Sunday, 7 December 2014

DIY Gallery Wall

I've been wishing for a gallery wall ever since we got our house & after a few trips to Ikea for frames, many Etsy print purchases, multiple designs for the layout and some very precise picture hook placement, we finally got there.

I love the simple white look, and all my frames are from Ikea. I found it easier to buy the frames first so that I had a rough idea of the design and size, and bought most of the prints to fit the frames. Etsy was a great source of cheap but beautiful prints, especially a few involving London, and it also features some quilling done by one of my best friends, and a seaside print by a local artist close to where I went to university. So all in all, a great success.

Here are the links to the Etsy prints featured:
I heart London (Tower Bridge print) 
Love London (Waterloo Bridge print)
London map, cocktail print and bon appetite print from Old English Co

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Easy Dinner Party Canapes

Here's two really simple dinner party starter ideas that you can prepare before and bring out over drinks. Figs are in season right now and they look so wonderful as part of an Autumn canape.

Figs with blue cheese and grapes with smoked cheese skewers
This one is really easy & can be made in advance. Place 1/8th of a fig and a cube of blue cheese on each skewer, or a grape and a cube of smoked cheese (I used applewood).

Figs with honey & Parma ham
Cut fresh figs into quarters, place onto a baking tray and drizzle with honey. Wrap each fig in parma ham, placing the edge downwards. Bake in a hot oven for 2-3 mins and serve immediately.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Bake Off 2014 - Final!

I loved this year's Bake Off and my only complaint about it is that it is too short (can we start again please?) Well, that and some overly dramatic editing - I don't watch Bake Off for the drama!

I'm glad the final was "back to basics" and to be honest I would have been happy for any of them to win, but well done to Nancy. Wednesday nights are so quiet now!

I decided to cook Tarte au Citron from the final episode, and found a Mary Berry recipe which seemed very fitting. I don't have a food processor so I had to rub in the pastry by hand (Mary didn't even say what to do in this case, I mean, who doesn't have a food processor?!) but it really felt like everything was back to basics so I was even prouder when this one turned out good. I'm not really experienced with pastry and I struggle to tell when it's done, but Mary gives really detailed instructions and I followed all the cooking times exactly and it turned out wonderfully. Here is her recipe for a 23cm pan (very detailed) and a slightly sparser recipe for a gigantic lemony 28cm tart.

I've loved baking from the programs, I've learned a lot, got a lot of practice with my stand mixer and ticked a few things off of my baking wishlist. Plus I became really popular at work! This tart is definitely in the top 3 bakes, but my absolute favourite from the series has to be the florentines - they were so amazingly delicious.

So, now onto Christmas crafting!

Mary Berry recipe Tarte au Citron 23cm

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Nautical Conservatory Cushions

Our conservatory has a nautical theme - a lovely wooden poster, bunting, wooden fish, a lighthouse thermometer - but needed some matching cushions. I found 3 lovely fabrics at a local craft centre (I believe they are all by Janet Clare) and got sewing. The whales are my favourite! 

Whale, ship, blue white nautical fabric

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Bake Off Week 9 - Pâtisserie

I was so happy to see bakalava come up on bake off as it's been on my to-do/wish list for a while (although it still didn't solve the question of how to pronounce it, is it bal-LA-va or ba-kla-VA?) so I found a good looking recipe online and stocked up on enough walnuts to feed an army of squirrels. And no, I did not make my own filo pastry!

Two issues with this one - I didn't check how many sheets of filo the recipe required before I bought it and didn't end up with quite enough, and I didn't chop the nuts small enough. Still, it was really tasty, if rather difficult to eat for constantly falling apart. Best eaten in large spoonfuls.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Bake Off Week 6 - European Cakes

How amazing did that princess torte look this week? I think I will have to add that to a future baking list when I have at least 8 hours spare one looked hard!

I went for something a little easier, the yeast-leavened cake (specifically kugelhopf) this week. Kugelhopf is such a brilliant word, I can't help but say it in the accent of the Sweedish shop owner in Frozen. Yoohoo!

I used this recipe, but as I didn't have the lovely round tin I baked mine in two loaf tins which worked really well. My yeast didn't foam, but I googled this and apparently sachet yeast usually doesn't, and it was fine. I also omitted the almonds. The end result was lovely - half way between a cake and a bread, but the best bits from both. It isn't massively sweet, which was good. It lasted a couple of days, but unfortunately I didn't get to try it toasted with butter which I imagine would have been amazing.

kugelhopf loaf tin

kugelhopf recipe


Saturday, 13 September 2014

Bake Off Week 5 - Pies & Tarts

I decided to attempt egg custard tarts this week - not the Portugese version with the puff pastry, but the shortcrust pastry type.

I've never eaten an egg custard tart, and this is my excuse, because they were a total fail.

I used this recipe, but rather than baking one big tart, I thought I'd do individual ones in a cupcake tin - the problem was I didn't adjust the cooking time for the size and cooked them for far too long. They looked pretty good in the preparation, but in the end they went in the bin. I did cook some of the spare custard in some larger moulds on it's own and that was pretty tasty. Ah well, you live and learn.

Here's hoping for better luck with European cakes!

egg custard tarts recipe, great british bake off, bake along

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Bake Off Week 4 - Desserts

I wanted to adapt a "saucy pudding" from this week's show, but to save us eating everything ourselves, in a format that was transportable to work. I decided to make chocolate chip cookies with a gooey Nutella centre.

Yes, I have a Nutella problem.

They turned out AMAZING - you really have to make these. I got the recipe from Hot Chocolate Hits, and it was relatively simple. My only two bits of advice are to freeze the Nutella centres for half an hour before you need them, as this keeps them liquid once the cookie is baked. Secondly is not to overcook them - take them out after 12 minutes, give them a minute or two on the tray and then cool on a baking rack, and you will have the softest, chocolatiest, gooey-est cookies ever. 

We ate way too many warm from the oven. So worth it.

Nutella centre chocolate chip cookies

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Bake Off Week 3 - Bread Week

As much as I love a fresh white loaf straight out of the oven & thickly coated with butter, I had to follow my heart (or my sweet tooth) this week and make a sweet bread - I attempted a brioche marbled with Nutella. 

Nutella = amazing.

I combined two recipes this week - I got the idea from here, which is a raspberry version and I used the ingredients from that, but for the method I followed Paul Hollywood. I would like to say that's because of bake-off, however the truth is it's because he's the top result when you Google "brioche recipe", it looked a much simpler method than the raspberry loaf, and to be honest we were heading out for lunch and I didn't have time to do the 45 minutes fermenting before refrigerating. 

I *love* my stand mixer for bread...there would have been a lot of heavy work without it! 

This was certainly the messiest recipe I have made in a while - I had half a worktop of sticky dough and Nutella up to my elbows, but it was worth it. It also didn't really rise before baking (possibly because I didn't follow the right recipe...), bit it did rise a lot in the oven and came out pretty well. The middle was amazing - soft buttery dough swirled with Nutella. Yes.

I think this would be pretty perfect made into french toast, (I mean, just look at this) however it didn't last a day.

Nutella brioche recipe chcolate french toast

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Great British Bake Off...bake-along

Apologies for the blog hiatus. It's not been a very crafty summer but now that Great British Bake Off is back on our screens I'm inspired to get back to baking and am going to attempt to bake something from the show every week. (American friends do you know bake off? It's like British summer, cups of tea, yummy cake, beautiful summer gardens and lovely contestants all rolled into one).

Week 1 the contestants had to make a Swiss roll, and I attempted a raspberry and fresh cream version, which was not massively successful. Might come back to that one another time.

The week 2 technical challenge was florentines, and I have wanted to make these for ages. Plus, they came out really well so I was chuffed. The main 2 issues were a) being in the supermarket with no phone signal and having no idea what angelica was, so I made them without and b) I forgot to put fork marks in most of them before the chocolate dried. Luckily neither seemed that important and they were really tasty - a lovely sweet toffee-y crunch with dark chocolate. (Angelica is a candied green herb, in case you were wondering). Apologies to Mary Berry but I used the Delia recipe...I will have to try both sometime and compare.

I am definitely going to make these to take to a dinner party and maybe for homemade Christmas presents.

Great british bake off florentines

Friday, 11 April 2014

Easy Chocolate Mousse

Oh Nigella, how I love you. Thank you for creating the most epic, rich, easy chocolatey dessert, thank you for only making it 6 ingredients long, thank you for making it set nearly instantly, for involving no raw egg (and for reminding me how amazing marshmallows are to eat). You're the best.

Instant chocolate mousse recipe, marshmallow, no egg, pregnancy

You will need:
150 grams mini marshmallows, or chopped up big ones
50 grams butter - at room temperature, if you're organised!
250 grams good dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids) chopped into small pieces
60 ml hot water 
284 ml / 1 carton double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional additional ingredients - strawberries, raspberries, coulis, liqueur soaked orange slices etc
6 ramekins, cute cups or mugs (this is very rich so you don't need a lot per person)

Serves 6

Chop up the marshmallows (scissors are good) and place them in a pan, along with the butter, dark chocolate and hot water. Heat on a medium heat. While this is melting, whip the double cream and vanilla essence. When the hot ingredients are totally melted, fold in the cream and keep stirring until combined.

If you are adding fruit you may like to put some at the bottom of each serving bowl. Otherwise pour out the servings (can get messy), top with any additional ingredients and place in the fridge, they should be set within an hour.

Serve with coffee or dessert wine.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Pink Iced Dolly Mixture Birthday Cake

I miss the amazing, colourful fun cakes we used to have for birthdays when we were little. I wanted to go all out and make a cake that was bright pink, and covered in glitter and loaded with sweets.

You will need:
For the cake:
200g / 1 cup caster sugar
200g / 3/4 cup softened butter
4 eggs, beaten
200g / 1.5 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk
2x 20cm / 8 inch cake tins
Seedless raspberry jam
Pink food colouring
Edible glitter, confetti sprinkles, dolly mixture or other sweets

For the butter icing (enough to ice a whole 20cm/8inch cake):
300g / 1.25 cups butter
600g / 4 cups icing sugar

I've used my stand mixer (use the soft beater attachment) but the instructions are the same in a bowl. Heat the oven to 180C / 350F. Cream the butter and sugar until fully mixed.

Mix in the remaining ingredients until the mixture is smooth and soft.

Butter two 20cm / 8inch tins and line the bottom with baking parchment. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake at 180C / 350F for about 20 minutes, or until golden and a knife or cocktail stick comes out clean. Leave to cool fully.

Check out my new housewarming present...westies!!

Once cooled, remove the baking parchment and place on a serving plate. Spread the jam between the layers.

In the mixer or in a bowl, beat the butter and slowly add the icing sugar, mixing on the slowest setting. Use food colouring (I have used concentrated colouring for a more intense colour - just dip in the end of a cocktail stick, a little goes a long way)

If you like, use some of the icing in the centre of the cake. Otherwise, assemble the cake and use a palette or normal knife to spread the icing over the whole cake. Push the sweets into the icing then dust with edible glitter and confetti sprinkles.

 photo homeeee_zps214aed0e.jpg
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