Thursday 29 September 2016

Tear and Share

I treated myself to this book a few weeks ago which accompanies this year's Bake Off series. It mostly consists of recipes by Linda Collister but it does feature some recipes from the contestants and a handful of "Judges Recipes" too. Hey... call me Sherlock but I have deduced that all the Judges recipes are actually the technical bakes from the show.

So armed with this knowledge, in my quest to bake all of this year's technical challenges, I tackled this week's challenge, to bake two fresh herb Fougasse, on Wednesday afternoon several hours before the show aired. It was a bit of a guess that this would actually be the technical bake this week... but my guesswork paid off.

I used my stand mixer to knead the dough as it was very soft and sticky to begin with but not too difficult to work once it got going.

You can find Paul Hollywood's recipe here. I didn't have fresh thyme so used some dried herbs with my fresh Sage and Rosemary... I don't think it made that much difference. Other than that I pretty much stuck to the recipe and made it within the time given. For once the contestants had enough time.

It smelled really wonderful as it baked. The eagle eyed among you will have spotted I only made five cuts up the side of the "leaf" not the six specified. No doubt I would have lost marks for that

But it didn't effect the flavour! If I made it again I would probably increase the amount of herbs as I was fairly cautious but other than that it was pretty good. I fancy trying some herbs in a sweet bake too after seeing that Jenny had successfully used basil in her strawberry cake. My mind does tend to go off on tangents...I was reading this article about Jo Malone after having signed up for email updates from The Business Bakery. I'd not heard of The Business Bakery before,which doesn't really have anything to do with baking but is a source of advice for small "kitchen table" businesses. Having read about it on Planet Penny I was intrigued and have already discovered several interesting and possibly useful articles. But I digress... reading about Jo Malone I started to wonder if someone with a good nose for putting fragrances together would have a similar talent for putting flavours together. And when I read about her lime,basil and mandarin fragrance I remembered Jenny's basil cake and thought that if these three things smell great together maybe they would taste great together too. Watch this space!

Anyway... back to the fougasse... I took one along to our book club meeting last night to tear and share... there were certainly no complaints and I didn't bring any home so I guess it was a success.

Once again, as well as completing my own challenge to complete all the technical bakes, I'm also joining in with Jenny of Mummy Mishaps for the Great Bloggers Bake Off.
Mummy Mishaps

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Ely Markets

The city of Ely has a lot going for it. To start with there is free parking all over the city and plenty of it. We arrived on Saturday morning at about 9.30am and had no trouble finding a parking space. Next stop was to find a loo (it's an age thing) and there are no shortage of public toilets in Ely either... and whatsmore they are really clean public toilets! So having arrived with no bother and made myself comfortable, we could have visited the magnificent cathedral or wandered down to the riverside to watch the boats and ducks (both of which I can recommend) but on Saturday we were there for another reason. Along with other members of the Cambridge Eat Up group we were being treated to a foodie tour of the Ely Markets.... would you like to join us...

We met at Silveroak Coffee, speciality coffee roasters. Stewart and I had a coffee while we waited and although I'm not really much of a coffee drinker even I kew this was seriously good coffee!

The first stall we visited was Harper's Deli, puveyors of locally produced, great quallity Deli food where we tasted some wonderful flavoured oils. I bought a bottle of the most amazing aromatic lemon oil which I intended using in cakes... until I dropped and broke the bottle in the car park. Ah well, an excuse to go back I suppose!

Next on the agenda was I Am Dumpling where we got to sample freshly cooked steamed dumplings garnished with fresh herbs, fried shallots, sesame seeds and some great spicy sauces.

I could have quite happily eaten a whole bowl of the dumplings but it was on to the next stop, the colourful van of Al Chile where were were treated to authentic Mexican food and I can honestly say I sampled the best burritos I've ever tasted!

and fabulous tortilla filled with fresh onions, tomatoes, chillies, beans and cheese in the colours of the Mexican flag.

But there was no time to hang around because we were then taken to hear the story of The Ely Gin Company a family run company specialising in flavoured gins and vodkas. I got to taste a refreshing pink grapefruit gin and an exceptionally fruity sloe gin with cherries... which I also dripped... dripped not dribbled I hasten to add... down my front. I was having one of those days.

I loved all the pretty bottles!

We then neatly segued over to George's Bakery where George often uses some of the Ely Gins in his fabulous home baked cakes. I sampled a brownie made with star anise flavoured gin, molasses and blackcurrants which was seriously good!

George is definitely a young entrepreneur in the making working from his Mum's kitchen turning out dozens of amazing cakes every week. I could learn a thing or two from him!

Next on the tour was Food! By Lizzi. which specialises in wholesome vegetarian and vegan food.  Much as I would love to rave about the food I tasted this wasn't really my thing. Don't get me wrong, it was tasty, but as a vegetarian I'm not a great fan of meat replacements so didn't like the soya mince that was used in the "Scotch Eggless" Scotch eggs. But that's just me, and the food certainly looked really appetizing and the fact that Lizzi sells out every week is testimony to the produce.

We also visited Simply CooKit  who supply kits of spices etc that can just be added to meat to make tasty curries etc. I didn't taste this obviously but everyone else was raving about it so I did bring home a kit to make a beetroot barley risotto which is on the menu for this evening... looking forward to dinner tonight!

I tasted several of Audrey's Vegan cakes which were very good indeed... and we also sampled cakes from Sophie's cakes, others tasted the meat and black pudding from Matt at Betty's Farm, as well as goat curry from JJEB farm and I believe there were pork pies and Scotch eggs tasted from another pork butcher.. Edis of Ely. There were plenty of good mutterings about all these too.

By now we were all feeling rather full but there was just enough space for some wonderful authentic Spanish food from Azahar I sampled the most wonderful tortilla, crunchy almonds and some fabulous olives. And I loved their van!

It was a fabulous morning, everyone was so friendly and passionate about sharing their food and I tasted some wonderful things. Thanks should also go to Alex and the team from Ely Markets who organised the morning... it was brilliant!

I can definitely recommend a trip to Ely should you be in the area and you can find the general market open on Thursday, Craft and Collectables along with the street food every Saturday, the farmers market on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month and there are Sunday and bank holiday markets as well as special events. And if you can't get to Ely then check out the links because many of these people do mail order.

For more information visit Ely Markets

Sunday 25 September 2016

A Bakewell Tart

Another week, another GBBO technical challenge and another chance to join in with the Great BloggersBake Off for 2016 hosted by Jenny of Mummy Mishaps. This week, which was pastry week, I could have fancied making any of the challenges - I would have loved to have made some signature Danish Pastries and one day I will definitely try making my own show stopping filo pastry but there really was only time for one thing so sticking to my own personal challenge of doing the technical challenge each week I made a Bakewell tart.

Now the jury is out as to what actually constitutes a genuine Bakewell tart
. The only time I have visited the village of Bakewell we were served a wonderful deep and fragrant frangipane tart topped with flaked almonds... no iced top as in Mary Berry's recipe. But staying true to the challenge I went with the same recipe as the contestants were given and started by making my own jam with raspberries and jam sugar which was really quick and easy.

Having part baked my crust, to ensure no soggy bottom, I then spread a thin layer of the homemade jam over the base of the tart. It is important to have enough jam to taste it but not so much that it oozes out the sides when baked. And I should just say that it really is worth making the jam... it tastes so much better than anything shop bought... really fresh and zingy!

It was then baked and iced just like Mary Berry instructs... although as usual the contestants really did not have enough time to allow the tart to cool before icing it.

And hey presto... this is my tart! It took much longer than the allotted time but then I did rest my pastry for  longer before and after rolling it out and I also allowed the tart to become quite cold before icing it. And to be fair I did also make a cheesecake and a lasagne at the same time ready for a big family lunch today!

I have to say I was really pleased with the way it turned out... very moist and almondy with no trace of a soggy bottom but given the choice I would have preferred a flaked almond topping. Although it looks very pretty with the feathered icing it was just a little too sweet for my liking. Not that the rest of the family seem to be complaining as it is disappearing rapidly!

So there we are are... half way through the Bake Off and five technical challenges completed.

And what is really exciting is that last week my lacy pancakes earned me Star Baker!
I was dead chuffed I tell you!

Do follow the links at the bottom of Jenny's post to see what other bakers have made this week.

Mummy Mishaps

Saturday 24 September 2016

A Grand Day Out

When my friend Jude suggested meeting in London to see an exhibition on Friday evening, it's so long since I've had a day in the city, it seemed a good opportunity to make a whole day of it.

First stop was somewhere that has been on my sixty by sixty list for a while and that was to visit the Sky Garden at the top of 20 Fenchurch St... Also known as the "Walkie Talkie" building.

I couldn't have picked a better day weather wise as the views from the top were spectacular.

Inside was pretty amazing too... it really was a garden in the sky, a bit like a huge greenhouse! And what is even more amazing is that it is totally free to go up to the top and there is no one trying to sell merchandise like mini walkie talkie snow domes, pens, jigsaws etc either... not to mention the obligatory photographs of one enjoying the "experience"! You just need to book a time slot in advance and go up and enjoy the views.

It's  highly unlikely I would have bought any official photos had they been on offer but I did want one of me at the top to put in my sixty by sixty scrapbook... so I had numerous attempts at a selfie. Why can young people make taking a selfie seem so effortless? I took dozens of photos of myself looking highly self conscious pulling numerous silly faces. This was the best of the bunch... oh, the concentration on my face!

And then I did something I'd never done before and treated myself to a glass of bubbly, which I sat and enjoyed all on my own whilst people watching and admiring the view. Maybe I should clarify... definitely not the first time I've had a glass of bubbly, but the first time I've bought one on my own!

Next stop was Borough Market just over London Bridge, which was absolutely buzzing with activity. 

Every type of street food imaginable was on offer but I selected my lunch based on what I was least likely to dribble down my front. I just wasn't sure I could manage boxes of noodles or vegetables in curry sauces! My cheese and spinach filled Bourak (a Balkan pastry) was delicious.

After a relaxing half hour resting in the grounds of Southwark Cathedral in an attempt to give my legs a break (not literally... one broken leg this year is quite enough) I walked along to the Fashion and Textile museum to see The Jazz Age... an exhibition of dresses and photographs from the 1920s.

It wasn't as interesting as some of the previous exhibitions I've seen at this museum but there were some lovely dresses to look at.

Jude and I having met up at this point, made our way to Tate Modern and sat outside enjoying the late summer sunshine until it was our time slot to see the exhibition we'd met to see... Georgia O'Keefe. I've long admired her flower paintings but found the exhibition a little disappointing. Only one of the thirteen rooms was devoted to her flowers and although there were many other interesting exhibits I guess it wasn't what I hoped I would see.

But we finished the evening with a lovely meal before walking back along the river to London Bridge to get our respective trains home.

And all in all it was a very grand day out indeed.
And today I've had another grand day out in a different city but you'll have to pop back later in the week to read about that... after a quick cake post or two that is!

Wednesday 21 September 2016

The Farmer's Daughter

I wasn't going to join in with this month's Cake Slice Bakers. Not only do we seem to have had rather a lot of cake at home lately, I couldn't get excited about the choices, as usual taken from Maida Heatter's Cakes. There was one flourless chocolate cake, named The Queen Mother's cake which was virtually identical to my go to gluten free chocolate cake... So not much of a challenge. And the other three cakes were all very plain and a couple of them seemed to use so many eggs.... Separated eggs no less, that I really couldn't be bothered. But after seeing what a couple of people had made and a little bit of banter on Facebook, I decided to stop being so churlish and opted to make The Farmers's Daughter's Cake which is made with cream rather than butter... obviously the Dairy Farmer's Daughter's Cake!

It was exceptionally easy and quick to put together... just a single layer baked in a square pan.

Maida tops hers with an "Old fashioned Chocolate icing"... I'm not sure what makes it old fashioned but it involved egg yolks and beating for 15 minutes. Needless to say I didn't do that! In fact the night before, due to some other Facebook banter I made churros (inspired by the Great British Bake Off last week) for friends who popped in for supper... I shall digress to tell you they were exceptional good and well worth the effort... but I also made some chocolate dipping sauce. ( 150g plain chocolate, 100ml double cream, 50 ml milk and a dollop of golden syrup) As there was lots left over and it had set solid in the fridge I decided to use this to top the cake.... but I thought you might want to see my churros first!

The chocolate sauce made an excellent topping with the addition of some icing sugar and butter (small amounts of each... I was making it up as I went along)

The sprinkles were optional!

And the cake... not bad! Light and tasty although mine was a little dry. Not the best cake I've ever made but considering how little effort it took probably worth having in your repetoire for when you want to turn out something quick, easy but tasty too!

So should you wish to try this yourself  here is my version of the recipe:
The Farmer's Daughter Cake (adapted from Maida Heatter's Cakes)
You will need a 8" (20 cm) square pan. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C (160 fan), 350 deg F
  • 280g sifted plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • quarter teaspoon almond extract
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 250 ml double cream
  • Sift the flour baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together with the vanilla and almond extracts until pale and creamy. Beat in the cream and then fold in the flour and mix gently until smooth..
  • Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35 - 40 mins. Mine was done after 30 mins and I think it would have been better if it had only had 25, so keep an eye on it!
  • Cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then turn out onto a rack to cool
  • Top with a  chocolate frosting of your choice! 

Linking up a little late...


Sunday 18 September 2016

A Weekend Away!

I've spent the weekend in the depths of Suffolk teaching at an Embroiderers' Guild (late) summer school... Not that it felt much like summer driving up in torrential rain on Friday afternoon. Despite the appalling conditions I arrived at Belsey Bridge unscathed, where I was teaching a course on machine embroidered landscapes.

I had thirteen lovely students... They got on well, shared their materials, laughed and chatted and generally supported each other.

They started with a source of inspiration such as a magazine photo or in some cases a picture they had taken themselves. This was then interpreted with strips of torn coloured paper before turning them into amazing mahine embroidered landscapes. The one above was inspired by a Tanzanian landscape...

 And this one was based on a David Hockney painting.. but see for yourself... thirteen stunning embroideries that don't need me to say anything.

And while they all worked hard on their landscapes I put together one of my own...

It certainly made a change from baking cake!