Thursday, 19 December 2013

Bas de Noël avec une étiquette de long

Bas de Noël is something my little one does at her French school for Christmas. Little hands sew with big effort - using a special heavy cross stitcher (for the non sharpened point), fighting with the extremely long, long  thread, sweating and chatting with the other kids, but determined to finish and make every stitch count, imprinting memories, excitement and love. These anxious sparkling eyes just urged me to help her make one Bas de Noël for her teacher and sew a tag-a-long for it.

For the label, I used felt and backstitched the to: - for: names. For the tag-a-long, I stitched the "Bon Noël" words over a checked cotton piece of fabric, lined with thin felt for avoiding a flat and boring look. "Joyeux  Noël" is a much more appropriate and popular felicitation, but I chose "Bon Noël" for matching my ratio - size of the tag : size of the lettres.

There is nothing better than a handmade present for Christmas. It is even better when the sock is filled with treats. 

We filled it with round cookies. The sock is so skinny, that we baked a small rounded honey cookies that I posted in my Folk Christmas post.

We made a cream bird and filled it lightly with high-volume fibre felt for relief appearance. 

Additional fabric cones filled with chocolate are a great complement to the sock.

Joyeux  Noël, tout le monde!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Folk Christmas

Everything that pushes me travel back in time makes me happy. I wish I was born in 60s, then I wish to travel to 18th century. I have some preferences to old traditions, and strongly believe that values were higher and more respected in the time before us. 

I am in a mood for a folk Christmas, only because I remember my Christmas two years ago - all the hopes, expectations and believes we wished for,  from the retrospecting glance today:

I like the patches on this guy's "coat". How cold he must be, but still smiling...

I am so grateful we still consider Santa as a sleight traveler, reindeer powered. I wouldn't stitch him on an airplane. Maybe my passion to the late 18th century could vision this famous gentlemen on a dirigible but nothing more modern than that ... 

... and the music from the angels' voices, and the freedom to feel happier in this season of the year, give me nice and calm sense of completion...

When I discovered Brian Jackins' collection, I was swallowed by the simplicity of these projects. How powerful impression they built in me, with their simple look. I loved them from the first sight and I stitched them with such a heart ...

Back in time, my grandparents used to burn a log at Christmas. It was essential to burn the biggest, oldest and probably the one with the most memories log. It had to burn all night long during the night before Christmas, and to be "alive" at Christmas morning. Christmas tree is a symbol that we carry for centuries - it has changed, certainly, in time, but its purpose to gather family around still lives.

The old fashioned spicy cookies were made weeks before Christmas. The more they aged, the better. People used to fast very strictly at the time - eating mostly vegetables, potatoes and rice. But nothing stopped them from preparing the cookies and special breads with lard and/or butter. All the treats were passionately kept for the Christmas celebration.

Spicy Honey Cookies

My roots barely keep an old tradition: to collect treats after Christmas. All we need is a bag ...

There are many more projects from "Folk Christmas", Brian Jackins. I stopped my eye on these ones, I shared today with you. Maybe one day I will finish the whole collection...

Merry Folk Christmas everyone! Let us never forget what Christmas is about...

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Viennese Snowflakes and Linzers

Viennese Cookies

310 g flour
pinch of salt
270 g superfine sugar
227 g butter
grated rind of one lemon
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

The old-fashioned recipe uses grated cold butter into the flour. I cut the butter in small pieces and worked it into the flour and the sugar with the tips of my fingers.

Sift the flour in a large wide bowl. Add the sugar. Add the cut or grated butter and work it into the dry ingredients with a wide kitchen knife. Just with fingertips, work the butter until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Do not over work. Beat the egg yolks slightly and add them to the butter mixture. Working with a fork, combine the yolks, knead with hands for few seconds to form a nice glossy dough, wrap in cling foil and leave in the refrigerator to chill for at least one hour.

Roll the dough very thinly - these cookies are supposed to be extremely elegant. Cut the snowflakes out. For the linzers, I used Linzer cookie cutters with interchangeable centres. If you do not have these, use plane or fluted round cutters. Cut out even number of round cookies. On half of the already cut cookies cut small holes, using piping tip or whatever you have handy in your kitchen.

Bake the cookies at 180C convection. Do not leave the cookies in the oven, supervise them closely, before they turn out brown. Golden colour is the one that we are striving for. Some hazel shades would be also nice in some shapes.

I used plum jelly to assemble the linzers. Use anything you like. Some of them could be done with Nutella. Dust with powder sugar for snow effect.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Blue and Silver Christmas

These are my last year's Christmas projects. I found Tilda. My Christmas sparkled in light blue and silver.

The angel-gardien of the Holly Spirit ...

The heart I put into my sawn presents. I had hearts for all the members of my family.

My little bears in love with the snowman they created in our front yard, printed forever in my memory and stitched with so much love to remember this moment always.

The charm mitten to remind us for the love we share all the time, but especially around Christmas.

The delicious treats we prepared together and shared with friends ...

What are the stars for, but to wish and hope ...

We had a lovely Christmas. Hope this one be warm and loving as well ...

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Apricot and Hazelnut Upside-down Biscuit Pie

for the 6 ramekins:

60 g unsalted butter
50 g brown sugar

Beat the soft butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until creamy paste. Cover the bottoms and walls of the ramekins. Leave aside.

for the vanilla sauce:

250 ml heavy cream
3 yolks
3 Tbsp powder sugar
5 ml vanilla extract

Heat the cream in a heavy bottom pan until just before the boiling point. Beat the eggs and the sugar. Add the cream to the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Add the vanilla extract. Return back to the pan over a medium heat and stir until slightly thickens. Cover and set to cool.  

for the biscuits:

75 g unsalted butter
50 g sugar
115 g flour
75 g blanched hazelnuts, crashed

Beat the butter and sugar with the wooden spoon.Add the flour and form a ball. Divide in 6 equal pieces (aprox. 53 g each). Shape each into a ball and flatten with your palms to form a nice thick disc.

for the tailoring:

apricot halves compote
5 Tbsp apricot jelly


Assemble the apricot halves on the bottom of the buttered ramekins. Cover each one with the dough disc, pressing gently. Bake at 200C for 15 min. Leave to cool in the ramekins.


If the vanilla sauce thickened too much, thin it with a bit of cream or heat it slightly. If the jelly thickened, heat gently and place it in a parchment paper cone.

Use a warm large plate. Pour some of the vanilla sauce, forming very thin layer. Loosen the cooled biscuit with a knife, moving gently around the walls of the ramekin. In a small plate, turn the pie over, than transfer it in the centre of the serving plate. With the jelly, pipe decoration as desired. Do not leave the jelly in the parchment paper cone for a long time. Work fast, before the jelly hardens again. On my decoration, for some of the finishing elements, the jelly hardened and the lines were not as delicate as I wanted them to be. If you have much decoration left to finish, you would need to rewarm the jelly again and continue your work, achieving the desired result.

This desert is an extremely successful combination of fruit and nuts, and nobody minded my crooked lines.

Gold Fish

It was St. Nicholas feast day yesterday. All kind of orthodox names that root from Nicholas celebrate at December 6th - the date when St. Nicholas died 1670 years ago. This saint is a favourite of sailors and fishermen. The main dish in that day is fish.

I prepared:

Danish Pastry Gold Fishes
with cheese

for the Danish pastry dough:

160 ml milk
90 g eggs
310 g unsalted butter
6 g dry yeast
25 g sugar
3 g salt
310 g flour

for the filling:

choice of  medium hard cheese as feta, Emmental, cheddar, mozzarella, etc.
Also small pieces of raw Salmon fillet could be used.

preparing the Danish pastry:

All the ingredients have to be cold. The dough preparation is by hands.

Shape the butter into a square. Keep it cold.

Working with hand whipping tool, beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the milk to the eggs. Dissolve the yeast in the mixture - work intensively with the tool, because the yeast dissolves hard in cold liquid. Add the sugar. Start adding the flour, reserving some for the kneading. The result will be a sticky soft and shiny dough. On the generously floured surface, roll the dough to a slightly larger square. Place the butter block diagonally over the dough square. Cover with the triangle dough edges, wrapping around the butter and sealing the edges, forming an envelope. Gently roll over to a long rectangle and give the dough three folds. Check the folding procedure here. Wrap it in a cling foil and refrigerate for 30 min. Repeat the rolling and three-folding procedure three more times, refrigerating after each time.


Draw your desired fish on a paper. The tail must be connected to the body. Cut it out. 
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it 6-8 mm thick. With a sharp knife, cut out the fishes using your template. These pieces will be the base for the fishes. Make sure that you use only one third of the dough. 
From the template, cut the fish tail - now you have the body separated from the tail. From the body, cut the part where the had is supposed to be. Keep the head and discard the rest of the body. With these two templates - the head and the body, cut as many pieces, as bases you have. Reserve the rest of the dough - here starts the fun part. Use a small piping tip to cut the circles that imitate the fish scales. Have some egg white handy for sticking the parts together and lets start assembling:

Have the base brushed with egg white. Fill with small pieces of filling of your choice, having the edges free. Brush the down side of the head-piece with egg white and place it on top, sealing slightly the edges. Because this is a yeast dough, it is very easy to work with. At the time you will be done with all the assembly, and bake all the fishes, the edges will seal nicely. Just make sure that the egg white has been brushed on every piece of the fish. Place the fish in the same manner. Start placing the scales. Make sure that they go over each other slightly and the sequence of the real fish scales has been followed. This assembly could seem quite overwhelming,  but the result is worth the work. Make some cuts on the tail, small eyes, cut the mouth gently and brush generously the hole fish with the egg white for glazing.

Bake at 190C and serve with white wine. 

Right from the oven - to the table.

St. Nicolas is a gardian to the children as well - they love the gold fishes.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

20 More Sleeps Till Christmas

I was in the book store with my little girl. Around Christmas, bookstores are the most cheerful - all the decoration, candle aroma, Christmas cards, reminding you to speed up your choices, make up your mind, choose, write and send, if you want these cards to be received on time. 

I read to my angel  "How many sleeps till Christmas"  .

She was charged - not that she is not impatient and calmly awaits Christmas, but because the book described it right, somebody else can not wait for Christmas to come. Since that afternoon, I am asked this question every morning: "How many sleeps till Christmas?"

Today's answer is : 20 more sleeps till Christmas. 

Before I fell asleep tonight, I have work to do. The countdown is ON. Finally, I decided - my Christmas this year will be in Ivory and WineRed. All the presents I will prepare for my family, all the table decoration will be in Ivory and WineRed. 

Here is my collection: I have been thinking about the colours of this year's Christmas for a whole week.  I moved a lot between green and violet: I even purchased a cookie boxes for this occasion; than it was blue and silver - this was my last year passion, so I did not want to repeat myself; than it was green and red - the real classic that I was trying to fulfill the year before last.

I started cross stitching this Christmas tree for a tag or a place mat. It is unfortunate that my cloth is not in WineRed, but in bright red, but I think the all nuances of red could be appreciated in Christmas time.

These are my personal choices for the embroidery floss. I am doing some little tags for Ginger cookie project, where I am using #321 and #350, but they are only exclusively for the stockings that I fill and tag with ginger cookies. Follow this project later.

I also chose a few crochet ribbons, a velvet ribbon and a silk one.  

I am so happy with my choice of these vintage looking Ivory & WineRed fabrics. It took me two days and two warehouses to dig into, until I found the right, satisfying my needs fabrics. I am planning to sew and stitch all the presents to my family. I have been doing that for six years now and I found that I sank deeper and deeper every year.

I believe in few very important things:

1. Christmas is not about buying presents - it is all about the good in us.
2. All the presents should be hand made - there is nothing more precious than thinking of the person, while you are making the present for them. 
3. Involve and encourage everyone from the family to participate in the Santa workshop.
4. Keep the Santa legend alive in the kids' mind as much as possible, keep faith in your mind that magical things exist only if we believe in good. (My almost grown up daughter still blames me for telling her, when she was 8, that Santa is imaginary and Mom and Dad do his job. She was such a strong believer, she so passionately protected the idea of Santa existence, that she became an object of mocking. Now I feel as I robbed her believes.)
5. Be always home for Christmas, where your heart feels home is.

Christmas Workshop I

It is a countdown to Christmas Day. This is the most pleasant stress I have been put through - so many plans and projects, so little time to do them. Every year around Christmas, I feel trapped in my own fear that the time is not enough to accomplish everything. And this is only because I want to do all - I put in my "ToDoList" everything I like. But than I realize that one life is not enough to plan, work and finish all I want for Christmas.

Snow came earlier than anticipated this year. Even though I still have this bugging feeling of being behind the schedule.

I started a project that I will need for a Christmas Party. It will be full of kids - not even sure how much more than a hundred would they be. At first I wanted to do monogrammed snowflakes, but as soon as I realized they will be so many, I decided to make something else:

Petit pains d'épice / Gingerbread biscuits

170 g unsalted butter
170 g shortening
250 g brown sugar
2 large eggs
340 g molasses

750 g flour
5 g baking soda

4 g salt
5 g ginger
2 g cinnamon
1 g ground cloves

In a bowl, measure the flour, adding the spices. Set the bowl with the dry ingredients a side. Beat the butter and the shortening together, until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium high speed until combined. Add eggs one by one, beating after each addition until well incorporated. Beat in the molasses. Set the mixer at low speed and start adding the dry ingredients in portions.  If the lowest speed of your mixer is still higher than stirring, you better stir in the dry ingredients by hand using a spatula. Wrap the batter in cling foil and leave in the refrigerator to chill for an hour. 

I used the rolling method - thinning the dough to 6 mm. For the purpose of this project, I rolled the dough in a rectangle. Then graphed it into 4 cm squares, baked the whole rectangle at 190C. After the baking, I immediately cut the squares again to separate them, while they are hot, and left them cooling on the pan.

I need my whole rectangle - this is my canvas. I used a large wooden board, glued each square one by one to it with royal icing, trying not to loose the shape. During baking all the squares became oddly shaped quadrilaterals. If I do not transfer them to the board one after another , I will loose the rectangular shape of my canvas. It is still not perfect, of course, but my puzzle pieces have to match at least a bit.

Kneed a piece of sugar paste, roll and cut in smaller than 4 cm squares. I cut 3,5 cm squares from the sugar paste. Cover each of the petit biscuits with the pieces of the sugar paste. Because they are smaller, but perfect squares, and our biscuits are somehow differently shaped, with a small rolling pin, roll over the covered biscuits until you spread the sugar paste to the desired shape of the biscuits. This works in two ways - allows us to shape the sugar paste to the biscuit shape and also, nicely glues the paste.

Cover the whole rectangle. I did not strive so much for perfection. I wanted to achieve a nice working surface, but also wanted to have the look of a rough puzzle pieces.

This is my canvas. I have an idea what I want to achieve but I have no clue how this will turn out to look like. In any case, I need to wait an overnight for the sugar paste to dry out, so I will breath for now and plan the other things for Christmas.

Until tomorrow ... with hope that this might look the way I imagine it.


Three days later ... the result.

It looks as if my girls did the picture and I wish they had done it. I love the winter!

Sunday, 24 November 2013


Butter squash muffins

for the muffins:
(18 pc)

4 large eggs
200 g light brown sugar
100 g custard sugar
210 g corn oil
400 g all purpose flour
2 g baking soda
4 g baking powder
3 g cinnamon
65 g walnuts crushed
340 g grated butter squash

In days like these, when Autumn rushes towards her home, leaving us wondering how we will adjust to the white of the winter after the colourful presence of hers, I want to seal our warm memories. I used ingredients with earth colours and combined them in a soft recipe for some Autumn celebration muffins - my farewell to Autumn.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and the cinnamon. Beat the eggs with the brown and white sugar until doubles in volume. Add the oil. Add the dry ingredients, followed by the butter-squash and the walnuts. Fold just until combined.

You can substitute the grated butter-squash with the same quantity of grated apples or carrots. With the apples, the texture of the final product would be slightly moister and the taste will very much depend on the type of apples used for the recipe. Sweet apples as Gala and Honey crisp would present their sweetness and moister to the muffins, and Granny Smith will surprise with a nice sour accent. I wouldn't change the quantity of the sugar in neither if the suggested substitute products. The final sweetness wouldn't matter - it is just the flavour that would be differently enhanced.

Distribute the batter in a lined with paper cups cupcake tin and bake at 180C for about 40 min. After the muffins are completely cold, sift some powder sugar on top, decorate and serve.

These muffins are very much like small pans and are great for an afternoon tea party with friends. They are my way of waving "good buy" to this year's autumn.

November Night

Adelaide Crapsey

Listen ...
With faint dry sound
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.