1880s Squirrel Dress, Part I- Fabric and Patterns

So this is my sketch for my new bustle gown project.

Looks pretty normal, right? But yes, you read the title right– it’s an 1880s Squirrel Dress. A bustle gown made of the most fabulous cotton print I’ve ever seen– at first glance it’s just an abstract floral-ish stripe, but take a closer look, and:

Blend - Garden of Delights - Squirrel Stripe - Green - Brooklyn Fabric  Company

Squirrels!!!!

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Creamy Pappardelle with Chicken with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Make this. It’s amazing.

Okay, now that I’ve got that out in the open, here’s the backstory: I picked this recipe from Food52.com because I needed something to use up some extra anchovy fillets I had leftover from something else (and I can never just throw stuff like that away). I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but by the time the sauce was simmering on the stove I could tell from the aroma that I had a winner. The anchovies and sun-dried tomatoes combine to make a complex sauce that doesn’t taste particularly fishy or tomato-y, but still tastes incredible– it’s all that natural monosodium glutamate, which makes for some amazing umami flavor. A generous pinch of chili flakes and a squeeze of lemon brighten things up for a nicely balanced sauce. In case you can’t tell, I highly recommend it.

Try it and see!

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Bustle Petticoat

I have a new project in the works– a bustle dress! Or more accurately, I’ve realized that I have at least three bustle dresses planned for the hypothetical future, and it’s about time I finally get off my butt and start making the appropriate underpinnings! Anyway, I already have a “phantom bustle,” which I made at Costume College a few years back, accompanied by many giggles and jokes about my “spring-loaded butt”.

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Pasta with Baked Feta and Tomatoes

So apparently a year or two ago, this recipe (or a variation thereof) swept the internet with its simplicity and deliciousness, and I just missed it. But I discovered it recently and have promptly added it to my slate of weeknight dinners, because it’s just that easy and just that good. Basically, you chuck a block of feta and some cherry tomatoes into a baking pan, roast them for a bit, then toss in some cooked pasta and basil and you’re basically done.

With a sprinkle of crushed red pepper and some garlic, the finished dish is pretty fantastic, even if it’s not the most attractive thing in the world. The feta is creamy and salty, the tomatoes are bright, and you get an extra kick from the pepper to go along with the slightly sharp garlic (it’s barely cooked so it retains that sharpness). I will totally be making this over and over again!

I used farfalle, but any pasta shape would work pretty well here, I think. Just make sure there’s enough space in your roasting pan to add and toss your pasta, or you lose some of the convenience!

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Strawberry Summer Cake

Strawberries are starting to flood the supermarkets, and not just any strawberries– huge strawberries that are actually ripe and delicious! I bought four pounds one day and had finished them before the week was out. And one of the things I used them in was this cake– billed by one of my favorite food bloggers as “tasting like summer.” I had to try it.

The cake is simple to make and rustic to look at, and uses a full pound of strawberries to really pack in the fruit flavor. While I’d prefer if it didn’t require the use of a mixer to cream the butter and sugar together, I’m willing to do it since the rest of the recipe is pretty low-fuss. The crumb is almost shortcake-y, and the sprinkling of sugar on top makes a delightful little crunch when you cut into it– but the fruit is the star. I’m going to try this next with peaches, but I’ll bet blueberries or raspberries would also be excellent.

The recipe takes almost an hour to bake (50 minutes total for me), and Deb insists that it’s even better the second day, so I’m going to start making this the night before as a breakfast cake. I think it would be excellent with a dollop of vanilla yogurt!

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Tahini Jumble Cake

This cake wasn’t so much a project as a thrown-together amalgamation of the leftovers from my sesame/tahini experiments over the past week. I had a bunch of sesame-caramel ganache from my sesame macarons, plus extra sesame seed brittle from the ice cream I made to go with my sesame chess pie, plus extra egg yolks from that same pie, plus a few extra macarons that I hadn’t gotten around to eating yet… what else could I do but make a cake? (I do have a history of doing this, you know)

I looked hard to find a yellow cake recipe that would use my three extra yolks and no more, and I did find one, but honestly I didn’t care for it– it was an oil-based cake rather than a butter-based cake, and while the oil made for a very moist crumb I just think that the recipe called for too much oil. The batter didn’t fully emulsify and I got small tunnels in the finished crumb, plus the cake was so rich that it seemed heavy. I won’t post the cake recipe here– I need to find a better one for when I have extra yolks– but I will post the fabulous tahini buttercream that I made to go with it, which turned out great. The tahini added a wonderful savoriness to the frosting that worked well with the salted caramel ganache and the sugary macarons.

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Sesame Ganache Macarons

These macarons were the result of my seeing that recipe for sesame chess pie and noting that 1) it would require me to buy sesame seeds and tahini, and 2) it would result in extra egg whites. I figured that I could take advantage of both these facts and make sesame-flavored macarons, which turned out pretty well! I used my standard macaron recipe and technique, sprinkling sesame seeds on top of the batter before baking, but the filling was where the sesame really came out.

The filling is more complicated than a plain ganache– it’s actually a caramel sauce blended with melted chocolate, and then emulsified with butter for a smooth, creamy texture. I got the recipe from Cloudy Kitchen and split it in two so I could try a white chocolate variation on the milk chocolate original, and both turned out quite well (even if it did make a ton of filling– I’ll have to find something else to do with all of the extra!). I would recommend these if you want something a little different and don’t mind multi-step processes!

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Sesame Chess Pie

I’ll confess right off the bat that I’ve never tried regular chess pie before. Heck, I only heard of it recently as basically a sugar pie, like a pecan pie without the pecans, and it sounded too sweet to deal with. But when I came across a recipe for Sesame Chess Pie I was intrigued. I’ve always liked experimenting with adding savory flavors to my sweets, and tahini is like a less assertive peanut butter in that sense. I decided to give it a shot, figuring that I could use the extra egg whites to make macarons later on (more on that later).

The pie itself is a cinch to whip up– especially if you use a store-bought pie crust– and aside from the tahini calls for standard pantry ingredients (at least in my pantry). It puffed and browned beautifully in the oven before settling down during cooling, and smelled delicious.

I served mine with a scoop of no-churn orange-sesame ice cream, which was basically this recipe except I substituted sesame seeds for almonds.

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Chocolate Babka

I’ve had my eye on this chocolate babka recipe from Smitten Kitchen for a while– it has so many elements I love in a baked good: a chocolate swirl, a fancy layered inside, and a burnished, sugary outside. When I accidentally seized some chocolate while melting it the other day, I knew I had the perfect excuse to break out the yeast and make some babka! (Yes, I could’ve made brownies like the praline cheesecake ones I made the last time I had seized chocolate, but where’s the fun in that?)

I’m not going to go through the entire recipe here– Deb does a great job on her own page, and besides I didn’t take many photos of the process. But here are my own notes on the recipe:

  • I let my dough rise on the counter for three hours, rather than overnight in the fridge– since it was significantly warmer on the counter, I got a decent rise out of the dough, which was nice to see. I also followed her instructions about chilling the dough before trying to roll it out, and the chilled dough really did roll out like a dream– no sticking, no cracking, just perfect.
  • While the filling does start off pretty soupy when you first mix it, I let mine rest on the counter at room temperature for about an hour (not on purpose, it was just a timing error), and it firmed up nicely. If it gets too firm you can always give it a few seconds in the microwave and it’ll soften up a bit.
  • Once filled, rolled, cut, and twisted, I expected my dough to rise in the pan during the 90 minutes it sat on the counter. It did not– possibly because it was still kind of cold from being chilled prior to slicing. And while I did get some oven spring, it wasn’t a huge amount, so keep that in mind when you’re filling your loaf pans.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

I had a bunch of ricotta left over from making lasagna the other day, and since I can never let things like that go to waste, I decided to try to make cookies out of it. Lemon-flavored cookies, since lemon is always the flavor of spring for me, and we’re finally starting to get some nice weather here! These cookies mainly get their lemon flavor from the glaze, as the lemon zest in the cookie itself is pretty subtle, but the ricotta makes them almost like tiny soft cakes, rather than cookies. They also freeze well (unglazed) if you find yourself with extra ricotta but no immediate need for dessert.

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