Saturday, October 17, 2015

Back in the sewing saddle?

Now that Abigail has arrived, there is a whole unexplored direction for my sewing goals—baby things. First up on that list was a boppy cover. What’s a boppy? Well, it is a little creepy looking...
In short, it is a weird partial donut-type pillow used for nursing. As Abbie gets older she’ll be able to use this weird pillow thing for developmental activities like tummy time and for support as she’s learning to sit. Of course, there was the option to buy the boppy with a cover (cutesy at best, foul ugly at worst), but I guffawed at that prospect since it was $10 more. $10 when I could easily make one myself?

And I could enjoy the guilt of procrastination (priceless)! Of course, then Abbie came almost three weeks early so I’ve been using this naked boppy with swaddling blankets draped over it because I couldn’t even find the sewing machine in the front room, much less use it.
Anyhow, finally got my act together and it looks pretty good! This was a good reason to use one of my many pink-tinged plaids for something I'll be able to enjoy daily. And nightly, for that matter. Thankfully this allowed me to overcome my sewing hurdle that has been in place for several months.
I used this tutorial/pattern and it is really quite easy, though I forgot some really basic sewing techniques, such as clipping the inner curve and tacking the zipper in place before I legit sewed it in. But after I remembered those tricks I felt so good about stuff that I sewed another cover so I would have one to switch out on laundry day.

Here’s hoping I’ll be able to keep sewing items at a good clip—especially since I’m hoping to burn through some of my stash to make Christmas gifts and save some money, though probably not save any swears. Fingers crossed!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Cake a Week: The mission and the progress

One of the resolutions I made for this year is to bake a cake a week. There are multiple reasons for this, only one of which is the joy of being surrounded by baked goods at all times. I figured I have to live up to the title of cakemaker (only a title through my family, but still), eliminate some of my mental hurdles to baking, try new recipes, and to basically stop procrastinating. Simply put, it is probably a good time to be friends with me if you like cake. Here's the summary of January.

Week 1
Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake, as found in my Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking cookbook. Nothing to report there and no pictures (short-lived cake, ya know), but a durn fine coffee cake. Since we were short butter and yogurt (which itself was a replacement for sour cream), I subbed in olive oil and coconut milk, respectively. Super-recommended.

Week 2
Double cupcakes for CJ! Coconut and citrus yellow from the aforementioned Williams-Sonoma cookbook and Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, respectively.  The major lesson here is to take caution in baking 24 cupcakes at a time, because oven hotspots will become evident. However, I forgot to write down where our oven's hotspots are located so I will lose roughly 15% of my next cupcake harvest. Oven wins. Again.
Week 3
Your basic Hershey's chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, as prepared for Parks's taco birthday. This version of the decorative tacos (idea/inspiration here) was modified according to what we actually had handy--shells made of coconut caramels rolled flat, chopped raisins and dates for the "meat", coconut dyed green for the lettuce, and orange "cheese" frosting. I also had some fun with the Wilton's decorative frosting tips for this cake, super fun! (almost all decorations accomplished with tip 12.)
Lesson of the week? Move the pizza stones to a different oven rack BEFORE you put the cake in the oven; this simple move saves so much cursing.

Week 4
Another Williams-Sonoma cake, the Lemon Chiffon. Somehow I MURDERED this cake and, out of necessity, renamed it the Lemon Leather cake. Chiffon is supposed to be delicate and moist, but you needed a dinosaur jaw to hack through this disaster. I was cruising so high--woke up chipper and launched into making my weekly cake. I was separating the eggs to beat the whites then fold them into the cake to make it feather-y light whenChris came in and I started chatting with him. Next thing you know, I'd dumped the lemon juice and the lemon zest in with the whites instead of the yolk mixture; I panicked and tried to siphon off whichever was the top layer, but that...well, let's just say it was like resisting the Borg.
Midway through disaster, when I still thought I may be able to pull it off. Nope.
My next idea was that I would whip the foiled whites mixture as best as I could to make the cake light? Yeah? No. It ended up that whipping the egg whites and the lemon juice meant that the egg whites frothed and rose to the top while the lemon juice sank to the bottom, which sounds like what I wanted, except that I had already beat the living will out of the whites (they were only supposed to be medium peaks, not shellacked), so the damage was even further done. Oh, and it was supposed to be in a tube pan. No amount of glaze could save this mess.
Shortly before I admitted defeat.
 Well, maybe a little more glaze might have made it tolerable.

Week 5
Chocolate-Walnut  Cake with Caramel Sauce (Williams-Sonoma Entertaining cookbook)
This cake was tremendous and delicious and lovely. I should make it daily; especially because it calls for buttermilk and I love having the buttermilk cheat of adding lemon to regular milk--a very easy way to feel like you're pulling one over on the world.
The batter was so delicious the cake almost didn't make it to the oven.

The recipe called for store-bought caramel sauce (what?), so I stepped it up for my birthday and picked up Ginger Elizabeth fleur de sel caramel sauce. Totally worth the $8! At least, for a birthday it surely is.
Hi, reflection of Parks!
And that was January! Busy month, and my favorites are tied between the first one (coffee cake) and the last one (chocolate-walnut). Most humbling cake was easily the chiffon, that piece of garbage...never trust a cake invented by an insurance agent!