Saturday Antics

 

Morning at the Bussey Building

I woke up bright and early to find that spring was well and truly in the air. I had a lovely leisurely walk to Peckham through Burgess park and the connecting canal road. Being so early, there was nearly no one about and I could enjoy some headspace with BBC World Service on the remaining Republican candidates (a terrifying and not necessarily edifying experience).

Firstly, 8.30 yoga at YogaRise with the wonderful Will Wheeler. This is in a spacious studio tucked into a converted warehouse block in Peckham Rye.

It was a pretty gentle Vinyasa practice, but after the half marathon and week out everything was a struggle. However, the sun was streaming in through the windows and when I made it (barely) to my final savasana I felt like a cat stretched out in a patch of sunlight and it was glorious.


Next stop: the Kiln Rooms, conveniently located in the building opposite. I didn’t have much to do here today but some of my mugs and teapot had come out of the kiln so I was able to walk away with my latest booty. I finally finally finally (seriously, I don’t know how I managed to mess this one up so many times) managed to do a matching mug for the black teapot, as well as doing a few crystal glazes and a matte/white pale green combo which didn’t entirely come out as expected (I suspect I need to do a double layer of the green for it to really build up to a nice turquoise crackle effect.

Then I managed to do some more slip moulding in preparation for next week and put in another teapot for bisquing.


Back home

As evidenced by the above, I have been doing a fair amount of pottery lately and the studio is also increasing its productivity in time for Spring, meaning that when I go there is the occasional apron shortage. And I am a messy potter, make no mistake.

So, for kitchen and craft, I thought I would have a lazy Saturday afternoon (followed by watching In Bruges) making a quick apron.

I had a scout around a few different sites for a pattern. My main requirement was that it should be practical (large coverage), but I was also drawn to the so-called Japanese style of smock apron which has no ties but slips on over the head and has an attractive crossed back. All in all a very simple aesthetic and very practical. You certainly used to be able to buy a read-made apron like this from Muji and Toast:

1. Firstly, there’s this gorgeous, simple geometrical pattern from Purl Soho. The pattern is simple and geometric so can be easily replicated on the fabric with a ruler. Their fabric recommendations are also lovely (being Purl Soho’s own handkerchief fabric), which I would consider if I made a second one. It is a very clear how-to and very nicely presented. The only reason I didn’t go with this one was the “separate” looking straps.

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2. Japanese Sewing Books has a lovely free downloadable pattern and instruction video here. The picture below is a make-up of this by Alamodeus:

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3. There’s also this beauty from the Fabrics Store, which can be adapted for the whole family.

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However, in the end, I went with the Mobius apron from foobear on Instructables. This is a fantastic little pattern. It cuts everything from one piece of fabric (which is very handy if you have a surplus, not so handy if you are working with remnants or off-cuts). It is  a print out pattern (a little fiddly to adjust to A4 paper size if you live in the UK; I ended up copying the “full size original” into a word document and setting it to the width of the paper leaving the margins). With an overlocker you can wizz round the single seam in no time at all.

No apron to apron in about 20 minutes flat. I also added a front pocket. The Instructables instructions are clear and step-by-step but to be honest you don’t really need them once you have the pattern printed: it’s all very self-explanatory. Just make sure you match your straps correctly and cut on the fold!

In terms of fabric, you are looking at something fairly heavy duty like a thick linen or even denim. I went for some charcoal “linoso linen” from Amazon. It was £10 for two metres and I have plenty spare!

 

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Pretty neat, non?


Into the kitchen…

What else? The crafting didn’t stop there! The apron was entirely too quick and easy.

I thought, let’s do some more soldering on my lampshade (separate post to follow – no spoilers here) and let’s have another crack at macarons.

Today’s flavours were chocolate and hazelnut and blackcurrant. Once again, I followed the Macaron Master, herself, NotSoHumblePie. If you want the recipe, please refer to her fantastic blog or see my previous post on the subject here.

To make these bad boys, I split the macaron base mix (basically almond meal, icing sugar, egg white) into two and added some red gel food colouring and some freeze dried blackcurrant powder to one half and a decent slug of cocoa powder to the other. Fold in. Leave to stand for a minimum of 40 minutes before baking at 140 degrees celsius.

The chocolate shells came out pretty well (piped straight onto parchment), but the blackcurrant – oh wonder, oh joy – these puppies were nearly perfect. No cracks, smooth, shiny and with perfect little “feet”. These were cooked on a silicon mat – I don’t know if that’s what made the difference.

Anyway, for the insides: I melted about 200g each of white and milk chocolate in two separate dishes. Into the milk chocolate I mixed some praline paste:

Praline paste (credit Joe Pastry):
The formula is simple: 1-1 sugar to nuts ratio by weight, but you can play around with that to taste.  To make 500 grams or so:
  • 8 ounces/240g (1 cup plus two tablespoons) granulated sugar
  •  2 ounces/60ml (1/4 cup) water
  •  4 ounces/120g (1 cup) blanched almonds
  •  4 ounces/120g (1 cup) hazelnuts (peeled makes the best presentation)
Place the nuts on a sheet of lightly greased parchment paper or a silicon mat.
Add the water to the sugar in a small saucepan and heat it over high heat, swirling until the mixture turns to caramel. Dark amber is a safe guess before we get the nightmare of burned sugar on the bottom of the pan, but you can risk darker if you want a stronger more treacly flavour.
Pour the caramel over the nuts and allow the mixture to cool completely.
Break the praline into pieces and grind them as finely as you can in a food processor until a paste forms. You may want to split it into batches to avoid over-straining your blender.
For the lazy or busy or quick give me noms, you can buy many varieties on Amazon here.
For the blackcurrant, I just mixed in some store-bought Tiptree blackcurrant conserve. Blend to remove the whole blackcurrants and then mix with the melted white chocolate to remove some of the kick and give it a stiffer consistency between the shells. You could also mix it with some of my perennial favourite, mascarpone, if you were after a softer, less tart taste.

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One day, and today is not that day, I will make more off an effort with the filling and presentation. However, movie night made quick work of most of these so I didn’t feel there was much point in labouring the opticals. They were both delicious, which is the main thing. The chocolate-praline combo came out cakey and soft and gooey in the middle; the backcurrant were tart and jammy.

Good end to a good saturday!

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