December 18th, 2011 | Link
My mom was a big Christmas baker when I was a kid: shortbread, sugar cookies, gingersnaps, Nanaimo bars, mincemeat tarts and chocolate-covered cherries (which had a crunchy nut layer between the maraschino cherry and the chocolate — I loved the nut layer and the chocolate but not the cherries, and years later we found a bunch of petrified cherry remains behind the piano). When I moved out of my parents home I continued that tradition for a while with my own specialties: miniature brownies, meringues, gingerbread.
I haven’t done much baking since I got married, since E. won’t (or can’t) eat most of it, and we were often at my parents’ place for Christmas anyway. Sometimes, though, we have a party or two to attend, and then I have an excuse to indulge my sweet tooth a bit. Yesterday was more about making candy than baking, but it was indulging nonetheless.
This peppermint bark recipe from the Food Network was super easy to make. I cut the recipe in half because I didn’t really need two pounds of candy(!), and I sprinkled a handful of leftover crushed candy canes on top for some sparkle. I melted the white chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds at a time at 50% power, stirring after each burst, until it was fully melted. Took maybe 15 minutes, including hammering the heck out of the candy cane.
I love fudge, but I don’t remember the last time I tried to make it — probably as a teenager, and I sort of remember it being a major fail. Perhaps because I didn’t have a candy thermometer at the time and was trying to cook to some “ball” stage that I had no reference point for. Candy thermometer and Alton Brown’s Chocolate Fudge recipe for the win! My one critical mistake was that I accidentally used semi-sweet chocolate instead of unsweetened, so it’s really, really sweet. But still edible!
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Making Books with My Nephews
December 3rd, 2011 | Link
I go back to Calgary a couple of times a year. Whenever I visit we have a family dinner, which, between my parents and five siblings and assorted spouses and seven nieces and nephews (five of whom are 10 years old or under), tends to be a chaotic event with lots of catching up to do.
Last weekend the event was at my brother’s place, and I got to spend a little time with my nephews before everyone else arrived. The six-year-old, Reece, was in the playroom drawing, and I asked him if he wanted me to make him a book. He got really excited and gathered a handful of large index cards for me, and tape, and scissors. When I told him I was only going to use one piece of paper and no tape and he was pretty skeptical.
(I have to be honest here: the day before I flew up to Calgary I quickly learned a few single-sheet structures, just in case I got a chance to do this. The pamphlet Books from a Single Sheet of Paper from the web site Bookmaking with Kids has a half-dozen simple structures — including those I used.)
I started out with a book that the BWK pamphlet calls a center cut accordion. Reece wasn’t interested in making the actual book (when it was done he asked me to write “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on the cover and then he handed me another piece of paper and asked me to make one for “Cars”), but while I was working on it his eight-year-old brother Will asked me to show him how to make one. He had a little trouble matching the corners up but it turned out just fine.
Reece wanted another book, so I asked if I should make a “pants book” (dubbed the long cut accordion in the BWK pamphlet — it looks like a pair of pants when unfolded). This got both boys giggling and they thought definitely I should make a pants book. So I made that, and then a simple accordion, and then an accordion with pockets so Reece could put things in the pockets, and then another pocket accordion shaped like a row of houses — so we made paper dolls to put in the house pockets. The dolls had abnormally enormous heads, so Will and I dubbed them Brainiacs.
It was half an hour. I think they had fun. They’re old enough now to remember me when they see me, so I think it would be cool if they remembered me as the auntie that made books.
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