on creative endeavours

I’ve started to add badges to my right hand side widget. It’s only the 8th of January and I already have two:

I’m also thinking of taking part in the challenge that was set today by the wonderful Deer and Doe, which will (I hope) see me finally getting to grips with my overlocker and twin needles. For someone who hasn’t blogged in about a year and has only been sewing regularly for about 6 months, seems like a tall order.

It probably is.

The things is, my current thinking (and it may change in the near future) is that if I don’t start forcing myself to make some stuff – by announcing it to the internet – I will never get over my fear of cutting into nice fabric, or my aversion to getting off the sofa on weekends. So I decided that I’m going to try to join as many sew alongs and other internet community activities (of the sewing kind) as I possibly can this year. I’m also taking 2 sewing courses over the next 5 weeks, so this whole beginning of 2014 thing is either going to be a bundle of fun, or a massive tragedy, and therefore a bundle of fun.

So there we are. Tune in and witness the descent into a spiral of madness.

Soon there may even be picture. Yes. Pictures.

 

I know.

 

Expect lots of italics as well.

 

 

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happy new year and joining bloglovin

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I just joined bloglovin and need to do this to claim my blog. So there.

 

Also, happy new year everyone. 

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reboot

It’s been over a year since I posted on this blog; the reasons are:

1. No camera to speak of

2. I moved

3. Work work work work work

4. I’ve been getting a sewing education

SEWING, folks. Sewing. I’ve sewed so much it’s kind of crazy. I mean, I was sewing before, but now? I can sew clothes. I know, right?

I took a couple of (well, maybe it was 4) sewing courses over this last year, and learned to make the following:

I’ve got two more courses booked (considering booking a third), and hopefully I’ll be a bit more diligent in recording my progress to bring this here blog back to life.

I’ve also added a button to my right-hand sidebar (the one with all the over-sized click-y buttons), that says I’m taking part in a sew along in January – this is hosted by someone called Rosie Wednesday. I just started following her on Kollabora (sorry for the many links, but. It’s been a year!), and serendipitously discovered she is doing this. I say serendipitously not only because I like the word, but also because a few months ago I bought that pattern in a second-hand shop. I’ve been quite puzzled by the shape of the darts etc so I was a bit daunted by the idea of cutting into my lovely fabric, but this happy occurrence means that there will be some degree of long distance hand-holding, which increases my confidence somewhat.

I’ve also started to dabble into designing my own clothes. Please note I use the term designing very loosely, because for the most part I am just adding stuff to other stuff. Regardless, right now it’s fun.

I’ve not stopped baking/ needlepoint-ing/ knitting, but I find myself not taking these up as often – though I still do. Must… take… more… pictures.

So I guess this is my attempt at a reboot. 2014 starts in just over 48 hours, so fingers crossed this blog sees a bit more action over the course of this coming year.

Wish me luck.

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chocolate roulade

SO,

This week I did something a bit naughty – I pretty much pushed one of my friends into creating his own blog. That’s right. And all just to make sure I’m forced to post more often.

So far it’s working. My good friend, let’s call him ‘Norman’, now has a shiny new blog, where he will post whatever he wants (I won’t post a link to his blog until I’ve made sure that he’s ok with that). But mainly baking if I have anything to do with it. And for some reason that makes me post more often. I think I may have pathological competition syndrome*.

* That’s not really a condition. Come on. Is it?
look at this. LOOK AT IT.

look at this. LOOK AT IT.

Last week I recommended a recipe to Norman without ever having tried it. I said ‘Tim –err NORMAN, Paul Hollywood is awesome and there is just NO WAY that this recipe won’t be great’ – or something to that effect. The following day I got a text message saying ‘Because of Paul H I just wasted 6 eggs and 2.5 chocolate bars. I hate him’*.

*I’ve heavily and creatively edited this message, as his was far more swear-y
the roulade is hiding behind that jam jar

the roulade is hiding behind that jam jar

So obviously I had to prove him wrong and show him that there is just no way the Silver Fox would allow anyone to publish a recipe of his that hasn’t been thoroughly tested for the home cook. However, just to be safe, I halved the recipe.

This turned out to be not such a good decision, for the following two reasons:

1. it made it borderline impossible to roll (as evidenced by the photos)

2. it means we can only eat half of the recipe rather than the whole thing (possibly not so bad for my waistline but pretty crap for my taste buds)

'All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.'

‘All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.’

Before I go any further with this, I should mention that the recipe is not strictly for a chocolate roulade, but it’s Paul Hollywood’s ‘Bûche de Noël‘ (oooh, fancy punctuation!). However, because it isn’t Noël yet, I took away all the frills and made it into a really simple roulade (also, frosting. So much work.).

Of my limited baking knowledge, mostly acquired through meticulous watching of the Great British Bake-Off (greatly enhanced by having baked this thing today), I should share the following tidbits about making a roulade:

1. whisk the crap out of those egg whites. Especially if doing it by hand. It’s unlikely you’ll overwhisk them (if like me you’re lazy as hell). They need to be pretty stiff to withstand the beating that they will get when folded into the batter.

2. this cake takes a ridiculous short amount of time to bake – trust Mr. Hollywood though

3. make sure the cake is cool before rolling it – unlike a swiss roll, the fact that there is no flour in it (making it gluten free, hurrah people with allergies!) makes it a lot more elastic when cool, but it will break if rolled when warm

4. to roll (and this is Mary Berry’s advice), first cut a narrow strip of the end you will start rolling with, and then use that to roll the cake as tightly as you can. In my case, not THAT tightly.

roulade's coming to get you

roulade’s coming to get you

I made some other changes to the recipe, besides halving it and removing the frosting; they turned out pretty well so I shall keep them for when I make this in the future – we’ll see how long I can resist it:

I didn’t want to mess with the delicate chemical balance of the cake; what I did want to mess with was the filling, so I removed the raspberries, added about 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and about 1/16 tsp orange blossom water. I was way too worried about the orange blossom water being too overpowering, so I was really careful with it and too conservative in retrospect. I love floral flavours, and I think a bit more orange could have gone a long way – I think it could easily take twice as much as I used. I would also add Grand Marnier if I had some. Seriously dudes. People. Esteemed readers. There’s potential in this.

I smothered it in powdered sugar, because as we all know it makes things look fancy. The cake is intensely fudge-y and chocolate-y, and the cream makes it very very rich. I would recommend EVERYONE tries it at least once. Also, I see no need for frosting. It will probably make it sickly sweet, whereas like this it is just the right amount of sweet and creamy.

So there you have it. Chocolate roulade.

plan view of the cake

plan view of the cake

Paul Hollywood’s Bûche de Noël – BBC Good Food

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coconut tea cake

I should probably explain the reason for my absence from this blog. It’s two-fold really:

1. I really needed to give baking a break. Not because I had grown tired of it, quite the contrary; mainly because my waistline suffered greatly from it, and I put on quite a bit of weight getting through all of my sugary concoctions.

this is a cake

2. the other reason is a bit silly: my friend Nancy has been too busy to post, and therefore I haven’t bothered, as I like to think our blogs are twinned and not just that, I like to get a healthy competition thing going.

I should keep blogging though, as reading these two makes me think they hardly seem like good reasons to stop. Posts may however have to be more about crafts, which hopefully will keep the scales in check – that and all the squash I’ve been playing.

This post doesn’t quite obey that rule just yet, and seeing as Christmas approaches it is likely that if I post about anything, it will be cakes. Yes yes I am filled with contradiction, but it doesn’t seem to bother me so deal with it.

mmm cake? maybe

I baked this cake over a month ago. I was going to post about it soon after, but my life became this crazy tornado of things and I didn’t feel like it and didn’t quite know what to say either. But since I’ve been on a bit of a baking kick lately, I thought I should get this one out of the way, as a means of making me pick up the camera and starting to take pictures of baked goods (rather than just eating them).

The recipe for this cake comes from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking – From My Home to Yours. The first time I made it, it wasn’t a success. I guess that should have put me off it, however I absolutely refuse to believe that Dorie would put a dud in her book,  so I will try it until it’s up to scratch. Also, this time I had all the ingredients.

SO off I went. Coconut tea cake. Coconut tea cake (the way Dorie came up with it) is a strange concoction, because of the order things go into the bowl. If you’re a ‘cream butter and sugar’ type of girl (or boy, we don’t discriminate here), read at your own peril. Butter is actually the last ingredient to be added to the mix, even after the flour – Dorie, ever the iconoclast!

sorry no pictures of cut cake. Trust me, it wasn’t worth it.

So… I made this cake again hoping that this time I’d get the Dorie factor and that it would be as wonderful as all other recipes of hers I tried. I guess this isn’t the last time I’m making this cake though. Don’t get me wrong, the cake tastes nice and everything, but it’s supposed to be moist and isn’t. I find this intensely puzzling due to the amount of butter and coconut milk in the recipe. What makes it dry? Is it the baking time, am I baking it for too long? Is it just ummm fate? (stupid fate)

No idea. Until I find out, I will try and try again. Next time is the one. I won’t be beaten by this cake I think, unless it means a ridiculous amount of time and ingredients spent testing it. I am stubborn, but not that stubborn.

We did eat it. ALL of it. Moistened with things like juice, tea, syrups or anything that would come to mind. But yeah. Dull. Sry Dorie.

at least it was pretty

Here’s a link to someone who made it and had better results. They share the recipe, so it saves me typing it. Although, you know. BUY THE BOOK DORIE IS AWESOME.

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lemon curd

or: This post may or may not need a more reverential tone from me

those strawberries thought they might just dip themselves in the curd and then jump into my mouth

During the Queen’s jubilee (not sure jubilee is capitalised but in case it is, Jubilee – also, can I say ‘Queen’?), I decided to break my non-baking-so-often rule. I had already broken it a few weeks before for my birthday, but it felt like an important enough occasion, not to mention a good opportunity to eat cake and really, I don’t need much more than that to start breaking rules.

I wanted to make something inherently British. I’m not British, but I have a palate for the cooking and baking here. I think it’s delicious and actually wouldn’t mind eating much much more of it but alas, not possible if I want to stop expanding.

I thought about something red and blue and white, but I really felt like using lemons. So out went the red and blue (and white – sorry flag), and in came a sunny yellow – to contrast with the weather during the rainy jubilee (Jubilee). I don’t think the Queen (HRH) would disapprove.

I decided to go with cupcakes. I should explain that I am no fan of cupcakes. I can’t pinpoint what it is I don’t particularly like – I think it’s the concept: the idea of a small cake with a very high ratio of frosting to cake, that’s supposed to be dainty and cute. It just doesn’t appeal to me. Whenever I have eaten a cupcake (and granted, there haven’t been many occasions, maybe once or twice), I’ve always thought ‘I should have gone for cake instead’. Always a disappointing experience. Sorry cupcakes.

where did that spoonful of curd go?

Nevertheless I made lemon cupcakes with lemon curd – don’t ask me why. Since this was a British celebration, I actually baked lovely dainty fairy cakes, in gingham linings.

Oh btw, you will have to imagine all of the above as I have no pictures. The cakes were a Mary Berry recipe; I love you Mary, (Mrs. Berry?) but they were plain. But hey, I think that was her intention so well done Mrs. B.

I also made lemon curd, and used a recipe by this French guy who makes desserts. His name is Eric Lanlard and he has had a couple of shows on Channel 4. Maybe he’s quite famous, no idea. He says he makes cakes for Elizabeth Hurley and Madonna, but do they even eat cake? ANYWAY, Eric Lanlard has an amazing recipe for lemon curd in his Lemon Meringue Cupcakes.

Maybe I should have made his whole recipe. Maybe. As it turns out, my blowtorch that I got about, hmm, 2 years ago? still cannot be used because I’m too lazy to buy whatever fuels it. Also, I was in no mood for italian meringue – too much hassle when you don’t have a stand mixer.

So I made dainty fairy cakes, cut the tops off and filled them with lemon curd. The lemon curd was awesome – really tart, but what else would you expect? I’ve since been spreading it on slices of bread (maybe eating it out of a spoon too) and thinking of what else I can do with it.

‘digging in’

The reason I like the recipe isn’t just that though. Eric (Mr. Lanlard?) uses a double boiler method BUT BUT stay with me, he adds the butter to the mixture at the beginning. Yes friends this is a brilliant revelation for me as I always thought I’d have to 1) wait for the thing to cool, 2) add room temperature butter, which is boooring. When I make lemon curd I want to be able to use it (or eat it by the spoonful, who knows) as quickly as possible. SO this may just be my go-to recipe from now on.

Maybe my epiphany is a well-known thing to others, but I thought I’d share nonetheless.

You can find the recipe in the 4Food website (and I’d advise you to have a browse because they have some really nice recipes) and see the episode in which he makes it (if you’re in the UK) by clicking the following links:

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes – by Eric Lanlard

Baking Mad – Episode 1 – 4oD

Let me know if you try this – hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.

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quilting

So I’m trying to focus on my crafts a bit more and avoid making so many sweets. It hasn’t exactly worked yet (just ask the carrot cake we finished last week) but at least I’m trying.

I bought a quilting kit from Constança a while ago – can’t remember how long ago, but definitely last year. I really wanted to give quilting a try, but didn’t know where to start, and this seemed like it was worth a try. After buying and examining the kit (which let me tell you, was the most adorable and perfect thing ever), I didn’t start it because I was missing something: a sewing machine – no way was I going to sew all that by hand.

apples

A few months ago I borrowed A’s mother’s one, so I was set. And then, one day when our plans to go out were ruined by some heavy rain, I finally decided to pick it up. And I couldn’t put it down.

The hardest part was setting up the colour sequence. It took me AGES to get to something I liked, and even then I just used Constança‘s as a code and replaced it with mine – you’ll notice they repeat in exactly the same way. Task #1: FAIL.

So yeah, guess I’m pretty rubbish at coordinating colours.

I called this square 'the pizza place'

Sewing squares is easy. Rows, harder. But quilting. Quilting is a challenge (Daring Bakers take note). Keeping lines straight? Hah. The squares make it simpler to make sure that the lines are parallel, but even so I had difficulty with keeping them straight, and the stitching regular. This is especially obvious in the backing, because it has lines – mine are hardly parallel to the fabric.

Then there’s the binding – Constança has an INCREDIBLE technique (that she shows on the tutorial that comes with the kit). I’ve since seen it in a quilting book, but am still amazed at how something so simple yields such a seamless result.

i LOVE the binding.

So, now I have been infected by quilting. I have hardly stopped ever since finishing this baby blanket, and am trying more challenging items, larger quilts, thinner fabrics. Granted, they are not perfect yet, but I think I’m improving: I’m definitely more confident and careful with my sewing, and most of all, more patient. Even though I still want to finish it immediately and hate waiting for wadding to dry. Seriously, wadding: you need to dry faster (especially since it almost takes our lounge out of action as that is the only area large enough to flat dry it).

Constança has since been selling more kits in her etsy shop, so if you’re a keen quilter that doesn’t like washing, ironing, and cutting fabric, or waiting for wadding to dry, or indeed haven’t quilted before but would like to try it, I highly recommend hers. Each kit is unique, and the colour and pattern selection is without fault.  You do have to be quick though, as they fly off the shelves in a matter of hours from the time they are put on sale.

can't get enough of that binding

These are some photos of my finished quilt – a bit yellowed but should give you a good idea of what it looks like.

I love it

I expect there will be some more pictures of this as some point.

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