Halloween Doodles & Pumpkin Pie

This week I had some fun making Halloween doodles using my favourite app, Paper by FiftyThree:

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I recently bought myself FiftyThree’s stylus pen, Pencil. It’s made an already amazing app even more enjoyable. If you have an iPad and enjoy drawing even a little bit, Paper and Pencil are absolute must haves!

I was also able to complete last week’s drawing. It was a bit rushed, but I’m still quite happy with it. It’s also ominous looking enough to fit right in with my Halloween doodles.

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Dessert! It’s autumn and I love anything pumpkin, so I made some pumpkin pie. For the crust I used none other than the world’s best crust recipe by chef Jacques Pepin. The recipe for the filling Is from How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittmann.

Crust:
2 cups flour
1.5 sticks of butter (cold, unsalted)
1/3 cup cold water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar

Cut the butter into quarter inch cubes and place the flour, butter, salt and sugar in a bowl. Mix the ingredients so that all the butter pieces are coated with flour. Add the water and start kneading the ingredients together. Be careful not to overwork the dough, and roll it out immediately. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin so that it can be lifted using the rolling pin and unrolled into the pan. Shape the edges with a small fork.

I often divide the dough between two 8 inch pans, but you can of course make a bigger, thicker crust in a 9 inch pan. I like making two crusts because I usually make dessert with one and a quiche with the other.

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I recently purchased a crust protector and some pie weights, and this was the perfect opportunity to try them out; the crust needs to be pre-cooked before the pumpkin filling is added. Bake the crust at 425 F for approximately 10 to 12 minutes with the weights (or with rice or dried beans placed on buttered foil or parchment paper), then reduce the temperature to 350 F, remove the weights and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

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The weights didn’t do as good a job as I had hoped; since the entire crust wasn’t covered the parts that remained uncovered bubbled quite a bit. The crust protector also isn’t ideal; it flattened most of the fork grooves. Next time I will try a combination of the weights and some rice to really fill the crust…

Pumpkin filling:
2 cups pumpkin
2 cups milk
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (the real recipe uses freshly grated nutmeg)
1/2 ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch salt

Beat the eggs with the sugar, then add the spices and salt. Stir in the pumpkin and the milk. Warm the mixture in a sauce pan but be careful not to let it boil. Add the filling to a still hot crust and bake at 375 F for about 40 mins, or until it has the jiggly consistency of set jello.

The filling recipe is for a 9 inch pie, so if I’m dividing my dough into two crusts I either make two 8 inch pumpkin pies, or I halve the recipe. Since I can’t halve an egg I use just one, and compensate with a little extra pumpkin. It’s such a good recipe that even when altered it’s still phenomenal.

In the end, the pie wasn’t very pretty to look at, but as always it was absolutely delicious. Topped with some freshly whipped cream it’s one of my all time favourite desserts.

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House in Bruges & Honey Florentines

This week I tried to finish a drawing that I’ve been working on for months. I started it a few weeks before my daughter was born, and once she showed up I didn’t have a chance to finish it. It’s almost done, I’m still not finished because my daughter chose to have a growth spurt this week and naps became merely a suggestion. I have to work on the front gate, trees and shrubbery, add more shadows and shading, and tidy up some details. Hopefully my daughter will nap better next week and I’ll finally be done with it.

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I came across this house, and many other beautiful-going-to-be-drawn-someday houses two years ago while visiting family in Bruges. Here is a photograph of the house that was the basis for my drawing:

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As you can see I changed a few details, and others are just plain wrong because I did it all without doing any proper measurements. Normally I would take the time to carefully measure the vanishing points and all the windows and doors, but I simply eye-balled it since I have limited time to draw. I’d like to eventually paint this house with oils…

This week’s dessert is Honey Florentines. I have this fantastic organic honey that I’ve been wanting to use…

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…so I searched through my cookbooks for a good recipe that uses honey. I found an easy recipe for honey florentines in the treasure trove that is Martha Stewart’s Cookies:

1.5 tbsp honey
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Pinch of salt

Melt the butter, sugar and honey in a small saucepan. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the flour and salt. Using a 1/2 tsp drop mounds of batter about 3 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 375 F for about 6 minutes, or until the cookies turn golden brown.

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I found it very hard to get the cooking time right for the florentines; the cookies at the back of the oven cooked much faster and were almost burned by the time the cookies at the front were done. They also spread quite a bit, and turned into one giant cookie on each baking sheet. You need a very large oven and at least four baking sheets in order not to waste any batter. But I did enjoy them! They were sweet, but light.

Volcanic Creature & Pound Cake

This week I recreated something I drew when I was twelve years old (20 years ago!!!). I remember I had a thick sketchbook with an orange cover, and one afternoon during summer vacation I drew this:

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It survived the last 20 years pretty well, with just a few light stains and one thumb tack hole.

Here is the recreation I made this week:

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I like Volcanic Creature because I made it at a time when I was better able to create interesting drawings purely from imagination. These days I tend to focus on painting real images and have a harder time creating fantastical scenes, animals or people. I think it’s something I lost somewhere along the way while growing up because I didn’t practice drawing enough. Hopefully it is a talent I can rediscover by drawing or painting a little everyday for this blog…

Here is another version of the Volcanic Creature that I made on the iPad using Paper by FiftyThree:

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As I mentioned in last week’s post, Paper enables me to draw while nursing my daughter, so you can expect many more drawings made with Paper in the future!

 

This week’s dessert is pound cake. I’m a big fan of plain-ish cakes that go well with a strong cup of tea, and I’ve never made pound cake before, so I thought I’d give it a try. The recipe I used is from a book that many of us have, How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman.

Here is his recipe for pound cake:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I used ground nutmeg)
1 cup sugar
5 eggs, separated
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter until it’s smooth. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar, beat until well blended, then add the remaining sugar and beat until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, then beat in the vanilla until well blended. Mix in the dry ingredients by hand just until smooth. Wash the beaters and then beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks (I’m not sure what that means! I just beat the egg whites for a few minutes and everything turned out just fine…), then fold them in gently but thoroughly. Place the batter into a buttered  9 x 5 inch loaf pan and bake at 325 F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the top comes out clean.

Overall the process wasn’t too labour intensive–if you don’t have a crying baby and a toddler in need of distraction at the moment you’re trying to bake, then it probably won’t take you longer than 15 minutes to make the batter. But if you also forget that you were going to be baking some potatoes at the same you were about to bake the cake, then the batter may end up sitting on the counter for 45 minutes before getting its turn in the oven…It still turned out pretty good; moist, but a little too sweet for my taste.

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Nevertheless, cake is cake, and four adults, one toddler and one Saturday later it looked like this:

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Cottage Sunset & Coconut Macaroons

We’ve all been taking turns getting sick in our house, so I haven’t had much time for drawing. Thankfully, there is an amazing app on the iPad called Paper by FiftyThree. It’s a great drawing tool and best of all, it allows me to draw while nursing my daughter–something that isn’t doable with real pencil and paper. Here is what I made using Paper; it’s the view from my in-laws’ cottage:

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Here is the photograph that was my inspiration:

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Since I had a few sick children to look after this week (husband included!) I opted for a new but easy recipe. Coconut Macaroons have minimal ingredients and prep time so they fit the bill. This recipe is from one of our favourite cook books, Martha Stewart’s Cookies–a whole book with nothing but cookie recipes!!! Yum!

The recipe is as follows:
2.5 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
Pinch of salt

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. Dampen hands with cold water. Use 1.5 tablespoons to form mounds and place them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them approximately one inch apart. Bake at 325 F for about 16-17 minutes or until golden brown, rotating halfway through. And voila:

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The recipe states that you can store them in an air tight container for up to three days, but they were much too tasty to last that long. Even my husband, who is not a fan of coconut, liked them. I couldn’t help myself, I ate one every time I entered the kitchen… Here is my official taste tester enjoying a macaroon:

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Portraits & Applesauce Bread

This week I put the finishing touches on two portraits I started well over a year ago. It feels good to have finally finished them!

This portrait is of my sister, Deniz:

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Deniz is an author of historical romances, you can check out her blog at The Girdle of Melian.

The next portrait is of yours truly on her wedding day. That was five years and two children ago so I look slimmer, younger and much less tired then I do now!

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I’m quite proud of these drawings because I usually have a hard time making portraits actually look like the people I am drawing. These turned out quite well.

 

On to the applesauce bread! This was a new recipe that I found in a free magazine from Walmart. It’s called applesauce bread, but really, it should be called applesauce cake! Aside from making the applesauce from scratch the cake was fast and easy. (The prep time is fast, the cooking takes over an hour.)

Here is the recipe for the applesauce:
8 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Mix the apples, water, lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan. Boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, until apples are tender about 25 to 30 mins. Pass the apples through a sieve and serve/use immediately or refrigerate up to one week.

I didn’t follow the directions exactly. Instead of chopping the apples I used this handy fruit grater that I have for making baby food:

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I figured I would waste less apple this way and avoid the extra step of having to pass the apples through a sieve. I also assumed that since it would allow me to use most of the apples with very little waste that I wouldn’t need eight of them! Three large Granny Smith apples produced just a little over two cups of grated apple, and when cooked there were exactly two cups.

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In the future I will also omit adding sugar to the applesauce–I don’t think it’s necessary, the cake has enough sugar…

Here is the recipe for the “bread”:
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinammon
2 eggs
1 cup applesauce
1 cup raisins or currants

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Beat the sugar and butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the eggs and then stir in the applesauce. Slowly add the dry ingredients and finally, mix in the raisins or currants. Pour into a 9×5 in. buttered/greased loaf pan, and cook at 325 F for approximately one hour and ten minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean.

I added raisins to the batter and they were indeed a yummy addition. A few days later I made another “loaf” with my son’s help, and he of course requested chocolate chips instead of raisins. I don’t think they suited the flavour of the cake as well as the raisins did. In the future I will also try walnuts as I will definitely be making this cake again–it was quite tasty!

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