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Fabric and cookie mold fun December 17, 2008

Posted by jeninmaine in Crafty, food, sewing.
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Fabric!

Oh, fabric. How I lurve thee. I’m going to start sewing some skirts for myself as the ones I own are quite tattered and I haven’t seen anything I like in the stores. I’ve become a big fan of Amy Butler fabric, it’s just all so damned happy. I’ve also got a couple of vintage repros in there too for good measure.

In other exciting crafty news!

Cookie mold project

This is a cookie mold. Traditionally used to make Springerle cookies, but can also be used with clay to make other fun things, in this case xmas ornaments I plan to paint and give as gifts. I can’t take credit for this one, it’s all Martha.

(Excuse my bad photos – I just slapped everything out on the dining room table which is why I’m using one of kidlet’s placemats as a backdrop.)

I decided to start simple and just got the one mold, though it has three motifs which appeals to the thrifty part of me. I got the mold from House on the Hill and it’s very nice. My only gripe with it is that it’s cast resin and has a brown finish applied to it, presumably to make it look like wood. Frankly it smells weird and I would have been just as happy if they hadn’t added the finish at all. I’d like to make actual cookies with it (they included a recipe booklet, yay!) but think I’ll have to wash it a number of times first.

The clay I used is called Paperclay and isn’t actually clay at all – it’s non-toxic and smells like Elmer’s white glue so I’m guessing it’s just glue and paper. You can find a number of recipes online to make your own. I bought a package at the craft store and then found the Creative Paperclay website where I got a variety of their products to try out for a lot cheaper. For my inaugural endeavor I used the Creative Paperclay.

I just grabbed a ball of it, mashed it a bit with my hands, then smooshed it into the mold. I covered the whole thing and made it a somewhat even thickness on the back. To flatten the back I turned the mold over and pressed the back into the placemat, though if I wanted to be even more of a perfectionist I could have used a rolling pin.

Then, I turned it over and carefully pried the clay off. You can use a mold release spray to make this process easier but I’d like to use the mold to make cookies so opted not to get it as it would render the mold unsuitable for food use. The paperclay itself is non-toxic.

Cookie mold project

I cut out my designs using a round fluted cookie cutter. The paperclay did a nice job picking up the small details in the mold.

Cookie mold project

If I had some eyelet screws on hand I could have screwed them into the shapes before setting them out to dry, but alas I didn’t have anything handy this time around. Maybe next time. I lay them out on a piece of parchment paper to dry overnight.

Cookie mold project

Once they’re dry I’ll sand down the crumblies at the edges and then paint them with acrylic paint. The molding portion of this project was so quick and easy – ten minutes, tops. I did notice that the second time the clay stuck a teensy little bit in the mold so I cleaned it with warm water and a toothbrush, then set it out to dry. Since I’m not using mold release I think two castings is the maximum between cleanings.

I was thinking of making the ornaments and also making cookies and packaging them both together as a gift. What do you think?

This would really be a fantastic project to do with kids – the clay is light, easy to use, and not at all messy (though I personally had a squicky moment when it dried on my hands, I have tactile issues with things like that), making the molds is fun, and painting them is something a kid would love to do. I looked on the Creative Paperclay website and found more project ideas – they even describe how to make your own simple molds using rubber stamps and foam sheets. Too cool!

Now I want to go around my house finding things to mold the paperclay onto! I also want to try out the other two varieties I got to see how they come out, and I picked up some good old Das (remember that from middle school art class?) at the craft store which is a lot heavier but would make a more substantial piece. I also saw 25# boxes of clay for fifteen bucks…tempting! I need to find some rubber gloves if I’m going to continue messing with clay, however. Eugh.

I came, I saw, I baked. I’m going to bed. December 23, 2007

Posted by jeninmaine in food.
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Whew. Round One complete, well, sorta.

I have baked. (by jeninmaine)

What you’re looking at are eight mini spice loaves, which my darling husband so adorably wrapped in plastic wrap, then parchment paper and tied with twine. The small containers in the front hold about 4 dozen sugar cookies with red and green sugar sprinkled atop. Lying about are the other who-knows-how-many sugar cookies to which I have applied royal icing and need to dry overnight.

I have baked. (by jeninmaine)

The royal icing ended up being a challenge…first I added too much sugar, then too much egg white to compensate, then too much more sugar, back and forth. I really don’t know how many egg whites I used by this point, all I do know is I have a shitton of leftover icing in airtight containers in my fridge that I will probably never use.

I have baked. (by jeninmaine)

Anyway, after wrestling with the consistency I think I finally got it down. We had quite a few casualties that were cheerfully disposed of. I discovered that adding sugar really should be done very gradually, and that using a teaspoon to spread the icing works a lot better than a knife. I was able to spread it in a circle, leave it sort of streaky on top, then after setting it down it smoothed out quite a bit. It definitely takes practice and I got better as I went. You can see some of the runnier too-much-icing culprits at the top of the picture.

I have baked. (by jeninmaine)

AND I took a break to make dinner complete with beer-battered chicken fingers, which if I may say so myself came out awesome. Thankfully dear Michael cleaned up after all that.

Theoretically I’m supposed to pipe snowflake shapes atop these, which I should probably do tonight, but I’m too damned tired so we’ll see if I get to it tomorrow. If I don’t, it’s not the end of the world and I’ll just gift them as-is. Screw it.

Of course, I have other scavengers to worry about while the cookies sit out.

Uh oh... (by jeninmaine)

This is from last night. I had the camera on the wrong setting so the picture is terrible, but once I got it set properly he had already curled up back onto the bed. I walked into the hallway next to the bathroom, peeked in to kidlet’s room to check to see if he was asleep and found this.

Kidet masters acrobatic sleeping (by jeninmaine)

Maybe it’s time to find the kiddo a gymnastics class.

It’s late. Night, all.

Baked. December 22, 2007

Posted by jeninmaine in food.
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Today I have baked. I’m not yet done, but I have baked, my friends.

All sugar cookie recipes should go like this:

1. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.
2. Go ahead, eat some of it. No one is going to notice.
3. The next step is going to tell you to add eggs, so eat a little more before you do that.
4. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until well combined.
5. Add flour and baking powder, mix well until firm dough is formed.
6. Okay, have a little of this, too. Let’s hope the eggs from the farm stand are fresh and you won’t get salmonella.

Kidlet helped me with the first batch of four mini spice loaves, as it turns out the pan I have works perfectly with a single batch of batter. That worked out nicely. He wanted to help measure everything so I put one of Michael’s undershirts over his clothes and pulled a chair up to the counter. It took about four times as long to accomplish anything with him helping but I think he had fun. I let him smell all the ingredients and he gave me his assessments for each one: ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. He really wanted to taste the cinnamon even though I explained that you use spices in things to flavor them and you only need a tiny bit, but he insisted so I sprinkled a little on his palm and he enthusiastically licked it. He said, “Mmm!” but then a second later stuck his toungue way out and got a really sour look on his face. After he had drunk some water and washed his hands he declared it tasted “like my vitamins.” Once that batch was in the oven we had a quick lunch and then he miraculously went down for his nap.

While he was napping I prepped two batches of sugar cookie dough, wrapped them in waxed paper and put them in the fridge. Those will be for baking after dinner – I’ll let the kidlet help me with a few and when he gets bored I can crank out the rest of them. Then he woke up and occupied himself well enough while I made another batch of spice loaves. That’s eight down, the ones we absolutely need, but I’d like to make another eight or twelve to mail to relatives. Xmas will be late this year for anyone from away but that’s just the way it is. I’m actually completely okay with this. I decided to send out some xmas cards, but only to people who send one to me first, so all of those will be late, too. That’s just how I roll these days.

After I got the second batch of spice loaves in the oven I started thinking I should make dinner. I’m quite surprised, actually, that I’m not sore – most times when I bake or cook for hours on end I get really sore and tired, but today I seem to be doing all right (knock on wood). I threw together a quick ground turkey and leftover roast chicken stew which is currently bubbling away on the stove and smells great. I’m going to serve it “poor redneck style” over slices of toast. Ha.

I have to take a moment right now to say just how much I love my KitchenAid mixer. I am so very thankful that Michael got it for me last xmas, it has been absolutely invaluable the times I have used it. I don’t use it every day, not even every week, but when I do it makes the job a hundred times easier. Washing the bowl and all the implements between every batch is a fine tradeoff for not exhausting myself creaming butter and sugar together for the umpteenth time. Love.

Recipe links:

The spice cake recipe was one I pulled randomly from Google and it had good reviews plus it uses half a pound of butter. You really can’t go wrong with cake that uses a lot of butter ;)

Moist, Tender Spice Cake from AllRecipes.com

The sugar cookies are the same ones I mentioned in a previous entry…I already have a ton of tried-and-true sugar cookie recipes and to be honest they don’t really vary all that much, but I figured I’d try this one out since the woman took such great pictures.

I haven’t actually baked them up yet but the dough is a bit firmer than most drop sugar cookies and Snickerdoodles I’ve tried but it has a nice flavor to it (yes, yes, I ate some, I know, OMGSALMONELLA). I’m excited to try the Royal Icing (again, OMGSALMONELLA) and I hope mine come out even half as adorable as hers did.

Iced Sugar Cookies with Snowflakes from Ooh, you tasty little things

See, proof I was baking:

I have baked. (by jeninmaine)

Here’s one batch of spice loaves. Yum. They make the whole house smell great while they’re baking.

Mini Spice Loaves (by jeninmaine)

Our ancient xmas cactus has one pink flower on it. There are about five other buds that I hope will eventually bloom.

Xmas cactus (by jeninmaine)

The other less hardy xmas cactus has mustered the strength to put out one soon-to-be white flower.

Xmas cactus (by jeninmaine)