Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Honeymoon baking

Before I head off on my  honeymoon* in Skye, I thought I would share with you today’s baking efforts:

Chocolate and zucchini cake, using courgettes from the allotment. The recipe is from the Chocolate and Zucchini cookbook, which I found (I think) via Chatirygirl. Seriously, if you love food and cooking, and you haven’t found the Chocolate and Zucchini blog yet, go and look at it. Right now. (Then come back and read the rest of this post).

The cake is to take away with us, so we haven’t cut into it yet, but there is a serious amount of chocolate in this cake. (As an aside, for any allotmenters with a surfeit of courgettes at the moment, I also recommend Nigella Lawson’s courgette cake – the lime curd alone is to die for). I am looking forward to testing it tomorrow as we snuggle up in the cottage on Skye!

This is the second thing I’ve made today:

I’ve never had much joy with bread. I’ve tried many recipes using baker’s yeast (the dried kind – can’t get hold of the fresh kind for love nor money) and it’s never risen very well. As it happened, the day I discovered the Chocolate and Zucchini blog, the current entry was a post about sourdough. I was intrigued – a form of bread using a culture of wild yeasts found naturally on flour? It sounded wonderful. So I made a starter culture, using this tutorial. Last week I made my first loaf, using Clothilde’s method (in the above C&Z post) which rose well, but which was a bit overcooked as the oven in the new house is more ferocious than the one in the old flat**.

The above photo shows today’s loaf, my second attempt at sourdough, and I’m very pleased with it. I haven’t cut into it yet so I can’t attest to the texture, but it looks like it’s risen pretty well. I used 400g of white bread flour, and 100g each of rye and wholemeal flour. I only used about 350ml of water, along with 200g of the starter “sponge”, and it was still a fairly sticky dough to knead by hand (I gave it about 10 minutes). I baked it in my very handy Le Crueset casserole, which was a Christmas present a couple of years ago.

I’ll be back in a week, hopefully with photos and tales of my adventures on Skye. And may the baking be as good as it looks!

* No, the honeymoon sweater is nowhere near finished yet.

** Somewhat ironically, the “old flat” was built around 1890 and the “new house” around 1770…


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Wedding cake

Remember the Very Important Cake?

Well, they (for there are three of them) are now finished!

After I finished baking them I wrapped them in greaseproof paper and foil and stuck them in a cupboard, getting them out every few weeks to “feed” them with more brandy. While we moved house they, along with other precious wedding items, stayed with a friend to avoid any mishaps. And now, with only a week to go (!!), I decided it was time to ice them.

Here in Dunblane we have an excellent cake shop, Celebration Stations. As well as fabulous cakes, they sell all manner of baking paraphenalia and freely give out great advice to amateur bakers like me! They supplied and coloured the sprays of sugar flowers. I also found this video on the Internet that gave me some pointers (why had I never thought of turning the cakes upside-down before?). I have borrowed Jackie’s cake stand and recruited her to be in charge of cake assembly on the big day, and now the cakes have been very carefully placed in boxes and will remain there until they need to be displayed for the wedding!

Here’s a close-up of the middle tier:

I am very, very proud of the way these cakes have turned out. I just hope they taste as good as they look!

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The fruit had been soaking in brandy for over a week, the ingredients were all to hand, and after I got back from taekwon-do I had the whole afternoon without a pressing reason to leave the flat (apart from the sunshine, but hopefully that will still be there tomorrow). So it was time to start work on our wedding cake.

My friend Jackie gave me an awesome fruit cake recipe that she used for her own wedding, and I trialled it at Christmas. It was probably the best Christmas cake I’d ever tasted; dark, moist and richly fruity (and alcoholic).  So today it was time to make the real thing. Jackie lent me her cake tins, and I wrote up a spreadsheet in Excel to scale the recipe to the correct quantities for each tin.

Today I made the small and medium tiers – the large tier will require the entire oven to itself. I made up a huge batch of mixture (thank heavens for the large mixing bowl I inherited from Auntie Frida).

From top left, clockwise:

  • Flour, ground almond, bicarb and spices
  • Fruit (soaked in brandy for a week) in a little flour
  • Eggs, treacle, zest and marmalade
  • Butter and sugar

Assembly took some time as it involved folding in a spoonful of flour mixture, followed by some egg mixture, ad infinitum.

But eventually it was spooned out into the tins and smoothed down:

After this, the tins were wrapped in brown paper and placed very carefully in the oven for the whole afternoon. They’re still there, in fact, but they’re nearly done.

In other wedding-related crafting, I am now on the outer border of the Print O’ the Wave. I’ve done 11 repeats – one short edge and a corner. Ironically, despite putting in lifelines religiously, I haven’t needed to frog once (so far!), while Vivian (not wedding related) is totally kicking my ass at the moment. The yoke section of the pattern has no stitch counts at all, and I’ve already screwed up the decreases once and had to rip back (I foolishly didn’t put in a lifeline on the joining row, and couldn’t get one in straight, but as the yarn is aran and pure wool picking up the live stitches was quite easy). It’s further complicated by the fact that I’ve made sleeves 3 sizes bigger than the body, as they were too skinny for my arms.  Hoping someone on Ravelry will reply to my plea for help in the Vivian KAL!

Back to wedding crafting. I have knit 3 little roses out of the purple Fyberspates Scrumptious leftover from my Rose Red beret. I think if I’m going to make all the corsages and buttonholes out of the same yarn I’ll need a new skein – what hardship! Then I need some green yarn to make the leaves. And brooch pins. And a pretty bead to put in the middle of each rose.

I’m also in the process of taking photos for the invitations. We are hoping to get Moo postcards with a collage of meaningful photos on the front. The main one will be of the rings. To this end, I borrowed our friend Ben’s macro lens and spent some time playing around with it the other day.

All I can say is, macro photography is MAGIC. The letters on the engraving are only a few millimetres tall. And you can even see the weave in the pillowcase I used as a background! I’m going to have another photoshoot, hopefully tomorrow, and I plan to make a few changes:

  • Use something smoother (paper?) as a background
  • Stop it up a bit (or should that be down?) – the depth-of-field is a bit too small at F2.8
  • Polish the rings! They look shiny and clean to the eye, but the macro lens reveals all my grubby fingerprints
  • Wait for a time with more diffuse light so I don’t get reflections of the sunny window.

And now it’s less than 3 months to the date (woo!) I can get on with filling out the boring paperwork…

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As a large part of the allotment has been taken over by strawberries, we’ve been experiencing something of a glut recently. I made strawberry sorbet and stuck it in the freezer, and still had some left over (not to mention some raspberries that I bought just before we found out about the allotment). On Tuesday I decided to defrost the freezer, which yielded several egg whites (I hate wasting things and always freeze spare egg whites). So it was clearly time for pavlova.

I used this recipe and it was the best meringue I’ve ever made (although the mixture didn’t want to stiffen – I was using the processor but I ended up having to whisk it by hand).

Depending on how many strawberries I get off the allotment tomorrow, I think I feel some jam coming on…

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A while ago we signed up for an allotment. We knew the waiting list wasn’t too long, as the allotments in our town have only just got going again after falling into disuse back in the ’80s. Well, yesterday evening we got a phone call offering us a small half plot. Given the (slightly intimidating) sizes of the full plots we thought that sounded ideal! So this morning we went to have a look at it and to collect the key.

It’s a little overgrown as it hasn’t been cultivated this year. But compared to the state of our garden when we moved in, it’s not too bad.

This is the view from the gate, looking up the plot. Redcurrants and strawberries on the left (and rhubarb, but you can’t see that on the photo) and an overgrown bed including some potatoes on the right.

The view looking down towards the gate.

Potato plants (among other things).

And redcurrants!

After I’d picked some strawberries and redcurrants I went home and did a bit of hoeing in our garden. The beans we planted rather belatedly are a bit pathetic and slug-eaten, so I sprinkled some coffee grounds and broken eggshells around them. The potato bed needs some serious weeding – a job for later in the week, maybe. I don’t have much motivation to do the garden as it’s so steep and overshadowed, not much grows. I have higher hopes for the allotment! I also picked the last of the rhubarb.

Today’s fruit haul.

Then I made some muffins using the raspberries I bought yesterday (so looking forward to growing my own raspberries!).

The recipe can be found here.

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