Macarooned!

Everyone’s been going on about The Great British Bake Off but I admit I haven’t seen episode one. I tend to dive headfirst into it when there are fewer contestants and you get to know them more so I’ll start tuning in a few weeks from now. That being said, the Berry is very much alive in my household! I’ve recently made the capiccino cake again, this time for my colleagues, and some more delicious brownie. I also tried the flapjack but it was too greasy for my liking. I’m a seasoned baker when it comes to cheese scones but I’ve always made little individual ones so I tried Berry’s scone ‘loaf’ the other week, which was tasty.

I quite like it in this shape/serving – it feels more ‘meal’-like and substantial – though the taste is, of course, the same. (The little black dots are pepper grains – I always add some to add to the flavour).

I made my first batch of macaroons the other week, after months of saying I would. Taste-wise they were fine but in appearance (and let’s face it, that’s the bit we buy them for!) they were quite flat, not perfectly round and cracked on top. And that was just the pink ones. For some reason the green ones, which were from exactly the same mixture but with green food dye instead of pink, were a write-off. Uneven bake and flat as pancakes. 😦 I decided not to waste time making the filling as there were only a few worthy of going forward so I ate some plain ones and vowed to do better next time.

My sole perfect macaroon half out of the whole batch
Lots of cracks and crevices. The green ones were so bad I didn’t even photograph them!

 

I learnt two very important things:

1. Add the sugar to the egg whites really slowly. Nope, slower than that. Think snail pace. It takes a steady hand and patience of a saint.

2. The food colouring looks hidious when it’s in the raw mixture but it fades a lot whilst cooking so be brave! Add more than looks appealing! My macaroons turned out very pale pink and green rather than the beautiful bold colours one sees in patisseries.

Now, today, on an exceptionally hot Bank Holiday Monday (I know – who’d have guessed?!), I choose to bake in a overly warm kitchen. And not just one bake. Not even two. Yep, three different bakes! I must have a death wish.

So, I started with cupcakes. I made them before and they went down a treat with the volunteers at work but they were simple vanilla ones. Today’s bake included lemon and chocolate variations, as well as vanilla. The plan is to hollow out some of the lemon ones and inject lemon curd before icing as I’ve had a special request for such a cupcake. The chocolate ones will be coffee or caramel flavoured icing, and the vanilla will be chocolate, vanilla or coffee icing. Not particularly original flavours I know but we’ll build up to the spiced tea and blackcurrant ones!! (Only kidding!)

I haven’t iced any of them yet so I haven’t taken any pictures either. In the meantime, drool over this…

I made Berry’s chocolate fudge cake today as well because it’s one of Karl’s favourite desserts – a restaurant favourite. I was a little confused by the need for apricot jam and the lack of ‘fudge’ ingredients given the name, but I figured I’d trust in the Berry.

The overall verdict is that this is more chocolate cake than chocolate fudge cake. It tastes fine but it’s not to die for. One of my layers was uneven (common problem for me) so I’ve nicknamed it Avalanche Cake for obvious reasons!

I didn’t have chocolate with enough cocoa solids so the icing hasn’t set like it’s meant to but it’s not a problem as it’s only for the two of us to see/eat.

Last of all, I made a bacon quice for Karl but the less said about that  the better. There was a leakage situation so now I’ve added mopping the kitchen floor and scraping out the oven to my list of Day Off chores! 😑

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Bean There, Hooked That

At last I’ve completed something resembling a pouffe!

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I started this project many moons ago when I had insomnia one night. It started with two ‘balls’ of Boodles yarn from Hobbycraft and it worked up quite quickly. Making the circular base was rather therapeutic.

I bought another ball of yarn but sadly, because the yarn is made up of offcuts, the shade of purple was different to the original two I’d used. It bothered me so the project was resigned to the bottom drawer.

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Original, much smaller, unfinished pouffe

Craving a crochet project I could complete quicker than my everlasting tweed blanket, I pulled it back out the other day and decided to integrate some Tek-Tek yarn I’d bought from The T-Shirt Yarn Shop. It’s a patterned yarn with purple hints so I thought it would work well.

 

The finished product is 14 inches in diameter and 12 inches (approximately) high. I whipped up a quick drawstring bag from an old purple sheet, which sits inside and is filled with bean bag beans. Oh what fun it was trying to get those in! Cue a two-person job, a saucepan, escapee beans and under door draughts…!

Although it’s not what I originally had in mind, I’m pleased it’s a functional pouffe after all. I realised too late that the difference in thickness from the Boodles to the Tek-Tek has made the pouffe a little narrower towards the top but because it’s filled with dynamic beans, rather than foam or a cushion pad, the shape changes upon each use so it’s not noticeable in the main.

Overall, it was not a cheap project; Boodles balls were £6.50 each and I used three, and I used about 1/3 of the Tek-Tek yarn (approx. £3) plus the filling (£4.99 for the beans but have about half a bag left for ‘topping up’) so around the £27 mark. However, it’s unique, it’s functional, it’s not ugly (but I’m still undecided whether it’s pretty), and it was enjoyable to make. 🙂

The Longest Shorts in the Universe (to make!)

After over a month of to-ing and fro-ing (or should that be sewing and unpicking?!), I have finally finished the shorts I mentioned in my July post! So many times I almost gave up because I could not, for love nor money, get the crotch to sit right but patience really is a virtue.

I’ll jump straight on into the photos…

First of all, I followed the pattern for Burda July 2016’s Bermuda shorts because I liked the long pockets, the leg length and the turn-ups.

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I also loved the little ‘pocket’ flap on the butt! 🙂

Having never attempted trousers or shorts before, I probably chose a tricky first pattern but hey ho! I had about two metres of navy cotton from Cloud 9, which has an interesting horizontal design. Part way through I realised I’d need to line them fully so I used a red cotton sateen I bought a while back from Dunelm, which I’d fallen out of love with. There’s something about the pairing of navy and red though that just works.

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The fabric isn’t the easiest to photograph for detail but hopefully you can see how the pockets run nearly the length of the leg and tuck over the top of the waistband to create the belt loops. I decided not to make the waist tie because I knew I wouldn’t wear it but I still wanted the belt loops because they’re cute.

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I realised too late I’d cut the shorter leg pattern option than I’d meant to (I find Burda patterns ever so confusing!) so rather than being knee length they threatened to turn into hot pants on me! And nobody wants to see that! I contemplated making the turn-ups separately and sewing them on but the fabric would have had to have been running with the pattern going vertically rather than horizontally (as that’s the only way I had enough fabric), which works for the waistband but I wasn’t convinced it would for the turn-ups. So I opted for a very narrow hem and some bias binding (home made) on the inside to prevent unfinished edges.

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Now, we have to talk about that pocket flap… Isn’t it cute?! It is formed fairly early on in the pattern and I just love it – simple as it is!

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I bought a bunch of different buttons on eBay and spent far too long trying to decide which ones ‘worked’. I opted for simple ones in the end because these are the only two on the garment and I thought decorative ones might look silly. Cue a photo of my derrière…

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I was quite pleased with this bit of pattern matching! Sadly, it didn’t all work out so successfully but it worked for all the pockets and the back seam so that’s a start.

In the photo above you can see a cheeky flash of red lining in the pockets and below are more photos of the lining… Because it nearly killed me so it’s getting it’s five minutes pictures in the spotlight!!

And, of course, the finishing touch was the Creative Little Cwtch label. 🙂 (Except it wasn’t what I finished on – that would be the damn crotch again!)

Okay, drum roll, the ‘in situ’ photos…

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Okay – done! 🙂

List of ‘firsts’ for this project:

  • First pair of shorts/trousers
  • First fully lined garment (the pink tank dress doesn’t count as it isn’t finished)
  • First planned pattern hack
  • First time I’ve constructed a fly
  • First pockets I’ve put in a garment

Things I would have liked to have gone better:

  • The fit. They ended up a little bit snug due in part to the lining and in part to my fluctuating weight! (Doesn’t help that I like to bake as well as sew…)
  • The zip is gold, the hook and bar is silver and the buttons are bronze… Hmmm! Need to plan a bit better in future. Luckily, the buttons are the only visible one of the three when the shorts are being worn.
  • Pattern matching at the side seams (tried but realised too late I’d misjudged it)
  • The waistband gapes a little at the back. I have wide thighs and hips but a narrow waist so my adjustments helped with the fit but weren’t perfect.
  • The pockets are not equal distance from the front centre seam and I’m not sure why. Hopefully it’s not noticeable in the main.

I think my next project will be an easy one to get me back into the sewing jive as this garment did test my resolve. I have two issues of Love Sewing Magazine to read still and the rest of Burda July 2016 to look through, not to mention a few other patterns knocking about in my sewing room… Watch this space. 🙂

Oops… Only three days into the month and I failed on my mission to refrain from buying patterns… 😐 Damn Love Sewing magazine for their special offers!

Those of us who subscribe to the magazine had the chance to buy Simple Sew patterns for half price and, seeing as I already had my eye on this coat, I couldn’t pass that opportunity up.


I could have bought many more but I restricted myself to just one. I would like to make this trench coat in navy, in a light fabric, but I also want to make a wool one or a waterproof version ready for winter. I’m tempted to add a proper belt with a buckle and nice big buttons. 🙂 

Oh, and I also saw this on sale in Tesco so…


In my defence, it was £4.99 in Tesco compared to £6.50 online so really I was saving money! There are some nice dress and coat patterns inside and some cute kids clothes too. Nothing for the gents though. 🙄

Now I really must be strong for the rest of the month!!