Archive for August, 2008

Daring Bakers- Chocolate Éclairs

August 31, 2008

Mmmmhmm! Chocolate Éclairs. I was so excited I could hardly speak. And then I regained my composure and had visions! Oh such visions. I’d start the challenge by doing the recipe as given- chocolate pastry cream, chocolate glaze. Then I’d experiment! Raspberry pastry cream, chocolate glaze… lavender infused pastry cream, lemon glaze… A more savoury option perhaps- something with gruyere and chives? One thing was for sure- this month was going to be fun.

The challenge was hosted by Tony Tahhan and The recipe chosen was Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé with Dorie Greenspan. And boy oh boy, do they know how to do chocolate.

So anyway, that was the plan. I started nice and early in the month, with the double chocolate hit batch, to try and get into the swing of things. It was sort of easy… By which I mean that had I had the perfect equipment it’d have gone without a hitch- I know I know, a bad workman always blames his tools- My electric whisk only had one whisk. The other one went missing. I didn’t have a pastry bag or a ziploc bag or any of the standard pastry bag replacements. So what did I use? A plastic shopping bag. Good fun, very very messy. And the biggy- my oven. Now, my oven’s great. It cooks things super fast, so if you’re in a hurry it’s exactly what you want. But if you need the timings to be exact, it’s a bit iffy. And for éclairs, you need exact timing. Alas, my éclairs lacked the perfect shape and crispness of Vera’s. They were a bit more like Yorkshire Puddings- but thank goodness, I love Yorkshire Puddings. I didn’t mind that they weren’t ‘correct’.

Here they are;

The chocolate pastry cream tasted just like the bizarre chocolate custard you got in school dinners when you got a chocolate sponge… I had my ‘dieting’ friend around at the time, she was eating it by the spoonful.

And then the month went on, and plans changed- plans always change. Things came up, and then diets came up and I started to worry about my waistline. I considered not even trying again- but that’s madness. One more batch wouldn’t harm.

I asked my parents this time what they wanted in their éclairs. My dad requested ‘cream’. When I asked if he meant pastry cream or dairy cream he looked like I was speaking another language. Dairy cream it was then… For a little more fun I flavoured the cream with vanilla and a bit of sugar. These were very moreish.

I played around with this batch just a little- for one éclair (and one alone) I made some balsamic syrup, and cut up some strawberries into quarters, then I folded that into some dairy cream and filled one lucky éclair with it. And my word, I wished I’d done the whole batch like that. It was perfection in an éclair, tangy, sweet, fruity, chocolatey… Good heavens.

Sorry that second photograph is blurred. By the time I’d realised, the éclair had mysteriously disappeared…

Daring Bakers posts that are worthy of a mention:
JulieE made adorable swans
The Crepes of Wrath used sprinkles! Sprinkles make everything wonderful.
And Elle’s New England Kitchen put bacon a top her éclairs. Bacon and chocolate is still not a combination I’ve tried… but maybe one day? I salute her bravery.


It’s nice to have pretty things.

August 28, 2008

Today I bought myself a brand new baby pink Uke, to add to my collection of instruments I own but don’t really know how to play.

I have a veritable indie pop band sitting in the corner of my bedroom.

My favourite thing about my ukelele, apart from the colour, is the rainbow!

Think Happy Thoughts & Smile

August 28, 2008

I made myself a new skirt- A new high waisted pinafore skirt, to be precise.
I used the A line skirt pattern from Eithne Farry’s book ‘Yeah, I made it myself”, only I modded it quite a bit. I made it high waisted, and I made it a good deal shorter too (because I’m like that). I also added some straps that were rather embarrassingly inspired by ‘Didge’ from Neighbours. Oh yeah, she’s my style icon.


It looks rather unassuming from the front, granted. But I like to think the back’s quite special.

pinafore skirt backview

I realise you probably can’t read the embroidery on the pockets. And since I spent so long on it, I’m going to give you some close ups, just so you can. Although, I really think I ought to be hiding my machine stitching…

Think happy thoughts & smile.

I got a lot of inspiration for this skirt from different places. The shape from Didge Parker, the pattern from Eithne Farry, but also I got the ‘think happy thoughts’ from a kid’s t-shirt. It was in the ‘Frankie Say Relax’ style- but it certainly made my day. I couldn’t evenly distribute ‘think happy thoughts’ onto two pockets, so I had to add something else. I included the ampersand, thanks to The Ampersand Blog, and I thought ‘smile’ just fit right in.

(Oh yeah- and I will wear tights with it when I wear it on excursions. It’s a bit scandalous without, I realise.)

Little Bear

August 24, 2008

I’m saying exactly the same thing here as I said on craftster, due to lack of imagination from an uninspiring weekend spent in Crowle.

I made this bear for the Plushie swap on cut out and keep.

I haven’t got a name for it, (or even a gender!) because I was giving it away and I wanted to leave it open to interpretation. I like to secretly refer to it as a ‘she’ and during construction I accidentally called her ‘Linda Lovelace‘ because I had the intention of involving lace. But I decided I didn’t want to make a cuddly toy named after a porn star, and the lace was left out.

Here she is taking a trip around my Garden before she was bundled away. My heart cried a little.



I miss you, little bear!

Here’s a bonus for blog readers, a snap of me attempting to look as cute as my bear (and failing, miserably):


Presents from Australia

August 20, 2008

On Cut Out and Keep, on the forum, we often have craft swaps. They’re on craftster too, but I find on cut out and keep they’re a more manageable, personal scale so I like to participate often on the cut out and keep ones.

Today I completed a swap package and sent it off to Knittin’ Kitten, but I shan’t post that until I have word she’s received. No spoilers! Instead I’ll show you what I sent to Shivi, a darling little girl in Australia a few months ago.

The theme of the swap between Shivi and I was a very open one- we’d give three things that we liked, and three colours. She gave me Alice in Wonderland (Disney), Kawaii and Vintage Floral. She also said she didn’t mind about the colours, provided there wasn’t too much pink or dark blue. So! Here’s what I made for her:

Here’s a little needle felted Needlebook, following the Kawaii theme. The font is (I hope) Japanese for strawberry, although I’m sure I went wrong somewhere along the line.

Here’s a waist-pinny for the vintage floral. I messaged her before asking her for examples of vintage floral patterns she liked. I’m glad I did, if I’d have followed what I had in my mind I’d have used fabric that looks rather more like wallpaper and curtains with large cascading flowers on it, but she wanted something far more demure. I gave her a pocket because every pinny deserves a pocket.

But I like to think I’ve saved the best till last. She asked for Disney Alice in Wonderland, but I misread the situation and thought she meant either Disney or Alice in Wonderland. I often forget there was a Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, since the Tenniel illustrations and the book itself is so completely magical, there’s no room in my heart for any Disney. I started stitching her this piece, and half way through I worked out what she had probably meant. Being stubborn, I chose to ignore it. I know, I know it’s bad but! Tenniel’s illustrations were so beautiful, and the quote was so perfect! Shivi is at the age of that awful time at school when everyone’s telling you to plan out your life and plan out your career. If I’d have done that, then I’d probably be preparing to study history at degree level, and even more likely- desperately unhappy. Instead I followed my own feet and, although currently am doing nothing worthwhile, I’m perfectly content. I hoped that Shivi would have the success that I did, and thought I’d give her this quote to poke her in the right ‘direction’.

Then I made it into a cushion.

It was received very well I am pleased to report, and she sent me a super little package in return. Thankyou Shivi!

Would you like to come to a party?

August 20, 2008

This delicious invitation fell out of a vintage pattern I bought from a charity shop for 10p. My heart soared.

Here’s a link to a clearer image.

Does anybody have a time machine?