Sunday, December 13, 2015

DIY: Wall Art Christmas Tree


I was inspired to make this cute space-saving Christmas tree when I came across a version of it on Brit+Co.’s Snapchat channel, which by the way, is awesome and I can’t wait for it to come back on December 18! I didn't have any colorful paper on hand to use (aside from primary colored construction paper), but saw some holiday themed tissue paper for a whopping $2.99 at TJ Maxx so decided to give it a whirl and I think it turned out great!


Materials:
  • 10 ft. Christmas tree lights
  • 3M small Command cord clips
  • Tissue paper
  • Masking tape
  • Ruler
  • Scissors or cutting mat + rotary cutter
  • Paper (for the stencil)

Directions: 

1. Cut out your triangle paper stencil
The triangle base should be 5.5" and triangle height should be 8.5".


2. Trace out your triangle shapes on tissue paper
On one sheet of tissue paper, divide the paper into 8.5" strips. You should have two 8.5" strips on a single sheet.

Then, use the triangle stencil to draw out the triangles on one of the strips. This will allow you to cut the most number of triangles with the least amount of tracing.


3. Cut out your shapes
Stack your tissue paper together (I used about 8 pieces of tissue paper) and lay the drawn-on one on top. Use your rotary cutter or scissors to first carefully cut the 8.5" strips, then stack them all together with the drawn-on one on top. Cut out the triangles.




4. Tape your triangles and lights onto the wall
Use masking tape to tape the triangles onto the wall experimenting with different ways of laying them. Attach the lights to the wall over the triangles using 3M Command clips.


Here's the finished product in my lil' apartment :D

Friday, November 27, 2015

DIY: Turkey Sweatband


During last year’s Thanksgiving, I came up with the idea to make turkey sweatbands to wear during the annual 5K Turkey Trot and amazingly, my friends agreed to wear them! Scouring the web for inspiration and possible tutorials, I only saw a variety of turkey hats, but no turkey sweatbands…. So I made my own tutorial!

This year, we are running it again and recruited some new friends into the group and they wanted to wear them too! A tradition has been born! Based on a few people’s comments about our sweatbands looking like Princess Leia hair (LOL), I made a few modifications to last year’s design, specifically around the placement of the drumsticks on the sweatband. Hopefully, this year people will be able to tell we are turkeys! ... although being mistaken for Princess Leia would be rather applicable this time of year…






Materials:
  • White Towel (for the bones) 
  • Brown Towel (for the turkey body)
  • Brown Elastic (1” thick)
  • Brown Thread
  • Poly-Fil Supreme Fiberfill 
  • Measuring Tape
  • Walking Foot (optional, but extremely helpful) 
  • Fabric Scissors 
  • Paper (to make your stencils)
  • Sewing Needle
  • Lint Roller!

Directions:

1. Measure your head.
Using a measuring tape, measure the circumference of your head to determine how long your sweatband should be. My head circumference was 21", so I subtracted a few inches to make room for the elastic making the sweatband piece 17” long.

2. Measure and cut out your stencils.
For the sweatband stencil, I measured out 17”x5” using two pieces of paper and taped them together. For the drumsticks, I drew the drumstick meat and drumstick bone pieces on paper and cut them out. Your stencils should look something like this:



3. Cut your fabric. 
Pin or weigh down your stencil onto the appropriate towels and cut out your pieces. Brown towel for the sweatband and meat part of the drumsticks. White towel for the drumstick bones. For each person, you will need to cut 1 sweatband piece, 4 drumstick pieces, and 4 bone pieces. Warning: Once you start cutting the towels, they WILL leave behind lots and lots and lots of towel lint/tiny shreds of fabric. This is where the lint roller comes into play!






4. Cut your elastic band.
Mine was 5” long.

5. Sew the sweatband piece.
Fold it in half hotdog style and sew along the edge. You should end up with a tube. I’m sure you could probably use a straight stitch, but I just kept my machine in zigzag stitch the whole time. Using a walking foot is super helpful especially since we are working with thick fabrics that can be difficult to move through the machine evenly. The walking foot grabs onto the top layer of the fabric and works with the feed dogs beneath the fabric to move it along.


6. Flip the sweatband inside out.
I used a chopstick and small pliers to help me do this.
7. Sew the elastic to the sweatband.
Place the tip of one end of the elastic into the sweatband tube and sew the tube shut. Then stick the tip of the other end of the elastic into the other sweatband tube opening and sew that shut. You should now have a sweatband tube!

8. Sew your drumstick pieces together.
Lay 2 drumstick pieces on top of each other, and sew along the edge. When you are about half way around, stuff Poly-Fil into the drumstick using the chopstick to stuff it in and sew all the way around. Repeat with the other 2 drumstick pieces.
9. Sew your bone pieces together.
Lay 2 bone pieces on top of each other and sew along the edge leaving just the straight part unsewn. Once taken off the machine, you can stuff that with Poly-Fil. Don't worry about it not being a fully closed shape, that'll get taken care of when attached to the drumstick piece. Repeat with the other 2 bone pieces.

10. Sew the bone to the drumstick.
Lay the bone piece onto the drumstick piece and sew them together. Repeat with the other drumstick and bone pieces.

11. Hand-sew the drumsticks to the sweatband.
This was probably the hardest part - figuring out where to place the drumsticks! Too far back and you risk looking like Princess Leia. Too far forward and it looks a little strange. If it helps you, each of my drumsticks was about 2.5” from the center of the sweatband and angled with the bone upwards. I anchored each drumstick to the sweatband in 3 places that I felt kept it in place and ensured proper placement.
You're done!

Now you're ready to sweat in festive style! 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

First Time Making Croissants... with Craftsy!





I made croissants for the first time last weekend!! Five words to describe what that was like? Time Consuming But Worth It. Worth alllllll those butter calories, all 1 pound 4 oz of butter calories… >.< but let’s not dwell on that little detail… because when your croissants come out of the oven all golden brown, crispy and flaky on the outside, but also soft on the inside with all those puffed layers, you’re like… dang… This. Is. Good.

As a beginner baker, my experience with baking has been primarily mixing a bunch of dry and wet ingredients together, pouring it into some mold, and baking it for some amount of time. In comparison, I’d say this croissant process is advanced because there are SO many intermittent steps, and I’m proud of myself for getting to the end! Read on to find out about my croissant-making experience: my review of the Craftsy croissant class, what to expect if you want to make croissants too, and challenges I faced.

CRAFTSY CLASS REVIEW: CLASSIC CROISSANTS AT HOME WITH COLETTE CHRISTIAN
(Not paid by anyone to write this post)
For those of you who don’t know what Craftsy is, it’s an online learning platform with all sorts of craft classes covering various projects in topics like sewing, crocheting, baking, woodworking, and drawing that you can take in the form of videos. Some are free but most of them cost $ (but much less than an in-person class; this course is about $20 right now!), and they’re taught by experts in that craft area. I’ve taken sewing classes on Craftsy before, but this was my first baking class. Once you purchase a class, you get access to the lesson videos and it’s your forever. You can take the class whenever you want and take however long you want to finish it… I actually bought this class over a year ago and spent 3 weeks slowly watching the videos and gathering supplies. You can also comment and ask questions throughout the lessons which either the teacher or other students will respond to.

Features I think are cool on the Craftsy platform:
·       Offline Mode
o   You can download specific lesson videos for offline viewing. This was helpful because I spent several in-flight hours watching my lesson videos! I usually spend these hours in uncomfortable slumber but made use of that time watching several videos instead! Please note that the videos do take up a lot of space on your device and some features are disabled, like being able to view the Q&A and looking at uploaded pictures from other students while in offline mode.
·       Note Taking
o   Throughout the videos, you can pause and take notes at specific spots. So, if in the “Making the Dough” video, I want to remember that I have to pre-beat the eggs before adding it to the mix, I can make that note at the 2:10 mark. Or, if I want to remember where the part is about examples of overworked dough, I can make a note and get there quickly next time.
·       30 Second Repeat
o   Under the video, there’s a button called “30 second repeat” which will replay 30 seconds of video over and over so that you can see a specific part as many times as you want. Helpful for if you just can’t get how to do a particular part.
·       Speed Up/Slow Down
o   You can watch the video in speed up mode, or slow down mode. The instructor for the croissant course spoke pretty slowly, which can get annoying sometimes when you’re like, OMG there’s so much more to learn and it’s going by so slowly! Speed up and slow down to meet your learning needs.
·       Questions
o   Throughout the videos, you can ask questions and get answers to them pretty quickly (not instantaneous quick but like 1-3 daysish quick). It’s pretty cool that the class is like a “living document” of sorts where additional questions and answers are added all the time. It was through the questions I learned that it was OK that my dough became monstrous size after it rested overnight and all hope was not lost. Or that I can use my scrap dough to make cinnamon twisted bread sticks.
·       Pictures
o   Pictures from other students helped me see all the possible ways my croissants could turn out and still be ok! Some were darker than others, some were larger than others, but it’s all good.

The class is taught by Colette Christian, a professional chef instructor, who teaches culinary arts at various institutions like Le Cordon Bleu, Art Institute of Hollywood, and Sur la Table. I thought she did a great job teaching the course by breaking steps down into easy, digestible pieces (e.g., saying mantras like “push, fold, turn” to help us remember how to knead the dough by hand). I think the Craftsy class sets everyone up for success because it’s targeted for the home-baker.  Colette gives us a list of vocab words so that we don’t get hung up on small things in the learning process, like “what the heck does laminating the dough mean??”, she suggests particular ingredients like La Baleine sea salt or Plugra butter, but offers alternatives if you can’t find them, and she provides options for how do certain steps if we don’t have the tools, like making the butter block and dough without a Kitchenaid mixer.


WHAT TO EXPECT
This class will take a good amount of time to learn and the croissants surprisingly take a long time to make!! I wouldn’t try to make the croissants while watching the videos for the first time. This will require prep “study” time. There are 16 videos equating to about 3.5 hours. But you do have the speed-up feature so… you could potentially shorten the time. And there are supplemental videos that you don’t have to watch, like how to use special gadgets like a six-wheel croissant cutter. My first time making croissants took about 8 hours much of which is due to all the waiting time in between steps (not including the 8 hours of overnight waiting time). 

Videos and Their Time Lengths

Video Clip
Length (min.)
What It Covers
1
Introduction
6:31
Intro to the instructor and course
2
Supplies
24:42
Tools and ingredients needed
3
Making the Butter Block
13:03
Making the butter block with the mixer
4
Making the Dough
19:20
Making the dough with the mixer
5
Locking in the Butter
19:03
Rolling out the dough and locking butter into it
6
Turning
23:16
The first, second, and third turns
7
Shaping the Dough
19:39
Cutting out and rolling regular croissant pieces
8
The Chocolate Croissant
16:12
Ways to shape chocolate croissants
9
Savory Shaping
12:47
Ways to shape ham & swiss and spinach & feta croissants
10
Proofing the Croissant
13:37
Proofing croissants to give it the last little lift
11
Baking the Croissants
11:28
Pre-oven prep and what to look for once they’re out of the oven
12
Garnishing the Croissants
4:17
Garnishing the chocolate croissants
13
Pastry Chef Secrets 1
7:53
Using the dough whisk instead of mixer
14
Pastry Chef Secrets 2
5:45
Making the butter block by hand without a mixer
15
Pastry Chef Secrets 3
5:07
Using specialized tools
16
Pastry Chef Secrets 4
13:12
Using dough scraps and making mini chocolate croissants

Timeline of the Croissant Making Process and Waiting Periods
Just so you’re not surprised by all the “resting” periods, I made a timeline of the entire croissant making process and highlighted all the waiting periods in red. Why dough you need so much rest time??

FYI, Colette says that the dough needs the 8-12 hours of rest after the 3rd turn so that the gluten can relax, otherwise, the dough will spring back and shrink in the oven. I know, I wanted to bypass that overnight waiting period too.

You’ll probably have to buy new supplies and ingredients, but that’s fun! I’m the type of person who wants to do things the correct way, exactly how they did it in the video, so I acquired a few new tools like a dough wand, bench scraper, Home Depot yard stick cut at the 18” mark…Thank goodness Amazon carries most of the stuff I needed!

How many croissants does one batch of dough make?
Colette’s instructions gave us the dimensions to make regular croissants; one batch would make 24 croissants. I wanted some regular and some chocolate, so I split my dough in half. She didn’t include dimensions for that so I calculated it and included it below! This yielded me 12 regular croissants and 10 chocolate croissants.

























If any of you are sewers, I thought this croissant making process was actually kind of similar to sewing! Measuring out the dough was similar to measuring out fabric, rolling out the dough was similar to ironing fabric (especially with the long ruler), and cutting the dough with a pizza cutter was similar to cutting fabric with a rotary cutter!

Storing Croissants
After watching all the videos, I seemed to have a ton of questions around all the different ways to store croissants, so I’ve compiled my questions and dug around the discussion board for the answers.

·      At what points can you freeze the dough?
You can freeze the dough at any part of the process; to resume, you have to thaw the dough in the fridge overnight and start back where you left off.

·      Can you freeze both unbaked and baked formed croissants?
Yes. For unbaked croissants, after you’ve thawed them overnight in the fridge, they need to be proofed before baking. For baked croissants, you have to thaw them overnight in the fridge and refresh them at 350 degrees for ~5 minutes.
Just as a side note, I have thawed the unbaked croissants on the counter for about 2-3 hours, and proofed before baking… seemed to turn out fine!

·      What’s the best method to store frozen croissants?
Once you’ve formed the croissants, lay them flat on a baking sheet and freeze them until sold. Then, move them to a plastic bag, remove as much air as possible, and keep in freezer. Make sure to label and mark the date.

·      How long will croissants keep?
Frozen croissants can keep in the freezer for 1 month. Once baked, they keep about 1.5-2 days before going stale.

CHALLENGES I FACED
Making the Butter Block
     The first step to make the butter block is to fold your parchment paper into a folded square so you can roll your butter into a perfect contained square. I got too overzealous when pounding the butter block that the air ripped a hole in the side of the parchment paper so my butter popped out the edge! I had to make another parchment paper butter block square… oops!





Making the Dough
      Colette showed us what the dough would look like if you overworked it – stretch marks in the dough! While hand kneading the dough, I kept on thinking, is this overworked?? I don’t think mine became overworked, but it was scary thinking that it’d develop stretch marks any second!









 Turning
     The process that took the longest for me was rolling out the dough to the exact size needed and with sharp corners.  I think it all comes down to needing more practice.








Shaping the Dough

     When I rolled out my dough for the last time to start cutting out the pieces, I noticed pretty apparent butter chunks, and with a clear line for where there wasn’t butter. Colette’s dough didn’t have those, so I was concerned mine wouldn't turn out right. In the end, my croissants turned out fine; it seems that this was due to my butter being too cold therefore shattering a bit.







If you've made it this this far, I hope you found this post informative! I love sharing my lessons learned to help others! I still have yet to try making the savory croissants, but I’ll probably wait a while before doing this whole thing over again both for time and calorie purposes haha! Let me know what your croissant-making experience was like!