To my fellow Canadians out there (especially those who live elsewhere, like me) – happy Thanksgiving!
We had a little friendsgiving last night, with a couple and their sweet little baby girl. I made a couple of family favourite recipes, giving them a taste of our Canadian traditions.
They’d never tried pumpkin pie before, so it’s a good thing that this recipe from Once Upon a Chef delivered! No cracks to be found, whatsoever. I upped the cinnamon a little, added a bit of mace and cardamon, then used my own pie crust recipe (making sure I had enough to make all the little leaves). Top it off with some rum whipped cream (recipe from Ina Garten, I used icing sugar and reduced the amount a bit) because why make plain stuff when you can add spiced rum? Oh, and I probably made enough leaves to cover the whole pie and then some – apparently I can’t estimate…
Since I make pumpkin pie maybe once every three years, I never remember which recipe I used before – it’s always an adventure!
Now that I’m back to being my productive self😉, I figured I should really post a few projects I made last year that never made it onto the old bloggity blog – like this one! Queue the endless ramblings…
Do you ever look around your place and think that something’s missing? You have all the essentials (furniture etc.), but for some reason, the room lacks personality. For me, there are two ways to solve this problem – plants or artwork! Or both! Ooooooohhh…
Our flat was seriously lacking in the personality department for a while, so I started to remedy it through an assortment of items (juju hat, abstract paintings, baskets, an old flag), but the wall above our tiny dining table still needed help.
Now, I’m a big fan of gallery walls (done them 3 times in previous apartments) but I wanted something ‘looser’ this time. Something that I could adjust when the mood struck. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling inspired by everything that Jenny Komenda does lately, or maybe it’s the fact that I feel loath to fill a million nail holes someday.
Enter the art ledge! Dun dun dun… The perfect option for those feeling a bit lazy in the whole hanging-a-gallery-wall department. Not to mention – is it just me or are we all getting a bit tired of gallery walls?
I mean, don’t get me wrong, when they are done right they are amazeballs… but they just feel a bit overdone these days. Since I didn’t feel like I had the right wall or a great collection of pieces to display as a gallery, it didn’t feel like the right move here.
The space I had in mind for them wasn’t huge, but when I looked around at ready-made options, they were all too short (or not solid wood – so cutting them down wasn’t an option). I wanted something the same length as the table itself, so figured why not make my own? (more…)
Hello, it’s me again… been a while, hasn’t it? Almost a whole year since I did anything with this blog. It’s been so long that not only did I end up getting that short fringe (and a couple of successive trims) but I’ve almost grown it out! And as anyone who has ever had bangs knows, they take eons to grow out…
Why has it taken so long? Well, because procrastination is a bitch.
As most people who suffer from procrastination will probably agree, it comes from this place of not feeling like you can start anything because of the sheer magnitude of stuff to do. It feels overwhelming – so rather than doing something, you end up putting it off, again and again. It doesn’t help when you’re also in a bit of a sucky mental place due to injury and lack of motivation.
See, I tore my knee on a family vacation almost two years ago, and that torn piece of meniscus was flipped over and stuck in the wrong spot. It meant that I couldn’t go back to work as a baker until after surgery – all it would take was one slip to damage my knee even further. (Fun fact – commercial bakers in the UK are almost all male, because it’s a very physically demanding job!) Then, after being told it would only take 3 months to get surgery, the NHS took almost a full year to finally get me booked in. By that point, I had already arranged to get it done privately in Lithuania (a different story for another time).
Now, many people know Justin Gellatly for his doughnuts (I’ve used his recipe to make Paska and Rhubarb + Custard ones), but he makes something else just as good! Some may even say it’s better – I’m talking about his cracking ginger cake! Rich, moist, and verymoreish. And if you pick up a copy of Justin Gellatly’s book Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding you can try his recipe yourself! Or just keep reading to make my slight adaptation.
You can bake this cake in a simple 9×9″ tin, and cut it into squares. Serve it warm, adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream – it’s the perfect end to a meal! Or, you can fancy it up a notch like I did here – baking it in two round tins to make a layered cake. I used a vanilla German buttercream between the layers (and a thin layer on the outside for a ‘naked cake’ look), then topped it with a caramel sauce, poached pears and some candied nuts.
Now, I made this once before with the same amounts used in Justin’s original recipe – and found that it didn’t taste quite as strong as the cakes sold in Justin’s bakery (Bread Ahead). So this time, I increased the amount of chopped stem ginger, and ground spices. It’s such a great cake – sticky and full of ginger flavour.
For the caramel sauce – I really wanted to use a recipe that only had a couple of ingredients. Caramel sauce isn’t complicated – just sugar and a fat (butter and/or cream) that has been heated to a specific temperature for the consistency you want. I adapted this recipe slightly, using a dry caramel (I can’t be bothered adding water only to then boil it away) to make a sauce with the right thickness to top a cake. Not too runny, but you can still get some nice drips on the edges. Of course I accidentally boiled it too long (distracted) and it was super thick, so I just thinned it a bit with some hot water! You could also add more cream instead. (more…)
I’ve always loved making things at Christmas time. Whether it’s baking cookies, or making salt dough ornaments – Christmas for me always means creating something! And this year, my big craft was this winter wonderlandwreath!
I actually made a pinecone wreath in the same way about 5-6 years ago when I was back in Canada. I had always intended to make it snowy, but chickened-out. See, I was worried that I was going to mess it up, and you can’t really go back once you start painting pinecones. It already looked nice just brown, so I ended up leaving it.
But this time, I was determined to get the snowy wreath I had pictured! And you know what? It turned out amazing!!!
I find that it’s rare when a craft turns out exactly as awesome as I intended it to be. I tend to have these grandiose ideas, which never execute quite as well as I hoped. I mean, they look good, just not exactly like my imagination. But not this wreath!! It’s almost better than I pictured it! But the bad part is that I have no where to store it!
I promised Richard (when I first started gathering pinecones) that we could throw it out at the end of the year (can you compost hot glue?!). But, now that it’s done… I am not sure I can bear the thought! Anyone else want to give it a home once Christmas is over?!
Anyways, back to the tutorial!
This wreath is dead simple, and just takes time. It’s also super cheap if you can get a good deal on hot glue sticks (it used a ton!). (more…)
Okay… random post time! So a number of years back (actually, just after I met Richard) I got a fringe (bangs) for the first time since I was a little kid. I had just been traveling for over three months and wanted a drastic change. However, my stylist told me to get bangs first, and then if I still wanted to get a bob, I could come back in a couple months. Man, I miss him… he always gave such great haircuts… I digress…
Back to the fringe! For some reason, allllll the parents in the 80s decided little girls should have bangs, and so my sisters and I spent what felt like years growing them out once we got old enough. I remember clipping them to either side, and braiding them back. Other girls opted for butterfly clips (remember those?!) but I was a total tomboy. After all that agony growing them out, I hated the very idea of a fringe.
Man I love everything in this photo – it just screams early 90s!
For their sake, I blurred out my family – ha! Also, I love my faces in old family portraits – I could never just smile nicely.
But when I first got bangs again at the age of 19, I looooved them! They just gave me such a different look, and set off my cheekbones. However, my skin at that time was quite oily (something I’ve struggled with for years), and I would find that by 3pm they got all greasy, and I would have to wash them and dry them if I was going out that night.
So once my bangs started to become a bit long and get in my eyes, I decided to grow them out rather than trim them. I vowed never to get them again. (ha!) As you can imagine, about four years later I was bored with my hair, and missed my fringe. I remembered how cool it looked, and stylish. I remembered all the good stuff, and forgot the bad. So I got bangs again.(more…)
One of the many things that is hard to find in the UK is pumpkin purée. Unlike in North America, where “pumpkin spice” is in practically everything come autumn (seriously – it’s insane), the UK doesn’t really do pumpkin desserts. Suuure, you can get a pumpkin spice latte now at Starbucks, but pumpkin desserts are a quintessentially North American thing. Which makes sense – no thanksgiving, no pumpkin pie.
So in the past, when I have come across canned pumpkin purée, I would buy a couple just for the future. You never know when you might need it! Update – my local little Waitrose has it in stock right now… whaaaatt?!
And of course, when I got the inclination to try these cupcakes, I was out of pumpkin and with no where to find it. So I thought about it, and realized that spiced sweet potatoes (yams in Canada) taste a whole lot like pumpkin pie. So I figured I could simply use some pureed sweet potato instead of pumpkin! And you know what? I couldn’t tell the difference!
The original recipe for these cupcakes called for a graham cracker crust. Again, not something you can find here in the UK. However, my mom had sent me a box a while back, and I had juuuust enough left to crush up. You could substitute with digestive biscuits, but I don’t think it’s worth it. The graham crust is more flavour than texture, and without the honey graham taste, I don’t think it’s necessary. You could just omit that part.
Of course, then they wouldn’t be very “s’more” but hey, you do what you can! After all, s’mores are a very North American thing, just like pumpkin pie. Which makes finding graham crackers nigh impossible. Why do I suddenly get these inclinations to bake things with hard to find ingredients?! (more…)
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…)