Sunday, 23 March 2014

Another birthday bake

This bake follows closely on my Shrove Tuesday bake, as I gave up coffee for Lent - not because I drink too much coffee really (3 to 4 times a week isn't too much right?) - but more because I have too many syrups and sugars in my coffee, and I needed to get a grip. So yes, I gave up coffee, and it had been going so so well, I pined a bit for it, and missed my Saturday coffee treat, and the occasional coffee break at work in the local cafe, but I was coping and drinking plenty of tea in it's place!

However, it was my friend's birthday yesterday, and she invited me to her birthday BBQ. Before you ask, we don't live in sunny climes, and it is still only March, we live in Wales, and it was raining, but we'd had sun so therefore it really was BBQ weather - just wear a coat or a jumper! :)

So as a present for my friend, I thought I'd bake up a mocha cake, from my Great British Bake off books, it's one of the show stopper recipes and quite early on in the book. It's a chocolate marble mocha cake, with a white chocolate ganache ( Yum yum! I'd made this for a friend's birthday before, (but wasn't keeping this blog at the time). The cake went well, but the ganache was a bit rushed at the end and I didn't give it enough time to set before pouring it onto the cake, so I thought this would be a fab time to try it out again, get it right and blog about again I'd left it all til the last minute, made the beautiful ganache and then realised I had about 30 mins before I had to head off to get a bus out to my friends....

The cake has been made much earlier in the day, and was quite a success. It's a loaf cake, and meant to be baked in a 2lb loaf tin. The mix should be split in two, with one half having a coffee essence and the other half having a lot of coco powder. So much it feels like its drying out the mix, but with a drop of milk it seems to help a bit.  The mixture is then blobbed into the loaf tin, taking it in turns to blod in the different mixture. There's meant to be a couple of layers in the cake where you add chocolate chips as well, but I struggle to get one layer out, let alone 2 or 3, so I just make sure there's a good mix of chips in there too.  The cake takes a good hour to bake, so I set to cleaning up the mess I'd made (cake bowls everywhere), before popping into town to grab the ingredients for the ganache.  Sadly, I forgot that the mix had coffee in it, and had a good ole scrape around the bowl and licked it out, before remembering the coffee and that I'd given it up.  Oopps...too late to do anything.

So later in the afternoon I set to making the ganache, which is white chocolate pieces, whipped cream, and as it was white chocolate, some butter needed mixing in with the cream.  That part went well, and it was really lovely white chocolate with vanilla specks in it as well. I could happily have eaten it all!  But as I had to get it so warm to melt the chocolate, it just wouldn't cool quick enough, so the ganache was dribbled on, rather than spread, and a nice gathering formed at the bottom of the box I used to carry the cake.

It went down really well at the party though, lots of compliments, so either everyone as been drinking by the time I got there, or they did really like it!  I once again forgot about the coffee, and had a slice of the cake myself, and was impressed it wasn't dry after fearing the worst with the chocolate side of the mix.

I forgot to take a photo myself, but my friend grabbed on once the cake had started to be demolished!

Apologies for the sideways photo, I'm a computery person, I've tried turning the photo around in an editor and then saving it, it appears fine in the editor and has returned to the sideways photo when I upload it.  I'll try again when it's not late on a sunday night)

Shrove madness

A double post, to catch up with my March bakes. So the 4th March brought about Shrove Tuesday and I've always tried to ensure I have friends around to celebrate. Making pancakes for yourself just isn't the same. This year, I had a stitching relating pancake night. Sewing friends were invited around for a night of pancakes (yes, quite literally a night, 3 course meal of pancakes) and then as we recovered, we got to watch the Sewing Bee - perfect!

The menu line up was:

Butternut Squash and Feta Cheese

Hotdog pancakes

Pancakes server with any of the following:
Banana, Lemon, Orange, Marshmallows, peanut butter, maple syrup, golden syrup, chocolate spread, honey, caster sugar (I think that's everything!)

I dread to think how many we had between us, and we did have a mini disaster with the first pancake - attempting to toss it over a gas hob, ended with a pancake on the gas flames....after that we went for a safer approach of using a fish slice to "toss" them.

How scrummy do these look though


Following on from a successful Shrove Tuesday, I then took part on the Sunday Bake club Shrove Sunday challenge - bake something with your favourite pancake ingredients -

So I quickly whipped up a honey and banana muffin, which I used as breakfast muffins for the week. Very delicious recipe adapted from the one I found here:

I say adapted, as I didn't have wholemeal four (only wholemeal bread flour) or coconut oil, so a few adaptations (half and half bread flour and normal flour, and plain sunflower oil), and they were just as delicious, and made up such a big batch that they got shared around at work as well.  I also had a load of carrots to use up, so made some carrot muffins as well, definitely has kept me in breakfast muffins for a while!!!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Birthday bakings (and crafts)

This post is a little bit late, as the birthday in question was last month - but I have to mark it - as the birthday girl is also the fab neighbour that keeps me in eggs for my baking (The Yellow Chicken House). It would be rude to not have made her a lovely birthday cake!

So the night before, I sneakily found out her favourite cake (hmm, ok, by sneakily, I went round as specifically asked her, but you's the thought that counts!).  So the plan was, a nice vanilla sponge - easy peasy....

Never never say any bake is easy!  I was so relaxed about this one, I was juggling it with a trip to the gym (where I rather ouchily pulled a calf muscle), an evening of The Great British Sewing Bee with a friend (I was meant to be watching it around her's, but was unable to limp round with aforementioned ouchy pulled muscle), so she kindly came round to mine. I quickly mixed the cake together and popped it in the oven. For some reason - I thought it was a good idea to open the oven early on in the bake and swap the pans over. I'd decided that the oven wasn't big enough to put both tins on the same shelf, and putting one on the top and one on the bottom seemed to be causing a very inconsistent bake. Of course, all those sensible bakers out there will know what happened...yes....sinking cake syndrome. I've never never had a cake sink!! Arghhh :/ ah well, we all have to go through it once I guess?

So I left the cakes to cool while watching the Sew Bee, and then inspected the damage with my friend after. She had the amazing idea of using my cookie cutters and some rolled icing and decorating the cake.  So I went for vanilla butter cream and jam in the middle (quite a bit to build up the dip in the middle), and then sprinkle icing sugar over the top of the cake, blobs of butter cream around the top (not as stylish as I'd have liked...I definintely need more practice in that area), and then some purple flowers cut out and positioned around the cake. I was quite impressed, so happily took the cake round early to be greeted by a delighted neighbour!  

I should add that baking is not the only craft thing I do, although is the main thing I'm blogging about - my other crafts take me a lot longer to create and finish. However, for my friend's birthday I wanted to make something special and I'd spotted some lovely chicken fabric in my local haberdashery - which has the fab fab name of Aberdashery! I had to rope in another friend to help me start off this crafty present, I knew what I wanted to make, but not quite sure where to start. So one Sunday afternoon we set to cutting out triangle templates and then I chopped out lots of fabric while she created exciting things in her kitchen (I can't blog about them, as I wasn't involved...I've also potentially forgotten what they were!) Can you guess what I was creating with many triangles and chicken fabric? Hmm, OK not many clues.  So instead, here's a picture of the finished piece hanging up in Sarah's house (if you look closely enough you might even spot some little lego characters hiding in the stonework)

I should add that the lovely little cat glaring at the camera is Rex :)

Happy birthday Sarah!! xx

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sour Dough Starter

Why did I decide to start a sour dough? I've never even tasted one and I have no idea what's involved! Of course, that's why I have to try it :) I guess it was partially that, and also I loved Paul Hollywood's description of the sour dough puppies, and sour dough hotels to keep your little puppies in. Hmm....he makes it look so much quicker and easier on the bread show though - well - it's easy I'll give it that - but it's a slow slow process. I feel like I've been making this for an eternity. Which, isn't too far from the trust. Looking back through pictures I started the starter on the 11th Feb.  Here's the story of the starter so far.... (and no, it's still not finished!)

I was given the Paul Hollywood Bread book as a Christmas present, as bread was always something I wanted to make more of (and I loved his show), but I just didn't know where to start. The book is great, and I wanted to tackle something a bit different and thought that the sour dough would be an interesting challenge. So I stocked myself up on grapes, strong white flour, and kilner jar and got going! The initial starter really doesn't take long so I made it all up, and then tried to find somewhere warm to leave it to grow. My kitchen it lovely and warm when I'm baking, but when I'm not in there, or the heating isn't on, it can get a bit chilly. So I left the jar on the bookcase next to the radiator, but tucked up in a towel, thinking I'd be back in a couple of days to check on it's progress.

I would saw I was very dedicated to start with, but then one thing after another cropped up, and I forgot about the poor little starter. When I next came back to it, it was all separated and I was a bit worried that I'd killed the poor thing off.  Thankfully I spotted that Deborah Manger from 2013 bake-off was talking about sour dough on twitter, so I posed a quick question and she sorted me out.  Pour off the liquid layer, and then feed it up and leave it for another few days. That was back on the 22nd Feb, so I fed stirred, left, fed, stirred left for another week and then finally today I decided to actually crack on an make the starter into something a bit more useful than a jar on my bookcase!

Now, I know how important it is to read instructions all the way through, and I know that you need to plan ahead of time with baking - not just wing it (ahem), so I just read the first page of Paul's instructions this morning and then left the dough to rise for 5 hours.  Off I tootled to bellringing this morning, met a friend for lunch and then went to see Cinderella at the cinema....all good...I'll be able to bake the dough when I get home and have it for me tea, yay how organised!

NO! Turning the page, I then realise I have to knock back (that's fine) and knead the dough again. This was lovely actually, it's a really nice dough to work with, so if it does finally taste nice, I'll try this again - just with a tad more planning! :)  So the next step is to put a combination of flour and semolina onto the dough, and leave it to rise for a further 4-8 hours. Ahh, by now it's already 5pm. I don't think I want to be baking bread at that time of night : Ho hum.  Also, it appears I don't have semolina in my cupboard (not that I've ever bought it in my life, but still...stranger things have happened - they actually haven't - but that doesn't sound so good). So it's Sunday, after 4pm, there's only one shop near by open, and that the local garage. Last time I went there, they didn't even have white bread flour (although, oddly they had wholemeal bread flour and arrowroot??), but no, i didn't spot any semolina. To the internets - what can I replace semolina with - and the general consensus was that I could possibly get away with just flour! So bread happily knocked back, floured and back into the bowl.

I've pretty much decided that it's not going to get baked up this evening, so we'll be back tomorrow for a further check in and see if I finally get to taste sour dough, and if 24 hours of rising is actually OK for it!  Is there anyone brave enough to try??? :)

Thank you to the twitterers out there also making sour dough today, having the twitter support there as you bake is as good as having a giggle with friends as you bake. So thanks should go out to:

This is the dough as it goes in for it's first prove....shiny!!

Baking with friends

Oh my goodness, I can't believe it's March - whatever happened to February. There I was being impressed I'd been keeping my blog (and new years resolution) going, and then promptly stop! Oops. Well, I may have been quiet, but the baking has continued in the background, so I'll try and do a quick up date to get us up to speed!

So back on the 9th Feb, I popped round to my friends house for a spot of baking with her. I was given a choice of what to bake, the text message read:

"It's either, apple, sultana and pecan cake, or toffee apple cake or carrot whoopie pies"

Am not sure why, but I'd read the apple, sultana and pecan cake as a pie and picked that one - I loved the message I got back though:

"yes OK, except it's walnuts not pecans. Cos I haven't got pecans :)" 

- Love it!!!! :)

So on arrival, we have our regular cuppa and catch up, and she's kindly cooked me the most amazing veggie cannelloni. I think there was enough to feed an army, but instead it was just us and I thoroughly enjoyed tucking in, and eventually, when we were very full, we set to in making the cake. I can't claim much responsibility for this bake, but I did chop the walnuts and roast them, and I think I may have stirred something (important roles). I have to admit I spent a long time looking through the recipe book loking at far too many other things I want to make (including the other two things I'd been offered previously - why did I not go to carrot whoopie pies, they sound amazing!) Ohh, nearly forgot the rest of the baking fun, as well as not having pecans, we also had the wrong sugar, and I'm sure there was something else we substituted (I'm sure I'll have a reminder, and then I can update this post). But eventually, we got it all mixed up and into the tins for baking (after checking the raw mixture tasted OK, of course).

Here's the pre-baked cake:

Then time for another cuppa and catch up (that's what baking with friends is all about), and then we whipped the cake out of the oven and I was made to leave it to cool (despite the recipe book saying we could eat it warm) - I was informed that "warm" doesn't mean hot out of the oven - some people are such spoil sports (even if they are correct!)

Here's the cake as I wait for it to cool - arghh! And then finally being allowed a piece with my cuppa (and crochet)

My verdict - I love having other people bake for me as much as I love baking for myself, and baking with friends is always going to be something special and fun to share! Thank you!! Ohh, the verdict on the cake, I really enjoyed it, and I took half of it into work and fed it to colleagues. I don't think it made it past morning tea break so must have been good :)