baking

Cross my heart and hope to die, here’s the digits that make pi…

3.14159265358979323846…. (see here)

Happy Pi Day! (Pie Day?) Although I have made pie before, with reasonable success, it’s not my first choice of things to make. My pastry is okay (my mom’s is a million times better), and I honestly find it a bit fussy, with the cutting-in of butter/Tenderflake, the keeping it cold, the not overworking… Someone else can do the baking, thanks; I’m happy to just be a taste-tester.

I was inspired partly, I admit, by Lara Jean’s turnovers in To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You – yay for Netflix original movies! – but thought this seemed like a good time to find a way to slake those pie cravings without getting up to my elbows in flour. And if they were individually portioned, that would be great, too.

Did someone say hand pies?

Presenting…pie in less than an hour.

Start with your base ingredients:

This is it, plus an egg and some white sugar. That’s all. So far, so good, right?

Start with one of the two crusts in your box. They come round, to fit into a pie pan, so we squared out the corners as best we could. Hey, this was for home consumption, and appearance wasn’t going to count for too much. Score your dough into eights – a 4 x 2 arrangement. Half of these are going to be your bottom crusts, and the other half will be your top crusts. Try to pair the funny-shaped ones together. Heck, if your cutting is more precise than ours was, you should have mirror-image pieces for easy pairing.

Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. We used smaller sheets, so four felt like an adequate number to make at a time. We got four complete pies from each dough round, for a total of eight.

Spoon your filling into the centre of each bottom crust, and brush the edges with an egg wash (really just one beaten egg) so that the tops will stick. I hate to be the bearer of retroactive bad news, but that’s way too much filling you’re seeing. Use less than we did. It’s tempting to fill them to the gills, but don’t. You’ll want a nice wide border along the edge for your top to stick to, no matter how delicious you think cherries are.

Speaking of your tops: perforate them with a common dinner fork, and set each one on its corresponding bottom. Use your fork to press the edges together, crimping them as you go along. See that ooze along the sides? Like I said, use less filling. Learn from my mistakes. Oy. Once your edges are all crimped, brush them with some egg wash and sprinkle with a bit of white sugar, if desired. Coarse sugar would be an excellent substitute, if you like a little bit of extra crunch. We baked ours at 375Β° for 17 minutes, but time and temperature could vary depending on whether your oven runs hot or cool. We had set the timer for 20 minutes initially, but pulled them out early…

…and had these to show for it. The murder-scene cherry ooze would have bothered me if I were trying to impress a VIP, but for home consumption, it wasn’t an issue. (And anyway, once they cooled, any excess ooze stayed on the parchment.) The tops look a little thin and delicate, likely from the dough being rolled thinner than was prudent, but the taste wasn’t impacted.

These are kind of the culinary equivalent of rounding pi down to 3, but if you’re craving pi…er, pie…they’ll do the trick.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

Cross-stitch and Embroidery, General Sewing

Stop! Grammar time!

Happy Grammar Day! I did not craft some lovely, grammatically sound work of art (nor did I invite the strippers, JFK and Stalin. Always use your Oxford commas, people!), so I’ll leave you with this because it makes me smile.

Oh, Jasper…watch out for that pencil sharpener…

But back to our regularly scheduled crafty post, and apologies for the bait-and-switch.

Back in December, Craftster closed the membership part of its site, leaving a bunch of us without a crafty place to call home. (The site still exists, but in archive mode, and you can still look up projects assuming the original poster didn’t take down her pictures.) Just before that unpleasant little announcement was made, one of the members had started gauging enthusiasm for a Little Good Things swap: we’d send our partner something quick and simple, that took two hours-ish to make, plus a sweet treat and a little card telling what one of our personal little good things was. I liked the idea of a quick turnaround, and if I was considering it before the announcement, the fact that it would be the last Craftster swap ever sealed the deal.

I wasn’t the only one thinking like that: this thing turned out to be epic, with 50 participants (something that hadn’t happened there in years) and zero flakers. I requested two partners, and although there was a bit of overlap between their questionnaires and likes, I wanted to make sure I didn’t send twin packages.

My first partner mentioned adult merit badges as a little good thing, and I thought this would be a fitting way to commemorate her time as a member of the site. I cut two 3″ circles out of light blue felt, and then resized an image of Craftster’s mascot (unofficially known as “Cork Guy”; I don’t think he has a name) to fit and cut him out of felt, too. Cork Guy and the dates were sewn only onto one circle, and then I attached the second one with a rainbow blanket stitch to hide the back of my work. The numbers really set my nerves on edge, trying to make them a) the correct size and b) legible. But oh! I got to use math to figure out how long each colour of blanket stitch should be: Ο€d / six colours = 1.57″ per colour.

Although my second partner had also mentioned adult merit badges, I wanted to go a different route. Her questionnaire declared stormy weather to be a little good thing, particularly if she didn’t have to go out in it. The darker blue fabric with the silver streaks reminded me of lightning streaking across the sky, so I paired it with a bright-sky blue fabric to make a 6″ x 8″ mug rug. There’s a layer of fleece in between to offer a bit of extra cushioning and absorbency. To round out the “cozy night in” theme, I sent a few individually wrapped tea bags and some chocolate.

There’s a happy ending to the Craftster trauma: almost immediately after its closure was announced, a few of the moderators put their heads together and launched a new crafty community. Lettucecraft (Just Let. Us. Craft.) has been up and running since January 1, and it’s already full of crafty inspiration.

As always, thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

Snicker, snicker…

I don’t bake quite as much as I used to; fifteen or twenty years ago, I was a regular Lara Jean Covey (minus the Korean heritage, tiny body, and jock boyfriend), and one of my signature recipes was snickerdoodles. I used to make them all the time, from a recipe plucked from Reader’s Digest of all places, and one of my dad’s coworkers was especially enamoured of them. I’d send a tin of cookies to work with my dad, and a couple of days later, it would come back, presumably to be refilled. Don’t tell me that’s not an ego-stroke.

My initial plan was to re-introduce them to my cookie-consuming public this holiday season, but Christmas kicked my callipygian backside, and like so many other things it just. Didn’t. Get. Done. But when we had a blustery, blizzardy weekend a few weeks back that precluded doing much of anything that involved leaving the house, I had my chance.

The recipe says to make your dough and then chill it for an hour or so, but the smartest thing I’ve done recently was making it the night before, then wrapping the whole shebang in waxed paper and sticking it in the fridge overnight. Sure, my cookie scoop was useless on it the next day, but it shaped into balls so nicely without coating my hands in dough residue.

Bonus: that extra chill time meant they didn’t spread hither, thither, and yon as soon as they hit the oven. I was a little nervous, because the recipe called for a 400-degree oven, and I never, ever bake cookies higher than 350. Much soul-searching – and shockingly, no Google-searching – prompted me to split the difference, and 375 turned out to be the perfect temperature. They were just started to turn golden on the bottom, and the outsides had crisped up nicely while the insides were chewy and lovely.

It was comforting to know that that old recipe withstood the test of time. I think I’ll be adding to my semi-regular rotation (mainly to use up the two bottles of cream of tartar in the spice cabinet, but still).

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

The only kind of blackout you want in the winter

You guys! I’m so glad the holiday season is behind us, and I can get back to my somewhat regular baking schedule. Anything I made over the holidays felt like an obligation rather than something I wanted to do, and with so many store-bought options around (I’m still eating dominoes), it felt futile anyway.

I was itching to bust out my cupcake pans and bake something just for the heck of it, and finally got my chance a couple of weeks ago. Oh, it felt goooood!

A couple of years ago, I had made this Brooklyn Blackout Cake for my mom’s birthday, and although cakes make a lovely presentation for special occasions like birthdays, they’re a pain to store the rest of the time. And although the homemade pudding filling turned out most excellently that time, I didn’t feel like standing over the stove having chocolate splatter at me.

Instant gratification pudding to the rescue!

After baking and cooling a dozen chocolate cupcakes (made with a 2:1 ratio of regular to dark cocoa powder), I made two boxes of instant chocolate pudding, but used only half the milk called for. In other words, two cups for both boxes instead of two cups for each. That gave me an ultra-thick pudding that wouldn’t run all over the place.

I cored the cupcakes, setting the cores carefully aside instead of just eating them (for example). I loaded up a piping bag with my pudding and filled each cupcake, then spread a generous layer on top instead of frosting.

The finishing touch? I grabbed one of my cores and crumbled it on top of each cupcake for that crumb topping finish.

Crumbs on top of your frosting (or “frosting”) might sound weird and dry, but the cake is so moist that dryness isn’t an issue.

Look at that luscious chocolate filling!

On the whole, I’m extremely happy with how these turned out, and how much easier they were to make and store than their layer-cake counterpart. My taste-testers gave them two thumbs up, so it looks like we have a winner.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

craftmas, Other Crafts

On the fourth day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a last-minute Christmas quickie!

(Get your minds out of the gutter…)

I’m not going to do a big, long how-to, but keep it simple: I used this tutorial to create some golden snitch chocolates for a friend’s stocking.

They came together really quickly; I had Discord open in the background while I worked (because apparently I keep glue at the computer desk), and it took less than 10 minutes to get all three made.

There’s no way these were getting back in the cellophane sleeve, so instead, I’ve tucked them into a little organza bag to go at the very top of his stocking, and hopefully keep the wings from getting crushed.

Thanks for looking – Merry Christmas! πŸ™‚

craftmas, General Sewing

On the third day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a gift that’s very “hand”-y!

When I was little, my grandmother used to cut decorative hand towels in half and then crochet a topper on each half, complete with a loop for hanging. When she had a good stash built up, she’d bring them out at a family gathering and let us pick which one(s) we wanted. These were a serious staple of my childhood, and I can’t imagine a kitchen without one.

My own crochet skills are not as sophisticated as hers were, sadly, but when I saw this glorious fabric:

…I had the perfect plan for it.

I took a towel I had bought somewhere else (charity fundraiser?) and traced around its fabric topper to draft a pattern for myself. I found some plain red towels at the store that matched the red lettering pretty much perfectly. I cut each towel in half (width-wise, not lengthwise), folded each half in approximate thirds (lengthwise, not width-wise) to fit into the topper. Once they were fit in, I sewed the topper shut, et voilΓ .

The first time I tried making towels like this, I attached some Velcro unbranded hook-and-loop tape to make it easy to hang the towel from an oven handle or whatnot. Unfortunately, after repeated washings, the Velcro-like product lost its “stick” and the towel would fall to the floor at the slightest provocation, like some sort of kitchen-linen fainting goat.

Sooo…I worked through my dislike of sewing buttons and sewed on buttons. It honestly wasn’t as painful as I remember, and now these towels aren’t going anywhere until you decide they are.

My mom has laid claim to two of them; the rest will be tucked into various Christmas gifts as a fun little bonus. In fact, one has found its way to its new home already:

I want a dishwasher handle like that!

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

craftmas, General Sewing, Uncategorized

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: ein Schal fΓΌr Schnuckiputzi!

Last year, I cross-stitched Berlin as a Christmas gift for my friend of German descent, which felt like it took more or less forever. This year, I opted for something less ambitious but far more pragmatic: a double-layer fleece scarf, in the colours of the German flag, perfect for warding off the frigid Prairie air.

I used this tutorial, which I also used a few years back to make a scarf for my dad, so I already had a pretty good idea of what I was doing. (That never happens!) I found the fleece at a good price back in the summer when, ahem, the eventual recipient happened to be with me.

HIM: What are you going to do with the fleece?

ME: Oh, remember those Star Trek stockings I made? I want to make more. I’ve already got Spock blue at home.

Good excuse, right? Fast-forward to the cutting table.

OVERLY OBSERVANT FABRIC STORE EMPLOYEE: Looks like you’re making a German flag.

ME: Um, no. Star Trek stockings.

OVERLY OBSERVANT FABRIC STORE EMPLOYEE: So where’s the blue?

Much measuring, cutting, and sewing later, I had this:

My model is in the Witness Protection Program. πŸ˜‰

Actually, I’m lucky I was able to take it off long enough to have her model it for me – it’s soooo warm and snuggly!

It’s nice and long, so he’ll be able to wrap it around and make sure he’s covered. Perfect for those early-morning waits for the bus!

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚