baking

Pavlova, pavlova, and more pavlova

Pavlova, pavlova, pavlova || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

 

My family has a thing for meringues. My grandmother loved them and so we all think of her every time we enjoy a dessert that incorporates one. Through osmosis (or just watching Mary Berry on Great British Bakeoff's Masterclass, to be honest) my daughter has taken quite a fancy to them, too! She can recite most of this Pavlova recipe by heart and gets really excited when Aldi's has berries on sale because she knows that is the most likely time I will craft this lovely dessert!


I haven't felt quite as excited about the results because I seem to overcook my meringue even when I cut back the temperature. With a little extra time on my hands due to a break from schooling, I decided to finally figure out how to keep my meringue as white as they do on tv and hopefully not fall apart quite as much as they have before (a little breakage is normal). 

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Pavlova, pavlova, and more pavlova || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

So, after my third attempt, I am finally happen with my recipe and cook times!

Rachel Loewens' Pavlova

Ingredients:
For the pavlova:
6 egg whites, room temperature
12oz sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp cornflower

For the frosting:
20 oz heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 oz powdered sugar, sifted



Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 300 F. Draw an 8": circle (I trace a plate) on parchment paper and place on a baking sheet.
2. Whisk egg whites in a clean mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Make sure there are no traces of oil on the bowl or the whites won't whip up as well. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time and continue whisking on high speed until you have stiff peaks. In the meantime, combine the rice vinegar and cornflower in a cup. Once the whites are stiff and glossy, remove the bowl from the mixer and whisk in the vinegar/cornflower mixture by hand with the whisk attachment. 
3. Using a flexible spatula, spoon the meringue around the edge of the circle and then fill in the middle.
4. Decrease the temperature of the oven to 275 F and bake the pavlova for one hour. Resist the temptation to open the oven and check on it! After an hour, turn the oven off and let the pavlova sit there for a couple hours or overnight.
5. Before serving, whip the cream, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar in a mixer until stiff peaks form. Spoon the whipped cream onto the center of the pavlova and add the fruit. This can cause the center to sink a bit, but that does not take away from the overall appearance. Sift sugar on top to finish. 


Pavlova, pavlova, and more pavlova || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

You can easily make a half-size Pavlova like the one I did above if you are expecting a smaller crowd, just decrease the baking time by 20 minutes or so but still leave it in the oven for a few hours to complete the drying out process. Enjoy!


 

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Gingerbread house baking notes: 2017 Edition

(this post contains affiliate links)

Gingerbread house baking notes: 2017 Edition || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

I love making gingerbread houses! Each year I try to learn a new technique, and this year I made my own Necco wafers using this tutorial and this decorating tip from Wilton to cut out two different sizes. 

I had this plan to make multiple colors but quickly realized once I got going that it was best to just keep it simple for my first attempt. I did add a little more water that the recipe called for to give myself more leeway to work and was fine with the additional drying time. 

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Home made Necco Wafers || Rachel Loewens

I really like the famous White House Gingerbread Recipe but found it a bit too dry for a Nebraska winter climate. Plus, I really didn't need the rise the baking soda gave it so here is my slightly modified version (one batch will make three of these A-frames):

Rachel Loewens's Version of white house gingerbread

  • 2 C granulated Sugar
  • 1 C plus 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 C solid shortening
  • 3 T molasses
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ t salt
  • 3-4 T water
  • 6 C flour
  • 1 T ginger
  • 1 T cinnamon

1. Cream together shortening and sugars in a large stand mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until light and fluffy. Add the molasses, salt, water, ginger, and cinnamon. Add the flour, one cup at a time. Mix until just incorporated. The dough will become very stiff, and will fill the entire bowl so don't attempt to double this recipe!

2. Roll dough to a  1/14” thickness between two sheets of cling film. Use a rolling pin with adjustable rings on the end to ensure even thickness. Trace around stencils (my preferred pattern here) with dull side of a knife and gently move pieces to parchment-lined cookie sheet. 

3. Bake at 375 degrees for between 12 and 15 minutes. For construction purposes, over-baked is better than under. 

Rolling out gingerbread dough between cling film || Rachel Loewens
Trimming the edges of the gingerbread pieces || Rachel Loewens Fine Art
Gingerbread house pieces || Rachel Loewens

4. Remove pieces from oven  trim the ends using a serrated knife or pizza cutter (and feed to any hovering family members). This will ensure significantly better assembly. Let the cookie pieces cool completely before assembly. I prefer to wait overnight to allow them to fully dry out. Do not stack the elements higher than three piece once when cool and not at all while warm. 

5. Assemble the house using royal icing with Wilton Meringue Powder (tutorial here ).



Gingerbread house baking notes : 2017 edition || Rachel Loewens Fine Art
Gingerbread house baking notes || Rachel Loewens Fine Art
 

I've got a pretty good at assembling the houses, but one area where I still have loads of room for improvement is my decorative icing work. I would love to find a really great YouTube channel to follow so if you know of one, please leave me a note in the comments.

 

Happy Christmas Baking!

Gingerbread house baking notes: 2017 Edition || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

 
Don't miss out on my New Year, New You promotion with Young Living Essential Oils. Click here to find out how you can encourage wellness and eliminate chemicals in your home and save $20. Now through January 15th!


What makes an ordinary week

(for further context, see last week's post Ordinary Time in My Studio

Lesson plan for history: To experience a “taste” of what life was like as a monk, prepare a typical “monk’s meal” for supper one night. You might like to pretend that it is Christmas, so you can have some butter on your bread!
Pretty Pavlova || What makes an ordinary week || blog post || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

Me: "Since we are learning about Monks, we are going to make a bread like the kind they would have eaten. "
AJ: "Can't I make Mary Berry's Pavlova instead?"
Me: "I'm not sure we have enough eggs... "
AJ: " We only need six!" (proceeds to recite rest of recipe and directions)

Yeah, she won. 


This month, we are still figuring out what an ordinary week for us will look like this year. I was given some very wise counsel that co-teachers (homeschool moms) usually doesn't get their routine down until October so I know we have a few more weeks to get our stride. I'm still participating in the #PCJ30in30 Challenge on Instagram and am loving the process of observing one memory or moment of each day in a painting. 

Chilly Sunday || #PCJ30in30 || Rachel Loewens Fine Art
Pretty Pavlova || #PCJ30in30 || 8x8" acrylic on watercolor paper || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

Sometimes I know what I want to capture within the first few hours of the day, other times it takes until dinnertime. Either way, this practice is helping me focus on what little thing sets each day apart from the next (a tall order for someone who is big-picture minded).

Raining sunshine || #PCJ30in30 || 6x8" || acrylics + paint pen on watercolor paper || Rachel Loewens
Turning season sunset || #PCJ30in30 || 8x8" || acrylic paint on watercolor paper || Rachel Loewens

To stay up to date on this challenge follow me on Instagram



Christmas cool down/ knitting recap

*Sigh* As much as I love Christmas, the introvert part of me likes the quiet week following a little more. A return to more healthy eating, a slightly slower pace of doing things and having my family at home. 

Cinnamon rolls by Rachel Loewens

Don't get me wrong, I do love the feasting and drinking that comes with Christmas! It is the one time of year that I make cinnamon rolls, and who doesn't enjoy an extra round of one's favorite adult beverage!

Little Herringbone Cowl || knit by Rachel Loewens

As I promised before, here is a glimpse into this year's knitting presents. I like to pick one pattern that will work for most, if not all, of my recipients and just mix up the color palette.

Small herringbone cowl || knit by Rachel Loewens

This year's pattern is the Big Herringbone Cowl by Purl Soho. It has been wildly popular on Ravelry and it has been in my Queue for quite some time now. 

Little Herringbone Cowl || knit by Rachel Loewens

To make this work with my needs/time restraints/budget, I resized it to require only one skein of yarn. The first several rows I knit with a very tight gauge and then loosened as I went on. This meant that the cowl was close-fitting at the top of the neck and more loose towards the shoulder. 

 

Do you have a method for accomplishing your Christmas knitting list?