Monday, 28 January 2013

Paul Hollywood's Chocolate Eclairs

Now, as you probably know I'm a BIG fan of the Great British Bake-Off and watched the recent Comic Relief Bake-Off specials with glee.  Its always fun to see how people react to the challenges set by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood and also to pick up more tips and recipes along the way. 

So I thought I'd better challenge myself to try a new 'Bake-Off ' technique as seen on one of the shows.  Paul Hollywood's Chocolate Eclairs got the vote this time.  OH is a bit of an eclair fan and I have been promising to make these for ages, so at least I wouldn't have to eat them all myself!

I started off making the choux pastry, which involves melting the butter in water over a low heat......

Then you raise the heat until it bubbles and add in the sifted flour.  Take off the heat and beat furiously until it comes together into a ball, then put back on a low heat for a minute to cook the flour a little, stirring so it doesn't stick.  Pop into a mixing bowl to cool.

Beat 2 eggs in a separate bowl.  The recipe doesn't stipulate what size eggs, so I used 2 medium sized eggs, courtesy of my friend Cathy's chickens.  One yolk was so huge, it was double the size of the other one!

Using a hand mixer, you then add the eggs gradually until you get a nice thick batter, suitable for piping and with a lovely shiny appearance.  I got to use my fab new Kenwood Hand Mixer too.  Its so lovely.

See, nice and shiny.......

Spoon the batter into a piping bag - to make this easier try using a pint glass or jug to hold the bag upright.....

Then pipe onto a greased or lined baking sheet.........

You then bake the pastry in a static 200c oven for 15 minutes.   Without opening the oven door, reduce the temperature to 170c and bake for a further 10 minutes until golden.  Take out the pastries and make a little hole in each one to release the steam and bake for a further 5 minutes or until golden in colour and crisp all over.

I was so pleased they actually looked right, I nearly squeaked.

Then pipe in some whipped up cream with added icing sugar and vanilla extract.  I put the cream into a freezer bag and snipped the corner off to use as a disposable piping bag - it worked a treat.

Top with melted chocolate and voila!

My sister had got me a handy little chocolate melting pot from Lakeland, which is ideal for melting small amounts of chocolate and made it much easier to get the chocolate on the top of the eclairs and not all over everything else!
Milk chocolate on the bottom of the picture and a rather ingenious suggestion by OH to try Montezuma's Dark Chocolate Sea Dog at the top of the picture.  Lime and sea salt isn't your usual eclair topping, but trust me....... its gorgeous.

Then demolish!  So what will you bake for Comic Relief?

Happy baking!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Olivianne Dress for Ellie

It has to be said, my Niece Ellie is very knit worthy.  Other than my love of sock knitting, she seems to take up much of my knitting time and is a great stash-buster!

I came across a lovely little knitted dress pattern on Ravelry a while back called Olivianne and have been meaning to make it for a while.  Whilst visiting my Sister in Germany we chose some lovely Lana Grossa Meilenweit Doppio sock yarn in gorgeous purple shades.  The pattern asks you to knit it holding 2 strands of the 4ply at a time, so you could easily replace it with a double knit thickness yarn if necessary.

The pattern makes a lovely honeycomb texture and using 2 different balls of yarn, you could create some great effect's.  I chose to use 2 balls of the same yarn, but still got a nice rippled effect.

Its a simple pattern to follow and knits up really quickly.  I made the 24 month size and I think my knitting must be a bit tight as it came up a bit short.  Not a problem as apparently it fits already!

I hope to get a picture of her in it soon, if she keeps still long enough :-)

Now its on to making a new 'going out' hat for me.  More on that next week!

Happy knitting!

For more FO Friday posts pop over to Tami Ami's Blog

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Jo Wheatley's Brazil Nut Brownies

Don't you just love looking at a baking recipe, or any recipe for that matter and think 'I've got all the ingredients, what's stopping me'.  Well as luck would have it I was perusing my new copy of Jo Wheatley's  'A Passion for Baking' and the page fell open on her Brazil Nut Chocolate Brownie recipe.  Its a great book (another Xmas pressie from my Mum) and an absolute bargain at the current price of £6.  Jo won the Great British Bake Off a couple of years back and she was always my favourite for her homely baking skills.

Now I can't recall ever making brownies before, so it was fun to try something new.

I melted some chocolate and butter in the microwave and then allowed it to cool.

Sugar, vanilla extract and eggs were whisked together, before adding the melted chocolate and butter and then sifting in both plain and self-raising flour with some cocoa.

Once well blended, chopped brazil nuts and some extra milk chocolate chunks were stirred in.

The mixture is then popped into a greased and line baking tin / dish.

I baked my brownies for 35 minutes in a static 170c oven and they came out like this.

Allow the mixture to cool in the tin.  It will be very squishy in the centre still, but sets as it cools.  As long as the top is just firm, they are good to come out the oven.

Once cooled, cut up into squares and demolish.  They were delicious and well received by all who've tasted them so far.  Not delicately divided - oh well!

If you join Jo's Blue Aga page on Facebook, she is very quick to answer any questions.  I suggested I might try them next time with some dried fruit and she came back almost by return with a suggestion of dried cranberries and pistachios!  Now that's got to be worth a go!

Another Xmas present used, though so many more yummy recipes to try out.  Go on,buy it!

Happy baking!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Sticking to my NY resolutions!

OK, so I know its only mid January, but I'm sticking to my Knitty resolution so far.  I've finished my Birch Socks, which are the first of 13 in a KAL over on the Ravelry UK Sock Knitters Group with a Lunar theme as mentioned here.  I admit I did purchase that pattern, but I used leftover sock yarn from other projects. 

I've already found patterns and yarn for the next 4 months that I already own, so we're looking good.  January's socks will be Icicle socks and I'll be using some of my own hand-dyed yarn.

At the moment I'm knitting a super sweet little Olivianne dress for my Niece.  I was gifted this pattern a while ago and my Sis and I chose the yarn when I was visiting her in October.  Its coming along really well in the 24 month size.  Room to grow into it that way.


I'm also working on a scarf pattern that came with some gorgeous alpaca/cotton yarn that my lovely OH bought me back from Canada last year.  Its a gorgeous natural fawn colour and the pattern is so very simple, its practically mind-numbing.  But a great TV knit that will come along in time.

All this to prevent me casting on ANOTHER pair of socks until 27th January :-)

I've also used my first Xmas baking item, a proving basket from my Mum.  I'm making some hodge-podge loaves (whatever is in the cupboard), so this was a good excuse to try the new basket (the smaller one in the photo). 

Its only the second time I've used one of these baskets, the first being one I purchased from the Panary Course back in November.  This time I made sure both baskets were liberally coated with rye flour on the inside to stop the dough from sticking. 


You get a lovely ridged effect on the loaf, as well as a good oblong shape.

All in all, the resolutions are bounding along at speed!

Happy crafting!

For more 'Work in Progress Wednesdays' Blog posts head over to Tami Ami's Blogspot.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

2013 Crafting & Baking New Years Resolutions

At the moment I'm involved in a Lunar themed KAL (Knit-a-long) over on Ravelry with the UK Sock Knitters Group.  (Sounds like a therapy group!!)  Different cultures have associated different names to the full moons of each month. For each moon cycle 3 associated names have been chosen. Our challenge is to find a sock pattern or yarn that in my mind links back to one of the 3 words for that cycle.

28-Dec-12 Cold Winter Birch
27-Jan-13 Wolf Ice Rowan
25-Feb-13 Storm Candles Ash
27-Mar-13 Worm Hare Sugar
25-Apr-13 Pink Seed Fish
25-May-13 Flower Dragon Milk
23-Jun-13 Mead Rose Strawberry
22-Jul-13 Thunder Herb Hay
21-Aug-13 Barley Red Blue
19-Sep-13 Harvest Fruit Chrysanthemum
18-Oct-13 Hunter Blood Blackberry
17-Nov-13 Beaver Snow Tree
17-Dec-13 Oak Frost Bitter

For this month I've chosen Birch and am using leftover yarn from the socks which feature on my Blog header.  I'm half-way through so far, so they're coming along well.

So what is my New Years Resolution I hear you ask.  Well, on the crafting front its pattern and yarn stash-busting.  I hope to complete the above KAL using either and / or patterns and yarn I already own.  I say this is the plan........ I am a sucker for squishy sock yarn!

So for Birch its stash-busting leftover yarn from these lovely socks (with some other leftovers for the contrast toe) .......

On the baking front, I'm aiming to use / try out all the new goodies I got for Xmas and not just putting them in the cupboard and using the old-faithfuls.  Watch out for interesting shaped cakes on the horizon.  Though perhaps first I might work off a bit of Xmas belly!

Happy New Year!