Silent Night – Single Release, and YouTube Video!

 

Every year on my YouTube Channel I have a little celebration of Christmas by doing 2 to 3 Christmas covers every year.  I usually use a backtrack for this, but this year I felt like doing something a bit different, but not out of my comfort zone and did 2 a cappella arrangements of two of my favorite Christmas Carols.  What I did do that was out of my comfort zone however, was release both tracks for purchase on music stores!  It was a goal of mine to release music for purchase this year, and I slacked a bit on it due to lack of confidence, erfectionism, and just not knowing how much it took to put music out there for selling, so stopped trying.  Next year, however, I’m turning over a new leaf, and going to start releasing sellable music on a regular basis!  I want to make a separate  post talking about my music plans for 2018, so will just leave it at that:  but I’ve learned a lot this year, and grown exponentially as an artist, and can only improve from this point forward.  There have been some ups, been some downs, but overall I had a great musical year and can’t wait to continue growing!

 

But that aside, here are the purchase links for the album.  Silent Night is the only track on YouTube right now, but the 2nd track on the album will be released in the next week or so, but if you want to hear it early, and want to support my music in other ways, consider streaming on Spotify (it’s free, and gives me money!) or purchasing on Google Play, Amazon, and iTunes.  Links are down below!

 

Spotify

Google Play

Amazon Music

iTunes:  Coming Soon

Hope you’re all having a great holiday season, and have a Merry Christmas!

 

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Baked Good: Thumbprint Cookies

At this point I’ve well surpassed my new years goal of baking one new thing every month, because this month alone I’ve done like 3 new things.  I’ve had a thumbprint cookie recipe for months and just got in the mood to make sme, because they’re a traditional Christmas/holiday cookie, so decided to pull out my recipe…only to find out how useless it was.  The person I got the recipe from is usually a really good baker, so I was stumped as to why the recipe just didn’t work for me.  Maybe it had to do with my environment and the moisture in the air or something, or maybe I just did it wrong because my Mom was able to salvage that batch by adding a bit of extra water, and when I used the second recipe I had I had to add extra water as well.  Every thumbprint cookie recipe I see just has butter as the liquid in it, and sometimes an egg – which, I’m guessing the egg is a matter of preference, because I did my second batch without one and it tasted exactly the same.

 

Sometimes when I pick a recipe to do, it’s because

I want to practice certain techniques.  When I picked the cream puffs, I wanted to learn how to make pastry cream.  For this, I really wanted to practice kneading dough, and creaming butter and sugar together because those two things were major things I’ve been struggling with.  I looked up a super in depth article on creaming butter and sugar together that helped tons, but kneading dough has been something I’ve majorly been struggling with.  I’ve watched tons of videos on it, and hearing how it was done really wasn’t helping me.  What I had to do, is have my Mom show me how it’s done, because honestly I think that’s the only way you can understand how kneading works.  Once the dough feels like it’s a rubber ball you can bounce away, you’re good to go and it was tons of fun to smoosh my dough for a while like it was play dough!  I really want to try making biscuits again after learning kneading, because I’m pretty sure I got gummy, doughy biscuits because I didn’t knead the dough at all.  I’m really glad I finally gave these cookies a go, because I forgot how delicious they were!

 

I also made the jam from scratch, I made an apple one because it’s what I prefer over raspberries.  First time doing that too, and it went pretty well!  But once again, needed to adjust and add water to the batch.  Luckily jam is easy to fix, just add water until you get the consistency you want.  Bright side:  I know how to make apple candies now too probably, with how hard it got at first lol.

Lots of learning curves in the stuff I’ve been baking lately, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge.  I’ve learned so much about baking these past few months doing more advanced things, can’t wait to do more next year!
Remembered to take a picture this time, so I’ll finish the post up with that!

 

Thumbprint cookies

Baked Good of the Month – Cream Puffs

I’m gonna be real here:  I feel like I wrote a post about making choux pastry/cream puffs and either didn’t post it, or posted it and forgot.  But I just tried making choux pastry again after about a month or os of botching my first attempt.  This time, I decided to just try making the puff pastry recipe without having any pastry cream ready because I wanted to see if I could get the recipe down, and I did!  After reading a lot of articles on how choux pastry should look – and was happy to find out that a lot of how you can tell if a choux pastry dough is good is by touch, feel, and texture.  So with all of that in mind, I went to work at the recipe…and it worked!  …Until I forgot to poke holes in  the finished puff and it collapsed ^^;

 

It wasn’t bad though, like there was still air inside some of the pastry, and all of them tasted nice and airy – with the cream in it, it tasted like a fluffy, airy donut.  Was really rich, but light, and both the cream and puff were delicious.  Like legit the only thing that went wrong was I didn’t poke holes in the finished pastry and that made the moisture in the puff make the thing deflate, because I cracked one open straight from the oven and they were nice and hollow on teh inside, just ready for something to be piped into it.  But that one mistake aside, I’m so happy I know how to make choux pastry in a decent fashion!  I have some fine tuning to do, like remembering all of the steps so I don’t wind up with deflated pastry, but really yummy and interested to see how they taste tomorrow.  I like mine rather big, so I woudn up with 12 in my recipe, but I realized that the bigger the puff, the easier it is for it to collapse in on itself so I’m going to work on making them smaller and all equal sizes.

 

I did pastry cream for the second time, as well.  Last time I did it was when I made my banana cream pie, and adding the banana made it a soupy mushy mess.  This time, I just made the cream, and like I thought last time I made it fine the first time but adding the fruit made the balance of the cream get the way it did.  This time it stayed nice, thick, and creamy, and it’s soooo good that I was eating spoonfuls as I piped into the puffs, just really good and I can’t wait to try different flavors with the technique!  I was going to try using a piping bag, but I didn’t find any in the house and the tips I have weren’t going to work with how you get the cream into a puff.  Instead, I just scooped a bit of the pastry out with a spoon and aded the cream in that way.  I need to work on getting enough cream in each pastry, but because of the size differences, and the density of each puff being slightly different it was a little hard to figure out how much cream I needed for each puff.  I think next time, for both measuring out the cream and the puff, I’m going to do teaspoon sized balls to make the consistancy work better.  Or 2 teaspoons, but I just want a simple measurement guide for making them next time, instead of the major eyeballing I did.  Next time, I also  want to add something on top as a ganache, but just plain with cream inside tasted great!

 

I’m so so so happy I got this technique down, and found more tips on how to make choux pastry perfectly.  The process is time consuming, and had some misteps on the way to my puffs being done, but I’m so happy I’m working on perfecting this recipe so I can have another French pastry under my belt!  So far I have choux pastry and French tart crust in my pastry crust artillery,  can’t wait to explor emore pastry making techniques!

Happy Thanksgiving! What I Contirbuted to my Dinner: Aka Another Baked Good

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  I had a wonderful time going to the store with my Mom before we had a late dinner, full of half traditional Thanksgiving foods and half our own thing food-wise.  My family isn’t huge into a lot of Thanksgiving food:  None of us like turkey, so we get chicken, and we are a small group so don’t see the point in making huge batches of food to have around for weeks.  So instead, we make stuff we like, along with Thanksgiving stuff we like and just spend time together, eat later, and relax.
this year, I contributed a side dish!  I wanted to do it last year, but was nervous about it:  I had just started baking and cooking, so wasn’t 100 percent confident in doing something.  This year, with all of my experience under my belt, I decided to make biscuits and home made stuffing!  My Mom likes the box stuffing, but I really wanted to try making it by scratch (I love making things by scratch, if you couldn’t tell – the only way to make food imo).

 

We got a French bread loaf today at the store, because every recipe I read said to use a bread like that – if we weren’t going to get something artisan bread-like, I was going to use normal bread slices.  But since we went to the store anyway, I  just got a French Bread loaf.  Gotta say, really glad I did that, because the mix of butter and spices really infused itself into this bread a lot better than I thought it would have with the average bread slices.

 

My family loves Italian food, so I did a simple blend of garlic, salt, and Italian seasoning.  Melted a stick of butter, and for my liquid I used a cup of water, and a teaspoon of olive oil to add to the Italian style of stuffing.  I had looked at a few traditional recipes, but found this great article that just gave a guideline of what you should put in stuffing for it to work and did entirely  my own thing with it other than the ratios of liquid and bread for a four person serving of stuffing.  It was soooo delicious!  I love how it came out, and am so happy I can make stuffing from scratch now, because that and mac and cheese are my two favorite Thanksgiving side dishes.

 

We also had a great alfredo casarole, rice pudding, still had the cheesecake from Monday, cinamon rolls, a roasted chicken, and some biscuits I also made that I need to work on making better because they came out rahter doughy.  But, I’ve been looking up what went wrong with the biscuits, so am going to work on perfecting that, and maybe try again for Christmas. As of now, going to look up some fun holiday treats to make in the meantime, and bask in my stuffing victory:  my Mom said she loved the stuffing, and she really only likes the stovetop box brand, so I was like woo accomplishment haha.

 

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I can’t wait to make a left over sandwich tomorrow with stuffing and chicken.  What did you have on your menu for the holiday, if you celebrate it?  And what treats do you plan to make now that the holiday season is officially here?  I can’t wait to kick my baking into over drive the end of this year:  I feel like I’m finally coming into my own with it, and I’ve only been doing it for about a year!

Baked Good of the Month: New York Style Cheesecake

I made a cheesecake at the beginning of the yearish, and it didn’t turn out too well.  It was a recipe that made you bake the initial layer of cheesecake, then add a layer of sour cream and bake again for about ten minutes.  When I did that, it didn’t fully bake through and came out more like a custardy pudding than an actual cheesecake.  Wasn’t bad, but not what I wanted and turned me off from wanting to try making a home made cheesecake again.
BuT I just love cheesecake.  My favorite dessert, hands down and any time I can get something cheesecake flavored, or cheesecake themed, I do it.  Plus cheesecake is exspensive, and being able to make one for way cheaper is something I just can’t pass up!

 

I follow this YouTube Channel that I love and learn a lot form called Bigger Bolder Baking.  I’ve done a few of their recipes before – the birthday cake I made for my Mom was one of their recipes, as is the banana bread recipe I love – Jemma just comes up with amazing recipes and anytime she comes out with a new video, I watch it.  Recently, she came out with a New York Style Cheesecake recipe that she made in the microwave, that was way easier and sounded way more tastey than the recipe I did months ago!  I was wondering, can you make it in the oven as well?  And reading the comments in the recipe, you totally can!  So that’s what I did yesterday.

I was really craving cheesecake   lately, so when I went shopping with my Mom we were hunting all over for a gram cracker crust.  It probably was because it was the holidays, but we couldn’t find any anywhere and weren’t going to hunt down gram crackers so I could make one from scratch.  At first, I figured I’d just wait to make one:  we have cream cheese all the time in the house since me and my Mom both bake.  I’ve been really interested in French baking lately, and was watching a video on how to make a French apple tart.  The crust in that one was a sweeter crust, and the ingredient list sounded like it would be very close to a cookie crust that would be good for a cheesecake – since there are so many other cheesecakes that have cookie crusts, like oreos.  My favorite cheesecake, Jr’s, uses sponge cake as their base, so I figured why not be inventive with this and use the tart crust?

 

So I made the French tart crust, and it needed a little bit more sugar for my prefered cheesecake.  I added a bit more sugar:  the original recipe asked for 1/4 of a cup, so I did 2 of those instead of 1.  When I added the extra 1/4 cup it was perfect for me, so I went with that.  The French tart video described the crust to be like a cookie crust, and that’s why I decided to give it a go.  Happy to say, it worked!

 

It compliments the cheesecake perfectly!  It’s a bit of a shortbread tasting crust:  it’s kinda gram cracker tasting, but has more of a cookie texture.  I made the crust a little too thick, even for me, so next time I want to make it a smidge thinner.  I like thick crusts, but it’s kind of hard to cut through the bottom with how thick I made it lol.  It’s like having a whole cookie under a cheesecake though, so for me it’s really delicious!  My family likes thinner crust so I want to work on making thinner crusts however.

 

The cheesecake itself is amazing!  Definitely tastes like a New York style.  Nice and creamy, and tastes like a store bought cheesecake to me.  I love the recipe, and I’m going to add it to my baking arsenal!

 

This is also the first time I improvised a recipe by putting together two recipes.  Honestly, I love the French  pastry base, and I’ve been really interested in French baking.  That was the whole reason I started looking at French baking videos, and I’m glad my creative brain had the thought process to combine that crust with the cheesecake base.    I feel like it’s a major step in my baking skillset, because before I wouldn’t even have been confident enough to do something like that!  I want to try using the crust in this recipe for pie crusts as well, it’s just a really tasty crust and it makes me want to try French pastry making again after my first botched attempt.

 

Hope you’re having a great holiday season, and baking away!  Next I’m going to make gingerbread, what are you going to make this holiday season?

Getting “Nothing Done” Isn’t Always UnProductive

I just finished up a recording session on the piano, so with my instruments instead of recording vocals, and got seemingly absolutely nothing done.  I say seemingly, because a lot of us creatives think that if you’ve recorded nothing, written nothing, drawn nothing, in a session of creativity, you think you’ve done absolutely nothing and it was a waste of time.  It’s discouraging, and sometimes it makes you want to give up on whatever you’re working on and get frustrated.
I thought it was important to write this experience, and this post for other creatives, because in “getting nothing done” this recording session, I hashed out some arrangement plans. In fact, I figured out what I wanted to do for the track wasn’t working at all, and that the other idea I had for it was far better for the entirety of the track.  I originally wanted to start out with a capella vocals, then bring in some slight strings and have other vocal layers as a choral sort of thing for this.  Trying to record strings for it, it just wasn’t working, and I decided to just go fully a cappella with this track like the good old days of me arranging things XD but in hashing that out, I realized that maybe I’ll do all my Christmas covers as a cappella arrangements, because I’ve never done that before!  I’m confident in that choice, and now am re-energized, re-motivated, and already getting so many ideas bouncing around in my head and am thinking of other Christmas songs to do, perhaps make a series of a cappella Christmas for this year.

 

And I would have never come to that conclusion, if not for “botching” recording the strings for my original arrangement plans.

 

I have another arrangement I’m working on that just wasn’t coming together, and instead of trying to push it, I decided to move on to making my Christmas tracks, and push the release date of the album I was working on to January so it can truly make it the best I can before release.  Same with the Christmas tracks:  I want to polish them, and make them the best they possibly can for release, and wouldn’t have figured out how to do so without a few sessions of trying to figure out how I initially wanted to arrange this, which for me is brainstorming sessions – which, once again, I wouldn’t have realized that’s how I brainstorm if I didn’t just sit down and try things at my keyboard!
Like I said, I’m writing this because I think it’s an important lessons for us creatives to learn.  Sure, sometimes we’ll get discouraged with our music, with our blogs, with whatever we do, but it’s important to take something away from your creative sessions – even if it’s “This isn’t working, how can I fix it so it does”.  People are such crazy perfectionists nowadays, I’m also very guilty of perfectionism stopping me from taking steps forward every now and again, but it’s so so so so important to know  how to problem solve yurself out of slumps like that:  Maybe you need to add more chords to a section of music?  Maybe add an extra scene to the post or story you’re writing.  You’ll never realize that unless you initially try to do something and figure out the way you’re doing it isn’t working.
So don’t let bad creative sessions get you down, go out there and create!  Whether it’s good or bad, it’s something you can learn and grow from, and be a better artist for it!  I for one, can’t wait to get to re-arranging said track I was working on today, and mix my first a cappella tracks in Reaper:  It’s going to be loads of fun!

Forest Harmony – New Original!

I’m going to make an active effort to start posting more frequently on here because the fact that I was so consistent  with posting for years and just sort of fell off the past few months has been bothering me.  I usually write up my posts in a word document then copy/paste them, but I literally have a few posts waiting in the wings I just haven’t posted so that system hasn’t been working for me lately it seems.  So instead, going to try just writing straight In WordPress, and hope that not having to take the extra step to post something will motivate me to post more frequently again!

 

I was planning to post something else more talky, but I spontaneously decided to just make a quick stock footage video for an original I made a few weeks ago.  I finally got to one of the melodies I liked a lot from that 21 Days of Video Game Music composing challenge in July, and finally sat down to work on another original!  Gotta say, it’s been nice to write something original again, even though I do love making covers.  Not gonna lie either:  I think this is probably the best original I’ve done!  This is also teh first thing I’ve fully mixed in Reaper, and you can be the judge of this, but I really do think something as small as mixing with better stock plug ins that Reaper has makes a huge difference in the quality of my tracks.  It’s also really nice to be able to monitor my effects going on in realtime without the program crashing on me all the time, because that was a chronic problem in audacity for me.

 

Going to go into more detail about my Reaper journey so far, and other music updates in another post, but until then, enjoy this original track!