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I love cinnamon rolls. One of my friends enjoys remixing recipes with new ingredient mixes. I blame him for putting ideas into my head. I’ve found that using new combinations of spices in my cinnamon rolls gives me unique and delicious flavors.

I got the inspiration for this cinnamon roll from a recipe for Ethiopian Honey Yeast Bread. After making the bread a couple of times, I found I liked the mix of spices, and decided to bring the flavor into my cinnamon rolls.

The directions are simple.

  1. Use your favorite cinnamon roll recipe.
  2. In the filling use 2/3 cinnamon, 1/3 ground coriander seed and a dash of ground cloves. For example, the recipe I usually use calls for 1 tablespoon of cinnamon in the filling. When making my coriander seed cinnamon rolls I use 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground coriander seed and a dash of ground cloves. This combination will give you the cinnamon taste, but with enough of the ground coriander seed to be noticeable.

I love cinnamon rolls. One of my friends enjoys remixing recipes with new ingredient mixes. I blame him for putting ideas into my head. I’ve found that using new combinations of spices in my cinnamon rolls gives me unique and delicious flavors.

Chinese Five Spice is usually recommended for cooking various Chinese meat dishes. The variation of five spice that I’m using contains cinnamon, star anise, fennel, ginger, cloves, white pepper and licorice root.  I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve had a lot of success using it in desserts and sweets as well.

The directions are simple.

  1. Use your favorite cinnamon roll recipe.
  2. In the filling use 2/3 cinnamon and 1/3 Chinese five spice. For example, the recipe I usually use calls for 1 tablespoon of cinnamon in the filling. When making my five spice cinnamon rolls I use 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice. This combination will give you the cinnamon taste, but with enough of the five spice to be noticeable.

Cutting cookies off a roll of dough

Cookies are nice, but they’re much better when they’re fresh from the oven. Cookies just don’t seem as good the next day. This is my strategy so that every cookie I make is fresh from the oven.

Requirements:

Cookie Dough

Wax Paper

Plastic Wrap

Refrigerator/Freezer

Toaster Oven

Put cookie dough on a square of wax paper. Roll dough in the wax paper into a cylinder about 2-3 inches thick. If you have too much dough, cut a second square of wax paper and make a second cylinder. Place roll(s) of dough in refrigerator or freezer. When the dough is firm and holds it shape (about 30 minutes in the freezer, 60 in the refrigerator) take the dough out of the wax paper and wrap with plastic wrap.

When you want fresh cookies unwrap the roll, slice off the number of cookies you want, and bake in a toaster oven. I prefer to use a toaster oven when I’m only making 2-3 cookies instead of heating up the oven, my kitchen and the apartment. Cooking times and temperatures will vary from the oven, so experiment and see what works for you.

I also use this technique to freeze rolls and cinnamon rolls for later. Freeze dough after the first rise and after you form the rolls, and before the second rise.  Freeze on cookie sheets covered with wax paper, and wrap in plastic wrap after firm. Keep in freezer until ready to bake off. Take out of freezer and let defrost and rise on counter. Time required will depend on the size of the rolls, but it will take a few hours at least. Rolls I always bake in the oven.

Tetris Yukata painting process

I just finished a project where I made a Tetris-themed yukata (finished pictures still to come). To do this I had to paint Tetris pieces on black fabric. This is my first time painting on black fabric, so here is what I learned by trial and error.

Fabric:

Prewashing the fabric will both clean the material and shrink the fabric so you don’t shrink it after you paint it.

A looser weave fabric will hold color less than a tighter weave. In order to get bright colors on a loose fabric you will need to use a lot of paint. This will make the fabric very stiff.

For my project I used a light-weight 100% cotton fabric.

Paint:

I used Martha Stewart Craft Paint because it was in all the craft stores near me. It is an acrylic paint, so I bought a bottle of Fabric Medium to mix in. One bottle of fabric medium will last you a long time. There are many other paint options available, so if you have the time and money you can explore your options.

In order to make bright colors on black fabric I used a white paint to prime the squares before I painted over them with the color. In all cases the final color was a shade darker than the paint would be normally, even having been primed. I suggest using a scrap piece of fabric to experiment painting with different layer combinations of color. Let each layer dry to the touch before you put on the next layer.

I used one layer of white paint with one layer of color on top. This turned out well for most of the colors, except for yellow and orange, which sometimes required a little touch-up afterwards.

Heat set your paint when done to make it permanent.

Brushes:

The type of brush you use can be important. A fine-haired, densely packed brush will push more of the paint through a loose fabric, which means less color, but give you very even coat of paint. A coarser-haired, loosely packed brush will leave more paint on top of the fabric, which means better color, but can leave the finish streaky.

I recommend buying a large package of cheap bushes. I got 25 assorted brushes for about 7-8$ from my local store. It is also a good idea to use a leftover piece of fabric to test out combinations of paint and brushes on your fabric.

Other Materials:

I picked up some ‘storage and solvent cups’ while I was picking up my paint. This ended up being one of the best choices I made. I was able to mix the paint and fabric medium in this container and seal it when it wasn’t being used. You can use any air-tight small container.

Cover your workspace with plastic. I got a yard of plastic from the craft store, and used it to cover the table where I worked.

Fixing Mistakes:

As long as the paint is still wet I used a stiff-bristled brush with clean water and scrub at the paint until it disappears. It may cause some lint on cotton fabric. Use your best judgment depending on how thin or thick your fabric is.

Breaking the Silence

I have been inspired by my friends to break my silence and use this blog to document the projects I have going on.

Introducing Project #1: the Red and Black Yukata

ImageI made this yukata two years ago during a week-long 24/7 sewing binge. After using the yukata for the last couple of years, I have decided to decorate it using gold embroidery thread. The fabric I used for this yukata is heavier than the fabric usually used. This makes the embroidery a bit more difficult.

Metallic embroidery thread is difficult to work with at first because the gold metallic ribbon that wraps around the yellow thread is prone to breaking where the needle bends the thread. In order to get around this I use a piece of thread (three strands) as long as my arm, and only fold over the 3-4 inches at the end with the needle. That end will fray, but I will get the longest usable piece this way.

The embroidery is still in progress, but you can see the pattern developing below.

Image

 

Meltdown in the Middle East

This year so far the world is averaging one toppled dictator a month.

It’s hard to turn on the radio or listen to the news these days without hearing about what’s happening in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

For news and analysis try:

It’s easy to get bogged down in all the minute happening across the Middle East and Northern Africa, so this gem from The Christian Science Monitor by an editor wondering about how to spell “Gaddafi” correctly is a welcome respite.

Blog Review: Spike Japan

Japan is in the midst of a demographic nightmare. The country is getting old. According to an article in ForeignAffairs.com, in the next 5 years 25% of the Japanese population will be over 65 years old. Combined with a falling birthrate, the strain that this puts on the Japanese economy is huge.

Spike Japan is part travel diary, part research paper, and part photo journal. It is written by a British expat who lives and works in Tokyo and takes trips out into the countryside of Japan, documenting what he experiences. Posts are long, but easy to digest and always interesting.

More than just an account of his travels, each post includes background information and research about the location he is going to show you. Through his interactions with the local community and environment, he puts a human face on a national problem.

I highly recommend this blog to anybody interested in learning about the Japan that exists outside of the major urban areas and tourist haunts.