Commercially Alternative: September 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Snickerdoodle Recipe

My anime club had a snack day this week and we all brought in some of our favorite tasty treats. I decided to make my snickerdoodles. This is an amazing cookie recipe. My dad, who usually requires chocolate in his desserts, LOVES these cookies. I always have to leave him a couple if I make these for a party. 

The recipe is actually a tweaked version of the Joy of Cooking recipe, but the tweaking really makes all the difference. 

Makes 3 dozen

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Make sure that the cream of tartar and baking soda are fresh. Don't use baking soda that's been sitting around for a year. 

In a separate bowl, beat the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and very fluffy on medium speed.

Add and beat the eggs until well combined.

Stir in the flour mixture until it's smooth and well combined.

Refrigerate the dough. I usually make the dough the night before and then bake them up the morning of the party. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.

Separate the dough into 3. Work with one third of the dough at a time and keep the rest refrigerated. Break the third into 12 pieces and lightly roll into a rough ball. Don't make the balls too perfect as the heat of your hand will start to melt the dough. Roll the balls in a sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Sugar and Cinnamon Mixture
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Place cookies on cookie sheet and bake 8 to 11 minutes until edges are light golden brown. My cookies typically take 10 to 11 minutes, but this varies by oven. Rotate the cookies half way through.

When the cookies are done let them sit on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer them to a rack.

Cook only one cookie sheet at a time and let the cookie sheet cool a bit before the next batch. This will prevent your cookies from melting too soon.

These cookies truly melt in your mouth. The sugar and cinnamon create a light crisp crust and the inside is soft and moist. I really hope everyone tries these cookies and I hope you enjoy them!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Basic Seam Finishes

Forming a seam is an easy thing to do. First one lines up the fabric and pins at regular intervals. Second, one bastes the seam either by hand or by machine using long stitches. Third, one stitches 5/8" into the seam line, backstitching at the beginning and end. Finally, one removes the basting, presses the seam together as it was sewn, and then presses the seam open. However, that seam isn't done yet. One still has to apply a seam finish.
A seam finish prevents an edge from fraying and makes it look neater as well. By doing this, a garment will last a great deal longer. Here are a few methods I learned during my sewing class. The pictures are the pieces of fabric I turned in for a grade.

This is the technique I use the most. It is quick, easy, and, quite frankly, pinking shears are fun! Stitch each side 1/4 inch from the edge and then pink. This method is especially useful on bias cut skirts. I do not recommend only pinking as it will not last as long and will probably fray. However, do not use this method when the seam edges can be seen through the fabric as the pinked edges would probably look a little strange.

Just like the name suggests, this uses the zigzag stitch on the machine. Use a medium width and short length stitch for this method. Sew close to the edge, without going over, and trim off the excess fabric close to the stitching. This method is very quick, but not appropriate for all situations. Test out this method on scraps first to get the right stitch lengths and widths and to prevent stretching, rippling, and curling. In addition, do NOT use this method on a bias. It will not be pretty. (I've learned from experience)

Machine Overedge:
This method uses the over edge stitch on your sewing machine. Position the fabric such that the point of the stitch falls on the edge. As always, test it out on scraps first.

3-Thread Overlock Stitch
This stitch uses a serger, a completely awesome and scary tool. I don't have one, but I have a little experience using one in my sewing class. Basically, it is the same as the over edge or zigzag finish except using a serger. This method is what you see on garments bought from the store. It gives you a very professional looking finish while cutting off the extra fabric at the same time. This last part is what makes a serger frightening for me as a beginner. Once you sew, there is no redo as it has cut off your fabric. However, this is a good method for use on bias cut pieces. The stitch should just barely cut off the edge of the fabric. 
As you can see, I went a little crazy my first time and stitched much too close to the seam

Should Seams Always Be Finished?
Yes, they should. One exception is if the garment is lined and the fabric does not have a tendency to fray excessively.

What if there is a curve or corner?
The same methods apply, but finish the edge first, then clip, and then press open.

There are many more ways to finish a seam, but these are the basics that should get a beginner through any project. Pick up the New Complete Guide to Sewing Reader's Digest for more techniques.