Saturday, 9 November 2013

The results are in for the Bonfire cake and they ain't kind...

Ooooh, is it the Chinese who say 'Be careful what you wish for'? There's me saying that I hope the tasters aren't being too kind and here's my proof. This one was a right duffer and they've pulled no punches.

I'm having a lie down, but you can feast your eyes on this car crash:

The comments:

Too spicy (all spice, cinnamon?) tastes a bit medicinal, not enough apple, very sweet and crumbly but moist. Slices too big.
Very crumbly and very sweet
Too stodgy and too sweet. Couldn’t really taste the apple. 
The treacle is very overpowering and too spicy. A bit too sweet and crumbly 
Too crumbly, almost powdery. The portion was too big
Too sweet and overpowered by treacle. You could't really taste much apple. It was difficult to eat as Too crumbly, but was moist.
Too crumbly. I would prefer it to be more 'cakey'. It was too spicy and too sweet for me. Not enough apple
Too sweet, very crumbly. I can only taste treacle and it tastes a bit artificialy sweet. The texture is strange. Would like more apple.
It tastes burnt to me? Too crumbly and too sweet.

I'm reeling here. I've not owned a tin of treacle since I banned it on grounds of stickiness. And I can't even blame Xanthe can I? I mean she writes for the Telegraph. She's a professional. Mind you, they'll clearly accept anyone these days. Seen this? I rest my case.

We all have a howler every now and again, but I followed the recipe to the letter, I think. Well apart from the flour. So I'll notch it down to experience. What have I learned from this? I should have stuck some booze in it. School girl error.

I don't know about you but I need cheering up and quick. When I feel like this there is only one thing to perk me up - a bit of cutting out. And I tell who we haven't seen for ages. Bonsai Bowie!

Coincidentally, I'm wearing exactly the same thing.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Bonfire cake and monkeys swimming

The whiff in the air round here is amazing. Not only the splendid cow muck, but we can now add wood smoke into the mix. Ahhhh, totally intoxicating. Make me a candle of it NOW. Anyway, this bonfirey smell has properly put me in an autumn mood and I fancied making a cake to match.

As well as working full time (from home, so in me jamas, of course) I am also spinning other plates, such as constant scanning of the internet for new Beckham stufffoxes, ghost pigs swimming and monkeys doing anything, but swimming is always a winner. On one of my information superhighway trips, I happened on this traybake recipe for a bonfire toffee apple cake. The fickle finger of fate or what?

There's a sweet old lady opposite who keeps leaving apples from her tree in a basket on the pavement for people to help themselves too. Now in London, you'd get a broken microwave or a knackered old sofa,  so it's a new concept for me, but I took the plunge, whipped over (changed out of my jamas first, don't want to scare the locals) and swiped a few.

I'm not normally one for mucking about with a recipe (well not for tasters anyway) but the smell of this one was ever so strong. A whole teaspoon of nutmeg, plus ginger, seems a lot but who am I to argue with Xanthe Clay, Daily Telegraph food writer?

Actually, that's not strictly true. Whilst I can't pretend this cake is diabetic friendly, I did replace normal flour with gluton-free, as at least one of the tasters has an intolerance, so yeah, I did muck about with it a bit. Soz Xan.

I'm feeling quite smug today. Not only did I remember to take a pic of the cake, I also remembered to get dressed. I'm calling this progress.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Results are in for the Date, Banana and Rum cake

I'm meeting myself coming back this week. I thought this working from home lark would be a doddle but, it turns out, it's keeping me out of trouble and I'm not sure I like it. What with work, and the bird feeder, and preparing my tractor trousers, I've only just turned my attention to the results. And this isn't going to help.

Anyway, a bit about the date, banana and rum cake. As you know, I forgot to take a picture of it but I thought it looked quite nice, considering it was free from butter, sugar and flour, all the components I consider your basic baking building blocks. In case your memory is as bad as mine, a reminder that this cake had to be gluten free and diabetic friendly. So polenta was used instead of flour, fruit, nuts, a couple of whipped up egg whites and a good glug of pirate juice. And that was it. I didn't hold out much hope of it being a hit (and I am hoping my tasters aren't being too nice - I've sent word I want total honesty with the reassurance that the restraining order is still in place) but take a look at these:

And the comments:

Dense (in a good way) rich and fruity. Lovely crunch with the nuts. Just my cup of tea!
Firm yet crumbly texture. The cake crumbled into pieces when it was sliced up. Can taste the rum. Nice taste
The cake was delicious and as a diabetic it was perfect
Lots of fruit. Tastes delicious. A bit crumbly 
I love the fruit. This is just down my street. I feel like I'm definitely getting my 5 day!
Gorgeous taste. You can taste the rum and I like it, but some may find it too sharp and overpowering.
The cake is a bit too crumbly, there seems to be a bit too much fruit. The nuts add a nice texture, but I would like it to be more 'cakey'
The cake was nice and if I couldn’t eat gluten or was diabetic I could see this would be lovely. I found it a bit dry.
Too much spice for me. I don’t really like fruit cakes anyway so this is not really my sort of thing.
A bit too spicy for me and I don’t really like rum. Not generally a fan of fruit cake anyway
Perfect for after an autum walk with a nice cup of tea! Texture is a bit crumbly but doesn’t detract from the taste. The color is inviting , prefect for the time of year. A definate Winter cake. 
Nice to be able to have cake as I am gluten intolerant. Very tasty and fruity. Tastes just like normal cake!

Well, there's a turn up. Call me cynical but I do wonder if it would have tasted as nice without the rum.

Anyway, I'd best make myself scarce. I've got a Death Star to build.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Golden balls and fatballs

It's not been a week since I last posted has it? When I moved from London to the sticks (a scouse mate of mine, asking where exactly I had to moved to on Skype last week, paused to google the location and responded "Bloody hell La, you're living in a field.") I thought the pace of life would slow down. I was so wrong in this assumption. I don't know where the time goes, I really don't.

So hold on to your hats whilst I fill you in - and bear in mind, I am foregoing watching The Woman with 40 Cats on channel four to bring you this post, a program I should be studying as a lifestyle template.

First off, fatballs. Don't take offence, it's not personal. It's my bird feeder. The brother lives nearby and I have become a bit obsessed by the feathery visitors he has in his garden. I've changed. After some advice on what the local birds like to scoff this time of year, I installed a bird feeding station, complete with the fatballs they like,  in my little back yard, and waited. And waited. Called the brother after a week asking when I could expect the birds to arrive. He advised patience. And lo, they eventually came. They're all over it and I am giddy as a goat. There are big ones and small ones and some so little, they bend your head. I have no idea what they are all called yet but I will buy a book and give David Attenborough cause to sweat.

Then there's the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition in the offing which I am so excited about, I can barely sleep. The brother knows a local farmer who has promised to let me drive his tractor AND borrow his Border Collie for the experience. I have no words. If the dog also has David Bowie eyes, as the ideal Border Collie should, I may spontaneously combust.

It's all go.

But cake. Lets get down to cake. I have good news and bad news. The good news, I successfully found a recipe that was both gluten-free and diabetic friendly. As you know, I take a dim of view of vegetables in cake, likewise a recipe that has no butter, sugar or flour. That said, I have no wish to send anyone into a coma, although after reading this blog, it may seem like a sweet release, and so I chose this recipe because whilst it is suitably worthy, it had one saving grace - pirate juice. Behold, the date, banana and rum loaf. Actually, the bad news is you can't behold the one I baked because a combination of the rum (the recipe only required a few tablespoons so there was plenty left....) and my obsession with watching the bird feeder meant that I forgot to take a pic before despatching it my lucky tasters. It looked OK to me. I sprinkled icing sugar on it.

So we have no lovely cake picture to look at. Hence the seamless move from fatballs to Golden Balls. Enjoy. Results tomorrow.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Results are in for the Plum and Almond Crumble Slice

And the results are in. Actually, they've been in since Friday but I've been busy showing a friend from London the more cultural side of the north.... drinking pints of Cheshire Cat, pub quizzes, eating Yorkshire Puddings as big as your head. It's been all go.

I have to say, I was as nervous as a nervous thing waiting for these results. Not only have I not baked much for a while, but a whole team of new anonymous tasters to please was daunting. I needn't have worried though because, unless they're just being kind, the results are great.

Let's have some lovely graphs:

And the comments

Lovely crisp base and moist filling. Maybe a bit more plum!
The plum is delicious
Nice level of tartness from the plum, but not too sweet which is good
No soggy bottoms here! Pastry is divine and has a lovely crunch
Delicious, not too sweet
Not too sweet 
Tangy, moist and crunchy
Not too sweet. Pastry is a little too thick. Would like more fruit.

Can't complain about these can I? First baking mission accomplished and not a man down. Result.

These splendid new taster folk have also set me a challenge for this week. A gluten-free, diabetic friendly number. I have found that a pint of Cheshire Cat makes me think better so I will repair to the pub with my thinking hat....


Thursday, 24 October 2013

Raymond Blanc's plums and Anna Olson's drawers

I feel like Pam Ewing. Like I've been having a very long dream but I've just woke up and Bobby's washing his bouffant locks in the shower. I'm looking round my blog and it's all the same but a bit different. I reckon Silk's been in here (the tell-tale scent of parma violets) since his threat last week: "Either you post soon or I guest post with a load of rubbish. Oh, hang on. No, I'll guest post with intelligent, thought provoking material, then people will realise it's not you." More front than Woolworths.

Well, no time to waste. I'm pitching in with my intelligent, thought provoking baking-based stuff to thwart him. Ha!

So, my new tasters are chomping at the veritable bit ready for tomorrow and I, in turn, am doing something interesting with plums. Before I go into detail though, in my absence, have you seen Anna Olson's drawers? No it's not a playground game. She's this Canadian bird on Food Network and her kitchen is just the business. She has all her dry ingredients in drawers under the counter, so she can merely scoop up cups of flour and that at will, without having to move the demerara, the sticky treacle tin and the bicarb to get at her self raising. It has been a revelation to me. I urge you to watch and dream. Although a word of warning. Don't try this at home. It took me an age to clean up and the cutlery is now back where it belongs.

Let's get back to plums. I have a confession here. And I realise it doesn't show me in the best light but, a while back, I happened across that Gaelic GBBO baiter, Raymond Blanc on some best of British produce show. His chosen subject, in his best comedy casting french accent, was plums. He proceeded to explain how he liked to put his plums in butter and heat them slowly, whereas his dad liked to boil his plums in alcohol, fast and hard. I was helpless. I know - it's childish, not big and not clever. So, this week, I have baked with plums in an effort to bloody well grow up, and I can report that I have only sniggered three times during the baking. GROWTH.

So with not a hint of a smirk, I can now reveal that I have baked my plums in an almond based batter. Matron. It's a plum and almond crumble slice that I got off the BBC Good Food site, always a good source of seasonal, reliable recipes. I've never tried the recipe before, as ever, and as it calls for only a food processor, I have realised that my bargain basement, so-not-a-Magimix, number may not have been up to the job.

I reckon if the results are bad, then I'll have to upgrade to a better, all singing, all pulsing 100% Magimix. If they're good, perhaps I could just get my drawers lined?

It's all gravy.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Vintage baking from the pirate capital of England

Greetings from Cornwall. Thought I'd test out the old internet from a remote location to prove to Silk (who accused me of moving somewhere rural when I went to live in Twickenham) that places outside of London actually can get it. So far, so totally excellent. Wifi AND pirates. Cornwall is obsessed with pirates and there are loads of tractors which means Cornwall has gratified two of my major obsessions without even trying. I was Welsh for a year once (it was lovely but totally exhausting - gave me a newfound respect for Tom Jones... singing AND being Welsh at the same time), but I think being Cornish might be worth a punt. And they have clotted cream.

Anyway, I'm holidaying here with my best mate Stu and his daughter and her friend (both 14). Now when I was 14 (admittedly back in the dark ages), I was working at the butchers and my main worry was where my next afro comb was coming from to tame my vicious home perm. I know - when I finally write my memoirs, I'll give Angela's Ashes a run for its money. But it seems that 14 now is not the same as 14 then. 14 now is a serious business, mainly, from what I can see, in the effort needed to look 24, together with the need to walk shoulder to shoulder at all times. One 14 year old I could probably cope with but two together remind me of those twins who develop their own special language. We can hear them shrieking with laughter upstairs but once downstairs, silence, just glances passing between them that mean god knows what.

Bless the niece then, who has taught me wordlessly that a chocolate cake is always welcome. When I mentioned the possibility of baking one, the Tweedles (as Stu has named them) became the most animated we've seen them. I had a gander round the kitchen to see what baking kit, if any, was available. Sparse is word that sprang to mind. A proper old fashioned mixing bowl and a set of Boots scales. I'm guessing Boots haven't sold scales since I was 14 but they seemed to work ok so I kitted myself out with a wooden spoon, a couple of cheapo sandwich tins and was good to go.

Stu took the Idioglossia two off for a damp shuffle round Newquay and I went all retro and started to bake a cake without assistance from electrickery (apart from the oven of course) for the first time in yonks. The last time being with my nan when I was much younger than 14. It takes some bloody elbow grease doesn't it? I was knackered after just beating the eggs and sugar. Respect Nan.

During one of my out of puff rests, it occurred to me that, as I bang on about the point of baking being the effort made, this really is ultimate show of love, doing it all without an electric whisk or my beloved Kitchen Aid. Thirty minutes later and feeling more exhausted than a year of being Welsh made me, it was done and in the oven. How chuffed was I when both sponges turned out lovely. In honour of our Cornish surroundings, I made it a Pirate cake. And, as I was in full 1950's mode, I knocked up a chicken, ham and leek pie too (bought the pastry though - 21st Century cop out) but it made me feel so domesticated, I felt an urge to donkey stone the front step. The urge passed quickly.

The feedback on the lovingly 100% handmade chocolate cake? There were smiles, there were approving ummming noises. No words though. Just glances.

During our week here, I have been really trying to be cool with the teenagers. Any success I may have had (I'm guessing, limited) went out of the window today. Listening to the radio, there was something on the news about Marianne Faithfull cancelling a tour. I exclaimed that it was a lame excuse to cancel a tour but Stu and the girls got all vocal about it. Surprised me as I didn't think the Tweedles would know who she was. Turns out they don't but they thought breaking a bone in her back was reason enough. What I heard was 'breaking a phone in her bag'.

Assisted taxi for Barnes please.