Sunday, August 30, 2015
235. Not the most photogenic of breakfasts, but it was a good start to Sunday morning all the same!
236. A photo as part of the August Break, I just loved the silhouettes against the orange sky. We have been getting some beautiful sunsets here this week.
237. A quick over the shoulder snap as I walked home from the train station. The water doesn't look very tempting, but the greenery was fabulous. The Husband has been picking me up a lot recently, and the changing scenery really stood out on. I saw a squirrel one morning too, and it reminded me how such a quick walk outside can make you much more aware of the seasons.
238. Another August Break photo, having left it quite late to take a picture for the prompt, I was to be found wandering around our hall, opening and closing doors and turning various lights off and on, much to The Husband's bemusement.
239. It may be lacking in finesse, but this chocolate cake and strawberries was delicious. I mentioned about going to visit my Grandad, and escaping from a hectic week. He had been out shopping and made us a lovely dinner, followed by a gigantic portion of cake. It's lovely to just go and be a grand-daughter, watching quiz shows, or programmes on houses, eating cake and catching up.
240. I love my gardening gloves, and keep them right by the back door. We had a happy hour out there last weekend, weeding, deadheading, and trying to bring the veg patch under control.
241. I attempted the Spansiche Windtorte from Great British Bake Off. Do not let this picture fool you, it was a traumatic experience. I am building up the courage to relive it in order to write the blog post. Oh the photos, I apologise in advance.
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Friday, August 28, 2015
I have a habit of saying yes to things rather more than I say no. It can be a good thing, it can lead to new opportunities, and new experiences, but sometimes, as with this week, it can all be a bit too much. I started my new job at the start of August, but having volunteered to help with a piece of work at my last placement that needed finishing, I have been trying to get that finished in my free time while getting stuck in to a new job too. It has meant longer days at work as I try to make the most of the few months I will be here, and weekend after weekend, evening after evening spent working on the other piece of work. What speaks volumes, is when I write my diary, I'm practically repeating word for word what I wrote this time last year, when I found myself in the exact same situation.
I also decided to sign up for an online module a few months ago, just out of interest, and the final homeworks and exam were all due this week too. Add to that the different online projects I've been trying to keep up with through the blog and instagram, my decision to try and bake along with Great British Bake Off and the fact that we're trying to hunt for a new car and I'm also trying to make plans for The Husband's thirtieth in a few weeks and this last week has felt a bit of a stretch.
As well as making me tired, and grouchy, when I don't feel I've had chance for a rest, it also means that other things start to slip. I haven't read any blogs, or replied to any comments. I haven't been for a run, despite the 10k being mere weeks away. I haven't sat with a book, or been out for a walk with the dog, or curled up in front of a film with The Husband. I did, however, go and visit my Grandad last night, and it was a wonderful chance to relax. A few times in recent weeks The Husband and I have gone to my Grandad's for dinner after work, and it has been a lovely evening of my Grandad's cooking, catching up and having a lazy few hours in front of the tv. I don't work, I don't blog, I don't clean, and I always come away feeling content.
Luckily, last weekend I completed the module and tonight I finally finished the work. I promised myself I wouldn't have it hanging over me during the Bank Holiday weekend, and it is a lovely feeling to think it is done. I can't promise I won't ever find myself in a similar situation, although my wise mum is gently suggesting I might want to avoid signing up to another new project just before I finish this placement! For now though, I can look forward to a long weekend ahead, I can relax and enjoy the baking tomorrow without feeling like I should be working, and by Tuesday life should be feeling much more well-balanced.
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Monday, August 24, 2015
So after attempting arlettes, it was now time to have a go at baking baguettes, and I did not hold out much hope. As I mentioned last week, bread and I have history, and it is not of the positive kind.
This time last year, I was ready to embark on a lifelong love affair with bread. I bulk-bought yeast, I purchased a variety of flours, I daydreamed romantic visions of a future filled with home-made loaves and a home scented with the aroma of bread. As it was, last year's bread week turned out to be a bitter disappointment, with a particular low point being when The Husband highlighted that I could have flown to Italy, purchased an authentic ciabatta, and brought it home again in less time than it took to make to the recipe. Ciabatta made me swear off bread, and I stored the yeast firmly at the back of the cupboard.
Now and then I am prone to bouts of optimism, I purchase some bread flour on a whim in the supermarket, I vow to make bread as part of my things to do before thirty challenge, I fondly gaze at the lovely sounding loaves in my recipe books. Not wanting to be fooled again, I approached the making of baguettes with more realistic expectations. However the recipe seemed simpler, and less time-consuming, and I harboured a secret hope that this time around bread and I would be destined for great things.
We were not. It's not bread, it's me. I just can't commit to the intense relationship required, the hours of waiting around, hoping it will prove. And it's just so clingy. The vision of joyfully kneading and rolling a perfect batch of baguettes was replaced with something more akin to a horror story, as dough wrapped itself around my fingers, stuck to every surface, refused to hold its shape. Having never heard of a couche, I fashioned my own out of tin foil, but every time I tried to move my carefully constructed baguette into it the dough stretched and bowed and took on a distinctly puddle like appearance.
In the end I took to squashing them into a vaguely appropriate shape, and covering with a tea-towel. I'm not sure what the extra hour of waiting did as they seemed to have changed very little in the intervening period.
I think in desperation I somewhat over-floured them, and even after baking, they were covered in rather a thick layer of flour. I took to banging them on the worktop before eating, which helped dissipate great clouds of it, and made them slightly less powdery to eat, as well as being a good way of venting any bread-based frustration.
They didn't go the desired golden brown colour, or maybe they did under all of the flour, but they did end up with a nice crisp crust. They were softer the next day, but after a quick blast in the oven they livened up again, and definitely tasted better a bit warm.
Overall, they weren't a complete disaster. They may not have been the most uniform batch of baguettes, but they were definitely baguettes, and they were nice enough to eat. I just don't enjoy working with bread dough, or at least not the ones I 've attempted so far. I know on the programme they mentioned that it was quite a wet dough, so if anyone knows of any dryer, easier to handle doughs please send them my way. I've got to do this another four times before February, and it isn't looking hopeful that we will be able to work out our differences! All that being said, having looked ahead to the next technical challenge, I may well be reminiscing about the good old days this time next week. A spanish wind torte (no I hadn't heard of it before) decorated with fondant violets awaits. A Friday night in kneading dough suddenly sounds like bliss! Come back bread - all is forgiven!
Paul Hollywood's Baguettes
Recipe reproduced from BBC Food
Makes 4 baguettes. Prep time 2.5 hours. Cooking time 10-30 minutes.
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 10g salt
- 10g fast action yeast
- 370ml cool water
- olive oil
You will also need
- A stand mixer with dough hook
- A 2-2.5 litre square container
- A linen couche (or similar construction!)
- Lightly oil the square container.
- Place flour, salt and yeast in the mixing bowl, being careful to prevent the salt from sitting directly on the yeast.
- Add 300mls of the water and use the stand mixer with the dough hook on a slow setting. As the mixture comes together gradually add the remaining water and mix on a medium setting for 5-7 minutes until the dough is elastic.
- Put the dough into the square container and leave for an hour, or until doubled in size.
- Dredge the couche and worktop with flour.
- When dough is risen, place on the worktop, and handling gently, divide into four pieces.
- For each piece, shape into an oblong and fold the edges into the centre, rolling into a sausage shape, to make a seam that will sit on the base of the baguette. Gently roll the dough to about 15cm in length, and place in the couche with the seam on the bottom. pushing the sides of the couche up against the dough.
- Repeat for all four baguettes, and cover the couche and leave for an hour to rise.
- Preheat the oven to 240C/220C Fan and place a roasting tin in the bottom of the oven.
- When baguettes have risen, place on a baking tray, dust with flour. Slice four diagonal cuts down each baguette and place in oven. Fill the baking tray with hot water to produce steam.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
As with last week, quite a few of this week's images have also been for the #31DaysofPaper and #AugustBreak2015 daily photo projects I have been joining in with over on Instagram, so a few of them may be familiar!
228. This notebook was the inspiration for the #31DaysofPaper project, as the prompt was "pretty". This notebook lives in our hall table, and is most often used for shopping lists.
229. This was the first of The Husband's two batches of biscotti this week. He isn't a fan of dried fruit (or any fruit!), so they look a bit monochromatic, but they were a lovely flavour.
230. Visiting Grandad's house for dinner, and these beautiful gladioli were on the table. You can't quite make it out in the picture, but they were in a teal vase which made the red stand out beautifully.
231. Another #31DaysofPaper photo. The prompt was "old" and after some searching, we think this collection of poems we bought in Oxfam is the oldest book we own, there is an inscription inside that shows it was given as a Christmas gift in 1891, a year after it was published.
232. After a struggle to find a photo for #AugustBreak2015 when the prompt was "two" inspiration came in the form of our bedside clock.
233. I had an attempt at baking the baguettes from Great British Bake Off. As you can see, they weren't the most uniform collection, but they tasted quite good! The full post will be coming before Wednesday!
234. We went out to test-drive a car, having narrowed it down to a few possible options. We ended up being quite near the venue we had for our wedding, and so we popped in for a late lunch. This mini fish and chips was a perfect portion, and tasted lovely.
Saturday, August 22, 2015
Friday, August 21, 2015
There has been a feast of baked goods in this house in the last week. From last Friday night's attempt at arlettes, two separate batches of biscotti by The Husband, and tonight's Great British Bake Off baguettes, it feels like we have spent the week covered in a gentle dusting of flour.
I haven't baked all that much in recent months, and it is nice to be getting back into the habit. It can feel a bit unhealthy always having sweet snacks around though, and I've never been great at resisting a biscuit!
As much as I enjoy making cakes, recipes with pastry, bread and biscuits are not that common for me. The Husband goes through phases of making biscuits, and they are always lovely, but I tend to end up with uneven blobs of a dubious texture whenever I try. It's not often I make pastry but I can do a reasonable attempts at shortcrust, and I enjoyed learning how to make puff pastry too.
Bread and I struggle to get along, partly I think because I don't eat that much bread normally, so it's doesn't seem worth the effort, and partly because I invariably end up covered in it. I left a trail from work surface, to windowsill, on my shirt, my phone case and my face. It somehow manages to get everywhere, and where there isn't dough, there are light dustings of flour. We have been inundated with dough this week and I think we will be cleaning it up for a few more days yet. It was all worth it for the smell of freshly baked bread though!
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Monday, August 17, 2015
I have decided to have another go at joining in with Great British Bake Off, by baking the technical challenge from each episode. Do let me know if you are doing something similar, I'd love to see other people's creations!
So far, the recipes have been undertaken on a Friday night, complete with the ever-present Millie for company. After last week's post I thought I would keep to a similar structure of things that I had learnt, as there was plenty of learning with this week's recipe for arlettes.
1. The first thing I learnt, was what arlettes actually are as I (and I suspect a lot of people) had never heard of them before. They are most similar in texture to sweet palmier biscuits, which always make me think of Christmas for some reason, although we don't traditionally make them or eat them! Arlettes are made with cinnamon, and take on a slightly different shape, but having looked at the recipes otherwise, they are fairly similar.
2. I learnt how to do a book fold, after much searching on the internet for step by step images. This is where you lay the pastry with the short edge towards you, fold the top edge to the middle, and the bottom edge to the middle so they meet. You then fold the pastry over so along the middle so you end up with four layers, as above. Hard to explain but I got there!
3. This was also my first time ever making puff pastry of any kind. This was reverse puff pastry, which means you wrap the dough mix with a sheet of rolled out butter rather than vice versa. I don't know how I did, the biscuits were nice, but it's tricky to tell if that's because I'd done a good job of the pastry or just because they were rich, buttery and sugary. You roll it so thinly that you don't get much of a rise, but it looked like there were lots of layers when I sliced the dough.
4. It is definitely easier to make shop bought puff pastry, and I can't honestly claim to have been so overwhelmed with the deliciousness of the home-made variety that I would regularly make my own. It was a lengthy, messy process, though not particularly difficult, however I believe you can freeze it once it has been made, so it could be worth making a larger batch.
5. As it was, I ended up making two separate batches, because The Husband has an aversion to cinnamon, and as my chief taster and washer-upper it didn't seem fair not to make some for him too. So I also made some with vanilla sugar (before I started the recipe, I scraped a vanilla pod into the required amount of sugar, covered it, gave it a good shake and then used it at the required stage). They worked really well flavour wise, and the vanilla came through nicely, but visually, the cinnamon ones looked more striking with the darker layers running through.
6. I'm not convinced I got the rolling and shaping and layering exactly right. I seemed to end up with little tails on lots of the biscuits, that made them look more like snail shells than ovals. I also found that when I sliced them some of the outer layers kept coming away. I felt like I used a lot of extra flour in the process of rolling and folding, and don't know if I had dried out the mixture a bit too much.
7. The recipe suggests they only need a matter of minutes to cook. I'm not sure if mine were too thick, or the oven wasn't hot enough, but they took quite a bit longer than the recipe states. I wasn't sure what was meant when it suggested turning them half way through cooking, whether I was supposed to rotate the tray or flip them over. I did a combination of approaches with the different trays, and it definitely meant flip them over. The one's where I didn't were much softer and a little underdone in the middle.
8. The recipe didn't actually make very many. By the time I had taken some, just fresh from the oven, to my parent's house for them to share with friends they had visiting, there weren't tons left. A measly eight biscuits after two and a half hours work felt like small consolation. Having said that, they are very rich, and somewhat addictive, so that was probably a good thing!
9. Finally, don't waste the scraps! You have to chop off the ends of the roll of pastry to neaten it up, and I also tried to neaten some of mine up by getting rid of the little tails of pastry that seemed to be overhanging. I rolled the ends out, and dropped the off cuts on to a baking tray, and although visually they weren't a great success, they tasted lovely, and made for perfect chef's perks as I cleaned the kitchen (all by myself!).
Paul Hollywood's Arlettes
Recipe reproduced from BBC Food
Makes 8 biscuits (plus offcuts!). Prep time 2-2.5 hours. Cooking time 10-30 minutes.
For the dough
- 60g strong white bread flour
- 60g plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 40g unsalted butter
- 50ml cold water
For the butter layer
- 125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 25g strong white bread flour
- 25g plain flour
For the filling
- 50g granulated sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon (or seeds scraped from one vanilla pod)
- Icing sugar for dusting
You will also need
- Plenty of clingfilm
- Non-stick baking paper
- Flour for dusting
- Baking trays
- Combine all of the ingredients for the dough in a bowl and gently mix until a dough is formed.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for five minutes. Shape into a square, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour.
- Cream the ingredients for the butter layer together, using an electric mixer. Place the mixture on a sheet of clingfilm and cover with another sheet of clingfilm. Roll out the mixture into an oblong, twice as long and the same width as the square of dough. Refrigerate for 25 minutes.
- Unwrap the chilled butter, and place on a floured work surface, short end towards you. Unwrap the chilled dough and place in the centre of the butter. Fold the top of the butter and the bottom of the butter over the dough, so they meet in the middle, and the dough is wrapped in butter.
- Roll out to a rectangle, as evenly as possible. With the short end facing you, fold the top quarter down, and the bottom quarter up so they meet in the middle. Fold in half along the middle so you have four layers of dough. This is the book turn. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 25 minutes.
- Unwrap the dough, on a lightly floured surface roll out into a rectangle, and repeat the steps above to make another book turn. Wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate for 25 minutes.
- Make the sugar filling by mixing the sugar with the cinnamon (or vanilla).
- Remove the dough, unwrap, and on a lightly floured surface roll into a rectangle. Cover with the sugar.
- Do another book turn so the sugar is folded into the dough (I found that some spilled out at the edges). Roll into a rectangle around 12cm by 20cm. Roll up the pastry from the short end, similar to making a swiss roll.
- Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 25 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
- Remove the roll from the fridge, unwrap, and slice of the ends to neaten. Cut the roll into eight even slices. Dust the work surface with icing sugar, and roll each slice very thinly, to make an oval.
- Coat the ovals in icing sugar and place them onto the two baking trays. Cook until lightly brown on one side (after around 5-10 minutes). Gently use a spatula to turn them over and cook for another 5-10 minutes until lightly browned on both sides.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool, and serve.