Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Cake Quartet

So just a short entry - which probably doesn't equate to the amount of cake baked! So a weekend with six of my girlie friends from university in a cottage in the Lake District, for the wedding of another university friend called for some serious baking. Okay, so maybe four cakes was a bit over the top - who knew cakes where so heavy, gave my poor arms a work out on the numerous trains I had to catch today (why do they always change the platform at the last minute, when you have really heavy bags!).

I started with a Cherry and Almond cake, with added sultanas as didn't quite have enough cherries left. I love this recipe, it always comes out lovely - even if I did forget to put the bicarbonate of soda in!

Then it was on to the Malteaser cake - now I have a rule of not baking a cake more than once, as I don't want to get to the point where I always bake the same cake. However, this was baked in a different tin, so gets round this self imposed rule!

I had two very sorry looking bananas that I had saved for cake making, so whipped up a banana cake with added chocolate chunks. Then I had a quandary, as four cakes seemed a little excessive, yet I had some rhubarb and really wanted to make this rhubarb and ginger cake . . . Didn't take long to decide to make it :) cake was easy to make, melt some of the ingredients together and mix in everything else, how I love uncomplicated recipes. The cake doesn't look that appealing, it is very sunken in the middle and too ages to cook. However, it tastes divine - think crystallised ginger is the way forward in every cake that requires ginger in the future. Also, a couple of slices of this cake may just disappear over tea and cake with my grandma, who I'm visiting on the way to the wedding.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Evening dinner for friends

Well I can't claim the credit for all of the preparation of dinner & pudding on Saturday evening as PB came up with the menu and took the head chef post in the kitchen, with me helping out. We had one of PB's old school friends and her other half over for tea. The menu we cooked was home made spinach and ricotta ravelloli for starters, for main chicken wrapped in Parma ham and stuffed with soft cheese with baby carrot, asparagus & roasted cubed potatoes, then for pudding we had chocolate mousse (made with Toblerone) with starwberries and cream.

First thing to make was the home made pasta - which is not as hard as it sounds. As we only wanted to create a small amount of raviolli, we did 100g pasta flour, 1 egg and a tsp oil. Mixed the egg gradually into the flour and then kneeled till smooth, then wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge. Whilst it was resting, we made the inside - as if you were making spinach and ricotta cannelloni, but we made significantly less. Then after running though the pasta machine, we cut fairly wide strips, filled with a spoonful of mixture and then folded over and sealed with an egg wash. These were then left until we needed them, as they only take 2-3 minutes in boiling water to cook.

PB handled the main course, cutting a slit in the chicken breasts and filling with soft cheese, before wrapping in Parma ham. These were covered in tin foil for most of their time the oven to make sure they didn't dry out. The pudding was next - the best part of the evenings meal. My recipe came out of an ancient Marks and Spencer book - a time when they still used the "St Michael's" branding! The easiest chocolate mousse recipe, melt 200g of chocolate with 4tsbp of water, stir in 25g butter till combined and add 4 egg yolks one at a time. Then whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks, before stirring in the chocolate mixture. Pour into bowls/glasses and leave to set for 2 hours in the fridge. I decided to decorate the glasses with slices of strawberries - this did look rather pretty, but I think the extra water in the starwberries meant that the mousse didn't quite set properly where the fruit was - tasted delicious though!

We rather enjoyed the afternoon of cooking and will hopefully look forward to hosting more evenings like this once we both live in the same part of the country!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Wedding Memories Book

No, not my wedding (just yet!), but the weddings that I (and PB) have attended and those we will attend in the future.  I love collecting things, tickets, menus, stickers, programmes, I could go on! So I often end up with bags full of random crap. This year I (well by the end of May) will have attended three weddings - a perfect opportunity to collect stuff for my collection. To keep a memory of all the weddings that I have attended and hope to attend, I decided to find a scrap book to create my Wedding Memories scrap book.

I found this lovely simple square brown paper spiral bound book in paperchase and also got a packet of their photo fixers. I always keep an eye out for lovely postcards and found a suitable wedding themed one to stick on the front.

So the first wedding to go into the book was PB's cousins that we attended last year. It took a while to find, but I still had the invitation, order of service, place names and thank you card - so these were all arranged stuck over two pages.

I picked up a beautiful 'married in 2012' postcard the other week for a friend who is getting married at the end of May, but found an even better card this weekend - so the postcard is going on the next page and I will hunt out one for each subsequent year. The first wedding in was PB's university friend, next his mum's and then one of my uni friend's wedding - only have the invite so far - very much looking forward to it :)

Hopefully this will serve as a reminder of all the weddings that I and PB attend over the coming years and will keep the archivist inside me happy! Ooh I could get into creating different scrap books for all occasions . . . maybe a cinema ticket one would be a good idea . . .

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Banana and Blueberry Muffins & Lemon Poppy Seed Drizzle Cake

Spending the evening with my mum always usually involves some baking. Yesterday evening was no different and I was ready for a baking marathon. Things didn't start well - my mum had some blueberries and wanted me to bake her some blueberry muffins. Problem was the only recipes that I could find contained natural yoghurt, which we didn't have. So after some hunting I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food site that looked promising, apart the fact it needed buttermilk. Area some deliberation we decided that we'd just use milk instead . . . Not the best idea we've ever had - the mixture looked fine, but when it came out of the oven the muffins had a strange springy uncooked texture. They're not going too be wasted and I'm sure with lashings of cream, ice cream or custard they will be okay. But they weren't suitable for the reason I'd started baking - for a bake sale donation - so it was on to the next cake. This one I knew was tried and tested, a lemon seed poppy cake. However, yet again ran into the difficulty of no yoghurt, quick changed of recipe and adding of poppy seeds to a lemon drizzle cake recipe, hopefully it worked! It didn't rise as much as I would of liked, but think that is due to the 2lb tin rather than the 1lb tin I usually use. I always find it hard to bake in a kitchen which isn't your own or where you haven't shopped for cake ingredients - I shall look forward to my baking next week for my uni friends in my own kitchen (Malteaser cake, cherry & almond cake are contenders at the moment!). So there we have my first kitchen disaster, I'm sure it won't be the last . . .

Monday, 14 May 2012

Sticky Gingerbread

A bit late with putting up this post and I've already eaten two large slices of this sticky gingerbread, the second with a generous gulg of double cream. The recipe is from the first Great British Bake Off recipe book. It's a good job the gingerbread is so scrummy, otherwise I wouldn't make it again - so many different mixing bowls and saucepans! I may not of been of patient as I should have been after warming some of the ingredients. You were suppose to wait until it had cooled to luke warm - I didn't, but I don't think that it made too much different. The only problem I did have was that my tin was slightly too small. When I opened the oven half way through to check on the gingerbread and it was spewing its guts out - so I closed the oven and ignored it - waiting it clean the oven till after it had finished baking. . .

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Needle Felt Doglet

So I may be a little late to the party, but I've finally had a go at needle felting! It is a fab crafty way to spend an evening and the results are pretty fab. I think this will definitely go on my list of crafty things I do again. My instructions were taken from last month's Mollie Makes - I always try and make one thing out the magazine (the is my way of justifying my subscription!) and ever since I picked up last month's mag, I knew that I had to have a go at the cute little Doglets on the front cover.

The hunt was on for an affordable needle felting kit and some of the wondrous fluff. I found a fabulous site, Gilliangladrag, which has the perfect starter kit. Then, whilst in Hobbycraft the other weekend I picked up a needle felting pen - which makes it very easy to do small delicate bits.

Then came the actual making, folding the fluff into the rough shape and then stabbing the wool until it starts to firm up. The needles have kinks in them, so that the fibres are agitated and made to matt together. I nearly had a bit of crisis at the beginning, as it took a while to start to take shape. In the end I had the main body and could add on all the features and decoration.

My pooch came out somewhat bigger than the examples in Mollie Makes - but he is rather cool and I'm looking forward to making him some friends. Thankfully I'm back at my mum's next weekend and can pick up my awaiting parcel of wool, that I ordered off eBay. PB (my boyfriend) suggested that I should add antlers to make reindeer Christmas decorations - look out for that post nearer Christmas!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Pin Cushion Swap

Well I haven't technically made a pin cushion yet, but I have signed up to  pin cushion swap.  Firstly, I get some cool post (although I do have a number of people that already send me post, but hey, there is never anything better than arriving home to find a parcel/letter on the door mat!). Secondly, I get to make something and thirdly, I get my own pin cushion - amazingly I don't actually own one, all my pins live in a tin!

So, I will update when I have created my pin cushion masterpiece.  In the mean time, here is the link if any one else wants to sign up!

Calling you to join the Pin Cushion Swap!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Rhubarb & Vanilla Jam

Alongside my six malteaser muffins, I also lugged back a HUGE bag of rhubarb on the train - I wasn't quite prepared for the heaviness of my bag - thankfully my train got back in time to get the bus that doesn't involve a hill climb at the end of the journey!

I wasn't sure what to do with all the rhubarb and even after giving a bunch of stalks away I still had masses left. A cake seemed like a logical option, but even then they only usually need a few stems - then I found this recipe for Rhubarb and Vanilla Jam on the BBC Good Food website.  So my mornings shopping list had a few extra jam ingredients, I'm just going to pretend not to notice how much sugar I needed and I also managed to source vanilla pods for a reasonable £2.98 at Morrisons.  3 & half jars of jam for under a fiver seems like a bargain to me!

I started with weighing out the 1kg of rhubarb (still have around 1kg left!) and then added the 1kg sugar, 2 vanilla pods, pectin and a knob of butter to my biggest saucepan . . . think I need to invest in a jam pan!  The sugar slowly started to melt and stirring gradually got easier - although I now have a cooker covered in Jam.
Once all the sugar had melted, I added the juice of a lemon and then boiled for 10 minutes.  Then it was on for the continued testing on a chilled saucer to check when it had reached its setting point.  Not sure whether I'd done something different from the recipe, but it took ages for my 'wrinkle test' to work.

After cooling for 15 minutes, it was time for the ladling into the jam jars.  Always the hoarder, I had plenty of jam jars, which had a hot wash and then I dried them in the oven on a low heat as I don't have a dish washer - fingers crossed this should work just as well!  My labels are patterned sticky backed plastic (yup it is awesome stuff - Wilkinsons have a huge range!) and then written on with a cd marker pen - which I think look rather swish.  

I should really source some matching fabric to make covers for the lids - then they could make an ace little present.  Still plenty of rhubarb left, so I may just make this rhubarb and ginger cake later in the week . . .

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Malteaser Muffins

For my first baking addition to my blog (plus I wanted an excuse to wear my new Cath Kidston apron!), I decided to go with a tried and tested recipe - Nigella's Malteaser Cake from her book 'Feast'. This is fast becoming a fast favourite - any chocolate cake with Malteasers has to be a winner. This time though, instead of baking a whole cake I made a dozen muffins. This meant that I could have fun with my icing bag and pipe those swirls on top of the malted chocolate cake. The secret ingredient to create that unmistakable taste is a few tablespoons of Horlicks in the cake mixture and icing. They travel surprising well and I managed to transport my six on the train journey with minimal squish-age! Only five left now and although a gooey cake, they were rather scrummy - not sure I will keep to my one a day rationing...

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Taking the plunge!

Hello, and welcome to my first attempt at having a blog. Being a rather creative person, who likes nothing better than to try a new craft or bake a new recipe (usually cakes & puddings) I thought that it was time that I joined the world of blogging to share with you my adventures and mis-adventures in all my crating, sewing and baking attempts. Fingers crossed that I can find time to keep this blog up to date! Although starting a blog just as I enter into the writing up stage of my PhD may not be the best idea I have ever had, then again it might just be the distraction I need to make sure that I don't end up quietly rocking backwards and forwards in a corner. . .