Thursday, May 30, 2013

In the queue

This spring has been very busy, in all the best ways. And I'm finally sitting down to share some of the more creative things that are in the queue.

We've been gardening on faith for the last few years and this year feels like the big payoff.  Everything in the yard seems to have expanded two-fold this season.  The best part of all of this is that my mom and a family friend of ours are really proficient gardeners, and most all of these plants came to our home after being split from their gardens.  Which isn't just thrifty, but nice to sit and enjoy a little landscape that feels like home.
Hostas, volunteer oregano and lilies
Lily of the valley
Japanese painted fern and creeping jenny

Gnome guarding the mint (hello mojitos)

Yellow-green hostas in the rocks

Love this hosta and it's painterly greens

I've also been knitting a little.  (Stress a little.)  The weather has been so beautiful that it's hard to force myself to sit down and knit when there is so much to do outside.  This is a 6 month version of the Forest Park cardigan.  I'm still planning to finalize the pattern, it's just been on the back burner... Isn't this color great... I think it is called Apricot (Quince and Co Chickadee).

Work in progress

And I'm dusting off the sewing machine and revisiting some of my old and new favorite Oliver and S patterns.  I've been really careful to trace each size of these patterns and not destroy the originals.  And it's fun now to see just how many sizes and versions of this blouse I have made.  No less than four sizes of this pattern have been finished for our girl.  And this summer will be complete with three new versions.  This big coral colored print is an out of production Amy Butler, I think.  The pastel with woodland creatures is accented by red rick-rack in the print.  And really, who doesn't need a blouse that  has garden gnomes on it.  (It's a Heather Ross print from Spoonflower... darling!)

Class picnic blouse - and another gnome.
And my newest Oliver and S pattern is the Ice Cream Dress.  Last year I scored this fun monkey print and there is some major excitement around these parts about wearing a monkey dress.  (I'm fully aware that I need to enjoy the current zeal about wearing handmade clothes now... this surely won't last.) And the other print is something equally fun and whimsical.  It's an alphabet made out of illustrated plants and animals... again kind of woodland themed...   we'll see how these turn out.

Plans for the Ice Cream Dress

Stay tuned for some finished product photos... hopefully soon.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Breakfast, Lunch and Tea

Hot out of the oven

Last week I made an Apple and Almond Torte.  The recipe is from the book Breakfast, Lunch and Tea – The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery.  This book has become one of my favorites, not only because of the beautiful photography, but also the recipes are hard to beat too.  Rose Bakery is located in Paris and wandering through this book is a little like taking a mini vacation for me.  The funniest part is that I've never actually been to the bakery in person, but everything about the beautifully photographed, unpretentious presentation and wonderful food reminds me of that wonderful city.

This recipe was pretty straightforward and the end result was really good.  The final product wasn't sweet in the American dessert sweet style, more mildly sweet like most European pastries - so keep that in mind if you want to try it.  

I substituted whole wheat flour for white flour and don't know if I would do that again.  Maybe I would only sub half of what the recipe calls for.  And I squeezed the heck out of the grated apples, in anticipation of them making the end result to runny, or the crust soggy; but I found that I might have been a little too overzealous in that regard.  Mine was a little on the dry side... but nothing that a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream couldn't help. And lastly, I used this long rectangular tart pan as it was the biggest one I have, and I think it could have used an even larger pan... the crust to filling ratio was a little off.  

Anyway, here is the recipe; courtesy of Breakfast, Lunch and Tea.


Apple, Nut and Spice Torte
Serves 8

1 lb. 2 oz sweet pastry for the top and 1 uncooked Sweet Tart Case (see below)
all purpose flour for dusting
10 apples
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup of superfine sugar
grated zest of one lemon
1 cup roughly chopped almonds
scant 1/2 cup of ground almonds
1 handful of golden raisins (optional)
1 egg beaten 
Roll out the pastry for the top on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 inch and the diameter of the tin being used.  Chill this and the tart case in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Grate the apples into a bowl (skin included if you wish). Squeeze the extra juice out to make the apples as dry as possible.
Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar to the apples
Stir in the lemon zest and the chopped and ground almonds. You can also stir in the raisins, if you are u sing them.
Brush the base and sides of the uncooked tart case with beaten egg, particularly the edges to make sure that the top is well sealed.
Spoon the apple mixture into the case, making sure it is raised and fills the case as the apples will shrink upon baking.
Carefully life up the pastry for the top with a rolling pin and place it over the filling. Seal the edges well and cut a little hole in the middle to let out the steam.
Glaze the top with beaten egg and bake the torte for about 1hour or until the pastry is golden brown and well cooked.
Cool on a wire rack and serve at room temperature.

Sweet Pastry and Sweet Tart Case
Makes enough for two tart cases

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
generous 2/3 cup of superfine sugar
1 1/2 cups of unsalted butter (10 minutes out of the fridge)
pinch of salt
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
If you are using a food processor, process the flour, sugar, butter and salt for about 10-12 seconds until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then put the mixture in a bowl. Otherwise, put the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl and cut the butter into pieces and work it into the flour with your fingertips.
Now make a well in the middle of the flour and butter mixture and add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla extract.  Stir with a fork to incorporate the flour evenly until you have to begin using your hand.
Using one hand only, bring the dry and wet ingredients together.
Dust your work surface with flour and then remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on the floured surface for a few minutes until it is smooth and homogeneous.
It is now ready to be rolled out. 
Sweet Tart Case 
Divide the dough in half and work on a well floured surface one half at a time. Once it is rolled to a smooth 1/4 inch thick, lift it with the rolling pin and place it gently into the tart tin.  (For the tart above, refrigerate for 30 minutes.) For other recipes it could be blind baked at this point. For the case, roll the other half out in the same manner and refrigerate until you are ready to seal the tart closed.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Greening – Spring 2013

White Oak
Last weekend we spent some time in the country and I was totally unproductive; it was lovely.  It's been raining, raining, raining for what seems like weeks on end.  And although the weather was a brisk 50 degrees and drizzly most days, it's so nice to see things coming back to life.  Cross your fingers that it dries up a bit... we got over an inch or rain this week again...


Mom's lilacs