Thursday, February 16, 2017

Invaders of the Heart Shawl and Chocolate Cupcakes!


I had recent occasion to remember that it is important to be flexible in this life and knitting is no exception.  As much as you want something to be a certain way and to work out well, it may not. When that happens it's best not to fight against your circumstances and instead adjust your actions to the hand that you are dealt.  And yet.  Maybe we should strive for more.  Recently I read a story and one of it's characters observed "we are all slaves to our circumstances." That stopped me short.  I wondered, am I a slave to my circumstances?  I realized that whether our circumstances stem from our birthplace, parenting or the choices that we inevitably make we all find ourselves in circumstances that we are in some way slave to.  The challenge is to make changes despite circumstances that may seem insurmountable.  Everyone has at one time or another thought "I would... I wish.... I want....." and whether those thoughts become a reality largely depends on our motivation and actions because the future is not yet written.  And tomorrow is a new day.


Bringing this topic back to knitting, the circumstances I recently found myself in was having bought 4 skeins of yarn to participate in Stephen West's 2016 Mystery Knit Along.  Regrettably, the skeins that I had bought for the project did not play well together in the pattern.  And I could tell that almost immediately.  So I riiiiiiped out clue No. 1 and set my yarn aside to ponder my circumstances.


I considered and rejected finding a new pattern utilizing all 4 skeins.  I had been sufficiently turned off by the combination to preclude that.  But I had invested a sum of money and needed somehow to make all this yarn work for me. There were two skeins that I viewed as more challenging to repurpose because of their solid high contrast colors (black and lavender) and also paradoxically because they were rather hum drum on their own.  They just didn't excite me to knit them.  So I went in search of a pattern that worked well with high contrast color yarn and found this stunning pattern by Sarah Raasch.  Which converted my problem yarns into a favorite accessory!  And now I find my circumstances are much happier.  If only all problem circumstances were so easily solved.


Particulars:  Invaders of the Heart designed by Sarah Raasch, knitwear designer and indie yarn dyer known as Orange Jelly Fish Dreams; US 7 needles; 1 skein each of the following: Madelinetosh (tosh sock, Onyx colorway); The Lemonade Shop (simple sock, Grape Stain colorway with speckles. Incidentally while I ordered a strongly speckled "toxic") skein I think what I received was a pretty mild speckled skein and I'm not sure if that was a mistake or a matter of perspective; Colinette (Parisienne, Marble colorway).  I made no modifications whatsoever.  This was an extremely well written pattern that was a pleasure to knit.  I also picked up a new skill with this pattern which is the German Short Row method (which is recommended although not required to do the pattern).  I will never go back to the regular wrap and turn method.  If you are interested here's a link to a video (on youtube) demonstrating German Short Rows.  I can't recommend strongly enough that you add this skill to your knitting repertoire as it will make knitting short rows much faster and easier without requiring stitch markers to slow you down.

Lastly you might recognize the Colinette yarn (it's the shear light purple) that I also used in this recently finished shawl which was my own creation using a mash up of two patterns.  I knit at least one shawl a winter using this yarn (the silk/mohair blend) because it's light as a feather and yet warm and comes in gorgeous sheer colors. Shawls made in this yarn are my absolute favorite pieces to wear.

Old Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes


I can't stop eating cake these days.  I don't know why but that's all I want to eat.  Maybe it's all the contentiousness that seems to be everywhere but for whatever reason I need cake.  And lots of it. And I had a taste for an old fashion chocolate cake like the ones I had as a kid on my birthday. Something that I've found surprisingly elusive to recreate as an adult.  Until I found this wonderful chocolate sponge cake recipe from a French website - Let Them Eat Cake.  Just kidding.  It took me a while to retrace this recipe on the web and what it actually was was a British recipe on Allrecipes which means I had to tweak it a bit to adapt to American ingredients.  I loved these cupcakes and I hope you will too!

Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes, Always Perfect Chocolate Sponge Cake ~

Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe ~
Yield: 12 cup cakes

Cupcake Ingredients:

3 eggs at room temperature (197g - including shells)
197g white granular sugar - extra fine for baking
197g salted butter
142g (197g-55g = 142g) all purpose flour or pastry flour (I used pastry flour)
55g cocoa powder (I used dutch process cocoa from Penzey's Spices)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt, plus a pinch
1/4 cup heaping semi-sweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting  ~

50g sweetened dark chocolate (I used a Belgium chocolate)
100g salted butter - room temperature
200g confectionery sugar
1 tps. vanilla
2 tps. whole milk
Chopped walnuts (optional garnish)


Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 340 degrees Fahrenheit and add liners to cupcake pan.

Caveat: this cake is made following the methodology that is well set out in the original recipe. For convenience I've set out the directions using my ingredients.  But, if your eggs weigh a different amount than 197g then you can easily adjust the recipe to whatever weight they come to as explained in the original recipe link.

2.  Combine butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy.

3.  Add eggs 1 at a time to the butter mixture as follows:  Slow your mixer down to the lowest speed. It is important at this stage not to whip the eggs (you don't want the eggs to become like a souffle that will rise and fall).  Just let the mixer slowly incorporate the egg and be patient.  Scrap the bowl sides often.  Do this with each of the 3 eggs (the last egg will take the longest to incorporate).

4.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder and add to your bowl with the butter, sugar and eggs.  Start your mixer slowly to avoid flour flying out and slowly increase the speed to beat well and add air to the batter which will help make it light.

5.  Quickly stir in the chocolate chips and scoop batter into cupcake liners.

6.  Bake cupcakes 24 minutes or until a tester comes away clean.  Cool to room temperature before frosting.


To Make Buttercream Frosting ~

Steps:

1.  Melt dark chocolate and allow to cool to room temperature.  I melted my chocolate in the micro wave - a method that is detailed in Banana Chocolate Espresso Swirl Muffins (these are fantastic, by the by).

2.  Beat butter with the confectionery sugar until light and fluffy.  Fold in (cooled) melted chocolate and vanilla.  Add 2 tsp. milk or enough milk to create a spreadable consistency.

3.  Garnish with chopped walnuts, if you wish.


Until next time, be well and love well and may you make your circumstances the very best they can be!