Friday, May 30, 2008


Not the kind you can eat, but just as delicious. These cards turned out so cute. I wish I knew how to take better pictures. I got the best compliment when my daughter entered the craft room and said, "MOM! Those look like real cupcakes." Mission accomplished. I chalked the cupcake top to give it more dimension. I used a crimping tool to give the cupcake wrapper a more realistic look. I did shrink the top a bit so the whole card would fit into a regular sized envelope. Hey I'm making all my Christmas cards this year... I don't want to have to start making envelops too.

I got the templates to make this card from Linsey Rickett's "Outside the Lines" blog. I did alter them to suit my needs, but it was a great jumping off spot.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Maya Angelou's Caramel Cake

I recently read Maya Angelou's "hallelujah! the welcome table." It's a recipe book and yes I did "read" it. I really loved how she had stories that went with each recipe. Rich stories talking about the memories of these foods and how they fit into her life and the recipes followed. The recipes almost seemed secondary in this book to the stories. I think one could read this book and be satisfied without cooking a thing. Although after reading the stories I dare you not to want to make something from the book. Martha Stewart had Ms. Angelou on her show making the Caramel cake from this recipe book. They talked about how great it was and I remembered the story from the book. I wanted to make it.

It's really 3 recipes... caramel syrup, caramel cake and then the caramel frosting.

Starting with the first recipe I found out my inattentiveness and inexperience with making caramel syrup bit me in the butt... twice. An easy technique, but I found a tip that will make you successful every time. When the syrup gets a little bit of color watch it like a hawk. It takes a long time to get to the "little bit of color" stage, BUT it goes from little bit of color to golden amber in a flash. The whole thing probably on takes about 15-20 minutes. Then you have a lovely cup of caramel syrup not a pan of burnt sugar. Maya and Martha claimed the cake wouldn't be the same without it. It didn't seem like the caramel I'm familiar with and smelled similar to that of molasses. Replacing it with molasses though would be too strong.

Next the cake... an easy recipe to follow and fit into the 2 eight inch pans perfectly. It took longer than the 25 minutes called for in baking... more like 35 to 40 for me and my oven. I used the convection feature too, which is supposed to shorten the time. Just set timer for 25 minutes and keep checking every 5 minutes for doneness.

The frosting had another technique I haven't done... "melting butter until it's nut brown." It's done over medium high heat. It foamed, it bubbled, stirring it down helped with the foaming, but not much. I poured it out once thinking I was done, but the butter was more of an amber color. Definitely not nut brown. I put it back in the pan and it quickly got to the nut brown color like the caramel syrup. It didn't smell very good and I wondered if I had browned it a bit too much. I tasted it and it wasn't burnt like my caramel syrup mishaps, so I kept it. I was hoping the sugar, cream, and vanilla would make it taste great. They did indeed make it taste great!

We each had a slice for dessert. I cut a quarter of it into 3 slices. This gave us each a generous slice. The cake was so rich and sweet I think I'll cut a quarter of the cake into 4 slices next time. This recipe is a bit more trouble than some with it's special techniques, but it's definitely a keeper.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The incredible Knitting Machine!

I had a fabulous afternoon! A new crafting friend invited me to a meeting she goes to twice a month with people with knitting machines. They share knowledge, patterns, yarn, and machine parts to name a few things. Some just want help or company while they knit. I'd never heard of such a thing for the home knitter. I was just fascinated and overwhelmed once I laid eyes on one.

It's a monster of a machine. The particular machine I got to watch was probably about 5 feet long, about 5 inches thick and about 12 inches wide. It was stored in a case like a sewing machine, but the yarn was fed into it like a serger is fed thread. The gal slide a knitting cartridge back and forth once set up and knitted in 20 minutes what takes me 4 hours by hand.

These were the nicest gals. 3 were probably 60 to 70 years old and 3 of us were in our 40's. The 2 younger gals inherited their machines. One of the older gals had been using her knitting machine for 40 years. Another gal had been doing it equally as long, but had gotten a new machine about 10 years ago and paid $1000 for it. She said they run about $2000 now, they are so computerized and they were complicated. The old machines look complicated to me I can't even imagine it being worse. I really got the sense that those that could use their machine adeptly were passing on the tradition.

The new crafty friend of mine says she has 4 knitting machines and I'm welcome to come over and play. I'm definitely going to take her up on it. OH BOY... just what I need another machine and another craft!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Dutch Crunch Delicious

Not bad for my first try! I rediscovered how much I love Dutch Crunch rolls while trying a new fabulous sandwich shop near me. I kept seeing these dancing pickles for the last about 5 years advertising Mr. Pickles Sandwiches. There are 5 shops near me... that's a lot of dancing pickles! Well, I finally went into this teenie tiny sandwich shop to see what the hoopla was all about. Now I know great sandwiches, decent price, friendly service and the one by me gives out free freshly baked chocolate chip cookies! OK OK I'm done with the plug. Back to the bread. Just love the Dutch Crunch. I bought some at the local grocery store and quite frankly they were terrible. So, terrible in fact that when my kids asked me what I was making and I said Dutch Crunch they asked me not to, because they didn't like them. So, sad.

Since I love to bake bread I thought I'd do some research and see how to make some. Found out that Dutch Crunch is not the bread it's the coating. Dutch Crunch coating can be done on any kind of bread. So, I found a good sandwich roll recipe and applied the Dutch Crunch coating. One recipe said to apply it right after you form the rolls. One said to apply it after the bread had risen some. I did 4 each way. You can kind of see some are a bit more crackly than others. I think next time I'll do them all right when the roll is shaped. The secret is rice flour. You make a paste and brush it on the rolls. Then proceed like you would any bread recipe. Let it rise and bake. We loved them and yes the kids did too. I'll definitely be making the recipe again. See my note at the end of recipe.

Dutch Crunch Sandwich Rolls

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet or 1/4 ounce)
1/4 cup warm water (105-110F)
1 cup warm milk (105-110F) (nonfat is fine)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 - 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Topping(from The Bread Bible)
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-110F)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup white rice flour (not sweet rice flour)

In the bowl of an electric mixer*, combine yeast, water, milk and sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit for about 5 minutes. Add in vegetable oil, salt and about 2 cups of flour. Using the dough hook attachment, mix at medium speed until the dough comes together. Add remaining flour a tablespoon or two at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 4 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 6 equal portions. Shape each into a ball and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let rise for 15 minutes while you prepare the topping.

Combine all topping ingredients in a medium bowl and mix very well. Let stand for 15 minutes. Once the rolls have risen a bit and the topping is ready, spread a generous layer on the rolls, trying to use all the topping in a thick coat on the top and sides. Let rise for another 20 minutes.

Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes, until well browned. Let cool completely on a wire rack before eating. Store in an airtight container, if necessary. *You can mix this by hand, too.

Lynne's note: I put all bread ingredients in my bread maker and set it to dough. I divided dough into 8 balls and shaped into sandwich roll shapes. Spread topping on as soon as it's ready. I found the topping to be a bit thick for spreading, so I added a small amount of water. I used a pastry brush to apply to rolls. They were very brown at 25 minutes. I'd probably go 20-25 minutes to be on the safe side.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Altered Lunchbox

I ordered 2 lunchbox tins a couple months ago when I saw a couple done by my crafty friends. They were just lovely. After I got them I just kept looking at them. Thinking they'd be really difficult to alter and I wanted to wait until I had time to tackle them. I saw all those curves and angles. Scary. Well, I saw a "how to" on Splitcoaststampers in the resource section and thought that looks pretty easy. It's really a few rectangles and a corner rounder. I don't think I've ever used Modge Podge, but I used it on this. So, I knocked it out Friday night. I let it dry and tied some ribbons on it. I could keep decorating, but I just love it the way it is. I put the last 4 months of Christmas Card Challenges cards in it and it's already nearly full. Thank goodness I bought 2 tins. They will hold my cards in style this year.