Saturday, April 27, 2013

Love.......the rustic baker

Ok. This is becoming a bit of a habit. More baking and now it appears that Fridays have been designated as Quicheday, owing to a slight obsession with getting the best pastry and flavour. This week's offering was a spinach, feta, spring onion and pea quiche with a creme fraiche, egg, mustard and milk filling. Pastry as usual by Paul Hollywood and filling all my own. This time the pastry was bashed with a rolling pin after chilling, rolled out, pushed well into the sides of the tin and then chilled again before blind baking. I think my timings were off this week and once I took the beans out to bake the rest of the pastry it all puffed up again. I did the fork thing but case came out a little too early. Anyway the filling went in and baked. End result pretty good taste but even better the day after. I did also notice the green-ness of my quiches thus far so next week I'm going to bung in some colour. 

I cheekily made macaroons too.  Out of a pack from that well known supermarket Sainsburys. Total cheat but worth a go. I found the actual macaroon mixture easy to blend and I liked their instruction of bunging them in on the lowest oven setting. This still produced the sheen we all love to see. Maybe a trick worth knowing in the future. My piping is still crazy but these baked well. I have a fan oven that is really efficient so I do tend to fly by the seat of my pants where timings etc are involved. So their proposed 20 mins of baking time was approx 12 mins in my oven. I was disappointed in their buttercream mix. My softened butter didn't mix well so I used a store bough raspberry jam on one shell and a hint of the buttercream on the other. All in all a good product, probably a 8/10. Makes you feel like you can really do it. My macaroons came out with the elusive ruffle despite dodgy piping. Try one of the kits out. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Love or Loathe......

This was a clear case of love quite frankly. I was watching the old reruns of The Great British Bake Off 2011 and had forgotten how brilliant all the bakers were but in particular Jo Wheatley. I bought her first book a while ago and loved her easy style and simple to follow recipes.  Then I was in a well known supermarket the other day and spied her second book. Cup of tea and a rustic baker treat and hooked again. So shameless though this is, well done Jo for another fabulous book

Love......the rustic baker

Well last week and the early part of this week saw a baking session. I made quiche, macaroons, chocolate mousse, peanut butter & chocolate muffins and pistachio friands.

Quiche was a made up pea, bean and potato number. Tried the Paul Hollywood pastry recipe and I played around with the egg filling by using creme fraiche. The result - so so to be honest. The pastry was delicious, the peas etc were delicious but the egg filling not so. Decided I needed to put in some mustard to jazz up the flavour. But at least no soggy bottom though a beautiful puff in the pastry.

Next I made macaroons from a recipe from How to avoid a Soggy Bottom by Gerard Baker. Actually they were splats. Too little air in final product as I mistakenly squeezed it out whilst using a small nozzle in the piping bag. Plus i have a suspicion my egg whites weren't at their best. Now I know why there is a high charge on a good macaroon. They are extremely time consuming and on the Pfaff Scale about a 9/10. They did taste delicious.

Oldest One had a school friend over this week so I thought I'd try peanut butter & chocolate muffins for the kids. Recipe taken from Baking Magic by Kate Shirazi. I am slowly getting the hang of a good muffin especially the technique. Definitely a mix, dump and bake rather than a good beating and baking! Delicious though I would have like more dampness in the muffin. The kids loved them.

I made pistachio friands from a recipe in the Independent on Sunday by Bill Granger. I have never tried making these and they were slightly pfaffy and I had 6 egg yolks left over. I used a muffin tin not friand tins which can be hard to find. Bill Granger recommends eating them whilst warm, but they tasted under baked. I added honey over the top and left for 24 hours. They seem to age well and taste delicious as time passes. Little mini treats.

I would love to show you a photo of the delicious Irish Cream chocolate mousse I made. But we ate it all up before I remembered to take a photo. We served it with blackberries and raspberries. This recipe was taken from Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Life.......the dreaded holiday project.....

So, as we are reached the Friday before the start of term it occurred to me that we had yet to start the holiday project and the homework. Oldest One is currently working his way through the writing homework, then it will be the reading part. Then the dreaded project.

The whole Reception year consisting of 60 children, teachers and helpers went to the Natural History Mueseum before the end of last term. They all had an excellent time. At the end of term when all the PE kits and book bags came home I did the usual emptying and trashing the rubbish and bunging the rest away in a pile. The project was set to one side and virtually ignored. The project was dinosaurs. They had set it as an extra part to the end of term. Brilliant.

Remember this is something the kids have to do but we all know that until they get old enough to do it for themselves that the parents do the projects! From the printing, cutting, gluing and positioning we all do it. I'm not sure why, maybe it's a reversion to the playground or one-up-man-ship. Who knows. This feels so like the school bake off which was just as stressful. So I (I mean Oldest One) had a great idea. A shoebox scene. Brilliant. My next great idea came in the middle of the night, a deeply bopper asteroid in one corner and a volcano in another. The thing is Oldest One trashed his furry Red Nose Day deely boppers so I had to do some lateral thinking. Facebook was the answer. Not sure if you have them where you are but we have selling groups for our local area. Another mum was after newspaper for their giant paper maiche dinosaur so I asked for deely boppers! Found, located and collected. One part snapped off. And that's it so far. We have painted the box green but other than that not much else has happened. I then found out that the kids had to also provide a few facts about dinosaurs. Arrrrgggggghhhhhhhh. What this really means is me condensing down my knowledge to a few choice phrases, writing it out and then have Oldest One copy it out and drill him on the facts of his shoebox scene so he can present it to the class. Seriously. I had him recite the Thanksgiving Story which he recited in front of his class in his first term. I had sent him in with pumpkin cupcakes!

It's now past lunchtime and I am away for the weekend. Will it get done?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Love.......the rustic baker

So the rustic baker has been busy this weekend with lovely husband away and a serious urge to bake. I made lemon pound cake, recipe by Martha Stewart, pizza with homemade dough and peanut butter and chocolate cookies with both recipes by Jo Wheatley.

I love a good pound cake but converting the recipe from USA measurements to UK can be, pun completely intended, a recipe for disaster but this turned out well and tastes scrumptious. I could have used more icing though. 

Having never made pizza dough before I wasn't totally convinced by this recipe but it turned out ok. Next time I may do things slightly differently like dividing the dough into 3 parts like I should have done and maybe adding herbs to the dough. I also need to learn to use the rolling pin properly, though I love the rustic look. I think I need to work on this recipe a little more but still yum. 

 As for Jo's peanut butter cookies, they are delicious even though I changed some things like adding both peanuts and white chocolate chips this time. Yummy and delicious with a cuppa.

Family...... Leave the duck alone

One day, Oldest One was messing about on our bed and refused to leave a plastic duck alone. I got more and more wound up by this simple yet, I felt, authoritative " leave the duck alone" statement. But he continued to ignore me. In the end I bellowed in a loud voice "LEAVE THE DUCK ALONE". Guess what happened next.........

I have a lot of parenting books living in my house. I flick through them in fits and starts - you know only when a crisis hits and then it's pull the books out, flip to the section you think applies, read another section because it sounds more interesting but totally irrelevant and then try to apply any of theory. I also have a guilty pleasure of watching Nanny 911 and Supernanny. I like to feel slightly smug and pretend that my children to not look or sound like the kids on TV. But Of course we all know that from time to time all kids and parents sound and behave like they should be on an episode of either of those programmes. Does any of this research work - NOOOOOOOOOO.

I then phone my Mum - often hiding in the kitchen behind the fridge - and she always has the sane and sensible advise that all the books and programmes are missing. You what I mean - kids can be a bloody nightmare but no child can be in charge of you, you are the adult, put them in their room to scream it out, it's just a phase etc.

I have noticed in these conversations with Mum and I ask her why? Why? WHY? (mostly with increasing hysteria after each why), she does that thing, you know that you are an adult and not the child...... Again why??? I want to be a child, I want to strop and I want to lie on the floor screaming but the screaming ball of tantrum just outside the closed kitchen door won't let me. So deep breath in  and deep breath out, I now have to deal with child and try not to act like one myself.

So in pursuit of a resolution and in a bar last weekend with my aunt and my mum, armed with a hefty glass of wine I sought answers to this very dilemma. This is the sage wisdom from them both and bloody good it is too.

1. You are in charge not the kids.
2. You cannot ever just be a friend to your kids you need to give them a grounding and a framework that works in your family.
3. When a tantrum starts or anything you don't like such as cheekiness, (within reason) take the kid by the hand, say "follow me" and lead them to another room. Don't say a word, put them on chair, bed or somewhere then leave, shutting the door if you can.
4. Let them scream it out and deal with after. This could take minutes or hours or loads of times over the day. Keep doing it. This is especially good for kids that do know the rules as my Oldest One quite clearly does.
5. Eventually boredom and parents ignoring screams equals kid who has calmed down and then apologises. Tantrums need an audience don't give it.
6. Even if in a public place, take child out or away from situation and put them say near a tree and walk a couple of paces away and position yourself so you can see them but they know you are ignoring them. Wait for storm to calm.
7. Really try hard to let the small stuff go. Try saying yes sometimes. I sometimes find myself in a permanent state of picking up on stuff and always saying no. 
8. Keep clear that this is for their benefit and yours. You want a happy house not a screech house.
9. Trust your instincts. Do what works for your family and ignore everyone else. 
10. Don't believe everything you read in parenting books. Or parenting blogs for that matter. 

Above all, when Oldest One wants to play with a plastic duck, let them. Don't under any circumstances get to the point of stupidity that results in a family legend. 

Big refrain now "leave the duck alone......."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Love.......the rustic baker

Just occassionally, ok mostly every day, the urge to bake takes over my brain. I decided today to try something I have never done before, using some ingredients we had left over from Easter lunch. I made a quiche.  Bring on the band....... It was an adaptation from Tom Kerridge's recipe for new potato, spring onion and Montgomery cheddar quiche. I had the potatoes and used one bunch of spring onions and some cheap cheese. I added a leek to the mix and read the reviews and followed some advice there.

I have never made a savoury shortcrust pastry and it's as fiddly as everyone says. Top tip #1, I noticed on the GBBO was that you could flatten the pastry in a disc before chilling but perhaps everyone knew that already. Top tip #2, use a ball of pastry dough to gently push the pastry to corners of case.  I bought baking beans ages ago and have finally used them. Once blind baked my pastry was a little cracked but hey ho in with the filling. Top tip #3 put quiche tin into a bigger tin to help contain leakage.

So although I know there are cracks in the pastry and I dread a soggy bottom this is my leek, potato and cheese quiche.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Love.......the rustic baker

Sometimes chocolate is not enough at Easter. I baked a Nigella recipe from Feast, a flourless chocolate cake with chocolate cream topped with praline eggs. Yum.....

Then we had a visitor.......

May the force be with you all......