Tops, Tanks & Tees Knit Along 2016 and Lemon Cakes

TTTKAL 2016 – It’s on!

Very Shannon‘s annual Tops, Tanks & Tees Knit Along is underway!  It’s running until May 27, 2016 (with a possible extension).  Head over to the TTTKAL sign up page to find details, inspiration and to register.  Because prizes, dontcha you know!

If you’re on Ravelry be sure to join the fun in the Very Shannon Ravelry discussion group.  Whether you’re a newbie to KALs or a seasoned veteran, there’s tons of support and chat on the KAL thread.  On social media and Ravelry, be sure to tag your projects with #tttkal and #tttkal16 so we can all follow along with your progress and, of course, to be eligible for prizes.

My TTTKAL Project

Bridie in progress

This year, I’m making one of the sponsor projects, Bristol Ivy‘s Bridie cocoon for Quince & Co. (pictured at the top of this post).  Instead of the suggested Kestrel yarn from Quince, my Bridie is made using some of my stash yarn, Classic Elite Yarn’s (sadly discontinued) Portland Tweed in a delicious pinky-lilac shade called Rosewater.  I tend to get chilly no matter the season, so this 50% Wool, 25% Rayon, 25% Alpaca blend will be just the ticket, and after blocking is wonderfully lush and drapey and shows the textured stitches beautifully.  I think it’ll be a nice and cozy substitute for Kestrel.

This pattern knits up so fast (she’s almost finished drying and I’m about to seam the sides and knit up the garter stitch edging) that I might also be able to finish up a WIP in time for the deadline – my Liv cardigan that I’ve had on the back burner for a while. Actually finishing something (and possibly two!) by a KAL deadline will be a personal best for me. So yay for me!

I hope you’ll come and join the knit-along fun!

In other news, when life serves you lemons…

No, no, no. Not the ubiquitous Beyonce. Forget about lemonade, I’m talking about Lemon Pound Cake (recipe below) and the most adorable Mini Citrus Loaf Pan. EVAH!

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First of all this pan is amazing. The end result is stunning – each mini loaf has a scalloped sides and the citrus slices on top are part of the pan’s shape.  It’s a Nordic Ware pan that I bought from the Vancouver Williams-Sonoma store on sale as a sort of pre-Mother’s Day gift to myself and the recipe is from Cooks Illustrated (the best and easiest lemon pound cake I’ve ever found).  Don’t skimp on the lemon zest and you’ll never use another pound cake recipe again.  Plus, you make it in a food processor in about 5 minutes!!!

The pan is non-stick but you need to use a baking spray (oil & flour together) to ensure that the cakes release perfectly and you get super-sharp edges.  Each pan holds 2 cups of batter (total  6 cup capacity), or one standard 9 x 5″ loaf pan recipe.  I followed the recipe exactly (including the optional glaze) plus drizzled it with a simple glaze of about 1 cup of icing sugar mixed with a little freshly squeeze lemon juice until it was just pourable.

Here’s the pic from the Williams-Sonoma site – isn’t it gorgeous! Make these and you’ll be the star of the block party or your office goodie day. Or the next baby shower, or your MIL’s birthday, or whatever.

LEMON POUND CAKE

MAKES 3 MINI LOAF PANS, or ONE 9 X 5″ LOAF PAN) serving 8
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Published March 2002

INGREDIENTS
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1½ cups cake flour (6 ounces)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp table salt
1¼ cups granulated sugar (8 ¾ ounces)
2 tbsp grated lemon zest plus 2 tsp juice from 2 medium lemons
4 large eggs
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract

LEMON GLAZE (OPTIONAL, but adds moisture)
½ cup granulated sugar (3 ½ ounces)
¼ cup lemon juice, from 1 or 2 medium lemons

LEMON FROSTING (OPTIONAL, but looks so good)
1 cup icing sugar
a few tsp lemon juice to make pourable frosting

INSTRUCTIONS

You can use a blender instead of a food processor to mix the batter. To add the butter, remove the center cap of the lid so it can be drizzled into the whirling blender with minimal splattering. This batter looks almost like a thick pancake batter and is very fluid.

  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray interior of mini loaf pans with baking spray. (Or, if you’re using a standard 9×5″ pan, butter and flour your pan in usual way.)  In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  • Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk melted butter thoroughly to reincorporate any separated milk solids.
  • In food processor, process sugar and zest until combined, about five 1-second pulses. Add lemon juice, eggs, and vanilla; process until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, add melted butter through feed tube in steady stream (this should take about 20 seconds). Transfer mixture to large bowl. Sift flour mixture over eggs in three steps, whisking gently after each addition until just combined.
  • Pour batter evenly into prepared pans and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue to bake until deep golden brown and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes, (35 minutes if using a 9 x 5″ pan) rotating pan halfway through baking time. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, turn onto wire rack.
  • If using lemon glaze, while cake is cooling in pan, bring sugar and lemon juice to boil in small nonreactive saucepan, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.
  • After turning cake onto wire rack, poke the cake’s top and sides with a toothpick and brush on Lemon Glaze. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour. (Cooled cake can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.)

Optional but looks so good! – Mix icing sugar with enough lemon juice (add one teaspoon at a time) to make a pourable frosting and pour over cakes.

Enjoy and get ready for the compliments!!

Till next time!  Happy knitting and baking!

Let them eat [Red Velvet] cake!

Look what I made!  My dear friend Suzette was married this weekend to her wonderful guy and I had the privilege of making her wedding cake.  It’s a Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting based on Martha Stewart’s recipe.  For a deeper flavour and colour, I modified her recipe by doubling the amount of cocoa (and reducing the amount of flour by the same amount) and doubling the amount of liquid red food colouring.  Also, I made two each of 6″, 9″ and 12″ pans and then torted each to make each tier 4 layers deep.  (Martha said to make 3 of each size pan.)  And I didn’t use the frosting called for in her recipe because it was a little too soft for my liking.  Instead, I used a basic recipe I found online that called for two 8 oz packages of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, two cups of icing sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla.  The result was firm enough to pipe and didn’t droop after sitting at room temperature for two hours.  Consensus was that the end result was quite delicious.  Yippee!  Congratulations Suzette and Gord!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

The Christmas baking machine is slowing powering up. Project number one on Sunday night was a batch of Espresso Mocha Shortbread, a slice-and-bake treat I’ve been making every year for approximately the last 20 years. I think I found the recipe in Chatelaine magazine. It’s super easy and Seabass’ favourite holiday goodie:

Wanna try the finest shortbread in the land yourself? Here goes:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 tsp espresso (or strong coffee), at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp ground espresso beans
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Cream butter with sugar until fluffy, beat in liquid coffee, vanilla and almond extract. Stir together flour, cocoa, ground coffee and salt. Blend into butter mixture. On waxed paper, shape half the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch square and 10″ long, using a bench scraper to square off the edges. Wrap tightly in waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Repeat for second half of dough. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut into 1/4″ thick slices. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 20-22 minutes or until firm or lightly browned on bottom. Press lightly into granulated sugar. Let cool on racks. Store in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 2 weeks (they never last that long though – just too yummy!). Makes about 32 cookies.

Tonight, I whipped up the dough for another family favourite: gingerbread cookies. This recipe is also at least 20 years old and I think I found it in Canadian Living. I love this recipe because they’re a little spicier than most other gingerbread cookie recipes. Also, I like to roll them out on the thick side – that way they’re more chewy rather than crispy. I like to cut them into star and snowflake shapes and decorate with royal icing and dragees. I’m not baking them tonight but will post pictures when they’re done.

Here’s the recipe if either of my two readers are interested:

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of ground cloves
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses (best quality)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Measure flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and cloves in a medium sized bowl, whisk until well combined, set aside.

Cream butter in a mixmaster bowl with sugar until very creamy. Gradually add molasses and beat until well blended, scraping sides frequently. Stir in flour mixture until well blended.

Split dough into 2 halves, form into disks about 1″ thick and refrigerate for 30 minutes (over overnight). Roll out about 1/4″ thick on lightly floured surface. Dip cookie cutters into flour and cut out dough. Using spatula, transfer cutouts to parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, placing about 2″ apart.

Bake in centre of preheated over about 8-10 minutes or just until set. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling scraps as often as needed. Cookies keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for months. They also freeze well. Makes approximately 4 dozen 2-inch cookies.

A Perfect Summer’s Evening

One of my favourite Office episodes is on right now. It’s the one where Pam has an art show at the community centre and she invites everyone from work to come. No one shows up except Oscar and his boyfriend. Not knowing Pam is standing right behind him, the boyfriend condescendingly declares her work to be “motel art” at best. Standing behind him in her navy jumper and purple turtleneck, the sleeves pulled down over her hands, she is obviously crushed. Later as she starts to take down her paintings, Michael comes running in, out of breath from racing across town to get there. He was so impressed by her work – “Wow, you did these free-hand? These could be tracings!” She was so touched that he showed up and that he saw and appreciated her talent. Of course, it’s also the episode where Dwight K. Schrute throws a garbage bag over Meredith’s head to catch the bat that had been living in the ceiling tiles. And Michael is invited by Ryan the Temp to be a professor emeritus, er, guest speaker at his business school class. After tearing up a text book (“you can’t learn from books!”) and tossing a selection of chocolate bars at the students while trying make business metaphors, he realizes Ryan has made a fool of him and he storms out, angry that the class has failed to appreciate the beauty of a paper-filled world. Poor Michael.

Now that the Office is over, I just put a deep-dish peach pie with pecan streusel topping into the oven. Soon the house will be wafting with a lovely cinnamon/cardamon/nutmeg scent. Erik is out right now and will be delighted to find a pie waiting for him.

As for knitting, I’ve put sock #2 on hold and I’m working on a beautiful little shrug for Veronica to wear with her grad dress later next month. I’m using some yarn from my prodigious stash, Elann Highland Silk that I bought ages ago – it’s a perfect match for the cream and blue linen/cotton sundress.

On a thread on the Mad Men group on Ravelry, I read about some gorgeous MM-themed sock yarn from See Jayne Knit. The colourway is called Don Falling Out the Window and is a lush red, black and white multi – same colour scheme as the show’s opening credits. Since I’m pretty sure no one loves Don Draper more than me, I knew I had to have it and ordered it immediately from Jayne’s etsy store. Check it out. She has loads of beautiful hand-dyed yarn and delightful handmade stitch markers, too.

Oh, and I thought I’d show you something else I bought online: some awesome vintage Doc Martens, also found on etsy, this time from Bootmeister’s shop. I fell in love immediately with the delicious lilac colour and snapped them up -like. (N.B. this is Bootmeister’s photo.)

I have a billion things to do before next Monday when we leave on vacay. More to report on that later. Happy baking and happier knitting!