Blah blah blah

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The 5 Second rule

Oh my how time flies when you have 3 kids, 2 adults in the house that are self employed, 3 dogs, 10 chickens and 3 ducks...did I mention a large garden with a new vegetable plot?! Flying by the seat of our pants just doesn't begin to cover it.

I've neglected my blog, rather that than one of the children?! This is almost a holding message because I'm snatching the time to write this from GoogleChrome which is having fun loading the page I'm supposed to be pawing over...

MASSIVE plans afoot. These plans involve a jump with both of my size 8's ito a world unknown. Family and friends have been hearing via a drip feed but we are opening a delicatessen & coffee house. My feeding fetish is going public. Not content with baking my husband's waistline into submission we are going big style. I've owned a shop for nearly 17 years, 15 of which were spent with me behind the "counter" as it was the home to my interior design business, and then a florists - which always looked pretty and smelt divine, but now it has come back to me and rather than re let it we see it as an opportunity to indulge ourselves, hell I've turned forty, if I can't do it now when will I? So watch this space...

Until next time, I shall be busy researching suppliers, arduously tasting samples, getting fatter and happier by the minute, shhh don't mention the grey hair!

re the title - I'm slightly sad that the 5 second rule doesn't exist, it does in our kitchen, but when I go ligit I'm going to have to give in and start caring about germs aren't I, damn it.
I don't know whose this is but I attribute this to you whoever you may be

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Non Sticky End

The sticky end
Whoever said that working from home is an easier option than commuting to work was frankly lying. Let me paint the picture; commuting: getting into a child free car, listening the the music/station of ones choice at the volume preferred, getting to work, making a coffee tea and being able to drink it whilst it's still hot and finish it, do a days work interrupted only by meetings, telephone calls, emails, a lunch break (possibly), NOT as at home where one is interrupted at regular intervals by the beep of a household appliance cheerily telling you to empty it/refill it, coffee cups laid around the house half empty and stone cold, a small now very fast crawling toddler clearing every conceivable surface within reach because his toys just don't cut it! There are dogs to walk, household chores to complete, food to prepare (never mind eat) and that is all before I've actually got any work done. I have the most magnificent office yet where do I sit, the non sticky end of the kitchen table. The other end still has dough and oil on it from my post breakfast/ school run bread kneading session. The cloth was smelly so I left the mess! 

What I want to know is how the hell did I ever get anything done before, back when I did a 10 hour day? My children were in nursery for a start so that cut out 2 meals a day, alot of leg tugging and general chaos. My head wasn't full of "I must do x, I can just do x before I check my emails again...". I had real conversations, clarity of thought, hot drinks, a desk. Need I go on. SO if you were to ever think, from your tidy office desk that you wish you were a homeworker, be careful what you wish for! 
You just can't resist playing with such a gorgeous boy can you?

I love my children, and probably the crux of the matter is that I'd rather just be a master of one trade rather than a jack of all, I wish I could be a stay at home mummy and concentrate on that, but I can't so as I'm sitting here wasting a very very precious nap moment whittering on, in my dressing gown with a criminal hair do, make up less face, when I should be dressed for action, and doing invoices... have breakfast and a coffee first 

Monday, 7 January 2013

Under starters orders

Complete with chocolate deer poo

As you know I have a slightly unnerving addiction passion to baking. If you know me then seeing what we completed at 12.30am Christmas morning wouldn't surprise you at all, if not this is how I roll, fast and furious some might call it wreckless!? By the way the top window and the door had glass in them made from clear fruit sweets ta da!

I have some geeky linky things in here but this post is unsponsored.

Having religiously watched GBBO and relentlessly told myself how I'd actually never be good enough for that - those technical challenges are something else, I decided I need to start stretching my horizons a bit. I'm also toying with the idea of getting serious so I have been doing some market research and some training! The market research is incredibly testing, having to go and seek out cake shops and sampling their wares is understandably tough, my waist line is growing and my thighs spreading... The training, however, was immensely fun. Is training supposed to be fun? I came away from my day at Limini Coffee, a barista and also full of excitement and positivity not to mention caffeine! My pupils were dilated for about 3 days! I've also been trying new recipes, tweaking old favourites and also trying the ultimate in the Holy Grail of baking - a sourdough loaf. (I feel there should be a suitably heady musical accompaniment to that section?). The examples of this type of bread are so magnificent that it is enough to stop you in your tracks, for proof have a look at Phil Clayton,  Haxby Baker bread. Making a sourdough, for those that are not familiar with this type of bread, cannot be done on a whim (although conversely Peter Sidwell seems to have a cheaty version in his book?) as one needs to have a Starter in ones baking arsenal first. 

A starter is a yeast culture from which all your sourdoughs are grown. It takes at least a fortnight to ferment and become fully active and has to be fed and nurtured daily. It was this commitment that had thus far put me off, I mean who in their right mind takes on a responsibility like that - the commitment is up there with a new puppy for heavens sake. On 5th December I took the plunge and followed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's starter instructions. Each day thereafter I took a bit out put a but in, sniffed it, recoiled from it (the smell is quite unsavoury at times), until after 3 weeks, as we have a cold house, it started to smell not unpleasant but something similar to a cider. I'm teetotal so any whiff of alcoholic tang and I'm repulsed that this smell, sweet but definitely fermented no longer caused me to bounce away from the jar. The texture had become very light and foamy...can you see how I have actually become attached to this thing? I'm describing it with a fondness usually reserved for family and pets? Anyway I seem to have the starter thing cracked and that has been rewarding in itself. Then the real fun started I decided to make something with it. Sourdough loaves are reserved for real Artisans, they taunt you with their cracked and golden surface, that crunchy crust and chewy inner. I have read through many baking books and frankly its a confusing world out their, some prove it only once, some prove it in half hour stints (they don't have 3 kids, 3 dogs and 2 businesses to manage do they?)  others prove it twice - I followed the simplest route and that was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe in River Cottage Everyday. My results have been varied, somewhat hindered when I kept forgetting the salt. I've created a little gallery...
Multigrain Sourdough

White Sourdough
Getting a bit more slash confidence!

I've enjoyed the journey, my body needs to do some exercise to combat all the carbs, my kids are asking for "normal bread, its tastes funny mummy" so my starter is in the fridge and the yeast jar is back out whilst we have a bit of cakey bread that can be cut without the assistance of a Stihl saw. I lost my crown in a mint humbug before Christmas and I have panicked whilst chewing sourdough crusts that its fate was sealed yet again but so far so good. You have been warned. 

It's a commitment, it takes time yet its not difficult. I'm still wondering how dark it should be when it comes out? Have fun and good luck!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

As comforting as a warm blanket...

This year our orchard is barren, except for a single lonely plum that first the wasps got and then the chickens, so it was with great glee that I heard "help yourself because we won't be doing anything with them" from our neighbours whose apple tree is laden with fruit. I've had rich pickings from their tree before but that was when it belonged to someone else and despite them living next door for decades, they had never worked out what variety they are. It's as if they are a hybrid, not tart enough to strip the enamel from your teeth like a genuine cooker, yet not sweet enough to delight in eating from the tree. I cannot bare anything to go to waste so I am on a mission to use as many as the apples as I can. Even the windfalls are being fed to the chickens, which of course they amuse themselves over for hours on end. In my endeavour to cook my way through the harvest I have devised a new recipe, a hybrid of ingredients taken from my 2 favourite apple cakes and to be honest, without a hint of smugness, I'm pretty pleased with it!
Potty's Apple Dessert Cake
when miraculously the apples stay on top!

Potty's Apple Dessert Cake (haven't come up with a witty name yet either)
Serves 6-8 although if you have greedy hungry husbands like mine only 4!
Oven set to 140 fan /160 or gas mark 3
Baking time 1 1/4-1 1/2 hours
Grease a 20cm/8" loose bottomed tin
225 g Self raising flour
1 level tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 (half) tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
225g caster sugar (although I've successfully made it with granulated)
2 Eggs (always free range)
150 g butter, melted
350g cooking apples (or any apples to be fair) cored and peeled and sliced (nothing fancy)

1) Get a big mixing bowl, add all the ingredients EXCEPT the apples, mix well to combine, then beat for about a minute.
2) Spread half the mixture into the tin, then pile the sliced apples onto this layer mostly piling them in e centre. Then pour over the rest if the batter, or scrape it out of the bowl with a silicone spatula and dollop it over. Don't panic it often looks like a kitchen version of a car crash at this point! The mixture will melt and cover the apples. If you wanted to you could scatter over some flaked almonds at this point.
3) Pop it into the oven for 1 1/4  - 1 1/2 hours, until the cake starts to leave the sides of the tin and it is firm but not solid on top when pressed. 
4) Guve it a few minutes in the tin before carefully turning it out onto your serving dish. Dust with icing sugar and a little extra cinnamon if its a cold day, and serve with loads of extra thick cream, or creme fraiche , or even ice cream!

I offered my husband a slice earlier, I hadn't even decorated the cake, and this is what I found...

A quarter gone!! (When the apples go to the bottom!!)
The snuggly warm blanket?
He said it was as comforting as a warm blanket, just not quite as big! Praise indeed, although with a slice that big it was nearly as big as a blanket. I offered him a second piece, tongue in cheek, and he politely declined saying that he didn't want to be greedy! I love his passion for food which is never ever combined with any guilt - just pleasure. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Blooming Great Tea Party

My cutest guest!
I like an excuse to bake, in fact I don't need any excuse at all. I shun work in general housework to bake, I find it cathartic, so I thought why not do what I love, include the people I love and hold a Blooming Great Tea Party in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care. So I blooming well did!

I made sure my cupboards were filled with all the essential ingredients; white, milk and dark chocolate, flour, sugar, eggs... The oven was cranked, I made an horrendous mess, and churned out cake after cake after cupcake!

I have a Burco boiler  so that was dusted off and revved up and then the masses my friends arrived. The cakes were sliced, tea bags brewed and the coffers were filled in the name of charity.  My children were already on school holidays so they were able to help  eat hand out the cakes. Entire cakes were wrapped and sold and after 2 hours we were sold out! £211.65 raised.  

Only one thing to say - thank you to everyone who supported me I thoroughly enjoyed my tea party!

And it was all gone!