Tuesday, July 6, 2010
While there are many disadvantages to living hundreds of miles from the place I call "home," the place where most of my family and friends still live, one of the few advantages is that when it comes to long holiday weekends I don't have anyone demanding my time. No cookouts or family reunions to drag me from the cool confines of my house into 95+ degree weather. No slaving away in the kitchen preparing enough dishes to feed a houseful of guests. Instead I get three blissfully free days with no interruptions, no deadlines, and no responsibilities outside of remembering to feed the cats and my husband once in a while. Which means plenty of time to get some hard core baking and sewing done!
Now, I did fritter away some of my time glued to the telly watching the Wimbledon finals, catching up on Doctor Who episodes, reading, and cleaning the house (I know, I know, what an irresponsible use of my time) but the rest of the weekend was pretty much devoted to sewing and baking. I kicked the weekend off with the decadent buttery toffee bars from the previous post but before I could continue my destruction of the kitchen I needed to don some new protective gear. The apron I'd been wearing was covered in a week's accumulation of baking and cooking debris and desperately needed a wash. Since I'd been meaning to sew myself an apron for some time I took this as a sign and went to work cutting out the numerous pieces needed for Sew Liberated's Emmeline Apron. I've made two in the past as gifts and figured it was about time I treated myself to one too!
This is one of those patterns that I had to talk myself into splurging on but I'm so glad I did. It's hard to justify spending $13 on a pattern that's basically just two geometric shapes tacked together with straps and ties, but the flattering fit and reversibility won me over. It helps that the instructions are clearly written and easy to follow with nothing too tricky involved. Honestly, cutting out the pieces seems to be the most laborious part of the process. I usually cheat and don't bother cutting the bias strips on the bias since I use plain-colored fabric for those accents and am cheap enough to want to save on fabric. As a result I wind up using just a yard of that fabric instead of the 1 3/4 yards called for. I've also given up trying to keep the stitches hidden for the neck ties since I find it tricky enough lining up the bias binding without any added complications. I also don't have the patience when the end is in sight to sit down and hand stitch several feet of fabric. After all, a few visible stitches never hurt anyone.
With my new apron securely tied on, I returned to the kitchen to work on a bunch of trial batches for tomorrow's Iron Cupcake Challenge. This involved various arrangements of cotton candy and pink lemonade cake and frosting in an attempt to find the perfect recipe. Sadly, after all that work the winning combination still eluded me and I was stuck with 24 cupcakes and the knowledge that I'd have to do more baking before the weekend was out. In the process I did discover a new Swiss meringue buttercream recipe that was sweeter than my last attempt and much easier to make. I'm still leaning towards preferring traditional American buttercream both for sweetness and texture as Swiss meringue seems to harden into a butter-like blob in the refrigerator, but this is a good one to have in my arsenal.
So it was back to the drawing board for the competition cupcakes. I'll blog more about my final recipe once the competition's over and done with (can't have any of my competitors stealing my secrets) but suffice to say that last night I had a brainstorm and realized that just because my theme is cotton candy doesn't mean that I can't introduce other flavors into the mix. I usually put a lot more planning and testing into projects like this but since it was crunch time I made a batch last night and have decided to not tweak it any further. The result is a colorful, cotton candy-inspired cupcake that actually has flavor unlike my previous attempts. While it's not 100% perfect I can proudly present the results at the competition even if I don't think they have a chance of winning this time.
Guess I can't complain too much about a weekend that left me knee deep in cupcakes and with a pretty new apron to boot. Hope everyone had a happy Fourth of July!