January 1, 2013
Pear Pomegranate Pie.
Happy New Year! I made a pie.
Recipe: Pear-Pomegranate Pie by Melissa Clark
December 26, 2012
Holiday Goodies: Fleur de Sel Caramels
Direct quote: "I don't think I'm going to be able to swing any tasty treats for people this year, sadly. you'll have to be satisfied with our delightful personalities."
Our gracious pal Beth replied, our presence is presents etc. etc..
NONSENSE. I KNOW WHAT YOU PEOPLE REALLY WANT.
Anyway, it was a lie. Despite a not-holly-jolly end of year at work, tasty treats were made and given. I drafted my mother-in-law into transforming her kitchen into a candy lab and the long-suffering Chris into rolling caramels in wax paper despite his sad manual dexterity (he did a great job . . . years of experience at the food coop proved helpful!). Thanks is also owed to Ashley, whose efforts in 2009 provided the inspiration.
We followed the instructions to the letter, as I tend to do with all candy recipes since candy-making is, after all, chemistry. This recipe cooks the caramel at a low temperature, bringing it to the proper stage over the course of 40 minutes or so. For us, it took almost an hour, but we doggedly pursued "firm ball" stage. We were rewarded with smooth, impossibly buttery result, topped with a sprinkle of my fleur de sel
hoard stash from Paris.
We had a fine holiday here with Chris' family. The highlight was listening to an audio recording that Chris' parents had made of Chris and his little brother Tom opening gifts on Christmas Day, 1984.
Here we are (Chris is not pictured), listening to the tape and laughing until we cried as Tommy screamed his head off ("THIS ONE'S MINE TOO!!!" "How do you know?" "THE TAG ON IT SAYS 'CHRISTOPHER'!!!") and Chris played with one gift at a time, making thoughtful comments about each one and offering to share the contents of his stocking with his little brother. Chris' parents are on the tape too, enjoying the chaos and trying (vainly) to interest the boys in the more scholarly gifts in the shadow of Star Wars and He-Man. I marvel at what conscientious, loving parents they are and always have been and feel lucky to spend many holidays with them now.
I may not get to post again before the year ends, so I hope you all had just the kind of 2012 you wanted. Catch you on the other side in 2013!
October 9, 2012
Notes: I fell in love with the version of Neighborly made by Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy. So, uh, I just made the same thing and then kind of um, photographed it the same way? I dunno! This is how I photograph baby sweaters most of the time too. Go visit Alicia's blog and get lost like I do sometimes, sitting at my desk at work!
Anyway, this is a darling pattern. I made what I thought would amount to a 12 month size for Baby Himika, the daughter of our college friend Simon and his wife Nami, who are a couple of our favorite people even though Simon's hobby is pretty much, to this day, harassing Chris (in a loving way!). Simon and Nami are so well matched it's almost scary. I haven't met Himi yet, but here's a photo of her visiting Las Vegas recently:
doesn't that smile say "i just doubled my college fund at the tables" to you?
There is a tricky part to this pattern, or at least there was for me: the collar. For some reason I thought it was knitted as a tube (to make it stand up?) and tried to do it that way . . . for an embarrassingly long time. Duh.
Thank goodness for knitting groups, because one evening at mine dear Cathy set me straight. It's pretty much just a strip that you pick up at the side for the body of the sweater, and it doesn't really stand up that well (but ah! if it were a tube! nevermind.)
I also modified the way the increases were done but to be 100% honest, I can't remember exactly what I did now (shame on me for taking so long to send this out, because it was finished it a while ago!)
Anyway, hopefully this is the kind of thing Himi can get a couple of seasons of wear from - first as a dress then as more of a vest, maybe? Maybe by the time we meet she won't have outgrown it yet!
August 21, 2012
Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream Success-Fail
This is the best and the worst ice cream I have made yet.
Best because the glace caramel at Berthillon in Paris is my favorite favorite ever, and David is right: the flavor of this recipe is almost exactly it. Not too-too salty, burnt enough, nothing like most American caramel ice creams (I'm looking at you, Blue Marble), which just taste like sugar. This ice cream has the complex flavor only conveyed by sugar that is cooked to precisely the right stage for its use. And for the salt, I used some of my precious fleur de sel stash from La Grand Épicerie for this ice cream. Plus-que-parfait.
Worst because the although the custard increased in volume in the machine and became slushy, it stubbornly refused to freeze into anything that wasn't liquid. David nobly responded to my depressed query about why it hadn't frozen, only saying that it was one of his softer ice creams, and that I *absolutely must* ensure my ice cream maker had been chilled for at least 24 hours. Well, this is probably the only time I'd satisfied myself with less than that; it was 20 hours, and I'm going to blame those 4 hours on the difference.
Also, I messed up the praline mix-ins. I was so paranoid about getting the custard in the freezer quickly after churning that I just sprinkled them on top rather than stirring them in, thinking the custard was so thin that they'd sink. They didn't. So instead of becoming delightful little pools of caramel within the ice cream, they liquified into a giant lake of thin caramel on top. No biggie, but this does I think contribute to the softness of the finished product itself.
That said, the photo here doesn't look *that* different from the one on David's blog. It did indeed end up firming into something like ice cream, albeit extremely soft ice cream that one must eat immédiatement. No problem!
Also not a problem: trying this one more time to see whether I can improve the consistency. Twice, even. The sacrifices we make in the name of perfection!
August 9, 2012
Summer Petals Cardigan for Emma
Notes: First, can we get this part out of the way? SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! The concept and finished sweater are just as darling as their recipient, whom I haven't met yet, but will soon. She's my dear friend Jenny Narcoleptikov*'s 2-month old daughter, Emma. Jenny already has a son, the very entertaining Connor, but you could just tell she was dying to acquire a collection of froofy headbands with which to adorn an infant girl. Jenny's that kind of lady. So something wildly darling was in order.
this here's our gal, Emma, wearing pink of course (Jenny's photo)
I knitted this one twice. First, the smallest pattern size is 6-9 months, and I was going for 3-6 months. I decided to attempt this by downsizing my needles from US 5 to US 4. Turns out I either overcompensated (likely) and/or the age ranges given on the pattern are wrong, because the chest of my finished sweater came out around 15.5" even with aggressive blocking. I suspect the latter is true too, given that a lot of the modeled shots for this on Ravelry look snug. I try not to be too hard on free patterns, but designers: you are encouraged to give chest measurements for your finished sizes because babies can be very different! (I typically refer to this sizing chart as a rough guide)
cute sweater . . . hey, there's the debit card I melted in the dryer!
There's another issue though, which could contribute to this sweater looking tight on America's baby girls. The pyramid shaping that results from the pattern as written is awkward, and results in a narrow chest and weirdly disproportionate (yet somehow still small) sleeve openings. Also, for some reason the back and front of the sweater were not nearly an even number of stitches. You sometimes see this when you're attaching a separate button band later, but the button band is integrated in this pattern. Plus it meant the flower motif in the yoke wasn't centered over the sleeves.
ANYWAY. Did I say I tried not to be too hard on free patterns? Constructive feedback! Thankfully when you're working on a teeny sweater that ends up being kitten-sized, you haven't wasted much time when you decide to redo it with modifications.
Main modifications: First, I did all the increases in the chest in one row, spaced out every five or six stitches. I ended up increasing at least a few stitches more than the pattern suggested (sorry, I wish I'd taken more specific notes! but you get the idea). For the record, this came out to about 18" in chest circumference after blocking. Second, I redistributed the number of stitches in the front and back to even things up and center the pattern over the sleeves. I did this by shifting some stitches from the back piece to the front, and casting on a couple of additional stitches under each sleeve. The modifications here were a guide, and give some specific numbers. And finally, I used only three buttons. This is a summer sweater, made of cotton, not something to bundle up in, and an open cardigan will give some extra room. Oh also I worked the sleeves in the round, but that goes without saying.
This is a "Summer Petals" cardigan instead of "Autumn Leaves." I chose cotton yarn so Emma could have something to wear right away, and because this delicate ballet-slipper pink seemed too perfect. Sublime Organic Cotton DK is simply my favorite cotton yarn for baby gifts. I just learned as I write this that it has been discontinued, which is a bummer. This yarn comes in amazing soft colors that are baby-flattering pastels without being cloying, and for a cotton yarn this stuff is really not splitty. I'm going to have to start looking around for the stuff and hoarding it. So forget I said anything! It's terrible, don't buy it!
The buttons are vintage, a gift from my thoughtful mother-in-law, who has a great eye for findings! I'm starting to rely on her for my supply.
It's quite the pretty thing, isn't it? I couldn't resist grabbing the white feather fascinator I've had on my dresser and clipping it to the front. Maybe Jenny will buy one for little Emma's baby head. . . I wouldn't put it past her! ;-)
* Jenny earned the nickname Narcoleptikov years ago by falling asleep regularly in public places.
ETA: Here's Baby Emma modeling her new sweater. I'm relieved that it still fits!!
Thank you for the photos, Jenny! Note the sassy headband!