Saturday, October 30, 2010

happy halloweekend!

Omg! A crochet post!

Finally made some critters from my Creepy Cute Crochet book! And here they are for Halloweekend!

Devil (pardon the hot glue button eyes)

I heart my creepy cute button eyes, btw, very Coraline! I think I'll try to make a creepy cute style Coraline.

Reaper (and more Reaper here)

Skeleton bride and groom. She's missing a veil, she's not a "blushing" bride I guess. haha. If I find some tool for an appropriate price that I don't have to buy 50 pieces of, or come across something to substitute, I'll finish her up. Until then...Creepy Cute Skeleton Bride and Groom! I LOVE his top hat, btw.

Vampire Queen! Vampire queen is definitely the coolest creepy cute character I've made. I envy her long red hair. The hair is tricky, but I think this one came out okay for a first try. My first try fell apart, I couldn't even untangle it. But she's definitely awesome.

So what did I think of the patterns in this book? She has a great blog with a lot of tutorials, etc., but I have to say I found a lot of the instructions overly complicated for some things. Like the heads are made in rounds and decreased randomly all over the place, why? It's apparently because the head is shaped slightly oblong...but could you not do that in spirals? And who can tell anyway. Also for things like the hems of the skirts on the bride and vampire queen, it sounds like you're supposed to like double back and crochet in the stitches you just made, but I couldn't figure out how to get there without turning or something, and then I'd be crocheting in the wrong direction...whatever!

My advice to anyone following the patterns in this book is definitely take the time to make all the little details! For example I had no idea vampire queen had a collar, because who can tell from the picture and I was eager to finish her! But make it, it looks cute in real life. :o) But don't loose sleep over following the stitches exactly as they're written if you're having trouble, just make it how it looks good or works for you and move on! And stitch the faces before you fill the head, hello...

And last, my characters needed a vehicle in which to reside, since I just stuffed them with fiberfill and no one really stands up properly without some effort. So I made the great pumpkin bowl!

Loosely based on a pattern I found on Ravelry somewhere, I improvised most of the lid and all of the details like the stem, leaf, and vines. I started a second larger one but he'll become a harvest pumpkin, and not so much a halloween pumpkin. :o)

Please visit my flickr page for more halloween crochetedness!

Happy halloween kids!

Friday, October 22, 2010

my first french macarons: pumpkin with cinnamon buttercream filling

I love mini desserts. I haven't known about french macarons for long but they're so damn cute I had to learn how to make them. in googling some recipes I saw another blogger mention this book, I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita which is apparently the macaron bible. Although I have a wishpot which is mostly books, I've sort of sworn off buying baking books or magazines, since there's ssssooooooooo many recipes online. But since my new obsession I decided to stop by Barnes and Noble to see if they had any macaron-ing books, and it was there!

I actually brought it home and read it. Like from cover to cover. I read a review on it later which said something about it originally being published in Japanese? Then translated...this was clearly translated. :o)

Anyway, on to the macarons!

I am pretty impressed they worked the first time around! It was not without incident though. In the book, she describes this method for making butter cream where you make syrup (I guess) by microwaving the hell out of sugar and water for 4 minutes!? This is crazy, I actually did it and burned the hell out of the sugar, surprise, and thought my measuring cup was not going to be salvaged. It was, but that's just a bad idea.

I stuck a bunch of sticky notes all over the pages as well, here are what some of them said, in case you're a first time macaron maker as well:
  1. Seriously...just sift it (she says sift the almond meal and powdered sugar twice, i half assedly did it once...but it makes it much lighter and just sift it, once should do it...)
  2. Cut the damn parchment so it's flat, otherwise macarons may run when piped
  3. Don't pipe onto the same side as the circles are drawn on, it comes off on the macron, oops. Either flip parchment over or make a template on a new piece of paper that you remove after piping.
  4. When getting ready to stir 15 or 20 (or whatever gets the job done, hello) times, add the food coloring at this point
  5. When piping, don't swirl. pipe straight down until it spreads out and fills the circle
  6. Really, make sure the oven racks are in the center, my bottom rack burned. And check em! Mine baked way faster than 15 minutes
Those are my macaron gems of wisdom for you.

But beware when good macarons go bad. Here's what happened to mine that were on the bottom rack and piped by swirling, it's hard to look at...

Yikes! Sad... this one is better. :o) They even baked up with the little "foot," without which they can't be called macarons apparently. They're (by "they" I guess I mean the French?) referring to the little crinkley baked up looking part at the bottom of the macaron.

Oh, by the way, to get the pumpkin flavor I used two teaspoons of pureed pumpkin added to the meringue. I have many many bags of pumpkin puree, as it is also the first year I've pureed my own pumpkins and Dave bought me 3. :o) We'll be having pumpkin treats until into the new year I think. :o)

Also here is the recipe I used for the cinnamon buttercream. Good, but super sweet, maybe too sweet? I made a note to try with less sugar next time. Dave confirmed the macrons over all had a nice pumpkin pie taste, so for my first time these were certainly a success. I've decided this winter will be the year of the macaron, so I have more macaron plans to come.

One more sexy macaron picture and the rest are on flickr.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

heart shaped 40th anniversary boston cream cupcakes

My parents were married 40 years in September! Dave and I joined them for dinner Sunday night and I made Boston cream cupcakes from a magazine my mom bought. My dad had book marked the recipe for me since he knows about me and cupcakes :o)

The cupcakes are filled by cutting out the center and slicing away the "cupcake innards," then filling with pastry cream the putting the cupcake top back on. I was pretty sure it would work best with full sized cupcakes so I broke out my heart shaped pan and did the rest in minis. Since I do love minis so.

My only real issue was they're baked without wrappers so the glaze can run amok down the sides, but the edges got a little dark on some of the minis. :o/ Not sure if it was the pans, position of the oven rack or what, because it varied by pan, but most came out good enough!

I thought I'd try piping the filling in on the minis, but no luck, since the cake is denser to support the filling, I ended up "coring" and filling them by hand too. I think it was 1:00 am by the time I finished. Plus I got excited to fill the cupcakes since this was my first filled cupcake, and I filled them all before making the glaze, then realized the glaze is supposed to sit. wah.

Here's my play by play for filling:

1) Slice out cupcake center

2) Slice away middle and save to layer with pastry cream and chocolate glaze for parfait later! :oD

3) Fill!

4) Reassemble the cuppity cake

Fabulous! Here's how they look cut into.

They're best at room temperature so the filling becomes pudding like, but we kept them in the fridge, and it was really hard waiting until they came back to room temp before consuming. The minis especially, you can eat them in one bite. Totally make the effort to fill them with as much pastry cream as possible, that stuff is orgasmic and it's what makes these cupcakes extra amazing.

More in the flickr page, as usual, plus a bunch of fall baking I have yet to post!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

red velvet minis = love

For awhile now I think red velvet has been the new "trendy" cake flavor. Last month (bad blogger!) I had a jewelry party so thought I'd bake up a crowd pleaser! So I chose red velvet mini cupcakes with cream cheese frosting since it seems the traditional combo. Plus Dave doesn't really like cream cheese frosting, but I wasn't baking these for the house or for our friends so I took advantage. Although my party had a small turnout a so bunch of them ended up coming home with me anyway, oh well, I liked em. :o)

I bought red food dye especially for them!

I recently found ming makes cupcakes and I am in love with it. The cupcakes are amazing. Took me awhile to figure out if you click text on the menu bar, you can bookmark individual recipes. So cupcake #4 here is what I used. I had a few other red velvet recipes bookmarked, but chose to use martha's recipe for cream cheese frosting, mostly because the volume and ratio of cream cheese to sugar seemed right.

They certainly came out a success! I didn't have cocoa powder so I melted about 1/2 oz unsweetened bakers chocolate instead of a tablespoon cocoa powder. I ended up with about 38 minis and baked em for 10 minutes.

Look at the sexy red minis! The cream cheese frosting, well, I think I let my cream cheese and butter soften too much because the frosting was way too thin...I added more powdered sugar to try to thicken it up, but I would of preferred less. But it still had a good cream cheese "tang" in the end! I had to put the bowl in the fridge for awhile before I could pipe them.

More in the baking adventures set!
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