Check back often - coming soon to a blog near you -
tutorials on the following plus more !
FRUGAL CANDLE MAKING
Here is a tutorial of how I make my own candles.
They are 'not' for decorative purposes, as you will see, I make them for one purpose only, and that is to provide warmth in the cold months. Several of these candles grouped together really do give off a lot of heat and light up the room.
yes, I know it looks messy, but bear with me.
You won't find instructions on how to add colourings, perfumed oils, fancy moulds or decorations etc., here, I think that is unneccessary for this purpose.
If you want to find out how to do that, there are enough candle making books in Amazon.
So here are my no frills, basic, almost zero cost candles.
First of all I 'never' buy solid candle wax to melt down to remake into candles - never ! this is an expensive mistake.
I 'collect' all candle ends (from candles I have previously made) from friends and relatives (who are used to my scrounging ways), and I also buy candles from boot sales, sometimes even half used ones for a few pennies, it will help to save money in the long run.
Here is your basic 'raw material'
The other items you will need are :
A very expensive top of the range pan - (10p from boot sale)
A large empty tin can (used for caviar)
A piece of old towelling cut from the very best towel you can afford (for holding tin can)
A screwdriver (only the best)
A small hammer (actually I use some heavy pliers)
An old spoon and a knife
Some wooden skewers broken into three pieces or cocktail sticks could do
And a collection of top of the range, designer candle moulds (I use empty cat food tins)
Place your candle wax 'scroungings' into the empty tin can
Place your pan on the heat, then add your tin can three quarters filled with old candle wax, then half fill with boiling water
You will see that I have protected the top of the cooker with layers of newspaper, you can use foil if you want but why to to any expense ? It goes without saying that you should never leave a pan of hot candle wax/boiling water unattended if you have toddlers, pets or an idiot living in the house.
While the wax is melting, prepare the wicks. Don't use a wick that is too thin, this is the main reason for candles 'pooling' and not lasting long. Again there are many schools of thought about wicks, but the one I use is for 1.3/4" - 2" diameter candles and I get it from Ebay. I've had no problem with this, it burns evenly and gives a good sized flame which in turn gives out heat. Also have ready, wooden skewers broken into three pieces or cocktail sticks. You can have the skewers broken in half if you prefer.
Now for your state of the art moulds - as you can see, I use empty cat food tins. The tiny single portion ones (because the cats love it and it's cheap from the £1 shops right now) so I'm also recycling the tins.
Make sure you've washed them out and dried them well. Fish scented candles are not to be recommended.
Measure how much wick you want (not easy to photograph this whilst holding the camera) Don't get a tape measure - it's not rocket science. Don't leave as much as I am holding at the top here, that's far too much waste, I'm just doing that to demonstrate the process. You need enough to tie a small knot at one end and about half an inch sticking up from the top of the tin.
Now this is where my method deviates totally from anything you will read in books, so please remember, this is how 'I' do it, I'm not telling you to do it this way.
I also don't use those fiddly little metal 'weight' thingies - they float about too much and the wick doesn't get centralised enough.
Don't forget the wax in the pan, it will have melted by now, so top it up with more. Also the water will need to be topped up regularly.
Get your high tech tools at the ready
Turn the tins upside down, and knock a hole through the bottom of each one using a small hammer, pliers or something similar - again difficult to photograph as I only have two hands !
Thread the wick through the bottom of each can so the knot holds it in place.
Like so .............
At this point if you feel eyes on you - it'll be the the cat who is fed up of waiting for her lunch !
Now, be careful with this step, spoon out a little of the melted wax into a solid gold dish (only solid gold will do you understand) wait until it's almost set, about the consistency of thick custard, then spread a little on to the base of each tin, thereby creating a 'seal' over the knot. (by the way, don't try this with thick custard, it doesn't work) The
This won't take long to set, while you're waiting, just make sure all your
so we'll move swiftly on then .............
Are you still awake ?
This cat isn't
Don't forget to keep checking the tin with the melted wax in, it will need topping up with chunks of wax regularly. (Almost done!)
'Almost' fill the
Take your broken sticks (remember them ?) and just lay one across each
The 'candles' will settle a little, so assuming you have some melted wax left, which you should have if you've been topping up the tin regularly, just top up each
Another reminder: don't leave these unattended whilst setting if you have toddlers, pets or a resident idiot in your home. (if you have the latter, you have my sympathy!)
The sticks will peel away very easily when the candles are completely set, ready to use again. Don't cut the wicks away too short when you trim them, better to have them a little longer than needed than too short. If you cut them too short, your candle will be worthless and you'll have to start again !
And in true Blue Peter fashion - here are some I mader earlier ! The wax I used was mostly cream or white, but at the last minute I added a few red/pink 'ends' which changed the colour of the whole batch ! no probs - they're not for decoration - remember ? I don't turn them out or place them in other moulds/dishes or on fancy stands, I light them in the tins - so very chic darling !!!
Now just in case you are thinking how messy this is, it isn't really, all the mess is caught on the newspaper, here is the 'really and truly' picture of the top of the cooker after I'd just removed the paper from this session !
So now just in case you are thinking something else - like - 'well do they really work ?' here is a picture of some err 'working'
I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial, there will be more to come as soon as I get time. If you do give these a go, please remember don't leave hot wax, boiling water, sharp sticks, or cooling candles anywhere near toddlers or pets. (or idiots)
take care peeps ...................
SLOW COOKER BREAD
I've been asked how I make bread in a slow cooker (crockpot) by a few people, so I'm giving some instructions here.
Now, be warned, if you are one of those people who have got breadmaking down to a fine art, a veritable science - then look away now ! you are not going to like this.
OK so now we've weeded out those of a nervous disposition, I'll continue :
This is real bread, bread you can chew, bread you can taste,
bread you can sole your shoes with, good wholesome stuff. Desperate Dan would have had a slice of this bread with his cow pie, not for him (or me) the airy fairy polystyrene stuff that passes as the 'staff of life' these days, full of holes but empty on flavour.
I really can't be bothered with all that pummelling, beating, bashing and kneading etc., I don't have the time, patience or inclination, nor do I want to have to keep on cleaning my worktop after each pummelling session, I have other, more important/interesting things to do.
So if you're like me - then read on ................
This is what you are aiming for :
Take two mugs of your chosen flour (forget expensive breadmaking flour, this recipe works equally well with own brand flours) the idea is to do it on the cheap as well as have a loaf without additives/presertives, and if you buy expensive flour, you're defeating the object somewhat.
Add threequarters of a sachet of dried yeast - again own brand works just as well as Allinsons -
Add a good teaspoon of salt, I don't have a problem with this as I don't use salt in my everyday cooking anyway, and it really helps the flavour of the bread come through.
Take one mug of tepid water (if you have a Mr Man mug, then use that, it improves the finished loaf) I pour threequarters of the water straight in and mix it up, then use your common sense with the rest of the water, i.e. if it's too dry trickle some more in, a little at a time, if you do put too much in, don't go and slash your wrists, just add more flour.
Now LEAVE IT IN THE BOWL - no 'need' (excuse the pun) to mess up your worktop with more flour, punch it about a bit, forget the stretching, kneading, folding palarva - this is me punching it about a bit with my right hand whilst trying to photograph it with my left hand.
Now as all the best cook books say 'leave in a warm place to double in size' right, so after I've picked myself up off the floor laughing, I realise I have to come up with an alternative as there isn't a warm place in this house 'cos I can't afford to have the heating on (I did consider the cats heated bed, but Sopicat wouldn't move out) - there's gratitude for you !
so I came up with this: Switch on the slow cooker, on low setting, and place a cooling rack on top
Then place layers of tea-towels on top (green themed ones always work best)
Then place the bowl with the punched up dough on top and leave to rise. The residual heat also takes the 'chill' off the kitchen, and it's not unusual to see the cats sitting around the slow cooker taking advantage of this heat whilst toasting themselves a little bread.
OK, so here is where you have to use a little common sense/observation, you can leave this (in my experience) for about two hours to do it's stuff, then check on it, 'cos even though the heat is minimum and it's being filtered through the tea towels it will still start 'cooking' the dough if you leave it too long.
So when you think it's doubled, sprinkle some more flour on it and punch it about some more - see prevous PIA picture (punch it about) then place it in a greased dish that will fit the slow cooker, (preferably one that you got from the boot sale the day before for 20p) this should have a little flour sprinkled over it to stop it sticking but I forgot to photograph that stage.
I sometimes add some 'sprinkles' I have a large jar of them which I get from Sainsburys when they are reduced, a mix of sunflower seeds, pumpkin, poppy and sesame, press them into the dough or they will only fall off when you come to slice the bread. I've also added oats - but remember to reduce the flour accordingly - and herbs/spices etc.,
Then place it on top of the rack again until it's risen a bit more - the good thing is you've got to this stage and only have one bowl to wash and no messy work top !
Then place it in the cooker and put on the lid until cooked.
A word about the heat settings, if you leave it on 'low' setting it will cook perfectly well but will take longer of course and will produce a 'soft crust loaf' but if you cook it on 'high' setting you will get more of a traditional crust, which I prefer. It's a matter of personal choice at this stage.
It does take hours as you would expect from this method of cooking, please don't be tempted to check on 'done-ness' too often as you will only be releasing the built up heat every time you remove the lid, when you do check, use the traditional method of sticking a knife in the middle, I would say don't bother for at least 2 1/2 hours, I just leave mine to 'get on with it' for at least 4 hours 'cos thats what works for me. So go and do the shopping/housework/read a book/blog/go to work if you like, you don't have to sit and watch it (unless you are a very sad person)
NOTE: as with all home made breads, this won't last long as it doesn't contain any preservatives/additives so as this is enough for three days for me, I cut it into 3, leave two in the bread bin wrapped in foil and put the third piece in the freezer.
This is a very filling bread, one slice of this with a poached egg on top will set you up for the day. So I hope you give it a try 'cos it's taken me ages to do this tutorial ! and it's easy, healthy and 'very' cheap.
take care peeps ...............