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™‚

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

On the first day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a Christmas fit for Elvis Presley!

Having once participated in the Sweat Shoppe Ornament Swap on Craftster, I knew immediately I was going to do it again. This year, I was a little more prepared, and had been lazily working on my ornaments throughout the year so that all I had to do once signups began was finish them off and name them.

Name them – sounds weird, doesn’t it? Last year I called my set Festive Foxes (a bit lame, but it was my first time out). This year, I wrestled with the name a bit. Fairisle Festivities? Scandinavian Season’s Greetings? Three-inch hoops that look vaguely like a knitted sweater? Suddenly, inspiration struck: Blue Christmas.

The patterns came from an issue of Cross Stitch Crazy I bought last year. I really liked the designs, but couldn’t imagine making them for myself or anyone I know – nobody I know really has that particular theme running through their holiday dΓ©cor. The swap turned out to be the perfect outlet!

To stitch them, I cut one long strip of 14-count white aida fabric, eyeballed thirds, and kept moving my Q-Snap down as I went – then cut them apart when it was time to frame them. I took plain 3″ wooden hoops from Michaels (I stock up every time they have them in stock) and painted them with white acrylic paint, then sprayed them with an iridescent white glittery spray paint. I had some iridescent white cording on hand for the hanging loops, and I’m hoping that they catch the light on my recipients’ trees.

In a more “natural” habitat (no tree up yet, so I trekked to the furthest reaches of the back yard to the cedar tree I normally forget is there):

The one with the deer has made it to its new home, and the other two are currently in transit. Fingers crossed they arrive soon! I’ve already received two of the three I’m getting:

It says “Craftster Christmas 2019”, with some rows of lights stamped between the lettering. The flash photography doesn’t do it justice, but I was having short days/snowy weather lighting issues when they first arrived.

Seriously, how is this little guy so relaxed about Christmas prep? And where did the crafter find little star-shaped baking tins like that? I love the aesthetic of it!

I finally got my last one! It’s a simple wooden disk with an intricate series of dots and gemstones that don’t show as well in this picture.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

How do you solve a problem like vanilla?

How do you stop the cake from being dry?*

*In my case, I used a schmancy boxed cupcake mix (schmancy in the sense that it cost nearly five bucks, and came with some prepackaged frosting that I ultimately threw away, while the usual Betty or Duncan extravaganza will set you back about $1.29 on sale and yields twice as many cupcakes) and kitbashed it into something much more party-worthy.

The birthday boy in question will always choose vanilla over chocolate, and although I don’t have issues with vanilla per se, I don’t have much luck baking it at home. Even the vanilla recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, whose chocolate cupcakes have garnered rapturous eye-rolling, gives me a finished product that is dense and drier that just about anything else I’ve made. Vanilla might be my new red velvet: vegan or not, that perfect version eludes me. Even the Minion cupcakes I made using VCTOTW’s recipe a couple of years ago were…okay, but not that light, melt-in-your-mouth moist WOW that the chocolate ones are. With that in mind, I didn’t feel exceptionally guilty starting with a mix, and felt even better when Alton Brown said that it’s hard for home bakers to compete with the various commercial ingredients in the boxed mix. I decided this was going to be a gummi bear cake, after seeing one in a magazine and deciding I wanted to try it.

My local Bulk Barn doesn’t carry straight-up quins anymore that aren’t (when I was looking) Halloween or (right about now) Christmas-themed, so I picked up these pastel starts to Funfetti the heck out of the cake.

They do, however, carry the best gummi bears ever. Despite the zoom in the photo, these guys are mini, and come in 11 different flavours. I’m kind of a sucker for proper ordering of colours, so…

Instead of cupcakes, I poured my batter into two six-inch pans. During baking, these things developed a bit of a crazy-high dome, and while leveling your cake before assembling it is the traditional method of handling this kind of baking topography, mine didn’t rise terribly high when baking and completely eliminating the domes would have left me with ridiculously thin layers. I spread a thick layer of almond-flavoured buttercream on the bottom layer, and…

…built up the edge using gummi bears. You won’t find that trick at fine French baking schools, kids. I then set my second layer, dome-down, on top of it, frosted the whole shebang, and added rows upon rainbow-ordered rows of gummi bears.

I staggered the colours in each row, but make no mistake: the order never changes. It was a bit fiddly positioning them in four iterations of twenty-two reasonably even intervals, but that’s the kind of weirdo I am. My original plan was to tint part of my buttercream a different colour and write a message of birthday goodwill on top, but the teeny letters were too cute to pass up. (It doesn’t hurt that they match the aesthetic pretty much perfectly and made that part so much easier and faster.)

You can see a slight fault in the icing in what I’ve come to think of affectionately as the “dome crack”, but it held up really well and the gummi bears between the layers were a fun surprise.

The birthday boy loved his highly customized (*snerk*) dessert, and now I have almost another year to crack the secret to homemade.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚