Monday, March 19, 2012

The Fleur Wrap and Marmalade Tea Cake

I have to admit that fancy occasions are always a little awkward for me because I don't enjoy getting dressed up and never know what to wear.  Luckily for me I've discovered that wearing a fancy wrap is an easy way to be warm and comfortable and yet appear suitably festive.  And for warmth and wow there is nothing that compares to a mohair lace shawl and, for that type of shawl, I love Heirloom Knitting designs.

The shawl I am wearing is The Fleur Wrap from Heirloom Knitting and the dress was chosen for me by Steve.  That's right, Steve.  He will look through the dress racks to pick just the right one.  And he will periodically announce that we need to have a night on the town.  Really?  Must we??  I do resist an evening out.  I'm a homebody and prefer relaxing at home in a pair of jeans with a glass of wine.  But society and relationships require some conformity and how can I resist when he chooses the dress and makes all the arrangements.  And, truthfully, I always enjoy an evening out.

I also think this shawl is versatile enough to be worn in a less dressy way.   I just haven't figured out how yet.

Particulars:  The Fleur Wrap by Heirloom Knitting (designed by Sharon Miller); 3 skeins Colinette Parisienne; US 8 circular needles.  This was an enjoyable knit and I'm very happy with the finished wrap.   My only modification was to substitute Colinette's Parisienne for Rowan's Kidsilk Haze.  Other Sharon Miller designs that I've Knit are the Birch Shawl; Dove Shawl; and the Cora Shawl (a Shetland hap shawl).

Marmalade Tea Cake ~

To be considered a tea cake I think the cake needs to have more substance than the typical American fluffy white cake that I associate with a birthday cake.  Almost a European cake style.  I love this Marmalade cake because it has the heavier texture while still being lighter than, say, a fruitcake.  This cake is a favorite of mine and a staple with my afternoon tea.  It is wonderful served with a black tea (I prefer Taylors of Harrogate's Yorkshire Gold) and I hope you enjoy it.

Marmalade Tea Cake (recipe adapted from The Baking Book):

3/4 Cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons extra fine white sugar
3 extra large eggs
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, scant (i.e. scant = 2 and 3/8ths teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon salt, scant
7 tablespoons Seville orange marmalade, gently warmed (check to see that Seville oranges were used on the label.  Regular oranges make too sweet a marmalade for this cake).  I use a marmalade made by James Keiller & Son's, Dundee, sold by Trader Joe's.
2 tablespoons whole milk.

1 Cup confectioner sugar, sifted
2 Tablespoons whole milk

1.  Butter and flour (or use parchment paper to line) an 8 inch round cake pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
3.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.  Gently fold flour mixture into the butter mixture using a wooden spoon.  When thoroughly combined add half the warmed marmalade (approximately 3 1/2 tablespoons) and add both tablespoons of milk to the batter and fold to combine.
4.  Pour batter into cake pan and level with a knife.  Bake cake approximately 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester comes away clean.
5.  Turn cake out onto a wire rack and while still warm brush with the remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons warm marmalade.  I like to place a sheet of wax paper beneath the cake to catch any marmalade that drips off.  Allow to cool completely.
6.  Prepare icing by whisking the confectioners sugar with the milk.  I like to pour this mixture into a small plastic bag (i.e. a sandwich baggie) and cut away a small corner of the bag to drizzle the icing over the cake.  Allow  icing to set, about 1 hour.

This cake would be delightful enjoyed in the afternoon at a tea party wearing, say, a lovely shawl.

Until next time, be well and love well and enjoy the occasions in life that take you out of your normal routine whether that is seeing a live show, enjoying a fancy dinner out, or listening to jazz music in a club.  You might find that you enjoy it more than you expect.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Good Egg ~ Cozy

A hot breakfast on the weekend is a luxurious way to ease into the day.  If I had my druthers I would begin every day this way.  But during the work week I'm dashing about and can't relax and enjoy the experience as I would like.   Instead it is purely a weekend indulgence.

My enjoyment of breakfast comes from my childhood memories.  My father loved (and still loves) a cooked breakfast and so my mom would occasionally cook a full breakfast on the weekend.   I remember mornings that began with the sound of beautiful music playing, the smell of bacon and eggs sizzling on the stove, and a large pot of tea brewing on the dining table.  Such a treat and so civilized.  To this day I find no more enjoyable way to begin the day.

I rarely cook bacon and eggs just for myself, though, as Steve won't eat it.  Instead I'll make a soft boiled egg with toast.   And, as everyone knows, a soft boiled egg need a cozy.   But (this will surprise you) an egg cozy is a surprisingly hard thing to find.  So I made one for myself.  It's nice to be self sufficient that way.  Really, I could have been a pioneer woman.  If I had been a pioneer they would have buried me along the trail.  The first week.  Preferably.   Since a soft boiled egg is not a common breakfast item, I'll describe how to cook a soft boiled egg as I know you are dying to try this at home. 

Mr. Puffy's How to Cook a Soft Boiled Egg
Bring a sauce pan of water to a boil.  Use a spoon to gently lower the egg(s) into the boiling water.  Cook to desired firmness.  A typical egg timer is 3 minutes, but I find that a 3 minute egg is too undercooked for me.  Instead I will boil my egg for 6 minutes which is long enough to almost set the egg white but still leave a runny yoke.  Opening the egg is tricky.  You can either open the egg by using a knife to lop the top off or, as I prefer, you can use the bottom of a spoon to first crush the top surface of the shell and then lop it off with a spoon or knife.  A soft boiled egg is nice served with buttered toast.  If you have children it is fun to cut the toast into strips that can then be dunked into the yolk ("toast fingers").  I still do this on occasion.    An egg cozy to keep your egg warm until you are ready to eat it, is optional.

Particulars: This egg cozy is wet felted using a resist made of bubble wrap.  I allowed for 20% shrinkage and, at the final felting stage, I used an actual egg to ensure a proper fit.   Materials:  merino roving (for the egg cozy); wool felt sheets (used to cut the flower embellishments); and beads from my bead jar.  This is an extremely simple project.  If you are new to wet felting you might consider Uniquely Felt by Christine White as a basic resource and I have a few wet felting blogs listed on my sidebar.

Note:  All the eggs used in this post are from my sister's chickens. She has Arucana chickens that lay the prettiest eggs I've ever seen.  They are naturally shades of blue and green and some have speckles.  How cool is that?  Apparently owning and raising chickens is on the upswing and according to my sister they are fun to raise, particularly if you have children. 

The MisAdventures of Simcha

Simcha, our german shepherd, is approximately 16 years old in human years and in the middle of the dreaded teenage years.  We're just hoping he doesn't steal the car keys; a six pack of beer; or otherwise raise hell in the neighborhood.

Until next time, be well and love well and try beginning your day listening to beautiful music.  If classical music is not your taste, you might try soloist such as Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli, or Helmut Lotti or music composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  I think you will find this an inspiring and uplifting start to your day.