Monday, 23 April 2012

Strawberry Shortbread

Week18, Bake 18.

Last week I wrote of going to the W.I. and it actually went quite well (I wasn't the youngest!). It was amazing, there were about 70 women all eating cake and discussing crafts. It appears that the meeting was just a meet and greet but I am very proud to say that I went totally out of my comfort zone and went into a room where I knew no one and spoke to new people. This past week I have had to do that a lot and hopefully as a result I am getting more confident.

Anyway, after my first two days at work I am settling in well in Somerset. This weeks bake is done so because I found a farmers market where I was able to get two punnets of strawberries for a quid. So here it is, strawberry shortbread cookies.

  • 6oz of hulled and diced strawberries
  • 100g (plus a tablespoon) of caster sugar
  • 250g of plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 100g of unsalted butter (cold)
  • 150ml of double cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. In a small bowl, add two tablespoons of caster sugar to the strawberries and let them rest.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder and add in the salt into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Now cut up the butter into small cubes and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers.
  5. When it has become corse breadcrumbs, make a well in the centre of the bowl and pour in the double cream.
  6. Bring it together with a spoon, then using your hands.
  7. Now add in the strawberries, then divide the mixture into blobs.
  8. Cook for 20-25 minutes.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A cupcake for the W.I.

Week 17, Bake 17.

I have moved! I am now in the (very changeable weather) county of Somerset. I have not started my new job yet, that's tomorrow but I am already on the quest of making friends. I know no one in this county (other than one of my school friends who lives an hour away), so on Monday when I was wondering round one of the most beautiful little towns I came across a row of craft shops! Sadly all but one were closed on Mondays, nevertheless I went into the one which was open and as I was leaving it I saw a poster for a new W.I. group.

The stereotype of the W.I. (or Women's Institute) is eighty something women all sitting in a circle knitting tea cosies, or if you have watched the calender girls, sixty something women stripping off and using tea cosies to hide their personal areas. This poster for the W.I. was different. It featured the 1950's woman with the phrase 'we can do it' on it. After a bit of clever googling I realised that these women who were setting up a new W.I. were young, and so trying my hardest to be brave and confident I have decided to go tomorrow night to the W.I.
Why not? The W.I. is pretty much what I am about, they enjoy knitting, making jam, cakes and doing charity work. So I emailed them and they are very happy to have me and said that the first meeting will be about what the W.I. does and we will be eating cake. So that is why this weeks bake will be (mostly) taken to the girls at the W.I. tomorrow.

So here it is... Earl Gray Cupcakes: my two favourite things, tea and cupcakes... what could be better?

  • 175ml of milk
  • 2 Earl Gray tea bags
  • 115g of unsalted butter
  • 225g of caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g of plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of corn flour
  • 75g of butter (for the icing)
  • 2 lemons worth of juice and zest
  • 400g of icing sugar
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180c. (Having just moved into my flat I have realised that all the numbers on my cooker have been rubbed off... so I'm currently guessing a lot!)
  2. Heat the milk in a saucepan until it simmers then pop it to one side to cool and add the Earl Gray tea bags in it and let it just sit for 3 minutes.
  3. Squeeze the tea bags and let the milk cool.
  4. Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  5. In a mug beat the two eggs together and then add them into the butter mixture one tablespoon at a time. Beat well.
  6. Now sift one third of the flour (adding in the baking powder and cornflour), then add one third of the tea infused milk, repeating this until it is all beaten in.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, cool for another 20.
  8. Meanwhile beat the butter, lemon juice and half of the icing sugar together.
  9. When smooth add in the rest of the icing sugar and then pipe it onto the cupcakes.
And that's it! The two best things in the world combined... tea and cupcakes.

I will let you all know how the W.I. night goes, I am totally nervous about meeting a room full of new people but hopefully these cupcakes will give me confidence.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Enchanted Land: Nunney Castle

Last summer I found a book called The King's England: Enchanted Land by Arther Mee. It claimed to be full of the most enchanting and wonderful places in 1930's England. After reading a chapter of it I decided that I would visit (most of) theses places and I started plotting them on a google map. I moved down to Somerset on Saturday and today has been my first free day. So as it was supposed to be only sunny in the morning I popped out to my first Enchanted Land spot, Nunney Castle.

I recently passed my driving test and so driving through a absolutely beautiful village with Elbow 'One day like this' playing was the perfect way to start my Enchanted Land quest.

Enchanted Land describes Nunney as:

"If we would see a castle of another kind, gathering the village about it as a hen gathereth her chickens, we may come to Nunney in Somerset and stare as at a thing incredible. In a minute we can cross the moat of a 14th-century castle, run into the castle, cross the bridge of a stream, and be in the nave of a 15th century church. The village clusters round these four towers reflected in the sparkling water of the moat. Standing in the castle, open to the sky, we counted thirty doorways and windows in the walls, some of the windows with a splay of ten feet. It is an astonishing spectacle, and above it all the weathercock on the old church tower shines like dazzling gold."

I loved Nunney, it is a beautiful village with everything you could need, a shop, cafe, pub, retirement home and a 14th century castle! I think it was a perfect way to start my tour of this Enchanted Land. The castle was surrounded by a beautiful moat and as I crossed the bridge two children came into the castle. This was great as one of the children lived in the village and was telling the other child all the history about the castle, which meant that I learnt a lot about the castle (whilst they were running around playing hide and seek).

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The site is owned by English Heritage, and thankfully it is free to enter. There are also two information boards describing the castle and if you do want to visit the opening times are apparently "any reasonable time" (this made me chuckle!).

I also made friends with a cat today... 

After walking round the castle and reading the passage from my Enchanted Land book, I walked up to the church. Again I was stunned by how beautiful the church was sitting on a little hill. Looking down from the top of the church you can see the castle surrounded by its moat and a stream which runs through the village with houses meeting the sides of it and willow trees falling over it. It was a beautiful village and I can't wait to see where the Enchanted Land will take me next...

_7IfL6 on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Beef and red wine rough puff pastry pie

Week 16, Bake 16.

So this weeks bake is my last at home for a while (much to my parents dismay). Sadly my moving away has come just as one set of my grandparents have moved up to Norfolk. So tonight we had them over for dinner, which is where this weeks bake comes in. Beef and red wine pie with rough puff pastry!

  • 300g of plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 300g of butter
  • 125ml of ice cold water
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 rash of bacon
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • a small handful of thyme
  • 80-100g of button mushrooms
  • 500g of diced beef
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large glass of red wine
  • 1 pint of beef stock
  • 1/2 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • 50ml of passata
  • 1 teaspoon of English mustard
  • a good glug of Worcester sauce
  • 1 egg
  1. First make the rough puff pastry. I followed the recipe of Michel Roux's rough puff pastry and this is how said to do it.
  2. Tip your flour onto a clean surface and make a well in the centre. In the well put your cold cubed butter and using your hand scrunch the butter, flour and salt together.
  3. Bring the mixture together until you have some big flakes of butter and the rest is incorporated.
  4. Now slowly add the ice cold water, mixing with your hands and scrunching it together.
  5. Bring it into a dough and roll it out making two turns. Then wrap in cling film and pop it into the fridge to let it rest for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Take it out and do another two turns and let this rest again in the fridge until it is needed.
  7. Now make the filling.
  8. Dice the onion, and crush the garlic and gently fry these in olive oil and butter until the onions soften.
  9. Meanwhile, chop the bacon and add this to the onions. Chop the herbs together and sprinkle them in into the onions. Cook for another few minutes.
  10. Remove the ingredients from the pan and then dust the beef in flour and seal the beef in the oil from the pan.
  11. Once all the beef is sealed, tip the onions and other ingredients back in and add in the glass of wine.
  12. Pop a lid on and let the wine cook off for a few minutes.
  13. Meanwhile make the stock and add that to the mixture along with the passata, tomato puree and mustard.
  14. Chop the carrots chunky and add them in.
  15. Cook the mixture on a medium heat for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally.
  16. Just before you put the pie mixture into you dish add in the Worcester sauce and a pinch of salt.
  17. Now beat an egg and using a pastry brush, brush the sides of the dish with the beaten egg.
  18. Roll out your puff pastry out and lay it on top of the dish.
  19. Pinch the sides to crimp the edges and then brush the remaining egg over the pastry top.
  20. Now pop it into the oven to cook for 40 minutes at 190c.
And there you go! I have never made rough puff pastry before and I see why Michel Roux suggests doing this as it was 100% easier than making proper puff pastry.

So my next bake will be coming to you from (hopefully) sunny somerset. I will be living alone, which means that I will probably be getting much fatter eating all these bakes by myself or I will be taking them to my new job to share...

Monday, 9 April 2012

A quick chocolate mug cake

This is not one of my 52 bakes and as this is my last week at home I haven't decided on what this weeks bake will be. Today is Easter Monday and we have had a very busy Easter weekend, with B&B guests and my dad ending up in hospital for two nights after an infected ear went really badly wrong. Anyway, he is much better today an as it is a day we can all finally relax it is raining. So as a warm pick-me-up I decided to make my version of the chocolate mug cake we all know and love...

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  • 4 tablespoons of self-raising flour
  • 3 tablespoons of coco powder
  • 1 teaspoon of corn flour
  • 4 tablespoons of caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of nutella
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • Fruit or chocolate to drop into the centre. (mine had raspberries and strawberries in it)
  1. Sift the flour, coco powder and corn flour together.
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Whisk together.
  4. Now equally divide the mixture between three cups, once you are half way add the fruit or chocolate by dropping it into the centre. Now finish putting the cake mixture on top of the fruit.
  5. Pop in the microwave and cook for two-three minutes depending on your microwave.


Friday, 6 April 2012

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!

Week 15, Bake 15.

It is quite obvious what this weeks bake was going to be... hot cross buns! I really don't know about the rest of the world, but in England we traditionally have these tasty buns on Good Friday (however they are sold all year round). So as it is Good Friday today here is my recipe for hot cross buns. This recipe is slightly adapted from Paul Hollywood's Hot Cross Bun recipe, it takes a while as the bun have to prove three times but it is well worth it.

  • 300ml of semi-skimmed milk
  • 50g of unsalted butter
  • 500g of strong white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 75g of caster sugar
  • 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • vegetable oil
  • 80g of sultanas
  • zest of one orange
  • 1 apple, peeled, chopped, cored
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
For the cross:
  • 100g of plain flour
For the glaze:
  • 3 tablespoons of plum jam (apricot is used traditionally)
  1. Bring the milk to the boil, this will happen very quickly. Remove it from the heat and add the butter into the milk to let it melt, whilst the milk cools.
  2. In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, salt, sugar and yeast.
  3. When the milk is cool enough to touch, make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the milk/butter. Now add the beaten egg and using a wooden spoon bring the ingredients together in a dough, using your hands if needed.
  4. Tip it onto a floured surface and knead it for 5 to 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Add more flour if necessary.
  5. Using a pastry brush, lightly oil a bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with some oiled cling film (I used an oiled clean shower cap as this allows the dough to expand) and leave it to rise in a warm place for 1hr or until it is doubled in size.
  6. Now turn the dough out again onto a lightly floured surface and add the sultanas, orange zest, apple, and cinnamon. Knead the dough until well distributed.
  7. Now pop it back into the bowl and leave it to rise again for a further hour.
  8. Divide the dough into 15 balls, each weighing 75g and roll them until they are smooth.
  9. Arrange them on baking trays with baking parchment under the rolls, place oiled cling film over the top and let them double in size again in a warm place for an hour.
  10. Pre-heat the oven to 190c.
  11. Mix the flour and about 5 tablespoons of water together, making sure no lumps form to create a thick paste.
  12. Now pipe the paste over the risen buns in a cross shape and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes (or until golden brown).
  13. Meanwhile melt the jam.
  14. Once the buns are out of the oven, avoid temptation and do not eat them, but use the pastry brush to brush over the plum jam.
  15. Now leave them to cool and there you have it hot cross buns!

And finally a lovely British Pathe video about Hot Cross Buns... Happy easter everybody!


Thursday, 5 April 2012

A nifty little meal planner...

So as we all know now, I am moving! Which means that I am now crafting for my flat. So here is a quick meal planner, which took me no time at all.

What you need:
  • a frame
  • a piece of decorative paper
What to do:
  1. On your computer create a word doccument with the days of the week on it. (The picture is of my laptop when I did it, the background is purple becuase it helps with my dyslexia).
  2. Now print it off onto your decorative craft paper (using your best printer setting).
  3. Pop the piece of paper into the frame and you are done!
Now all you have to do is write on it with dry wipe board pens and you can write what you will be eating that week on it!