Devil’s Chocolate Bomb: 12-yolk Chocolate Cake

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As a follow-up to the angel food cake we made in the last post, I made this devil’s food cake the same day to use up the 12 yolks I had on hand. The only problem was that there wasn’t actually a recipe out there that used 12 yolks in a chocolate cake. We had long since grown out of doing that, using whole eggs instead. All the 12-yolk recipes on the internet were for yellow cakes, not chocolate. So I had to make it up. And here it is. I’m quite pleased with the results.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and grab yourself a bundt pan. You can do this in any pan you like, or make it into a layer cake, but because I was serving this alongside the gluten-free angel-food cake, I wanted them both to be round with holes in the middle. Butter or spray your pan and then flour it to be on the safe side.

If you can bear to part with it (and as a parent of a nearly one-year-old, that’s a big sacrifice), save 1 3/4 cup coffee from your morning brew and allow it to cool. To up the coffee insanity (unless you made espresso earlier), tip in 2 tablespoons instant coffee or espresso powder and stir to combine.

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Chop up about 1 cup chocolate into wee pieces and toss it in the top of a double boiler or heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and let that sucker melt. Let it cool a little bit so it’s not molten lava.

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In another container, whisk together 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, 2 1/4 cups flour, and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda.

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In the bowl of your mixer, cube up 1 cup butter (softened) and beat the crap out of it together with 1 1/2 cups sugar until it’s soft and fluffy.

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Then grab your 12 egg yolks and slide them into the mixer one at a time until they’re fully combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add in 2 teaspoons vanilla as well.

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Look at that yellow loveliness.

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Now beat in your melted chocolate until your batter resembles a tar pit.

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Then grab your flour/cocoa mixture and your coffee.

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Alternate adding the two ingredient groups, flour-coffee-flour-coffee-flour and mix until the batter is smooth.

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Even with a spatter shield in place I still had a bit of a mess.

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Smooth the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

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To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if it’s 35 minutes or not. I didn’t write down that part of my recipe and after having dropped one angel food cake and had to make up another it kind of slipped my mind. But I’m guessing 35 minutes. If it’s not, then it’s a little longer, maybe 45 minutes. But certainly not less than 35 minutes. So keep an eye on it. And tell me what you come up with.

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When the cake has somewhat cooled you can tip it out onto a rack to cool completely. You can see the light coloured stuff on the surface: that’s the flour/butter from the pan. If you don’t want that to show up – like if you’re not planning to ice the cake – then don’t flour it (maybe use cocoa?).

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While the cake is cooling, you can make up a ganache. Chop up another 8 oz chocolate and set it in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup whipping cream until it’s just simmering, then pour it over the chocolate and stir it occasionally until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is uniform.

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Let that cool until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

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Then jam it all over your cake.

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I decided seeing as I suck as icing things in an artistic fashion to kind of make it look like stucco by smacking my icing spatula against it and pulling it away.

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Then I added some chips of white chocolate that I had on hand for contrast. I could have applied them better but again, not so good with the artistic part of cake-making. I’m more into the cake-eating.

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Which is what you can do now!

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Carbonated Coffee for Summer

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When I saw this coffee soda on Man Made DIY a few weeks back I thought, ew, weird. But then I thought, welp, better try it. And so here we are. This is an interesting twist on iced coffee if you’re tired of the latte version.

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Man Made has a whole system for making special double-strong cold brewed coffee.

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But I wasn’t so picky, opting instead for just brewing my favourite espresso double strength and letting it cool before straining and chilling.

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The process is pretty simple: you have your chilled super-strong coffee, a large glass, some of your favourite fizzy water, an orange, and a vegetable peeler. And some ice, but that stayed in the freezer while I took this photo.

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Fill your glass about half full with your cold coffee and plop in some ice cubes. You can sweeten the coffee if you wish (I keep a small jar of simple syrup in the fridge for this very purpose). Use the vegetable peeler to scrape up a good-sized chunk of orange peel.

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Top the glass off with soda water. Squeeze the peel over the beverage to get the orange oils in there.

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Then rub the oily peel around the edge of the glass before plopping it right into the coffee.

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And that’s it. It’s definitely different, but I think I like it. Give it a try and tell me what you think!

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Saponification!

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I like to learn one big major skill in DIY every holiday season and turn it into my showcase gift for friends and family. This year, the Pie and I learned how to make soap, from scratch. There are four main methods of soap preparation:

Melt and pour: basically you get a kit containing a block of solid soap, goat’s milk, glycerin, whatever, and some nice moulds and you melt the soap in the microwave, mix it with pretty flowers, and pour it into the moulds. You may recall a disastrous outcome we had once with one of these kits. They are, however, super trendy right now and many DIY bloggers have instructions on making pretty layered soaps and things.

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Hand-milling: more or less a fancier version of melt-and-pour, in that you grate up a bunch of super nice soaps, melt them down, add things to them, and then chuck them in a mould.

Cold process: This is the from-scratchiest way to make soap, wherein you combine specific oils with a lye solution and cause the chemical reaction that leads to saponification. SCIENCE! Of course this is the version we did. Do not do this process with small children, as it is quite dangerous. To start, I began with the very clear and simple instructions I found on Garden Therapy.

Hot process: Essentially the same as cold process, except you speed things up by “cooking” the soap, usually in a slow cooker. We did a bit of this with one of the batches that didn’t turn out right the first time.

Safety Equipment

Lye is an extremely strong chemical, and you’re using it in a pretty violent reaction in this DIY, so safety should be your number one priority.  Lye can burn or blind you and inhaling its fumes is a really bad idea as well. You must, therefore, have good quality safety goggles (the kind that touch your face all around) and some strong rubber gloves with long sleeves.

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Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, and make sure to wear shoes while you do this. If you have a chemical ventilator, I recommend you use it as well. This one cost me about thirty bucks at Home Depot and it’s great.

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Keep a large amount of white vinegar handy. The acid in the vinegar will neutralize the strong base of the lye should you happen to spill it on yourself.

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Work in an area as well that has access to fresh air either through a window or a fume hood (the first time we did this I went outside). I do not want to feel responsible for you people if you die while doing one of my DIYs. So please behave yourselves and BE CAREFUL!

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Non-Chemical Equipment

You need a lot of stuff for soap-making that doesn’t necessarily tie into ingredients and/or safety equipment.

You’ll need at least 3 heatproof bowls (glass or metal, doesn’t really matter), and at least 3 silicone spatulas.  I should also note that once you use these tools to make soap you probably shouldn’t use them in connection with food anymore, so plan accordingly. I used old spatulas I was going to throw out and/or picked up at the Dollar Store, and bowls I grabbed from Value Village for a few dollars each.

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You’ll need a double boiler or access to a microwave. I prefer using a double boiler because it’s easier to measure temperatures that way.

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You also need a highly accurate scale and thermometer. For that reason, a digital scale and digital instant read thermometer are probably best.

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If your scale is super tiny, like mine is, you’ll also need some wee dishes for measuring your oils. If you have a big one, you can measure your oils all together in one big bowl.

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You need something to put your soap in when it’s ready. You can use all sorts of fancy actual soap moulds for this, but the amounts I used in the recipes below produce enough soap to fill a 1L (~1qt) milk carton, which has a nice non-stick interior. Just make sure you wash and dry the carton carefully first.

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Also handy will be a set of old towels or blankets for wrapping the soap cartons.

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Not shown, but that is more or less necessary, is an immersion blender (again, you can’t use it again for food, but you can buy a new one off Amazon for twenty bucks). I dedicated my old one to the cause and bought a shiny new one for myself.

You may also need a wide mouth canning funnel, for pouring your soap mixture into your cartons. You might not need it, depending on how steady your hand is, but I found it very useful.

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Soap-Making Ingredients

Now we’re getting down to business. Soap at its most basic is composed of oil/fat and lye. That’s it. How you put those together is up to you. So you’ll need assorted oils (vegetable, castor, olive, coconut, etc.) to get you started. I recommend doing a little bit of research into the different properties of each oil and what they do before you make your selections. I found this article to be particularly helpful.

To “flavour” your soaps you will also need an assortment of essential oils and some dried and ground herbs. The essential oils will add your desired scent while the dried herbs will add texture, and ground herbs will contribute to colour. Here is a handy list of ingredients that will change the appearance of your soap.

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Very importantly, you’ll need some distilled water. Use distilled over filtered or tap water simply because the varying mineral compositions in undistilled water will make your results unpredictable.

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Equally important is lye. That’s what makes the magic happen. For solid soap, you want to get yourself sodium hydroxide (potassium hydroxide is used for liquid soaps). Get the lye that comes in free-flowing crystals or pellets – they’re easier to measure and less likely to get everywhere.

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For those Canadians who don’t have access to specialty soap suppliers, you can purchase lye at Home Hardware.

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And the final magic ingredient you will need is a LYE CALCULATOR. I found the SoapCalc to be helpful and easy to use (and it’s free). There’s also a handy link in the top menu that explains all the calculations. Basically, you begin by figuring out how much soap you want to produce – for our purposes, 700g soap fits in a 1L milk carton. From there you calculate what percentages of oils you want to go into your soap, and then the software will do the calculations to tell you the exact measurements of oil, lye, and water that you will need. And then it tells you the quality of soap you will produce with those numbers. And it does it in metric AND imperial. Then you can print it out and keep it handy. I love things that do math for me.

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The Cold Process Process:

Once you get the hang of this (i.e., like me, you do it five or six times in a row), it’s super easy – you just have to pay attention so you don’t hurt yourself and make sure your measurements are accurate. One of the most important things you need to do first is measure out your raw ingredients as accurately as possible.

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You’ll notice in this, our first batch, that we used olive oil as one of our ingredients. Olive oil, we learned later, is hard to make into soap because it doesn’t always form a trace (you’ll see in a little bit what we mean), so we actually had a lot of trouble with this first batch. But that’s good for you guys, because I can show you how we fixed it. And we had no problems with any subsequent batch. Anyway, keep measuring out your ingredients. Accuracy is key.

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When all your ingredients are ready and laid out (this includes the water for your lye solution and all your flavourings), then you can put all the oils together (except for the scented ones) and start gently heating them in your double boiler with one of your heatproof bowls.

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A note on temperature: Always, always, ALWAYS make sure that your oils and your lye solution are the same temperature when you mix them together. This is very important. Every recipe differs, as will the humidity levels and relative temperatures of your environment, but generally you are aiming for an ideal temperature of between 110° and 120°C for both your oils and your lye solution. They don’t have to be exactly the same, but in that range would be best.

So, once your oils reach about 120°-125°C (I like to get them hot and let them cool a bit while I do the next step), you can work on your lye solution.

Take another one of your heatproof bowls and fill it partially with water and ice to create an ice bath. Set that aside for a moment. Measure out your room-temperature distilled water into your third heatproof bowl and have your lye crystals measured and at hand. Do this in a well-ventilated area. As I mentioned above, the first time we did this I sat on our balcony in the fresh air. In subsequent times I just put everything on top of the stove and did it with the window cracked and the stove fan going at full blast. But this looks way more dramatic.

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When you’re ready, grab one of your spatulas and your lye crystals and ever-so-slowly pour the lye into the distilled water. SLOWLY. Stir gently the whole time.

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At first it will look like nothing is happening. I feel like my neighbours were suspicious at this point.

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But then the lye will start to dissolve and the water will turn cloudy and begin to steam. DO NOT INHALE THIS STEAM. IT IS NOT GOOD STEAM.

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Make sure to get every last crystal into the solution.

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Continue to stir the solution until it starts to clear, then take its temperature. The lye/water reaction means the liquid will get really hot, really fast. You want to cool the lye solution down to the same 110-120 range as the oils, and that’s what the ice bath is for. Feel free to use it (because we were doing this particular batch outside in November, it didn’t take long for it to cool).

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When the lye solution and the oils are the same approximate temperature, you can add them together. Slowly. Stirring the whole time. And ALWAYS add the lye to the oils, not the other way around.

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Now you keep stirring. Only crazy people do this by hand because it can take up to four hours for this stuff to start working. Use your immersion blender in thirty-second bursts to emulsify the mixture. There is some spatter involved, so make sure you’re still wearing all your safety equipment. I find it useful to do the blending with the bowl sitting in my empty sink. What you’re looking for – and this may take a while – is what is called “trace”. This is when the mixture thickens and starts to resemble pudding, and when you drip a bit of the mixture on top of itself (like it falls off the blender back into the bowl), you can see the trace of the drip on the surface). At this point, you have to act quickly (hence the blurry shot).

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Now you add in your solids and your essential oils and blend it up again.

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Pour your new almost-soap into your milk carton and tape down the top. Wrap it in a towel and put it somewhere warm (like on top of your fridge or near a heating vent) for 48 hours. The carton will feel warm and then actually hot over the next little while as the saponification occurs.

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Neutralize your dirty dishes with vinegar before you wash them. And keep your gloves on while you do it, just to be safe.

Now, sometimes, you don’t get a trace, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes this means you weren’t mixing hard enough (so that’s why you use an immersion blender). Sometimes the temperature isn’t right – the ingredients don’t have the same temperature, or they’ve cooled too much. If you are having trouble achieving trace, try putting the bowl back on the double boiler and heating it up a little more again. And if that doesn’t work, then just shove it into the carton anyway, and hope for the best. You’ll know in 48 hours if it worked or not. In this case, the olive oil combo we used, combined with our inexperience and inexpert technique, meant that when I ripped open the carton 48 hours later I had a chunk of soap and then a bunch of oozy liquid. Always wear your gloves when you open a mould, just in case something like this happens. There’s no way of knowing how much of that liquid is reactive lye.

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But this is fixable! Just mush it all up (newly saponified soap is very soft).

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And put it back on your double boiler to melt it down.

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You won’t get the same smooth texture you had before. In fact, it’s kind of weird.

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And then you can shove it into a new milk carton, seal it up, and wait another 48 hours.

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Now it looks a little bit weird and rough, but it’s real soap! You can always trim off the rough bits.

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So after 48 hours, you can cut your soap into manageable pieces. It’s very soft, so it’s not a difficult task. Make sure to wear gloves as you do it, in case there are pockets of lye hidden in the soap, and also because freshly made soap is really drying.

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Set your soap upright on a rack or in a box (you want as much airflow around it as possible) and put it in a cool dark place to cure for at least 3 weeks. After that time, you can buff it to a shine with a soft cloth and wrap it for gifting!

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I made six different batches of soap in my experiments. Here are the percentages and shots of the finished product, for your edification.

Olive Oil

  • Coconut Oil 34%
  • Olive Oil 34%
  • Avocado Oil 23%
  • Castor Oil 9%

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I cut off some rough bits from this soap after we re-melted it, and saved them to use as inclusions in another recipe.

Lavender / Rosemary Mint (two separate batches with the same oil base)

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  • Coconut Oil 34%
  • Crisco 30%
  • Castor Oil 14%
  • Sweet Almond Oil 11%
  • Avocado Oil 11%

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Ground Lavender flowers and essential oil added at trace. Dried Ground Rosemary and Mint added at trace with Peppermint essential oil.

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You can see in the pieces on the left that I originally forgot to add in the ground herbs before I poured it into the mould, so I emptied it out, stirred them in, and poured it back in, leaving trace amounts of plain soap on the bottom. You can do this on purpose too, to layer your soaps.

 

Chocolate Orange

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  • Crisco 40%
  • Coconut Oil 30%
  • Canola Oil 20%
  • Cocoa Butter 10%

Sweet orange essential oil added at  trace. Turmeric added at trace for orange colour. Cocoa added and swirled in.

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Coffee Cocoa

  • Crisco 40%
  • Coconut Oil 30%
  • Cocoa Butter 10%
  • Sunflower Oil 10%
  • Castor Oil 10%
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It’s hard to see in this photo, but it is more of a brown than the chocolate orange, which has a ruddy undertone. They do look very similar, however!

 

Lye solution made with chilled coffee (to learn how to make lye solutions using other things than water, read this article). Lemongrass Oil added at trace, together with 2 tsp cocoa and 2 tsp oatmeal.

Guinness Oat

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Those lighter patches are the inclusions of plain olive oil soap.

 

  • Crisco 40%
  • Coconut Oil 30%
  • Shea Butter 15%
  • Castor Oil 8%
  • Sunflower Oil 7%

Lye solution made with chilled, flat Guinness Stout. Sage oil added at trace, together with 2tsp finely ground oatmeal. Inclusions from Olive Oil soap added.

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Krystopf’s Chocolate Chiffon Birthday Cake

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Because we were running around on my birthday, the Pie and I broke with our tradition of making each other birthday cakes from scratch and bought one from a local bakery.  It was lemon chiffon, and we liked it so much we immediately vowed that it would be on our list of things to learn.  It was Krystopf’s birthday on Saturday (my biggest brother is 37, how scary is that?), and he requested something chocolatey for his cake.  So instead of lemon chiffon, we’re making the Joy of Baking’s chocolate chiffon cake.  While the cake has multiple steps, they’re all pretty easy.  It’s also a good cake to make the day before and store in the fridge overnight.

Start by separating 6 eggs (add an extra white to the whites pile so you have 6 egg yolks and 7 egg whites) and let those come to room temperature.

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Now go ahead and preheat your oven to 325°F and grab your favourite tube pan.  Resist the urge to put any grease of any form into it.

Next, seize your sifter and, in a large bowl, sift together 2 cups cake flour with 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together 6 egg yolks, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup room temperature coffee, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

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Make a well in your flour mixture and add the egg stuff to it.

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Mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until you get this lovely glossiness.

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Now we can start beating up those 7 egg whites.  Add in 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and use an electric mixer to whip them to soft peaks.

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While still beating, slowly add in 3/4 cup granulated sugar and keep whipping those up until you get nice stiff peaks that stand on their own.

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Gently fold the meringue into the rest of the cake batter in three separate additions.

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I found it a bit tricky to get it all properly mixed, so mine is a little marbled.

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Pour the batter into your tube pan and smooth it down.  If you think there are large air bubbles in there, cut through it a few times with a knife to break them.

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Bake the cake for 55-60 minutes, and then immediately invert your tube pan to allow the cake to cool completely without collapsing under its own weight (this is why you don’t grease the pan).

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Use a bottle to prop it up if your pan doesn’t have feet.

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Now that the cake is cool we can work on the glaze and filling.  Chuck a bowl and the wire whisk from your electric mixer into the freezer for about 30 minutes.

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Chop up 6oz semisweet chocolate and heave that into a heatproof bowl (or double boiler) with 1/4 cup butter and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup.

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Heat that over a pot of barely simmering water until it’s all melted and lovely, and then set it aside to cool slightly.

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While it’s cooling down, you can decant your cake.  Use a sharp knife around the edges and tip it upside down onto a plate.

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Use the knife again to remove the bottom part.

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Then cut the whole thing in half horizontally.

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Haul your frozen whisk and bowl out of the freezer and throw 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons cocoa, and 1 teaspoon instant coffee into the bowl.

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Pour out 1 cup cold whipping cream and add a few drops of that to the mix in the bowl.  Give it a good stirring, then beat in the rest of the whipping cream until it’s a frothy mocha masterpiece.

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Take about 3/4 cup of the mocha cream and spread it on the cut side of the bottom half of the cake.

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Put the top half back on and then drizzle the glaze over the top so it runs down the sides.  Spread it smooth with a spatula.

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Pipe the remaining mocha filling on top.

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I let the cake chill for a bit to set the glaze.

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Oh man it was good!

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Pumpkin Spice Latte Mix

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There’s a joke going around that you can tell it’s fall on college campuses because all the undergraduate girls are dressed in yoga pants, wearing Ugg boots, and hefting pumpkin spice lattes.

Fall College Girl Uniform of Black Yoga Pants/leggings and Uggs with whatever kind of top
Photo borrowed with thanks from John Paul Sullivan

When I was in undergrad, yoga pants hadn’t yet become the lazy fashion statement they are today, Ugg was something you said when someone punched you in the stomach, and the pumpkin spice latte was just a twinkle in the eye of the corporate coffee giants.  In fact, I have only recently discovered the pumpkin spice latte.  AND IT’S AWESOME.  Still, you’d have to pay me quite a bit of money to wear yoga pants outside the house these days …

Anyway, if you think that makes me seem old, let me tell you more.  Back in the early nineties, when Starbucks was just starting to become trendy on the Canadian west coast, the latte was a new beverage to be reckoned with.  My mother and I taught ourselves how to make them, just to see if we could (you see where I get it from?).  We used one of these fantastic wee espresso pots.  Total old school.

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Now, I had not used my latte-making skills in over twenty years, until I was scrolling through my Feedly and came across Just a Smidgen’s Pumpkin Spice Latte Mix recipe.  Upon finding this I knew that I had to dust off my skills (and my coffee maker) and git ‘er done!  And if you’d like to grown-up-ify this recipe, try adding a bit of fall spirit!

The mix itself is super easy to concoct: stir together 4 tablespoons pumpkin pie purée (the plain stuff we keep on hand to feed to Gren), 3 tablespoons sugar (or the sweetener of your choice, adjusted to taste), 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (you can get My Baking Addiction’s recipe here), and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Shove that into a glass canning jar and chuck it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

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Now for the latte.  If you’ve got a fancy espresso machine with a fancy milk foamer/steamer, then by all means go ahead and use that sucker.  I don’t drink these things often enough to justify losing that much counter space to another machine, so I have my ancient espresso percolator, which is easy peasy to use.  Just fill the bottom section up with water.

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Then take the mesh cup and fill it with ground espresso.

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Then screw on the top piece.

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Plop it on the burner (if you’re using gas like me you’ll want to make the flames the same size as the bottom of the pot, else you may burn yourself horribly).

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For each latte you want to serve, plop 2/3 cup milk (your choice as to what kind) in your steamer or in a small pot.  Add in 1 heaping teaspoon of your pumpkin spice latte mix for each latte you are serving and whisk it in.

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Heat the milk until it’s steaming (don’t let it boil or you’ll get skin), whisking to keep it frothy (or use your fancy machine).

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Your espresso ready?  Good. Add a couple shots to your mug.  I’m feeling feisty so mine’s a double.

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Add in your pumpkiny milk.

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I’m not a huge fan of whipped cream on beverages, but if you want to get luxurious with this puppy you should add some to the top of this, sprinkled with a bit more pumpkin spice.  And that’s it!

**EDIT: And if you’re feeling adventurous, I’ve just discovered that it makes a great addition to your morning porridge!**

Coffee Raisin-Nut Bars

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We’re at that stage in the fall where we’re starting to get sick of pumpkin things, but the chocolate and peppermint of winter is still too far away.  At this point I like to rely on coffee and spice to bolster me through.  This quick plate of squares is adapted from The 250 Best Brownies, Bars & Squares, because Esther Brody has not disappointed me yet (well, except for that one time).

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.  Make yourself a cup of coffee.

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In a small bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1/4 cup room temperature butter with 1 cup packed brown sugar until it’s all turned into one big bowl.

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Add in 1 egg and 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat until combined.

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Pour in 1/2 cup hot coffee and mix (drink the rest of it — I know *I* need the caffeine).

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Blend in your flour mixture, a bit at a time.

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Then tip in 3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup chopped nuts (I like pecans) and give that a stir.

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Spread that into your prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until you can stick a wooden skewer in it and it comes out clean.

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Set that on a wire rack to cool.

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While that’s on the go, make yourself up some frosting.

With an electric mixer, beat up 1 cup icing sugar with 1/2 cup softened butter until it’s all fluffy and frosty.

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In a measuring cup, mix together 3 tablespoons coffee liqueur, like Kahlua, with 2 tablespoons whipping cream (or milk) and 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder.

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Pour that into the frosting mixture, alternating with a further 1 cup icing sugar, and beat until fully combined.

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Spread the frosting on your cooled squares and cut them up.  Yum!

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The Plug Problem

Our house on Elizabeth was built in 1962 and hadn’t been updated since, which meant that in the kitchen, where modern cooks use all manner of electric appliances to make their jobs easier, there was a dearth of electrical outlets for us to use.  So we were always unplugging things and plugging in other things.  The one that got the most use was where our coffee maker was.  The issues was that the majority of the appliances we used in that spot had black cords and plugs — including the coffee maker itself.  We unplugged the coffee maker by accident too many times, and re-setting the little clock on it was a pain in the backside.  There’s a life hack out there that tells you to label your cords around your office desk by writing on bread tags and sticking them to the cords in question.  So I did the same thing here.

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Simply putting a yellow tag on the plug that needed to stay in its socket clues us in to the fact that we shouldn’t mess with this plug, which meant that I never had to re-set the clock again!

Fun with Gelatin: Coffee and Cream

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Still so much gelatin and condensed milk to get rid of!  This idea came from the Pie as I was bemoaning the large bottle of Camp coffee extract I hadn’t yet had a chance to use and wouldn’t be able to move.

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This, therefore, is what we’re gonna do.  And I hope it works.  Also, it’s sort of a commemorative thing for Cait, whose birthday was yesterday (Happy Day!), and whose love for coffee is surpassed only by her love for her dog.  And for me (I hope, but all bets are off).

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In one small bowl, plop about 1/4 cup cold water and sprinkle that with 1 envelope (2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavoured gelatin.  This is for the cream layer.  In a slightly larger bowl, repeat the process with 1/2 cup cold water sprinkled with 2 envelopes gelatin.  The slightly larger bowl is for the coffee layer.  Let both of those sit for about 5 minutes.

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Now, whether you use your microwave for this or your stove is up to you, but you’re gonna need two different hot liquids on the go here.  And the order of how you do this of course depends on whether you’re planning to unmould your gelatin or leave it in its container.  If you’re planning to unmould it (inverted), do the cream layer first.  If you want it to stay in the container in which you put it, do the coffee layer first.  The end result of what you’re looking for is a dish composed of about 2/3 coffee layer on the bottom and 1/3 cream layer on the top.

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For the cream layer, heat 1 cup water to boiling, and stir in 1 can sweetened condensed milk until fully incorporated.  If you’d like, you can add a few splashes of Irish cream liqueur (but not too much, because alcohol will hinder the gelling process).  Pour that hot mess over your gelatin in the smaller bowl and stir until everything is dissolved and smooth.

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Distribute the mixture evenly amongst your moulds and chill them for at least 25 minutes.

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For the coffee layer, you’ll need 3 cups hot coffee (fresh or reheated or instant, it’s up to you).  Add whatever sweeteners you like and a few splashes coffee extract (if you have it) to intensify the flavour.  Pour that over the gelatin in the slightly larger bowl and stir until everything is dissolved.

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Let your coffee mixture cool a bit (you can always divide the liquid and have half of it hot and half of it cold to cool it faster).

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Distribute the coffee mixture evenly amongst the moulds (either on top of the chilled cream layer or at the bottom if you’re not unmoulding), and chill for at least 4 hours (or 25 minutes if you’re layering with cream on top, then reverse the whole thing … you know what I mean).  I found that if I just poured the liquid in, it punched a hole through the cream layer (which isn’t entirely solid at this point), so I ended up spooning it in gently with a measuring cup and pouring it against the side of the mould.

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I think the very topmost layer of cream gelatin also dissolved into the coffee layer, which makes it more opaque than it was originally.

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To serve, immerse your moulds in hot water for a few seconds, then tip them out onto a plate.  If you were stupid and used plastic cups, like I did, you’re probably going to need a knife and a bit of persuasion to get them out.

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Maybe a dollop of whipping cream on top would go over nicely, or some grated chocolate?

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Confession time: I messed up this recipe when I made it the first time and didn’t use enough gelatin in the coffee layer.  So it didn’t gel.  So the coffee layer tipped out like this:

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And the cream layer stayed in the cup like this.  But was oh so tasty.

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So I froze it in order to get these pictures.  And if you do it that way (with only 1 envelope of gelatin for the coffee) and freeze it, it’s quite nifty: more of an Irish cream panna cotta on top of a nice espresso granita.  Sounds fancy.  Tastes delicious!

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Travel Document Holder from Old Maps

Travel Document Holder

My brother Krystopf travels frequently for his job.  Most of the time it’s to Brussels, where he has fully exhausted the entertainment value of the city and now dreads going.  He’s also a bit of a disorganized traveler, and there are few countries on this planet that don’t have a little piece of something that he has left behind.  Actually, both my brothers are pretty good at this, so maybe Ando will get one of these some time in the future …

Travel Document Holder

This is a travel document holder that I designed myself.  It’s made out of a mining resources map of Newfoundland I inherited from the Geography department at MUN, and dates from 1969, so it’s quite old in terms of relevance.  I actually inherited three of them, plus a few more resource maps, so I’m sure you’ll be seeing more map-related projects in the future.

Travel Document Holder

My first step in this project was to “antique” the map, using a technique I learned from the good folks at Design*Sponge.  So you lay out your map (or whatever it is that you are antiquing), on a workable surface.  My map was too big for the table, so I laid it out on some dog towels on the floor.

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Brew up a cup of dark coffee and let that cool.  You will also need a cup of plain water and a handful of coarse salt.  I used the stuff you put in your grinder.  And a paintbrush.

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When the coffee has cooled sufficiently, dip in your paintbrush and paint a swath of coffee onto your map.  Follow that with a dip into the fresh water, just to dilute it a bit.  Paint at random, and allow some puddling.

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Now, while that area is still wet, sprinkle a few grains of salt into the wet areas.  The salt will help to dry up the puddles.

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Continue this way, randomly swiping your paintbrush wherever you like, sprinkling salt as you go, until you’ve got something you like.  Leave that to dry overnight.

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Now brush off all the particles of salt.  You may find that it’s crystallized in the darker spots, and you can brush that away as well if you use a stiff brush.  Or you can keep it that way, it’s up to you. I think the little perfect squares of salt look kind of neat, but they won’t adhere well to my contact paper so I gotta get rid of them.

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Now we’re going to measure out our pieces.  A pencil and a ruler might help, obviously.  I have a plan as to how this is going to happen.  When I make plans for stuff I usually construct a mockup on scrap paper, writing in all the measurements and such, and notes as to where I’m putting what.

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On the inside we have a passport pocket, a notepad, and a wee pouch for small things that folds over itself to keep everything in place.

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On the other side of that pocket are a series of slots for odds and ends.

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So now we’re ready for cutting. I used my rotary cutter and cutting mat for this but you can use scissors or whatever works for you. Cut two pieces out of the map that are 18″ x 9 1/2″ (or whatever works for you).  These are the inside and outside of the document holder, and will be folded in half.  Remember that one end folds over itself and fastens with velcro. That fold-over flap is 3″, making the folder 7 1/2″ wide by 9 1/2″ tall, the perfect size to slip into a laptop or even a netbook or tablet sleeve.

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This is the two pieces folded together. You may need to trim the inside piece a bit to get the edges to match up, simply due to the bulk of the mapping paper.

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Here is the piece I cut out for the inside pocket. It is 8 1/2″ tall and 16″ wide. Then I folded it in half with the map facing outwards and folded in the open edges by one inch, and then over itself again by another inch. That double fold will ensure that the contents of the pocket won’t slide out.

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So the folded pocket is 8 1/2″ tall and 6″ wide, a good fit for the inside of the folder.

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On the inside left cover we are going to have a space to store a passport, as well as a stash of scrap note paper for writing things down.

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I cut the scrap paper to be all the same size and a proportional fit for the folder, 3″ x 5″.  A passport is 3 1/2″ x 5″, so the lengths matched.

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Originally, I was going to construct all these slots and pockets by cutting slits in the structure of the folder cover and inserting paper pockets inside. But then I changed my mind. I decided it would cut down on bulk, streamline and strengthen the design, and make things easier to see if I used the contact paper itself to make the pockets I needed. Then the clear nature of the plastic would mean you could see your stuff, as well as the details of the map underneath it. It makes things a little trickier to put together but I think the end result is less bulky and complicated.

Now for the contact paper.  This is the stuff they use to cover shelves and things.  You can pick it up at any hardware store.  Because I don’t have a car and Newfoundlanders don’t like their contact paper to be clear, I had to get mine online.  But it’s a common thing.

First we do the inside cover.  Cut a piece of contact paper the exact size of the inside cover (18″ x 9 1/2″).  Before you take off the adhesive backing, we’re going to plan out where all our slots go and how we’re going to put them together.  Please note here that I totally planned out my design backwards, and in the end had to change the way that the document folder opened.  So make sure you remember that the design you put on your contact paper will be reversed when you stick it down onto the map.

Travel Document Holder

For the inside left cover, with the note pages and the passport, …

Travel Document Holder

For the inside right cover, with the slots for receipts and such, we’re going to do more or less the same thing, except these slots are going to overlap, so sticking things gets a little complicated …

Travel Document Holder

So then I cut slashes in the contact paper where I wanted documents to stick through.

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Then I carefully cut through just the backing paper to peel away areas I wanted exposed.

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Then I cut another piece of contact paper to fit on that exposed piece.

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And stuck it down.

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Now that’s going to form the basis of your pocket. But we need another piece of contact paper on the inside, to go against the map. So I cut out a bit more of the contact backing sheet, then cut a larger piece of contact paper and placed it, sticky side up, on top of that, so when I laid it all out it would adhere to the map.

Travel Document Holder

The slots were a bit trickier, because I had to go through the same process as for the above pockets, but I also had to remember that they overlapped, which meant I had to start with the bottom one first.

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It took a while. You can’t really see all the individual layers here, but just know that it’s four separate pockets.

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Then I oh-so-carefully stuck it down on the inside cover. You can see it here, with pieces of paper in the little slots, to show you how it goes. And yes, it’s totally backwards.

Travel Document Holder

Onward.  Let’s put together the inside pouch.

Cut the contact paper to be  8 3/4″ wide and  18″ long.  The extra 1/8″ on the width will leave the contact paper adhering to itself.  The extra 1″ on either side will fold over the top edges of the pouch, protecting them.

Travel Document Holder

Carefully adhere the contact paper to the pouch, making sure the edges line up and fold down the ends over the opening to protect the paper inside.

Travel Document Holder

I used red embroidery floss, which I waxed, to sew up the outside edges of the pouch.  I liked the colour contrast with the blue of the water.

Travel Document Holder

I cut some squares out of adhesive velcro and stuck them to the second fold of the pouch so it would stay closed.

Travel Document Holder

Travel Document Holder

Then I sewed the pouch onto the inside of the cover.  You could leave this until last, but I didn’t want my stitches to show on the outside.

Travel Document Holder

Travel Document Holder

That means that our next step is to stick the two cover pieces together. You don’t really need glue, or a lot of it, just something to stick them together so they’re not sliding all over the place while you’re applying contact paper to the whole thing.  I used a few pieces of double-sided tape, to avoid wrinkles.  The thing is wrinkly enough.

Travel Document Holder

Cut the outside contact sheet larger on all sides by 1/2″ (so, 19″ x 10 1/2″). Lay the cover piece in the centre of the contact sheet. Mitre and trim the corners as you fold it over to protect the edges.  My original plan was to border the edges with bias binding and sew it all around but I changed my mind.  I like the clear fold-over of the contact paper better. Then you just have to stick on some more velcro pieces to keep the folder closed and you’re all set.

Travel Document Holder

Travel Document Holder

Beauty and the Beets

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I have extremely sensitive skin.  Just looking at something wrong will cause me to break out in hives, rashes, or various forms of acne.  So I’m very careful about the stuff that I put on and in my body.  I also find that soaps, lotions, and all that stuff made with all natural ingredients seem to me to be more luxurious than the anonymous filled plastic bottles you can pick up at any store.  Why not share that luxury as a gift?  There are two high-powered executive type ladies in my family, so I thought I’d make a little “working woman’s survival kit.”  Here, then, are instructions (from various places) for some little home-made beauty products with a touch of luxury.  I’ll start with the hardest project first, and move to the easiest, though I wouldn’t really call any of these projects hard.

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Let’s make some lip balm!  It’s frightening how much you can pay for this stuff in the stores.  This recipe here, which I modified from one I saw on TLC, produces about 3/4 cup (6oz) of lip balm (which filled 12 little half-ounce tubs), and cost me about $4 in supplies.  BAM.  If you were wondering, I got the plastic tubs from Patch on Etsy.

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Start with 1/4 cup beeswax.  You can get this in tiny, easy-to-melt pearls from some places, but this being Newfoundland I got it in a solid 2oz block, which is pretty much 1/4 cup.  This stuff is local, from Paradise Farms.

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I grated it and cut it up into little pieces.  I recommend getting all your ingredients measured and containers ready to go beforehand, because once this is ready to go you will need to act quickly.

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Pop the wax into a double boiler (or metal bowl set over a pot of bubbling water) and let it melt completely. It won’t take long.

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Add in 1/4 cup almond oil and 2 tablespoons coconut oil.

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Don’t freak out if the wax curdles — it’s just adjusting to the cooler temperatures of the oils, and will melt again.  Just keep stirring. I also added a few drops of peppermint essential oil at this point, just for a nice cooling sensation on your lips and a fresh scent.

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When everything has been fully liquified again, you can remove the pot from the heat.  Whisk in 2 tablespoons beet juice for colouring (you can leave this out if you wish and your balm will be whitish or ivory, depending on the colour of your wax).  You can add more if you wish, but make sure to whisk it well, as it won’t fully combine with the wax and oil.

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Quickly transfer the liquid to a cup with a spout and pour into your containers.

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I worked too slowly (because I was taking pictures, which then ended up blurry, damnit) and had to re-melt my lip balm in the microwave to get it all out.  Make sure to wipe out the cup and the melting bowl with a paper towel before you wash them — it can get messy otherwise.  Work whatever is leftover into your hands.  It’s quite nice.

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I probably should have smiled for this photo.  But I didn’t realize how grumpy my mouth looks this close up.  😦  But the balm is very nice, very refreshing and smooth.

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Let’s make some deodorant!  Store-bought deodorants are full of all kinds of gross things, and there have been studies done on the links between aluminum used in anti-perspirants and Alzheimer’s.  This recipe, which I modified from the one here, has four ingredients, and each one has a specific purpose.  I doubled what I will present to you below, but it produces about half a cup of solid deodorant.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup arrowroot or corn starch.  The baking soda is your key deodorizer, and the starch is your moisture-wicking agent.

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Melt 6 tablespoons coconut oil (your moisturizing agent and the stuff that will hold everything together in solid form) and whisk that in as well.  Add in a few drops of tea tree oil (for antibacterial purposes, and to add a light scent).  I also added in a few drops of lavender essential oil, just for the frivolity of it all — I know, that makes FIVE ingredients.  I love the combination of lavender and tea tree.

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Pour that into a container with a lid and allow to solidify.  Apply it to your underarms with your fingertips.  Voila.

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***EDIT: So I’ve been using this for a little while now and I have to say that, at least for me, this stuff works BETTER than either the super dooper organic and chemical-free version or the regular brand-name stuff you pick up in the drug store.  Sure, it’s a little grainy going on, but it lasts way longer, there’s no residue getting anywhere it shouldn’t, and in terms of actually deodorizing, it’s tops! ***

Let’s make some shower scrubs!  I think that salt/sugar scrubs are the epitome of pampering oneself at home, so I decided to make not one, but two different kinds.

Orange Salt & Sugar Scrub: In a bowl, mix together 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup sea salt.

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Add in 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, 3 tablespoons almond oil, and 2 tablespoons vitamin E oil (you can get that at the drug store).

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Add in a few drops of orange essential oil, as well as finely grated orange zest.  Stir well.

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Scoop into a container with a tightly-fitting lid, and keep in your bathroom for when you have some extra time in the shower.  Just remember that those oils can make the shower very slippery when you rinse off, so be careful.

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Brown Sugar & Coffee Scrub: Did you know that caffeine is a great thing for your skin?  In a bowl, mix together 1 cup dark brown sugar and 1 cup finely ground coffee (not used coffee grounds).

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Add in 3 tablespoons honey and 1/2 cup light olive oil and mix to combine.

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Scoop that into a container with a tight lid and keep that in the bathroom as well, for when your skin needs a little pick-me-up in the morning!

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Let’s make some eye makeup remover!  This is so easy, it’s like not even a thing.  Mix together 4 tablespoons olive oil with 3 tablespoons almond oil.  To remove your waterproof eye makeup, simply moisten a cotton ball with the stuff and there you go!

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Tidy up the edges of your containers before you put the lids on.  Decorate your containers with a few personal touches.

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Presentation is important, even though it’s what’s IN the containers that counts!

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