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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 01/25/12

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

DIY MINI FELT HOUSES!







   This diy comes from www.poopscape.com .  Wouldn't it be a sight to see several of these little houses adorning your Christmas tree and all lit up.  What a warm glow they would create!


Felt House




I have a thing for felt. Felt is the textile equivalent of construction paper- you can make nearly anything with it and I have a certain weakness for the fuzz. I decided to make little houses out of felt for an Iron Craft challenge, since I already had piles of wool felt fat quarters that I bought at Stitchlab in Austin and I figured it was about time for another felt project. I wanted to make a village of tiny felt houses to place in random areas around my house. This project also introduced yet another product to my ever-expanding craft supply stash- Stiffy fabric stiffener. Yeah, yeah...giggle all you want. Without it, my little felt houses would have collapsed.






What you'll need:
  • House template (see below)
  • Felt
  • Embroidery floss and needle
  • Scissors or x-acto knife
  • Stiffy Fabric Stiffener
  • Foam brush
  • Optional: battery-operated led tealights



    Step 1: Trace the house template onto the felt with light pencil marks and cut out using scissors or an x-acto knife.
    Step 2: Cut out squares for the windows and a flap for the door (upside-down "L"). I didn't put these on the template because I wanted to allow the template to be customized.



    Step 3: Press to crease the fold lines (dotted lines on the template) of the house so that all the corners fold to the center.
    Step 4: Stitch the edges together with the embroidery floss. I used a blanket stitch, but your basic whip stich would work just as well.

    Step 5: Saturate the sewn house with the fabric stiffener.
    Step 6: Let the houses dry for several hours. I kept checking on them to make sure they were keeping their shape and reshaping them if they started buckling. Once the fabric stiffener has dried, the houses will keep their shape pretty well.
    Result? I love how these mysterious little houses are simultaneously cute and creepy. The led tealights are the perfect size to fit right inside, but I could also see adding a ribbon loop at the top and making these into Christmas ornaments or place markers at a dinner table.





    LET'S TALK CROQUEMBOUCHE'S!







       This article and recipe comes from www.yumsugar.com .  I have always loved them.  Whether it's the shape or just a puff ball filled with pastry cream.



    Lately, I've been seeing towers of cream puffs, or croquembouches, appearing all over the place, particularly in bridal magazines or on wedding blogs. The croquembouche is most certainly a delicious trend – we had one at our wedding and it was quite a hit! — but these magnificent sweet sculptures are more complicated than they may appear. To get an inside look at how these profiterole towers are made, I reached out to Gerhard and Mary Michler, the driving force behind Gerhard Michler Fine European Pastries and Creative International Pastries, in San Francisco.
    Gerhard first started baking at age 17 in his native Austria, so it's safe to say he knows a bit about French pastry. Michler chalks the growing cream puff tower trend up to the fact that people seem to want to see new things these days, and that a croquembouche (also known as a pièce montée) is an exciting conversational piece. For more on this amazing French dessert sculpture, keep reading.
    According to Gerhard, the sugar used to adhere the choux – the puffs of pastry – to one another is not only the most important element in the process, but also the most challenging. "Sugar cooked to the proper temperature gives the croquembouche the integrity to stand in a room for an extended period of time. If the temperature or air is humid, then we have to make a few adjustments to compensate for that," he says. "It takes time, patience, and avoiding getting burned by the sugar, at 300 degrees to 320 degrees Fahrenheit."
    The choux may be filled with vanilla pastry cream, chocolate pastry cream, or pastry cream with alcohol, such as Grand Marnier or rum. But because the dough (pâte à choux) is sensitive to acidity, there's a limit to the flavors of pastry cream offered.
    Taking a croquembouche apart is no simple task, either. Traditionally, the French walk up to the tower and pull cream puffs off with their hands, but in the States, people prefer to cut them off with a knife. Then again, there are also stories of croquembouches being severed by a sword or a saber! Though Gerhard maintains there are no secrets to the croquembouche process (at least none he's willing to share!), he does offer one important piece of wisdom.
    "The more you practice at making a croquembouche," he advises, "the better you get." I suppose that means we all better get to baking. Have you ever partaken in the eating — or making — of a croquembouche?
    Informal Croquembouche (Cream Puffs)



    There are only a few weeks left in my 52 weeks of baking resolution, so I'm trying to find things on my "I can't believe I haven't made these before" list. Cream puffs were near the top of that list, but after last night, I'm officially able to cross them off.
    I found a pastry recipe that looked simple and yielded a large haul of puffs. However, instead of a traditional custard cream — there wasn't enough time to let it set — I went with a whipped cream filling and a chocolate glaze. While mine isn't quite a traditional French Croquembouche — aka stacked cream puffs coated with caramel — it does work as a modern twist. To get the recipe that I put together on a weeknight just read more

    Informal Croquembouche

    Pâte à Chou (Cream Puff Pastry)
    From Gourmet, December 1994

    1 1/4 cups water
    1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
    4 to 6 large eggs
    1. In a heavy saucepan bring water to a boil with butter and salt over high heat.



    1. Reduce heat to moderate. Add flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until mixture pulls away from sides of pan, forming a dough.




    1. Transfer dough to bowl of a standing electric mixer and beat in 4 eggs, 1 at a time, on high speed, beating well after each addition. Batter should be stiff enough to just hold soft peaks and fall softly from a spoon. If batter is too stiff, in a small bowl beat remaining 2 eggs lightly, 1 at a time, and add to batter, a little at a time, beating on high speed, until batter is desired consistency.
    2. Preheat oven to 425°F. and butter and flour 2 baking sheets.




    1. Spoon pâte à chou into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip and pipe about 55 mounds onto baking sheets, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, leaving 1 1/2 inches between mounds.



    1. With a finger dipped in water gently smooth pointed tip of each mound to round puffs.



    1. Bake puffs in upper third of oven 10 minutes, switching position of sheets in oven halfway through baking if necessary. Reduce temperature to 400°F. and bake puffs 20 minutes more, or until puffed and golden.
    2. Let puffs stand in turned-off oven 30 minutes. Transfer puffs to racks to cool.




    1. With a skewer poke a 1/4-inch hole in bottom of each puff.
    2. Puffs may be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container. Recrisp puffs in 400°F. oven 5 minutes and cool before filling.



    Whipped Cream Filling
    2 cups heavy whipping cream
    4 tbsp powdered sugar
    1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    1. Whip cream until frothy.
    2. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract.



    1. Whip until stiff peaks can be formed.

    Chocolate Glaze

    6 oz semisweet chocolate cut into pieces (or chocolate chips)
    1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
    1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
    1. Place the chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl and set aside.
    2. In a medium sized saucepan heat the cream and butter over medium heat. Bring to a boil.


    1. Pour boiling cream over the chocolate and let stand for five minutes.
    2. Stir with a whisk until smooth.
    3. Add a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg or clove if desired.
    To Assemble


    1. While cream puffs are cooling, make whipped filling. Transfer filling to a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain top and barely fill each puff (do not overfill).
    2. Using toothpicks or skewers stack cream puffs into a cone shape.


    1. Make glaze. Drizzle glaze on top of stacked cream puffs.
    Alternatively, you can just dip each cream puff into the glaze and serve individually.

    LOHRI BONFIRE FESTIVAL FROM PUNJAB, INDIA!!!










        For the people of Punjab, the festival of Lohri holds a great significance, as it marks the harvesting season and the end of the winter season. The main event is the making of a huge bonfire which is symbolic of the homage to the Sun God for bringing in warmth. Celebrated on January 13th every year. Lohri festivities are associated with the harvesting of the Rabi crops. There is a special significance attached to the celebration of Lohri as this day the sun enters the rashi (zodiac) of Makara (Capricorn), this is considered auspicious as it signifies a fresh start.
        Lohri has special significance for the agriculturists because, it marks the beginning of a new financial year, on this day they settle the division of the products of the land between themselves and the tillers. Lohri assumes greater significance, if there has been a happy evet in the family, such as the birth of a child or a marriage in the past year. The family then plays host to relatives and friends and "making merry" is the order of the day. Most people participate in dancing the bhangra ( a folk dance) to the accompaniment of the dholak.




        The festival of Lohri is linked to the atmospheric physical changes. Lohri celebrations generate a lot of bonhomie as people sit around the bonfire, talking, laughing, exchanging pleasantries, praying for prosperity, even as they make offerings of til (gingelly), moongphali (peanuts) and chirwa (beaten rice) to the burning embers. All these accounts and references point to the significance of saluting the Sun. The Sun is a symbol of plenty it gives us all we need. Fire sanctifies their endeavors for a good life on the one hand and destroys evil spirits on the other.

    The First Lohri

        On the first Lohri of the recently wedded bride or a new born child, people give offerings of dry fruits, revri (a kind of candy made of sugar and sesame seeds), roasted peanuts, Sesame Ladoo and other foods to the fire, as well as sharing them with their family and friends gathered around the fire. They perform the "Bhangra" dance, in groups around the fire. The dancing and singing continues well into the night. The Bhangra dance has rhythmic movements of the feet, shoulder and body, with outstretched hands and a lot of clapping by women partners. Food eaten, is generally of vegetarian and traditionally, no alcohol is supposed to be consumed.




    The First Lohri of a Bride

        The first Lohri of a bride is considered very important. It is celebrated with increased fervor and on a larger scale. The family of the newly wedded wife and husband gather around the fire wearing their best, often new clothes, decorated with beautiful Punjabi embroidery in gold and silk threads with mirror work. The newly married woman wears new bangles, applies henna or "mehndi" on their hands and puts a colorful bindi, a decorative spot on their foreheads. The husband also wears new clothes and colorful turbans. The new clothes and jewelery is given to her by her new in-laws. She wears bangles almost up to her elbows. The mother-in-law presents heavy garments and jewelry to he new bride. The bride remains in her in-law's house where a grand feast is arranged and all the sons and daughters, with their spouses and children and all of their close friends and neighbors are invited. In the early evening, when all have arrived, the new bride is dressed in her best salwar suit or phaphra and is made to sit, along with her husband, in a central place where the father and mother in law perform the presentation of clothes and jewelry. The close relatives and friends also join in and present clothes or cash to the new bride.





    The First Lohri for a Newborn

        The first Lohri of a new born is also a special occasion, in which all friends and family join to celebrate. it is preformed in the later part of the evening. Invitations can be sent for this function, depending on how the family wants to celebrate this occasion. The event is observed at the home of the child's parents, in the presence of close relatives, friends and well wishers. All the guests usually bring gifts for the baby and the new mother. The child's grandparent's give gifts to the child's paternal relatives also.
        On the first Lohri of a new born baby, the mother is attired in heavy clothes and is wearing a lot of jewelery with mehndi on her hands and feet and sits with the baby in her lap. The family does the presentations. The mother and father-in-law usually gives a large quantity of presents in the form of clothes and cash and others in the immediate family do so also. The maternal grandparents also send gifts of clothes, sweets, rayveri, peanuts, popcorn's and fruits.