Saturday, July 31, 2010

Raspberry Pie!

Last night was the Chifferobe USO event. It was lots of fun, and I won the "Mom's Best!" Pie award. All of the baking and tweaking paid off. The dish was empty at the end of the night, which is even better.

I've promised to make another for friends to share with us.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Back Yard

DH and I have spent time over the past few years mooning over 1920s and 30s magazines on House & Garden (various periodicals, various ideas). We've argued the merits of various fences and gates, over brick or stone, terraced or leveled,etc., etc., and so forth.

On Saturday we will finally be getting the asphalt broken up and removed from the back. It's ugly. It's also all over the place in level. At a guess, it was once terraced and quite formal, even though it's a small space.

I want the dip to the back filled in only slightly, and would like to build steps down...terracing along the top, and an English garden look throughout. Really formal gardens take a lot of work! They're not as pretty, either.

Has anyone out there transformed their own yard from chaos? What did you do with your lot (pun intended)? Why? What were the costs?

We're starting out with a blank slate, or nearly. Feel free to dish out some advice!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Old Fashioned is a good thing

I really think it is. Mind you, people will say it's corny...and maybe it is, but that doesn't bother me.

What's old-fashioned? Finding out the names of the people you hire to work on your house. Bringing them something to drink while they're working (especially on a hot day). And giving them home-baked cookies to eat on the way home.

We do that, and I've got to say that not only does it make us feel better about ourselves, it makes them feel better, too. They say so. And do better work for it. And know that we realize that they're real people, not just numbers or Workers.

It also means that I've got to bake another batch of cookies, and a big one, because they'll be back on Saturday, and you have no idea the damage that DH can do to a batch of homemade cookies! Here's a pic of the (batch of) Tollhouse Cookies I made on Friday (with milk chocolate chips and toasted almonds)'s almost gone now. On Monday!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Still knitting

...really. I do knit, though it might be more accurate to change the name of this blog to 'Art Deco Diva Can't Stop Baking'.

I'm on another sock binge these days. Berocco came up with a yarn called Vintage (how could I resist?), and it's quite nice, for a blend. Wool + microfiber, I think. In any case, it's a light worsted, and superwash. I looked at it and of course thought "Fast socks! YES. I can knock out a thousand pairs of cushy socks for running." [Note: I haven't been running lately. Still....]

So far I've made two pair of white socks, a pink pair with lacy ankles, and I'm finishing up white with striped (pink & white) heels and toes, made up of leftovers from the other three skeins. It takes two to four days of steady work to make them, and I've got the basic formula down pat.

Vintage Anklets Women's size 7 - 9

1 skein Berocco Vintage (white, pale blue, pink, yellow, brown)
#3 (American) DPNs
3 stitch markers
yarn needle

CO 48 stitches. Swap out 1st & last stitch to join, and knit 18 rounds of 1 x 1 ribbing.

Begin the heel flap on the last 24 stitches of round 18:

**1. purl back
2. slip 1 knit-wise, *knit 1, slip 1 purl-wise*, end knit 1**

...for 24 rows.

Heel turn:

Slip 1, purl 12, P2tog, P1, turn
Slip 1, knit 3, SSK, turn

Continue to work, P2tog or SSK one before the gap with one after the gap, until you run out of stitches. [14 sts on heel needle]


*PU 13 (using slipped sts as guides), PU 2 at top next to instep stitches;
*Knit across instep
*PU 2 at top next to instep sts; PU 13; knit 7 sts onto needle

*Knit 7 remaining heel sts onto N1, knit into the backs of the first 13 gusset sts, SSK the last 2;
*Knit across instep
*K2tog; knit into the backs of the next 13 sts; knit the last 7 as usual

[Knit rest of sts as usual; the twisting of the gusset sts on this first round helps to close the gap after the sts are picked up.]

ODD Rounds:

N1: Knit to last 3 sts; K2tog, K1
N2: Knit
N3: K1, SSK, knit to end of needle

EVEN Rounds:

N1: knit
N2: knit
N3: knit

Repeat odd & even rounds until 12 sts remain on N1, 12 sts on N3. (If you begin counting when you begin to pick up for the gusset, and pick up the recommended number of sts, this will work out to 19 rounds.)

You should be back to 48 sts, as the instep count remains consistant at 24.


Knit until about 2" from end of foot. For me this works out to 30 rounds. I wear an American size 8 or 8.5 shoe.


Arrange sts so that there are 16 on each needle.

*knit 6 sts, k2tog, place marker* [42 sts]
Knit 6 rounds

Decrease round: *Knit to 2 before marker, k2tog*
[36 sts]

Knit 5 rounds
Decrease round [30 sts]

Knit 3 rounds
Decrease round [24 sts]

*k2 tog* [12 sts]

Knit 1 round

Cut yarn, run through remaining sts 2x; fasten off firmly.

Voila, a new sock!


For the leftovers socks, I knitted only 10 rounds of ribbing; leftovers from the pink socks (which had 16 rounds of additional knitting)will provide only enough yarn to stripe the heel flap and toe. [I choose my circular lace pattern from More Sensational Knitted Socks.]

Feel free to leave a comment if there are errors in the pattern, or if you find it confusing. (Feel free to leave a comment in any case, as it makes me feel Important.)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Lavender Cream Cheese Frosting

This large batch is enough to (barely) frost and fill a three-layer cake. If you want a more generous covering, fill with something else, whether jam or cream, or what have you.

If you need a smaller amount, halve the recipe. One tablespoon = three teaspoons.

Instructions for "making" lavender extract will be provided at the end of the recipe for the frosting.

Lavender Cream Cheese Frosting

(4) 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
(2) sticks unsalted butter [8 oz.]
1 tbl. dried lavender flowers
1 tbl. lavender extract*
lavender honey to taste
[optional] red and blue food coloring

Grind dried flowers. (You can use a food processor, but I prefer my mortar and pestle. It won't take long.)

Whip the softened cream cheese and butter together, and stir in the flowers and extract. Sweeten to taste with honey. If you wish to color the frosting, add tiny, equal amounts of food coloring. If using liquid, 2 drops each should suffice; if using paste, 1 dab each on a toothpick. The frosting should be very pale, more white than anything else.

This frosting is rich but not overwhelming. It is tangy, even when sweetened. It's particularly good on chocolate zucchini cake, and would probably be a good choice for carrot cake as well.

*Lavender Extract

Fresh lavender leaves
Good quality vodka
glass bottle with a good seal

Stuff the bottle very full of leaves. (Don't forget to wash them first, and pat dry.) Cover with vodka; close the bottle.

Leave in a sunny place for up to 18 days. Each day, shake gently.

When it's strong enough, strain and re-bottle. Use as you would any other baking extract.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Feather Cocoanut Cake 1928/2010

If at first (second, third, fourth, fifth, etc.) you don't succeed...bake again.

Thanks to a few of Rose Levy Beranbaum's tips for success (her Cake Bible is something every home baker should own) and a bit of common sense, I now have cocoanut [sic] cakes--cupcakes, actually--that look the part. They are airy, golden brown and have a curved top. No more sunken centers.

To achieve this, I cut back on the baking powder by 1 teaspoon (1/4 of the entire recommended amount), cut back on the sugar slightly, as I was out of fresh cocoanut and had to use sweetened, and changed the mixing method.

Feather Cocoanut Cake (1928/2010)

1-1/2 c. pastry flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbl. baking powder
4 tbl. butter (room temperature)
pinch salt
1 tsp. lemon extract
1/2 c. grated cocoanut
1 large egg
1/2 c. milk.

Measure out the flour and sift. Measure again, and discard excess. Measure the sugar, baking powder and salt into the flour and sift a second time. Whisk dry ingredients.

In a separate large bowl, cream the butter. Add in about 1/4 c. of the dry mixture and cream. Next add a portion of the milk, blend in well, and beat* for at least 30 seconds. Continue to alternate the mixing of dry and wet; add in the egg. After each incorporation, beat the batter again. Reserve a small portion of the dry to mix with the cocoanut; mix this in after the lemon extract.

Beat well, until the batter forms ribbons.

Makes one 9" cake, or 1 dozen cupcakes.

Bake at 375 F until gently risen and golden around the edges. If making cupcakes, begin checking at 13 minutes. Cake could take as long as 45 minutes.

DO NOT open oven until at least 15 minutes have passed, and be sure to open and close the oven door very gently.

Cool for about 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely.

Serve as is, or with lavender cream cheese frosting, or frosting or glaze of your choice.

*Yes, by hand! Fine; you can use your mixer if you want to, but this is a great way to burn off some calories before you polish off most of the cupcakes.

Happy 4th of July!