Crayola Payola

I went to high school with a lovely girl named Paola.  While we generally pronounced it the boring North American way (“Pollah”), we would occasionally say it correctly (“Powla”) or even go crazy and hyper-phoeneticize it (“Payola”).

In grades nine and ten she and I used to colour pretty much everything we owned.  We used a lot of Crayola products, especially the stamp-y markers.  She had way more artistic skill in her little finger than I could ever hope to have.

We’ve since lost touch.  I think she’s a nurse or some form of medical practitioner now, and I wish her all the best.  But this little project made me think of her.

I was on MarthaStewart.com the other day, looking for ideas for re-purposing objects into practical items, and also for Christmas gift ideas that could be made on a budget (stay tuned for those DIYs).

In passing I found this little project (just skip the ad and you can see it), and I thought it might be fun and easy to do.   It not being Valentine’s Day, I probably wouldn’t make any hearts, but a rainbow of circles might be nice in the kitchen window.  And if that worked, I thought I could make some more for my nephew and goddaughter in Sweden as a ‘just-because’ kind of present that would fit easily in the mail.

For this you will need wax crayons, a pencil sharpener, waxed paper, kraft or brown paper, an iron (and ironing board), scissors, and a needle and thread.  Maybe a stencil or cookie cutters as well.

Using the pencil sharpener, make some shavings of the crayons of your choice.

Lay a sheet of kraft paper on your ironing board.  This is the crucial step or you end up with melted wax all over your ironing board.

Put a sheet of waxed paper on top of that and fold it in half.

On one half of the waxed paper, sprinkle the shavings of your choice, evenly but thinly across the area you want covered. 

Refold the sheet and fold up the other three sides as well to hold in the shavings.  This is a pretty important step, so don’t forget it.

Place another sheet of kraft paper over top to protect your iron.

With your iron on medium, make a few passes over the paper pile, checking each time, until you are satisfied with the melty results.

Mix up your colours and alter the size of your shavings

Remove the shavings sheet from the pile and allow to cool.  Repeat.  Experiment with the width of the shavings, the density on the page, and the colours you mix together.

Draw or trace, using a stencil or cookie cutters, the shape you wish to create, and cut it out.  I chose circles for me, then an astronomy theme for Arun and a garden theme for Maya.

I noticed the sheets were starting to curl (and I was losing the light) so I put the cut-out pieces under some heavy books overnight.

Thread a needle with the desired colour of thread and carefully poke it through the top of your shape.  Tie a loop for easy hanging.

Final step: Hang!

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Devil (‘s Food Cake) Made Me Do It

I have designated certain days in my life as chocolate cake days.  You know, those days where things tend to go wrong, and you end up with FLOOR PIZZAThat kind of day.  Normally I turn to the convenient comfort of cake-in-a-box (similar to garlic-in-a-jar but probably not quite as good for you), but recently I’ve been more interested in the process of making one from scratch, and doing it was way easier than I expected.  You, my lovely readers, get the benefit of my experience here.

Seeing as I had recently made an angel’s food cake, it was only fitting that I make a devil’s food cake as well.  You may not know this but traditionally the angel’s food and devil’s food were made concurrently, as the angel’s food used all the whites of the eggs and the devil’s food used all of the yolks.  Modern devil’s food cakes are much lighter affairs these days and generally use whole eggs (and less of them), but I think they would be a nice accompaniment to each other even without the egg symbiosis.  I still have the yolks from the other cake, but I’m going to make them into a masterful pudding sometime soon.

I got this recipe from David Lebovitz, and this is his American-in-Paris masterpiece.  I picked it because of his pictures of the icing on the cake.  I’m such a sucker for chocolate frosting, especially a ganache.  I also thought this recipe had an interesting improvement of putting coffee into the mix.  Coffee and chocolate are always a good combination.  His recipe calls for unsalted butter and salt, but I just use salted butter and I rarely add salt to anything.

Okie dokey (never really sure how to spell that).

Put your oven rack in the centre of the oven and preheat it to 350°F.

Butter up two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and place pretty circles of parchment paper (not to be mistaken with waxed paper, that would be a bad idea) in the bottom of each.  I used a compass because I have a good attention to detail (the Pie called me a nerd for doing so but HE’s the one who wrote a remote sensing exam today).  Put those pans somewhere and work on the other stuff.

Sift together 9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose because that’s what I had), 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder in a bowl and set that sucker aside for a spell.

In yer mixer, beat together 1/2 cup butter (or a stick, or 4 ounces) and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar until creamy and fluffy and stuff.

Add 2 eggs, one at a time.  Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl on occasion.

Mix 1/2 cup strong coffee and 1/2 cup milk together in a measuring cup (or some other form of vessel).

Add half your dry mixture to the creamy butter goodness in the mixer and stir.  Don’t forget to keep scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Add in the milky coffee and stir that up.

Finally, add the second half of the dry mixture to your bowl and mix that up as well.

Divide your batter between the two buttered and papered pans, smooth it flat, and bake for 25 minutes.

You can tell it’s done when you stick a toothpick in the centre and it comes out clean.  I found that mine took an extra five minutes.  Make sure the cake is completely cool before you think about icing it.  When removing from the pan, run a spatula around the edge to loosen the sucker. Due to time constraints, I actually made up the cake part the day before, then wrapped it tightly in plastic over night, and made the frosting the next day.

While it’s cooling (or sitting politely in plastic wrap) you can make your lovely ganache frosting.

In a double boiler or a bowl set over (but not touching) a pot of barely simmering water, melt 10 oz good quality chocolate (your preference for the type) in 1/2 cup cream.  Just so you know, an ounce of chocolate is one of those squares in the boxes of baking chocolate.

Be very careful removing the top of your double boiler, as escaping steam can burn.

Remove from heat and cut in 3/4 cup butter.  Whisk until butter is thoroughly melted and mixed in and the mixture is smooth and velvety.  Let your ganache cool until it’s spreadable, which could take up to an hour (your cake will take probably this long to cool anyway).  Be sure to give the cooled ganache a good whisk to fluff it up a little.

Pop your cooled cakes out of the pans and remove the paper. 

Put one half of the cake on the plate of your choice.

I made another modification here.  I took the leftover frozen glaze from the previous angel’s food cake and decided to put it on this one as well.  It seemed fitting.  All I did was defrost the glaze and whisk it up a little.  It was slightly lumpy after its time in the freezer but it tasted the same.

Smooth a generous amount of your cooled ganache over the top of the first cake. 

Plop the second cake on top of that frosted layer and go nuts covering the whole thing with luscious ganache (or, in my case, glaze it first, then go nuts). 

The cake was very moist and I didn’t do a crumb coat, so you’ll notice a few crumbs here and there in the frosting. 

I also decided to jazz it up a little by drizzling melted 2 oz white chocolate over it.

As with most cakes, you should eat it the day it’s made but it’s pretty good the next day as well.  And the day after that, and the day after that.  Just keep it wrapped up.  Om nom indeed.