19 June 2013

Fork Biscuits

The recipe for these 'Fork Biscuits' was so easy - cream butter and sugar together, add flour, put in oven. Done! 

I've actually made these biscuits twice already and I think they will become a regular feature in the biscuit tin - not least because I always have these ingredients in the cupboard! The photograph shows the chocolate version but I've made the basic version too. I added some vanilla extract to the basic version and would recommend this if you like vanilla. I'm going to try the lemon version next - I'll let you know how I get on!

10 June 2013

A Playmat Quilt

I've had this in my 'To Finish' pile for almost a year now and it started life as a single bed quilt for someone else's birthday.  But that birthday came and went and another present was needed as this quilt took much longer than I anticipated! 

L is rolling around and is outgrowing the room she has available under her baby gym. With our wooden flooring I wanted to give her something softer to roll onto. I also wanted to make something that she can use in the garden when (if!) the weather gets nicer. The finished quilt measures 1.2m by 1.2m so she has a bit more room! I actually had 16 finished panels and was going to make a 4x4 panel quilt but decided that this was going to be too big so it became a 3x3 panel instead. I've used another panel to make a matching cushion which has been useful in protecting L's head as she learns to keep her balance. (I've still for 5 panels left so if you fancy a cushion let me know!)

I still don't own a walking foot so had to quilt by hand. I purchased a large embroidery hoop and found quilting around each star really quite relaxing. It did take a while so I decided to machine stitch the binding on - I was getting desperate to finish!

But I'm thrilled with how this looks even if it has taken forever to complete. I'm now planning a King size quilt - although it could be many years before I get to complete it!

24 May 2013

A Raspberry Torte

It was another family birthday this week but with limited time available  I searched through recipe books for something simple. This recipe was really easy; almost identical to a Victoria sponge but with the addition of ground almonds and then raspberries poked into the batter before cooking. 

I did over bake the sponge though. My oven seems to cook things faster than the recipe dictates even with an oven thermometer to tell me that the oven is at the right temperature. But I've made a note in the book so I'll remember for next time. And i need to invest in a proper icing sugar duster - as you can see my sieve just isn't working!

The cake was much appreciated by those who ate it though!

19 May 2013

Cinnamon and Raisin Bagels

I saw the winner of last year's Great British Bake Off make a version of these and managed to find his recipe online. My favourite bagels are cinnamon and raisin ones so I substituted the blueberries in the recipe for rasins and added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the mix. I also took the easy option and used the dough hook in my machine! 

Because the dough contains yeast and they use strong white flour I thought they they would take a long time to make but the first rise was only 25 minutes and the second 35 minutes so they only took 2 hours from start to finish. 

Making the hole seemed a bit daunting but were easy to do. I've seen them made two different ways - either rolling into a sausage shape and then joining the ends or by poking a hole in the middle and then swinging it round on your finger. I went for the swinging option. T thought it was hilarious and was laughing away as I was doing it. I had visions of my kitchen being covered in dough when I tried this but the dough is quite stiff so you can really go for it! When T is a bit older (and not just trying to get the raisins out of the dough!) I'll let him have a go. The poaching was easy too. You just need to be a bit organised and make sure you have got a timer handy (or a least a phone set on the stop watch). 

15 minutes in the oven until they were a golden brown and all done. The only tip I would give is to make sure that when you take them out from the poaching they are the risen side up. You can see from my photo that some are a little flat. I'm also going to experiment with the amount of cinnamon I use next time. 

15 May 2013

A Skirt

It is difficult to see from the photograph but the pattern is actually paperclips!

After watching the final of the Great British Sewing Bee I've been all inspired to make some clothes again. I ordered some fabric from The Fat Quarter Shop in America and thought that it would take weeks to arrive but after 9 days it arrived! They had a special deal on delivery which meant that the fabric was cheaper per metre than if I'd brought it from a shop in the UK. I was very impressed with the service and would use them again. 

I've had the skirt pattern for a while but being pregnant meant that I'd not actually got around to making it. The sizes of paper patterns are different to sizes in the shops and you can often be different sizes depending on whether you take a bust, hip or waist measurement. Obviously with the skirt I wanted it to fit on the waist so I used my waist measurement.

Because it was an easy pattern it only took me a day to make. (Without taking care of L I probably could have made it much quicker though). However once I made it I had to do a few alterations. The skirt was huge around my waist and needed taking in by over an inch each side. I cheated with this and just resewed the seams rather than undoing everything. I really should have done the alterations before I sewed all the major seams but you learn something from every mistake!

I'm pleased with the skirt overall and I will use the pattern again but with some adjustments. I'm going on another fabric hunt and I will update when I've made this again!

27 April 2013

A Patchwork Cushion

I've finished L's quilt top and because it originally started out as a larger project for someone else I've got some panels left over. I also had a cushion pad that needed a cover so I decided to use one of the panels to make a cushion cover. L isn't sitting yet so I thought a matching cushion for her quilt will be useful. (Mind you by the time I've finished the quilt she'll probably be leaving home!) 

I didn't have a pattern for this (or a zip!) so I made a cushion with an envelope opening based on the measurements of the cushion that I had. Because it was all straight lines it was very easy to sew and, even with having to make some adjustments to ensure it fit the cushion pad, it took me less than an hour to make. This doesn't include the time it took to make the patchwork pattern though but if I want to make some plain cushion covers in the future its good to know it won't take me long! I've also got some ideas for presents so this was a good practise! 

(Please excuse the creases on the cushion - it was used before I got a chance to take pictures!)

I really do plan to get the quilt finished soon. I did start to machine quilt but I haven't got a walking foot for my machine and after a brief attempt I have decided to hand quilt it. My plan for the quilting will also look nicer with longer stitches. Watch this space!

12 April 2013

Peanut Butter And Chocolate Chip Cookies

After the success of my Zebra biscuits last week, and my mission to work through the many recipes I've highlighted in my cookery books, I decided to stick with biscuits and made these peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies from Jo Wheatley's 'A Passion For Baking'. 

This was a really easy recipe to follow, made with store cupboard ingredients. I've never used peanut butter in baking before but I was very pleased with the results! I baked them in two batches because  the recipe warned that the cookies would spread during cooking and you can see from the picture that first batch came out darker than the second. I really do need to replace my kitchen timer - with two very young children I do get easily distracted! 

Does anyone know if you can freeze cookie dough? I know it tastes lovely in Ben and Jerry's but can it be baked once it has been frozen? 

6 April 2013

Zebra Biscuits

I've had quite a productive week this week with my new things. The Great British Bake Off has been repeated on BBC2 during the day so I've been getting all inspired again! I've been through all my baking books and have put post it notes in all the recipes that I want to try. With only 4 books gone through so far you can see there is lots to be getting on with! 

These Zebra biscuits are lovely or 'very moreish' as D said! It starts with a basic biscuit dough which is them split into two with melted dark chocolate added to one half and melted white chocolate added to the other half. The doughs were then rolled out between two layers of cling film, chilled, layered one on top of the other, cut into a very precise 15 x 20 cm rectangle, cut into 5cm strips, layered again, chilled and finally cut before baking. So not difficult to do and I think they look quite impressive. I'm already thinking of some different flavour combinations I could do! I'd also love to work out a way to actually cut them with a zebra shaped cutter - I think they'd look fantastic. 

(The circular biscuits were made with the left over dough after I cut the rectangle shape. I just kneaded the doughs together, rolled into a cylinder and cut! I don't think I should have had so much left over though!)

To help me get through some of these recipes I also attempted my first sour dough starter yesterday. The instructions say to leave it for three days to get going so I'm trying very hard not to look at it for another two days! I forgot to take a picture of it when it started but it has got a line on the box so I can see how far it has grown. Hopefully I'll be able to make my first sour dough loaf next week!

I've also made a lot of progress on a play mat quilt for L this week. I'm hoping to get it finished over the next couple of days and have a picture to show you all. It's more complicated than the quilt I made for T and I'm really pleased with how it's looking so far!

30 March 2013

Hot Cross Buns

After watching the Great British Bake Off Easter special this week I was all inspired to make some hot cross buns! I used Paul Hollywood's recipe from the programme and found it really easy to follow. It did take a while with three proving stages but the end results made it worthwhile. They are packed with fruit and it did take a while to knead in all the ingredients but they were really tasty. I think I probably needed to leave them in the oven for another couple of minutes as the were just a little bit doughy. But they were on the top shelf in my oven so I'd put them further down the oven next time. I'd definitely recommend making them!

Before going into the oven

23 March 2013

A Taggy Blanket

I got some fantastic fabric from Plush Addict this week to make a taggy blanket for my daughter. My order arrived less than 24 hours after payment and so I was able to get straight to work! I can only do my sewing in the evening when my children are supposed to be sleeping so it often takes me a while to get things finished but I was able to finish this in less than a couple of hours. It was really easy to make and my daughter loves it! If anyone is interested I've got a couple more to make for friends so I could write a 'How To..' post -  just leave a comment below!

21 March 2013

How To Make... A Fabric Memory Game.

I have been trying to encourage my two year old to speak a little bit more and was looking online for some ideas for games that we could play together. I've got a few ideas on my Pinterest page but they involved materials that I didn't have to hand. My Grandma has gradually been giving me all of her leftover fabric so I really wanted to use some of this. So when I found this I knew it was perfect! I altered the instruction a little to fit with what I had and here's how I did it:

1. Choose 10 different fabrics to be matched and one colour for the boarder and backing of the pieces. I went for blue for my boarder and backing. You will also need some fusible interfacing. (There are 20 fabrics in the picture below but I decided that it was going to take forever so decided to have just 10 matching pairs!)

2. Cut out 40 blue squares 3x3 inches and 20 squares 2.5 x 2.5 inches from the coloured fabrics (you need 2 each from the 10 different fabrics). From the interfacing you will need 40 squares 3x3 inches and 20 squares 2.5 x 2.5 inches.

3. From 20 of the blue squares cut a central square measuring 2x2 inches.

4. Iron the fusible interfacing to the coloured fabrics and the blue squares using the appropriate size squares of interfacing. 

5. Pin the coloured fabrics to the blue boarders. Sew together. (I did this by hand but it probably would have been a lot quicker to do it by hand!)

6. Iron the fusible interfacing to the back of the coloured fabric/ boarder squares and then iron together with the solid blue squares.

7. Use pinking scissors to trim each of the edges. (I probably should have sewn the two squares together but there seemed to be enough interfacing to hold it together!)

My plan is to use this initially as a matching game but there are lots of ways that it could be developed and adapted: 
  1.  Play it as a memory game
  2.  Play snap
  3. Use it to help with colour recognition
  4. Make a similar game but with numbers / alphabet 
  5. Alphabet could also be made up for capital and lowercase letters
I might have to make the alphabet ones from card otherwise there's a lot of cutting and sewing involved! 

Do you use anything similar with your children?

10 March 2013

A Bouquet of Biscuits for Mother's Day

I often read Ruth Clemens' Pink Whisk blog and drool over her baking. This week she published a biscuit recipe for Mother's Day so I decided to make a batch that I could give as presents. The biscuit recipe was very easy and my son 'helped' me make it. (Well he played with the lever on the Kitchen Aid!) The blog has very clear, step-by-step, instructions so the flowers were really easy to make too. They just took a long time! I made flowers and petals for 16 biscuits and it took me an hour - maybe with practise I'll get quicker. But I was thrilled with how these turned out. I've given handmade gifts before and been a bit apprehensive about how they are going to be received - I was proud to give these! And the recipient's loved them too. Thanks Ruth!

9 March 2013

How To ...Make Cake Bunting

It was my Nan's 80th birthday earlier this week and I was given the task of making her birthday cake. I decided on a simple cake (a Victoria sponge) but with some over the top decorating. I used butter icing all over the top and sides of the cake and was going to use hundreds and thousands on the top in the shape of '80'. However hundreds and thousands get everywhere so I quickly abandoned that idea! I decided instead to cover the top completely in hundreds and thousands and make some bunting for the top of the cake. 

1. Cut out 15 mini flags. 

2. Make some bias binding 1 cm wide when folded. You will need three equal lengths.

3. Pin the flags to the binding and sew into place. 

4. Write HAPPY BIRTH  DAY onto the flags.

5. Tie the binding to some wooden kebab sticks and insert into the cake. 

This was a little bit rushed so I'm not completely happy with how this turned out but my Nan liked it so that's the main thing!

2 March 2013

Pain Aux Raisin

I've been wanting to have a go at making danish pastries but have been putting it off because they look so complicated. But after reading the recipe in Paul Hollywood's Bake, I realised that although the process would take a long time (about 14 hours in total!) , there wasn't a lot of hard work involved as most of the time the pastry was resting. 

Once I'd made the pastry I decided to make pain aux raisin with it. I needed to make creme patisserie or pastry cream and this was another One New Thing, but was surprisingly easy. I just followed the recipe to the letter! 

I made these both the pastry and creme patisserie last night. This morning I rolled out the pastry, spread on the creme patisserie, sprinkled on some raisins and a little cinnamon, rolled up into a log shape and then cut into 12. They went into a 200 degree Celsius oven for 15 minutes and viola! Drizzle with a  little icing and they're done. 

They tasted lovely too! I actually only used half the pastry from the recipe so the other half has gone in the freezer for a future recipe. 

28 February 2013

Baby Bandana Bibs

I ordered some fabric at the weekend from Plush Addicts to make some bandana bibs for my teething, and therefore extremely drooly, daughter. Today I had some time and made four of them! I'm really pleased with how they've turned out and with a bit more practice I'll be able to make them look really professional! (The blue star pattern is for my friends son who is having the same teething issues as L!)

What do you think?

24 February 2013

How to... make a coffee pot cozy.

After making the 9 patch quilt block last week I decided to use it for something practical and make a coffee pot cozy.

1. Sew two 9 patch quilt blocks together.

2. Layer the two 9 patch quilt blocks with wadding and backing. I used the same blue material as I used in the 9 patch block. Pin together.

3. Quilt the layers together. I decided on a diagonal criss-cross pattern in blue cotton so I could see how accurate I was (not very! I need to get a special tool to help me with this. I’ve seen in in my local sewing shop so will add this to the list of crafty things I need to purchase!). Then Trim to make the edges neat and easier to stitch the binding on.

4. Sew on the binding.

 5. Sew on a button...

6. ...and a fabric loop …

7. All finished!

All ready to keep my coffee warm.

17 February 2013

How to... make a basic 9 patch quilt block

After making a basic quilt recently I realised how much I have to learn about quilt making. I decided to do a bit of internet research and see where I should start. So armed with my fabric stash I'm going to practice some different quilt blocks before I attempt my next quilt. This week I've made a basic 9 patch quilt block and this is how I did it: 

1. Cut fabric into equal width strips. You will need 3 strips in each colour. (I was aiming for 5 cm squares in my finished block so cut 6 cm width strips to allow for a seam allowance of 1/2 a cm).

2. Rearrange the strips as shown in the photo below.

3. Sew the strips together and press the seams flat. (I need to practise my seam allowances as I've actually ended up with a 4 cm width strip!)

4. Next cut the sewn strips.

5. Rearrange the strips again as shown below and sew together to form the 9 patch quilt block. Easy! 

My plan is to sew two of these blocks together and make a coffee pot warmer so watch this space!

13 February 2013

Rainbow Cake!

I have had this on my Pinterest board from the Imagination Tree for a while and have been waiting for the right occasion to make it. It was T's 2nd birthday this week and so I thought this was the perfect occasion!

Before I started the cake I needed to order some gel food colourings to colour the 6 different cakes. I ordered these from Amazon and I was really pleased with them. I did a little test first with some cupcakes so I could work out how much I needed to add to get the desired colour.  A little went a long way so I've got plenty of colouring for future cakes and icing.

Although it might look complicated it was actually an easy cake to make. It was a basic sponge mix separated into 6 bowls and then a different colour was added to each. I did have to borrow some bowls from my mum though! I had to cook them in stages with two cakes in the oven at a time so this did take  a while to do. The cake was a little bit denser than I had hoped but I think I knocked a lot of the air out when I was mixing in the colouring. The taste was lovely though. 

T loved the cake and everyone was surprised when the cake was cut! 

9 February 2013

A Cot-Bed Size Quilt


I've finished my quilt! The fabric arrived 3 weeks ago and after the planning and preparing all the pieces I've put them all together. It is not quite the idea I had in my head but for a first quilt I am really pleased with the finished product. I really wanted to finish this for T's birthday so I have probably rushed this and I need to learn how to do some things properly (binding for instance!!).

There are lots of things I need to practice. My Grandma has just given me her fabric stash so I'm going to use that to make lots of smaller projects and single blocks before I attempt my next quilt. I think I am also going to follow a pattern for my next quilt. 

Folded Up Quilt

6 February 2013

Decorating a Cake

T is moving up a room at nursery this week and I wanted to say thank you to all the staff in his room because they have been so brilliant with him. When he started going about 9 months ago he cried when I left him and clung to me when I went to collect him. Now he runs off as soon as he gets there and cries when we go home. 

I decided bake a carrot cake from The Great British Book of Baking. I have made this cake before but the new thing on this was the decoration. I have used a piping bag to ice cupcakes before but I've been a little more adventurous this time and tried writing and a carrot. I'm pretty sure you can tell it's a carrot!

I'm pleased with the results but as with anything practise makes perfect!

A Teapot Cozy

This is a birthday present for someone who loves her tea! I also wanted to have a go at quilting something a little bit smaller before I quilt my son's quilt together later in the week. I've already worked out they I need to have plenty of pins in place to prevent bunching of the fabric on one of the layers so I'm glad I've had a go at this first.

I used Messy Jesse's Blog to make the cozy. Mine is a little bit wonky! The fabrics were cut exactly the same so I think they got wonky when i sewed them together. I need a little bit more practice sewing curved lines! 

Hopefully the recipient won't notice the mistakes!