baking

Pretty please, with a cherry on top…and inside

You know it’s summer around these parts when the cherry tree’s fruity offerings ripen practically overnight and all need to be picked immediately before they cause the branches permanent injury. I admit I’ve grown just a little disenchanted with the picking and the pitting, and was tempted to ignore this year’s harvest altogether and see how long it took the birds to clear it off, but…I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to do jam again (there’s still some of last year’s in the freezer because although I like making it, I never think to eat it), and so rescued a modest 6-cup bowl of fruit and thought about what to do with it.

I had first made these muffins a couple of years ago with blueberries, as the recipe calls for, but thought: why not cherries? Yeah! Why not cherries? The sour cherries, while larger than blueberries, are still pretty small compared with the jumbo Bing cherries all the local grocery stores trumpet, so I didn’t feel the need to chop them in any way before using them. But hey, do you know what happens to your hands when you pit a cup’s worth?

I texted that picture to a friend who wrote back, “Wait, did you burn yourself?” Luckily it all came off with soap and water, and yielded these beauties:

The trick to the recipe’s success is soaking your oats in milk for 20 minutes. It might not look like much… (Seriously, how can people eat overnight oats? Bleh.)

But it really does help the finished product – and gives you ample time to pull together your dry ingredients:

…and your wet ingredients.

This doesn’t look like much, either (are you noticing a trend?), but it smells heavenly once the melted butter, honey, and vanilla get whisked together.

Pour the wet into the dry, and add your milk ‘n oats and blueberries cherries.

After spending years baking cupcakes, which you never, ever overfill unless you want them to do things they shouldn’t, there’s something deliciously naughty about making muffins that let you fill the liners right to the very tippy-top.

Five minutes at 425 and 17 minutes at 350 later, they finally look like something!

These are so lovely that I’m almost (but only almost) starting to wish that I had pitted and frozen more cherries to be able to do these year-round. The muffin batter itself isn’t overly sweet, and the cherries are tart in a way that’s reminiscent of cranberries. I tripled the cinnamon called for – we like cinnamon – but even at that it’s an undertone rather than some in-your-face spice. They’ve been a hit so far with everyone who’s tried one (or more!).

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

What’s more portable than a peanut butter and jam sandwich?

When I asked my dad what kind of dessert he wanted for Father’s Day, he replied, “Cookies.”

Of course.

He didn’t care what kind, as long as they were cookies. That kind of carte blanche is a little overwhelming – the least he could have done is given me some ideas for flavour profiles, key ingredients, that kind of thing.

After leafing through my extensive cookbook collection, I happened upon the Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I had made them once, years ago, and remembered them being good. I also really liked that they weren’t just peanut-butter, but also didn’t involve chocolate. It’s been done.

The dough came together wonderfully! The one thing I did differently from the recipe was to use plain all-purpose flour rather than the pastry flour called for, and frankly, I don’t know how much of a difference it makes. These weren’t heavy or tough in any way.

One other elevation these got from the last time I made them was that I used my homemade strawberry jam to fill them. Perfect, local strawberries with no preservatives? Yum!

These ones bake at 375 degrees (and not 350 like, oh, every other cookie out there), which freaked me out a bit, but…10 minutes per batch at 375, and these looked absolutely perfect. The bottoms were browned but not overdone, and the moisture was baked out of the jam and left a dense, fruity gem in its wake.

Fun fact time! If, when you’re attempting to transfer freshly-baked jam-filled cookies from the cookie sheet to cool, you drop one of them face-down (of course) on the table, the second-worst thing you can do is try to pick up the jammy blob with your bare fingers. The worst thing you can do is then try to lick your fingers to get the hot jam off them.

Despite this hot, sticky contretemps, these turned out beautifully! They’re tiny and tender, and wouldn’t be out-of-place at a tea party. The man of the hour was suitably impressed, so this was a win for everybody.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

Trust me, I’m a doctor!

Overheard in class the other day:

Q. What type of doctor is Dr Pepper?

A. A fizz-ician. *rim shot*

Matt couldn’t have known it when he told the joke, but Dr Pepper is my One True Love and has been since I was a kid. Dr Pepper will never not call, or text obsessively asking where I am, or stare at its phone and tune out everything I say. I don’t drink it as regularly as I used to (because sugary drinks…), but my opinion of restaurants is still very much influenced by whether they serve it. (Points to Mongo’s, Boston Pizza, and Taco Time!)

When I found this recipe for Dr Pepper Brownies, I was sufficiently intrigued to pin it. (Question: If this action is taking place on Pinterest, did I pin it or did I Pin it? In any case, I saved it for future reference.) Through some weird bit of kismet, I had a brownie mix in the pantry so this required no extra acquisition of ingredients on my part. Those are the best recipes!

As it turned out, my mix was already of the chocolate-chunk variety, so I didn’t need to add chocolate chips as called for in the recipe.

Full disclosure: one of the things that really appealed to me about this recipe was that it only called for 1/4 cup of Dr Pepper, which meant – oh, darn – I’d have to drink the rest of the can myself. This is the same “one for you, one for me” methodology I use when Christmas shopping, but oh, did it ever work well this time!

The baking instructions in the recipe differed slightly from the box instructions…I went with the box, only because I figured if anyone would know how to make their mix, they would.

The addition of the soda created a really interesting texture on top. I was a little concerned they wouldn’t have that flaky-chewy brownie thing going on…

But I was wrong! These were really moist and lovely. Even my dad, who usually ignores anything that isn’t a cookie, waxed poetic about the chocolatey chewiness. No one who tried one could taste much Dr Pepper, unfortunately, but I swear I got a little bit of…fizz?…if I ate mindfully.

And because I can’t resist co-ordinating whenever possible:

Yes, I can match my wardrobe to my kitchen projects.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

The next best thing to the deli

About a month and a half ago, when I was finally, tentatively exploring the freedom granted by rolled-back restrictions, I found myself in Indigo looking for a gift card for Ricky’s birthday. I can’t go into a bookstore and not look around, and while I was wandering through the magazine nook I saw an issue of Pioneer Woman magazine. Because I’m a good daughter, I bought it for my mom. Because I’m not a great daughter, I wound up reading it before she got a chance. Most of her recipes feature too much meat for my liking, but there, nestled in the middle, was a triad of recipes for savoury buns including these beauties.

Be still my heart! Unlike everyone else on the planet, I didn’t drop into hardcore baking mode last spring, but these looked too good to pass up. I hadn’t worked with a yeasted dough in forever, and this seemed like as good a time as any to get back into it. And with time off work over Easter, it felt like a great time.

The first thing I did was toast my sesame seeds over low heat. It started out feeling a bit like a zen garden as I continually moved them around the pan to ensure even toasting, but became decidedly less zen as I became impatient and increased the heat approximately every 75 seconds to speed it along. Miraculously, they didn’t burn, but developed a beautiful golden slightly-less-pallid colour.

My everything-bagel seasoning, all mixed and ready to go. Those huge patches of black are poppy seed, and not pepper (just in case you thought I liked living on the edge).

Once I made my dough and spread it with cream cheese and sprinkled it with about half my mix, it was time to roll these up and slice them. The one way I deviated from the recipe was to use my trusty 9″ x 13″ Wilton cake pan and not a 9″ pie pan as recommended. The pictures accompanying the recipe showed squished, stunted buns. (No pictures of the process, sorry; my hands were covered in flour and dough and cream cheese and I wasn’t about to start smearing that on my phone.) The tops got brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with the remaining seasoning mixture. Because I wanted these for breakfast and not a late-afternoon snack, I stopped at this point to cover my pan with plastic wrap and stick the whole works in the fridge rather than let them have their rise.

The next morning, I pulled them out of the fridge, removed the plastic wrap, and set them in a low oven with a cake pan of water for steam, until they looked like this. It was quite the relief to see them rise and puff up like that, because when I started making the dough the day before I had panicked that I had killed my yeast due to a difference in opinion of what constitutes “lukewarm”. It looks like I dodged a bullet, because these filled out beautifully.

Baked juuuust until golden. You can see how they expanded even more!

These were so good! The dough was tender yet sturdy enough to hold the buns together, and the cream cheese and everything-bagel seasoning complimented each other perfectly. I probably could have scarfed the entire pan by myself, but instead I shared them and everyone who tried one had only good things to say. Although they’re marvy hot out of the oven, they’re just as good at room temperature – which isn’t something I can always say about cinnamon buns.

Now I think my next project will be the spinach and feta variation. It must be healthy if there’s spinach in it, right?

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

General Sewing

Protect ya neck (or at least your clothes)

Oh, goodness. This was originally meant to be a Christmas present, but time got away from me and rushing to finish it – especially when I wasn’t 100% sure how I wanted to do the edges – would have harshed my holiday mellow. Instead, I took my time, and have something nice to show for it. (Before you ask: no, I’m not quite that much of a slacker. I finished this in early February, so I’m really only a slacker about posting it, not sewing it.)

Although my local fabric store had had other fabrics from the same collection, I had to source the apron panel online. And, OK, some of the other fabrics too, because you just never know.

This is not a picture of my panel, but of an identical one, because I apparently lacked the foresight to photograph it before merrily cutting into it.

See that black with white lettering at the very bottom? It’s actually a rectangle with several lines of type. Per the instructions, one is supposed to cut them into strips to use as neck and waist ties, but I snorted at their adorable shortness and instead bought some double-fold bias tape. Etsy now thinks I love bias tape, and won’t stop recommending it to me.

I shouldn’t knock the bias tape – it provided a beautiful finish when I used it all along the edges and held the front of the apron to the lining admirably. Using a straight stitch, no matter how slowly I went, seemed to be an exercise in futility as both sides didn’t seem to catch and I’d have to go over them. Switching to a zig-zag stitch solved this and let me edge the entire thing with a minimum of frustration (but still lots of pinning).

Once I finished edging the apron, I cut two generous lengths from what was left of the bias tape to use as waist ties, and worked with what was left after that for the neck loop – I think I had about 10 cm left after all that. I zig-zagged the raw edges of the tape for all my ties and loops before attaching them to keep them strong.

Oh, remember that extra fabric I bought “just because”? It made a perfect backing for this. Ooh, matchy!

So instead of a Christmas gift, it became a totally-unexpected Lunar New Year gift (because there’s a cow on it, which is kind of like an ox, maybe? The recipient is a city boy, so I’m not too worried).

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

Other Crafts

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

Actually, in this case, you don’t need to! There’s a handy pull string to reduce your smashing by 100%.

I had seen these mini pinatas ages ago on the dearly departed Craftster, and saved the tutorial for myself despite being an asocial and unromantic weirdo. I managed to find the original tutorial using the Wayback Machine, but also took my own step-by-step pictures in case that ever ceases to be.

To start with, you’ll need to cut out two hearts from cardstock or posterboard. Mine are just a hair over 8″ across because I was using letter-sized cardstock, but you’re limited only by your imagination and raw materials. You’ll also need a “side strip/strips” whose width will dictate how deep your pinata is (and how much you can stuff inside it). I cut three 2.5″ wide x 11″ long strips from another sheet of cardstock, but only wound up using two of them.

Once I taped my two strips together, I could start attaching them to my first heart. I ran pieces of masking tape along one edge of my new double-long strip and then starting curving it along the edge of my heart and taping it down. Your edge will – nay, should – be shorter than the full circumference of your heart; that gap is where you’ll add your candy.

Here’s one spot where I deviated from the original tutorial: while I only had one heart attached to the edge, I poked a couple of holes in the edge and added a hanging loop, in case the recipient wants to display it.

Once I was satisfied a) with the size of my candy door, and b) that my hanging loop was secure and I wouldn’t need to access the inside of the pinata, I added my second heart and secured it to my edge with even more masking tape.

Now the raison d’Γͺtre: add your candy. If you want this to be hung/displayed for a while, you may want to be mindful of the weight of whatever you’re putting in.

Remember when I said I wouldn’t need to access the inside of the pinata anymore? I lied, kind of. Once the candy is in, you can cover the opening with a folded-up piece of tissue paper, but to add a pull string you’ll need to affix that to the inside of the pinata above the opening, then tape it to the underside of the tissue. It’s a bit fiddly, and if I do one of these again I might attach it before I add my second heart, just to save fumbling around after. Make that pull string good and long so that your recipient has something to grab onto!

And now…you get to decorate! This was less annoying than I thought it would be. The girl who wrote the original tutorial used shredder scissors to fringe her tissue paper, but I did it old-school with normal scissors, and managed to not completely cramp up my hand.

I decided to go for a quasi-ombrΓ© look, and overlapped rows of tissue to keep it looking full and fluffy.

Once I got the heart faces done, I cut short pieces of my fringed tissue to do the sides. I used your garden-variety glue stick for this, and it was shockingly neat: no gluey residue, and practically zero dry time.

Finally seeing the light of day! Once my tissue-papering was done, I made a little instructional tag for my pull string, just in case there were any doubts as to what to do.

This didn’t take me too long, overall – a couple of episodes of Lolita Podcast – but just long enough to serve as a good reason to not be polyamourous.

Thanks for looking…happy Valentine’s Day!

Cross-stitch and Embroidery

It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.

Happy New Year! (Can I still say that now…?) I hope everyone had a nice – and safe! – holiday season.

After my Christmas making, I got a few days’ rest before starting in on this project. My friend Jeanette has a birthday coming up later this month, and has been a Legend of Zelda fan forever. I’ve never played a single one of the games, but the franchise is 35 years old this year. Crazy, isn’t it? In any case, it’s certainly iconic, irrespective of my own gaming proclivities.

I found this pattern as pixel art on Pinterest, and knew I had found the perfect little stitch.

He started to take shape pretty quickly. Can you see where I missed a couple stitches in his hair?

Better lighting, but still with that weird negative space in his bangs.

Hair (and everything else) complete, and framed up. That 3″ hoop turned out to be the perfect size.

When I first found the pattern, it showed his pants as white/grey, which was not how I remembered them. A pretty-much-identical pixel art pattern showed his pants as black, which looked more correct to me, but I wasn’t quite sure.

Folks, there are entire wikis devoted to Link’s outfit across various games. Sometimes his pants are brown; sometimes they’re white/grey; sometimes he wears none at all, his modesty protected only by his long tunic. Never are they black, but this seemed like a good place to start a trend.

I mailed this out last weekend, so if our respective postal systems have managed to work out the backlog of Christmas gifts clogging the works, she should have this before the big day actually arrives.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

craftmas, General Sewing

On the fourth day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: some fun, patterned PPE!

(If you had asked me back when I started this blog whether I’d ever use the term “PPE” here, I probably wouldn’t have known what you were talking about. Oh, the times we live in…)

My friend Jeanette is considered an essential worker, and although I would sincerely hope her employer provides her with suitable equipment when she has to be around people, I wanted to do something fun for her. A writer, she loves all things vintage-typewriter, and when I saw this fabric at Marshalls this summer, I had to pick up a third of a metre – just enough for a mask or two.

They have the coolest fabrics there, honestly (that’s where my background came from, too). Earlier in the summer, I found this beautiful zodiac fabric and made my mom an Aquarius mask, and then found Leo and Scorpio for my dad and for Mr. Gummi Bear when I found the typewriter key fabric.

The original Aquarius mask (not pictured) wasn’t long for this world. On about her third or fourth time wearing it out, she bent and re-bent the nose wire so vigorously that it broke. This is probably also a cautionary tale about using dollar-store pipe cleaners as nose wires, but what do you have to do to it to break it so quickly? She also complained about the thin elastic I used for ear loops cutting into her ears; the fact that she requested that elastic specifically was irrelevant. Could I replace the wire and elastic? I thought about the amount of unpicking required, and decided it was easier to make her a new one. And hey, if she was getting a new one for Christmas, so were the others.

I used a sturdier wire in all three of them, and the elastic is this super-soft and springy, rounded stuff I found on Etsy. Just let them try and complain about sore ears!

Thanks for looking – Merry Christmas! πŸ™‚

craftmas, General Sewing

On the third day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a scarf for the pep rally!

Even though my friend Ricky* defected to Toronto 15+ years ago, and I see him once a year if I’m lucky, I still try to find the perfect Christmas gift to send every year. In this case, “perfect” translates loosely to “not totally impersonal, not ridiculously expensive, and not a bear to ship in terms of either packaging logistics or postage costs”. I don’t ask for much, do I?

A couple of years ago, I put together a Batman starter kit (mini Bat Signal plus some socks, soap, and mints all featuring the caped crusader’s likeness), and last year it was a box of local goodies that he wouldn’t be able to get in the Big Smoke. With everything that’s been going on this year, I opted for something nostalgic to remind him of those carefree high school days. *pause for laughter* Or at least something in our school colours.

I’ve actually made this scarf twice before, but this was my first time making it according to the original instructions and not trying to shoehorn in an extra colour. Based on a tutorial from the dearly departed Craftster, the premise is simple: choose two colours of fleece (A and B); cut eighteen 4″ by 6″ rectangles and four 6″ squares out of colour A; cut twenty 4″ by 6″ rectangles out of colour B; use nine, two, and ten of each kind of cutout to form each side of the scarf and then sew the two sides together for double-layer warmth.

I sincerely thought that cutting out all those rectangles was the most annoying/time-consuming part of this (admittedly simple) project – and then I remembered that every time you sew two of them together, you have to tie off the thread ends at both ends of the seam. Every time. For 2+10+9-1 seams per side.

To be fair, tying off the thread ends isn’t difficult or as prone to causing hand cramps as marathon fleece-cutting, but it’s the start-and-stop (especially if you leave them all until the end) that makes them a pain. By the time I was doing the second side of my scarf, I got smart, and tied my threads while I was on a conference call – it kept my hands busy, but wasn’t so distracting that I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on.

I think this should ward off the Toronto chill, no?

There was a time when I would have wrapped that scarf all around my model’s head to preserve anonymity or else digitally alter the photo up to and including decapitation; but darned if a co-ordinating mask doesn’t do the trick.

And sure, the scarf is nice and wouldn’t look out of place at the homecoming game (assuming we had a football team, which we did not), but it needed a little something extra to really complete the theme.

Perfect, right? It had the blue-and-gold scheme, and we both spent four years with the same English teacher who spent those years drilling into our heads such gems as the eight (nine? Ten? Google seems to be very divided on this) parts of speech. I think all of my grammatical neuroses can be traced back to that classroom.

In some miracle of modern postal service, his parcel arrived with a week to spare before Christmas, and I hope he’ll be able to get some use out of both, lockdown or no.

Thanks for looking….go Sabres!! πŸ™‚

*Not his real name, but a nickname given by that same English teacher.

craftmas, General Sewing, Other Crafts

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a flock of sheep for the tree!

Back in the days of Craftster (RIP), I participated in the Sweat Shoppe Ornament Swap a couple of times. Basically, you’d create three or six ornaments – usually similar if not actual clones of one another – and be partnered up with three or six people to swap one for one. It was really kind of lovely because you could get your ornaments made well ahead of time and then just wait for your partners’ information. Craftster’s successor, Lettucecraft, is still in its infancy and the swap process has been a little different, and there was no SSOS this year.

Being me, I had already found a pattern I had wanted to use, and wound up making a few anyway.

I added some miniature 1:12 (I think?) lights that weren’t called for in the pattern, but took these from just being sheep to actually being Christmas sheep, and therein lies the difference.

These were really simple to make! My first one came to life during a conference call that required nothing from me apart from confirming my presence during roll call and answering the icebreaker question, and I completed the next two over a few evening phone calls with friends.

When I started making these, I couldn’t decide whether their overall vibe was “Fleece Navidad” or “Baaaaa Humbug”, but my “focus group” overwhelmingly preferred the former.

I call them a flock of sheep at the top of this post, but pity the poor collie who has to herd them: they wound up with (or are in the process of making their way to) friends in three different countries.

If the SSOS ever comes back, I might have to revisit these little guys. Love ’em!

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚