(Giant) Skillet Brownie

Best ever skillet brownie (click through for recipe)  I was just thinking the other day, "I don't make brownies nearly as much as I should." I feel like I've been neglecting this dessert group. And as a massive chocolate-lover, I have no good excuse. I mean, brownies are awesome! If you bake much at all, then you probably already have all the ingredients you'll need. Also it takes minimal dirtying of dishes as well as baking skills to make brownies. 

Can you stir? Good, then you can totally make brownies.

Best ever skillet brownie (click through for recipe) What's fun about this particular recipe is it's the perfect amount of batter to bake in a twelve inch cast-iron skillet. You've probably noticed that I use my cast iron skillet a lot. It's one of my most beloved kitchen items. Honestly, it reminds me of great-grandma, Lula. She was from Oklahoma and a definite foodie. Her style was very good-ol'-country-cookin' and I think our tastes very much align. :) Anyway, she was a cast-iron gal too, so I'm just following in her footsteps. 

Enough about (awesome) grandmas, let's bake some brownies.

Brownie batter(Giant) Skillet Brownie, makes one for a 12 inch cast iron*

1 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup softened butter
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
7-8 oz. dark chocolate, melted
1/2 cup peanut butter chips (optional)

*If you do not have a 12 inch cast-iron skillet, you could bake these in a 10 1/2" x 7 1/2" baking dish. The bake time may vary by a few minutes, so watch it towards the end. I also tried baking this in a 13" x 9" baking dish, and I felt it turned out too thin and didn't bake through before getting too crispy at the edges. Just FYI.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

How to bake a brownie in a cast iron skilletIn another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Now combine the flour mixture, the butter mixture, and melted chocolate in one bowl, and stir until just combined. Be sure to let the melted chocolate cool some before adding as super hot chocolate could begin to cook the raw eggs and make your batter lumpy (in a bad way).

Spoon the batter into a well-buttered cast-iron skillet. Top with peanut butter chips if using. Bake at 350°F for 32-35 minutes. If you like your brownie more gooey at the center, remove after 32 minutes. If you like it soft but baked through, then bake at the full 35 minutes. Test the center with a toothpick as oven temperatures and cook times can vary.

Best ever skillet brownie (click through for recipe)    Mmm... brownies. (Insert sound of drool.)

Best ever skillet brownie (click through for recipe)Serve with ice cream and/or a tall glass of milk. Enjoy! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

ABM Book Club Selection: November

Not that kind of girl book  Guys, I am stoked to announce what the ABM Book Club will be reading in November. Drum roll, please. Hurry up and pick up your copy of Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. I have heard so many good things about this book and I cannot wait to dive into it next month with you! Also, I (Emma) will be back moderating.

Don't forget that on Oct 31st we will be discussing this month's book, The Great Gatsby, with Elise from Enjoy It. Whether you read the book with us this month or read it years ago, feel free to chime in on the discussion. xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photo edited with A Beatuiful Mess actions.

Woodland Creatures Felt Masks

DoneshotOctober is here again and I'm sure some of you are trying to figure out that perfect costume for trick-or-treating. My children look forward to Halloween every year because we always put together a story with our Halloween costumes.

Last year, we did our own take on "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," and we tweak and twist our story depending on what the girls want to be. My oldest daughter, True, wanted to be a detective, so we had to put a detective in the story. One of my other favorites was when my girls were a barbershop quartet together. They looked so cute! Anyway, we have this year planned already, but in case you don’t, maybe you would consider making these woodland creatures masks made from felt. Make one, two, or all three! 

- masks templates (bearfoxand owl)
- 1/4 yard of felt fabric (per mask)
- additional smaller scraps of felt fabric
- scissors
- 10" - 13" long piece of 1/4" braided elastic (per mask)
- embroidery floss in coordinating colors
- embroidery needle
- straight pins

OpenshotStep One: Choose the creature you would like to make (or all of them), and use the template to cut out all the pattern pieces from your felt fabric. Cut out each layer onto the felt color of your choice. The best way to cut out the pieces is to pin each pattern piece on top of the felt, and then proceed to cut out each piece. Don’t forget to cut out the eyes on the front and back felt mask pieces. 

OpenshotOpenshotStep Two: On the front mask piece, assemble the layers for that particular creature and pin in place. With your needle and embroidery floss, stitch each piece on using a running stitch.

OpenshotOpenshotStepfourbStep Three: Measure your elastic to be sure it will fit around the head snugly. For a child, about a 10” - 11” long piece of elastic should be sufficient, or a 12”-13” piece will do for an adult. Place the front mask piece onto the back felt piece (face layers facing up) and line up the edges. Between the front and back mask pieces, insert ½” of each elastic end in its designated locations (see template for placement) and pin in place. Join the front and back pieces together by stitching around the entire perimeter using a running stitch. After you have sewn around the perimeter, sew around the eye openings.

DSC_0032 copyYou can make your masks as colorful as you want, or you can stick to the tried and true colors of the animal. We opted for colorful, but if you’re child (or you) doesn’t want a light blue fox, well, brown or orange felt it is! Craft stores sell paper size craft felt sheets, which would work for the masks, or you can buy yardage of wool felt at the fabric store (you'll have plenty of leftovers), and both would yield similar results.

If you don’t have the time to hand sew the masks, you could easily put the masks together with a sewing machine by sewing each layer down. It would definitely take less time, but I do like the extra pop the hand embroidery gives. Also, if you want to go really fast, just get some fabric glue and glue each layer on to put together the masks. 

OpenshotEndshotI also share how to make a woodland gnome costume, so these masks would be perfectly paired with that. Besides Halloween, these masks would also make a cute gift set for a child, and you could even pair it with this book by the lovely Emily Martin. I think the two would make an extra sweet gift, don't you think? –Rubyellen 

Credits // Author and photography: Rubyellen Bratcher. Photos edited with Imogen of the Folk Collection

Homemade Candy: Salted Butter Caramels

Homemade caramels (click through for recipe)The holidays are just around the corner. But before they start to sneak up on us in full force, I vote we all take some time this month to make some homemade candy. In collaboration with Chronicle Books to promote Rachel Khoo's new cookbook, I made these amazing salted butter caramels! 

Did you know that making your own caramels is super easy? It is. Honestly. The only real trick to it is that you'll likely want a candy thermometer. I resisted buying a candy thermometer the first few years I got into cooking. But finally, I took the plunge, and you know what? It has turned out to be one of my more used kitchen items. Go figure. 

But, if you are still resisting the ol' candy thermometer, good news, you can still make caramel. 

Homemade caramels (click through for recipe)  These are not your average caramels. Oh no. These are salted butter caramels from My Little French Kitchen. Did you know that Rachel Khoo has another cookbook out!? I loved her last one, so I was super excited to check this one out as well. And if you like French cooking and beautiful photos, then you'll love this cookbook. You can see my copy in the photo below, and it's pretty full of Post-it notes already. To me, if I immediately start filling up a cookbook with Post-its (on pages of things I want to cook), that's a very good sign.

OK, let's make caramels (or caramel sauce... you'll see).

How to make homemade caramel  Salted Butter Caramels, 3/4 cup sauce or 15-20 caramels (depending how large or small you cut them).
Recipe from My Little French Kitchen by Rachel Khoo.

3/4 cup sugar
7 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more for the top is you wish)

Place half of the sugar plus 2 tablespoons of water in a medium saucepan or pot. Cook over medium/high heat until the sugar dissolves, begins to bubble then turns a deep amber brown. This may take 5-7 minutes depending on how hot you have your temperature turned to. It's best just to keep an eye on it so it doesn't get too dark or burnt. 

Once it turns that deep amber brown, remove from the heat and add in the remaining ingredients. Be careful as you do because the mixture may bubble up or spit at you (how rude!). 

How to make homemade caramelOnce you've added all the ingredients, return the pot to the heat source and add your candy thermometer. 

Now, if you want to simply make caramel sauce, you don't really need a thermometer. Just cook over medium heat for an additional 3-4 minutes. If you want to make caramel candies (like I did), you'll want to cook the mixture until it reaches 260°F or "hard ball" stage. 

How to make homemade caramel Once the mixture reaches 260°F, remove from heat and pour into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle on a little more salt (course grain sea salt is best) if you desire. 

Allow the caramel to cool for at least an hour before you cut it into smaller pieces and wrap in parchment paper.

Homemade caramels (click through for recipe) Easy, right? Another excellent use for this recipe might be to dip apples in the hot, liquid caramel, then allow that it set for 30 minutes to an hour. Caramel apples? Yes, please! Enjoy. xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.


Storage Coffee Table with Acrylic Top

Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                   We needed a coffee table for the office's front room, and it was up to me to design and make one, which I was more than happy to do! This table has all the components I love in a project: it involved material I never worked with before (a clear acrylic sheet), geometric shapes, and compartmentalized storage. I wanted it to have an organic, found-material vibe, accented with the sharpness of the acrylic and triangular legs. I stressed tight and sharp angles while letting the sander wear down the layers of plywood in some areas. I left measurement ticks and marks unerased – I wanted the process of the build to be a part of (and apparent in) the finished piece. This coffee table is one of my favorite things I've ever made.  Let me show you how I did it. 

-3/4" hardwood plywood (I actually used a couple different types of material I had lying around the shop to get the look I wanted. I used poplar hardwood, plain ol' sheathing plywood, some pine board, and 1/8" ply for the bottom.)
-clear acrylic sheet (The piece I used was about 3/8" thick, which was perfect.) 
-wood screws
-3/8" dowel rod, pine
-wood glue

-table saw
-miter saw
-Kreg pocket hole jig
-utility knife

Coffee table with acrylic top - sketches(click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Step One: Since I was building this thing from an idea, I made some sketches with rough dimensions. Once I had a good idea of the direction I wanted to head, I just went for it. I ripped some 1.5" pieces from a poplar plywood sheet and started forming the legs from those. Check out the diagram to see the dimension and angles I used. I pocket-hole screwed the pieces to each other. Once I had the pieces glued and screwed, I glued in 2" pieces of 3/8" dowel, which I trimmed off and sanded after the glue dried.

Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)
Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Step Two: After I had the legs built, it was time to create the braces. At this point, several components had to be taken into consideration. The braces for the legs were also going to serve as the ends of the box, which was going to house the compartments, and which the acyclic sheet would rest on top of (with a lip, so it would be flush with the outer wall). Check out the diagram if none of this makes sense. I basically designed the table around the dimension of the sheet I had to avoid cutting it, plus is was a good size and fit the space perfectly. So the brace was made from two pieces of ply. I traced the legs where I wanted them to fit and cut them so that the legs could notch in snugly. 

Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Step Three: After the sides/leg support pieces are made, it was just a matter of building them into a simple box, nailing on the bottom plywood, and adding some pieces in to create the compartments. I decided to paint the box before adding the legs since I was planning to just put poly on the legs.

Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Coffee table with acrylic top - clamping legs (click to learn more)          .Coffee table with acrylic top -making legs (click to learn more)Step Four: After the paint dried, it was time to attach the legs. Since the legs and connecting wall were 3/4" thick, I cut eight 1.25" dowels. I measured to find the center and drilled two equidistant 3/8" holes on either side. (I put tape on the bit at 1.25" so I wouldn't drill through.) Once I had all four holes drilled, I removed the legs and applied wood glue. Then I put the legs back on, tapped the dowels in, clamped everything together, and waited for the glue to dry. Once both legs were on and the glue was dry, I sanded down the dowels so they were flush. Then I flipped the table and put a couple coats of poly on, except for any surface that the acrylic would come into contact with. I wasn't sure if it would stick.

The acrylic fit like a glove. One important, no-brainer note: I forgot to make the box square the first time and the acrylic, of course, didn't fit. Fortunately, my brain kicked into gear before I got too far (only had to remove the bottom ply) and I employed the square. Easy fix, but could have been avoided. I built the table to fit the acrylic sheet so I didn't have to cut it, but that stuff is pretty easy to trim down. You basically just score it with a razor blade or acrylic cutter against a straight edge, apply a bit of pressure, and it snaps nice and clean.

Using a 5/8" paddle bit, I drilled a hole into a corner of the acrylic so it could be lifted easily.

Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                       .Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                                       Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                                       Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                                       Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                                       Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)
Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                          Coffee table with acrylic top - assembly (click to learn more)                                          I'm really proud of how this coffee table turned out—it's one of my favorite projects I've made this year. Thanks for letting me share. -Josh

 Credits // Author: Joshua Rhodes. Photography: Joshua Rhodes and Janae Hardy.  Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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