Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A traveling fox

With lots of travel time coming up, we decided to get B a Kindle Fire tablet and headphones for his birthday, and obviously I had a make a case for each of them.
I made a simple drawstring bag for the headphones. I more or less followed the instructions from my lined drawstring wine bag tutorial, except that I used a solid panel of fabric for the exterior. In case you're interested in making something similar, we purchased these headphones, and the cutting dimensions for the interior and exterior pieces of fabric should be 8" x 9". (Note that your bag will be slightly larger than mine. I made mine a bit smaller, and the headphones just barely fit, so I'd scale it up just a tad.) Use a 1/4" seam allowance.
For the tablet sleeve, I followed my Kindle sleeve tutorial with the sizes adjusted for the new, smaller Kindle. For a Kindle Fire HD 6, the dimensions should be as follows:
* Outside fabric
--Two pieces measuring 5.5" x 8"
--One piece measuring 3.25" x 3.25"

* Inside fabric
--Two pieces measuring
5.5" x 8"
--One piece measuring 3.25" x 3.25"

* Fusible fleece
--Two pieces measuring 4.5" x 7"
--One piece measuring 2.75" x 2.75"

In addition to the size changes, as you can see in the cutting directions, I also used fusible fleece instead of batting or flannel (as I recommended in the original tutorial). The fusible fleece really helps to cut down on the bulk in the seam allowances. For the main bag pieces, center the fleece on the wrong side of your outside fabric and fuse in place before assembling the bag. For the closing flap, center the fleece on the wrong side of your inside fabric and fuse in place. Use a 3/8" seam allowance on the body of the bag and a 1/4" seam allowance on the flap. Follow the remaining instructions in the tutorial as written.
For both pouches, I used the Anne Kelle Remix foxes on the outside and Anna Maria Horner's Sealing Wax in saffron on the inside. I think we're ready to hit the road!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

In the post about B's birthday party, I mentioned I made pumpkin cupcakes with salted caramel frosting for his cake. You guys, these cupcakes were amazing. Although I bake a lot, I often have trouble with cakes/cupcakes, and I'm almost never super happy with the results, but I would make these again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, etc. if I could. Seriously.
I used this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod, but I made a few changes, so I thought I'd post the adapted version here. First, their recipe says it makes 15 cupcakes, but 24 seemed like a more helpful number for parties (at least for mine), so I multiplied the recipe by one and a half. I also added weights for those of you out there (like me) who weigh your ingredients when baking, and I made a few tweaks to the spices, the order in which she does things, and other bits and pieces. If you have an indulgent cupcake occasion coming up, make these. You won't regret it.

Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
Cupcakes and frosting adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod; brown butter instructions adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

    18 tablespoons unsalted butter
    2 1/2 cups (10.625 oz) all-purpose flour
    3 teaspoons baking powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1 1/3 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice
    1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
    1 1/2 cup (11.25 oz) packed light brown sugar
    3/4 cup (5.25 oz) granulated sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    3 large eggs

For the frosting:

    Salted caramel sauce:
    2 cups granulated sugar
    12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
    1 cup heavy cream, room temperature
    1 tablespoon kosher salt

    12 tablespoons cup butter, room temperature
    2 cups powdered sugar
    1/2 cup salted caramel sauce, room temperature


Baker's notes: I suggest making the salted caramel sauce the day before you make the cupcakes, and I have ordered the directions as such below. The sauce must be cooled completely before making the frosting, so if you choose to make it the same day, be sure to allow plenty of time for cooling before you make the frosting. If you make it ahead of time, store it in the fridge and then let it come to room temperature (or thereabouts) before adding it to the frosting. The sauce recipe will make a little more than 2 cups, but the extra will keep for several weeks in the fridge (and when is extra caramel sauce ever a problem?). Feel free to halve the recipe if you want less left over.

Also, while I multiplied the cupcake ingredients by 1.5 from the original recipe, I kept the frosting ingredients the same as in the original, as I prefer a little less frosting on my cupcakes, and I had the perfect amount for 24 cupcakes. (You can see how much I used in the pictures above.) If you like a lot of frosting, you might want to double that part of the recipe as well.

   1. First, make the salted caramel sauce. Make sure you have all of the ingredients ready because once you start the process, you have to pay close attention, or it can quickly burn. To begin, heat the sugar over medium-high heat
in a medium saucepan. When it starts to melt, begin whisking the sugar. It will clump up, but keep whisking until the sugar is melted. You can swirl the pan to move the sugar around.

   2. Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches a deep amber color. Make sure you watch the pan very closely, as this is where it is easy to burn the caramel. You want the caramel to reach 350 degrees F. As soon as the sugar reaches the dark amber color, carefully add the butter once piece at a time (it will start to pop and hiss at you). Whisk until the butter is melted.

   3. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the heavy cream (again, more bubbling and hissing). Whisk until the cream is incorporated, and the caramel is smooth. Whisk in the salt.

   4. Let the caramel sauce cool in the saucepan for about 10 minutes, then pour into a large mason jar or other glass container and cool to room temperature.

   5. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners and set aside.

   6. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden, and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as it seems to take forever (more than 5 minutes) but then turns dark very quickly. Once it is a deeply fragrant and almost nut-brown in color, remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour the butter and all of the browned bits at the bottom into a measuring cup. Let cool.

   7. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin-pie spice. In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugars, eggs, vanilla extract, and cooled brown butter. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and whisk until just combined.

   8. Divide the batter evenly among the lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating the muffin tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

   9. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high until it is light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stop the mixer, add the powdered sugar, and then mix on low until the sugar is completely incorporated. Turn off the mixer and add the salted caramel sauce. Beat the frosting on low to combine, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes.

   10. Frost the cooled cupcakes and drizzle with the extra salted caramel sauce, if desired. Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2014

B's Into the Woods birthday

We hosted B's 3rd birthday party last weekend, and because he's our little fox, we (read: I) chose an "Into the Woods" theme. You can check out my Pinterest board for the party over here if you're looking for more ideas, but here's how it all shook out:
For the menu, we made pumpkin cupcakes with salted caramel frosting, "acorns" made from Hersey's kisses and Nutter Butters, pretzel "twigs," s'mores pudding cups (chocolate pudding topped with marshmallow fluff and graham cracker bits), "forest rabbits" (aka, graham bunnies), mini campfire hot dogs, and apple cider.
I realized after taking some shots of the decorations and food that I kind of forgot about my camera until it was time to sing "Happy Birthday!" and blow out the candles. Mom fail. Rest assured there was plenty of fun, children wearing masks and eating too many sweets, and general merriment. Then, came the cake.
That birthday-boy smile makes my day. Party success!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Apples, pumpkins, and the fam

Well, we've got another grandparent visit coming up this weekend, so I figured it was about time I got this post about the last grandparent visit up here. A few weeks ago, Matt's parents joined us for a long weekend, arriving just in time to see the leaves start to change and at the prime time for apple and pumpkin picking. So that's just what we did.
After doing a little searching, I discovered a new (to us) local orchard that got great reviews for the people and the product. The place we've gone to the last few years is always really crowded and feels super commercial, so we were looking for something smaller and more authentic feeling, and we found it.
B's usually good for a few minutes of picking, and then he starts chowing down on his chosen apple while the rest of us finish the work. We tried not to go overboard this time, but I think we still came out with about 20 pounds of apples from several varieties. We also picked up a gallon of their apple cider and a container of apple-cider donuts, which had gotten rave reviews. They did not disappoint.
Once our bags were full, we wandered over to the pumpkin patch to pick out a few small ones for our front porch. B loved all the bumpy, funny-looking ones (a boy after my own heart). With some help from Grandpa, we eventually settled on four to take home.
The rest of their visit was pretty quiet. We went to the zoo and the park, of course (standard required grandparent activities), and B rode the carousel at the zoo. He's ridden other carousels before, but I think this might have been the first time he actually enjoyed it. We went out to lunch on Saturday, and while we were eating, the fire alarm went off in the restaurant. It turned out to be a false alarm, but the fire truck came anyway. Grammie took B outside to see, and the firefighters were super nice, chatting with him and letting him see inside the truck.
Another wonderful visit in the books!