Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Book Review: Patch! By Cath Kidston

Words and Photos by Fran Swaine ( Skulls and Ponies Blog)
Patch! Is the fourth book in Cath Kidston’s series of sewing books taking an innovative approach to the traditional art of patchwork. It aims to combine established techniques with a more contemporary approach to the craft.
My first reaction to the release of this book was one of excitement because Sew! (one of Cath Kidston’s previous books) inspired me to get me back into sewing after several years hiatus. I should also admit that for some reason I thought this was a book on quilting, and when I realised it was patchwork I felt a little disappointed. However, this disappointment soon dissipated when I flicked through the pages and discovered some fantastic projects that got me frantically bookmarking all of the things I wanted to make!
Like all of Cath Kidston’s books, the first section is dedicated to the sewing basics informing you what you will need and detailing basic sewing techniques. This format is great for beginners; it means they can easily pick this book up knowing nothing and learn as they go. It also works for advanced crafters like me, acting as a prompt section when you can’t remember all the fandangled names for sewing terms!
The next section of the book is split into explaining the different types of patchwork such as traditional techniques, hand applique and embroidery and embellishment. These sections are really useful as they don’t assume you have any prior knowledge;  you might be great at patchwork but never done any embroidery so need the different types of stitches explained. 

The rest of the book is made up of 30 projects. The first few projects are very traditional such as patchwork bags which to be honest I found rather boring. Where the book gets exciting is where Kidston starts applying these traditional techniques to contemporary ideas such as a cute little patchwork dog and patchwork ball. 
The Dresden Plate Tote Bag (featured on the front cover) even though traditional I really loved and the book included everything you need to make it.

My favourite thing about this book was being introduced to the Suffolk puff! An incredibly easy to make embellishment which is extremely eye catching, especially in vast quantities like the Suffolk Puff cushion.

I chose to make the Suffolk puff necklace and embellished with a few buttons. 
I give this book an impressive 3/5.

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Monday, 28 November 2011

DIY: Gift Wrap

When I first decided to write an introduction to gift wrapping blog post, it was washi tape which inspired me, I’ve just fallen in love with it. washi tape has a similar texture and versatility to masking tape, but that’s where the similarities end. washi tape was founded in 2006 in Japan and its made from rice paper.  It comes in pretty different colours, patterns, designs and widths and is historically used for arts and crafts.

With Christmas just around the corner and some very uninspiring gift wrap on the high street, I started to research DIY gift wrap, with the aim to create something special, which hopefully the recipient will enjoy as much as their gift. It turns out there are a loads of bloggers our there with blogs dedicated to gift wrapping. My favourite gift wrapping blog is The Gifted Blog

Here’s my take on making your own gift wrap, using different techniques and paper ready for this Christmas.

Equipment List

Textured paper
sellotape – for concealed wrapping
Plain gift tags
Twine/ string
Washi Tape – Thank you to the website papermash for donating the washi tape

When picking the gift wrap and tape remember to consider, colours, tone, the occasion you are making it for and the texture of the paper.
I’ve used different textured paper for each of these gift wrapping tutorials to help to inspire you!

Tissue Paper

Parcel Wrap

Plain Paper (or like me a reverse of a poster)

As you can see, each accompanying gift tag has been decorated in a different pattern
Visit the website papermash for more seasonal washi tapes and gift wrap ideas.

Pinterest examples

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Friday, 25 November 2011

Book Review: Peggy Favourite Cakes and Cookies

By guest blogger Victoria of http://whatboodid.blogspot.com blog

You may not have heard of Peggy Porschen unless you are interested in cake decorating like me.  Peggy is an expert in decorating cakes in a beautiful girly way.  Peggy has released several books full of gorgeous cakey projects. 

Peggy’s Favourite Cakes and Cookies is Peggy’s latest book.
 This is a lovely book packed with beautifully decorated cakes and some simple recipes.  The victoria sponge recipe is the best I have come across, lovely and moist and full of flavour.  The best tip being the sugar syrup you brush on after baking which locks in moisture and adds flavour. 
The book has instructions for cupcakes, wedding cakes, cookies and fondant fancies.  I made the fondant fancies, they tasted delicious and looked pretty. 

I have also made sugar cookies from Peggy’s recipe for a hen party, I decorated them in sugarpaste, everyone loved them. 

Peggy is obviously a practised and expert cake decorator and therefore she makes everything look easy.  For those of us who aren’t experts some of these projects can be quite technical and time consuming.    

This usability of the book could be improved by the recipes being printed and laminated and being separate to the projects.  It was very time consuming keep flicking through the pages for the cake recipe, buttercream, royal icing and then back to the project.  I love keeping my books looking immaculate and that’s quite difficult when you’re covered in sticky icing!  I also wish publishers would spiral bind recipe books so they sit open properly. 

If you do already have some of Peggy’s books you should be aware that this is an amalgamation of her other books.  If you are new to Peggy’s books this is the perfect one for you. 

I would give this book 5/5 for girly prettiness and 3/5 for ease of use.

Peggy’s website Peggy Porschen

Last month we had a blogger’s outing to Peggy’s Parlour in Belgravia, the cakes were divine and the parlour is so pretty.  Peggy has also opened an academy that is running a diploma in cake decorating, how I’d love to do that!

I was lucky enough to be able to ask Peggy some questions:
When did you decide you wanted to be a professional cake decorator?
I was always given a fabulous cake every year on my birthday as a child growing up in Germany which is a nation that loves cake! The cake was always the highlight for me and even then I was incredibly passionate about both the taste and the look.

When I was 14 yrs. old I decided to make my own and it really just started from there. I moved from home in Germany to London in 1998 to study at the internationally renowned cookery school Le Cordon Bleu. After successfully completing ‘The Grand Diploma of Cuisine & Patisserie’, I worked as a pastry chef at London's Lanesborough Hotel and celebrated caterer Rhubarb Food Design, followed by a position as cake decorator for German master-baker Gerhard Jenne, proprietor of Konditor & Cook. I set up my
business in 2003 from my home in Battersea.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
I’m a really typical girl! I love anything pretty, dainty or feminine. Anything can inspire me from fashion to vintage tea cups or stationary – just whatever catches my eye.

What is your favourite type of cake to make?
It would be absolutely beautiful, elegant and incredibly pretty, intricate without being over the top, the classic and traditional softened with a satin bow perhaps and plenty of my signature sugar flowers.

What is your top cake decorating tip?
My tip would be to attend my academy and take a 3 day professional wedding cake class which I run regularly. My students not only go away with a cake made under my supervision, but also with the skills and techniques to recreate for friends and family again and again in future.

What is your favourite recipe?
My cravings change with the seasons but at the moment I am obsessing over my sticky toffee cupcakes which are sold in the Parlour, they are incredibly comforting, with a gooey toffee centre and nutty sponge - I just can’t resist.
Everyone Loved Peggy's Cakes....

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Thursday, 17 November 2011

Cake Pop Crazy!

This weekend I went cake pops crazy! Thanks to Hobbycraft I was able to stock up on everything necessary needed to make pop cakes, it is was great fun.
Cake pops are a quickly growing trend in the UK and now I can see why. They are cute, great for kids, taste great and are easy to make. Actually they were really easy to make, I’m sure my family will be finding them in their stockings this Christmas.
Being my first attempt, I have no shame in telling you that I did make some mistakes along the way, but thankfully nothing that affected the taste or appearance and don’t worry I’ll be sharing them with you, so you don’t make the same faux pas.
Here are mine, follow my quick step by step cake pop tutorial to produce your own.

Coloured chocolate drops
Pre-made icing - I used Betty Crocket Rich & Creamy Chocolate fudge icing
Lollipop sticks
Cellophane covers
Decorations – i.e. sprinkles,etc

Nice and simple bake a sponge, mine was a really simple chocolate sponge.
Don’t let the sponge cool too much as you have to break it down into crumbs and mix in the pre-made icing.
By mixing in the icing it binds the mixture, so you can mould the sponge into the shape you’d like. (there isn’t really a right or wrong amount to add. It depends on how much sponge you have made, but make sure it binds enough that the sponge doesn’t crumble or not too much that it is too sticky)
Once you’ve found the right consistency, start rolling the sponge into balls
Now it starts to get messy! Melt down the chocolate. This is a lot easier than it use to be as the melting can be achieved in the microwave.
 Tip: I divide all of my coloured chocolate into separate bowls and melted as needed so it doesn’t set again.
Setting the lollipop stick in the chocolate ball. Dip the stick into the melted chocolate and pushed into the ball. When the chocolate sets it will set into place.

My Biggest Faux pas was making my balls too big!! My eyes were obviously bigger than what the sticks could handle, so please don’t make the same mistake as me or you will also have trouble getting the ball to stay on the stick!!

Pop your cakes pops into the fridge for an hour to set.
Now for the Fun.. Decorating the Cake pops.
This part is entirely up to you, go as crazy or not as you like here are mine

Oh! it looks like someone is enjoying their food.
Thank you to Hobbycraft for Sponsoring this blog post, to get the ingredients to make your own cake pops, click on the cake pop link: Cake Pops

Sponsored by: 

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Monday, 7 November 2011

Book Review: The Home-Made Sweet Shop

By Guest Blogger Lizzie Evans of Who has a Blog.

The Home-Made Sweet Shop is a recipe book with a difference. It has over 90 classic recipes for sweets, candies and chocolates, to help you turn your kitchen into your very own sweet shop.

With old school childhood favourites such as Peppermint Humbugs, Peanut Brittle and Turkish Delights, accompanying modern alternatives including Raspberry Lollipops, Fruit Sherbet and Rocky Road Fudge, you are spoilt for choice, and may find it impossible to choose between them.
Originally from California, the writer, Claire Ptak, trained as a pastry chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. She then moved to London with her husband and opened a cake company in East London called Violet Cakes. It has a very loyal following, with celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Thomasina Miers all being fans of her tasty treats.

Claire is also a food stylist, and has worked on a number of cookbooks and newspapers including The Guardian, and The Independent. This, however, is her first book.

The book begins with an insightful overview of the history of sugar, sweets and chocolates. It looks at their origins, up until their modern day forms, and looks at why they are so successful today. It then goes onto a directory of key ingredients and equipment needed for sweet making.
I found this particularly useful, as I have never done anything like this before, and some of the terminology was a little intimidating. It was comprehensive, and easy to understand, but could have done with some alternatives to the equipment mentioned, as I found it hard to find all the pieces that I needed.
The book is then organised into 7 sections. From Boiled Sweets, Lollipops, Pulled Taffies and Fondants, to Marzipan, Nut Confections and Liquorice. There is literally every kind of sweet recipe you could possibly ask for, and something for everyone to enjoy.
Each recipe has it's own page, so they aren’t cramped, and are nicely organised in to simple steps, which are easy to follow. They also have the occasional helpful tips from Claire herself.

Here’s one we made earlier.
 The book is also illustrated with over 450 beautiful photographs, all snapped by the talented Nicki Dowey, who has worked on many food publications, and has also done photography for clients such as Marks and Spencer, Fortnum and Mason, and Waitrose.
The book ends with a nutrition breakdown for each sweet, which is really handy if you are making the sweets with your children, or are watching the calories.

 Mark Out of Five -3/5 The recipes are simple and they are clearly explained, but I wouldn't recommend it to a complete beginner.  The sweets are quite temperamental, and require a lot of concentration. The ingredients and equipment can also be quite pricey. They do, however, make great little gifts, and it’s well worth the read if you’re interested in making home-made sweets.

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