December 27, 2010

sweets for the new year

As I watch the newly fallen foot of snow blow wildly across the yard, I'm packaging up a couple of different filled chocolates to help ring in the new year. This year's fare was kept simple: balsamic, fig & port wine conserves folded into a dark chocolate ganache dipped in bittersweet chocolate, & a blackstrap molasses caramel enrobed in dark chocolate with a smattering of French sea salt. The packaging was simple as well: deli style kraft paper boxes & chinese takeout containers, tied up with twine & wrapped in a simple white band.

May your year be sweet!

blackstrap molasses caramels
adapted from an 1881 (no kidding) recipe from the New York Times, enigmatically signed "Fanny"

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for greasing baking dish
5 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 cup whole milk
1 cup blackstrap molasses
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 tsp French sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

butter an 8x8 baking dish & set aside. combine the butter, chocolate, milk, molasses & sugar in a pan & cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 248º on a candy thermometer, stirring frequently so the mixture doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. this took at least 40 minutes for me - slow is the way to go.

wearing an oven mitt so you don't get spattered with hot caramel, remove the pan from heat & add the vanilla to the hot mixture. give it a quick mix, then pour it into the buttered baking dish.

after they had cooled to room temperature, I cut it into small squares with a warm, sharp knife. since I planned to dip the caramels in chocolate, I put them back in an airtight container in a cool spot until ready to dunk, nicely separated on wax paper since they are extremely sticky little buggers that cement themselves to their neighbors given half a chance. after dipping in bittersweet chocolate, sprinkle  with a tad of sea salt - I find the saltiness to be a fantastic counterpoint to the sweet molasses, giving it a deep licorice-y character.

December 20, 2010

this is beautiful

The extraordinary Ouzbeki singer Munojot Yo'lchiyeva for the longest night of the year...

Who out there is planning to watch the lunar eclipse this evening?

December 17, 2010

happy weekend

Time for me to get crackin' on some chocolate making; right now I have balsamic fig & port wine conserves bubbling on the stove, to be added to a dark chocolate ganache later this weekend.
I feel like I'm slowly shifting my busy brain away from the previous months' scramble to finish a collection of scrimshaw pieces for the holiday season; the scramble will begin again in January as I create some pieces I've got up my sleeve for Valentine's Day. Until then, I'm looking forward to spending some time in the kitchen & with friends & family. What do you have planned this wintry weekend? 

faux feuillets

above two photos from here

from here 

from here

I think I may have mentioned my love for books in previous posts, & the fact that we have close to 1500 tomes in our possession, many of which are sadly packed in boxes in our attic since we downsized to our smaller abode. It seems only fitting that I would love the idea of a well-done wallpaper that would magically create a bookshelf in any room, like the above photos from the wonderful designer sister pairs, Bodie & Fou, & Abigail & Gemma Ahern respectively; but alas, when I look at these rooms, as much as I adore them, I can only think "but real books could have gone there!"

December 15, 2010

airy aerie

It doesn't get much more breathtaking than this.

The topmost part of the historic Smith Tower in Seattle is a penthouse apartment, perched 462 feet above the ground, like an avian clerestory. The stuff that dreams are made of.

from here via here

December 14, 2010

thrown & etched

I love Diana Fayt's take on scrimshaw, nautical scraffito designs rendered in clay.

I am especially taken with the piece that cracked during firing, which she fixed with a vein of gold, á la kintsugi. Brilliant & beauteous.

from here

ladies who dine

This month the fare was festive, & although the weather an unwelcoming wintry mix of snow, rain & sleet, a few intrepid ladies made the trek into town with a wonderful array of delicious appetizers & small bites.

We had a cozy time grazing & sipping prosecco in our friend's snug & stylish home, getting a tour of the loveliest nursery I've ever laid eyes on (to be occupied any day now by a sweet baby girl), & helping a couple of friends decide which tropical oceanside locale would be their destination for a winter getaway (yes, I'm jealous!).

It being that time of year, I made a couple of loaves of a holiday stand-by: a deep, dark chocolate pâté. Happy holidays - enjoy!

classic chocolate pâté

14 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
5 Tbsp sweet cream butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
6-8 Tbsp dark rum or 4 Tbsp cognac  I prefer cognac

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the heavy cream & butter until smooth & glossy. Sift in the sugar slowly & stir in until fully incorporated. Remove from heat & let cool slightly; fold chocolate mixture into the eggs & stir to mix well. Stir in rum or cognac.

Pour into a small loaf pan that has been buttered & lined with wax paper. Freeze until set. Serve at room temperature with fresh whipped cream, shortbreads & dried &/or fresh fruit. Refrigerate remainder for up to 1 week.

December 10, 2010

happy weekend

Looking forward to this month's festive ladies who dine gathering, especially since I had to miss last month's, & hoping to see a bit of snow fly... I know, I know, not terribly popular to hope for in these parts since we will be seeing several months of wintery weather, but if it's going to be cold anyway, it is most welcome in my book! Stay warm, & enjoy the weekend.

staple city

It took Peter Root 40 hours to assemble his work, Ephemicropolis, transforming the lowly inhabitant of the office supply cabinet to a perfectly steely gothic cityscape.

be sure to check out the making of film

from here

December 9, 2010

handmade for the holidays

I love these sweet handmade ornaments made by Abbey Hendrickson, artist & creative force behind Aesthetic Outburst, a fantastic & inspirational blog you should check out if you haven't discovered & fallen in love with it already. Part of her 20 in 20 challenge, Abbey is making one multi-purpose non-denominational ornament a day, charming little assemblages that would look lovely hanging up all year round, or as fabulous party or wedding favors, etc.

Abbey will be posting a new creation every day, so be sure to check into her blog daily to see what she's come up with, & consider joining in on the challenge yourself...

December 7, 2010

just flew in

experimenting with some new shapes

see more here

December 6, 2010

beyond be-leaf

Inspired by leaf-eating insects, Mitsuru Koga's leaf cutouts are astoundingly beautiful.

from here

December 3, 2010

happy weekend

Making a big pot of chili molé to bring to our friends when we meet their new baby, & planning to visit a few galleries & stop by local art & craft sales & open studios. Hope you have some fun & festive holiday activities planned! 

eaves dropping

so simple & serene. 

from here

children's drawings come to life

Korean artist Yeondoo Jung photographs from his series Wonderland are re-creations of children's drawings, where the fruits of a child's unbridled imagination are staged with real-life people & objects, resulting in some very surreal & fascinating tableaux. 

from here via here

thanks, John!

December 2, 2010

galloping toward a new year

I can't believe it's that time of year already! Lovely letterpress & print calendars to grace your walls, each a work of art in & of themselves...

albertine press
lizard press
satsuma lynn

brooklyn bookbinder

seesaw designs

michelle armas