Monday, 17 August 2015

Welsh Cakes - Bake Off inspiration week 2

Biscuit week.  Anyone else just totally in love with biscuit boxes made from biscuits?  From the bakers comments I was pleased to learn that I was not the only one to never have heard of an arlette, and with Jus-Rol sharing a recipe for one on their Facebook page using their ready made sheets, I may just find time to try one!

I decided to make some biscuits for us to enjoy with a cup of tea and a board game so got out my copy of 'The Great British Book of Baking' and flicked through the biscuit chapter so see what whet my appetite.  The biscuit chapter is headed 'Biscuits and Teatime Treats' and it turns out what whet my appetite was not a biscuit at all, but welsh cakes.

This is an incredibly quick and easy bake, I mixed it up while the cabbage was cooking for tea (and you know you don't want to overcook cabbage) and then rolled, cut and griddled after we had put the girls to bed.  Ten minutes after they went to sleep we were eating welsh cakes.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Our Feathered Friends

I've mentioned our chickens a couple of times in posts, but realised I have not yet introduced you!

At the end of September 2012 we had some new additions to our household. Four incredibly cute silkie chickens, a wedding gift from some friends who have a breeding flock.  There are two black ones - the witches (of Terry Pratchet Discworld fame) Nanny Egg and Granny Featherwax, one brown one - Emily Chickenson, and one white one - Princess Layer.

We had been talking about getting chickens for ages (first step on the small holding dream) and my previous birthday had a distinct poultry theme.  I received a chicken house, feed hoppers, water dishes, books on keeping chickens, chicken food, grit, mite spray and an all important scrambled egg pan.  Best of all my mum had reconstructed the bottom of our garden to include a fantastic hand-built chicken pen and a rebuilt shed to keep all our chicken paraphernalia in.

Chicken pen under construction
The pen under construction
I knew something was up as I’d been banned from the garden for the week before my birthday, Arthur got really twitchy every time I got near the door!  However I didn't expect the scale of the work taking place.

The finished pen and new tenants

Saturday, 15 August 2015

A summer Christmas pudding

August might seem an odd time to post about Christmas pudding, in fact there's no might about it, it is odd.  However there is a reason!

My sister and I are both huge fans of Christmas pudding, but me being somewhat pickier than her, I have been making my own for the last 10 years or so, mainly just to have one without chunks of nut in, who wants a crunch in that mouthful of warm soft flavours?!

I started with a recipe from an old cookbook at my parents house, I don't remember what it was called, and, apart from removing the nuts, the first year I did follow the recipe.  That was the only year that happened!

Each year I have made changes to the recipe, either through design - such as adding ground almonds to keep the nutty flavour without the crunch and swapping candied peel for fresh for a wonderful citrus burst, or sometimes through accident - such as changing of quantities due to bad maths when trying to halve the recipe and the one year when I was making a fruit cake at the same time and used the cake sugar in the pudding and the pudding sugar in the cake.

Anyway, with all the changes, intended and otherwise, Christmas pudding 2013 was about as perfect as I ever expect to get it, and was faithfully reproduced for Christmas 2014 without any errors.  It went down a storm.  That being the case it seems such a shame to only make it once a year.  So with my sister enjoying Christmas pudding as much as I do and her birthday approaching, I decided to make her a birthday pudding rather than a birthday cake.  However, best laid plans and all that, I ran out of time and she did not get a birthday pudding (she got peanut butter cupcakes).  So when she invited us for dinner last week I seized the opportunity and casually offered to bring dessert.

Here is my recipe for anyone who fancies giving it a go

Topped with a rose, rather than the more traditional holly.  It is summer after all!  This picture does not really do the pudding justice.  We were too keen to eat them to remember to take pictures, so this one is a left over that had not yet had its second steam.  As such it looks a little sad :(

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Black Forest Bites - Bake Off inspiration Week 1

So what did you think of week 1? I enjoyed the Madeira (lemon with cherries is my signature), particularly liked the sound of Tamal's pistachio and rose version, and I thought it looked incredible.  The recipe has gone up on the BBC site so I shall definitely be adding that to my 'to bake' list.

The walnut cake was a good watch, but not really the accompaniment to my cup of tea, although they did look very nice.

But what really fired my imagination (as usual) were the show-stoppers. I love a good Black Forest gateaux, the best one I ever had was actually in the Black Forest in a small pub at the bottom of a waterfall, it was delicious, if a little boozy for my 14 year old self!

This weeks bake off versions were fantastic, I loved the chocolate trees and animals, was so impressed by the chocolate collar (what can I use that for?) and thought Alvin's shards were a really modern original.

I was all fired up with ideas of baking a gateaux, I could try something fancy like Ian's macaroon base (although maybe not after my last macaroon disaster) or just do a simple cake and go all out on decoration.  Then I realised, who am I kidding!  I don't have time to eat that sort of pudding, let alone make it, so here is my time saving version for those of us that wish we could spend the weekend baking, but can't.  Black Forest Bites.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

2015 Reading Challenges

One of the things I want to get back to doing more of is reading, and to help keep me motivated to do so I am going to take part in a couple of reading challenges this year (or what is left of it!).

The first is the Full House Reading Challenge hosted by Book Date

The idea is to complete a full house on the bingo card below

I'm going to start with 'Book by an author you really like' and read The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett.  I will add my list of books and any reviews here as I choose and read them.

Full House Challenge Books

1. Book by an author you really like - The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
2. Book set in the Northern hemisphere - North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
3. 2nd book or more in a series - Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The second reading challenge I am signing up to is The Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted by The Introverted Reader.  I very rarely read nonfiction, so I'm hoping that this will open up a new genre for me.  I am aiming for Explorer level - read 6 - 10 books so we will see how that goes!  We are currently reading David Mitchell's biography 'Back Story' so that will be first on my list.  Again I will update this post with books and any reviews as they are chosen and read.

Nonfiction Reading Challenge

1. Back Story by David Mitchell
2. How the Girl Guides Won the War by Janie Hampton
3. The Little Princesses by Marion Crawford
4. The Kon Tikki Expedition by Thor Heyerdahl

If anyone has some good suggestions for reading material for either challenge I'd be very happy to receive them.

Happy reading!
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