Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Bake It! Club November - Fudgy Chocolate Pudding

I've been wanting to try out a recipe from the Bake It! Club over at Cooking, Cakes and Children for a while now, after first hearing about it through Nicola and her lovely blog Nic's Notebook. And finally, I've done it!

This month's recipe for Fudgy Chocolate Pudding (which can be found here) was impossible to resist, especially when living with a chocoholic. It was really easy to make and perfect for warming us up on this freezing snowy day! Ice cream would have been my ideal accompaniment but we didn't have any, so I went with the simple dusting of icing sugar, which ended up being quite apt for today's weather and felt quite lovely and festive too!

Will definitely be keeping a copy of this recipe in my book as it will be perfect for feeding a crowd over Christmas. Can't wait for another helping after tea!


I came across this lovely Blogvent idea through Fayefayesparkle and Clobelle's blogs and thought I would try and take part. Basically, it works like an advent calender, so every day you post something Christmassy! I will be trying to take part with a baking theme, of course - so over the next 24 days I'm hoping I'll be able to blog about Christmassy treats I've made, or yummy recipes that I've spotted on the web or in some of the many magazines I've been poring over recently. I really hope I'll be able to do it, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's festive treats, too!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Victoria Sponge Take 2, Halloween and Bonfire Night...

As it's taking me quite a while to blog about what I was baking while the net was down, I thought I'd do a round up post to cover the rest so I can then get on with posting about the Christmas goodies I've been making this week!

I resurrected the failsafe Victoria Sponge recipe for Mike's sister's birthday at the end of October and we decided to just cover it with sweets (another clever tactic to mask the fact that I'm actually quite rubbish at proper cake decoration). I really liked the effect and she seemed pleased too! Looking at it again now makes me feel a bit sick, as I had to bake 3 Vic sponges in October, so think I will have to lay off it for a while now...

Next up was Halloween, and I'd been on the lookout for some scary recipes. Mike bought me this fantastic book, Lilli Vanilli's A Zombie Ate My Cupcake which has some amazing recipes in! But this year I decided not to try any of them, as I didn't feel confident that I'd be able to do them properly... looking back I'm a bit disappointed in myself for not giving it a go, but by posting about it I'm officially challenging myself to try them next year! Anyway, I did make some spider cakes from the BBC Good Food website which were really easy and fun to make!

They are just chocolate chip muffins with chocolate spread for the body, and liquorice for the legs and eyes. Mike ended up doing some too and we were experimenting with different body textures and shapes for the mouths! Here are some of the rest of our spider army!

I wanted to make some treacle toffee for Bonfire Night but didn't get around to it in the end. We had a good Bonfire Night, and went up to the local community centre where I couldn't actually believe the size of the bonfire, which also looked alarmingly close to the houses behind... we actually had to move away from it because it was giving off so much heat we were starting to feel like our faces were sliding off!

This was followed by one of the best fireworks displays I've ever been to - I should have some quality pictures to share with you from Mike's fancy SLR camera, but somebody forgot the battery (I'll give you a clue: it wasn't me!) and so the Blackberry snaps will have to do!

And finally, I'm sorry to report that I have a disaster to share with you. I'm always in 2 minds whether to post about things going wrong, especially as one day I'd love for this blog to be connected to a little cake business of mine, but I started it up to document my attempts at learning to bake and so it only seems fair to admit when I arse things up, plus hopefully it'll be good to look back on in future!

So anyway, after all of the plain sponges I'd been making I fancied something slightly different and so found a recipe for Peach and Raspberry Buckle in one of the BBC Good Food books - pretty much the same as this recipe on the website which just uses apricot instead (I have to say, just reading the comments there about how easy it is to make is raising my blood pressure a little!). I was so excited about it that I went out and spent a tenner in Lakeland on a new cake tin, and so you can imagine my disappointment (and blind fury) when this is what it turned out like:

VILE. The crumble topping was soggy, there was no sign of any sort of cake inside, and the eggs had gone a bit odd. It was basically some peaches and some raspberries mixed with with scrambled eggs. Ugh! I'm still not sure where I went wrong - the mixture did seem a bit runny when I put it into the oven so I don't know if there was too much juice and water from the fruit. I did cheat and use tinned peaches and wondered if it was that but I've seen some of the smug commenters on the BBC website also used tinned, so it can't just be that. Anyway, I need to stop thinking about it now and move on!

It feels bad to finish the post on such a sour note, but I'll be back very soon with tales of the Christmassy stuff I've been trying out this week!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Happy Birthday Dad

The first week in our new place was quite stressful for an added reason: I'd been asked to bake a cake for my Dad's 60th birthday! A table had been booked at the Marsh Cat in Parkgate and so I knew my cake would be coming out from the kitchen for all to see - argh! This was extra worry because the part of baking I really need lots more practice in, is the presentation...

Luckily, my Dads cake of choice is Victoria Sponge and so I knew it wasn't going to have to be too complicated, but I still did a practice run as I'd actually never baked one before (despite it being my favourite too) and to get used to the new oven (convenient excuses to have a whole victoria sponge all to ourselves!)

I used this recipe from the BBC Good Food website which I'd highly recommend. I've used it three times now (more on that in a later post) and it's not let me down. I just used strawberry jam (Bonne Maman to be exact) to sandwich it together and doubled the buttercream to spread over the top and sides.

We decided to keep the decoration fairly simple - my Dad is into amateur dramatics and originally I wanted to make the whole cake in the shape of the masks but decided that would be a bit too much of a stretch (next year will definitely have to have a go!) so just went for icing them on. It was a joint effort really as Mike made me a template to ice around for the masks. This is the finished article:

I also wanted to share this picture, despite not really wanting photos of myself on the blog, this just always makes me smile! A bit of background is required: when we first moved in, all the windows had been left open for days to air the place, and so we were plagued by flies... to begin with, we were quite humane and tried to shoo them out through the windows but it got the point where you'd think they'd gone, sit down and get comfy, and then hear an ominous buzzing starting up again...! At one point I thought Mike was going to fall through the window brandishing the Argos catalogue during a particularly frantic fly chasing session!

So we were taking some pictures of the cake in the kitchen and who do you think intruded on the first one...

I love his pose aswell, he looks like he is doing a little star jump! Cheeky little bugger.

Anyway, the cake was a success and I felt quite proud at seeing one of my creations come out of a restaurant kitchen with the candles all lit. The stress was worth it!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

First week in our first home

Hello! I'm baaaaaaack! We are FINALLY online, nearly 2 months after placing our order. What a palava! I'm so looking forward to catching up on everyone's blogs, I can't believe how out of touch with the world I feel.

I have quite a few baking posts lined up, but first I wanted to share some pictures from our first week in the new place - I was snapping away on my Blackberry as the camera was packed away in a box somewhere!

1. Favourite bit of new place #1: Beams! I have always wanted to live somewhere with beams.

2. Favourite bit of new place #2: the lounge. It's tiny, but cosy, and I love the brickwork around the patio doors.

3. Favourite bit of new place #3: my round window! This is right next to the bed and I love lazy mornings in bed watching the world go by... well, the occasional tractor at least!

4. Breakfast on the first morning. I was overjoyed at finding a toast rack in the cupboard! Needless to say, it hasn't been used since...

5. Surely no week in a new home is complete without a trip to Ikea! 6 weeks later and we still haven't decided what DVD storage to get, but never mind, it's just a good excuse for more meatballs and Daim cakes if you ask me!

6. My first baking session in the new kitchen, set against a backdrop of awesome housewarming gifts! I love the 'bake' letters, which we were a gift from Mike's sister, and she also made us a couple of extra letters - a 'M' and a 'I' which means we can also spell out our names!

7. The outcome of the first baking session - good old faithful cupcakes.

8. This is the first 'proper' meal that I cooked in the new kitchen - please excuse the filth around the pan and on the hob... I'm quite a messy cook! The kitchen was a right state, there were blobs all over the floor, up the walls, on the side of the microwave... it looked like somebody had been shot! Anyway, I've been building up a stash of recipes cut out from various magazines over time and this was one of them. It's from BBC Good Food magazine and you can see it on the website here, but I will repost below:

Chicken, potato and green bean curry

Serves 41 tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
6 chicken thigh fillets, cubed
2 potatoes, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp mild curry paste
500g tomato passata
200g fine green beans
150g pot natural yoghurt
plain rice or naan bread, to serve
1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion and chicken together over a medium heat for 5 mins until the onion is soft.

2. Add the potatoes, curry paste and passata, bring to the boil, then cover and gently simmer for 15 mins.

3. Add the beans and a splash of water and cook for 10-15 mins more until all the veg is tender and the chicken is cooked through.

4. Remove from the heat and stir in the yoghurt.

5. Serve with rice or naan (or rice AND naan if you're greedy like me!)

I will be back very soon with more posts of what's been going on in my kitchen, but in the meantime I'm looking forward to catching up with everything I've missed during the last 6 weeks of net-less hell!

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