Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sweet Eats:: Martha's Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake

Baking & mucking around in the kitchen for the past few years has been my most favourite form of relaxation... putting on my apron and concentrating on the whirring of my beautiful red Kitchen Aid just gets my mind off things. This seems to have changed this year with the baking-skills- stretching "Martha Challenge". It isn't as therapeutic as I thought it would be. In fact it is more like endurance baking! 36 crepes later and all I can say is RSI! I am a bit awe of "others" who are completing this challenge on their lonesome.

After 8 hours or so, and much giggling our leaning tower of "Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake" was finally finished and ready to present to our hubbies for their respective birthdays. We had really been looking forward to making this cake and thought they would be blown away by our efforts. Maybe it was because the cake was leaning like a drunk auntie on a night out or because they where watching "Alien Vs Predator" at the time, we found their responses where very ...nonplussed! We even sang for them!

And maybe it was because it tasted a bit like congealed cream and butter wedged between soft pancakes that we didn't blow them away! We were disappointed to find it just didn't taste that great, no real variation in textures.

A few things I learnt whilst making this cake...

1. Don't underestimate Fran Drescher : I saw her on TV making it with Martha. Surely "if the nanny can make this cake so can we" I thought!

2. The average crepe maker deserves more credit : In Paris the street vendors of crepes spread the batter so thin and they certainly don't make any holes. I made lots & lots of holes.

3. Chopsticks are my best friend: All the older Chinese women cook with them- from steam fish to omelets. Crepes have to be added to the list... nothing unfurls those little suckers like a pair of chop sticks.

4. Skewers are my 2nd best friend: When Nicky was slapping together the 32 crepes they did the splits. The bottom just started sliding away. There was a bit of hysterical giggling. Four skewers later and those crepes weren't going anywhere. You can just see them in this picture.

5. Martha loves butter: Acutally I already knew this. But I can't get over it.

6. Hazelnut Praline decorative toppers are easy!: This was the best bit and only took a few minutes.

Well, click "here" to see Martha's amazing creation.

And here is our lopsided "dopey side kick" version!

Two cakes next month... again something new for me & Nicky, a pumpkin cheese cake. T

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sweet & Soft :: Little Birdy

I am having a classic "While the cat is away, the mice will play" day. My boy is off overseas for 2 weeks and Nicky has disappeared for a week at the beach... so this little mouse has been playing with Cotton Paint 2006 Vol.25 again! (If you are reading this Nicky I also got all my work done... promise!)

I seem to have got to the age where my friends are all having babies... The 21st birthday parties are long over! And so it seems are most of the 30ths. There are not many weddings marked on my social calendar, but the babes are arriving thick and fast! Apparently Australia is enjoying a bit of a baby boom. Thank goodness for those lovely Japanese magazines, as new babes need gifts!

Love these patchwork bibs in Cotton Paint! They made them reversible.

I adjusted the pattern a bit to make it longer. When I was in Tokyo I noticed that lots of the bibs were more like a collar... a bit of a fashion accessory. In my mind this doesn't seem to be practical enough for your average Aussie, you need something to catch all that dribble! I also didn't plan to have an orange theme, it just seemed to happen.

These are stroller toys... I wasn't sure about the ribbons. Are these safe for kids? So I didn't include it... maybe something attached with velcro would make it safer.

Such sweet little treats! Better get back to work before the cats get back and find out what I have been up to! T

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sweet Eats :: Afternoon Tea (Part 1) - A breakfast diary

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and boy did we make the most of that at a little place called Afternoon Tea in Roppongi Hills! Tiff has previously shared her affection for Afternoon Tea and on her return from numerous trips to Tokyo, I would just sigh enviously as she recounted all the delicious things she ate and showed me all the zakka goodness she brought home. My expectations were high! I guess it doesn't help that Tiff has a way of describing things that make you want to have them right now!

And so each morning without fail, we would be standing outside Afternoon Tea waiting for it to open at 10am. After a while I thought it'd be nice to try a different place for brekkie each day, but this place just draws you in with its warmth, ambience and food! On the third day when she saw us yet again, the lovely smiley manager said to us "Thank you for every day!" so grateful she was for our custom. So sweet.

What stood out for me was the yummy array of freshly baked breads. Here is a visual diary of what we ate...remembering this was just breakfast!:

Day 1: Fresh off the plane, I had the bacon and eggplant chilli pasta, served with warm freshly baked bread. Just what I felt like & delicious. I didn't get a shot, but Tiff had the shrimp roll served with salad and a little mug of sausage soup. This would become an almost daily favourite for us.

Day 2: Oh my, this was so so good. Soft, warm banana bread (more like a sweet scroll) sprinkled with flaked almonds and icing sugar. We had this with the autumn special of chestnut chai. We had admired the tea's gorgeous packaging in the store, but thought we should try before we buy! Mmmm...not quite what we expected and we didn't fancy it too much - a little too milky:

Day 3: Ok, so this was actually all for me. A super moist chicken tofu patty in the softest sesame seed bun....followed by another super soft matcha (green tea) sweet bun, crispy on the outside from the sugar coating:

Day 4: Oh my again. This is the shrimp coquette, served warm with mayonnaise in a soft bun with crispy flaky bits on the outside. So yummy:

Day 5: A teriyaki chicken patty, again in a soft sesame seed bun - not as tasty as the tofu burger above, but worth a try! I had this with a very moist and cakey blueberry muffin:

And if you're wondering what that cutie elephant pastry is up top - it was one of Tiff's brekkie choices. Thinking it would be filled with sultanas, this soft sweet bun was a little dry until she got the red bean paste surprise in the middle!

Afternoon Tea subjected our tummies to all sorts of tasty surprises...who knew brekkie could be so exciting?! Did we feel like little piggies afterwards? Yes, but we needed the energy for the big days ahead! Well, that's what we told ourselves. And you haven't seen what we ate for dessert yet...so stay tuned! N

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sweet Inspiration :: "Re-use" Cute Mushroom Pincushion

I only discovered "Cotton Paint" and the rest of the Cotton series from reading other people's blogs... and have been trying to track them down ever since. Whenever I was lucky enough to make a trip to Tokyo I would scan the book & craft stores all to no avail, it wasn't until my last visit that I actually found a couple in Kinokuniya. Yay for Kinokuniya! And they are fantastic... every page seems to be filled with goodness.

Our little company tries to be as "green" as possible and we love to re-use things. In Tokyo I have found that there is a crazy amount of packaging waste- 3 plastic bags for one purchase! I actually get an uneasy feeling from it all. However there is a "re-use" culture which we just don't have. It is all seen as a bit hippy if it isn't vintage in Australia. But these little felted mushroom pincushions are so cute and non hippy! And they are made from 2 drink bottle lids (I drink from these water bottles all the time).

Love the pins aswell!

This is another use for 2 drink bottle lids- a wee little ring box.

Another "Re-use" and green inspiration is Danny Seo . He has been described as a green stylist and I like to check his blog every now and then. T

Cotton Paint
2006 Vol.25

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sweet Eats:: Little Danish pick-me-ups in Shibuya

Tokyo is a city filled with quick sweet pick-me-ups... there seems to be something to entice you on every corner. This is something Nicky & I were more than grateful for after we had been gazing at Zakka, admiring baking paraphenalia & rifling through rolls of fabric for hours in Shibuya. You just have to have something sweet. Don't you?

One of my favourite places in Shibuya is Cafe Danmark. It is a cool & quite island in the sea of pichinko (sp?) halls, flashing lights, love hotels and what seems to be millions of people... and it has a bathroom! Another plus is the amount of pastries, they have... This seems to be the home of Danish pastries in Tokyo. There is also a touch of the "east meets west". Nicky ordered what she thought was a jam doughnut, a deep fried number coated in sugar. But she was surprised to discover inside was red bean paste, not strawberry jam. Still yummy apparently!

I think I know why the Japanese are much more svelte than your average Aussie. Most food servings seem to be a third of the size! It is nice to have something petite and elegant... I got these two cute mini rectangular pastries. Baked cream cheese is not big in Australia so it was a yummy surprise to find that what I thought was custard was actually a lemony cream cheese filling. As you can see I only remember to take a photo once I had started eating!

One thing that still bamboozles me a bit is the way the Japanese sort their waste. Because they live on a relatively small island waste isn't dumped in a hole somewhere, it is burnt. So when you put your rubbish in the bin it must be separated into combustible and plastics. I used to stand at the bins picking through the contents of my tray trying to get it just right... But after a while I just fell into doing this at the table. Much more efficient! T

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sew Sweet :: Patchwork begins & other things

Sewing :I have been chained to the sewing machine, so it seems only appropriate that I post up a long overdue "Sew Sweet" installment. What has kept my foot on the pedal morning, noon & night? Nicky & I have been lucky enough to received a couple of orders from some little stores for our "Rescue Softies". So expect to see a lot more of those little critters en masse gracing this blog!

In between time I have been wanting to give some of that fresh Japanese patchwork a go... and the impending holiday season is also starting to take up more of my thoughts. So this stocking is my first attempt at trying to cover these two birds with one stone!

I think it is a bit country... and that wasn't the look I was going for! So I will have to have a look back at my magazine to get a more contemporary feel. I think it might be the fabric combination... but I am not sure yet.

Baking:Other than sewing, I have been making Honey Snaps.

For very little effort these make lovely little lacy treats... crisp & sweet. Only 15 mins & 4 ingredients. I am not sure which generation I fall into ...X or Y! But I know it is the one that includes "instant gratification" in its description! Yum. T

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sweet Eats :: Martha's "Bake Sale Cookie" Cupcakes

Is it really that time of the month we asked?? Thanks to our Tokyo trip earlier in the month, September seemed to have slipped away from us & we were like...Oh no, we haven't done the Martha cake yet!! September's "cake" was actually three..."Bake Sale Cookie" Cupcakes consisting of Chocolate Chunk, Peanut Butter and Oatmeal-Raisin. Due to time constraints & the fact we didn't know how we'd get rid of approx. 80+ cupcakes (Martha doesn't do things by halves does she?), we decided to make just the one type. We chose the Oatmeal-Raisin ones since the others didn't really appeal to us. We even halved the quantity since we still didn't know how we'd get rid of the full quantity of 30!

The cupcakes were pretty straightforward to make, although there were a lot of ingredients involved, so it was a bit more work than your average cupcake/muffin. We basically needed to make 2 batters. The main batter consisted of whisking the dry ingredients and then adding them to the beaten butter/sugar/egg mixture. Sour cream was added followed by the raisins. Some of this mixture was set aside, in which we made the second chunkier batter by mixing in flaked coconut and some more rolled oats.

The main batter was spooned into the paper cups and then the chunkier batter was spooned on top of that. And into the oven they went for about 20 minutes.

So here are all 3 of Martha's Cookie Cupcakes:

And here are our Oatmeal-Raisin Cookie Cupcakes:

And the taste? The cupcakes were hearty, moist, quite sweet and they definitely benefited from the raisins. The coconut in the top batter was also a nice touch, cos it had a nice toasted flavour. They had a healthy texture to them, thanks to the rolled oats and oat bran...but we know they weren't that healthy cos as with all Martha cakes this year, there was lots of butter involved! Unlike us lazy bakers, some people actually made all three cupcakes...check out their efforts here.

Next up for October...the amazingly decadent-looking Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake. Our hubbies' birthdays are 2 weeks apart this month...so they have this special treat in store! It's not too late to join in Martha's Year of Cakes (don't forget to post your pics here), so tie up those apron strings & bake your hearts out...there are only 3 months to go! N

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sweet & Soft :: What can I get for half a dollar?

Sorry about the title... but I didn't want everybody out there who is googling for a certain gangsta rapper that goes by the name of a certain number of cents to end up at sweet little treat! This little guy with attitude is named after the afore mentioned rapper... he is made from an unloved shirt that never got worn! And happily found a new home on the weekend... hope he doesn't have too much attitude!

No prizes for guessing what he wants to be when he grows up, wearing that big medallion. He loves jam tarts, by the way! T