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Friday, December 24, 2010

merry christmas


Merry Christmas from Tenpenny Splendid!!

I thought I'd be able to post all week but life got a little too busy. I took a lot of photos though so I'll have things to share when I return. I'm taking a short break to enjoy time with friends and family but plan to be back right after the new year.

I have tons of things I want to do and share with you in 2011 so it should be an exciting year on this lil blog!

I hope you all have the merriest Christmas full of love, fun, and laughter. See you in '11!

:)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

mexican hot chocolate cookies


As promised, the second hot chocolate post today.. Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies! This recipe was a first for me and everyone seemed to love them. They taste like hot chocolate with a bite. Not too much though. I'm not a fan of majorly spicy things and I thought these were great so I totally recommend trying them.

Start by creaming your butter, either by hand or in a standing mixer, and add sugar. Combine until sugar is fully incorporated into the butter.



Add eggs and mix well.


In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Pretend that the face staring out of the bowl doesn't look like the Oogie Boogie from Nightmare Before Christmas.



Mix dry ingredients and add to the batter a little at a time.



Make sure to mix well and fully stir in all flour and cocoa.



Mix remaining sugar, cinnamon, and ground chile in another bowl. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and coat it in the sugar and spice mix.



Place them three in a row on a greased cookie sheet and bake.



You'll know they're done when they flatten and get all crackly.



Serve up with a cold glass of milk, in case Santa can't handle his spice ;).



Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
from Martha Stewart's Holiday Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 3/4 cups sugar (separated)
2 large eggs
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground chile

Preheat oven to 400F. Cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until well combined and fluffy. Add eggs and mix. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Pour into batter a little at a time, mix well. When all ingredients are combined, roll heaping tsp of dough and roll into mixture of remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, cinnamon, and ground chile. Place three in a row on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, until cookies have set and begin to crackle. Should make 3 dozen cookies.



homemade hot chocolate


I didn't even realize I forgot to post yesterday until about 9:00 last night when I was sitting at my kitchen table covered in flour, drinking wine, and carefully measuring and cutting out pieces for gingerbread houses. :/ That's what happens when you wake up, start baking, and don't leave the kitchen all day except to go to the state store (PA anyone?) to stock up on holiday fun drinks. So to make amends, I give you two posts today. Two hot chocolatey posts. One that you drink, the second that you eat. So here goes the drinkable one. Stay tuned for the nom-able one. If you follow me on twitter, I'll post a link as soon as it's up.

I'm a sucker for the packaged Swiss Miss stuff for sure but I saw a recipe for homemade so of course I had to try it. It's really easy and a good solution if you run out of Swiss Miss like I did the other night. Get a little bit of water simmering in a pot and stir in your chocolate and sugar.


You'll get some sort of wonderful fudgey looking mix. Stir until most of the lumps are gone and stir in milk, a little at a time.



Heat the mixture until it's hot all the way through, but not boiling. Keep stirring so the chocolate doesn't settle on the bottom and burn.




Remove from heat and add your vanilla.


Give it a good stir. I then held a strainer over my giant Pyrex measuring cup (holds about 5 cups) and poured the mix in just to make sure there weren't any lumps from unmixed chocolate. This also made pouring it into mugs a lot easier.



And there you have it! Top with some whipped cream or marshmallows and enjoy.


Homemade Hot Chocolate
adapted from allrecipes

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt
1/3 cup water
3 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a pot, bring water to a simmer and add cocoa and sugar. Mix well, being careful not to burn. Add milk slowly, stirring constantly. Heat until hot all the way through, but not boiling. When hot, remove from heat and stir in vanilla. (Optional): Pour through a strainer to remove any chocolate lumps. Makes about four servings.

Stir with a candy cane for some minty flavor and pair with sugar cookies. Leave it out for the big man on Christmas eve ;)


Monday, December 20, 2010

brioche french toast


Did you ever make something just so you could make other things with it? That was pretty much me with brioche. I saw few recipes I wanted to try with brioche, but that involved making the brioche first. On Friday, I decided I would tackle step one, and then this weekend I would make the other two things with it for breakfast.




I'm not completely sure if I did this right even though I followed the directions exactly, and when that didn't seem to be working, I consulted another recipe. It didn't seem to help much. The bread came out delicious, don't get me wrong. I just don't know if the texture and everything is the way it should be. It would probably help if knew what brioche was supposed to taste like in the first place, but I'll have to experience that another day.



My problem was that the dough didn't seem to rise much at all. And it remained very sticky which made it hard to work with. The recipe I followed gave strict instruction not to add more flour, so I didn't. It said to let it rest until doubled in size. Usually, for other breads I've made, this is about an hour. I let this one go for two hours and it barely changed. I remembered seeing in another recipe that the first rise wouldn't show much change, but a second two hour rise in the fridge would make it double. So I popped it in the fridge for two hours. Still nothing.

Now, I'm not the most patient person in the world so I decided to just go to the next step and hope for the best. The recipe said to break the dough into balls and put eight each into two loaf pans. I put eight in one pan but then tried to roll out the other eight like a boss and bake them in a muffin tin. Looks easy right? Not when the dough is sticking to you and the surface like glue. Thus, these didn't come out as pretty as I had hoped. So after letting the dough balls rest again for an hour in their respective pans and not seeing them rise again, I popped em in the oven and crossed my fingers, hoping for something edible.



Well I got this lovely loaf and some little mutant muffin rolls and they tasted really good so I'm satisfied, for now. On Saturday morning I sliced this bad boy up and made french toast.



Saturate in some egg mixture and fry it up!




Put on your favorite topping and serve.



Speaking of toppings, let me say something really weird. Remember before how I mentioned that sweet things and I don't get along too well? I crave salty things over sweet. I was the kid at the birthday party who carved out the cake and ate it, leaving behind an icing shell. Brioche is known to be a sweet bread and, with normal french toast in mind, I topped it with powdered sugar. Charlie smothered his in syrup and scarfed it down. I sat there, musing over the sweetness.. trying to suppress my weird thoughts of wanting to put salt on it. Charlie, not surprised by this at all, suggested I try it but delicately. I shook some salt into my palm and carefully sprinkled the littlest bit onto it.

Perfection. I swear, a little salt makes everything better. Does anyone else out there crave salty over sweet? Am I not alone? ;)



The other recipe I wanted to try was this. I did make it and it was delicious, but not so photogenic. I regret not just taking a picture of it now but oh well. If you click on the link you can see how pretty it might have been.

I'll post the recipe I used below and if anyone has any suggestions or tips on what I could do differently next time, I'd be glad to hear it!


Brioche
from Rock Recipes

4 cups flour
1 packet of instant yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup real butter cut up, softened and near room temp
1/2 cup whole milk
4 eggs at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract

In a mixer, add flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Add eggs, milk, and vanilla. Mix until flour is just combined. Using dough hook, add butter a chunk at a time until it is all mixed in. Continue until dough is smooth and elastic. Do not add more flour. Cover and let rest until doubled in size. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead for five minutes. Form 16 dough balls. Put eight each into two bread pans. Cover and let rise until dough comes over the edge of the pan. Brush with egg wash. Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes until top is a golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, at least 15 minutes.

Make some french toast with the leftovers! :)
I can't believe there's less than a week until Christmas. Crazy!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

christmas villages


I've been seeing a lot of beautiful mini Christmas villages on other blogs lately so I thought I'd share some photos of ours. This little village is pretty much my dad's pride and joy every Christmas. My mom does most of the decorating in the house with little Christmas knick knacks and garlands and bows, but my dad is all about his platform and trains. He has a few sets of antique trains inherited from his parents but the ones in these pictures are Polar Express trains from the movie.


I've watched this collection grow over the years, from a few houses and a train set, into an entire village complete with an ice skating pond, a big old church, a train station, shoppers, carolers, and so much more.





A little ice skating pond in motion..



Love this little gazebo, though that ladder situation doesn't look so safe..



Here's Santa's toy shop with a close up of the goings on inside the window..




A little house with a close up of a couple inside..
(Yup, that's Scrooge walking by at the bottom of the frame!)




Rushing home to get out of the cold!



Santa makes a stop at a big ol' house..



And what's a Christmas village without the church? (That moon usually lights up but I think the batteries are dead. It's not always a weird orange.) ;)



So that's our village. I've been getting ideas all over for my own village when I move out after school. Is it weird that the thing I'm most excited about when it comes to having my own place is decorating for Christmas? :)

I really love the lit up snowy hills that Posie Gets Cozy has going on. And then there's the sparkly vintage dream over at A Field Journal, who ironically links back to this other post by Posie Gets Cozy where she lists really great resources for houses and such for creating a village.

So many good ideas out there. I can't wait to build my own!

Hope everyone's week is going well! I think I'm getting a cold blehh :P

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

kusudama


Sorry for the absence yesterday, I was taking care of a sick boyfriend. I crafted while he napped. I quietly tore sixty squares of paper from an old Anthropologie catalog so I could make this little flower ball I saw here. Apparently I'm into paper folding lately. It's called a kusudama, or flower ball. :) I stumbled across it a while ago and thought it could make a nice ornament so I decided to save it for Christmas time. It's pretty easy, just a little time consuming. Once you get the folding down though it's pretty mindless work so just knock all sixty petals out while you're watching Christmas movies and drinking hot chocolate. :)



The Anthro catalog was perfect because there were so many nice patterns. You could use anything you want, from colorful craft paper, to magazine pages, to wrapping paper.

I took the suggestions of the tutorial and hand tore the pieces after measuring and folding, to give it a little bit of a raw edge. Each piece is 3.5 x 3.5 inches. To start, [1]figure out which side you want to show and keep it on the outside. [2]Fold it in half to make a triangle. [3] Fold the bottom two corners up to meet the top corner and form a diamond. [4] Take the two corners you just folded up and fold each in half, towards the outside. [5] This is the slightly tricky part.. unfold until it's one big creased up triangle. Take the two sides that were folded before, open and puff them up, and press down along the folds. [6] Fold down the top points to make the sides level. [7] Fold the two triangles in half along the crease, towards the inside. [8] Bring the two outside corners together, but don't crease them so that the petal stays puffy. Glue these together.

If this made no sense at all there are a lot of tutorials including videos to help. I tried!

You have one petal. Make 59 more. It's not that bad I swear! :)


Once your have ten groups with six petals each, you are ready to form your flowers. Glue the petals together one at a time. When you have two groups of three petals, glue each half together to form one flower. I found a hot glue gun works best because of how fast it dries.



They're pretty enough all by themselves!!



Make all ten flowers before you start forming the ball.



Now you want to glue together six and six, and then attach those two halves. This is where it got a little wonky for me but it didn't turn out half bad. I think I might try it again, being a little more precise about it. Put glue along two petals and attach it to two petals of another flower. For the rest, you want to glue three petals at a time. Check out the link at the top for pictures of this. I was too busy battling hot glue strings at this point to remember to take pictures of the step by step. ;)




Glue the two halves together. This is where said wonkyness got the best of me and I had to do a little forcing to get the two halves together. Just see how the pieces are fitting together before you glue and it should be fine.

You can either stop here and attach a ribbon and hang it where you please, or do like the tutorial I linked to and add some cute beads to the centers of the flowers.



Hang it from a fan pull, a Christmas tree, or any place that's lacking in Christmas decor.



Enjoy your handmade flowers!

Monday, December 13, 2010

swirls&sweaters


Do you want to know what's ridiculous? Insane Christmas sweaters are officially rare. In my area (Philadelphia) at least anyway. That sweater party I went to on Friday? Had to show up totally plain clothed. I was so disappointed. If there's one thing I love it's a good theme party.

Now I know tacky Christmas sweaters are totally trendy right now because apparently today's fashion is all about "ironic" but I never imagined in a million years that they'd actually become hard to find. I mean seriously, didn't everyone's mom have at least ten for some reason? The first place I checked was my mom's closet, being very careful with my words when I asked her to borrow a piece of clothing she wore proudly that I could wear as a joke.

She had none.



She had them when I was little and apparently always meant to get a new one or two, but never wanted to pay the jacked up prices for them during Christmas time, which is the only time you think about something like that.

My next hope was Charlie's mom. He said she had containers full of them that she would pull out every Christmas. No dice. We're not sure if she gave them all to Purple Heart or if they were in storage, but they weren't there. Thankfully she was already wise to sweater parties so we didn't have to explain that. She even joked about how half her winter wardrobe in the past is now being worn in fun.



It was already 9:30 by this point so as a last ditch attempt, we headed over to Target to see if they had anything. Again, nothing. They had long sleeve shirts with a tiny Christmas thing printed on them but nothing with pompoms or sequins or any other classy embellishments like such.

So disappointing. We gave up and eventually made our way to the party. When we got there, I think about four, maybe five people had tacky Christmas-wear on. Two of them had vests that were thrifted and a few had sweaters that were inherited from a family member. This is when I learned that even thrift shops were picked over.

So if you have a tacky Christmas sweater, hold onto it because it is a rare commodity, which is why Urban Outfitters can make their own version and charge $50 for it.



Maybe I'm totally naive and underestimated the power of trends, but I thought I'd just share my thoughts on this subject. Mostly because I was shocked and disappointed. I think the cycle pretty much went like this.. Everyone's mom realized the sweaters weren't cool anymore so they donated them. They ended up in Good Will where us 20-somethings said "hey that's funny" and bought them all up. Retailers who used to make them aren't making them anymore because moms aren't buying them anymore. Thus, Christmas sweaters are now an endangered species.

But on a happier note, the next day I made two batches of Sprinkle Bakes' sugar cookie recipe which is the best ever. I posted the recipe here when I made them for Thanksgiving.

This time I took a cue from Martha Stewart's cookie magazine and mixed green food coloring with one batch so I could make a swirl. If you're going to dye a stiff dough like this cookie dough, I found it easiest to mix the dye with the liquid part of the batter and then mix the dry ingredients in after. That way, you get a nice smooth color and don't end up with marbling.



After the dough chilled over night, I split each into thirds and rolled out one green and one regular chunk on a mat. When they were both roughly the same size, I folded the mat over to flip one color on top of the other. Make sure the mat is floured so you don't lose your mind scraping the dough off when you realize you failed ;). Roll the two colors up together and wrap it in wax paper. Chill the dough logs for a few hours so that they are easier to cut.

When you're ready to bake, just preheat the oven and slice em up! I found they came out better when they were rolled out thinner. It gave them a better swirl overall. :)


My family loves this recipe. This definitely won't be the last time I'm making these this season!



Hope everyone's week is starting off well!
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