Thursday, 29 December 2011

Xmas gifts given and received

I feel a truly lucky Scubamonkey this Christmas and a crafty / home baked theme seems to have occurred in presents I have received.  I have a book on making your own macaroons, the second Great British Bake-off book (with the recipe for Mary Berry's Tarte au Citron....yum yum yum), a muffin recipe book, a sock knitter on the road pattern book and a book on what else to do with a skein of sock yarn, other than.......... socks!  Just browsing through them all should keep me occupied for a while.  But then what to try first???

I also got an amazing cake-stand to put said goodies on, some lovely hand-dyed yarn from the very talented DyeSpinKnitUK and a gorgeous Art Deco tea-cup and saucer set from my lovely Mum.

On the gifts given, here are some links to the brilliant Ravelry patterns, where I get lots of inspirations and ideas.  For my Sis I made a Whipple Shawl, designed by the very talented Pmcblonde. 

My Mum got some Dragonfly socks in yarn by DyeSpinKnitUK .

And my running buddy and chief baking tester and critic, Anita, some Simple Stripy socks to match her funky cushions at home.

Good job I've got lots of new inspiration for next years presents!  I'm going to join in a year-long Knit along with one of the Ravelry groups this year, which will be supporting British sock pattern designers and yarn dyers.  So I wonder what some people will be getting next Xmas?????  Best get knitting.

Happy New Year

Friday, 23 December 2011

Xmas bags, Gingerbread biscuits and chocolate hazelnut splats!

See, I don't blog for ages and then they all come along like the No 37 bus.

In the run up to Christmas my sewing machine goes into over-drive.  Throughout the year I like to make jam, jellies and chutneys for my own consumption, as well as to give away for Xmas gifts.  Rather than wrap them up in paper or cellophane I tend to clothe them in little fabric bags.  They are so simple to make.  Simply get a rectangle of fabric that will go around the jar and allow about 2" extra for seams at the side and bottom and about an extra 5" on the top for the fabric to fan out.  Fold a small seam over along the top edge to tidy it up and sew (unless you want the rustic look!).  Then fold the fabric in half, right-sides facing together and sew down the side and along the bottom.  Turn the right way out, pop your jar in, tie up with some ribbon, add a card, bells or whatever jazz you like and voila..........

nearly as quick as wrapping it with paper.......honest!

The cookie cutters also come out and I like to make lots of gingerbread biscuits which get taken off to be munched in various places.  I have been using a really simple recipe I cut out of a magazine a few years ago.
Preheat an oven to 170c and line baking trays with baking parchment or Bake-o-Glide.  Melt 125g unsalted butter, 100g dark muscovado sugar (although I use whatever is in the cupboard of the brown sugar variety) and 4 tbsp of golden syrup until dissolved.  Take off the heat.  Sieve 325g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 2 tsp of ground ginger into a bowl.  Stir in the melted ingredients to make a stiff dough.  Tip out onto a floured surface, roll out to about 5mm thickness and then start cutting out with your favourite festive shaped cutters. Keep balling and rolling the dough out until you have used it all up.  Place on the baking trays and bake in batches for about 9-10 minutes until light golden brown. 

The recipe will make 30 - 40 biscuits depending on the size of your cutters.  This year I made snowflakes and angels.  Allow to cool on a rack and then consume.  They will last in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks......unlikely.

I also tried some hazelnut biscuits from a recipe given to me by a lovely lady I know of Swiss origins.  It comes from a book called Tante Heidi's Swiss Kitchen.  Lets just say the first batch tasted great, but went a little splat like.  They have been compared to a biscuit version of a Ferrero Rocher!  Not a bad complement, just need to make them hold their shape a tad better.  Would you believe they went into the oven as Angels and Stars!!

 More recipe info when they are a little more perfected......

Happy Christmas, Joyeux Noel,  Frohliche Weihnachten........ and all that malarkey

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Roman Style Spelt Loaf

I must confess, I have been a little absent in the baking department.  Back at the end of November, OH and I spent a lovely week on the North Pembrokeshire coast in a little village called Newport.  Not only a gorgeous spot on the headland looking back across Newport Sands, it is also a hot spot for foodies.  Some great pubs, restaurants and cafes serving local, mainly organic produce and a super little Farmers Market every Monday morning all provided much tingling of the taste-buds  Thankfully the weather was unseasonably beautiful so allowed much hiking and strolling opportunities to walk off all the yummies.  What it didn't help was allowing us to use the log-burner which I had gone to great lengths to make sure we had.  Too blinking hot!!

Whilst in Pembrokeshire I came across quite a few loaves of bread made with spelt flour.  Not a flour I have used before in bread-making, I thought I would give it a go on our return.  Newport also has a fantastic wholefoods shop, where I purchased some Doves Farm Wholegrain Spelt Flour.  Handily on the back was a recipe for a Roman Style Spelt Loaf.  If you want a relatively quick loaf to make, Spelt is your flour to use.  It requires very little kneading and is pretty quick to prove and rise.  Widely grown since Roman times, it has a nice rustic feel to it. 
This recipe also uses quite a high ratio of water to flour, so has quite a crumpet crumb texture.  In a large bowl mix together 500g spelt flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp quick yeast.  Dissolve 1 tbsp of honey in 400ml of warm water and roughly mix into the flour.  Whilst still craggy add 1 tbsp of olive oil and mix well.  Knead or work the dough for a few minutes then divide between two 1lb loaf tins.  I only have a 2lb loaf tin, so popped the whole mixture in one.

It doesn't look at all like a regular bread dough, more like a solid cake mix, but bare with it.  Cover with a t-towel and allow it to double in size.  The recipe says this will take about 25 minutes.  I found it needed closer to an hour, but will depend on how warm your room is.

Now, I am not adverse to showing off my "failures" as well as "successes".  What the recipe didn't say was to grease the tin well, being it is a very sticky dough.  Hence my first attempt came out like this........

Thankfully the crispy bits on the bottom of the tin were quite tasty!  On the next attempt I used a loaf tin liner that I use for cake baking and the results were much better.

I should add you bake in a pre-heated oven at 200c / 180c fan for 40-45 minutes, until hollow sounding when you tap the bottom.
With the addition of honey, its quite a sweet loaf, so lovely with jam or marmalade and still surprisingly nice with Marmite for breakfast........thankfully.
I will certainly be making this one again, if I need a loaf in a hurry.  Tonight's bread baking was a cupboard rummage loaf, so consisted of white, wholemeal and rye flour.  You never know quite what you're going to get flavour wise.

On the crafting front I have been finishing off my Xmas gifts in time for the weekend, so will post patterns and pictures after the recipients have received them.  Some rather special news is I am now an Auntie to little Eleanor Charlotte, so she shall be getting lots of hand-knit goodies in the New Year, plus I found out the my Grandma's gorgeous Singer sewing machine, shown in an earlier post was manufactured between January to June 1910 in Clydebank.  How cool is that to have that kind of info!!  101 years old and still going strong.