipan: rolled out and ready

It's worth it, folks. At least, if you're me, and you have half a bag of almond flour sitting around the house left over from this delicious dare, and you gaze longingly at the marzipan in the baking isle every time you're at the grocery store but refuse to drop $8 to buy it.

A little bain-marie, a little whisking, and you've got marzipan! (And the dogs each get an egg yolk. Dog score!)

I also must admit, my favorite part of this process was the kneading-it-like-bread-dough process, for which you use POWDERED SUGAR instead of flour! How great is that!?!? You can actually lick your hands clean when you're done.

But back to the challenge: the Battenberg. A cake with a checked pattern, for which there are special pans you can buy that feature four segments. For the purposes of this challenge, I did not buy a new special pan. Instead I ghetto-rigged a non special pan with tin foil, like so:

Tin foil. Not just for leftovers.

The first Battenberg cake was made to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Victoria, to her Prince Louis of Battenburg. The checkered yellow and pink squares symbolize the four princes of Battenberg. How quaint, yes?

ready for the oven. sorry for the blur.

The cake is flavored with almond, which is to say, it has ground up almonds in it, which makes the cake quite toothsome and delicious. It's a simple sponge cake that's assembled and glued together using apricot jam and then the whole thing is covered in marzipan--more almonds. 

Out of the oven. Brown and smelling amazing.

For those of you following along at home, you know that almonds are my favorite of all the baking nuts and flavors. 

Trimming. See the edges in the background? You get to eat these as you go!


freshly rolled in marzipan

I will admit that I didn't do the best job of trimming and lining everything up. My top left pink strip was horribly thin on one end, but after trimming awhile, I just didn't want my little cake to get any littler. 

criss-crossy lines added per instructions

Also, the marzipan wasn't as sticky as I wanted it to be when assembling. Maybe I should have used more apricot jam. Maybe I should have made my marzipan oilier--which is to say, used more egg white.

The middle was more straight than the ends.

Also, when I look at everyone else's Battenbergs, it appears I was supposed to cut off all the brown edges from the tops and bottoms of the sponge as well, so as not to conflict with the pale yellow and pink of the pattern. But hey, if I had done that, the cake would be so tiny it would have been sad

No matter. The cake was incredible. The sponge, as I mentioned before, is quite toothsome and it stands up beautifully to the marzipan. The whole thing is made even more elegant by the thin strips of jelly between everything, soft and sweet.  So. Good.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

There's rice in my bread

And it's delicious. (<----the link for the recipe is there.)

This month's daring bakers challenge was to make Dutch Crunch Bread...which is to say, make some bread and add a yeasted, rice-flour based topping to the bread that rises and cooks into a crunchy topping worthy of your tongue's time. In Dutch it's called Tigjerbrood, or "tiger bread" after the tiger-like shell on the bread after baking. It's apparently often used in sandwich rolls, and I do recommend you try making it.

Blog checking lines: Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!*

see the rice? awesome.

In the meantime, I noticed that besides the soft white sandwhich roll-type bread recipe offered by the challenge, there was also a recipe that had...cooked brown rice IN the bread. Awesome, says me, I have some cooked brown rice IN my fridge. It's fate.

The bread was divine to knead. Have you ever kneaded bread dough with rice in it? It's luxiourious. All pebbly and soft in your fingers. Do it. Trust me.

So, you mix and knead, and rise and then lop the dough in half and put it into two bread loaf pans. Check, check, and check.

Let the loaf pan penned dough rise again. Check.

this is the topping, already rising in the orange bowl.

Then you mix up the tiger topping. Check.

oh. crap.
Then you put the tiger topping on top of the loaves and let IT rise. 



This is exactly the point at which you think...hmmm...that's not going to work. 

So you re-check the recipe and see that the baking lawyers have 9x5 inch loaf pans and you...don't.

It's cool. I wanted to clean up this frothy science experiment mess.

It's cool. I mean, you're sweating, not only from the heat in the kitchen but from the thought of all that mess and crazy in your oven.

Deep breath.

Put some foil on a cooking sheet and put the sheet below the loaf pans.

It's going to be okay.  Crazy, but totally okay.

Crunch crunch crunch went the tiger...

The bread came out crunchy. A little overflowing with crunch.

 overflowing with crunchy goodness! 

But it was sweet and had a lovely crumb underneath all that crunch.


It was especially good toasted. With butter.

nubbly rice texture. yum.

* Yeah, I didn't make a sandwich with mine. I didn't even notice that I was supposed to until I read those lines while posting this. The bread is long gone, folks, and there were no sandwiches. Daring Baker Fail.

Friday, March 2, 2012

And then the dogs were wearing sombreros

tiny, dog-sized sombreros.

yep. this actually happened.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Blurry banana bread. Because we loves us some alliteration.

Not feeling super inspired this month by the Daring Bakers. This month's challenge was/is quick breads, which for me are something that I've been making for decades. Not much of a challenge.

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

For those not in the know: quick breads are all the breads that don't have yeast in them, i.e. much more "quick" to make. This includes pound cake, scones, coffee cake, biscuits, and most of those loaf breads that you can buy at the coffee shop (banana, zucchini, pumpkin, etc.).

Banana bread is not my favorite. But if you add chocolate chips, I'm in.

I will tell you two things:

Thing one

I made a banana bread with chocolate chips for the Superbowl party I was attending. I used the Moosewood cookbook recipe, which includes things like coffee and lemon rind and almond extract and is disarmingly delicious. But you should probably go buy the cookbook instead of me plagiarizing it.

A. Maze. Ing. Grapefruit Pound Cake
Thing two

I used some of that candied grapefruit peel and added it to a loaf of grapefruit pound cake (which I adapted from all the lemon pound cake recipes I could find)...and it was amazing. A. Maze. Ing.  Now you can too:

Super A. Maze. Ing Grapefruit Pound Cake (makes one loaf)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1.5 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1 teaspoon grated grapefruit peel
1.5 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt
heaping 1/2 cup yogurt (plain or vanilla. You can use sour cream too.)
Handfuls of candied grapefruit rinds, chopped into little nuggets

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in juice, extract, and peel.

2. Combine dry ingredients; add to the butter mixture alternately with yogurt. Beat until just combined. Stir in candied grapefruit rind.

3. Pour into a greased and floured bread pan. Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes (or 90 minutes if you have my oven) or until a toothpick/skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before popping out of the pan.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

granny...don't be so square

the granny square in her natural environment
I'm on it.

Number one on the sort-of list.

Crocheting myself an Afghan of granny squares in an attempt to whittle my yarn stash down so that it fits into its two assigned boxes.

squares of plenty
Also: granny squares rock. They are adorable, quick to whip up, and hilariously 70s-reminiscent. I was a child of the late 70s, and though the colors in favor have changed, nothing can take away my love for this ridiculous form of sofa-decoration. (Yes, when I looked it up, Wikipedia told me, in North American tradition, Afghans are for draping across your couch or "large chair" for decoration. No mention of keeping you warm while you read or knit or...never mind.)

These little guys are still missing their final borders, which will be a matching off-white, nine skeins (9 skeins? yes.) of which are supposedly coming in the mail courtesy of my mother courtesy of her mother courtesy of a friend who was trimming down her significant (like...think warehouse) yarn collection.

heaps o' squares

I'll take it. Nine skeins of free yarn.

Until they arrive, I'll probably keep making these innards, testing out every three-color combination/order there is, until I run out of yarn, or the cows come home, or something else demands my interest.

Friday, January 27, 2012

You say biscuits. I say scones. Or vise versa.

This month we made scones. Or biscuits*. Or something resembling them.

It was back to basics time.

This month was all about experimentation, and learning about the chemistry and science of baking. Fat plus flour plus kneeding or folding equals light and fluffy or soft and gooey or layered and flaky.

Or something.

Blog-checking lines: Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!


Which is to say, were it a different month, I might have made four or five batches of biscuits/scones (especially because this recipe is tiny tiny so you can make them for two people and eat them ALL for breakfast/dinner and not worry about it one bit) but this month got away from me and it never happened.

Alas, I only made one set, but I will make more in the future.

ready for the oven.
This is one of those recipes that is so easy it's hard. For example, there are just five ingredients, so there's no place to hide old baking soda or non-sifted flour. In fact, for these scones I actually triple-sifted the flour. Triple. Sifted. (And I guess you should too.)

And! The sifting occurred from a great height, so as to incorporate as much air into the flour as possible. (And, by the way, to create as big of a mess as possible.)

After triple sifting, you get to rub in the fat with your fingers. I am all for any recipe where I get to use my hands. I love the feel of the flour and the butter and the goodness all in between my fingers. Oh yes I do.

Also, this recipe suggests grating the butter and then freezing it for a bit before incorporation. (I might need to admit that grating butter was also one of the most fun things I've done in the kitchen in a long time.)

breakfast accompaniment, but sweet. in this way I am honoring both America and Australia*.
The recipe becomes a choose-your-own-adventure-experience at this point, when you get to decide if you're going to knead or fold the dough.  Kneading makes soft lovely scones and folding makes flaky layered scones. Either way, the dough is sticky and it makes you worry.  (I folded.)

Don't worry. It will work out.

Cut your scones using a floured cutter that is open on top and round and thin-walled and blah blah blah you're going to end up just using a butter knife and cutting them apart because you have nothing resembling a biscuit cutter in your house and the description in the recipe makes you nervous.

Note: I need a biscuit cutter. Apparently the method of using an over-turned drinking glass just isn't going to cut it any more (pun definitely intended). 

layers? almost.

Results were mixed. Joe thought they were divine and I thought they needed work. Sounds about right, doesn't it?

Next up: I'm going to make something that our host Audax calls a "fairy ring" in which he adds sprinkles (which Australians call "hundreds and thousands") to the dough and then ices and adds more sprinkles once baked. Anything with sprinkles is good by me.

Really. Anything.

* Apparently, in Australia these are called scones. They are usually cut out but then put on the baking sheet so that the sides touch and everything stays soft. They are eaten with jam over tea. They are not the North American scones (which are wedge-shaped and lumpy and fruity and dry and wonderful) but rather what are called baking soda biscuits in the States, which Americans eat with butter and turkey for dinner as a savory side. (Which, by the way, Australians would call "savoury.")

Also, one should note that buttermilk biscuits (to Americans) would be called buttermilk scones to Australians, and would still be eaten as a sweet, not with chicken-fried-chicken. These are American, according to our Australian host. And so, I thank you, Southern America, for buttermilk and the biscuits that come from them. But I didn't make those this time, because it seemed beside the point.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

For external use only

The second of my disclaimer series. 

embroidery on former bed sheet (cotton) in super awesome (and by awesome I mean gaudy/ridiculous) Goodwill found frame.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Eating citrus rinds

is delicious. Once they're candied.

Here's how to make your own:

1. Juice your citrus. I used three mid-sized grapefruits, but any citrus will work. (Drink juice.)

2. Cut citrus into fourths and use a grapefruit spoon to scrape out the insides--all the fruit and casings--leaving just the beautiful white pith and rind.

smoosh like so.
 3. Smoosh the quarters of rind with your hand and cut into strips.

cut like so.

4. Boil some water. Throw the strips into the water and simmer for five minutes.

strips awaiting three boiling sessions.

5. Drain. Boil some more water. Throw the strips into the water and simmer for five minutes.

6. Again (three boil sessions). (You're boiling off the bitterness.)

7. Now put a cup of water and a cup and a half of sugar in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and bring it to a boil.

8. Add the thrice-boiled rind strips to the sugar syrup and simmer on medium-low for about 90 minutes, or until soft and amazing.
strips soaking up sugar and love.

9. Using tongs, pull out the rinds a few at a time. Roll them in sugar, and leave them on a drying rack to dry.

10. Eat. Yum. Seriously.