Monday, 14 May 2012

Tried and Tested

This week I've made a couple of cakes but thought I would talk about the fantastic Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook available here.

 I wouldn't want to risk writing out the recipe here and getting into trouble with the publishers!

The book is fab for most people who are interested in making indulgent cakes and cupcakes anyway so I'd recommend getting a copy for your recipe collection. Some of the recipes can be a little fiddly or time consuming which is fine, it's not intended to be an 'every day' baking kind of thing, this book is about the occasional treat. I would say, if you're only about making quick and simple cakes then this book might not be for you, but if you want a challenge and to try making something a bit different, give it a go! you'll never improve if you don't try.

So, Hummingbird Bakery Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake, in the grand scheme of things it's not the simplest of cakes I've ever made but put in the time and the effort and the final results really are worth it.
The recipe is fairly standard to begin with but, as I added whole milk it completely split (any other cake and I would have chucked the mixture and started again but the book does warn you it may look a 'little' split...try curdled and you're about there!).

After adding the flour, baking powder and salt I then had to whisk 3 eggs whites into firm peaks. These are then added in 3 parts gently folding in with a metal spoon. It's important to be really gentle when you're folding in egg whites into a cake mix as they are there to add the air and lightness to the cake. A lot of recipes I have come across tell you to use a metal spoon or a spatula to fold in egg whites. It's my understanding that this should be done because the blunt edge of the metal spoon or spatula can 'cut' through the egg whites without knocking out any of the air like the rounded edge of a wooden spoon would.

When the cake was in the oven I made the piece de resistance of the recipe - the lemon syrup. Syrups are super easy to make. Lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and water in a pan, bring to the boil and then reduce down on a low heat until it becomes a thick 'syrupy' consistency.

Once the cake was out of the oven (remember it's ready when the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed and skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean), make holes in the warm cake with a skewer and pour over the syrup. This makes the overall cake so moist and just extra special.

Leave the cake to cool a little and turn out. The one problem I have had with this recipe is the turning out part - both times I've cooked it I've managed to get it stuck in the tin and broken it. I think it's to do with my tin but be warned! Once fully cooled then cover with some lemon glaze (lemon juice and icing sugar) and sprinkle over some poppy seeds.

Share this cake and you will suddenly find friends you never knew you had, I guarantee it!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Using my loaf (ho ho ho)

My other half is away this week so I thought I'd use the opportunity to cause some havoc in our small kitchen and make some bread.

I bought some Allinson's seed and grain bread flour for 80p (bargain), googled a simple bread recipe and set on my way - it's been a while since I made bread so I thought I'd ease myself in with something not too strenuous.

I really do love making bread as much for the delicious, fresh out of the oven, warm loaf you get at the end of it, as for the cathartic nature of kneading the dough. I have nothing against bread machines, especially for bakers who do find it difficult to knead the dough. I just find there's something very therapeutic about really knuckling in and giving the dough what really can release a lot of built up aggression!

After the dough had proved for the 2nd time I cut it into 5 pieces to make individual rolls. Naturally I couldn't make a simple bread without adding a little flounce to the presentation so I separated each of the 5 rolls into 3, rolled into 'sausage' shapes and plaited the dough together, then I folded each end of the dough underneath to create a round, rather intricate looking roll.

And the results speak for themselves...

(Believe me, they tasted super yummy too!)

The basic recipe can be found here

I made it a little more interesting by using the seed and grain flour and sprinkled with a few poppy seeds before baking.


I'm back!

So, it's been a while since my last post...having realised I was trying to cram far too many things into my previous incarnation I decided to have a think about what I really want to write about, what really spurs me on. And the answer is, I guess to sum it up, things I create!

I love making things, I'm big on knitting and drawing, but my absolute love and soul is in food. Especially baking.

So I've decided to use this blog as a tool to share what I create in my every day life as an aspiring 1950s housewife!


Thursday, 4 August 2011

I love Mr Warhol and I'm not ashamed to say it

Last Saturday morning began with me taking myself off (on the fabulous new Metrolink line) from Chorlton to The Lowry at Salford Quays to see the ‘Warhol & The Diva’ exhibition running until September.

I’d just like to make it clear that I, in no uncertain terms, love Andy Warhol, I am completely 100% biased in this post, and unashamedly so.

It’s hard to pinpoint the time that I first became interested in Warhol’s work, having been introduced to art by the standards such as Da Vinci and Turner (both of whom I am still in awe of). I became vaguely aware of him through my teenage years, and, the more I learnt, the more I loved. From his oddly introverted manner (which I have tried desperately to affect at various points throughout my life) to his relationships with people who I class as my 20th century heroes; John Lennon, Yoko Ono, David Bowie and Lou Reed to name but a few. My love for Andy Warhol was meant to be, it always just seemed to fit.

Even now in 2011 at the age of 28, some 24 years after Warhol’s untimely death, I find myself day dreaming, in my quieter moments, about visiting The Factory (Warhol’s sprawling New York studio) and hanging out with Andy, Edie Sedgwick et al. Or frequenting Studio 54 in the 1970’s, a real hanger on, trying to get my very own 15 minutes.

So it was with relish I skipped off to enjoy my solo morning, having learnt early in our relationship that the hubster and art galleries don’t mix. Ok, I’m doing hubster a disservice, he is more than willing to take me along to galleries (he even took me to one on our first date, although I suspect an ulterior motive there), it is more that my expectations of him are far too high. I expect him to say something deeply profound and moving about the art work, or just to shut up! No way was I taking him to an exhibition of my dear love Andy Warhol only to hear “I don’t get it”, “that’s not art” or, worst of all, “Are we going soon?”

There is a fabulous flow to the setup of this exhibition space. ‘Warhol & The Diva’ sits in the middle of the permanent Lowry displays in the gallery. The exhibition organisers seem to have purposefully played on the clear juxtaposition between the two worlds of Lowry and Warhol. As you walk through the portrait works of LS Lowry, beautifully drawn and painted but subtle and low-key in colouration, you are suddenly met with a lurid screen print of Elizabeth Taylor against a black wall upon which is the quote from Warhol; “It would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a great big ring on Liz Taylor's finger”. And just like that, you’re in another world.
Liza Minnelli, 1977
Collection of the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh

I’m not in the business of writing exhibition critiques or reviews so I will leave it there urging any Warhol fans to see this exhibition. However you have experienced Warhol’s work, however familiar the screen prints and soup cans are, this exhibition brings something new and (almost) unexpected, and will leave you viewing the man himself in a different and fabulous light.

Image provided by the Lowry: Debbie Harry Screen print on arches aquarelle paper 101.6 x 52.4 cm 1980 1998.1.2596 | Debbie Harry ca. 1980 Collection of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh

© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London 2011.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

New job and no Rapture

Funny old week this week.

I've been casually perusing job websites for a while, going to a couple of interviews that I wasn't necessarily bothered about getting etc., I always tend to this when I have itchy feet in my current role. And boy have my feet itched for a while!

So, very end of last week I received a call from a recruitment agency that I have never registered with, about a job I have never applied for! Anyway, they got my details from an online job forum and thought I may be interested in the job. Sure was!

The role was working for Bench. in Manchester. I had an interview for them 2.5 years ago, got past the initial interview, and fell at the final stage, was absolutely gutted!

Anyway, I got a call on Friday and they loved me! I'll start working there mid June. So over the course of a week, I've gone from casually at best checking job websites to getting a new job and handing my notice in! Got a bit upset on Friday as I will miss my friends where I work now, but I'm starting to get excited!

On the wedding front, we've made quite a fair bit of progress...due in no small part that I have realised just how many tutorials you can find on You Tube! Will now be making the centrepieces and the bouquets, drawing the line at the wedding dress and cake!

I've found an amazing dress on Etsy and have ordered it to be made for me! Which has now spurred me on to get to goal because I've promised final measurements in August! (on a side note I now weigh the least I have done since starting Weight Watchers, so I'm well on the way!).

I am very scared about leaving the dress making to someone in the US who I have never met and not seeing the dress until it's here and made! (I had a dream the other night that the dress arrived and she'd made it in black and white patterned fabric! - eeeeek). But, I think it's what I'm going to have to do to get the perfect vintage style dress for me.

No rapture last night either, so that's good - although I haven't been outside yet so I'm half expecting a scene similar to Beetlejuice when they try to leave the house

We'll find out in a bit - I need to go out and buy toothpaste!

So, all in all, I'm very happy in my life at the moment. I'm not sure if it's a British thing but I'm expecting something to go wrong! Must repeat the mantra 'enjoy it now, enjoy it now'.

Laurs xxx

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Plans March on Apace

Quick update on the weight loss before I go on, have lost 5.5lbs in the past 2 weeks, so looks like the tablets have settled down a bit – splendid.

Having said that, as I’m writing this my belly is bulging, obviously not because I’ve fallen off the wagon (see previous sentence!), because hubster and I have been sampling some wedding cakes today! Hurrah.

What a fab day it’s been, glorious weather, mini road trip down to Shropshire (little pun there as we travelled in the mini) and two very productive meetings – if you can call them that, more like chatting with copious amounts of tea and cake!
First meeting was at Queenies Cupcakery in Ironbridge , we met up with Leanne, the wedding co-ordinator in the beautiful vintage and chintzy d├ęcor of Queenies. We were given tea served in a vintage tea pot and a selection of mini cupcakes to sample for the flavours! VERY me, not so much the hubster, although it has to be said, he very much enjoyed the free cakes! It was great; we’ve chosen to have a mix of flavours seeing as we’re looking at purchasing around 120 cakes! Had the quote done and it was very pleasing indeed!

So, after Queenies, we waddled back to the car feeling full to the brim to go and meet Bethan of Haywood Jones Photography . I’ve seen Bethans work on and have spoken to her a few times via email, was super excited because she sounded lovely via email. I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Bethan was absolutely lovely, and showed us all sorts of styles of photos we can have, she super flexible too and very open to ideas. Can’t wait to work alongside her to get some fab wedding images done…and if she can stop hubster smiling like a gimp when he gets a camera pointed in his face then she’s a miracle worker!

People keep telling me ‘gosh, aren’t you organised?’ seeing as the wedding isn’t until 11th August 2012, but I’m really eager to get the ‘big stuff’ out of the way so that I can get on to doing the creative fun stuff! I want to keep stress to a minimum approaching the big day – it will do nothing for my complexion for Bethans photographs! Haha

So excited on the way back to Manchester – we saw a Delorean on the motorway! I’ve never actually seen one in person – am now debating the practicalities of having a Delorean as a wedding car…hmm...

Laurs xxx

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Oooh I have been busy!

Everything has moved on at a fair pace since my last post all those weeks ago!

Let's start with weight loss - I'm still struggling with the thyroid issue at the moment, have lost just 0.5lbs in the past 3 weeks - having said that, it's a loss, not a gain. I am also not helping matters with the fact that I am eating like a P.I.G. at the moment. Curry, take aways, sweets etc... I just have very fleeting motivation at the moment. I am determined to get to goal (or thereabouts) for the birth of my nephew in June. It's an odd thing to aim for, but feel it's a significant milestone to work to!

On to weddingy stuff now - how exciting! I'll begin with a little story for you - Between Christmas and New Year, hubster and I visited several wedding venues in South Wales, we were set on the idea of having the wedding close to his home. We found a beautiful venue and excitedly booked the venue - our date was set! When the hotel sent through all the paperwork we found that there were a lot of shady hidden costs (paying for a minimum of 3 alcoholic drinks for EVERY guest at the reception whether they wanted them or not - including my (as will be) 1 year old nephew!). So we politely told the hotel thanks but no thanks.

Now. I absolutely love reading website for alternative wedding ideas. I was looking on the site in January when I came across this a pictorial piece showcasing vintage dresses. These pictures are so my style and I fell in love with all the dresses. I was SHOCKED to find that not only was "Queenies", the little cupcake shop featured in the piece, in Ironbridge only 10 minutes from my mum and dad but the photographer - Bethan at Haywood Jones photography - was based in the same town too! woohoo! This lead me on to looking at venues near there and, even though we were still set for a South Wales wedding, when I saw images of the Coalbrookdale Museum I just had to book a viewing.

We went to see the Coalbrookdale museum with my mum and dad. As you know, we initially looking at the venue with the view of booking the museum for the ceremony only and then having the reception at my mum and dad's house. When we saw the venue, we fell in love with it! and decided to have the whole sha-bang there. It just seemed to make so much more sense and was so much easier for the guests, also, it's set deep in Ironbridge Gorge and wow, talk about Ironbridge Gorge-ous surroundings! (sorry, couldn't resist that one!).

So, we'd found the perfect venue, then we wandered up into Ironbridge to "Queenies" and found the perfect cake! (we are very much planning on booking them). In April we have a meeting planned with Bethan so, fingers crossed, it'll be 3 for 3 and we'll find the perfect photographer too!

We've set the date and sent off the deposit cheque but, seeing as our previous venue fell through, hubster has told me not to make any big announcements until that cheque has cleared! (Then I will be telling all and sundry about my wedding!)

All things seem to be coming together for the initial bookings. I think the main thing I have to worry about is not bursting with excitement before the wedding! I JUST WANT TO GET MARRIED TO MY GORGEOUS MR NOW!!!!

Laurs xxx