Monday, July 10, 2017

Mocha Muffins with Walnut Crumble

It's no secret I'm a coffee addict so its shouldn't surprise you to know that I also love to add coffee to my baking. Morning or afternoon teas are a major coffee hit for me when I make a batch of these delicious Mocha Muffins with Walnut Crumble:
These muffins are seriously good people, I mean whats not to love? Coffee, chocolate and walnuts are a match made in heaven right? :) and for this coffee lover, they satisfy my insane caffeine cravings. The muffins are super soft and light and very quick to make. I'm a little heavy handed with the coffee so adjust the strength of yours, to suit. I make a relatively strong brew (2-3 heaped teaspoons to 3/4 cup boiling water) but less coffee still gives the muffins a lovely hint of flavour, so play around with the strength of yours.
The walnut crumble adds that little something special. I make my crumble base in the processor (plain flour, butter and demerara sugar), sprinkle it on top of the muffin batter and then I add the roughly chopped walnuts so they retain their texture. You could put the walnuts in the processor with the crumble ingredients for a finer crumble but I like to see my walnuts and crunch on them while I eat the muffin.
I bake my Mocha Muffins in the cafe style muffin wrappers as they make a larger muffin and they look more coffee shop professional. Using my recipe you will yield nine muffins in the large wrappers or 12-15 in the normal patty pan liners. Don't worry if you can't source the cafe style muffin wrappers, they are super easy to make yourself if you have a roll of baking paper.
Making your own Cafe Style Muffin Wrappers: Cut squares of baking paper about 6" square. Centre each square over the base of a glass about the same size as your muffin tin hole and mould and shape around the glass to make your wrapper. Quick and easy and no origami skills required :)
I think the secret ingredient to a good muffin is cream. The cream makes them moist and fluffy and it adds a richness to the muffin. They are best if eaten on the day they are baked as they do tend to dry out a bit after that; another reason I like to make them bigger and less of them.
They are also filled with dark chocolate chips which is a nice surprise and adds another level of flavour. I use chocolate chips but roughly cut or grated dark chocolate works just as well. They also have a lovely hint of cinnamon which is always welcome.
If your not a coffee lover then these muffins are not for you and seriously, we can no longer be friends I'm afraid..... just kidding ;) I'm the only coffee lover in our house, so when I make a batch of these, they are all mine which is rare because usually I bake and everyone else enjoys the fruits of my labour :)
If you would like to make your own Mocha Muffins with Walnut Crumble you can download my recipe HERE or right click on the photo below and save to your computer for later:
I hope you like this muffin recipe. Have a play around with the strength of your coffee and make sure its to your own tastes. I'm on a constant roller coaster of trying to give up coffee and I can be successful for weeks but then I succumb. Life is too short to go without what makes you happy and a batch of these bring a smile to my face every time :)
Happy baking :)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

How To Read A Crochet Chart

I spend way too much time on Pinterest looking at crochet patterns because just like quilters, the crocheting community generously share some amazing free patterns. Unfortunately there are times when I find a beautiful pattern and after opening the links I'm faced with a chart! Ekkk these charts look scary! Written patterns pose no problems but one of these little guys has me freaking out:
The majority of charts are shared on forums or on inspiration boards and there's no direct link to a photo or the designer's website, so your flying (or crocheting) blind. The pattern is easy enough to see but those symbols look like a foreign language and what stitches do you use?
I hate not knowing how to do something so I decided to learn how to read a crochet chart. I'm sharing all of my research/tips etc. here so you can learn as well and we can refer back to them when needed. (I will credit all sources and give direct links to tutorials/charts and patterns etc., if they are available)
{picture source- Dabbles and Babbles}
My first task was deciphering those symbols, which I have since learnt are universal symbols (YAY) and are meant to be a crude representation of the actual stitches. I looked at lots of charts and the one above is the most useful, I think. It gives you a clear guide to each symbol and which stitch/direction it represents. The bonus is, its in both US and UK terms so as I crochet in US terms this chart is also a quick reference guide for me when translating UK patterns.
Go over and visit the lovely Jamey at Dabbles and Babbles HERE and download yourself a copy.  I printed and laminated mine and I keep it next to me as I crochet.
Once you have identified your stitches, the only other thing you need to determine is the start and finish point of each row, so lets have a look at a chart for a simple four row granny square:
Ok so looking at the stitches, first you can easily identify that the square is crocheted using DC and SC (US terms) stitches; each DC group contains 3 DC and each corner contains 2 SC stitches. There is a four chain centre or use a magic circle (my preference). The start of each row is numbered 1-4 and requires a 3 chain as your first DC.  The finishing point of each row is marked with the solid dot representing a slip stitch.
TIP: each row starts at the corner. I slip stitched to that corner because I used one colour yarn but if you are using different colours, cut and tie off yarn and restart where indicated in your next colour choice.
{pattern source- Simply Crochet Magazine}
And here's how it looks crocheted up. Most people are familiar with a basic granny square so in these pictures you can clearly see my crocheted stitches and how they are represented on the chart.
Ok, lets look at something a little more challenging:
{pattern source- forum, no designer credited}
In this example you can also clearly identify the DC, SC and chain stitches.  Look for the row numbers 1-5 to identify the start of each row and also the solid dots for the end of each row. Rows 1 and 5 begin with a 3 chain as the first DC and rows 2-4 begin with a 1 chain before the first SC.
I found this chart easy to follow, just lots of counting and it crocheted up quickly.
Let's look at just one more:
{pattern source- forum, no designer credited}
This one looks a little more complicated but again once the stitches and the finishing and starting points are identified, you're good to go. This square is crocheted with a combination of TR's, DC's, SC's and chain stitches. My only advice is to pay close attention to working the stitches as they appear on the chart so you don't miss any of the little chain stitches or the starting chains.
So there you have it! I crocheted all three squares using a chart only and I'm pretty proud of myself :)
Being able to decipher these charts is going to be very useful for me and open up a whole other world of crochet. With more practice, I'll be ready to tackle some of the more detailed ones but it wasn't as scary as I first thought.
I hope I have explained it clearly for you but if not, there is lots of other help available. Start with this great post from Red Heart, HERE. It goes into much more detail and was a great starting point for my research.
There's also a great You Tube video HERE if you are looking for a more visual and hands on explanation. The only other advice I can give you is, just give it a try! Start with something simple or something your familiar with and hone your skills as you learn.
Now when I find a lovely pattern and one of these charts pop up, I won't freak out and I'll be able to decipher the symbols and give it a try. I hope all of this information helps you and if you have any of your own tips don't be shy, add them in the comments because they may help someone else, me included :)
Happy crocheting :)
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