Dec 27, 2014

D335: Not true

Today is not when my day-335-of-creativity happened.

Besides writing things, I've made all sorts of meals and dishes.  Hub reminded me to do a little more for the blog today while I was making cherry pie filling. So here's the story...

We stayed with the in-laws in the week before Christmas, in central Victoria.  Hub and his brother both fruit picked in their high school summers and we heard of a cherry farm who needed some fruit off the trees after recent rain.  So off we went, resident expert to lead us and buckets in tow, to collect 25kg (yes) of cherries!!!

The orchard - it was big.
 They were excellent, and we had a lovely Christmas Eve-eve morning in Strathbogie, picking all the fruit we wanted.

One for my mouth, one for my tummy...
Yep, cherry picking is good.
So with five A4-sized 4" tall boxes in the boot we came home (only $1 a kilo!!), delivered one dutifully collected for a friend, and got through maaaaybe two by the end of Christmas Day.

Our box has a handfull still going.  I've about two cups in the freezer and have cooked up five cups for a pie filling.  I've used this recipe (, which has instructions for different base and top pastries (yyyyes!) and the filling goes like this:

Pit 5 cups of cherries into a saucepan, add 1.25 cups of sugar.
Warm to release the juices and bring to the boil.
Keep at a low boil for 7-8 minutes.
Add 4 tbsp of flour - sprinkle in small batches and stir in - and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, until thickened.
Stir in 1 tsp of vanilla and remove from the heat.

Be sure to sprinkle in the flour.  I accidentally dropped little clumps and the weight of it plopped it straight into the syrup and it instantly cooked  it into little globs of flour that were too strong to smear against the wall of the pan.  If I'm lucky, they'll present like raspberry seeds.

Hopefully I'll report on the pastry and pie tomorrow...

D334: Home Baked Oven

This was done back in October.  Yes. I've been absent.

I haven't been idle, however. It's just that the stuff I've been doing - writing - is something I'd like to keep separate to this.  That said, life hasn't been completely devoid of craft and such.  Here is an example of one project that seems to have been a winner.

Here is Bub, fresh from her nap, and its the first thing she did at the new oven - wash her hands!
I love that Bub knew exactly what was going on when she discovered this.  It took maybe an hour.  Use packing tape if you have it, not electrical tape like lazy me.

So, for this I used 
  • A box of suitable size and shape;
  • 4 pipe-cleaners;
  • An empty egg carton;
  • cello or sticky tape;
  • scissors;
  • Stanley knife (box cutter);
  • two paper or plastic plates;
  • one plastic bowl; and
  • aluminium foil.

I recommend not taped the box closed.  Using the lid for the stove top worked really well as its easy access to anything that needs repairing.

These are the pipe-cleaners being stuck to the "taps".  This is not the best tape to use :(
Bub cooking an egg in the oven, on the 'biscuit tray'.
The pipe-cleaners threaded through the box lid with a twisted loop used to secure it.
The 'taps', made from egg carton cups, and the 'spout'.
The loop of tape on the back of the foil-covered paper plates ('hot plates').
Foil covered plates, attached with a loop of tape, for 'hot plates.
Folded cardboard cut into shape and attached with pipe-cleaners and tape.
I traced around the edge of the bowl and used the box-cutter to cut inside that about a centimetre.  The bowl is taped in.
I used a box-cutter to cut between holes made with a pencil.  The fold points are reinforced and a partially folded piece of tape is the handle, which has worked really well.
Reinforced oven door "hinge".
A piece of tape partially folded to make a handle.
The oven tray, secured to a quick oats box (also taped to the base), and the fire in the background (triangles of paper!).

Aug 17, 2014

D322: Ah! Bees!!

There's a buzz, buzz, buzz at the partyyyy...

So I committed to making our new little 2-year old a cake she would recognise and enjoy.  She loves Buzzbee and I'm very glad I chose this option.  It's a character that doesn't change much and I can't very a lot.  He has very few features and only two colours, and is based on a simple shape common to cakes.  He doesn't even have limbs.  Why I deliberated for so long over other options is a mystery.

After watching lots of YouTube videos of people making buttercream, and colouring, rolling and laying down fondant, I decided to dive in.

Two 12" cakes layered with bought ganache.

The cake is one I've previously used and quite like.  Well, love, actually - it's so quick!  I made up a chocolate variation for this cake.
Take one Nigella Lawson Awesome Vanilla Cake recipe; add 3 tbsp of cocoa to the dry ingredients and 1 tspn of instant coffee, dissolved in just enough water, to the liquids.
I used a lined 12" round tin and baked it at 350F for 50-55mins.  See the lighter spots on the top? It's done when those finally appear in the centre.

So I baked one cake during nap, had a shop (of course!) and then baked the second before dinner.

The face was put down first, on a thin layer of buttercream icing.
The features were placed on top afterward.
I did all the decorating and arranging after dinner, which took about 4 hours.

I prepared the buttercream first (a double helping: 800g pure icing sugar to 250g of whipped butter), but didn't colour it.
Then I put the buttercream aside and tackled the construction.

I put down a thin layer of buttercream to help the cake stick to the board, and placed the first cake down.  I took about half a cm off the top of this bottom layer to level it a little.  To flatten it completely would've taken a third of the bulk, which felt like a terrible waste, even though my hovering Hub and MIL felt it would've been very, very worthwhile.  So, while the bottom layer wasn't completely flat, the 500g of ganache did a great job levelling the difference between the layers, and the bottom of the upper layer barely curved at all.

I decided to do the face next, while my brain was still pretty good.  This face used about 750g of fondant and I used gel food colouring for both the fondant and the buttercream.

My post from a few days ago shows the templates I used for this cake.  They were made with a dinner plate for the face and some food containers for the eyes.  I used a Math-o-mat and trial-and-error for the mouth.

I also made a strip of paper that fits inside the top half of the face to help place the eyes.  The strip was a wide as the distance from the edge to the eye (about 15mm) and marked where the top of the eyes should align.

With the yellow band of 'fuzz' on the base.  I patted it with the prongs of a fork
to make it look fuzzy.   The fondant yellow is a richer colour than the bright stripe.

With the black buttercream.  Look at the widdle hand...
I wish I'd made the face features much thinner, instead of the 1/4" of the face.

I asked Hub to stay up with me by this stage, for company and moral support.  He was the one who looked up how to adhere fondant to fondant: with a paste made from melting a bit of fondant in hot water.

Making the black was so much fun.  Doing the two yellows was a careful task, adding a little bit at a time. (Two dips of Lemon yellow plus a little dab of Tulip red.) But with the black... well, you can hardly make it too dark.  That was fun.

The hands and feet were cut without a template.  I flipped the first hand and made the second by cutting around that; ditto with the feet.  I also chickened out of fingers, which Buzzbee normally has.  Midnight brain said no.

...and the widdle feet. 
Hard to see, but the hand on the right side is waving.
We added the antennae on the day - just some 12mm x 30cm black pipe-cleaners curled as you like, stuck into the ganache layer at an angle.

On Sunday morning Bub saw the cake in the kitchen and exclaimed "Wow! Big cake! That's amazing!"  It was a success already!

Aug 15, 2014

D321: Mmaaaadness!

As well sa the Lemon yellow and black, I also bought Tulip red and Sky blue...
Why? Just in case I felt inclined to do something silly...

You know, like breaking a biscuit recipe into six (100g each for this recipe), colouring them differently, rolling them into 30cm long strips, overlapping them by about a third and rolling them up.  The uuuuusual shenanigans...

It's tricky to get something this layered perfectly flat, and then perfectly round!

Slightly reshaped with my fingers.

Yep, oven still dirty, but bikkies going well.
I used this good old recipe, basing my idea on the pinwheel version.

They turned out quite well and are headed for some short guests via some goodie bags.

Hypnotic yumminess

Aug 13, 2014

D320: Guess what's coming?

Bub turns two on Saturday. I'm predicting Sunday's party will be bigger than I expected...

It was a close call between this and a colourful rocket.  But I haven't worked with fondant before so I thought I should take it easy and choose something with just two colours.  It's going to be a 12" cake, sandwiched with ganache. 

Thinking of and choosing cake designs, planning and checking party stuff.  That's how I've spent my creative energy since the Junebug dress. 

Wish me luck.