Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Cake & Bake Show

Sunday saw the dawning of the long awaited Cake & Bake Show in Earls Court, London. It was the first of its kind, and bakers & cake lovers turned up in droves until Earl's Court was utterly packed. We saw many wonderful cakes and all the sugar craft tools you could ever want to buy. I have never tried my hand at sugar craft, so the temptation to buy lots of things was not too overwhelming.

We got to see the infamous Mary Berry demonstrate how to make a roulade - I love that woman and would quite like to be like her when I grow up. Unsurprisingly, hundreds of other people wanted to see Mary Berry too, so our view was not the best - neither was my choice in camera lens for the event.
{a very poor photo of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood}

There were some absolutely stunning wedding cakes that were works of art. I don't think I could bring myself to cut into one of these beauties.
I have no idea if these beautiful spheres are even edible, but regardless, they are my kind of works of art.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

50mm focus / East Dulwich

We're in London for the weekend for The Cake & Bake Show which I am sure is going to be a feast for my senses and a whirlwind of inspiration and excitement. Today has been taken at a perfectly leisurely place, with a little shopping, brunch with friends, a little more shopping and plenty of down time. I popped my camera in my bag this morning, just knowing that there would be delights that I would want to photograph. Here is what my eyes have delighted in:

Friday, 21 September 2012

chocolate chip cookies

I love a good cookie. I love to eat them and I love to bake them. 

I have tried a few different chocolate chop recipes but have yet to settle with one that I love. I have a double chocolate chip cookie recipe that I adore, and works every time without fail, but as for a go-to single choc chip recipe? My repertoire lacks one.

At the start of the week I did a little searching online for a good 'un, and found an article on The Guardian online newspaper all about how to cook the perfect choc chip cookie. Now, I am pretty sure that most people would agree that if a photo of food makes the food look good, you are far more likely to want to bake or cook the recipe than if the photo is a little sub-standard. Would you agree? I definitely fall into this camp (which is a big part of the reason why My Baking Addiction is a dangerous place for me to visit, because the photography is fantastic). I wasn't overly consumed with the need to bake The Guardian's recipe, until I scrolled down to the recipe and saw a chocolate jewelled delight staring right back at me. This, along with reading that this recipe recommended letting the cookie dough rest at least overnight, and at most, 72 hours, had me gripped. 
If you think that waiting 72 hours to taste the cookie dough that's sitting pretty in your fridge sounds a little like torture, well, that would probably be quite a normal reaction. My thinking? This was a brilliant opportunity to do a little taste testing at each stage of the dough resting process so that I could effectively compare the differences. So, I baked up 4 cookies as soon as the dough was formed, then 4 more after 24 hours, then 9 (by this point, 4 just didn't seem quite enough) after 48 hours, and I still had dough remaining! 

My verdict is that the flavour and texture definitely improved over 48 hours, resulting in an ever so slightly chewy cookie with just the right amount of crispness and plenty of chocolatey goodness. John's verdict is that my cookies that include condensed milk are better. I agree with this - condensed milk gives a wonderful chewy softness to cookies, and for that, there is no substitute.
{If you'd like to try your hand at baking these, follow the link to the original recipe here:}

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

little victories

In amidst the muddle of today, I am thinking on the little joys and victories that are worth celebrating:

+ Precious children making just a little bit of progress that bring me joy
+ Autumn sunshine filling the skies on my drive to school, making the early mornings so very beautiful
+ The surprising white spider that dropped down from our kitchen ceiling, taking us by surprise
+ The first signs of life on John's beloved chilli plant, making for one very happy husband.
+ Beautiful skies to enjoy from our window as the dust of the day settles around us.
+The prospect of making chocolate chip cookie dough.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

photo walk / in the woods

This week as brought with it the first signs and sights of Autumn. The mornings are cooler, with the bright sunshine casting lower shadows, the leaves are starting to turn and my feet are craving boots over sandals. 
On Friday afternoon I needed to wake myself up. I needed to feel fresh air in my lungs and wind in my hair so I went for a photo walk. It was just what I needed. Time to take in the green, green foliage of the woods, the trees still covering the air with their leafy blankets, holding on to the last bit of life that this year has brought to their boughs, intermingled with solitary trees here and there, whose leaves are giving way to the change of seasons. I needed the dappled sunlight, casting pretty shadows on the ground, flashing sun flare across my path. I needed the sound of the mini waterfall and the sight of the spider sitting pretty. By the time I arrived home, I no longer felt the need for a fourth cup of coffee to awaken me. The outdoors had stirred me from my sleepiness. 


Friday, 14 September 2012

Five Minute Friday / Focus

I have been looking forward to joining in with another of LisaJo's Five Minute Friday prompts this week. I like being given something specific (yet so varied and general) to write about. I would highly recommend having a go at this, even if you don't have a blog, just for the fun of writing about something that you would not have done if it wasn't for this.

Go

Living this life takes a lot of focus. Engaging fully with the present so often requires focus - a conscious channeling of attention to give our all to a task.

The memories and processes of taking photos flit through my mind - the tangible art of bringing things to focus and deliberately pushing others right out of focus. The soft blur of bokeh that can be so very beautiful as you swivel the camera lens out of focus, creating beauty in the blurry.

The start of a new school year brings with it a fresh need to focus on the new while remembering the old ways of doing things, shifting and adapting in accordance with the needs of the children that make up my class this year. Their dynamics gradually come into focus as I meet and greet them one by one and invite them to explore their new classroom environment. I watch as their focus shifts and settles, sometimes fleetingly on one activity before finding comfort in another; others seek the solace of familiarity, building a train track, down at floor level, giving the interlocking lines of the track their complete and utter focus. All the while, my focus shifts - both literally and figuratively - as my mind gets into gear with the push-me-pull-me effect of the tasks that need to be completed alongside the hearts that need care and compassion.

I come home and find respite and release in the lens of my camera that gives a degree of control over how I see things.

Stop. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

orange meringue bites

On my weekly food shop this week I felt in need of something a little citrusy to inspire my baking. These little bitesized wonders came to mind as the perfect miniature treats to bake this week. I have made them before using lemon which I loved, but wanted to try adapting the flavours slightly, so decided to use orange this time instead. 

I know I've said it before, but I'm going to say it again: Eggs are brilliant. What other food can you crack open, separate and use both elements to create delicious treats? I love that with this recipe, the egg yolks don't go to waste as you use them to make the orange curd. 
Now, for all of the brilliant things about meringue, there is the slight downfall of the time factor. No matter how tiny the meringues, they need a lot of time to bake and dry out. If time is on your side, I recommend making these as a sweet treat to share with family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, and anyone else who needs a bit of light sweetness in their mouth. 
{the little black specks you can see on the meringue are vanilla seeds, nothing suspicious!}
There is something wonderfully satisfying about popping a star shaped nozzle into a piping bag, loading it up with super shiny meringue then piping away to your heart's content. 

Orange Meringue Cookies
ingredients
2 large egg whites
130g caster sugar
pinch salt
1 vanilla pod / 1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange

To make the meringue:
1) Line 2 large baking trays with parchment, or foil if you have run out of parchment (no need to grease). Preheat the oven to 90C / 200F.
2) Separate the eggs, placing the egg yolks into a medium sized saucepan, ready for making the curd. Put the egg whites into a mixing bowl / bowl of freestanding mixer.
3) Whisk the egg whites until they are white and frothy.
4) Gradually add the sugar and a pinch of salt, whisking continually / after each addition.
5) Continue to whisk until the meringue is thick, brilliantly glossy and looking like melted marshmallow.
6) Fold in the orange zest and vanilla seeds / extract.
7) Fill a piping bag, fitted with a star shaped nozzle, with meringue and pipe a small quantity of meringue onto a baking tray, lined with parchment. Repeat until all of the meringue is used up.
8) Flatten half of the swirls with the back of a teaspoon - you'll use these as the base of the cookies so they need to be flat for sandwiching together, even though it feels sad and brutal to flatten their beautiful peaks.
9) Bake in the preheated oven for 2 hours. After 2 hours turn the oven off and leave meringues inside to cool and become crisp, preferably overnight, but at least for a few hours.
10) Make the curd, then when the meringues are ready, put a little dollop of the chilled curd onto one of the flattened meringues and top with another meringue that has retained its beautiful peak. Continue until they're all ready, then consume!

For the Orange Curd: ingredients
70g / 6 tbsp butter
125g / half a cup of caster sugar
125ml / half a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice (approx. 1.5 medium sized oranges)
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

1) Place all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and heat over a medium heat until the butter has melted and the mixture has thickened but isn't boiling.
2) Pour the curd through a sieve over a bowl to strain out any pieces of egg that have cooked in the heating process.
3) Transfer into a glass jar and chill in the fridge until needed.

Baking Notes: These turned out beautifully, but I think lemon is a more effective flavour. The orange curd didn't have enough tang for my taste, but they were still a great little treat.

Monday, 10 September 2012

The weekend round up

This weekend we drove across the country to the South East for another wedding. I completely forgot to take my camera with me, so sadly there are no photos of the beautiful celebration. John was enamoured by the brightness of the moon, so we took a brief trip to the beach on Friday night to enjoy its great light.
As many of our friends had travelled from various parts of England to come for the wedding, we had the added bonus of being able to spend time together on Sunday too. We spent much of Sunday morning in the kitchen, with my brother Ben baking up a storm of sourdough bread, cooking a roast dinner and rescuing failed baking attempts.
Sunday afternoon was spent in the glorious sunshine, eating al fresco, nine friends and family around the dining table in my parents garden, followed by a walk to the beach, skimming stones and eating ice cream.
{skimming in action}
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

Friday, 7 September 2012

Five Minute Friday / Graceful

Last Friday I took part in Lisa-Jo's Five Minute Friday writing prompt and thought I'd have a go again today.

.....................................

Graceful. As I read that word my mind whispers back, 'full of grace and truth.' 

I cannot think of the idea of graceful without the full, immense grace of God coming to mind. Experiencing grace evokes a gentle humility and I cannot help hoping and praying that I might be someone with a heart full of grace - graceful - out of the abundance of grace given to me daily by God.

Graceful is the dove that gently swoops, easily jolted when the peace is disturbed. Graceful is the dancer whose diligent hours of toil and sweat amount to a beautiful art. Graceful is the one who knows in those moments of quiet and times of busyness, 'there but for the grace of you, I go.'

Grace is seen in the graceful, and graceful is found in grace.



Tuesday, 4 September 2012

miniature chocolate chip cookies

I awoke on Sunday morning with the urge to bake some miniature chocolate chip cookies. So, while the coffee was brewing, I got the butter & the sugar together for a happy party in my mixing bowl. Then the flour and egg joined the party, and once the show was nearly over, the colourful chocolate beans made their way from my baking cupboard into the bowl to add a bit of colour to the party.
Am I a little bit mad? Perhaps, but cookies bring a little happiness to a lot of people. and happiness is great.

Miniature Chocolate Chip Cookies: yields approx. 36

ingredients
100g / 1/2 cup light soft brown sugar
65g / 1/3 cup caster sugar
112g / 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large free range egg
260g /  1 3/4 cup plain (all purpose) flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g / 3/4 cup chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/ Gas mark 4 and grease 2 - 3 large baking trays.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy.
3. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat to combine.
4. Add the flour and baking powder and mix to combine into a dough.
5. Gently stir in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
6. Take a small ball of the dough (about 2 tsp's worth) and roll into a ball then place on greased baking tray and flatten. Leave a little room for spreading.
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 - 10 mins until cookies are just firm to the touch
8. Leave to cool on baking trays for 2 minutes before transferring onto cooling racks.
Baking Notes:
This dough will freeze perfectly so if you don't want 36 cookies, just roll into a log and pop the dough in the freezer.
The cookies weren't as chewy as I would like - I might try adding condensed milk next time & a little less flour.