Sunday, February 12, 2012

More from the hook and cook

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, this has been a busy week for me.  Here’s what I’ve created this week:

Crochet Flowers
I’ve been working on these for about a week (I’d been thinking about them ever since I saw them on Pinterest.)  You can check the pattern out here – basically you crochet flower, stem, and leaves, then sew them all together and run floral wire through the stem to make them stiff.  The floral wire was by far the hardest part for me – and I’m still not entirely happy with it, because it keeps sliding out the ends of the stem.  Individually, I think they look pretty cute, but they make me very happy all bunched together in a vase like this.  These are all for gifts, but I think I might make myself a bunch just to have around.  I’ve never been a fan of fake flora, but these are so far from looking real that they don’t disappoint me the way ordinary faux flowers do.

Happy flowers!

My favorite one - and all because I didn't have enough of any purple to finish a whole flower.
Valentine’s Heart Boxes
I made 19 of these!  They’re a dark (or milk) chocolate box filled with dark (or milk) chocolate truffle hearts.  I didn’t track how many hours I worked on these, although it probably would have been good to know, just so I could figure out my hourly wage from them.  I started on Wednesday, experimenting with different methods of filling the boxes so that they were hollow but stable.  And that took some doing.  I finally settled on pouring several tablespoons of chocolate in the box, then slowly tipping the mold around in a circle several times so that it coated the sides thickly enough that they’d hold up.  Even so I broke a good third of them, and had to melt them down and start again. 
They're very cute - but looking at the picture closely you can see how very fragile they are!
Spicy Chocolate Wafer Hearts
These are for Lance.  He likes these wafer cookies (from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet) with cinnamon and a little cayenne pepper thrown in.  Since these are a slice-and-bake cookie, I experimented a little with the heart shape.  At first I tried cutting them with a dowel underneath the “log” of cookie dough, thinking that might give me the indentation at the top of the heart – instead it just meant I had a hard time cutting all the way through the log!  So I pretty much just cut circles and then shaped them by hand.

Window Sandwich Cookies
These are becoming a Valentine’s Day tradition for me – and I love the way they turn out, both aesthetically and visually.  Basically, it’s two sugar cookies (I use the basic sugar cookie recipe from Southern Livings’s Incredible Cookies) filled with chocolate buttercream.  I just cut a “window” out of the top cookie as I’m cutting them out – like you do with linzer cookies.  This year there were no mishaps with little fingers stealing buttercream out of the window!

Butternut Squash Ravoli
On Saturday night we had guests for dinner (fulfilling that goal of hospitality!), and I invited them to come early so that we could cook together.  First, we made half-whole-wheat pasta, rolling it out with the pasta attachment to my KitchenAid.  Then we placed small dots of butternut squash filling (I pureed baked butternut squash with ricotta cheese, walnuts, and some Italian seasoning) on one sheet of pasta, wet the dough all around the filling, and topped it with another pasta sheet.  Then we used a heart cookie cutter to cut out the ravioli.  I have to say that using that cookie cutter is a fun idea, but wastes an awful lot of dough!  It’s definitely a special-occasion method.  Because these use fresh pasta, they only take like 2 minutes (max!) to cook.  I also experimented with a tomato-ricotta-mushroom sauce.  The combination was great, even though both “recipes” were untried.  And the best part?  Judith ate three whole ravioli! It's the first time she's asked for more of something we were "forcing" her to try.
Aren't they cute?

Bittersweet Chocolate Cheesecake with White Truffle Sauce
Of course when there’s company I get to make a fancy dessert!  This one is extra rich, which was a good complement to our not-too-heavy dinner.  The recipe (from Betty Crocker’s Everything Chocolate) doesn’t call for a crust, but I made one anyway.  I should have left it out – I’m not entirely sure what I did, but the crust baked so hard that we couldn’t cut it with a fork, and had to pick it up like a cookie.  It still tasted good though!

Sunday Morning Apple Coffee Cake
I found this recipe here, while I was searching last night for a coffee cake recipe for our community breakfast at church this morning.  Instead of using 5 apples, I used two apples, with a cup of chopped pecans and a cup of dried cranberries.  Since the recipe uses baking powder, and I know that baking powder batters can sit for a long time, I put everything together last night, and just baked it this morning in time for church.  It took much less time than the recipe calls for (20 minutes less!), and I’m not sure whether that’s because it had been sitting for so long or if there’s another reason.  It was good, though – not too sweet, but still satisfying.  I’ll likely make it again.  (Sorry.  No picture.:-)

The Joy
My heart is fed when I bake - and even more so when I do so with a friend.  And most of these are gifts - I love to give gifts!  There was joy aplenty for me, in spite of the stress of busy-ness.

Joy to you!