Archive for January, 2008

Torte Thursday

My BIL is fond of chocolate whipped cream.  His wife used to make it by sifting cocoa into the cream as she whipped it, but after I read a book about Austrian baking, I discovered that you can melt chocolate into the cream, chill the cream, then whip it.  The cookbook called it ‘Parisian Cream’.  My SIL would take an angelfood cake, cut off the top, hollow out the cake, fill it with the chocolate whipped cream, then replace the top.  This was the first time I had ever seen a filled cake, and I really liked the idea.  It is not a modern idea as is evidenced by this old recipe from Grandma G.

Filled Torte

You will need a large sponge cake, made according to your favorite recipe.  Slice off the top of the cake about 1/2 inch.  Carefully remove the center of the cake, leaving sides and bottom .  Fill the cake center with the following minxture:

1/2 envelope granulated gelatine soaked in 1/4 cup cold water (I have no idea how big an envelope of gelatin was in 1925. ).  Then add 1/4 cup boiling water and 1 cup sugar.  When mixture is cold fold in:

1 pt. of heavy whipped cream (cream that has been whipped)


1/2 dozen ground macaroons

1 dozen Marshmallows, cut in small pieces

2 T. Cherries, Bananas, or any fruit desired

1/4 lb. blanched and chopped almonds

After the center of the cake has been filled, replace top on cake.  Frost with Mocha Frosting and decorate with almonds. (Mocha Frosting is frosting that has been flavored with a little coffee).

That sounds good, but it doesn’t sound like it needs any frosting at all, just a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Still trying to get my sewing mojo back, but I am working on it.

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Mexican Dress/Top

When I was in high school, it was easy for people to go to Mexico for the day to shop.  I was jealous of people who were able to get a pair of huaraches, which was a sandal built on top of a piece of tire that was used for the sole.  I would still love to have a pair.  In addition, girls would get those Mexican peasant tops with the embroidery.  My sister had one, I think, but I never did, and I always wanted one.  Just a few years ago, I got a peasant dress at the Mercado in San Antonio, and it is red and beautiful, and I would show a picture of it if I could find it, but no, it is lost in the laundry.  Anyhow, I have always wanted to make some of those tops.  I finally found the perfect pattern at the thrift store:



It looks like it has the authentic underarm gussets and everything.  Now I can make lots of these.  M has expressed interest in several of these too.  The pattern dates from the seventies, I think, and I paid 25 cents for it.  Worth every penny.  And look at the original price – only $3 for a Vogue pattern.

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Whole Grain Tortillas

 I love homemade flour tortillas.  When I was a kid, my mom would make dozens and dozens of them at a time.  First she would mix the dough, then form it into many little greased, rounded lumps of dough, then she would call all the kids into the kitchen.  We would gather around the table and roll the dough out into tortillas while my mother cooked them on the long griddle.  Nothing beats a tortilla, hot from the grill, slathered in butter.

I stopped making them very often because I am supposed to eat whole grains, and I just don’t like whole wheat tortillas.  Yesterday, I had an inspiration, probably because I am reading lots of D.E. Stevenson books which are set in Scotland.  The characters keep talking about oatcakes, so I thought of grinding oatmeal up in the coffee grinder and using it instead of half the flour.  It has a much more ‘white flour’ taste than whole wheat flour.  I used the tortilla recipe in the book Rancho Cooking by Jacqueline Higuera McMahan.  I love this book, especially because her Old California red enchiladas are nearly identical to my mom’s. 


I followed her recipe for ‘a granddaughter’s flour tortillas’ exactly, except that I used half King Arthur White Wheat Flour and half ground oatmeal (old-fashioned, not quick cooking).  She uses oil instead of lard for a healthier tortilla, and has an interesting technique of combining the oil with some of the flour mixture and freezing it to make a shortening-like substance.  This is then cut into the rest of the flour.  These tortillas are soooooo good.  I see a lot of oatmeal/whole wheat tortillas in my future.

This book is still available on Amazon, though I think it has been reissued under the name, California Rancho Cooking. 

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Scaling Mt. Yardage

Now that I have had an idea about how to jumpstart my sewing this year, I decided to get right to it.  My idea was to change my usual method of starting a project which is to choose a pattern, then paw through mounds of fabric, never finding the right fabric for that pattern. Instead, I am going to go to the fabric mountain in the sewing room, climb to the top and take the top fabric, then come down and choose a pattern to go with it.  Here’s the fabric mountain, picture taken with the camera pointed up to the ceiling:


I got the step ladder and climbed up and there on the top was the knit fabric I got at Fabrix this spring in SF.  I quickly looked through my stack of ‘want-to-make-this-soon’ patterns and chose two:


The patterns are on the green knit fabric, a lovely light fabric that should drape well.  I have 5 yards of it so have enough for several tops.  M likes the dress in the upper left of the Simplicity pattern, though we would cut the length and make a top out of it.  We both like the bottom right version of the McCall’s pattern. 

I am stalled on the light blue T-shirt for A because I sewed the neckband on but the neckline just looks too wide.  I am going to have to wait until she comes for a visit to try it on her and see if it is too big.  It is hard to tell on Betty.  I may be ripping the band off, not a pleasant thought, but maybe necessary.

Time to trace off the patterns and check the fit.

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College Memory

I went to Berkeley for my first two years of college, and my floor of the dorm had students from all over the country and other parts of the world.  One really nice girl was from Hong Kong.  We got to know each other because she saw me crocheting and was interested because she crocheted too.  One day she came to my dorm room and saw me taking some recently purchased sewing patterns out of the shopping bag.  She was puzzled and interested and asked me what they were.  I told her they were sewing patterns and she was amazed.  I took one all apart and showed her the pattern sheets and the instruction sheet.  She had never seen anything like it in her life.  In Hong Kong you drafted out the pattern yourself or went to someone to make your clothes for you.  I think it was shortly afterwards that I discovered Dressmaking magazine and was interested enough to buy one.

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Torte Thursday

Here is a picture of Betty modeling her first garment.


I have sewn on the neck band and basted the turnunder.  Then I will sew the band down to the inside with tiny stitches, then topstitch in a double row because I don’t have a serger or coverstitch machine.  So, not much sewing is going on, but at least some sewing is happening. Slowly.

Next, another old timey recipe from Grandma G.


Chocolate Cake Dessert                Serves 12

Grease a 13 x 9 x 2″ pan.

Pour into pan 1 cup Brown Sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa and 2 cups water.  Scatter 1 1/4 cups small marshmallows over this.  Spoon 1 pkg chocolate cake (mixed) over this.  Sprinkle 1 cup nuts on top. 

Bake in 325 degree oven for 45 to 55 minutes.

Serve whipped cream or ice cream on top.

Pyrex Dish

This recipe is puzzling in many ways.  I take it from the last item that GG used a 13x9x2″ Pyrex dish to make this dessert.  I would have thought that the cake mix would be dry since there are 2 cups of water in the bottom of the pan, but it says ‘(mixed)’ which must mean the cake mix is prepared and is a batter, so maybe the sugar, cocoa and water mix with the marshmallows to form a sauce.  If so, it sounds delicious.  A hot fudge sort of cake.

I like the cute recipe card, too.  Looks like it dates from the late 50’s to early 60’s.

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Pattern Drafting

Over the years I have accumulated lots of books on pattern drafting, ever since I took classes on it in college.  It always seemed a colossal hassle when you could just buy a pattern, but now I am getting interested in making a sloper as an aid to fitting and because I have some Japanese sewing magazines that require a sloper.  I have recently bought the Dorothy Moore book, and that made me interested in another old book I have in the collection.


I don’t remember where I got this book, but it dates to the approximate time period of the Dorothy Moore book.  One of the  authors learned patternmaking at the French Fashion Academy in New York, and teaches the method in this book.


There are very good instructions on taking the measurements you will need and on fitting the pattern you draft.  This book is really worth looking for if you are interested in pattern drafting.

Today is supposed to be a rainy day so I am going to work on the blue T-shirt for A and listen to a book on tape.  While this is going on, I am going to make some hamburger rolls for dinner tonight. 

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Buckets of Rain

What a wild day of weather this was!  We have been short of rain for the whole year, and this extremely windy and wet storm blows in and drenches us all.  All or nothing here in California.

Not much sewing happened today, what with the storm excitement and all, so I will show a picture of a little purse accessory I made for myself a few months ago.  I forgot to sew on the velcro closures before I assembled the wallet, so I used a giant snap closure instead.  The fabric is one of my stash of decorator fabric samples.



 We skipped Torte Thursday this week, so will use Friday instead to give you one of Grandma G’s old recipes.  This is an odd-sounding one called Prune Torte:

Prune Torte

1/2 pound butter

1/2 pound flour

2 T sugar

Work until smooth like a pie crust.  Line a springform pan and bake.  Can be baked the day before.

Cook 1 pound prunes until very soft, drain off every bit of juice, pit and mash the prunes with a spoon.  Add 3/4 cup sugar, juice and rind of 1 lemon,  and 1/4 pound chopped almonds.

Now make a Custard:

1 cup milk

Yolks of 4 eggs

3 T sugar

1 T flour

Cook until forms a custard.  Add vanilla.

Now make the meringue:

Beat whites of 4 eggs with 6 T sugar (whip whites to a froth and add sugar gradually, beating until stiff peaks form).

Have crust cold. Put in prune mixture, then custard, then meringue.  Brown in oven.

Grandma was really skimpy with the directions.  You are supposed to know how to cook a custard and how much vanilla to add to it, how to make a meringue, and how to brown a meringue.  Note the lack of oven temperatures or times.  This recipe dates back to 1928.

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img_2089.jpgOne thing that always struck me about the fashions shown in Dressmaking magazine was the beauty of the fabrics they used.  The quality of the fabrics in my prizewinning outfit is first rate, lovely hand, even though this was the era of polyester double knits.    The jacket and vest are made of a knit, but it has a cotton-like texture and slubs that give it a linen look.  They are lined in silky fabric.  The pants are made of a very high-quality knit with a corded texture.  They drape beautifully.


Here is a view of the front of the vest showing the beautiful inset pockets and the buttons with hand-stitched buttonholes.


The inside of the vest shows the other side of the buttonholes and the lining, which is hand-stitched in places.  You can see faintly that the facing is hand-picked near the edge to hold it in place.


The lining is hand stitched to the hem with lovely, even, and tiny stitches.


The designer label.  It says K. Hideo, Tokyo Harajuku.


And last, the fully lined, braid-trimmed pockets.

I was hoping that when Beany, my little niece, got tall enough, I would be able to try the outfit on her, but it is too small even for her.  At least I will be able to study how the lining was sewn into the jacket for reference when I make the jacket for A.

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Long ago, when I was in college, I discovered Dressmaking magazine, a Japanese publication.  I was interested in pattern drafting, and this magazine was full of patterns with drafting instructions. 


The magazine had great colored pictures of the fashions, a section on drafting a basic sloper, and instructions on drafting the fashions shown in the magazine. 

In every issue, there was a prize drawing using the names of subscribers for one of the original garments used in the last issue, a Japanese designer outfit.  One day a box arrived on my porch at home from Japan – I had won!  I saved the outfit all these years and it is in perfect condition because that thing is way too tiny to fit anyone I know.  The waist of the pants measures only 24 inches.  But I love it because it is an example of high-end sewing I would not otherwise ever see.


Here is the picture in the magazine of the outfit.  Below is the outfit now.


Tomorrow I will show some features from the inside of the garments.

One funny thing that happened as a result of all this was that the magazine printed names and addresses of the winners in the next issue.  I got several letters from around the world, one containing a marriage proposal.  He said he would shower me with riches, as I recall.  I admired his energetic spirit in pursuit of a green card but decided to pass up that offer.

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