Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Treats # 4 & 5: Baking Storm

Last week before Christmas = Baking! Baking! Baking! 

 These are my favourite sugar cookies to make (and eat). The recipe comes from the older Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook. I was sad, as was my mother to learn the new cookbook does not have this same recipe. In fact, many of their 'updated' recipes are rather disappointing. Unfortunately, my mom upgraded her cookbook at the same time she bought me one, so many of those recipes I grew up with are now gone. Luckily, I had photocopied the recipe out of her cookbook for when I was off dogsitting and felt the need to bake (which in any given week will arise). 
The recipe is for 'cut-outs' but I always make pinwheel/swirl cookies because it's faster/easier (although I will make the dough up one night and bake the cookies the next) and I love the look of them. With less rerolling, the dough also stays softer. I will use practically any holiday as an excuse to make them (I've made them for Halloween, Valentine's Day, 4th of July, President's Day, Easter, and Thanksgiving, as well as Christmas).

Sugar-Cookies (pinwheel/swirl instructions)
-1/3 cup margarine or butter
-1/3 cup shortening
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 egg
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 tablespoon milk
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-Dash of salt       

Beat margarine and shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add about half of the flour, the egg, sugar, milk, baking powder, vanilla, and salt. Beat till thoroughly combined Beat in remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Color as desired. Wrap in saran (I know it's evil and wasteful, but it's the only thing I use plastic wrap for). Chill for an hour or hour and a half. 

Roll out one of the lumps of chilled dough (I roll it out directly on the saran wrap to prevent it from sticking to the counter or becoming discolored by the flour/unable to stick to itself) until it is about 1/4" thick and is a rectangle. The wider it is, the larger the cookies will be. The longer the rectangle, the more cookies you will get. Roll the second colour out to the same size rectangle as the first. Transfer onto top of the first (or vice versa... keep the colour you want on the outside on the bottom). With the long side parallel to the edge of the counter, begin to roll the far edge of the dough towards you (the saran wrap will help you start this, and pull on it for an even pressure while your roll it up). You will have a tube of cookie dough now. Rewrap tightly and chill for another three hours. 

Simply slice dough into 1/4" thick slabs, place on cookie sheet about 1 1/2" to 2" apart and bake in 350 degree F oven for about 8 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned and tops are no longer shiny. Our oven only takes about five minutes.  

Beware! These are highly addicting and you won't stop eating them until your stomach feels like it's going to explode. 

New-to-me recipe... Not sure I like the ginger. I used much less than it called for, since I was afraid it would overpower the cookies.

From Betty Crocker Cookies Cookies, a birthday present from my mom.

And finally, able to pack up the goodies! To the Post Office tomorrow! (Okay, I do have to make one more triple batch of sugar cookies so that they are fresh to give at Friday's Christmas gathering).


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Treats #2 & #3: Stove Top Slavery

This weekend, I took care of the stove-top cooked candy/treats... 

So the first attempt at toffee, I used a recipe from a book called Rose's Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Bernanbaum. MAJOR FAIL! Ms. Baranbaum's recipe tells you to cook the coffee to 285 degrees F or the soft crack stage. Had I checked the internet instead of blindly trusting published works (which would theoretically have functional, tested recipes), I would've discovered that toffee has to be cooked to the hard crack stage (300 degrees F). Trial two  (using this recipe) was a success, with two more batches to follow, for a total of between 6 and 7.5 pounds of toffee!

I can't seem to make fudge from scratch... it turns out all grainy, so I cheat and use the Marshmallow Fluff recipe. I made two large batches, making a total of ten pounds of the sweet treat.

That puts me 2/3 of the way through my Christmas baking...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Steampunk Bodice (& the TARDIS)

We went to the Victorian Stroll in Troy a couple weekends ago, and of course steampunk'd it. Guess who else decided to show up there? The Doctor parked his blue box outside a tea shop (they were doing a Doctor Who theme during the stroll... very awesome)!

At any rate, I already had a full Victorian skirt (from my Mrs. Lovett costume) which seemed fitting for Christmas time shenanigans, being red and white candy stripe. But a new bodice/ jacket was in order...

McCalls 6710 
+ tails
- about an inch (along shorten/lengthen line)
+ welt pockets                                               

I've had these neat swirl brass buttons for quite a while. There's actually a couple on the sides of my goggles, holding the strap to the goggles. Anyway, they were perfect for this piece, and that's the last of them! Also, welt pockets! Forgot how much I love them and they are perfect for pocket watches!

I lined the bodice in leftover stripe fabric to match the skirt, and also trimmed my topper out with a band, bow and long drapey ties. The belt I pulled from my old steampunk pirate outfit, finished grommeting it (I had only done the first few holes because I had limited resources when I made it and not enough grommets), attached my aetheray gun in holster, threaded a compass on a watch chain through the grommets, attached a reticule (made from the same black dot on black cotton as the bodice) and was kitted out.
(Plus this totally justifies the expense of that custom made red stripe silk-cotton fabric I got through spoonflower, since I've now used it for two events... right?)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Treat #1: Why is the the rum gone?

The rum is gone because I made RUM BALLS!

Quite possibly everyone's favourite... ;-) I make these early so they have a week or two to mature...

2 1/2 cups Nilla Wafers (about one 11 oz box)
1 cup confectioner's/powdered sugar
3/4 cup pecan pieces
2 tablespoons cocoa
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 cup rum

Crush/Crumb Nilla wafers in food processor/blender until fine (Should measure 2 1/2 cups after crushed). Place in large bowl. Chop pecan pieces in food processor/blender until fine (again 3/4 cup measure should reflect after being chopped/ground up).  Add to bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl. Mix, using hands is probably best (kneading together the ingredients until thoroughly combined). Form into balls about 1" in diameter by rolling between palms, and then coat in topping (ground nuts, sprinkles, cocoa, powdered sugar) by rolling in a bowl or plate of the topping. (May have to add more rum as necessary to maintain desired consistency).

For best flavour, let mature a week or so in a sealed container.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My First BURDA patterns!

I do rather like some of their styles, but being a cheapskate, I only buy patterns when they're $1 on sale at Jo-Ann fabrics. I'll go for the $1.99, too, but Burda never seems to go for less than $4 and some change. This time, however they were on sale for $2.50, so I picked up a few, but limited myself to only a few. I'm pretty excited about them...


BURDA 7179 (at simplicity)

If you're not aware, I LOVE me some shirt-dresses. Perhaps because I remember my childhood with fondness and grunge made an impression on me. This one however, combines the shirt dress with the retro 50s look. Double love. Also, this pattern is not only for the dress, but for accessories! Collar variations, a tie, a bow tie (bow ties are cool) and best of all, the belt! (matching belts are honestly what makes many 50s looks, and are neglected in most patterns... perhaps because they think, oh anyone can make a belt? Not an excuse!)


BURDA 8488 (at simplicity)

So... I got lazy with this one. I've wanted some 'sailor' style (or old school breeches, if you prefer) pants, but haven't gotten around to playing with drafting them up. Unfortunately, in this pattern, the front piece is decorative rather than functional, and they have an invisible zip in the side. I think this can be easily remedied, however... The ones with the lacing reminds me of these pants I made a number of years ago now...


BURDA 7198 (at simplicity)

Love this for several reasons.

1. I have been grooving on the nightgowns lately, and I think the tunic version would be a great lounge item.

2. After about 5-10 years, my long sleeve shirts are starting to bite it hard core, and I could use some more.

3. Most shirt patterns one finds have very high, tight necklines. I'm quite liking this boat-neck and front tab, which my friend/room-mate/Jo-Ann buddy has dubbed the 'her-ley', or female henley.

4. Darts in the front equal a better fit for us busty gals!