Pumpkin. Pie. Pavlova. #epic #halloween
Nothing like celebrating Halloween with an American icon…
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Christmas Craftiness 2011
I just realised that I’ve made a lot of stuff this month that didn’t actually get documented on the blog yet. For posterity’s sake…
Felt Tree Ornaments
As in previous years, a group of my knitting friends met up for a “Christmas Tea Party” earlier in the month. We always do a handmade ornament exchange. Rather than knit something, I saw some felt tree ornaments online and decided to sew instead. I made a template out of some cardstock and cut out the front and back of several trees. Then I hand-sewed on a selection of buttons to each front. (I’ve got a box of odd buttons.) Then I sewed the pieces together, sandwiching a piece of ribbon at the top for the hanger and leaving the bottom open. I stuffed each tree lightly with polyfill, then sewed the opening closed. I then trimmed the edges with pinking shears and did some decorative stitching with red yarn. They turned out pretty cute! I was very happy to see them go home with Kylie, who has hung them on her mantle. (In a stunning non-coincidence, I got Kylie’s project: a truly amazing knitted Christmas tree!)
Nuts & Bolts and Compost Cookies
Next up was the December meeting of the Inner City brand of the Knitters Guild, and I was on duty for morning tea. I decided to go with a sweet/salty theme and made “Nuts & Bolts” and Compost Cookies. Nuts & Bolts is basically the Australian equivalent of Chex Mix. (Recipe here.) You mix up cereal and nuts with a packet of soup mix and some spices and then bake it in the oven to get crispy. I also add pretzels to mine. This stuff is addictive! The Compost Cookies were famously created at the Momofuku Milk Bar in New York. (Recipe here.) The idea is that you throw all kinds of sweet and salty things in there: potato chips, coffee grinds, candy, whatever. I used dark choc chips, meringue pieces, Tim Tams, Sesame Snaps, pretzels, and sea salt crisps. They were pretty good! Even though I chilled them overnight, they still spread quite a bit in the oven. (Always happens. I still haven’t gotten the hang of the new oven yet, clearly.) Both dishes were a big hit at the meeting.
Caramel Walnut Upside-Down Banana Cake
We got some ladyfinger bananas in one of our FoodConnect boxes, so I decided to turn them into a cake. I’d made this Smitten Kitchen recipe before and the Snook really liked it. I actually divided the batter in two and made two smaller cakes this time: one for us and one to take to work. I still haven’t worked out the trick to getting flipping the cakes and getting the caramel out nicely, but the taste outweighs the messiness of the topping. Everybody at work loved it, and the cake I took in disappeared in about 5 minutes!
Candied Gingerbread Men
I had a wild idea to make gingerbread men for our last day of work before the Christmas break. Of course, the only cookie cutter I own is the state of Michigan (don’t ask), so I had to go on a search for a proper one. Then I had to decide on a recipe. I went with Serious Eats’s Candied Gingerbread Men. It uses crystallized ginger, which I know the Snook likes a lot. He actually did most of the prep for the dough since he was on vacation this week. I cut them out and baked them late Wednesday night. I didn’t have any time to decorate them, but they were still tasty. The shapes were amusingly non-standard, mostly because I suck at rolling out dough and cutting consistent shapes. It was good fun though, and it made the whole house smell like Christmas!
Cookie Monster Cupcakes
It’s Cupcake Day for the RSPCA today, and I went all out. This was my inspiration, and I’d say they come pretty close! Tips for future googlers: I made plain vanilla cupcakes from a box mix. It’s helpful if you can fill the liners higher than usual; that way you get a nice rounded dome on top. The icing is just pre-made Betty Crocker vanilla, dyed to a brilliant sky blue with food colouring we got at Iced Affair. We also used the colouring to dye a bag of dessicated coconut the same colour. (Snookums put it in a big bag, added some drops of colour, and shook it all around.) So I iced the cupcakes and then sprinkled coconut all over. Then the tricky bit. I tried just cutting a slit and sticking the cookie in, but that didn’t work very well. So I started using a sharp knife to cut a smile-shaped wedge out of the top. I also used the knife to trim the sides of each cookie into a point (so I wasn’t ramming as much bulk down into the cupcake). That worked better. The eyes are made from large white chocolate buttons with a small chocolate chip stuck on. I used the knife to cut slits and then stuck the eyes down inside.
Now I just have to figure out how I’m going to get 24 of these to work!
Update: I sold out! Everybody loved them. So far I’ve taken in $78 in donations for the RSPCA. Not bad for a few hours’ playing in the kitchen…
Halloween Teaser #2
What’s that? Oh, I’ll tell you what that is. That, my friends, is a METRIC ASS-TON of Chex Mix.
Except it isn’t really Chex Mix, since you can’t get Chex here. It’s Nutrigrain + pretzels + bagel chips + macadamias + other nuts MIX. And seriously, there’s like two gallons of snack there.
Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
The Snook mentioned the other night that the grocery store had some lovely carrots (which he was serving to me for dinner), which reminded me that I’ve had a hankering for come carrot cake lately. I made the mistake of saying that aloud at work yesterday… and promptly received about half a dozen requests for it. A cake is always hard to transport and dish up though, so I decided to go with cupcakes instead. A few websites mention that carrot cake can be a bit dense and heavy for cupcakes, so I found this recipe with a trick to avoid the problem. You “emulsify” the oil by pouring it into a running food processor (with egg and sugar). Sounds fancy, but was actually really easy. So I baked a dozen of them last night, and this morning I decorated them. We’re actually out of maple syrup at the moment (and Coles didn’t have any last night), so I used the hand mixer to beat a bit of maple flavouring along with a good scoop of brown sugar into a block of cream cheese. It tastes FANTASTIC. Then I sprinkled on some orange icing sugar (I have the biggest collection of Halloween-related baking paraphernalia outside the US) and then topped with a walnut half. I hope everybody likes them! (And I have to say, I’m really proud of my food porn photography. Hooray for the macro mode!)