Monday, 23 January 2012

Mary Berry's Banana and Choc Chip Loaf Cake

So what do you do when you have an excess of over-ripe bananas smelling out your kitchen??????
Well spurred on by the Sport Relief Great British Bake-off on TV recently, I couldn't resist having a go at Mary Berry's Banana and Choc Chip Loaf Cake.  All the contestants had made a hash of it, though this was mainly due to mix-up's with measuring spoon sizes.........not ideal with baking powder and bi-carb it turns out.
I can do better than that I thought!  Being a little too cocky isn't always wise.
Lets just say I didn't have soft enough butter.  Oops.  The recipe says mush up the bananas, then add all the other ingredients except the choc chips and mix up well.  Mine didn't blend quite as well as it should, possible due to un-soft butter, possibly also as I think its best to cream butter and sugar first, then add eggs, then flour, etc etc.  When it was cooking a lot of the butter seeped out, as it hadn't blended properly, causing it to be quite greasy on the outside.  Sitting it on some kitchen towel, soon sorted this problem out and the result was a very moist, tasty cake. 

Needless to say, I had to try it again, to perfect, creaming the very soft butter with the sugar first and then adding the other ingredients in succession.  Only owning a 2lb loaf tin, I doubled the ingredients and cooked the cake for about 50 minutes.  Delicious and one I shall make again.   Surely its part of my "5-a-day" ?  This one was enjoyed with a nice cuppa...... thanks for the tea-set Mum!  So pretty.

As you may have picked up along the way, I love baking my own bread, but I think its always a good idea to go back to basics sometimes and remind yourself of the principles of bread-baking. In my Bake-Off book there is a good section on bread and the science behind it.  You can get carried away with making bread and forget why its all so clever.  There is a recipe for a basic white loaf, which I had a go at, using some different techniques I hadn't tried before.  Putting the risen loaves on baking parchment rather than direct onto the bare baking sheet prevented the loaves from overly browning underneath.  Also having a heated deep tray in the bottom of the oven and adding cold water to it at the same time that the loaves go in created steam throughout the whole baking time.  Rather than my usual crispier crusts it created a lovely soft chewy crust.

I was able to use the bread for sandwiches 2 days later, rather than just for toast, which was a real bonus.   Yum yum yum yum.

On the crafty front I am really pleased with a little tank-top I have finished for niece Ellie.  Think it might be a wee bit big for now.  Could double-up as a dress?? 
Also having fun making a pair of Monkey socks in some rather wacky purple and green sock yarn.  I won't lose my feet in these! Got some funny looks knitting them on the train yesterday though :)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Cheeky Little Sock Monkeys

OK, so a while back I acquired details on how to turn a pair of socks into a monkey.  Its magic no less.  You can use any size socks.  Obviously the larger the socks, the larger the monkey.  Cutting the pair of socks in a certain way, you re-sew, stuff, sew the various body parts together, try not to giggle too much, pop on some eyes and Monkey!

Now these little darlings are my prototypes and are currently being road-tested by Callum and Charlie (aged 3 1/2 and 1 and a bit respectively).  As they are made from Tesco kiddies socks and the filling is washable, I am hoping my sewing will hold up OK and they survive being thrown around and dribbled on.  2nd Monkey got felt eyes, so not to be swallowed.

Being rather mischievous, I noticed Monkeys tail looks rather rude.......... afraid it took a matter of seconds for this to be pointed out to Callum (Duncan this is your fault!!).  I will leave you to guess the giggles it started.  Boys!

Very happy to share the pattern info via email, its a quick fun gift to make.  With giggles.

The Xmas / New Year break also meant I finally got around to finishing my Xmas Quilt that I started in November 2010.  Not completed for 2010 or 2011 Xmas, but hehoo.  Its all done now.  Back in November 2010 I was fortunate enough to go on a Xmas Bonanza weekend at Cowslip Workshop.
One of the many things available to learn was this fab little lap quilt.  Its been on the back burner for a while, but got re-ignited on a sewing evening at Thistle Wool shop over in Cowplain.  Thanks to some button suggestions from Jean, its all complete and I am quite chuffed with it.
CowslipWorkshop is based in Launceston, Cornwall and offer some amazing crafty courses, have a fabric shop to die for and a great cafe.  I missed out on the 2011 Xmas w/e but can't wait for this November when I get to try some more crafty ideas........ might even let me Mum come this time......

Simple but cute.........

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Mary Berry's Tarte Au Citron

What better excuse than New Years Eve to attempt Mary Berry's Tarte Au Citron from my new Great British Bake Off book (courtesy of my lovely Sis!).  Always wise though to make sure you have all your ingredients before the shops shut on New Years Eve.  Totally forgetting I had used eggs the night before, I found out I was one egg short of a Tarte Au Citron.  No sniggers please.  Thank cripes for the local shop!  Disaster averted, preparation could proceed.

Pastry is always so quick and easy in a food processor and avoids warm hands warming the butter too much.  Once I had chilled the pastry in the fridge for a bit, I used a new trick suggested by Mrs Berry to ensure you have the right sized pastry for your tart tin.  Simple really but effective.  Lay a sheet of baking paper on the worktop and place the base of your tart tin on the paper.  Draw a circle around the outside of the tin base 4cm bigger than the base of the tin.  You then dust the tin base with a little flour, pop the ball of chilled pastry in the centre and start rolling out the pastry, turning the paper sheet after each roll, so you get a nice even circle.  Continue until you have reached your pencil mark.  Fold the overlapped pastry back onto the base section of the tin, gently lift the tin base off the paper and into the tin case.  Then you can proceed with pressing the pastry into the corners.  Like I said simple, but saves playing around with the pastry too much. 

Part-baked tart

I definitely need to invest in a shallower pastry tin.  Mine is more for quiches (any excuse to purchase more baking equipment......), hence the pastry stood quite proud above the filling and when baking blind the edges coloured up quite quickly, so I didn't bake the pastry for as long as I should.

Just out the oven

It all tasted lovely, but my slightly soggy bottom wouldn't have won the Great British Bake Off technical challenge.  The filling is delectably tart with a hint of sweetness.  We decided we wouldn't be suffering from Scurvy anytime soon with all that Vitamin C.  It was my first attempt at sweet pastry, so certainly one to try mastering again.

Cracked the filling transferring to the stand!

I confess not my first, but second attempt at making ciabatta also got included in our New Years Eve food consumption.  Using a recipe from River Cottage's Bread book, it was a loaf I learnt on my Bread course at River Cottage.  A very sticky dough with a higher than usual ratio of water to flour, it requires time to make, but is incredibly satisfying to make your own.  You need to keep "lifting" the dough every 1/2 hour for 3 hours and then allow it to double in size before baking, but the recipe makes 6 decent size loaves.

Lifting the dough

Every time you lift and turn the dough it becomes silkier and starts to blister.  Blisters are good.  More air-holes are what you want in a ciabatta.  A liberal dusting of coarse semolina flour and you have a very authentic and super tasty home-made ciabatta.

3 of the 6 ciabattas

Its worth making the full amount as the loaves freeze really well, so handy to go with home-made soup perhaps.  I urge you, if you have the book, to give it a go, just set aside a Saturday morning to make them.
One thing I did think off whilst making the ciabatta is every 1/2 hourly turning left me with gooey fingers.  I must look out for some of those catering gloves that I can slip on each time, to save on sticky hands.

To a productive baked and crafted 2012............enjoy

Served with a snifter of Limoncello