Friday, August 23, 2013


AAAAAARRRGGGH!!! I want one of these SO BAD! I don't even drink coffee! I don't care! It takes 10 minutes to brew a cup of coffee! Irrelevant! I will set off my smoke alarms! A Mere Bagatelle!!!!! There is no room in my tiny kitchen! So what! I would keep it on my bedside table if I had to!

It's so Shiny!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Better Tortilla Formula


The trick is to use boiling water, and to smash them as you are frying them.  Here's the recipe-

400 grams all purpose flour
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put all the dry ingredients and the oil in the bowl of your bread machine and turn it on. Slowly dribble the water in as the beaters agitate the flour. Let the knead cycle finish, and you're ready to go.

Roll out the tortillas as seen in the video toward the end of this post. The process is exactly the same, just bigger. You should get 10-12, 11" tortillas. If you make them little, you'll get as many as 15.

Heat a heavy skillet to medium-high. Make sure it is completely dry, or the tortillas will stick.

Have a clean, damp towel ready to wrap the finished tortillas in.

When the skillet is hot, lay a tortilla in the pan. It should turn translucent in about 5 seconds, when you turn it over. Use a silicone spatula to quickly but gently smash the whole tortilla against the pan for about another 7 or 8 seconds, then scoop it out and put it under the damp towel. Repeat until you've cooked all the tortillas. 

 Here are a few more technical pointers:
1. Use enough flour when you roll them out, or they will stick to everything.

2. Roll all the tortillas before you start cooking them. They really do only take about 15 seconds in the pan.

3. I have one of those large, super flexible pancake spatulas to do the smashing with. The smashing is important, it prevents the tortilla from developing giant bubbles which make them cook unevenly.

4. You will need a bigger frying pan than mine, like a 14" one. I'm going to be looking for one at goodwill.

5. As you can see from the pictures, one side of the tortilla has more freckles. That's because when you first put them in the pan, you basically just show it to the heat before flipping it over. That way you don't overcook it by accident.

6. You could put the hot tortillas in  tupperware or a ziploc bag, but I find that a towel allows them to stay moist as they cool without developing slimy spots. Once they cool off you can put them in something airtight.

What makes this a better recipe? The boiling water. I find that if I use cold water, the dough is springier, and harder to roll out. That makes it harder to make a very thin tortilla. If they're too thick, they take longer to cook, which makes them dry out of you use a lower heat, or burn if you use higher heat.. If you don't cook them long enough, they just taste like raw dough. In either case the texture is a little stiff and papery.

On the other hand, using boiling water partially cooks the flour to begin with, which alters the elasticity of the dough. This recipe makes a very durable, forgiving dough that is easy to roll out, but difficult to accidentally poke holes in. They cook up tender but not gummy, delicately chewy, and substantial enough to make a good burrito even when they are very thin.
So, what's in the bowl? Tortilla soup of course. This is a 'cheating' recipe, because it uses a can of Trader Joe's Cuban Style black beans as a main ingredient.

David helped me make it. My instructions to him over the phone at about 3 o'clock were something like

"Get the big cooking pot with the silver handle sticking off it. Fill it half way with water. Put it on the big back burner on high. Put 3 frozen chicken pieces in it, 4 if they're small. Chop up an onion and put that in. Open the can of chilis in adobo and put 3 chilis in the pot. When it boils, turn it down to 5 and ignore it until I get home."

When I got home at 7, I added a bunch of cumin, garlic powder, a blob of tomato paste, a dash of salt and the aforementioned can of beans, cranked the heat back up to a boil, and waited until the soup had reduced enough that it looked tasty. It was, very. You tear up chunks of the fresh tortillas and put them in your soup and they get all dumpling-y. You can add fresh tomatoes and cilantro, but I was out of those things the day I took the picture, and it was still very good.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Success! Muahahaha!

 I made a yarn winder. It's ugly. Boy howdy is it ugly. But it works! Now all I need is a swift. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Everything Old is New Again


I really am trying to use up my stash of materials. These 3 projects sort of go together because they all had a previous life as other things. I showed you the scooter skirt already, but it's worth mentioning that I made it out of the skirt of a half finished dress Mom abandoned back in the late 60's or so.

Why didn't I just finish the dress? Because it was cut along very similar lines to the pink and white one in the picture below. As you can see, it is a terribly dumpy looking fit on me. Mom is nearly 4 inches shorter than I am, and all of it is torso. The waist line any dress made for Mom cuts me right across my 3rd rib from the bottom. So, no point in making up the dress as it was. The material is too stiff and coarse to make a good blouse, but it's just perfect for a short a-line skirt. I'm very happy with it.

But then there was still the pink and white dress. It's one of a pair, also from Mom, but made by Great Aunt Gatha. When I was little, Aunt Gatha's sewing was held to be an acme of durable clothing construction. And durable it was- although looking at it now what comes to mind is the bit by some comedian, maybe Jeff Foxworthy, where he was talking about his redneck relatives fixing something with duct tape: If one or two layers will fix it, then 40 or 50 layers will fix the hell out of it. These dresses are obsessively, if startlingly coarsely, assembled. The waistband had a piece of material tacked in as a stay, to which the bodice and skirt were affixed by machine, having first been basted in place with what looks like button hole twist. Both parts were previously gatherd by hand with the same coarse thread. All basting and gathering threads had been left in place. Each seam had been closely but unevenly overcast by hand, and the hem of the skirt as well as the facing of the bodice placket had been whip stitched in very small, closely spaced stitches of rather erratic appearance. The under arm seams hadn't even been clipped so as to allow the side seam to flex without puckering the armpit! Altogether, the construction was rather lumpy.

These two dresses were neither in wearable nor collectable condition by the time they came to me. The shoulders were dry rotted, the collars stained, and there were serious mouse bites in various places. But they were made in the 50's, which means that there is a mile of fabric in the skirt. With a little scootching and fudging, there was exactly enough to cut a hawaiian shirt for David out of it. I have a nice vintage shirt pattern that suits the material perfectly.

The third thing is this wing collar shirt I made for myself. It's the second shirt I've made out of this pair of curtains, the first being a Halloween costume I made for Cynthia. It has the distinction of being made not only out of material from goodwill, but made out of something I actually used for its original purpose for some years. Eventually I moved out of places that had windows you could put normal curtains in, and I remembered that I had actually wanted to make clothing out of them in the first place. It took me a very long time to finish this shirt because I lost interest halfway through, for no reason that I can remember, especially as I am very excited about the finished result. I always thought that tuxedo shirts were the fanciest thing imaginable, and I really wanted one.

The thing that inspired me was the idea to merge the bust darts in the front of the shirt with the seam where the pleated section is inserted. The result is a fit that is very feminine and curvy, but clean and uncluttered the way a man's shirt is. Also, I finally managed to get the proportion of sleeve width, body width, size of arm hole and length of shirt tail worked out so that it looks right and feels comfortable. I feel very luxurious wearing it.

As David said about his pink and white shirt: "Yeah, this is a really good shirt. I feel like a badass wearing it."