Monday, December 21, 2015

MAKE // Last Minute Hand Stamped Gift Wrap


During the summer, Patrick and I needed to wrap a wedding gift for his cousin but didn't like any of the paper we found. We were shopping at Paper Source and found the cutest tandem bicycle stamp instead. Patrick suggested that we make our own wrapping paper using the cute stamp and very fancy bronze ink. So fun! I can only hope that my craftiness is contagious.

In my previous gift wrap post, I told you that we're trying to use the things we have this Christmas so we won't have to move half used rolls of wrapping paper in the spring. Naturally, that means using as many of our giant rolls of kraft paper as possible.


I bought this stamp on a crafter's binge at Home Made in the summer, I think. Even then, I couldn't resist the little Dala horse--or the 50% off price tag. I really love the aesthetic of Yellow Owl Workshop stamps! Kind of rustic and crude, the hand carved look is so dreamy.


This is the perfect last minute wrapping idea. We cut the paper first, so we wouldn't waste ink or time, and quickly stamped out a repeating pattern with two stamps in the kit.


Patrick gave me these typeset letters last year, and I am so excited to use them for gift tags. I like that I'm not great at lining the letters up. It adds a quirky handmade touch that I know Zooey Deschanel would approve of.


In this house we always have both a ton of brown paper and plenty of baker's twine, so they're kind of a natural pairing around here. Someone on Instagram suggested that my next book should be called "101 Uses for Baker's Twine" and they're probably right.


DRINK // Chai Spiced + Port Spiked Eggnog


This December I've spent a lot of time thinking about how anyone living in a southern state is able to celebrate Christmas. It's currently 65 degrees in New Jersey, and I can't bring myself to listen to White Christmas or Baby, It's Cold Outside. It feels like a lie. I don't even need a white Christmas at this point; I'll take anything below 50 degrees! My solution to the problem is to fill this month with my favorite Christmas traditions. If I drink enough eggnog, maybe I'll be able to fool myself into thinking its cold.


As a kid I drank so much eggnog. For a while it was the Christmas ritual I looked forward to the most, but back then it was just the out of the carton variety. A few years ago I learned to make it from scratch, and now I don't want anything else. Making it at home also let me have fun with the flavors (and booze) that I added. I chose to spike this chai eggnog with a tawny port for a few reasons. I love it but a lot of people don't know that it exists; it is slightly fruity but intensely oaky; its lower in alcohol content that bourbon, so you don't need to worry (much) about getting everyone drunk on Christmas.


Chai-spiced, Port-spiked Eggnog:
1/2 cup chai tea
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup of light brown sugar
6 eggs, separated
1/3 cup of white sugar
1 1/2 cups of 10 year old Tawny Port (for less fruit and more oak, try a 20 year old!)

In a saucepan toast the chai tea over medium heat until fragrant. Add the milk and cream. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn off the heat and allow to stand for ten minutes. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and brown sugar until completely incorporated. Strain the chai tea from the milk, and then slowly  add the warm milk to the eggs, tempering them. Warm the port in a saucepan and whisk it into the eggnog. In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until foamy. Then gradually add the white sugar and continue to whisk until firm peaks form. Fold the meringue into the eggnog, and serve warm.

Pat XO

Saturday, December 19, 2015

BAKE // Friends & Fruitcake


After a very stressful few weeks, I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. After turning down two other schools, and waiting half an eternity, I heard from my top choice graduate school. I'll be going to get my Master's degree next fall! It was difficult to get excited about Christmas with the threat of being turned down looming over me, but now I want to listen to all of my Christmas records on repeat. At my most stressed, I used baking fruitcakes, which are a surprisingly labor intensive treat, as an exercise in gratitude.


Before this year I had never actually tasted a fruitcake. I had always thought there were bricks speckled with unnaturally colorful fruit. Christmas is my favorite time to bake and cook, but I have never thought to make on before this year. What inspired me was an article in the magazine Taproot. In it a family (hesitantly) uses these cakes to get to know their new neighbors, and are pleasantly surprised by the reaction. The story inspired me to make my own variation of their fruitcakes for the people in my life I am most grateful for. This year I have been lucky enough to become friends with some amazing people, and I was excited to share this with them.


SNAP Fruitcake:
1 1/2 lb dried figs
1/2 lb golden raisins
1/2 lb dried pear
1/2 lb candied orange peel
1/2 lb pecans
1/4 lb pine nuts
3/4 cup of Art in the Age Snap liquor (if you can't find this, use a combination of Grand Marnier and bourbon)
1/2 lb butter
1/2 lb light brown sugar
6 eggs separated
2 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp mace
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup of Snap liquor for brushing the cakes with

Dice the figs, pears. and orange peels until roughly the size of the raisins. Mix all of the dried fruit with the nuts and pour the liquor over the mixture and let rest for twelve hours.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium. Add the egg yolks one at a time. On the lowest speed, add the flour and spices. Once everything is mixed together, add a cup of your dried fruit and nuts to start. Add the remaining dried fruit by hand (don't put your mixer through the stress of mixing all of the fruit in). Whisk egg whites until they hold firm peaks, and then fold into the batter.

Line four 6" round cake pans with parchment paper and divide the batter between them evenly. Brush the tops of the cakes with milk, and then bake for 2 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before removing the parchment paper. Brush with more liquor before serving. To store or ship, wrap the cakes in liquor soaked cheesecloth and then again in plastic wrap.