Saturday, 29 December 2012

Orange Pastry Mince Pies

Now I must confess, I'm not much of a Xmas cake / pudding / mince pie kinda girl, but as I had a jar of luxury mincemeat from Tuppenny Barn sitting in my cupboard needing using, it was about time I manned up and tried my making my own.  Plus spurred on by my recent cupcake decorating evening with Frog Hollow Catering, I thought I could try and adapt the Mince Pie to make it more my own style.

The recipe for the orange pastry (and the jar of mincemeat!!) came from my friend, Jane.  I've always found shop-bought mince pies a bit claggy in texture, so the thought of a short, high fat ratio pastry, made making mince pies more appealing.  Higher fat in pastry = less shrinkage and gives a more melt in the mouth texture.

Recipe for the pastry
200g plain flour
100g cold butter cut into small chunks
50g lard - as with butter
Grated rind of one large orange
Orange juice to bind

I made 12 large and 12 mini mince pies with this amount of pastry, but I didn't have full pastry tops.

Put the flour, butter, lard and orange rind into a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add enough orange juice until the mixture starts forming a ball.   Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.  I made my pastry the day before, so it was nice and cold.

Roll out your pastry as thinly as possible (mine needs to be thinner next time).  Then start cutting out your bases and popping into greased tart tins.  I used a 2 5/8in cutter for my mini mince pies and a 3 1/16 in cutter for the larger ones.  Fill (but not overfill - made that mistake) with your mincemeat and add your topping of choice.  For the larger mince pies I used little pastry shapes and for the mini mince pies I added fondant icing snowflakes after they were baked.

Bake in a 200c static oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until puffed up and light golden brown in colour.

Allow to cool slightly......................... and then eat!

Very yummy, even if I do say so myself.  I might have been converted!

Happy baking and to a prosperous 2013!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Schweineorchen or Pigs Ears!

OK, I know, I've been an absent blogger.  Funnily enough that thing called Christmas got in the way and I was busy finishing off lots of handmade goodies that couldn't be blogged until after the event.

One of the quickest and simplest things I made were a baked item from my Dr Oetker 'Backen macht freude' Baking book that I got in Germany.  A lovely lady I work for remembered  'Schweineorchen' or Pigs Ears from her childhood, so I just had to make her some.

Simply take a roll of ready rolled puff pastry and spread it out on a worktop sprinkled with icing sugar to stop it sticking.  Brush with 25g melted and cooled butter. Then sprinkle a mixture of 50g castor sugar and a sachet of Dr Oetker Vanilla sugar (approx. 7g if you have vanilla sugar in a jar) all over the sheet of puff pastry.

Then the fun bit begins.  Roll the pastry nice and tightly from each end, until both sides meet in the middle.  Wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 200c static or 180c fan oven

Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper and then slice your pastry at 1cm intervals and place on the baking sheets.  Leave enough space for expansion.
You'll see now why they are so named!

In a static oven, bake one sheet at a time for 15 minutes, turning halfway through, or baked until golden in colour.  In a fan oven you can do two or three sheets at a time.

Once baked, slide onto a wire rack to cool and sprinkle with more vanilla sugar whilst still warm.

As you can see I have two varieties as I also had some all-butter puff pastry in the freezer, so wanted to compare.  The ones on the left are with the ready-roll pastry and hold their shape much better.  I still need to roll them more tightly to get a better shape though.

Still they tasted great, were nice and crunchy and can be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks (unlikely!).  Plus they got the seal of approval from my German friend.

On the sewing front I had a lovely time making a Clothkits dress for my Niece, Ellie. 

I can recall my talented Mum making clothes for my Sister and I, so thought this would be a good starting point.  I got to add a lining, make a button placket and buttonholes on my new sewing machine and learn other new skills with the handy online sewing guide.  Plus I may just have bought another dress pattern in red corduroy to try :-)

Happy crafting!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Frog Hollow Catering Sugarcraft Workshop

Phwew, November has been a whistle-stop month, with lots of new crafts being learnt.  My final instalment took me to the home of Charlotte Briggs, owner and chef of Frog Hollow Catering, for a Sugarcraft workshop.  The theme was 'Vintage' and we would be trying out eight different designs using cupcakes as our platform.  Now I know nothing about cake decorating apart from applying a layer of Nutella to a chocolate cake.  Partly as I'm usually too keen to tuck into the cake.

The idea behind the workshop was to show lots of techniques that you could then apply to a larger decorated cake.

We played with fondant icing (ideal as a base for your decorating), petal paste (great for shaping roses!), edible glue, shimmer dusts, coloured pastes (such a small amount goes a very long way) and no end of cutters, indentation mats and moulds.

I was also introduced to a website 'Cake Craft World', where you can find no end of goodies to design just about any cake.

Did I have fun?  You bet and at £36 for a 3.5 hour workshop, very reasonable.  Plus, look what I got to take home.........

Happy baking!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Christmas Bonanza at Cowslip Workshops

Last weekend saw Mum and I drive down to Cornwall in some 'testing' weather conditions.  However, nothing would stop us reaching our destination, as we were going to the amazing Cowslip Workshops for their annual Christmas Bonanza Workshop.  I've done this fun weekend before, as well as another quilting workshop back in March and I can safely say........... I LOVE COWSLIP! 

Everything about it is enchanting, the farm location looking across to Launceston Castle, the homely Cafe serving delicious food and the amazingly generous tuition from tutor and owner Jo Colwill.  You just feel welcome and no-one wants to leave. 

Oh, and don't even get me started on the shop, which is a quilters paradise.  Its a very good job I don't live closer, else I don't think my credit card would survive!

Throughout the weekend I got to start on a new Xmas Quilt (I can't help myself!!!).  Here I learnt some new piecing skills and also how to make a 'wonky' log cabin design.................

........................ then I moved on to making 'Ruddy' the Reindeer.  He makes me laugh!

I have a Xmas wreath in the making, as well as a bundle of other patterns to play around with.  Should keep me occupied for a while.

Not only did we have fun at the workshop, we also have stayed at the lovely Goodmansleigh B&B, which was recommended by Cowslip.  Run by the delightful and attentive Lisa, you can expect immaculate rooms, super comfy beds, a delicious breakfast and lots of sewing chat.  Just 10 minutes from Cowslip and on the outskirts of Launceston, it provided the perfect location.  Even Dartmoor was just a short drive away.  We can't wait to return and are looking forward to seeing the new self-catering barn conversions which should open next year.

Oh, and did I mention we've booked in for next years Cowslip Bonanza weekend - yippee!

Roll on 2013 - Happy Crafting!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Afternoon Tea at My Place!

I've decided the best way to use my ever increasing collection of Art Deco crockery is to host an Afternoon Tea this Sunday.  If all goes well, I'm hoping it might become a regular thing - what better excuse to bake lots of different goodies.  For this sitting there will be six of us including my Mum and some ladies I work for.

I started the baking on Friday night with a batch of Hazelnut and Choc Chip Macaroons from my River Cottage Cakes Cookbook (same as the ones I sent to BIL in Afghanistan - they were the most popular).
Some were heading off to a Tradecraft event and only six made it into the Cookie tin as OH took a fancy to them.  Such a quick and simple recipe to make and with no flour in them, Gluten-free!

All hail the 'Oven'.  You've got a lot of work to do!

Saturday morning saw my first ever attempt at a French Macaron!  I've finally plucked up the courage to make some out of my 'Macarons' Book, that my lovely running buddy got me last Xmas. 
I had also found an excellent tutorial online for loads of extra tips for the perfect Macaron!

I pretty pleased with my first attempt and rather than just use the basic recipe on its own, I added a tiny bit of lemon extract to the mixture and then filled them with lime curd.  Tada ...... Lemon & Lime Macarons!  Also tasty filled with some whipped double cream.  They are best left for 24 hours in the fridge to mature.

Then it was onto the bread for the sandwiches.  I'm using the Sleepless White recipe that I blogged about here.  All ingredients kneaded and left upstairs in a cool room for the next 16 hours!

Now for Afternoon Tea, you've got to have a whole cake as well as little morsels, so I've opted for a Victoria Sponge Cake, again from the River Cottage Cakes Book.  I've never made one of these before and was interested to see that you weigh the eggs in their shells first and then use equal quantities of flour, sugar and butter.  You really had to cream the sugar and the butter together until almost white before slowly adding the eggs (best at room temperature!) to prevent the batter curdling.  As I had used a single wider tin it came out a bit flatter than I would have liked, but I'm sure the addition of jam and lashings of cream tomorrow should solve that!

Sunday morning saw me rise bright and early (not sure about the bright bit) to divide the bread dough into three and leave to prove for another couple of hours.  After they'd cooled I turned them into a choice of smoked trout or cucumber sandwiches.  So very British!

The last of the baking was from my 'The Gluten Free Baker' Book and I chose Honey Madeleine's.  Despite the thickness of the batter, they rose brilliantly and you could just taste the honey, orange zest and cinnamon.  Dusted with some icing sugar, they looked just the ticket.

After a little rest - its tiring this baking lark (but rewarding!) it was time to start setting the table, get out all my prized crockery and adding the baked goodies.

Oh and making pots of tea!  Then all there was left to do was............. eat!

Now I can't wait to do it all again, but what to bake next time??????????????
Happy baking

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Panary - 1 Day Sourdough Bread Course

A bright and early start saw Jane and I head off across country to Shaftsbury, Dorset, where we were taking part in a 1 Day Sourdough Bread Course at Panary.  Arriving a bit early we were able to grab a coffee and admire the view from this quaint market-town.

On arrival at the Cann Mills, where the course was taking place, we were met by the delightful Paul, as seen below.  Lucky for us, there were no other participants that day, so we had brilliant one-to-one tuition and could ask away with all our bread-related questions.
(I forgot to take any photos, so all have been acquired from Panary's website).

Not only did we get to make four different types of sourdough bread (a Pain au Levain, 100% Russian rye, Bubble bread and a hybrid sourdough using fresh yeast as well as a sourdough leaven), we also learnt oodles of tips on regular bread-making including shaping loaves, correct temperatures for proving, the benefits of stone ground flour over industrially produced flour and much more that I won't bore you with.

A tour of the mill was also on the agenda by the Miller, Michael Stoate, a Fifth Generation miller.  We managed to pick his brains as well and is was great to see the variety of flours they produced.

A fire in the 1950's, meant a replacement shell to the mill was required, but we still got to see the old workings and waterwheel still in operation.

I think I can safely say we came away with lots more knowledge on Sourdough and yeast based bread production .............oh and a heck a lot of bread.  This photo (which is mine!) is just of what I got to keep!
On the left 'Bubble bread', centre 'Pain au Levain', top right '100% Russian Rye' and bottom right 'Hybrid bread'.
May the 'November Learning' continue!
Happy baking!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

November - a month of much learning!

So there I was on a Friday night, sitting quite happily on the sofa, flicking through my Paul Hollywood 'How to Bake' Book.  OH casually leans over, checks out the page I'm on and remarks "those look really nice, can you make some for our walking trip tomorrow?"  Now, we were heading up to Wales at the crack of dawn to go walking with a group of friends for OH's brothers 40th birthday, so how could I refuse.  Or is it just I take any excuse to try out new recipes???

The treats on offer were 'Chocolate, Peanut and raisin clusters', or as mine looked, 'Mini cow pats'.  Looks can be deceiving.

A really quick recipe that required you to melt part of the chocolate (a good excuse to use the 90% cocoa bar I had in the cupboard - I did combine it with other less powerful chocolate!) with some butter, castor sugar, golden syrup and vanilla extract over a pan of simmering water.

Mix together the remaining chopped chocolate, peanuts and raisins (I had sultanas in the cupboard so used these instead) and add in some sifted flour and cocoa powder.

The melted ingredients were added (my sugar didn't want to dissolve, but I carried on anyway) and stirred together, before using a ice-cream scoop to place similar sized blobs onto a lined baking sheet.  How it will all hold together is beyond me!

They were then baked in the oven for 15 minutes, before being allowed to cool and firm up on a wire rack.

Despite being a bit crumbly, they worked brilliantly as a trail snack, giving a massive energy boost.  No doubt equally good with milk chocolate and / or white chocolate with cranberries.  The possibilities are endless.

Mini cow pats aside, the most exciting part of November is all the creative workshops I've got to look forward to.  A bit like the No.36 Bus, they all come along at once! This Saturday I'm off with my friend Jane to try a Sourdough Bread Workshop at The Panary.  More inspiring recipes to bring home hopefully. 

Later in the month I'm back at the amazing Cowslip Workshops for their Christmas Bonanza Workshop.  It'll be the third time I've been down to see Jo and her brilliant team.  This time Mum is coming along and we are looking forward to making a long weekend of it. 

To top it off, I'll be back less than 24 hours before having a go at a Vintage-style cupcake decorating evening with Charlotte from Frog Hollow Catering.  Phwew!  I'm gonna be busy, that and hosting my first Afternoon Tea with my newly acquired eclectic Art Deco crockery collection.

Should be a fair bit to blog about then...........................................

Happy baking!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Butterscotch cookies & Raspberry Cupcakes!

I'm over in Germany having some fun girl-time with my Niece and Sister and you guessed it!  Yup, we've done some baking.  We used the excuse to invite a friend and her twins over for a little Afternoon Tea and chose to make Butterscotch Cookies and Raspberry Cupcakes.  Now my Sis likes playing in the kitchen as much as me, but I bet her cupcakes will be better decorated than mine :-)

The Butterscotch Cookie recipe came out of her Good Food Magazine and is super simple.  Its a basic cookie recipe, but with a sneaky addition of some puffed rice breakfast cereal to give them a crunch.  We managed to get hold of some Choco Krispies, so they added a bit more chocolate to the mix - no harm in that!

We also added the chocolate chips into the batter, rather than popping on the top for decoration.  The recipe says it makes 10 cookies (we doubled-up), but you definitely get more than that.  We got 23 from a double batch and they could have been smaller.

We popped them in a Gas Mark 3 oven for 18 minutes or so.  Half-way through they were taken out and banged on the worktop (use a tea-towel in between to save the work-top).  This helps get out some of the air-bubbles and flattens out the cookies. 

Bake until golden brown.  They may still feel soft on top, but they will firm up when cooled.


Sweet, but not overly so, with a nice crunch from the Krispies.

Our little kitchen assistant managed to get hold of my Dr Oetker Cupcake Recipe book and chose the Raspberry Cupcake page to look at.  She was most insistent that this was the page - so the decision was made - Raspberry Cupcakes it was!

Now the fun thing for this recipe, was that the book is all in German.  Thankfully Google Translate came to the rescue and we figured it all out.  But you did have to use a little lateral thinking.  Cupcake rust = bake until golden brown!

A nice simple recipe again, that used frozen raspberries tossed in cornflour (to help prevent them leak juice everywhere and sink to the bottom of the batter) and yogurt in the batter.

All mixed together, the batter was divided between the 12 cupcake cases......


and then baked for around 25 minutes until just golden on top and a skewer came out clean.  Amazingly the raspberries defrosted in the oven and it all baked through perfectly.

The topping consisted of whipping cream, Sahnesteif  (a German cream stiffening agent) and raspberry syrup, which was all whipped up until nice and stiff.

Then we had fun with the piping bag!  My Sis was much more precise!

Whereas I couldn't stop giggling!

The recipe had way too much cream for the amount of cupcakes - you could easily get away with half.  Despite one cupcake missing - well we had to test one to make sure it was alright before icing....................

A fun afternoon baking with my Sis and then a equally nice afternoon consuming the goodies with friends.

So what are you baking?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Paul Hollywood's Milk Loaf

Just a quickie post to say I tried another bread recipe from Paul Hollywood's 'How to Bake' book the other day.  Its full of yummy bread and sweet delight recipes, but the one I tried this time was a 'Milk Loaf'.

He seems to favour quite a sticky dough for most of his bread recipes, as you seem to use a bit more water than usual.  Also rather than the warm water normally suggested in bread recipes, he opts for cool water.  This takes longer for the initial rise to take place, but in the process provides a fuller flavoured dough.  If, however, you are baking in a cold wintery kitchen, use slightly tepid water.

Butter is melted in warm milk, then mixed in to your flour, yeast, sugar and salt until its a nice sticky dough.  Then tip it out onto an oiled surface and knead for 5 - 10 minutes.

I then popped out for a bit and 3 hours later it was a lovely billowy pillow.......

You then knock it back, shape into a rectangle and pop in a loaf tin...........................

........ so it can then rise for another hour or so until doubled in size.

Then popped in the oven until lovely and coloured.

Buttery rich, with a sweet soft texture it cuts nicely and is lovely with butter and jam when still warm.  It also toasts well, though does become a bit crumbly after a few days.

I've never made a white loaf in a tin before, as I usually prefer a round loaf, but I'm really pleased with how it came out.  Altogether, rather scrummy!

Happy baking!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Treats for the troops #2

Due to popular demand, more batches of biscuits (plus some sweeties!) found themselves flying off to Afghanistan for my BIL to share (hopefully!).  The last lot took only 6 days to arrive and about 6 minutes to be consumed!

These are the final product, plus Colin, who is certainly not camera-shy.  The temptation to post him off as well was quite high!

My first offering were Hazelnut dunking biscuits, from a recipe I found online whilst searching for hazelnut biscuits.  I halved the recipe as it was for 50 biscuits and I was using up store-cupboard ends.  I also used 1 medium egg as its a bit difficult to halve an egg!
Rather than the whole hazelnuts I used 70g chopped roasted hazelnuts + 30g ground hazelnuts to make up the right amount.

All the ingredients, except the hazelnuts, were blended in the Kenwood and I then folded in the hazelnut mix.

Using a teaspoon as guide I made about 24 little balls which were rolled and then flattened slightly with the palm of my hand and placed on a lined baking sheet.

The recipe didn't stipulate whether to use a fan or static oven so I placed the tray in a 180c fan oven and baked in two batches to get a more even bake.  First batch for 9-10 minutes( I opened the oven to check them, so lost some heat).  Second batch for 8 minutes 

They are cooked to a light golden colour and as you can see are really quite delicious!

My second offering were a batch of Jo's Peanut butter & choc chip cookies, which I had made and blogged about before and added an update here.

They are a really quick and simple cookie to make and extremely tasty.

This time I baked them in a 180 fan oven.  First batch for 8 minutes + 2 minutes.  Large teaspoon size.  Second batch for 9 minutes

All packed up and ready to go..................  Lets hope these make it there as fast! 

Here's a random photo from the garden that made me chuckle this week........................

Its National Baking Week next week, Happy Baking!