Birthday Nutella Roulade

Nutella Roulade

There are a LOT of good nutella recipes out there, Nutella fudge, Nutella swirl buns, nutella and banana cake, nutella cheesecake and (next on my list) nutella surprise cookies – it’s not that much of a surprise; there’s nutella in them.

But I’ve been wanting to make this roulade for ages, (recipe found via Pinterest of course) I’ve been putting it off as I could not find one of the ingredients, hazlenut extract, anywhere. I have looked in every sodding baking shop, health food store and posh supermarket in London to no avail so in the end I just bunged in a teaspoon of hazelenut butter which worked perfectly.

More mouthwatering roulade

I made this for my birthday to take into work, the joy of a roulade is that it looks bloody impressive with very little effort. Make the sponge, roll up and leave to cool, smother with nutella and roasted hazlenuts and dust with cocoa and icing sugar. Bosh.
Comments from the office included ‘the best cake I’ve ever had’ and this: homer drool

I’ll take that as a win.

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Posted in Eat

Orange and Caraway Seed Cake

Photo taken in terrible lighting and is therefore crap as you've come to expect - look a those scrumptious seeds though!Another classic loaf cake, this one is from River Cottage in The Telegraph. To be honest it’s a pretty shit recipe, by which I mean badly written, it should be SR flour rather than plain and it doesn’t tell you when to add the caraway seeds but that’s just bad journalism. The cake is delicious!

There’s something a bit Bronte about a seed cake, I think this is the sort of thing they used to make at Christmas for the poor and the servants, the oranges and exotic spices would have been a proper seasonal treat. But it’s also ideal in this horrible cold weather, the toasted caraway seeds warm you up right nice.

Delicious orange and caraway seed loaf cake

As ever its perfect with a cup of tea for elevenses or a dollop of creme fraiche for dessert, a good quick cake to knock up at the last minute. I’ve made this to celebrate starting my new project at work and finishing the old one, or at least, its a good excuse to take cake to the office.

Posted in Eat

Chinese New Year

Lots of cranes

A couple of weeks ago Emily and I had a Chinese New Year party, this was partly because it’s fun to have a party but mainly because Emily wanted to cook a shit load of Chinese food and I wanted to eat it!

I spent my Saturday decorating the house with strings of red paper cranes and apparently (according to Pinterest) traditional chinese paper cuts.

Paper cuts

We had a pretty ambitious menu and Emily did almost everything single-handed, but I made a few sweet things and was her kitchen bitch for the prep. I utterly failed to take photos of all the delicious food as I was drunk (bar the uncooked dim sum below – I cut the square wanton rappers into a circle with a cookie cutter so they looked pretty) but here’s our menu, you can use your imagination!

Dim sum

Menu

Starters
Freshly deep-fried prawn crackers
Pork dim sum
Spring rolls (Clair made these – also fucking delicious!)
Pork buns
The most amazing ribs of all time!

First Course
An entire crispy roast duck with all the trimmings

Second Course
Beef in black bean sauce
Char sui pork
Salt and pepper prawns
Stir fried cucumbers in hot spices
Braised Aubergines
Pak Choi and soy sauce
Sesame tofu and vegetables
Broccoli in hoi sin
Steamed rice

Dessert
Fortune cookies
Almond cookies
Lychees
Jasmie tea

Lotus flower origami

We had a very tight prep schedule so Emily allowed me Saturday evening to ‘go nuts decorating/setting the table’, so as well as the cranes I made these lotus flowers for the table. They are ace because they use up the leftover ends of the A4 sheet of paper you used to cut out the squares for the cranes – genius right?!

Incredibly accurate future telling devices these fortune cookies

I made the fortune cookies from scratch which was super fun, it’s basically like making a tuille biscuit so you really need one of those rubber mat things (which luckily I have), you paint them onto that and then put them in the over for about 3 mins, which them out and use your extremely tiny window of opportunity to insert the fortune, fold and seal it. I started by putting about 8 in at a time but there was no way I had time to fold them all so I reduced it to batches of 4. I used this recipe which was not only delicious but helpfully suggested cooling the cookies in a muffin tin to stop them uncurling.

Almond cookies

I also made some almond cookies which were a bit shortbready (recipe here), they were so easy to make and went really well with the jasmine tea, I ate a LOT of these.

Crane

The cranes look so pretty I don’t want to take them down, I might move them to the craft room, it’s definitely not busy enough in there with all the crap I make.

Spring!

Last thing: this is the symbol for Spring, it’s supposed to welcome it in so I’m leaving it up until it actually arrives!

The French Bakery – first attempt!

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For Christmas day we went out for lunch so it seemed like a good time to try making croissants; I had the time, the inclination and the skill (maybe – just go with it for now).

I did some research on this and there are a lot of ‘quick’ recipes out there on the usual sites, but this was not what I was after, I wanted traditional, get-up-at-stupid-o’clock croissants made with love and dedication.

Croissants cooling

I eventually settled on this recipe by Jeffrey Hamelman, it was recommended on various other blogs and the photos were universally good. I started the dough on 23rd December after we got back from The Hobbit (overrated and overlong btw), that bit was fairly straightforward, just mix it altogether with your dough hooks and whack it in the fridge, bosh. I was slightly concerned the dough was not completely smooth but I chose to ignore this concern.

Christmas eve saw me rolling out a big fat layer of delicious organic butter from the deli and then adding to the dough and rolling and folding, rolling and folding, rolling and folding. I found this quite enjoyable to be honest, I really like precision processes, and using a ruler to get the dough to the right size appeals to the geek in me :).

I couldn’t sleep Christmas eve (no, I am not a child waiting for Christmas with like it will never come, I had a cough which kept me up) so I was up in plenty of time to get the croissants ready in the morning.

Egg washed and ready to go!

Once again rolling out with a ruler, marking, cutting, rolling, egg-washing, proving. Oh the never-ending proving… But finally we ate and IMHO it was worth the wait.

They were incredibly buttery and flaky, and we had homemade strawberry jam, and more butter of course, to accompany them. Total yumgasm.

Tray of delights

So, lessons for next time:

  1. I should have proved for longer. It said 1.5-2hrs but I was impatient and I don’t think the house was warm enough so I might put them in the oven to prove next time.
  2. They are quite small, even allowing for extra expansion with the extended proving I think I’d make them bigger.
  3. When rolling the croissants up you need to be quite firm. The first six were messy and undercooked in the middle due to my poor rolling, but I got better and the second six were perfect.
  4. Give them a bit of time to cool, we ate them straight out of the oven and the insides were still a bit doughy but they were fine later.
  5. My oven is a massive liar! Turn it down and/or buy an oven thermometer.

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Here they are displayed on my beautiful festive runner, handmade by the wonderful Lizzy Ruffles of course! (Apologies for the MANY photos, got a new camera for Christmas! :))

Posted in Eat

Cake and a Boring Conference

It’s better than it sounds, I promise!

Boring pack

Ok so this photo isn’t helping but last weekend I attended the Boring Conference, it’s a day dedicated to the mundane, the ordinary and the dull. ‘Fascinating!’, I hear you cry, ‘now where’s the cake?’

But really it is, because these people who came to talk about their weird obsessions with the overlooked actually gave produced some real beauty, hilarity and of course good old fashioned British self-deprecation, they really made me want more boring in my life, but glad I wasn’t quite at their level!

The best bit was my friend James beating the Swivelympics world record, check it out! (Watch too as my disbelief in him turns to vicariously getting off on his win, idiot)

There were 19 speakers in total so I won’t go into too much detail but my highlights included:

Mr Wowser on his study into the standardisation of toasters, I particularly enjoyed the toast colour bar chart and the new rating system design based on settings you find on irons.

Kathy Clugston from BBC Radio 4 explaining the shipping forecast, I now understand this and must attend numerous pub quizzes in the hope of showing off.

And lastly Andrew Male who talked about how yellow lines shaped planning in London, he had really done his research and that was interesting because that research was shaped by a photo of his mother visiting the Festival of Britain he had found when she had died earlier in the year, it was actually a really touching and compelling narrative.

The other talks were all great, some funny, some incredibly niche and some just plain wierd, (I’m excluding the shitty performance art piece, it was like being back at Goldsmiths FFS), unfortunately I was a bit too knowledgeable on a number of the tv related talks to find them sufficiently geeky, and a few were pretty underwhelming. But anyway if you, like me, like boring stuff, you can find a far better write up here and it thoughtfully includes links to the speaker’s twitter accounts and websites too.

Ok, cake, you earned it:

Maple and pecan loaf

So you know me, I love a loaf cake, they are quick, easy and delicious and you don’t even have to ice the fucker, just serve a slab with a strong cup of tea and you’re done.

This was a recipe found via Pinterest, there is loads of tasty stuff on that board, check it out. It’s pretty dense as it’s bound with oil and yoghurt plus it’s not cheap, what with the maple syrup, and I added the pecans, but it was delicious and took 15 mins to make before bunging it in the oven.

Perfect Lemon Bars

Poorly lit and photographed but delicious nonetheless

My parents came to visit this weekend, they were trying out my newly-decorated spare room with new bed (coming soon to Airbnb) and going to the tennis. In that order. So my mother casually mentioned that they would arrive for tea and ‘some delicious treats you’ve made’ on Friday afternoon. These were the hurriedly cobbled together result of that thinly veiled demand.

The lemon bars were a Pinterest find, visit Baking Bites for some beautiful images (and the recipe of course). Due to my sad lack of a decent camera my food styling leaves a lot to be desired, but forget what they look like, they taste amazing!

Lemon Lovlies

They are incredibly lemony, sharp and sweet, with a crispy base and lovely yellow gelatinous topping. Plus they are so easy to make; basic shortbread base, whisk up eggs with lemon and sugar, slap it on top and you’re done. Genius!

Unfortunately with only my parents to eat them I am left with about 12 squares to gorge myself on, how terrible for me.

Posted in Eat

Mini Tea Cosy (or is it a Brownie hat?)

Tea cosy

As I now mostly work from home I decided I needed a mini teapot, my mum found me this delightfully lurid lime green number which redeems itself only on it’s excellent pouring mechanism.

In order to minimise it’s impact on my lovely new kitchen (and to keep my tea warmer or course!) I decided it needed a cosy. I couldn’t find a pattern for a mini tea cosy anywhere so I made this one up, download the pattern here.

I used some brown cheap british yarn which is too scratchy for clothing but very warm, so ideal for a cosy. However, it doesn’t really show the cable as well as I would like so I might have to make it again in grey which will look better and match the kitchen too.

Anyway, this does the job for now, I had forgotten how boring making pompoms is, this one reminds me of my Brownie hat. The uniform when I was Brownie age consisted of a shapeless brown dress, a brown leather belt with a pouch on it, a yellow crossover tie and a brown bobble hat. It looked like this:

Brownie Annual 1982

(This is back in the days when ugly people were still allowed to be in publications)

My mother decided the uniform bobble hat was ‘a rip off’ and that she would knit me one instead. I was the laughing stock of my pack, it was huge, really thick so my head looked too small and it had an enormous pompom the size of my fist which moulted brown wool everywhere we went. If I were a weaker child I would have been bullied for this, but I led the mockery of it so it was fine. For some reason my sister was not subjected to the homemade version and got a bloody normal one. She really IS the favourite child.

Actually this teacosy looks a LOT like it, I’m clearly still scarred by the experience.

Peanut Butter and Choc Chip Shortbread

Photo inspiration from Sue's blogShortbread is, without doubt, my favourite biscuit. Not only is it buttery, crumbly and delicious in its plain form, but you can whip up a batch in about 20 minutes, ideal for a late night bakery craving.

So it could only possibly be bettered by the addition of food-of-the-gods flavour combination: peanut butter and chocolate. I got these from a fantastic blog The View from the Great Island. Sue has a huge array of recipes (the cookies and cakes are especially good) and she also takes fantastic photographs so the blog is droolsome!

Cookie?

These cookies couldn’t be simpler – it’s a basic shortbread with peanut butter creamed in with the sugar and butter and then chuck in some chocolate chips. The genius part of this is the ‘roll and refrigerate’ technique, there’s something very Nigella about slicing perfect circles of shortbread straight from the fridge and 15 minutes later presenting your guests with a seemingly effortless tasty treat.

For the more chocolate addicted, Sue also has an extremely popular Double Dark Chocolate shortbread recipe too. Check it out, and if you make them I want to try, deal?

Posted in Eat

Make-your-own Granola

 

Breakfast

In a bid to eat less crap I have decided to try and make my cooking less full of butter and sugar (by which I mean less fun), and so I thought it would be nice to make some granola for healthy, fruity, yoghurty breakfasts.

Now I’m aware that making granola does not really count as baking, it’s really more assembly, but it was still fun and so easy I could totally do it every week. My friend Hannah gave me a recipe from a book she bought called ‘Domestic Sluttery’ but to be honest you don’t really need a recipe, (if you really want one there are loads online of course).

Basically you mix oats nuts and seeds with honey and vegetable oil and add spices (I used cinnamon and nutmeg), bake all that in the oven for about 20 mins stirring occasionally to make sure it all gets nicely browned. Then once it’s cool add dried friuts of your choice.

I used, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, pine nuts and pecans, sour cherries, golden sultanas and dried blueberries. It is pretty fucking delicious and note NO sugar needed. I’ve been eating it with some plain yoghurt and sliced banana for breakfast and it’s perfect.

The great thing about this is that you can personalise it and make it differently every week. I recently went for breakfast at The Albion, and

Granola had the most amazing dried apricots which had been soaked in vanilla so I might try making some of these to go in next week’s batch.

Posted in Eat

Green Tomato Chutney

 

Cheese and chutney

So I was just chatting to Pam about tomatoes, how fun it is to grow them from seed and how lovely to have such a huge crop for various dinners, not just salads either, this sweet cherry tomato and sausage bake is definitely a fave.

However, now the weather has turned the tomatoes started rotting on the vine so I picked all the good ones this weekend and made some green tomato chutney.

Jar o' chutney

I found a great recipe here simple and delicious, it actually tastes pretty close to Branston Pickle to be honest, but SO much better of course!

Another Christmas present to go with the jam for our family and friends. Plus I gave all my leftover jars to a lovely lady from the WI as we are cleaning out ready for the new kitchen, (eek!)

They are currently engaged in the Hackney Harvest, where they collect fruit from peoples gardens who are doing nothing with it, make jam/chutney and give it back to them – how cook is that. She did try to recruit me so I might go along…