I recently had a conversation with someone about sourdough bread. It all started when I mentioned I was a baker. He told me that there was a bakery near him that sold sourdough, but he didn’t know what it was or what all the fuss was about. I was quite happy to explain as I love talking about baking science.
See, sourdough isn’t a new thing. Despite its recent popularity, sourdough is what all bread used to be back in the day. Before breweries developed the commercial yeast that we now use today, the only kind of yeast we had was wild! Wild yeast is everywhere… in the air, on the walls, etc. – all you need to do is provide it with food, and water to let it grow!
They say Egyptians first discovered how to bake bread – someone left a bowl of a porridge type dish (made of wheat) lying around and discovered it started bubbling. I love the idea of whoever thought “let’s put this in an oven!” And since that day, we have been raising cultures of wild yeast to add air and flavor into our breads.
So, you want to make your own starter? You can go about it two different ways – first you can make one out of just flour and water, or you can use fruit and vegetables! Unwashed fruit contains lots of wild yeast on the surface, plus plenty of sugar inside to feed the yeast culture. Grapes are an obvious choice, but really any fruit and certain vegetables will do (apparently beets work). (more…)
Unless you’ve been asleep for the last 20 years or so, you’ve definitely heard of H&M. Their low priced clothing and accessories have been a staple in many people’s wardrobes for the last few decades – as the second largest clothing retailer in the world, it has stores in 62 countries. You’ve probably been to one before, and mostly likely own a piece or two of their clothing. But did you know that they also sell home decor items?
I first heard about H&M Home a few years back, but hadn’t seen any of their items until I moved to the UK. There are a few stores here that sell their home decor line, but otherwise you can purchase it online. As with their clothing, the home decor items are current, on trend, and cost effective. Pretty much the perfect thing for someone like me, ha! Our flat still feels like it needs more finishing touches and accessories, yet I don’t have money to burn on frivolous things.
Most of the items that they sell are kitchen/table based, as well as some pillows, picture frames, and other items. I wish they had furniture or lighting, but I still love the rest of the stuff they have. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they sold sofas and tables? I can only imagine how sleek, minimal, and functional they would be.
So, have you seen their stuff in stores? Do you like it as much as I do? Here are some of my favorite H&M Home items in stores now.
When I used to work in Vancouver, BC, my office was right near Granville Island. Every now and then, when I forgot my lunch, I would wander over to the Granville Public Market to see what took my fancy. One of the stalls I always stopped to admire, was the fresh pasta from Duso’s. The flavour combinations were always inventive, and they would add stripes to their pasta! Ever since seeing them, I have wanted to make my own striped pasta.
A few years back, I was given a pasta roller as a Christmas present. It was a most unexpected gift, as it was from a secret santa exchange, and I didn’t know the person who had my name very well. It was absolutely perfect, as I had been dying to try my hand at making fresh pasta! And once you’ve mastered making plain pasta, striped or coloured pasta isn’t very far off! It’s not any more difficult, but it is time consuming – oh so time consuming…
Making fresh ravioli is only really worth it if you’re going to make unusual flavours. It takes so much time, that’s it’s not worth making regular cheese or spinach pasta. You have to mix together the dough, allow it to rest, make the filling, roll out the dough, fold + roll some more, then fill and cut the ravioli. Honestly, sometimes I’m not sure if I’m a masochist, or just love to cook and bake. It’s up for debate. 😉
To make your pasta striped, you have to mix together both regular dough, as well as coloured. While you could use food colouring, good coloured pasta is made with natural ingredients. Cocoa powder makes brown, beetroot powder for red/pink, spirulina powder for green, tumeric or saffron for yellow, and tomato paste for orange. All of those ingredients have intense enough colours, so you only need a little bit. It means that they won’t alter the flavour of your pasta considerably. (But remember, the colour of the pasta will lighten when you boil them.)
As I was making beetroot filled pasta, I opted to add beetroot powder to 1/4 of the dough recipe, substituting for 5-10g of the flour. It gave it a lovely bright fuschia colour. You’ll need to experiment to see how much colour ingredient you need to get your desired shade.
Okay, now the instructions for how to make fresh ravioli (using a roller). It’s a bit of a long explanation, but stay with me! If you already know how, and just want the recipe for the filling, scroll to the bottom! (more…)
Covent Garden is known for being a part of London full of designer shops, and fancy restaurants. Wander around this area and it’s all Chanel, Burberry, and Louis Vuitton as far as the eye can see. But, if you visit on a Monday, you’ll find something quite different from the usual finery.
Every Monday the Apple and Jubilee markets at Covent garden make way for antiques! Once home to fruit and vegetable sellers back in the day, these markets are usually home to stalls selling handmade wares and lots of touristy kitsch. The antiques you find on Mondays are a refreshing reprieve from what you find the rest of the week. They tend to set up a bit later than most markets, so if you end up there too early, just wait until closer to 11 or 12. I thought that being there around 10:30 would be late, but half the sellers were still setting up their wares. (more…)
A long way back, I wrote about how we installed a plaster ceiling medallion (‘ceiling rose’ here in the UK) in our living room. It was far more difficult than we originally thought, due to the weight of the large plaster ceiling medallion (we used this one from B&Q). So when it came time to finally add another ceiling medallion to our bedroom, we decided to try a polystyrenee one instead!
See, we were lazy, and didn’t want to spend all that time and money on installing a plaster ceiling medallion. That, and the fact that the selection was incredibly limited at local DIY stores – we couldn’t find one in the right size that wasn’t insanely expensive. So, after our success in installing plastic coving in our kitchen, we decided to go the same route with our ceiling medallion. Plus, it takes like 5 minutes to put up!
We ordered this ceiling medallion from Amazon, as the middle circle was large enough to accomodate our IKEA pendant light. Many medallions had detailing too close to the middle, or were too pricy. This one had detail right in the center, but the smooth expanse around it was wide enough for our needs. We simply cut away the middle detail, as our light would cover it anyways.
When we received it, I was a bit disappointed. It wasn’t smooth and ready to paint, like our coving had been, but resembled polystyrene packaging. It had that rough nubbly surface. So, I thought I would try a trick I read about on Daniel Kanter’s blog Manhatten Nest. He painted his plastic medallions with watered down plaster/filler to help make them look older. I mixed up some, but I think I made it too wet… when my first coat of primer dried, huge cracks formed all over the surface!
I was sooooo bummed, as sanding a detailed medallion is ridiculous. I tried to remove the larger cracks with sanding, and then hoped that a few coats of primer would fill in the rest. Well, it took like 6 coats before they started to look okay, but even then had more texture than I would like. After primer, I used our ceiling paint to do a couple more coats. (more…)
A while back I found myself obsessed with french seam mattress cushions. A bit weird of a thing to be obsessed with, but I loved their look. The French seam adds a lovely detail to ordinary fabrics that is subtle, but just makes the item look more tailored. A bit fancy… how french?
So as I’ve been drafting up ideas for upholstering our bed, or making floor pouffes, I keep coming back to the idea of french seams.
Right now, I am thinking of making a sort of bed slipcover for our white MALM storage bed frame. Something that won’t involve taking the whole thing apart, but will make it look like I did. 😉 In the end it’ll look sort of like this bed, but with french seams all along the edges.
I figure I can add some plywood to make the headboard taller, then pad with foam and batting. After that, I’ll make a bedskirt to cover the base, and a fitted cover for the headboard. I may even make them all one piece, but I’m unsure as of yet. Does that make sense? The headboard will have seams all around like the one below.
My original inspiration came from this bed’s headboard. Then when I was googling more inspiration, I came across some photos of headboards with simple bed skirts, and my idea was realized. It’ll be easier than trying to upholster each piece of the bed frame, and then put it all back together. (more…)
When I first moved to the UK, and Richard and I were setting up our flat, I wanted to find some antiques. My style tends to run a bit eclectic, and I like a good mix of new and old furnishings. As we were buying so much stuff at IKEA, I wanted to find some antique markets in London that I could visit without having to drive a few hours. One of the first that popped up, was the Old Spitalfields Market. But the thing with this market, is that it only does Antiques on Thursdays, and has what it calls a Trader’s Market most other days. It also does some other one day markets (sometimes just once a month), so visit their website for more information.
So if you’re in the market for antiques, go on Thursdays, but the other days are interesting too! Spitalfields has a number of food trucks and stalls, and even just completed a new food hub, dubbed the Kitchens, in the middle of the market. If you’re in the neighbourhood, it’s a great place to grab lunch! When Richard and I stopped by recently, we were on our way to another part of London for dinner, and just wanted a snack. He had some prawn dumplings from Dumpling Shack, and I got a lamb shawarma from Berber and Q. As he put it “I won” the afternoon snack competition, because my food was waay better value for the money, and looked awesome!
I had seen someone else receive their shawarma and thought, that looked good! Nothing beats melt in your mouth meat, tahini, chili sauce, and pickled jalapenoes!
But food isn’t all Spitalfields Market has on offer! Around their new kitchens hub, the market has begun constructing scandi style stalls for their traders. It used to be more fold out tables and white fabric, but now each vendor gets a little wooden booth.
During the Trader’s Market you can find plenty of handmade and local clothing, accessories, and jewelry. I got a lovely necklace from Richard last year, from trader Littlesmith – a custom bar pendant with the GPS coordinates of where we met. (I know – he’s a keeper!) I would say that more than half the stalls cater to women, with scarves, purses, dresses, and jewelry taking up more than their fair share. However, you can find leather jackets, funny silk screened shirts, antique maps, and artwork. A little something for everyone. (more…)
When I was studying pastry + bread making in Vancouver, our teachers introduced us to a dessert I had never heard of – the posset. Originally a thickened drink waaaay back in the day (think Shakespear), it has evolved into a set custard-like dessert which has the consistency of sour cream. Possets require only 3 ingredients, which is why they are the simplest “custards” you can make. (I use quotations on custard, as the term generally means something that has been set with eggs.) No need to worry about curdling eggs with this custard! Possets need no eggs, no gelatine, no flour… the only thing that they require to set into a velvet consistency, is acid.
I could get all science-y about it, but it’s similar to how yogurt is made. Except, instead of having bacteria eating the sugars (lactose) and producing lactic acid, you add the acid yourself! The acid lowers the ph of the cream, which changes the structure of the protein strands, allowing them to hold more water. Originally, I was taught that possets require citrus to set (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit…), but there are other fruits with a similar ph to citrus.
My original recipe idea, was to make an orange posset, flavoured with pomegranate (mostly because I just wanted the pink/peach colour). But as I was making the first batch I was having a hard time. Possets need the citric acid to set, so I couldn’t substitute pomegranate juice for orange juice. I could only add a tablespoon or so for flavour. Now, pomegranate isn’t as strong a taste as the orange, so it wasn’t coming through. Then, as I was tasting things, I wondered to myself if the bitter pomegranate juice might be acidic? Turns out, pomegranate has a lower ph than oranges, and is closer to that of lemons! That made me realize you could use pomegranate juice all on its own!
So I went back to the store for more cream, and set about making three different possets – one solely orange, one 50/50 orange and pomegranate, and one solely pomegranate. I was curious about the different colours and flavours, and couldn’t settle on just one. The result? Well, the pomegranate one didn’t really taste of pomegranate – it’s too delicate a flavour. I used pomegranate juice though, so maybe freshly squeezed would come through? With the 50/50 one you couldn’t really taste the pomegranate, as again, it’s too delicate. The orange one was the best, as the flavour really cuts through the cream. (more…)
Okay, just a simple update on the kitchen here (with a stupidly long post). I’m just trying to finish up a couple little projects, and possibly find a rug to fit the space, and then I’m calling it done! One thing that we finally have finished, is making all our cabinets match and look built in.
As I mentioned in the first kitchen saga post, our kitchen came with IKEA cabinets that were no longer available, and we had to replace the upper cabinets in order to add more storage. Now, we could have kept the lowers wood, as I’m a fan of a two tone kitchen, but all the white appliances sort of messed that up. My original plan with the kitchen had been to do a tuxedo kitchen with deep navy or green lower cabinets, and a white top. But, as our appliances were all white, you’d be left with half white, half colour. Not exactly the look I was going for. So, in an effort to make the kitchen feel brighter and larger, we went all white. Does that make any sense to anyone besides me? No? Okaaay…
So, that meant painting our lower cabinets white, but what about the upper ones? I could have colour matched IKEA’s SÄVEDAL doors, and then painted everything in our kitchen the same, but decided against it. See, every ceiling, door, and trim in our flat is painted All White by Farrow + Ball. If I wanted to use the IKEA white colour, then it would have meant repainting our doors and trim in the kitchen to this different white, and I didn’t want it to look different from the other rooms in the flat. (Richard wishes I had told him about the colour matching option…)
Am I crazy? Yes. But I also justify it because the finish on the doors was so smooth and machine-made looking, that all the built in trim with brushstrokes would have looked different. We would have had to paint the doors to make them all look the same, no matter which white we used.
Aaaaanyways. So in addition to painting all the wood doors and trim below, we had to paint all the new upper cabinets doors as well. That meant removing all the hinges and handles, cleaning everything of grease etc. and giving it all a light sanding. For the wood cabinets and trim, we used 3 coats of this primer, and then 2-3 coats of our Valspar paint in All White. For the upper cabinets, it took 2 coats primer, and then 2 coats paint. After the doors were up, I did a bit more sanding, and some touch up paint, as we had been painting on low surfaces and little bits of fluff kept getting caught in the paint.
Now came the fun part – making all the IKEA cabinets look built in. See, I’ve always been a huge fan of inset cabinetry, and wanted to try and give our bank of cabinets a similar look. This meant filling in the gaps all the way around the cabinets with wood, and trimming it all out.
To get the look I wanted, it meant lining up the trim with the cabinet doors, as opposed to the frames. So we added a piece of 21x21mm stripwood all around the cabinets, flush with the face of their frames. To install it, we simply screwed into the piece from inside the cabinets with a couple of wood screws. Not only did this give us a piece we could then attach the trim to, but allowed us to offset our next piece by a few milimeters in order to create a gap between the doors and our trim.
My favorite kind of recipes look difficult, but are dead easy to make. It’s even better if they’re the type you can experiment with different flavours and textures – like these citrus and almond biscotti. Biscotti look complicated, but are so, so simple to make. Maybe we always think they’re hard, because it’s the type of thing people buy instead of bake. But I am encouraging you to try them youself, and play around with the flavours!
For this recipe I chose to use almonds and citrus – as they were two things I already had in the pantry. Try experimenting with all sorts of nuts, dried fruit, zest, chocolate, spices, etc… the options are endless. What about chocolate + hazelnut, lemon + cranberry, or white chocolate + pistachio? My original recipe was for orange, white chocolate, and ginger, but I’m not the biggest fan of white chocolate. Use whatever flavours you enjoy!
One part of the recipe that you shouldn’t skip, is the cooling step. The biscotti will spread, so the longer you chill it for, the better it’ll hold its shape. You can chill it for just 30 minutes, overnight, or freeze for 20+ minutes. (more…)