Friday, 21 October 2016

Bake Off 2016: Patisserie Week

It was patisserie week and there were a lot of French words thrown around noncommittally but I guess we all have to get into the groove somehow. I had a choice between savoury palmiers (like flat twirly puff pastry things), a savarin (groovy cake of epic proportions) and Fondant Fancies (very tiny very slick cakes). I went with the last one thinking - this'll be interesting....

.... and it was! I may have made the least elegant Fondant Fancies to ever grace this earth. Ladies and gentlemen... my Fondant Frightenings:

Hahahaha, look at them! They are terrible, but absolutely brilliantly so! :)

The inside looked okay - I kept it simple and did vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream which is covered in a purple vanilla fondant and decorated with chocolate royal icing.

I honestly have no idea how to get those straight sides. The sponge just likes to crumble away under your fingers. It was a fun mess to make though and my parents thought it was all hilarious for ages. Now I've just invented some patisserie for halloween, I think. Stick some edible eyes on and everything can be a monster, right? :) Very delicious monsters :)

Anyway, more new skills tried out today. Won't be doing more dribbly fondant work in a hurry (side note: the potato masher was in fact very useful!) but it was a fun way to spend an evening. :) Wonder what the last week of Bake Off 2016 will bring me! :)

Monday, 17 October 2016

Curious Little Eyes

The moment I walked into your house, you started crying. This was not a cry of fear, nor a cry of pain. No, this was a territorial cry. What is this lady doing in my house?. I hovered at the doorway for a little while. Look my shoes off and exchanged pleasantries with your mum from as far away as possible. I didn't mind - this is your house after all and I was a new guest, of course you were upset by it. You didn't invite me round: we haven't even met before. Your reservations about me being in your space was completely normal and I apologised for a little while.

You couldn't stop looking at me. Even through the crocodile tears, the curiosity inside of you wouldn't let you stop staring. Who is this lady? What does she want? Why is she in my house? You eventually stopped crying but you were still suspicious. I kept my distance but crept a little closer, all the while talking to your mum. You held your mum tight, and your favourite ball tighter. You didn't want to take away your two most favourite things. And that's okay, I was only there to say hello, to meet you for the first time and to play a little.

Your mum set you down in front of me and you were skeptical. You just stared and stared and stared. I knew that you must have gotten used to me when you passed me your favourite ball and didn't cry. You stared, surprised but not sad. You stared too when I gave it back. I read you a story and you sighed at the end of every page - you seem to love stories but are quite worried about how they end. And with every page you turned to look at me, as if to check that I was still there, eventhough I was sitting right in front of you. Eventually you let me touch you, and move you so you were sitting on my lap. We read some books together and at the end of each page you sighed, and then turned to check that I was still me. I'm glad you checked for me, because I certainly forgot to!

After a little while I think you must have gotten used to me. You let me hold you and had a little giggle and a dance. I picked you up and we went to the window. You waved your arms about and pointed at the ducks outside. You looked so happy for a few moments and seemed check to see if I was smiling too. Even while you were having your milk, you wanted to make sure I was still around, peeking around your milk bottle every few minutes to make eye contact. You are definitely a curious little one.

When you woke up after your nap, you had forgotten that I was there and one single tear seeped out of your left eye. Naps do that sometimes to little people: it's like a restart button. I knew that already so I kept my distance, but it didn't take long for you to warm to me again. You sat in front of me and stared and stared. Sometimes you reacted to my facial expressions and voice, sometimes you were just completely fascinated that I existed. I'll be honest with you, I'm flattered that you find me so interesting!

You waved goodbye when it was time to go, without breaking that gaze of yours. I had a lot of fun and it was lovely to meet you! You are a curious little one and I hope that your desire to find out more about the world will stay with you as you grow up. I look forward to hanging out with you again, little one, so we can stare at eachother again soon!

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Bake Off 2016 - Tudor Week

This week's options for the Bake Off Bake Along were interesting, all with the theme of Tudor bakes from back in the day. The first was a series of pretty tudor pies, the second was some biscuits called "Jumbles" and the third one was a decorative marzipan centerpiece. I actually wanted to make them all, but I ended up tackling the jumbles for practical eating reasons. 

The mixture for the jumbles wasn't that difficult, but the recommended decorative shapes were tricky. It took a long while to work out the double knot (not entirely sure why) and I could have done the full Celtic knot better (with more overlaps with the circle). Anyway, here are my finished jumbles:

Ta dah! I think they look quite pretty :)

This one was my favourite I think! :)

I didn't have all the spices for the actual recipe so I just put lemon and orange zest in, as well as some cinnamon. Turned out pretty tasty - crunchy on the outside and soft in the inside. I think I'd like to experiment with more flavours and try this again another time. And I reckon I'll make a marzipan centerpiece for Christmas. More soon!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Bake Off 2016 - Dessert Week

I wasn't particularly enthused by this week's Bake Off challenges (despite how much I enjoyed watching the episode - edge-of-my-seat kinda baking!) but that's okay. It gave me a chance to think about what I wanted to do. The options were to bake a sweet roulade, marjolaine (kinda like a meringue based sandwich structure) and many mini mousse cakes. Because of my audience at home, the mousse cakes would have been a waste, and because of my lack of electric whisk, I decided to opt out of hand-whisking 10 egg whites, so I was left with the roulade.

I eventually researched a bit and made up my own recipe (which, incidentally isn't a roulade as I found out half way through my bake but more of a fancy swiss roll). I used a fat-less sponge (so I ended up hand whisking quite a bit anyway) with a lemon and lime curd filling. Feeling like I hadn't challenged myself enough, I decided to then smother the whole thing in meringue (my arms hurt now) and then baked it again.

This is what the inside looked like. Considering the fact that I did a really short roll, I got a nice roll on her. And it has plenty of my delicious filling. Oh my.

Here it is before I cut into her. It was only small, but straight out out of the oven, it was oh so shiney and lovely.

The flavours worked perfectly for this - the lemon and lime curd was deliciously tart, and the meringue was crunchy and sweet. I dunno if I really made a roulade, but it was fun inventing this bake. My parents loved it, and also suggested that I, instead of thinking up a way of storing it overnight, just eat it all. Hahaha. They are funny. I was tempted.

I think all in all, it was a successful bake. My arms have just started giving up on me, so I got a little exercise in there too! It was fun to talk to my friends about the bakes over board games a few days ago. One of them brought their roulade to the party and it was excellent! So grateful to have baking buddies during this time - looking forward to the next challenge!

Monday, 10 October 2016

On Playing Games and Doing Nothing

My friend Ric came to visit from Guernsey, so quite naturally, my college friends and I had to gather and have a giggle. Since it's the middle of Bake Off season, we also brought an abundance of baked goods to share together and it was spectacular. I brought a pie - can you tell what's inside it?

Mary Berry always says to indicate what is inside the pie, on the outside. Is it clear enough? :)

We also played loads of board games and card games. When I say that we played these games, what I actually mean is that I laughed a lot, maybe so much that I cried on several occasions and then also broke out into a fight with someone half way through over a wooden totem (Jungle Speed). It was an awesome night with some amazing people and a bunch of brand new hilarious games. Fantastic.

The next day, Ric and hung out again. It was lovely to be out of the house, computer-free and also carefree for a few hours. We talked, we doodled, we wrote, we wandered... it was nice. I've missed having Ric around, but I'll be going to visit him very soon so that's very exciting! Here we both are, hanging out:

It was a lovely, sunny day to be doing not much else apart from being :) Thanks for a lovely day, Ric! :)

I needed a day like this. It's been a bit full on recently - it seems like September and October are months were a lot more meet ups happen. It was nice to just laugh and be. I feel like I've laughed enough to refill my internal smile jar so I can keep on going. It feels good.

Onwards and upwards... or maybe sideways to another blogpost! :) Bloop!

Monday, 3 October 2016

Bake Off 2016 - Botanical Week

I was a bit confused by Botanical Week, which was the theme of this week's Bake Off. Did they just want the bakers to use more fresh ingredients instead of processed ones? It did mean that there was a nice variety of challenges though - from the ordinary citrus meringue pie, to the crazy three tier floral cake. I went with the slightly weird bit perfectly achievable technical challenge - the fougasse. It is essentially a flat, leaf-shaped bread with a crispy crust - here is my finished bake:

Here I am, proudly showing off my loaf. I think it's a good size, right? :)

Here it is, a little closer. This was before I had brushed on olive oil and sprinkled a little salt on top.

In case you were wondering, I went with this recipe but amended it a little because I wouldn't have been able to eat two of these bad boys. Also, I couldn't find any sage, so my herby fougasse only has rosemary and thyme in. It tasted really yummy - crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside, and had a buttery flavour to it, despite not having any! I will be making these again! :)

I like all these little baking challenges. Maybe after Bake Off ends, I'll have to just outsource my baking challenges to the general public to keep me baking! :) Interesting idea! :)