Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mince Pies

Mince Pies they said... Easy they said... I fooled myself into believing I was a pastry expert having not made pastry in oh maybe 8 years and that was a once off occasion. 

It all started when I "made" mince pies with my Mom a few weeks before Christmas. They were yummy. Full of confidence, I volunteered to make the mince pies for Christmas (as I knew this current batch wouldn't make it through the night).

Mince Pies of Various Quality
However, things weren't so idyllic when I began the process in my own little kitchen. In my mind I'd made mince pies perfectly that Sunday afternoon in my mother's kitchen. However, on reflection I realised what really happened:
  • My mother made the pastry.
  • I watched.
  • My mother selected the temperature.
  • I turned the dial.
  • My mother told me how thick to roll the pastry and how to do it properly.
  • I rolled the pastry.
  • My mother chose a suitable diameter cutter.
  • I cut the pastry. 
  • My mother chose a suitably shallow baking tray.
  • I pressed the pastry into the tray.
  • My mother dished out the mince pie filling. 
  • I watched.
  • My mother placed the trays in the oven.
  • I watched.
  • My mother stated that they were ready.
  • I removed them from the oven.
You see, to a child that would be baking mince pies but in reality I was my mother's assistant and I didn't really take in much of her advice. On realising this I turned to Nigella fooled by her knowledge of all things tarty. What a let down! I also decided to ignore my mother's suggestions and rolled the pastry too thick and made the pies too deep but really it was all Nigella's fault.

What was I to do with all these mediocre mince pies. I couldn't bring them home for Christmas. So I invited some friends over for mince pies and cream. Mwhahahahahaha. My friend's will eat anything. Success! 

Time was ticking. I was now the morning of the 23rd of December and I had not packed, wrapped my presents, cleaned the house and of course produced the mince pies! I was also booked for the afternoon and evening. Lets just say there was a lot of flour split that morning. I turned my back on Nigella and entrusted my sanity in Gordon of all people but it was successful in fairness.

Gordon Ramsay having the lols.
In my frenzied state I doubled the recipe just incase I messed up again. I lost count of how many pies I made. It was beyond what was required for 7 people but not to worry my brother in law made sure none went to waste. 

So in the end, everyone was happy and my celiac housemate didn't die despite the place being coated in flour. I would recommend Gordon Ramsey's Shortcrust Pastry as his videos make it very easy to follow and of course always listen to your mother :) Less is more when making mince pies, thin pastry, shallow pies, less filling and of course less pies!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Edward Scissors Hands

Trimming the Hedge
My homemade Edward Scissors Hands costume for Halloween 2007 is by far my favourite costume I've ever made. I won two prizes for it on the night amounting to something like a 120euro! Which paid for the costume and left me with some spare cash. The wig is a Elvis wig back combed and worn backwards. I didn't go over board trying to get the gaunt look using makeup and facepaint. Simply white facepaint all over and black around the eyes and on the lips. 

I spent hours searching for a suitable jacket that was cheap in Dublin after college in the rain during October. I tried charity shops, Pennys, and all those dodge shops on Henry St. Finally I found this fleather jacket in shop in Stephen's Green SC. I think it was the most expensive thing in there at like 40euro! I hummed and hawed about the cost but I devised a cunning plan. No I didn't steal it! I kept the tags on and the receipt and brought it back the following week! Once I'd wiped the facepaint off, it was as good as new. I didn't get my money back fair enough but I got a credit note. 

Now most things are quite cheap in this shop and most of it looks cheap. I bought a pair of "Diesel" jeans for about 20euro. I had my suspicions about their authenticity since they were ridiculously cheap and the logo was different. But you don't find alot of contraband for sale in actual shops in Ireland so I dunno what was going on. They turned out to be one of the best pair of jeans I ever had. Saw me through my first year in college. They were so well worn that they ripped under the pocket on the back one day when I bent over! Fortunately I wasn't far from home. My Mom sewed it back up for me but sure the other pocket ripped not so long after. So I had to throw them away. :( 

Edward Scissors Hands Homemade Halloween Costume

Ok back to the costume. Id black jeans and black boots on over them. I had kept an eye out for shiny black pants maybe fleather or PVC but you could only get them in goth shops at the time and they cost a bomb! The whole shiny wet look legging hadn't hit the high streets yet. I also considered wrapping my legs in black tape.... Well that didn't work. 

I had a white shirt with braces on underneath had I wanted to take my jacket off during the evening. This is also what Johnny Depp would have worn in the movie. I bought some studded belts, a collar and a cuff from an extremely expensive accessory shop. You know the one. I was running out of time.

Johnny Depp as Edward Scissors Hands.
Finally, my scissors hands! A pair of black kitchen gloves. Some corrugated cardboard, tinfoil, silver packaging tape or whatever it's called and black tape. I cut out the blades from cardboard, covered them in the silver tape or tinfoil and then taped them to the side of each finger using black tape. On the ring finger and baby finger I extended the blade into a scissors handle shape. So from the side it looked like a pair of scissors. You can kind of see it in the photo above. I'm sorry the description is so rough but it was a long time ago! I think my Dad has more pictures which are clearer but Im too lazy to go find them right now. If I do I'll post them up. 

So despite spending about 100e on the costume I won 120e and got a credit note worth 40e back for the jacket. So I was happy with that outcome! The make up was so heavy that some people didn't recognise me at all and most people who didn't know me thought I was a guy... I got some looks when my boyfriend kissed me after I won the prize in one of the pubs. There are some really good homemade Edward Scissors Hands costumes out there. Especially for kids who look great! 

If you can't get a jacket and belts and stuff just go for the black polo neck, white shirt and black braces look. Much cheaper and looks just as good if not better as the leather look can be hard to get right. I just about managed it. For other simpler costumes have a look at some of these Pokemon Costumes. Good example of how you can make braces out of ribbons or even knit them in that Pokemon Post. Or if you are looking for a group theme have a look at this Stretcher Race.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Wooly Costume

Simple Sheep Costume
So I dressed up as a sheep one Halloween. The homemade costume went down a treat. I purchased some cushion stuffing from my local fabric shop for a small price. I then stuck it in layers to a nightdress using pva glue. This took a long time and was incredibly messy. I was lucky that my friends helped out. I also stuffed some of the left over stuffing under the nightdress to give me a more rounded shape. A friend of mine lent me her hood from her wet suit and that coupled with a lot of black facepaint transformed me into a sheep. My ears suck and should of been made of fabric or black card not corrugated cardboard painted with the face paint! I also put face paint on my arms but I'd advise wearing a long sleeve black top.  

Considering the Irish weather this would of a great costume for a kid going trick or treating as they will stay warm. However, I was indoors and burning up! There wasn't a chance I was going to nightclub in it. Also the stuffing was surprisingly heavy and gave me a sore back. But overall it was a pretty practical costume. I was happy :) Also the shaply figure I had was not intentional it was simply caused by resting my arms or holding a drink.

I'd also like to mention another fine costume from the party I attended that year. One of my friends dressed up as Duff Man from the Simpsons. Why was it such a good costume? Well if I remember it correctly her purchased it all in Pennies and took the cans from the bin so it probably didn't cost more than 20 euro to make which is what I like to hear!

Sheep and Duffman Costume

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