Tuesday, July 7, 2009

And they're off...

Things have been very busy around these parts lately...lots of organizing (okay I'll be honest, just rearranging of the piles really), swatching for new knitting projects, contemplating my yarn stash, vet visits, bidding a fond farewell to the dear family of dust bunnies living in the corner of my living room, and making sure that all of the laundry is done. This can only mean one thing in our house—it's time for a road trip! The car is packed (embarassingly full as usual) , clean sheets and towels are waiting for our able-bodied house sitter and we're off! Next post from one of my favorite places...happy trails!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sweet somethings...

I find that many days in our house are so full that there isn't as much time for crafting and creating as I would like. In these busy times, the kitchen seems to be the one place where living by hand continues. I love food, I love preparing it, and eating it. I love baking and love baking with my kids even more. This is one of my favorite ways to start the day.

These scones are regular fare at our house. The recipe is fantastic. It is reliable, quick and easy to adapt.

Basic Scone Recipe
Preheat oven to 425ยบ.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch Kosher salt (optional)
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk, plus a Tablespoon more for brushing the tops of the scones
The add ins —1/2 cup dried fruit (cherries, blueberries, cranberries, currants, etc.), nuts, or chocolate chips, lemon or orange zest (optional)

I usually use my food processor to mix all the dry ingredients (excluding the dried fruit) and then add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly, but you could, and I have often, made these scones the old fashioned way by mixing the dry ingredients, and then cutting the butter into the dry ingredients with two table knives. Once the first 5 ingredients are mixed together, add the wet ingredients and pulse (or mix by hand) until the mixture comes together in a ball. Turn the mixture onto a floured board and add the "add ins", kneading the dough as little as possible. Once the "add ins" are incorporated, flatten the dough out into a disc and cut it into wedges (like you would cut a pie). Place the wedges on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a pastry brush to brush a little extra buttermilk onto the tops of the scones and then sprinkle sugar (we use Turbinado sugar for this step) on the top of the scones. Place the cookie sheet on the middle rack of your oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

We usually have these scones with dried cherries, but they are great with a little orange zest and dried cranberries, lemon zest and blueberries and sliced almonds, cinnamon and currants.

Time for cake...
Friends of ours are getting married next month and they have asked me to make their wedding cake. Yesterday we met for a cake tasting. This meant a little cake baking at our house—yum! One of the cakes that I made is my absolute favorite cake ever—a lemon butter cake.

It is a basic butter cake, but can be easily made into a lemon or orange cake by adding the zest and juice of the fruit. The texture of this cake is moist and soft, not as dense as a pound cake, but also nothing like any other butter cake I have ever had. The recipe is from Margaret Braun's book Cakewalk. When I first started tiptoeing around the idea of making cakes I was introduced to this wonderful book through my dear friend and cake baker extraordinaire, Jean Marie Moffa. Even if you never intend to make a "fancy" cake, I highly recommend this book. It is beautiful and inspiring, and is full of incredible confectionery designs that are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. She truly elevates cake design to art. In addition, there are few fantastic recipes in the back, hence my yummy cake.

This cake recipe makes two 10" cakes and a little more. Here you can see that I made two 10" cakes and one 4" cake.

For celebration cakes, I fill this cake with lemon curd or a berry coulis and frost it with an Italian meringue buttercream—sublime. I usually cover my celebration cakes in fondant, because it allows for really fun design elements. Here are two cakes that I made early on in my own personal cakewalk, using this recipe and fondant and gumpaste decorations—

I made this one for a friend's bridal shower...

and I made this one for my husband's end of the year departmental party (he's a classics professor)...

But here is how my family loves it best, plain and unadorned. Just serve it with a few fresh berries and it is absolute perfection.

All of a sudden I am quite hungry...I think it must be time for me to avail myself of a little of this handmade goodness.

Until next time, alison

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nice to meet you...

This is it...my first post. I have been dreaming of this blog for a while now, but it is this moment, the first post, that has kept me from getting started. It's a little daunting actually, and the flutter of butterfly wings—that mixture of excitement and nervousness that I feel at the beginning of any new adventure or friendship—is with me now. So, to break the ice I will begin in the old familiar way, just as I would any other friendship, with the simple phrase...nice to meet you. It is, in fact! I am hoping and looking forward to getting to know many new friends out there in the ether.

So without further ado, allow me to introduce myself...I am a mom, a wife, a maker of things and author of the soon to be published Fairy Tale Knits: 32 Project to Knit Happily Ever After (a collection of knit designs for children based on classic fairy tales). I knit, weave, bake, and try to keep up with three busy kids while living a creative, handmade life in a small mid-western town. With this blog, I hope to share my experiences on this journey. I envision lots of knitting, weaving, crafting, cooking, eating and playing along the way.

More to come.