cakestand

We put the homemade cakestand to work at a double-birthday, bearing one of a pair angel cakes to a crowd of finger-puppet-making children. I threw the cakestand on the wheel in England last spring. With pleasure.

handmade cakestand

First I threw a large plate onto a wooden bat, which is stuck to the wheel with clay. The plate is wired off but left on the bat to dry to leather-hard. I cut and played with the edges to scallop them, I love it! Then I centered the plate upside-down on the wheel. I scored a circle, and made a coil of new clay to fit, then threw the pedestal up off the plate with that clay. If you use too much water the plate will turn to mush, so it is a tricky business.

hand-thrown cakestand

I ought to have let the piece dry upside down as well; it fell somewhat, but is still charming.

scalloped cakestand

The children and I made spelt angel cakes, using my grandmother’s trusty sifter to get it as light as possible. I couldn’t find any icing sugar that was certain to be pure, so we decided to use whipped cream, sweetened with stevia to ice it. I coloured some of the cream pink with a bit of juice from raspberries. This is my first rather squishy experiment with a cake-decorating tool. Rosettes, how nice!

homemade cake & cakestand

My grandmother’s old cake stand carried one cake, and mine the other. I’m quite pleased with how the stands act like a plinth to a sculpture, adding a bit of ceremony to match such a treat as a birthday cake. Served with homemade raspberry lemonade in my grandmother’s extraordinarily fancy collection of china, it was a proper tea-party!

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p>(Update:Now you can special order a cakestand from appleturnover’s lakeside studio – just write me a note!)

vanilla stevia

Like sugar, vinegar, and alcohol, the natural sweetener stevia can be infused with flavour. After an experiment in making lavender sugar, I wanted to try infusing sugar with vanilla.

homemade vanilla-infused stevia © elisa rathje

Only, we rarely eat sugar! So I filled a dropper bottle with alcohol-based stevia, and slipped a cut bean into it. After even a few days, occasionally shaking the little bottle, the stevia develops a gorgeous flavour. Infusing vanilla stevia is much faster than making homemade vanilla extract – though we are doing that too! When we’re very busy and haven’t much chance to make food from scratch, these little things are quite satisfying.

stevia

Tis the season to eat a lot of sugar! Yet sugar truly does not agree with me. For years we hardly ate any of the stuff, which greatly improved our health. Recently we’ve been eating sugar in some homemade preserves, baking and liqueurs, but I still like to drop the amount in a recipe and pop up the sweetness with stevia.

igarashi's droplet with stevia © elisa rathje 2011

Stevia rebaudiana, sweetleaf, sugarleaf. Stevia is centuries old, and there are arguments all over the world about its use, for it presents a compelling alternative to sugar and sugar substitutes. Japan has used stevia for years and years, but Europe has only just this month approved it. Stevia is exceptional in that it hardly alters blood sugar, yet is completely natural, simply a leaf extract. You can even grow the stuff yourself. I love stevia for sweetening drinks and it is excellent in yogurt. A couple of drops is plenty as the sweetness is intense and can easily be overdone. In baking it doesn’t behave like sugar, unfortunately, but I pair it with some other sweetener to increase the sweetness, which I can then get away with in smaller amounts – a bit of sugar, honey, maple syrup, fruit. It’s just the thing for a cup of cocoa or a batch of eggnog. I even use it in our homemade toothpaste.

igarashi's droplet with stevia © elisa rathje 2011

I’m quite fond of dishes and utensils that were designed according to how a particular food is stored, decanted, prepared, eaten. The food determines the structure that holds it, and then its devoted container creates a tradition. Sugar bowls, creamers, teapots, pepper grinders, jelly moulds.

Since stevia is so well loved in our house, I found it its own decanter. A beloved gift from my sweetheart, a mouth-blown glass piece by Japanese sculptor and designer Takenobu Igarashi, called droplet. It is a bit of fine sculpture. Droplet was designed for soy sauce, but translates beautifully to stevia. Simply cover the opening at the top, hold the dropper over the dish and lift your finger to release as many drops as you like. Sculpture, design, physics, and food. Beautiful.

rosehip infusion

For a while now I’ve been neglecting a bucket of beautiful rosehips that our dear friend picked for us.

rosehips.jpg

Finally I filled the fridge with so much milk in anticipation of making mozzarella and had no room to keep them, so I turned them into rosehip cordial. Well, nearly. Sometimes I find we’ve really had enough of sugar and will trade off the pleasure of preserving for future use for the benefits of a sugar-free version. I made a rosehip infusion following a compilation of River Cottage Hedgerow and Preserves recipes, only I didn’t add sugar at the end to reduce into a syrup. We’ll need to use it in the next little while as a result, but then we need the vitamin C!

After bringing 800 ml of water to boil, I threw in the rosehips.

cooking-hips.jpg

They cooked for a while, til I could mash them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. I let them simmer a little longer, cooled, and strained through a jelly bag. Doubled muslin would work. Then I brought another 800 ml of water to boil and repeated the process, only this time I left it to hang overnight.

cooked-hips.jpg

I strained the two infusions through muslin one last time, and decanted into cordial bottles, to store in the fridge and use up in a few days. We’d never tried rosehip cordial before, oh! We’re enthralled with the flavour, sweetened with a few drops of stevia. It won’t last long around here.

rosehip-syrup.jpg

We’d like to go out in search of more hips to preserve in a cordial or a jelly, as there’s still a little of autumn to catch some.