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!