Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Rest of the Metals, And Then Some Therapy...

Here’s the last of the metals from this spring...

These are two separate Parkland Student Art Show entries; the necklace and earring are from this year’s show, the pin is from last year.  I made the pin last spring, with the intent of making earrings and a chain of leaves and pearls at some future date, when I had more metal and some definite design onto the back burner.  Well, last summer I lucked out at a garage sale and cleared about 20+ ounces of Sterling (plus some tools and gem rough) for $20 from some people who had no idea what they were selling (sterling was around $14/oz at the time, so it was worth over $300 for the metal alone).  This really freed me from the materials standpoint this past semester, and let me play.  After much thought, this spring I decided to ditch my original leaf-chain idea in favor of a simple chain with a massive leafy focal point.  While I was finishing the two branch forms I was thinking about how I was going to put them together after casting, (they were too big to fit in one casting flask joined) when I realized that this piece needed a central stone, which the branches would then frame.  After rooting around in my rock box, I found that one of the wild horse jaspers I had was the perfect shape, and had very appropriate voila!

This piece is an extension of an idea- from the single magnolia pin I did earlier in the semester.  This piece was commissioned by someone who wanted a larger pin with multiple flowers, but in the same spirit as the earlier pin.

This last piece is my final stone-setting sample project with Robert- channel setting.  Having done this little toy, I now have several ideas for elaborate ribbon patterned pins and necklaces to be done in the future- with lots of cubic zirconia!  The rocks in this are as follows: the main stone is a green amethyst, the smaller channel set ones are simulated alexandrite.

As my friend Jo Zalea has pointed out many times, baking is very therapeutic.  (Her strand convenor at Durham U. asks questions about her mental state whenever she brings in goodies!) My personal favorite form of baking therapy is scones, though other quick breads will do in a pinch. Here is my all-time favorite scone recipe, White Chocolate Apricot Walnut Scones, followed by Thursday’s baking experiment.

White Chocolate Apricot Walnut Scones

2 C. Flour

3 Tbs. Sugar

2 Tsp. Baking Powder

Pinch of Salt

4 Tbs. Cold Butter

8 oz. White Chocolate, coarsely chopped (Moonstruck Chocolatier’s white chocolate is best, Baker’s is acceptable- you need one with a stronger flavor than Ghirardelli or any of the chips commonly available, which are too sugary.)

14 Dried Apricots, coarsely chopped

½ C. Walnuts, chopped

1 Egg

6 oz. tub Brown Cow Cream-Top Vanilla Yogurt  (If you can’t get Brown Cow, which is less acidic than other brands, at least be sure to get a whole milk vanilla yogurt: the cream provides some of the fat in the recipe, and the vanilla adds flavor.)

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.  Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a bowl, then cut or rub in the butter until like oatmeal.  Mix in the white chocolate, apricots and walnuts.  Make a well in the center and beat together the egg and the yogurt before stirring in the dry ingredients, blending everything just shy of mixed. (Add a little milk or cream if the dough seems too dry, you want to be able to handle it without it being sticky, but it shouldn’t be crumbly.) Turn the dough out on the counter and knead very briefly, just to finish mixing and even the consistency. Shape into a 9” disk, and then cut with a sharp knife into eight wedges.  Place the scones 1’’ apart on a cookie sheet covered with baking parchment and put in the hot oven to bake for 15-20 minutes, or until set and just browning.  Makes 8.

Almond Cornbread

This is a standard cornbread with a whisper of sweetness and almond flavor, good with tea or breakfast.  If you like things sweet, then double the sugar; if you like things richer, then double the butter; if you like things decadent, then do both...and take up jogging.  I make my own millet flour and grind the almonds with my handy-dandy coffee mill, which is reserved for everything but coffee.

I C. Millet Flour

¾ C. Fine-Grind Cornmeal

¼ C. (Chinese) Dried Almonds, ground (I found these at Am-Ko, one of the oriental groceries here in C-U.  They’re sold blanched, are about the size and shape of the fingernail on your index finger, are more brittle than regular almonds, and taste like the almond flavor in the almond cookies you get at Chinese restaurants.)

2 Tsp. Baking Powder

Pinch of Salt

¼ C. Sugar

1/8 Tsp. Almond Extract

3 Eggs

3 Tbs Butter, melted

1/3 C. Milk

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F, and butter a 9” pie pan, or a standard loaf pan.  In a bowl, combine thoroughly the millet flour, cornmeal, ground almonds, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Make a well in the center, and beat together the eggs and milk, and then drizzle in the melted butter while continuing to beat.  Once the liquids are well blended, quickly mix in the dry ingredients until just smooth.  Pour the batter into the buttered pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until set and just browning.  Once you remove the pan from the oven, flip it over and set it on the counter to cool for 10-15 minutes, keeping it elevated by setting the rim on two other pots, or do as I did, and use two butter knives.  The idea is to allow the bread to retain some of the moisture that would otherwise be let off as steam, not to mention that this steaming action further softens the cornmeal, and helps to loosen the bread from the pan for easier removal when serving.

This I what I'll be doing for my studio time for the rest of the day... glazing!


  1. Sarah, those jewelry pieces are gorgeous. Someday, when I have enough money, I'll commission a necklace like that from you. :)

    Baking IS therapeutic! And I haven't brought in any baked goods lately, so ha! Although I'm definitely filing yours away for later. I'm actually on a homemade ice cream kick...that is, I will be if the stupid machine ever arrives...

  2. Love the magnolia pin and the necklace parure set. I love jewelry designs based on botanicals. No better inspiration than mother nature. Annette