Thursday, 31 March 2011

Macarons - v2

I made macarons a little while ago and they weren't quite perfect, they tasted amazing but they didn't have the little 'feet' - mainly because I didn't age the egg whites, and they weren't quite as uniform as I'd like.

These aren't quite as perfect again, I think macaron making definitely takes practice. I did age the whites and I got a nice crisp shell and 'feet' on my macarons. But I think I needed to pipe them a little smaller, as they were a bit ungainly, macarons are meant to be a delicate and sophisticated French sweet after all.

The macaron shells were flavoured with my new favourite thing - vanilla bean paste, and made pretty with a few drops of red food colouring, for a pinky colour. I sandwiched with lemon curd again, but I am going to try buttercream or maybe a chocolate ganache next time.

Despite their appearance they do taste fantastic, which some would say is the main thing.

I used Ruth's recipe from her blog - The Pink Whisk.

Macaron makers - do you have any tips for me?

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Thursday, 24 March 2011

Spring snaps

Spring time has finally sprung in Cambridgeshire this week. So lovely!

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Etsy Euro Week -10%

Every year Etsy celebrates all things European by having Euro Week!
It is a week that focuses on all the european sellers on Etsy which includes lots of features and spotlights from Europe.

To celebrate, I am offering 10% off in my shop with the discount code EUROWEEK. Happy Shopping everyone!

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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Sticky Beaks Cafe, Cambridge

Sometimes it can be really hard to get a decent cup of coffee and a slice of cake in Cambridge, most cafes are chains and the cakes rarely made anywhere near Cambridge.

Sticky Beaks opened up recently, on Hobson Street, it is independently run and most importantly the cakes are made there in the cafe, along with the yummy savoury offerings.

Another thing that is lovely about Sticky Beaks is their branding, I love the little birdie and it is even on their cups which is a sweet touch.

The hubby and I popped in for a quick weekday lunch. I had the sausage casserole served with a nice hunk of crusty bread, and him the puy lentil lasagne. Both lovely, the casserole had lots of lovely veg in it and herbs. The lasagne was really rich and comforting.

We also couldn't resist the lovely cakes on offer and shared a slice of  'Giant Lamington' - an Australian cake which is a sponge sandwiched with jam and topped with a thin layer of chocolate and coconut.

They also do a very nice cup of tea, in huge cups, using Tea Pigs tea which I have sung the praises of before.

It is small cafe decorated in duck egg green and pale wood (I am a sucker for duck egg) which makes it nice and bright. The huge range cooker and the artily placed Kitchen Aid behind the counter gives an air of homemade and homeliness.

The prices are very reasonable, the menu changes daily so there will always be something a little different to try. I always like to support local businesses in Cambridge rather than visiting all of the many chains that crowd the centre.

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Sunday, 20 March 2011

A Lovely Loaf of Bread

I have baked a lot of bread before, no knead bread, one hour bread, soda bread, potato bread and various other things which have been eaten too quickly to blog about. But I never seem to get around to cooking a normal white loaf, you know one you can slice and use for sandwiches and toast. I guess because it is easy to get supermarket bread for that and make fancy bread homemade. But really baking an everyday loaf is really satisfying because you can include in your everyday meals to make them more interesting.

 This recipe has more water in than normal bread doughs and I proved it once for an hour, and second in the loaf tin for 45 minutes. This mean it was moist,  very well risen and airy, I think if I'd left it the second time for another 15 minutes it would have bloomed a bit higher. I sprinkled it with poppyseeds for extra crunch and prettiness.

Simple White Loaf
makes one small loaf

300g (2.5 cups) of strong white bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
3/4 tablespoon of salt
1 flat tablespoon of instant yeast
1 tablespoon of olive oil
150ml of warm water

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then make a well in the centre and add the oil and water. Slowly incorporate the flour into the well until it combines fully, mix to a fairly sticky dough. Flour a board well and knead the loaf for a few minutes until it is smooth, you may need to keep adding flour to stop it being too sticky.

Put into a large clean bowl dusted with flour, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 1 hour.

After an hour turn the dough out and knock it back, kneading lightly for a minute. Then shape into a rough loaf shape and pop into a floured loaf tin. Prove again for 45 minutes to 1 hour in a warm place, covered with a tea towel. Preheat your oven to 180c / gas mark 4 before the proving is nearly up.

Once proved slash the top with a sharp knife, about 3 or 4 slashes should do. This will allow the loaf to rise and air to escape during cooking. Dab with some water or brush with milk and sprinkle on about 1 teaspoon of poppyseeds.

Bake for 30 - 40 minutes in the middle of the oven.

Remove from the oven, grab the butter, slice and spread and EAT!

I think this bread would take really well to other flavourings such as cheese, herbs, sundried tomatoes, whatever you can think of. Sesame seeds and a drizzle of oil would be an nice twist too. The possibilities!

I toasted it the next day and spread it with honey, it toasts extremely well.

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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

wordless wednesday - daffodils

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Monday, 14 March 2011

affordable art fair, london & cake

I spent the day in London on Saturday, whilst we go up (no ,down) there quite a lot I did manage to cram in quite a lot in one day, especially as we only arrive at midday too.

First stop was to meet the lovely Tina Mammoser (aka The Cycling Artist) who showed me around the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park. I really enjoyed it and seeing Tina's work was brilliant too, you should check out her website, amazing work!

Some of my the other favourites were:

I wish I'd made notes because I have forgotten half of what I saw! 

After the art fair I headed back into central London, had a mooch around the shops, ate a goat mooli and bought some Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes. Then we went for dinner at Byron. Yum!

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Sunday, 13 March 2011

Byron Hamburgers, Wardour St, London

I am by no means the first or the last person to review Byron but I am going to anyway!

The smell of meat is the first thing that hits you when you walk into Byron, and instantly makes you hungry. There are lots of burger joints all over the country but mostly they aren't very inventive, tasty or interesting.

I was most looking forward to the sides, which is probably an odd thing to say. We ordered the skin on fries and the much talked about courgette fries. The courgette fries were just brilliant, lightly battered and really fresh tasting.

The other highlight of the meal was my amazingly big pickle, something which seems to be much more popular in the USA but you don't get much here. Unfortunately my burger was a little underseasoned but otherwise it was very tasty once I added some seasoning.

I also ordered the Oreo Milkshake, which was a bit like cookies and cream ice cream but melted, it was a lovely, and quite filling, so much so that I uncharacteristically didn't have any room for pudding.

We booked for Saturday night at Wardour Street, but arrived half an hour earlier which I was glad of because by the time we left about 7.30 there was a huge queue out of the door. I'd recommend booking or going at a quieter time in the weekdays to secure a table.

Byron Hamburgers

Wardour St

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Friday, 11 March 2011

Butterscotch flowers

The saddest thing about vintage beads that you really love is that inevitably they are hard to find again, these butterscotch daisies are so cute and have been quite popular in my shops.

I found the very last pair of them in my bead box this week so they are being relisted on Folksy for the last time. I'll be sad to let them go because they are such pretty beads, I keep looking out for them in case a few turn up somewhere.

But I think they are gone forever now!

Grab the last pair whilst you can. And it will also stop me writing such soppy posts about beads ;)

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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Coffee & Hazelnut Cupcakes

I think I have a cupcake fixation. I think it is because they are a) really easy to make b) cute and c) great to photograph.

I have no less than 7 (now 8) cupcake recipes in my reasonably petite recipe archive. They are a bit like brownies (I have a lot of those blogged too), adaptable and everyone loves them. I don't always like icing or frosting, it can make the cupcake overly sweet for an everyday lunchtime snack, but for special ocasions you have to. My favourite cupcake is lemon drizzle, which is also my favourite cake.

These cupcakes are again super easy and people always swoon when you mention coffee cake in any form - have you noticed that? I played around with the traditional walnut and decided to sub hazelnut instead because I prefer them. There is a mixture of whole and chopped hazelnuts, along with one of the top which gave it a slightly er, protuding appearance - oops!

I am a coffee snob and I much prefer proper fresh ground coffee to instant, but instant is always the best thing to use for baking - unless you can find coffee extract. You can get a much stronger coffee taste, and I've tried using freshly made proper espresso before, than real coffee. Trust me!

Coffee & Hazelnut Cupcakes
makes about 12 cupcakes

200g butter, softened
200g white or brown sugar
4 eggs
175g self raising flour
4 tsps of instant coffee (dissolve about 2 tsps of powder in as little water as possible, approx 75ml)
dash of vanilla extract
chopped and whole hazelnuts - about 100g in total plus extra for the top.

Preheat your oven to 200c / gas mark 6
Cream together your butter and sugar with a spoon and then whisk in the eggs one by one, mixing well to incorporate each time. Add in your vanilla, coffee and then the flour, folding in, try not to overbeat. Then add in your hazelnuts.

Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases, and fill to about 2/3 full, top with hazelnuts. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes til cooked all the way through.

I did intend to ice them with chocolate and coffee icing but trying to eke out some leftover chocolate frosting with extra coffee and milk made it go all runny, whoops! I experimented with one but the chocolate just wouldn't set, but it was tasty when topped with more hazelnuts.

P.S. The other cupcakes in the picture are lemon cupcakes, recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery Book :)

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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Birthday Cupcakes, La Hogue Farm Cafe and other treats!

This weekend was my birthday, well Saturday was but I made a weekend of it, I think that is the rule if your birthday is on a Saturday.

There was a LOT of cake.

First of all hubby really out did himself and made these fabulous chocolate cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery book, he added his own twist of a raspberry filling and a chocolate cream cheese icing. They are seriously good, so chocolatey! There is ONE left and it is all mine....

We went for a lovely lunch a the Old Fire Engine house in Ely on Saturday, I didn't grab any pictures (except for the bread basket which isn't that interesting!) but it was a really quirky place to go for lunch, the puddings are great!

Due to the wonder that is Twitter the lovely La Hogue farm shop offered me free tea and cake on account of it being my birthday, yay! So we stopped off there for some shopping in the farm shop and then for a slice of (more) cake in the farm shop cafe and a cup of tea (look at the cute milk jug!). The new farm shop cafe is lovely, with proper tables for lunch and cosy sofas for a relaxing cuppa. We are going to stop by for lunch some day. The cakes are beautiful too, the ginger cake we had was very fresh and obviously homemade. Yum!

I also received a lot of foodie presents, including a very large box of marshmallows from Sweet Treats Bakery.

There is stilll MORE cake to come, I have bought some in today to give to my colleagues, for the odd tradition of bring in cakes when it is your birthday. I will be blogging those later on this week.

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Friday, 4 March 2011

Ohn No Khao Swè - Burmese Coconut Noodles

This is one of those recipes that you see and bookmark and promise to make immediately, only thing is Meemalee blogged it way back in August 2010. So I didn't exactly get to it! I've never ever tried Burmese food, or seen any Burmese restaurants in the UK, I think Meemalee is helping it catch on here though.

Ireena blogged  her version with tofu (instead of chicken) recently and the craving was too strong to put off for any longer! I really like the preparation of silken tofu from Ottolenghi's black pepper tofu so I did it this way - coating the cubed tofu in seasoned flour and frying til crisp. Tofu is then added at the very last minute so it stays crispy.

The coconut sauce was slightly spicy and with depth of flavour, I love coconut milk so I always like to make new things with it (p.s. it makes a great cake ingredient). I am glad I tried the fried rice noodles too because they were really fun to make and yummy! I'm afraid I didn't make the soft boiled egg to go with it, mainly because I ran out of time and I have a bit of solid egg white phobia ;)

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Thursday, 3 March 2011

60% off!

Aren't I generous?

I am clearing some older lines to make way for shiny new things, so I have 60% off lots of jewellery here.

Ends Friday!

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Sourdough Bread

I started my sourdough starter nearly two weeks ago, and the week between making the starter and making the bread made me really impatient!

I love sourdough bread, it keeps really well and has a really distinctive taste.

I used the recipe from River Cottage to make my bread, using 100ml of my starter (which I fed again once I had taken some out for bread). You have to make a 'sponge' first and leave it to ferment overnight. This bit is a bit nerve wracking first time because it is then if you find out if your starter will ferment - luckily the morning after I was greeted with a nice bubbly bowl of sponge.

Once worked into a dough and proved all day it baked to a lovely big loaf. I think the only mistake I made was getting a bit carried away with making sure I had a nice crisp crust. I poured water into the tray a few times during cooking so the crust was really thick, not so great the day after, but good straight out the oven.
Next time I will fill up one tray of water and leave it at that.

I am looking forward to making some more bread next week. I have also seen a recipe for sourdough pancakes which sounds interesting!

I made a simple tomato soup to go with our sourdough which I topped with cheese and grilled. Yum!

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