A loooong while back, I posted a recipe for making your own sourdough starter. I had intended to post a bread recipe shortly after, but it took me this long to get one that I was completely happy with. Some recipes were too wet, some not enough flavour, and others too dense. I kept trying new ones, and new methods, until I had one that I knew would work every time. And here it is!
This recipe started out as a San Fransisco sourdough recipe from my old school text book, On Baking: A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals. It’s a great book that teaches the science and fundamentals of all manner of pastry and baking techniques, and includes recipes for almost anything you could think of! I often think that I need to really work through my recipe books, and this one is definitely high up on the list. It’s got such a wide variety of recipes, and explains them in full detail.
I tried making the sourdough recipe, as it’s described in the book, and it was okay, but not quite sour enough for my taste. That could be simply because of the unique wild yeast that lives in San Fransisco (L. Sanfranciscensis), or because this particular recipe was too ‘quick’ to develop a sour flavour. It actually used a small amount of commercial yeast in the dough, so that you could bake the loaf the same day you make it. Great if you’re strapped for time, but it leaves a bit to be desired in taste. However it did explain one thing I had been wondering in the past – how to acheive what I consider a San Fransisco sourdough crust. (more…)
Okay, it’s time for a really simple recipe. I’ve meant to post this for ages, but haven’t made them often enough, and keep forgetting to take a photo. These are one of Richard’s favourite things that I make – they’re a softer cookie (unlike the crisp biscuits that people tend to make here in the UK), with lots of peanut flavour.
Now, the most important part of the recipe, is the peanut butter that you use. If it’s one of those cheaper brands, with tons of added sugar and palm oil, then you won’t get as strong of a peanut taste. I only ever buy 100 percent peanut, peanut butter. Suprisingly, Morrisons has a really good one, which is waaaay cheaper than all the health-food ones, but still tastes great. Trust me, I love this stuff. It’s great in a banana smoothie too!
These are a really simple cookie, where you just have to cream together the butters and sugar, add some eggs, and then mix in the dry ingredients. Nothing fancy or complicated here! (more…)
Well, it’s finally November, and the weather here in southeast London certainly feels like it. We’ve got the old electric radiator out again, hot water bottles in the bed, and a duvet on the sofa for snuggling. If we only had a fireplace, I think we’d be quite cozy!
But what this weather does for me is make me crave all kinds of warm hearty things… and above all soup! I almost never want to make soup during the summer, when all I want is a salad. But now, I want to tuck into something that feels just as cozy as the hot water bottle currently residing somewhere near my toes… which are covered in thick socks.
Now, this soup isn’t just warm and cozy, but it’s actually good for you! As I mentioned in a previous post about cooking with these bad boys, Jerusalem artichokes are full of inulin, which is amazing for your gut bacteria… just not for your dignity. They call them fartichokes after all. And that’s not the only part of this soup which is healthy – celeriac is too! I mean, it’s definintely not the prettiest vegetable to look at (seriously, it’s not winning any vegetable beauty contests) but celeriac is full of dietary fibre, minerals, and vitamins! With these two as the main ingredients in a soup, you’ll feel better in more ways than one. And seeing as how they are both currently in season, why not try this recipe this weekend?
Fun fact, we actually grew Jerusalem artichokes this summer, by accident. Turns out we missed some of the plant we dug up last year, and covered it with our new composter. Now we can’t properly dig the rest up, and so we will forever have Jerusalem artichokes growing by our composter. Which is great news for me, but not so for Richard. His gut seems to go particularely crazy when he has Jerusalem artichokes… which isn’t something he likes too much.
Now I really liked the flavour of this soup, as it’s very different from anything else I’ve ever had. Celeriac has a definitely celery taste (obviously), and combined with the nutty Jerusalem artichoke, it was quite unique. I seasoned it a bit less than most things I make, as I really wanted those two flavours to shine through. Normally I go crazy with tons of garlic… mmm garlic… **insert drooling here**(more…)
One of my very favorite things in the world is ice cream. Well, frozen desserts to be honest – if it’s anything frozen and dessert like, I’m in. I remember the first time I went to Tickleberry’s in Okanagan Falls, BC and saw how many flavours they had (72!)… it was love at first sight. If you’re ever in the area, and like frozen things, you have to go! I remember we didn’t understand that the little pictures near the prices indicated how many scoops each size actually had. I mean, when you order a single, you imagine it’s one scoop, right? Wrong! It’s three! I actually ordered the “large”, thinking it was 4 scoops (6), and was so confused when they kept asking me to choose more flavours! It came in a little bucket!
So for me, one of the saddest things about having to leave my Kitchenaid mixer in Canada, was the lack of the ice cream attachment. It’s kind of hard to make my own ice cream without one 😉
Enter the no-churn ice cream method! Now, I experimented with this a little last summer, with my No-churn Piña Colada ice cream and the No-churn Strawberries + Cream. But the big problem I have, is that almost all no-churn recipes out there use only double cream and condensed milk. And that, my friends, tastes as rich and heavy as it sounds! It’s waaaay too rich with only double cream, but it’s the only way to whip the mix prior to freezing. You dilute the fat content too much with milk, etc. and not only will it not whip up thick before freezing, but it may even separate in the freezer – ending up with a layer of soft cream on top, and hard frozen milk below.
So I tried experimenting with some old recipes (that I had made before I got an ice cream maker) – but ended up with the problems described above. That’s when I saw a little video on Pinterest, of a recipe from Co-Op. It was a Balsamic Strawberries + Cream no-churn recipe, that used an ingredient I hadn’t considered before – yogurt! I mean, I use it to make popsicles, but never thought to try and use it in my ice cream mix. So, I made a small batch, with no strawberry or anything in it, just to see what the base flavour tasted like. And it was nice! I mean, you could definitely taste the yogurt, but it wasn’t as rich and heavy, while still being soft. I figured that if you added a strong enough flavour to it, the slight tangy yogurt taste would fade to the background, or you might not even notice it at all!
Which brings me around to this recipe! (Finally, right?)
Richard’s favorite ice cream in the world is Pooh-Bear (now called “Poor Bear” because of some Disney legal woes) from Maud’s Ice Cream in Northern Ireland. It’s literally one of his first stops after getting off the plane in Belfast. It’s a vanilla ice cream with chunks of honeycomb, which partially melt in, creating little ribbons of caramel and crunchy bits. And ever since I started playing around with ice cream recipes – I knew I’d have to make it for him. (more…)
Honeycomb. Sea Foam. Sponge Toffee. Cinder Toffee. That-stuff-inside-a-crunchie-bar… the list of names for this stuff goes on and on. But they all mean the same thing. It’s a caramel candy that has been made light, fluffy, and full of holes through the addition of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). The baking soda adds a slightly salty taste to the caramel, hence the “sea foam” moniker, but the overall taste is caramel.
I grew up loving crunchie bars, and what I then called sea foam. I remember learning how to make it myself, and dunking it in chocolate to make my own little bite size crunchies. It looks complicated, but it’s really not – once you understand it, that is.
All you need (besides the usual things) is a candy/digital thermometer which can get up to 150°C (~300°F) and liquid glucose. Now, you’re local store (if you’re outside the UK) may not sell liquid glucose, but any specialty cooking/baking store should, and even DIY brewery places too. If you still can’t find any, substitute white corn syrup, but make sure to evaporate off the water sufficiently. It’s a similar product (both are invert sugars) but the water content tends to be higher. If you’re unsure what I mean, read on, it’ll make more sense later.
You can find recipes out there for making honeycomb without the glucose, but this recipe is my favorite. I’ve tried a few in the past, and found that their candy instructions weren’t always adequat. They often resulted in flat soft honeycomb, or burnt tasting stuff. Which isn’t exactly ideal; I adapted this recipe from my work, until it was perfect. Just stick with me kid 😉
There are three key things for making this work well – patience, temperature, and the right container. For patience – you have to let the solution boil slowly (to evaporate off the water), instead of turning up the heat and rushing it. Candy temperatures are less about the actual temperature, and more about what they represent. Since water boils at 100°C, for a solution to climb above that, it needs to evaporate off water. The higher the temperature, the less water is present (until you hit 100% sugar and caramelization occurs). If you boil too quickly, it may read a certain temperature, but there is still too much water present. So let it boil slowly, and the temperature will climb with the reduction in water.
As for the temperature, you need an accurate thermometer. It’s one of my main faults with a lot of honeycomb recipes out there, as they use colour descriptions instead of temperatures. For honeycomb, you want to get to what is known as “hard-crack” stage. Anything below that, and your honeycomb will be too soft and chewy, and may even deflate entirely. Hard crack is between 149-154°C. I generally like to get to at least 150, to ensure it’s reached the right stage, but be careful as it’ll climb quickly once it gets past 145ish. Anything above 154°C and you’re in caramelization territory – sounds nice, but too much caramelization ends up tasting burnt. In fact, despite the fact that honeycomb is caramel in colour, we don’t actually caramelize the sugar! It’s the chemical reaction with the baking soda that creates the colour as well as the taste (and sudden increase in size).
For the container – you want to ensure you don’t pick one too big. Having the right sized container to pour the honeycomb into will ensure it’ll stay nice and tall. I actually used one waaay too big when making this trial batch (see above). I’m used to making this recipe 8x as big, and wasn’t sure how large a pan to use. What ends up happening is that without it reaching the sides, it’ll fall quite a bit and end up sort of flat 🙁 If you put it into a nice sized container, the sides wil support it while it cools, and you’ll end up with tall chunks of light honeycomb. For this amount, I’d recommend a small square pan (like 8×8″), but maybe put some parchment paper underneath incase it overflows a tiny bit.
And that’s it! If you follow those three things (and the recipe below – obviously), you should end up with great honeycomb! I’ve taught quite a few people to make it in the past, so hopefully you’ll have no issue. Use it to make my No-Churn Honeycomb Ice Cream, coat it in chocolate, or just eat it! Just make sure to store it properly, and quickly. Honeycomb will absorb any moisture present, so if you were to make it on a rainy day, with a window open, you might not have as great success as a drier environment. Once your honeycomb is hard, break it up and store it in an airtight container. I worked at a restaurant where we would vaccuum-seal little bags of it, so that we only had to open a small amount during service. Just don’t let it sit around in the kitchen too long after you make it, or it’ll get all sticky. (Like cotton candy! That stuff practically melts if left outside…)
It’s such a fun thing to make – the baking soda creates such an instant reaction (which is why I have no photos of it). It’s a fun thing to make with older kids, as long as they are careful. It’s like a science experiment you can eat! Yum!
In a small pot over medium heat, use a whisk to combine all ingredients except for the bicarbonate*
Bring to a boil, and dissolve the sugar, whisking occassionally
Continue boiling, evaporating off the water, adjusting the heat so that it doesn't boil too rapidly
While the mixture is boiling, sift the bicarbonate in a small bowl, and prep a small baking tray by completely lining it with parchment paper
Once the sugar solution reaches 150°C (302°F), remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the bicarbonate. Make sure you whisk enough that you aren't left with pockets of baking soda, but not too long or you'll deflate it
Immediately pour the honeycomb into your prepared pan, being gentle so as not to deflate the mixture. Don't be tempted to touch the surface while scraping in the last bits, or you'll end up deflating it
Allow to cool (the surface will be hard) then break into small pieces and store in an airtight container
*make sure the pot isn't too small, as the baking soda reaction grows a lot!
Way back in June, Richard and I had the opportunity to travel to Romania for a wedding! Man, how time flies! I just got around to going through the photos that we took, and thought I would write up a quick recap of the things we did and places that we went.
We were technically there for 4 days, but since Richard was the best man in the wedding, there was a lot of time spent doing wedding related stuff. Everything we did could be easily crammed into two days.
Romania wasn’t exactly a country that was on either of our bucket lists, but we enjoyed the opportunity to check out someplace new. It’s been described as “the new Berlin” (since I’ve never been to Berlin, this didn’t really mean much to me), and definitely has a lot of new bars and coffee shops popping up all over the city. It’s a city that seems ripe for development; I couldn’t stop admiring all the old buildings around town, and kept wishing people were buying them and fixing them up. Buuuut despite the lack of a squeaky clean exterior, there are a lot of new restaurants and ‘hipster-type’ hotspots all over the capital city that are worth a look.
The best place to start is definitely the Old Town, which is full of cafes, bars, and plenty of tourist shops if you’re feeling the need to buy some sort of fridge magnet or tacky shot glasses. It’s quite small, so you can walk around it pretty easily and admire all of the buildings. And, if you’re hotel is located a bit outside the old town, why not walk through a park to get there?
Bucharest has plenty of nice old parks all around the city, which are great in the summertime. If we’d had more time I would have wanted to walk through more of them to get to/from Old Town and our hotel. However with the wedding activities, it was often more prudent to simply get an Uber. (Oh, and if you happen to visit Romania, make sure you use Uber! It’s so insanely cheap in Romania, but also incredibly reliable. We used it to get everywhere, including getting to and from the airport.) (more…)
Do you have recipes that you associate with a specific person? I grew up with plenty of recipes we always called by the name of the person who introduced us to it – “Heather’s Dip”, “Grandma’s Ammonia Cookies”… or in this case Laura’s strawberry rhubarb pie. So-called because it was my sister-in-law who first discovered the recipe, and introduced me to it. That, and she loves this pie, so I always think of it as hers.
So when we had a glut of rhubarb in the allotment, I could think of one thing I wanted to make with it! Well, I could think of a ton of things I wanted to make, but this was first on my list.
Pies aren’t as big here in the UK as they are in Canada and the US – most people would be quicker to make a crumble with rhubarb. Or maybe even a tart, but not pie. I, for one, love making pies as they leave so much room for creative decoration! Crumbles are good and all, but they leave little to be done artistically. Pies are sooooo much better to play with!
In this instance, I opted to make little strawberries out of excess dough, and added them to some leaves and a braided edge. I love braids on pie crusts! Even though this pie can be made with a single crust, I almost always make a double so that I have more to play with, or sometimes swap the crumble for a lattice top. I love a good lattice…
Of course, you can also make a double batch of the dough to freeze one half, and make another pie later! Since the dough recipe requires a single egg to make a double batch, it’s easier to just make the double batch than divide in two. This recipe was another one that Laura introduced me to, and I’ve used it for every pie I make, ever since. (more…)
Okay, so many changes here! I’m so excited about our garden this year, and all the things we are hoping to harvest! I took these photos about mid June, and already so much has changed! I can’t wait to see where we end up in August. Or even September!
I recapped our allotment in this post a couple weeks back, and used the following illustration to show the layout of our first plot.
To show all the changes that we’ve made this year so far, and our plans for all the plants, I created a new illustration for 2018. You can see it below.
So first big changes up from last year, are the greenhouse and a second plot! Richard is so incredibly proud of the greenhouse. It took a while to build, but mostly because we were doing it in winter and there’s only so much time you want to spend freezing your butt-off outside painting pallets. The frame was built out of pallets that Richard got from his work, and for so long it looked like we were building a pen for animals. 🙂 Then he added some curved plastic pipe for the roof supports, a shelf made of pallet scraps for starting seeds at the back, and everything got covered in plastic! The thing that took the longest was painting it all with the same stain as the shed (Tudor Black Oak) as pallets have so many nooks and crannies.
We’ve used it to start all our seeds this year, and made use of both the shelf as well as the bare ground to keep large bins full of seed trays. It was great to not have our windowsills full of little trays, like last year. 🙂 Now that everything has been planted out, it’ll mostly be used to grow all our tomatoes, chili peppers, and cucamelons.
Outside of the greenhouse I opted to plant some lupins and salvia because I wanted to fill the space a bit, and make it look prettier. On the other side I moved some forget-me-nots that kept showing up on our plot to make it look nicer. Our allotment neighbour has them, and they keep seeding little plants all over our plot. Since I like free flowers I decided to simply move them, rather than get rid of them.
Beside the greenhouse we have our shipping-boxes-turned-raised-beds from last year. We’ve moved them to a slightly different spot because of the greenhouse, but they’re in the same part of the plot. Instead of lettuce greens (which we always forgot to pick) we’re growing all of our herbs in two of the boxes, while keeping the third for carrots and radishes like before. Hopefully the nasturtiums, which are planted around the two herb boxes, will really fill out and spill into the middle… so pretty!
Over by the greenhouse is our shed! I gave it a couple of fresh coats of stain, as it was looking a bit worn after the winter. And of course, we gave it a much larger patio! If you follow along on Instagram, you will have seen the progress on stories. It’s soooo nice to have enough room now to sit with a few friends for a bbq, which would have been too cramped before. And I can’t stop loving the herringbone brick! We scoured Gumtree to find free bricks in our area, and then cleaned the old mortar off them to add to the existing patio. (more…)
One of Richard’s childhood memories is coming home after school, to his mom making fresh scones. He would sit at their breakfast bar, with a cup of tea and a scone, and tell her about how hard his day was (he had to colour for hours 🙂 ). When I first heard that, I immediately wanted to find a great scone recipe, so I could do the same for him now. I wanted him to come home from work to fluffy, light, layered scones.
However, the first couple of recipes that I tried never lived up to their pictures. It sort of bummed me out, and I put off finding a good recipe. That is, until I was asked to make scones for someone’s wedding. That sort of put the fire under my butt that I needed!
So I decided to try Mary Berry’s recipe for classic Devonshire scones. Well, they had the same problem as the ones before, but this time, I decided to tweak them until they came out the way I wanted! Scones tend to fall into two camps – slightly dry and crumbly, or softer and layered. The first time I made this recipe, they definitely fell into the first category. And I’m not the biggest fan of the crumbly kind of scones.
on the left are the scones from the first attempt – and on the right are the scones after I tweaked the recipe
Then I started thinking about it – crumbly is because of a lack of gluten development. Most scone recipes tell you not to work the dough very much – just press it together a couple times and cut them out. But that’ll end up with crumbly scones. If you want them to hold together better, you’ll have to knead the dough briefly – like 10-15 turns of kneading. By working the dough a bit, you’ll end up with a softer, fluffy texture – just the way I like them! Oh, and be sure to roll them out thick! If they’re less than 1/2″ in height, then they won’t rise as much. The thicker you roll it out to, the more they’re grow! (more…)
Alright, if you’re not into gardens, then you may want to skip this post! And many of the ones after, ha! I’m becoming a bit obsessed with this allotment, and making it perfect…
So last year we took on our first plot at the allotment (coummunity garden) nearby. It had been left to get a bit overgrown as the previous owner couldn’t take care of it anymore. I talked about what our dreams for the plot were in this first post, as well as what we had done so far in this one. However, that is where my posts stopped! I kept wanting to take photos and post updates, but would think “I need to weed first” becuase I wanted super pretty ‘Instagram-worthy’ pictures. Well, that never seemed to happen, and then our tomatoes all got blight and I just gave up. I just never thought it looked good enough to document.
Buuut… it’s hard to really show how far we’ve come without first posting some photos from last year. They’re mostly just iPhone photos that I took to send to Richard while he was away, so he could see the progress. I apologize for their lack of quality.
So first up, we need to just remember where we started…
That was how the plot looked when we first signed up for it. It had rows of raspberry canes covering one half of the plot, a few giant woody lavender, a couple of rose bushes, and some fruit trees. Other than that, it was all just grass and weeds – completely overgrown.
We pulled up all the old landscape fabric, and rotovated the two halves of the plot. Unfortunately, as we learned the hard way, certain weeds etc. just get worse if you rotovate. Richard had broken up and turned the soil on one half by himself, but then while he was doing the second half, the allotment site manager came over and offered to rotovate instead. Turns out they get broken up and churned into the soil – only to pop up later 100 times worse. You can see evidence of that in later photos…
Now, to make things less confusing let’s refer to some diagrams and images – shall we? Last year just after we cleared the site, we drew up some plans of what we wanted to do (this plan was in my post about what we had done so far).
And of course, our plans changed as we went, and by the end of the summer, the actual plot looked like this. Oh, and my diagrams got better 🙂
Now, our plot essentially has two sides, broken up by the trees and grass in the middle (as shown in the diagram above). Let’s start by talking about everything that we did on Side A.
the plastic shed base, laid on top of the white weed covering fabric
So one of the first things that we managed to do was create the patio area and shed. We ended up getting our shed assembled, because Richard was away at the time, and I can’t build it by myself (hard to lift and screw things together, simultaneously). The company delivered it and put it together in about 20 minutes! All I had to do was clear the area, level the ground, and install a base. To that end, I put down one of those plastic shed bases. It was super easy to put together, and came with landscape fabric to prevent weeds growing underneath. We could have gone with a wood base, or concrete, but the wood ones are super expensive, and the concrete wasn’t going to work on an allotment. (more…)