Category Archives: Do It Yourself

Coffee, sweet nectar for the weary!

-Casey Klekas

My morning ritual consists of drinking two glasses of water and three pots of coffee. That’s not true; sometimes I forget to drink any water. Regardless, I’ve picked up the nasty habit of buying a new coffee appliance every few months. Long ago I resigned my automatic drip brewer to the cupboard. Now, my coffee station consists of three brewers: the French press, the Aeropress, and the Chemex. If I’m entertaining for Easter brunch, I’ll use the French press. If I want a single cup of coffee, Americano, or shot of espresso, I’ll use the Aeropress. When it’s just me and my old lady—I wanted to say “Me and the Mrs.,” but there isn’t a standard unabbreviated form for Mrs. (forgive me, dear)—I use the Chemex. The Chemex is essentially a Melitta, the little plastic cone that is often used for single cup brewing. I can’t squeeze four years of coffee experience into 500 words, so I’m devoting the next few posts to the elixir that got me through college.

The best beans in town at the most agreeable price is a pound of whole bean, house coffee from Espresso Roma. I’ve long thought Roma to be the best coffee on campus. In my opinion, the next best coffee in Eugene is either Stumptown or from the Wandering Goat. However, they price their coffee adjusted for hyperinflation, and they have too many “floral” coffees that I don’t fancy. No, the beans to buy are from Espresso Roma for eleven bucks a pound. Do not buy your coffee from Starbucks. A twelve ounce bag goes for nine clams. As Dr. Bill Nye will tell you, there are sixteen ounces in a pound, so two extra greenbacks will get you four ounces more of higher quality beans if you go with Roma.

Next, you’ll need a coffee grinder. It is best to grind your own coffee immediately before brewing. Do a taste test between a pot of coffee made with fresh ground beans and the one made with your usual choice of musty shavings. You’ll never go back.

For years I used a standard blade grinder, loud and messy though it was. If you’re a snob, like me, you should invest in a burr grinder. These do not randomly hack the beans into submission. The burr is like a pepper grinder, where two blades or abrasive metals revolve in opposite directions. This gives you an even consistency in your grind.

Why is the grinder important? There is a noticeable difference in taste and aroma between the blade grinder and the burr grinder. The burr creates less friction, meaning less heat, therefore less flavor lost in your grinder and more in your cup. Also, you will want to grind your beans according to the brewer being used. If you need a medium grind for standard drip coffee, your blade grinder will give you pieces, big and small. Those grinds will give different tastes according to their size, leaving you with an unpredictable cup of joe. The coffee bean is a sensitive seed that, should you treat it tenderly, will repay your respect by ten-fold.

If you’re not using an automatic brewer, you’ll need a kettle. I prefer electric to stove-top kettles, but this is only a matter of preference (my stove sucks).

Well, that’s all for now. My next post will include step-by-step instructions for various brewing methods. The coffee is good enough to make anyone into a coffee snob. I should warn you: it’s an expensive lifestyle. Remember, get a burr-grinder and fill it with Roma beans!

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

-Whitney Gomes

I may not have a drop of Irish blood in me, but I can sure appreciate an old Irish whiskey. I particularly relish in a glass of Jameson neat or Bushmills on the rocks. An Irish friend (and fellow whiskey enthusiast) of mine created the perfect dessert recipe for our St. Patrick’s Day dinner party: Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes—an impeccable combination of delectable chocolate Ganache-filled cupcakes, Irish whiskey, and Irish cream frosting.

[An Irish Car Bomb is a popular “bomb” or “drop” shot cocktail. To make, fill a pint glass half-full with Guinness and pour 1 part Jameson Irish Whiskey in a shot glass before floating a thin layer of Bailey’s Irish Cream on top. The idea is to drop the shot into the pint glass and begin drinking once the shot glass hits the bottom.]

Shannon Flowers, the recipe master and baker, combined her personal chocolate cake recipe with two other “Irish Car Bomb Cupcake” recipes found online. The chocolate was rich, but not too rich. The cupcake was moist, but didn’t crumble in your hands. She tweaked a couple ingredients and added her own to create what our friend Mitch deemed “a life-changing cupcake” after just one bite. He’s not alone—these cupcakes blew my mind and my taste buds. Shannon’s original recipe, which is thorough yet easy to follow, exposes novice bakers to the tricks of working with a variety of ingredients. These cupcakes were a hit at the party and one of the highlights of my St. Patrick’s Day. But it doesn’t have to be St. Patrick’s Day for you to enjoy them as well!

The Cupcakes:
1 ¼ cups Guinness stout
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose flour)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoons salt (only if using unsalted butter)
2 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

Whiskey Ganache Filling:
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3-4 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Bailey’s Frosting:
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
6-8 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream

Directions:

#1. To make the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line twenty-four cupcake cups with liners. Bring the Guinness, vanilla, and butter to a simmer in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

#2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined. Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat briefly. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners. Bake on a rack until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean—about seventeen minutes.

#3. To make the whiskey ganache filling, finely chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then, using a rubber spatula, stir it from the center outward until smooth. Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped.

#4 Fill the cupcakes: using a one-inch round cookie cutter, cut the centers of the cooled cupcakes, going about two-thirds of the way down. Transfer the ganache to a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

#5 To make the Bailey’s frosting: using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for five minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar until all of it is incorporated. Add the Bailey’s and vanilla and increase the speed to medium-high and whisk for another two-three minutes, or until it is light and fluffy.

#6 Using your favorite decorating tip, or an offset spatula, frost the cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles, if desired, and enjoy! Store the leftover cupcakes in an airtight container.

The Letterpress Revival

Do It (Again) Yourself: Episode 3

[cap]A[/cap]fter the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in the fifteenth century, letterpress printing was the primary technology used in mass communication for several centuries. Today, computers have replaced the letterpress in most areas of publication. But letterpress printing has recently seen a revival in popularity and remains part of a niche market with many independent operators doing business across the country.

The centuries-old practice is now able to blend with modern graphic design technology, creating a new appeal for a new generation of operators. Others enjoy working with their hands and interacting with physical machinery in a time where much of the work we do involves sitting in front of a screen.

Operating one of these machines is a highly developed skill that takes time and commitment. Those who have devoted themselves to this art form are able to create unique prints with a texture, a handmade feel, and a personality that cannot be found in ordinary digital printing.

Do It (Again) Yourself is a video series about people making things they used to buy and people making things that most people don’t anymore.

Fashion Redux

Do It (Again) Yourself: Episode 2

[cap]H[/cap]ave you ever thrown out your favorite item of clothing because of a missing button? Did you even consider to fix it yourself? Don’t feel bad if those thoughts never passed through your head. It’s doubtful that such proactive thoughts occur to many Americans. Though sewing seems to be nearly extinct in the United States, a thriving independent fashion designer scene in Eugene suggests this useful art form is not dead.

Redoux Parlour, Deluxe, and Kitsch are three popular locally-owned vintage and resale clothing stores. Redoux Parlour, owned by Laura Lee Laroux, features in-house studio spaces where designers work while customers browse through intact designs. Deluxe and Kitsch are both owned by Mitra Chester and offer the work of local designers between their postmodern walls. The three shops combine creative forces and organizational abilities once a year to put on a fashion show for local designers to realize and share their artistic vision with the community. This year the theme of the show was “Carnival of Couture: Parade of the Custom Made,” and was held at the Lane County Fairgrounds Expo Halls on Saturday, April 24.

The local designers that frequent Redoux Parlour, Deluxe, and Kitsch all have something in common; they express themselves through the clothes and styles they create.

Chester grew up in an environment saturated with creativity in Boulder, Colorado, but attributes her interest in fashion to her sophomore year in college. While studying abroad in Jerusalem, Israel she landed her first job in resale, which she’s been doing ever since. For Chester, fashion has never just been about looking good. Instead it’s been a series of experiments, something to provoke thought, and a tool to gain insight into the people around her.

“People are so dependent on the image of a person, it’s the first thing you’ll know about someone,” she explains. This sentiment rings true in a variety of situations. Think about mornings spent looking for the perfect outfit to wear to a job interview, a punk rock show, or your grandma’s house, and how important it feels to be dressed appropriately for the situation. Mitra experimented with this idea and discovered she was more accepted at a coffee shop in New Orleans when she dressed the same as regulars rather than as herself.

Fashion is frequently brushed off in society as something nonessential- a frivolous and unnecessary expenditure. But it’s our first impression of strangers.  We make conclusions about their personality based on appearance. Fashion is much more important than it is given credit for. However, while fashion does play a vital role in how we perceive each other, it should still be something we can have fun with.

Laroux shares a similar delight to Chester about playing with her image, “Fashion is really important as a way for people to express themselves, but it’s also fun acting,” says Laroux. “Knowing how to play to the crowd is important, job-hunting is a good example of that. You need to have consideration for how you’re representing yourself.”

While image and first impressions seem to be a common theme among designers in Eugene, redesign and the use of recycled materials are also important concepts. Chester and Laroux have expressed a love of redesign, which is the idea of taking something old and breathing new life into it. Carly Brynelson, a local designer, redesigns clothing and says her favorite aspect of starting a new piece is treasure hunting for materials, “I see Goodwill the same way an artist sees a craft store, I can go in there and find what I need.”

This fascination with thrift stores as supply stores is not Brynelson’s alone. Local designer Allie Ditson enjoys shopping at thrift stores because she’s able to buy and alter clothing that truly expresses who she is for a cheaper price.

“I save so much money shopping at thrift stores and redesigning what I buy there,” she says.  Using recycled materials not only saves Ditson money in her own wardrobe, but also keeps old thrift store clothes from filling a landfill for a little bit longer. Marketing her designs as what they are, recycled materials, also helps her personal design sales.

Laroux, who shares Ditson’s love of sustainability, thinks fabrics have their own spirit, and she attempts to reincarnate them by reusing materials. “It’s really important to me to use recycled materials and sometimes I can even let the fabric decide what it’ll be on its own, based on the texture and the way it hangs when I’m draping, it will just become more apparent to me what that fabric needs to be,” she says.

While sustainability and identity are both important aspects of do-it-yourself fashion in Eugene, the designers made it clear self-expression is the most important. Fashion is an art form and as Chester put it, it’s “what they’re inspired to do.”

Fruits of Labor: Blackberry Wine Making in Eugene

Do It (Again) Yourself: Episode 1

[cap]O[/cap]f all the things that flourish during the spring and summer in Eugene, one of the most abundant is the blackberry. Oregon, the number one blackberry producer in the world, has long been overtaken by the invasive Rubus armeniacus. Their vines snake around the city’s bike paths, devouring fences and trees. Tagged as a troublemaker, the Himalayan Blackberry has been classified as the third largest threat to native plants in Oregon (just behind land development), and seldom do people see the bushes as anything more than a nuisance. But the summer heat and the fresh water of the Willamette River provide an opportunity to harvest and create delicious products from the berries.

With a sweet tang and mellow flavor, blackberry wine is one such tasty product. The wine is delicious and pungent if done right, and each bottle contains between 12 and 15 percent alcohol. Becoming a seasoned winemaker takes time, experimentation, and failure, but the process is simple and anyone can do it. This video is a crash course on how to make your own blackberry wine.

For more information or to take a class on blackberry winemaking, visit Public Harvest’s website at www.publicharvest.org.

Do It (Again) Yourself is a video series about people making things they used to buy and people making things that most people don’t anymore.