Wednesday 29 May 2013

By Request - Delicious Chocolate Cranberry Truffle Recipe

 Recently a pair of my students completed a hospitality assessment by planning, preparing and serving morning tea to the school staff. They did a cracking job, and everyone was overjoyed with the lovely spread.
One of the things they made were these delicious Chocolate Cranberry Truffles. Lots of people have requested the recipe, so I whipped some up this afternoon so I share the love with this very, very tasty treat.

Chocolate Cranberry Truffles 

Makes about 40 medium sized truffles

150g icing sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
175g butter - melted
125g dark chocolate - melted - I used Whittaker's 72% cocoa solids
1 x 250g packet of wine biscuits - any plain sweet biscuit will do
approx. 1/2 cup chopped cranberries

an extra 375g sweet dark chocolate and 2 tablespoons oil for dipping the truffles

Crush the biscuits using a food processor. Combine the biscuit crumbs, shifted icing sugar, cranberries and cocoa in a large bowl.

Combine the melted butter and first measure of chocolate. Stir the two mixtures together.

Roll in to small balls and place on a plate or baking paper and into the fridge to firm up.

Melt the second measure of chocolate with the oil. I used Whitaker's 72% cocoa solids chocolate for the truffle centres and 50% cocoa solids for dipping as it has a higher sugar content and a less bitter cocoa flavour.

Use a large fork to dip the truffles and place them back onto baking paper to set. Don't put them into the fridge or the chocolate will bloom and appear cloudy.

Now sit back with your coffee and enjoy.

Chocolate Pudding for Daddy's Birthday

If there was a theme to this post it would be 'no time' and 'last minute'. Yesterday was the Man of the House's birthday. With too many commitments on the night a dinner out was out of the question, so Little Miss 4 and I set about making some last minute special birthday treats. I had wanted to be the first home to make tea, but a frenzy of last minute present shopping meant I arrived home to find that LM4 had ordered pasta for tea, and had been obliged. Undeterred, she and I set about making chips and dip (oh how things change when you have a child - at least it wasn't fairy bread!) and sticky chocolate pudding.

LM4 loves helping in the kitchen, so she was thrilled to be making special treats for Daddy. This is an old, old recipe I have been making for at least the last 25 years. I have no idea where it came from as I copied it into my recipe folder sometime during my teenage years. It always delivers and is really easy and quick to make. Perfect for little helpers. 

Chocolate Self-saucing Pudding

4 oz flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sultanas or raisins
4 tablespoons butter - melted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar

for the sauce: 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa and 2 cups boiling water 

Pre-heat the oven to 375deg. F. or 185deg C.

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Stir in the sultanas and first measure of brown sugar. Melt the butter and add to the warmed milk.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and place into a greased baking dish. The dish needs to have a lid and be deep enough to easily hold the mixture and the boiling water.
Mix the second measures of brown sugar and cocoa together and sprinkle over the pudding batter. Gently pour the boiling water over the pudding using the back of a spoon to stop the flow from denting the mixture.

Added spills - cooking with a 4 year old 

Bake with the lid on for approximately 35 minutes until the pudding rises to the top and is springy and well risen. The sauce will bubble up the sides.
Serve the pudding with whipped cream.
While the pudding was in the oven LM4 and I shut ourselves in her room and wrapped up the birthday parcels. She hid them under her green blanket. Sworn to secrecy, LM4 managed hold out until after pudding to give him his birthday gifts. 
Happy days for our little chef and her darling Daddy.  

Sunday 26 May 2013

Sunday Slap Dash - Quick Orange and Passionfruit Honey Muffins

If you asked my darling partner, he would tell you that most of my baking usually seems to occur after 9pm at night. Spare time always brings its sly friend procrastination. With Little Miss in her bed at 7, then a little tidy up followed by a brief piece of 'me-time' spent on the couch, and it just always seems to be bordering on 9.
Under a little time pressure, with plenty to do preparing for the market, I whipped these up in a flash ready for the working week's lunch boxes. I adapted the recipe from an old Alison Holst Muffin book.

Orange Passion fruit Honey Muffins
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup caster sugar
The rind of 2 oranges
100g butter
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup orange juice and passion fruit syrup - Juice the 2 oranges then top the liquid up to 3/4 cup with the passion fruit syrup

Preheat the oven to 200deg. C and line 12 muffin pans.
Measure the flour, baking powder, sugar and orange rind into a large bowl. Lightly mix making a well in the centre.

In a microwave proof jug melt the butter. Add the honey and stir together. Mix in the egg, followed by the orange juice and passion fruit mixture.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients being very careful not to over mix.

The mixture will be quite light as the baking powder reacts with the acidic liquids.

Gently spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin pans. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until well risen and golden in colour. 

Dust with a little icing sugar to serve.

This super quick bake can be all done in half an hour leaving plenty of time to get to bed early for a change. If you want to keep them for the week, then I suggest freezing. I little burst in the microwave will freshen them up.

Have a great week!

Monday 20 May 2013

My New Winter Knit Skirt Tutorial

There is nothing better than a comfy, cosy knit skirt to slide into on a cold winter's day. Something with a bit of stretch to make the day at work easier. I found this thick knit fabric on the remnant table at Fabric Vision last year. Like all good fabric bargains, it resided in my stash for a good 12 months before I finally got to making something of it. 

Time always being short, I found a very simple retro pattern to use; then snazzed it up with some grosgrain ribbon down the side seams.
It was a really good Sunday afternoon project, suitable for beginning sewers, and can be done in no time at all.
I laid the pattern out on the folded fabric making sure the grain of the knit fabric is straight by lining up the selvage edges. 

The stretch of the fabric should be greatest around the body of the skirt so check which way the fabric stretches the most. The front of the skirt is placed 'on the fold' - otherwise you will be stuck with a seam down the centre front. I folded up some of the length of the skirt as it was longer than I wanted.

First sew the invisible zip into the centre back seam of the skirt. Place the right side of the open invisible zip onto the right side of the fabric and pin one side on, so the teeth of the zip are pushed flat. Sew along the crease in the zip using either a special invisible zip foot or an ordinary foot - both will help to help to hold the teeth out of the way. You can never sew right to the bottom of an invisible zip, so just stop when you get close to the end. Now sew the other side on and do up the zip. Only once both sides have been attached can the centre back skirt seam be sewn up.

Now sew the darts into the back of the skirt and the pleats into the front.
Sew the side seams together and over lock the raw edges. Press the seam and pin the grosgrain ribbon over the seams. Top stitch on as neatly as you can.

Using a dry iron - ie no stream, press interfacing onto the waist band. Don't move the iron around, just press and lift so the interfacing doesn't wrinkle and crease.

Pin the waist band onto the skirt making sure that the skirt waist is not stretched onto the band. Leave an overlap of fabric on the left side to accommodate the button hole. Also ensure the band matches at the zip or else one side will be longer than the other. Fold the width of the band over and sew around as shown in the picture.
Sew both end then turn into the right side. Press the band making sure the inside edge overlaps the outside seam. From the outside of the skirt sew the band down so the inside seam is caught.

Measure, press and pin the hem. I sewed a small piece of grosgrain ribbon across the kick pleat at the back of the skirt.
Bag out the kick pleat seam by folding it back against itself and sewing across on the crease of the hem.

Sew the hem using a small herringbone stitch. A busy pattern like this really doesn't need a line of visible stitching as well.
Out for a casual family coffee at The Colombo.

Sunday 19 May 2013

Great British Craft Market - here we come...

So excited.... Mum and I have been accepted for the Great British Craft Market! Tonight was the stall holders' meeting at The Make Cafe. The place was buzzing with enthusiastic crafty types chatting about their projects, drinking coffee and nibbling the sweet treats - thank you Kirsty, we so love the chocolate brownie!

It was lovely to meet the organising committee and all the other enthusiastic crafters. This is Hazel from Hazel Loves Design. When she is not helping to organise the craft market, Hazel is the visual design and graphic arts expert behind the Hazel Loves Design blog and it's associated publication Hazed.

It's shaping up to be a rippingly good market with over 60 top quality stands, a great venue and, best of all, no admission fee. They have also organised a 'Crafty Cash' eftpos facility to help with those spare of the moment must haves.

Hopefully the rain stops tomorrow, because I'll be out with my hammer to put the sign up!

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Winter Wardrobe Update - Waist band tutorial

Winter has closed in and my wardrobe selection is looking a little tired and in need of a freshen-up. We all have our favourite classic wardrobe pieces to get out again, but their comes a time to move the peripheral items on. I don't want to become one of those teachers that get stuck in the style habits of the decade that was their hay day; especially with a major zero related birthday on my horizon this year.

Every season I vow to spend more time making my own clothes; plying the trade that runs through our family tree. With just a day or two of our recent holidays left, I finally broke out the stash and sewed myself up a couple of skirts. Long days of working and generally mangy weather has meant it's taken a couple of weeks for me to photograph the finished products.

I used a very simple Butterick pattern and tartan wool fabric remnant I picked up at a stash-rehash event for the paltry sum of $12. I had envisaged cutting the front and back panels in single pieces, but the fabric was only 90cm wide, so I had to have a seam in the
centre front and centre back. Which of course meant matching the stripes in the tartan.

I fitted a 25cm invisible zip in the centre back seam and joined the side seams and centre front matching the pattern; then I over-locked all the vertical seams and one side of the waist band. Ensure the skirt fits before sewing on the waist band!

To fit the tailored waistband:
1) Pin the raw (not over-locked) edge of the waist band to the waist of the skirt. Put the pins in as shown and you will be able to sew over the top of them to ensure a neat finish.
Make sure the sewing meets at the same point on the zip, or the ends of the waistband wont meet up when the zip is closed.

Leave enough overlap at each end of the band to accommodate the seam allowance and enough band to overlap for the button - about 2cm plus 1.5cm for seam.
Remember that the overlap on a women's garment is right over left.

2) Iron the seam, then fold the band over against itself, matching the end and the edges. Sew across the end of the band as shown in the photo.
3) Sew the tab end of the band by folding over the band and matching the edges in the same way as before. Pin and sew across the end, turning 1.5cm from the edge of the band, and sewing in towards the zip. Stop sewing once you get to the band seam as shown. This forms the tab that the button hole will be sewn into.
4) Turn band in the right way making sure the corners a well turned out. Use a pin to pick out the point if required. Iron the band, turning the seam into the band and leaving the overlocked edge outside and overlapping the seam. (I didn't need to over-lock the outside edge because I cut the waistband from the selvage edge of the fabric - that's the bit that wont fray)
5) Measure and pin the waist band into place. In this case the waist band is 3cm wide. From the outside of the garment stitch along the seam of the band (where the pins are in the photo) to secure the inside edge of the band to the garment. This is called a stitch-in-the-ditch. Alternatively, the seam could be top stitched if you prefer more obvious stitching effect.
6) All sewn up. The bands should match exactly once the zip is closed. Now find a matching button from your stash and sew the button hole into one overlapping side of the band. Sew on your button.
Because this skirt is cut from the bias of the fabric - across the diagonal of the fabric - it is prone to dropping: where the fabric stretches and drops making the hem uneven. Because of this I hung it up for a couple of days before sewing the hem. I could have hand sewed it; however the quite busy pattern meant I could machine sew it 2cm from the edge of the fabric without compromising the look of the garment. Time is precious after all!
Thanks to my sister Charmaine for taking the photos

 Autumn leaves, stocking, woollen layers, hearty meals and sensible shoes.
The winter season is definitely here.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Baked Apples for Pudding on Mother's Day

What a wonderful Mother's Day! Slept in, had breakfast in bed, then headed off to visit my family for lunch.  Then onto afternoon tea with four generations of our family: Little Miss 4, myself, my mother and Auntie and my Grandmother had a lovely afternoon tea catch-up. Never better than spending time with the family.

For lunch the Man-of-the-House cooked fresh tomato soup, followed by lamb chops served with glazed pumpkin, potato with butter and parsley, and honey-ginger swede. Pudding was my responsibility, so inspired by the Granny Smith apples on Mum's tree I decided to make baked stuffed apples.

Baked Stuffed Apples - based on my vague recollection of a Peter Gordon Recipe

9 cooking apples
1 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons honey
75g butter + 2 tablespoons extra
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a couple of handfuls of raisins

Gather your apples and wash and dry them. Preheat the oven to 175deg. C.
Melt the first measure of butter in a frying pan and add the oats. Gently fry until they start to crisp. Add the honey and cinnamon and stir until the honey melts and is blended with the oats. Lastly stir in the raisins. 

Take from the heat and set aside to cool a bit.
Core the apples using a standard coring devise and peel the top half of the skin from each apple. 

As each apple is cored and peeled, stuff it with the oat mixture and brush the extra measure of melted butter - by doing this immediately it prevents the apples from oxidising and turning brown. 

Place the stuffed apples into a large shallow baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes until they have become soft and pulpy inside. If the raisins in the filling start to burn, then cover each apple's filling with a small cooking foil 'hat'.

Serve your baked apples with ice cream or custard.

Happy Mother's Day!