Monday, 29 September 2008

*Dark Clouds*

Today beckons the week that my exams lie... Friday afternoon to be precise. I just feel so *ARGH* *tear hair out* and all that malarky. It's the THIRD time I'm going through the question bank and that's quite extreme, even for me. Which is probably why I look at the questions and just blank in some cases. Either way, after going downstairs, eating my body weight in oatcakes and rich tea and watching some Diagnosis Murder, I'm going to officially take the next hour off. No study. Tidy room. Maybe go bask outside in some sunlight for a bit before beating the cr@p out of something.

One things I thought might be interesting - an art/weird stuff blog

Oh and I read the Daring Bakers bitty again. You have to "unveil" on the same day. With me in a different county most weeks I think I may have to bow out and just force myself to bake something once a month instead.

Off to dive off a cliff. (Since we live in a valley that can't even get Channel 5 there are very specific reasons as to why I've survived so long!) xx

Sunday, 28 September 2008

I want nobody, nobody but you....

Thanks to my friend I now have an addiction to a Korean girl band. Think Girls Aloud. Think PussyCatDolls with less gynecological cameramen. This is as sexed up as mainstream Oriental pop acts have ever been. I love the cartoon dancing (it's slightly reminiscent of dances in videogames) and evidently the fact they sing in Korean does not make a bit of difference to me. Meet.... the WonderGirls.

And now to food... or reading anyway! First read of the day was National Geographic in the bathroom. That was interesting, especially when you consider the copy was from October 1980!! Apparently sis went to the second hand shops and bought a few to look at. Had to say I was mainly looking at the adverts. The height of designs that year for Cartier watches and Nikon cameras! My how twenty odd years changes things. It is amazing though. Tempted to buy some more and frame the adverts.

Reading part 2: Waitrose magazine downstairs whilst I was eating my cornflakes. As a time saving option, why not buy ready made mash which you can reheat... in 40 minutes. It takes less time to make from scratch surely? But I suppose that's 40 minutes in the bathroom pampering rather than pounding the pesky lumps out. Also quite funny (I'm easily amused) their range of bistro foods, the Finest, Treat Yourself type range... guess what it's called? As Good As Going Out. Jesus. And they PAID someone to come up with that?

We need a picture. Oh here, have the one from William Curley of what the dish looked like when I ate it.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Sunny Saturday

I've actually had a relatively good day's study. Four hours at five o'clock in the afternoon is pretty decent. Of course I'm not entirely sure I've learnt anything. I'm doing the questions again (third? time) and it's like... yes I am still getting X wrong. Least I know what it is and I've got precise notes on what the answer SHOULD be. I have this weekend to do the questions and then four whole days to memorise the missing elements.

Cake moment. Have I mentioned the Daring Bakers? I'm still in debate on whether to join. This month's challenge was almost off-putting. Gluten free crackers? Is that my future? Spending a Saturday a month making dishes I won't really eat? Hmm. Given I've found a new love in Scottish Oatcakes when I was I was in Aberdeen perhaps I shouldn't be hasty. We shall see. But I am beginning to make a HUGE list of recipes I MUST try.

Things I found reading the two books I bought yesterday - the biscuit one really is OTT in the amount of colouring they add to almost everything. I shall be remedying that. By, er, not buying a single recommended colouring. We own one bottle of food colouring in this house and it is used in miniscule amounts to try and tint the edge of the icing. We use Bird's custard powder to make egg tarts yellower (the colouring is in there but it FEELS less toxic). Either way, very happy I bought the book and you can hold with baited breath to watch me fake corn syrup. Golden Syrup apparently doesn't cut it in all cases.

The Magnolia cookbook I have decided to keep. Brother dearest just took a look and said, "Well if you don't like it, just give it to someone for Christmas." The solution to all Christmas shopping for him is raiding the downstairs room. OOOH Just realised this Xmas I might be able to go see my cousin's baby. "Irrelevant" says the New York Times. Ok, well the big a$$ coconut cake on the front. Is big because they make three layers. Cheats. Also, the frosting is as far as I can tell, Italian Meringue. I had an internal conflict here as raw eggs are something that we don't usually use for baking purposes. Last year I used the dried egg whites for royal icing on my gingerbread house and this year I've tried Swiss Meringue Buttercream which cooks the egg whites over a bain marie. I *think* I've been convinced by the BBC food forumites to just go for it. But I won't be telling my mother what's in the frosting!

For your loving dis-interest and because it saves me saving bookmarks each time I reformat the hard drive - William Curley gives the recipe for a) Truffles b) The chocolate thing I ate at the dessert bar. Note he doesn't give the recipe for the "hazelnut and almond Dacquoise, chocolate biscuit jaconde, milk chocolate and praline Feuillantine, praline ice cream, orange caramel compot and confir kumquats". Well he has to keep some secrets!

You might want to take note - he's won some awards for his chocolates so I don't know, he might be some good? xx

Friday, 26 September 2008

I had to post this

Think as you know I've been going a little crazy online shopping, but I was looking at baking tins on Amazon today and as usual you get a few things which are tagged so they show up in the search despite having little relevance at all. This however, made me crack up. An Optical zoom for mobile phones. Way to take on those food bloggers with their DSLR's ;)

They arrived!!

Amazon delivers! And whilst I was being a lazy bum they were downstairs...

Book1: Better Homes and Gardens: The ULTIMATE cookie book looks like something I will definitely cook many recipes from, pour over and make lots of fat friends from :D

Book2: The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook was the one I bought to make the £15 threshold for free delivery (that's a skill, you aim to get £15 and then you spend £17 extra) I know I shouldn't have. Heck I remember being in NY, not loving the cupcakes, and coming back finding a few on the internet and still... mmmm I don't know.

But there it was. A big coconut cake on the cover. With stiff icing. And a rich, deep devils food cake next to it for contrast. I don't think I'm sending it back somehow! It is the priciest book I've bought for ages and low value in fairness. It's relatively slender and doesn't have the multiple pictures that I've gotten so used to. Still, if I make a good chocolate cake, a good coconut cake and the one fruit torte which looks more like sponge, then it will be worth it no? It's sitting to my left right now, smugly squat and knowing that it's not going to be sent back. (When cooking books speak to you I'm guessing the men in white coats are only minutes away...)

OH TO GET THIS EXAM OVER WITH (one week to the day!)
Then I can bake. Then I can go to the gym and pretend it makes the slightest bit of difference.

Maybe just maybe...

My books will arrive today...

Scored myself 48-56 on my mock. Not bad with a week to go and my ruthless marking. It is precisely 7 days now. NEXT FRIDAY!!

Also kind of freaky that the BBC Food forums shut down after a certain time *blink* *blink* It's as if you've woken up in a deserted ghost town. Eerie!!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Today I am supposed to do accountancy...and a mock

Right. Quick blog as yesterday I didn't blog. But didn't study. Pathetic. Here is somewhere I really, really want to go to. I've been lusting after it for ... approximately five years? They advertise quite regularly in our local free magazine Optima and thus I've been wanting to go on the basis of two pictures. The fact it isn't really local at all and I have to beg a lift from my brother is probably why I haven't been. Plus every birthday I've had in the past two years (er that's two then) I've either been - unable to eat hard foods, or just not up for a big meal.

The picture has that certain "I'm so beautiful, look at me, eat me, you want to eat me!" quality to it. Hence I've actually blown it up a bit. Here's another little teeny tiny problem with it though. There's a taster menu there. So if I eat a taster menu, will I have room for this little baby? Problem part two. There's a chocolate version... admittedly not the BIGGEST problem of the world since my family (I love my family) are very big sharers of food. We specifically order different things so we can try each other's plates. I thought this was entirely normal till I took a mate out and he thought it was akin to swapping bodily fluids (since we were at the time... PG13 style mind! it wasn't an issue but surely with family? You share the same DNA anyway??!)

Chocolate version below. And if you fancy giving it a go, the name of the place is the Barn Hotel in Ruislip. Please don't go before I finally make it there!!!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Shopping blog

Okay I think I'm so desperate to write things that this has steered away from a baking blog to ... a blog. But much excitement - my ipod dock/alarm clock arrived!! Very happy. My laptop was designed for business use and so the speakers are abysmal. And this is coming from a girl who listens to tapes recorded from the radio on a Panasonic tapedeck still!! I feel the lack of pictures though and so here's a picture from William Curley's in Mayfair. One of the more recent additions to my cake walk in Green Park, it's slightly more hidden away, they do cakes at John Lewis on Oxford Street too.

When we went it was for the dessert bar where they make the dessert in front of you (really more of a construction job, but kind of cool watching people who actually know how to pipe stuff). It was really an effort for me to try and recreate the experience I hoped to have in NY, but since we had cool desserts every day, making the effort to find an out of way dessert bar fell to bottom of the list. Check it out if you do go that way, because I want to know if it's worth the hype. Chikalicious.

Have to say, the actual cake was lovely, probably because I rarely get the full done up type of desserts (although these days eating on expenses I get a bit more!) But don't think anything beats a proper crumble and custard. Will construct of list of things I want to do and try and do it next year. Pudding club is one of them.

Monday, 22 September 2008


Hehehee.... just bought a cookie book and a Magnolia bakery cookbook today and just got the warm vibe on impending pretty pictures and recipes. I'm silly but it makes me happy.

Happy Bunny Day!

Okay I have a slight... obsession with wedding cakes. In fact my friends have reached the point where they just expect me to be incredibly critical about their wedding cakes. I'm well...I keep my opinions from the bride and groom naturally but I always think a cake should reflect them and boring cakes don't hit the spot. (There is a difference between boring and classic mind!)

I am happy today (despite now rainy weather) because a mate of my sister's is getting married and my sister is bridesmaid (we think - the offer has been extended and retracted before as there is a certain indecision regarding the matter.) We've known this for awhile, but basically the CAKE and the decisions surrounding it have entered my sphere. Consultancy here I come!! :P First off, it's GREAT when someone cares about the cake. My friend's couldn't give a monkeys and she was told the morning of the wedding that they got a cake arranged by dad (I'd like to say, she did get married in Thailand and the "wedding" with the cake was more like an afterthought where we had to dress up. It was a very yummy cake actually (chinese) but there was no obsessive, compulsive comparison of flavours, designs, etcetcetc.... what some people do with the dress, I think about with the cake. I have all this with my sister's mate *gleams*.

You couldn't possibly care (if anyone is actually reading this), but so far we are very likely to get one made of cheese as well. (Happy dance somewhere...) The sweet cake is varying between cupcake ones, traditional ones, chocolate ones... originally the remit was this:
Layer 1: Chocolate cake
Layer 2: Fruit cake (she's traditional)
Layer 3: Cheesecake.
Very excited and throwing all kinds of questions at her. I don't fancy making a wedding cake (too much pressure and I can't decorate jack...) but certainly a girl on a budget I'm trying to be as sensible as possible! (Not all people want to blow several thou on a cake!!)

Love and kisses from a happy, but should study, amateur wedding cake consultant :D

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Possibly the laziest moment I've had...

Studying a bit better - got two questions under my belt today.

Laziness factor is this, was making myself some humous on toast (humous from M&S and I didn't even buy it myself!) and was in the process of spreading when knife lingers over cup of fresh tea. *plop* in goes humous.

Surprising bit is the fact my tea tastes fine and given the oil based nature of humous, I guess I shouldn't be that surprised that it didn't stay solid enough for me to fish out with a spoon. Ah well.

Nuclear egg tarts

I'm still wondering about what to make for as it's been something I've been wanting to do for agggggggges. Trouble is, most things have been done and in a spectacular fashion. Bearing in mind I'll probably do my exams and it will be forgotten as I get my life back again - kind of like wanting to learn to "crank" ala Soulja Boy whilst I was on sabbatical.

It does seem wrong to write what should be a food blog without pictures - so here's a picture of some chinese egg tarts I made a long time ago. Only they're not really chinese - I cheated and used puff pastry and since I don't like to waste the trimmings, there are some in there that look like they've been through a nuclear fall-out as my friend put it. There is a chinese recipe for puff pastry which does the folding marlarky but instead of layer of butter, it's actually TWO types of pastry folded, one water-based and one oil-based. Unfortunately the oil is lard, although you can do it with vegetable shortening, and the lard made me queasy when I was mixing it in by hand. Rather than go through all that effort again I think I'll stick to my frozen puff which I love anyway, but in you're in ChinaTown and you get some warm egg tarts, you'll notice the difference.

The oddly addictive thing about blogs is, and you do find this going onto other sites, is that the photos are key. People ask each other what camera they use. And I am, er, using the one that comes on my mobile! So very tempted to get a DSLR and you can get them for around £250 which is probably a touch more than what I paid for, for my regular digital camera - HOWEVER when will I use a DSLR?? Other than in the house photographing food? It's heavy, you look like a geek wandering around with it (and yes Chinese people worship cameras and so there are a lot of GEEK geeks out there). Something to think about because, well it's money and I should really care since I've hit a materialistic phase lately and want things like Gucci watches when I'm seriously a Primark, M&S, and H&M type shopper.

I'll pretend to study some more this morning... but if I end up posting again, don't be surprised.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

When I'm supposed to be studying...

I choose to blog instead. Ai. Two weeks to go. Then it's ALL OVER. For a year at least before I chose to inflict myself with this again. Enough of the life story, may as well get with the good stuff.

Over the year I've picked up several new cookbooks - not least because my brother has a book club deal with work and therefore gets cheap cookbooks. Hence I got Delia's "
How to Cheat" in my cookbook collection (and inexplicably the ready made mash in the freezer which I didn't buy!) I'm not for slating her, she made money out of it and she CAN cook. Plus one of my favourites as previously mentioned, Silvano Franco is the queen of quickie food.

More interesting books however are the now very popular cupcake ones. I bought two. Not on purpose mind! I actually bought one, lost it, so bought another one (because I can, can, can...)

The first is "The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake book". Personally I found the mixture too sweet and they made too many. Normal people have one tray for twelve muffins to use for cupcakes
. One does not need to make 24. However, there's a variety of cakes at the back which I fully intend to make. Even funnier was my "future sister in law" has a mate who had a tea party - and I could see the cakes from the pictures, were very faithful representations!! The gauntlet, has been thrown shall we say?

Cupcake book 2 is more frequently used. It is originally called "Cupcakes!" by Elinor Klivans. The recipe calls for sour cream, which is slightly annoying because I don't think it's an exact pot. However, it's not too sweet and tastes quite nice. (Never in my youth did I think I'd try different recipes for what is just fairy cake mixture or victoria sponge in cups!!) I've made several recipes from this book, some more popular than others, but definite experiments going on here. One fantastic one is the vanilla cheesecake cupcake which is deliciously cheesecakey, top to bottom crumb cupcake gives a nice texture of, er, crumb, and top-hats were a different foray into American bakin
g since we don't have them over here.

Thus far I've made the vanilla cheesecake ones several times and they've been scarfed quite promptly by the people at work (old work place!). I like victims for my experiments and I'm not shy.
They've eaten a dubious banoffee pie and my sister's workplace have been fed some overdry brownies from Nigella's "How to be a domestic Goddess". Lord knows why I keep trying from that book.

For me, the only recipe that has worked fantastically has been the philadelphia cheese brownies which are a miracle of lusciousness. FYI, just before you commit to reading my blog you might want to know that I tend to bake with margerine. Butter takes too long to soften
(I use the microwave occasionally) and for some reason feels more fattening (when you melt butter over the hob it FEELS like it's just stuck to your face and bathed you in fat). That's not to say I always avoid butter, but if I'm lazy I won't make the effort to slice and dice the hard stuff to soften. The exception to this rule is when you melt it with chocolate or are making scrambled eggs. Then there is no substitute...

Have a look at the cupcakes and let me know what to make next. These days we have a pool going where someone shouts a number and I make the nearest cupcake to that page.

Friday, 19 September 2008

It's been awhile

Forgot that I wrote so much last time!

Basically facebook took over and most my pictures are posted there as it's so easy, but in the mood to pick this up again.

First of all, I've realised that I've grown attached to a few bloggers - namely the pictures, not the words - but they are somewhat amazing and very regular with their posting! Therefore it is worthy of mention.

Other than that my baking has pretty much gone along the same train although "Chinese Cooking Made Easy" came on the BBC for six weeks, which made for more love to hate tv. Taiwanese smiley girl dismisses takeaway food as the devil incarnate and proceeds to burn her own version on tv. Great. Check out the BBC website for some forumite bashing. Same goes for the British Born Chinese version.

Speaking of which though, I have been on a hell-bent to find more chinese baking to make. As it was Harvest Moon festival for Chinese people recently (not that I could celebrate - I was in Aberdeen with work :( ), I will be making mooncakes at some point. That's about as cultural as I get - apart from my quest to find a mixture to make Chinese whipped cream for frosting my cakes with. If you haven't tried it, Chinese cakes are lighter. The cake base is essentially chiffon cake, however the cream I haven't managed to master/find the secret formula for. All roads currently lead to vegetable shortening. Swiss meringue seems close but it tastes too buttery... yes I may be finding that my dream cream is actually frankenstein in disguise but I have to find the secret!!We shall see. For now, have some pictures of my random baking from last Christmas (when mass-producing gingerbread for the masses).