Death by chocolate – salted caramel chocolate torte

As well as all things craft, I love baking, so I thought I’d share a recent creation.

A friend sent me a picture of her dressed up ready to go out to a fancy dress party at 9:30pm on Saturday night. Embarrassingly, at that point I was in my PJs, and had been since my son went to bed at 7pm. That’s how we roll in our house these days. So, while some of my peers were out partying, I was baking in my PJs. I made the most calorific dessert I think I’ve ever made.

We’d been invited for a Sunday roast at my brother-in-law’s and had been asked to bring dessert. In the spirit of making life as hard for myself as I can, I wasn’t going to go to the shop and buy a dessert. Oh no. Too easy. Cheating, in fact. I consulted my good friend, the BBC Good Food website and came across a recipe for Salted Caramel Chocolate Torte. I love chocolate and I love salted caramel, I just had to make it.

The base was fairly simple, crushed digestive biscuits mixed with melted butter and left to set. So far, not too calorificly horrifying. Or maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong! Then pretty much a whole tin of Carnation condensed milk went onto the base. It wasn’t supposed to reach the edges of the biscuit base, but I couldn’t stop it from doing so. The calories shot up. But, it gets worse, much worse. The next step was to melt 300g plain chocolate and, once it had cooled a little, stir in 600ml of double cream. 600ml! After leaving it to cool a little more, it then went over the caramel layer. I left it to set overnight and then decorated the top with a little leftover caramel, which had been mixed with some cream, of course.

This is the end result.

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Apologies for the terrible photo taken on my phone. It was this point that, reading the recipe again, I noticed that it was 920 calories PER SLICE. Can that be right? I guess, when you know what’s in it. Not good for the calorie-counting I started last week. That was based on 8 servings. There were 5 of us on Sunday – I made a trifle for the children – and we had less than half of the torte so can’t have had 920 calorie servings. Yesterday, I took the leftovers into work where I knew they would be eaten up. Although I think I should have kept the calorie load to myself as people were very conservative with their portion sizes, unsurprisingly.

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Cross stitch calculations

On a roll after my mending endeavours, last night, I tackled the rest of my mending pile, meaning unfinished project no.6 is now finished.

So, now it’s time to tackle another one. I’ve been doing the odd bit here and there on unfinished project no.2, mostly at the pub on a Wednesday lunchtime. It’s currently looking like this:

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I thought I’d see how many stitches I could do in an hour tonight. I did roughly 100. Not sure if that’s slow or not. There was a far bit of tv watching and stopping to change channels. Then I did a very rough count of how many stitches there are left. Looking at the chart, I estimated I have 27 squares of 100 stitches left. So, even I didn’t need a calculator to work out that I’ve got – roughly – 27 hours work left to do on this. Gulp. Considering it took me two months to do 23 hrs on my last quilt, this is somewhat daunting. HOWEVER, unlike quilting, I can do this sat in front of the tv. So, I’m going to set myself the challenge of finishing this cross stitch by the end of February. Wish me luck!

On the mend

Not much crafting has happened since I finished my latest memory quilt. Not much blogging either. I had every intention of doing a year’s review, but seeing as we’re over halfway through January, I think I’ll save that til May, and instead review what I’ve accomplished in the year since I started this blog.

I need to sit down and write a list of all my UFOs/WIPs. I’ve started another list. A ‘crafty ideas’ list. Things I’d like to try one day … So far it only has three things on it, but I’m sure it’ll grow quickly.

I’m trying a new tactic of ‘put down the tablet/smartphone and craft’. It’s not very successful so far – the tablet is winning out right now so I can write this – but I did have a productive hour or two last week when I worked my way through my ‘to be mended’ pile.

First up, was Gerald the giraffe who required major arm surgery. He looked much happier afterwards and my little man was delighted to be reunited with his very good friend.

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Next, repairing the pocket of my husband’s coat, where I tested out my slip stitch skills.

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Sewing a button back on to little man’s trousers. Albeit with different coloured thread.

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Repairing a shirt pocket.

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Reattaching part of little man’s quiet book, which he’d pulled off.

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And, finally, reattaching one of his mittens to its string.

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Which reminds me, one of my unfinished projects (from May) is to work my way through another pile of things to be mended, which has long since been banished tidied away in a hamper. Time to put down the tablet – less screen time, more craft time!

Tickled pink – little girl’s memory quilt completed

I’m baaaaaaaack! Hanging my head in shame for taking so long to complete my second memory quilt. But it’s done now and that’s what matters. Late for Christmas, but sneaking in ahead of time for the recipient’s 3rd birthday, which is on Saturday.

My little helper looks very pleased with the finished result.

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As with my last quilt (which now belongs to the younger brother of the birthday girl), I quilted some stars on some of the plainer squares, to keep the quilt top and wadding together.

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I found this quilt much more enjoyable to work with, I think it’s the girly colours and details like the bows and buttons. I’m especially pleased I managed to salvage the little teddy that can sit on or in the pocket of the white corduroy. I can’t wait to see some photos of the birthday girl and her quilt. She was very jealous when her little brother got his, which was in October. So hopefully she’ll be pleased she’s got one now too.

This quilt, as the other, was commissioned by a friend. I’ve given her mates/never-done-this-before-so-it’s-a-learning-curve rates. Assuming that I’d speed up a bit on this second quilt, I decided to keep track of the hours I spent on it, in order to work out whether, going forward, memory quilts are ‘worth’ doing. The scores on the doors are interesting reading. For me, anyway. So I thought I’d share.

  • Cutting interfacing/cutting squares out of baby clothes/ironing on interfacing: 7.5 hours
  • Piecing: 4 hours
  • Sewing: 8 hours
  • Quilting: 45 mins
  • Trimming: 1.5 hours
  • Handsewing: 30 mins

Almost 23 hours in total, and that’s probably on the conservative side, I can’t imagine I logged all my hours. Once I had deducted the cost of the materials (interfacing, wadding, backing) from my fee, my hourly rate worked out at a pitiful £3 p/h! BUT, as my husband said, I do enjoy doing it, so it’s nice to earn a little from doing something I enjoy. I started this quilt at the beginning of November, so it’s taken me just over 2 months to do 23 hours work on it! Depressing thought.

As my timings show, the cutting up of the baby clothes takes almost as long as the sewing together of them. Despite this being a quilt, the quilting itself is minimal so takes little time. I’m hopeful but also doubtful that I’ll speed up on piecing. It’s quite fun moving all the squares around trying different colour combinations, like a big jigsaw puzzle.

Having learnt many lessons from my first memory quilt, did I improve this time? I think so. I started off much more organised with this quilt, cutting out all my interfacing first so that once I’d cut the squares from the baby clothes, I could iron the interfacing straight on. I also used fewer smaller squares than my first quilt, as the smaller squares are more fiddly and therefore more time-consuming to sew together. However, I still had to increase the number of smaller squares as they do add interest and are good to create patterns from. Most of the baby clothes I was given were newborn so it was hard to get big squares out of them too. I washed my backing fabric before cutting and attaching it this time (well the first batch, I may have forgotten to wash the second batch, but it worked out fine – phew …). My stitching in the ditch and slipstitch both still have room for improvement but are a lot better on this quilt.

Things to remember for my next (?!) quilt:

  • Use a denim needle when working with thicker fabrics. I must’ve broken at least 3 needles on this quilt.
  • Wash the backing fabric first.
  • Stop and THINK before cutting up the backing fabric for the borders and backing. I ended up having to order a second lot of backing fabric when I cut the borders out first, which, because of the way I’d cut them, meant I hadn’t enough fabric left for the backing. The end result being that I didn’t have the quilt ready in time for Christmas.
  • Try a stitch-in-the-ditch quilting foot – I think this may help me a lot.

The sewing machine has been packed away and I’m off to read a book before bed. Next up, I want to do a belated review of what I made last year. Then, I’m itching to get knitting again. But, I still have many unfinished projects to complete before I can start anything new. Not that that’s stopped me before! I’ve got to live up to my name, after all.