Monthly Archives: January 2013

Pinterest Part 3 – quite liking it…

Art for the day

Art for the day

Well, I am pleased to report getting a bit more excited by Pinterest. My page http://pinterest.com/jainw/ is coming together nicely, as I have kept to my earlier undertaking, which was to ‘Pin’ things every day.

At first I felt that I had no idea about what I was doing, so I looked at my friends who already were on there, and saw what they were up to, and what boards they had created; these include ‘Dream Holidays’, ‘Christmas Ideas’, ‘Owls’ , ‘My style’ – anything that can be pictorially represented was here.

I found and loved these!

funky nails picture from Pinterest

funky nails picture from Pinterest

So as a newbie I decided to create some boards of my own, and once I started looking for things to ‘Pin’ on them, ideas started to flood in, and the process began to take a life of its own.
Obviously, I had to have a ‘cake’ board ( which soon became two, one to showcase my own cakes, and the second to pin ideas for future baking experiments);a craft page, since there is a heck of lot of craft on Pinterest, a couple of pages for fun, including cheese, dogs, and Denmark, because my husband and I are great fans of the Nordic Noir dramas – the Killing, the Bridge, Borgen etc.

Then I noticed  that I could upload my own pictures, and link them to my blog and Facebook page – to increase the traffic to them both, all good.

In the past I have tended to put photos I wanted to keep onto my Facebook wall, but have not wanted to overwhelm people with things which are of no interest to them, now I realise that I can pin away to my heart’s content, and no-one but me needs to see it.  I subscribe to an Art of the Day mail out, and today was the first day that it occurred to me to save the picture, and pin it to my Art of the Day board – see above .  Btw I then spotted the link to their Pinterest page http://pinterest.com/artfinder/artfinder-s-art-of-the-day/  but the precedent is set now, I have somewhere to display things that please my eye.

It is also a great place to stick all those project ideas that you come across, and wonder what to do with.

Go on – just have a quick peek on Pinterest – I think you will like it!

Nine Things every baker should have/know.

Just in case you are fairly new to baking – thought I would share some of the things that I use and love, or have learnt and practise.

Things you should have:

1. A folder – get yourself a dedicated baking folder, like this one – http://www.staples.co.uk/filing-binders-organisation/binders-portfolio-report-covers/display-books/soft-cover-display-book-1 .

Then you can stash recipes torn (or clipped neatly) from Newspapers and Magazines ( so you don’t have to keep the whole magazine) and print things off the Internet, and they will stay clean, dry and grease free – unlike your favourite recipes in cookery books, which no doubt pay homage to your cooking prowess by their grubby dishevelled nature. I have one which I call my Baking Bible – if it is in there, then I know that recipe works, it has earned its stripes.

2. A palette knife – now I have a lovely stainless steel one with a wooden handle, which came with my college knife set, and my dad engraved my name on, BUT it can’t go in the dishwasher, so I also have one from the Pound shop, which not only cost £1.00 (yes, unbelievable I know ;-)) but I can bung it in the dish washer with impunity. The cheap one also has ruler markings engraved in, which is surprisingly useful. When making any sort of large cake, the palette knife spreads jam, icing, cream or buttercream quickly and efficiently. In fact, when making stacked cakes, I actually use two, one for the cream and one for jam.

3. A food mixer – this does not need to be a stand mixer (eg this little fellow – if money is no object!!  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kenwood-KMC010-Chef-Titanium/dp/B006WYVFBQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1358893529&sr=8-2) but a simple hand mixer is sufficient for most bakes, and can be found for under £10 (eg  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essential-Hand-Mixer-in-Red/dp/B0058GO0BG/ref=sr_1_6?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1358893835&sr=1-6 ).Using one ensures that cake mixtures can be easily combined properly, cream and meringues whipped to stiff peaks in moments and truculent sauces knocked into shape. There is some debate amongst the bakers I know, as to whether Kenwood or Kitchen Aid are the better stand mixer brand; as you may have guessed, I am a Kenwood fan. This is probably just a matter of taste, or what you are used to. I would say always read the reviews on Amazon or similar, before you buy, and always buy the best you can afford, if you bake a lot, your mixer will need to stand up to it. One other point is if you plan to make bread and yeast products, you will need (not knead) at least a 800w stand mixer to be powerful enough to work the dough.

4. Decent weighing scales. Some recipes are more dependant than other on having the  exact quantities, but make life easy and buy yourself some good scales. I like electronic ones with a digital display, and the ability to reset to zero after each ingredient. I have several sets, include some wall mounted ones, which fold up when not in use; these are all very well, if you have a space on the wall just above worktop height, I don’t and put mine on the side of a wall cupboard, so they are not the most convenient when weighing out large quantities for say a Christmas cake. (In case you are wondering why I haven’t taken them down, there are 2 reasons, one it means I always know where at least one set of scales are – and two, they are near the cupboard near the breakfast cereal – Slimming World followers will now understand)

5. Good quality greaseproof/baking paper – gets used a lot. I line baking tins and sheets with it (unless it’s a loaf tin, and then I use pre-formed loaf liners). I use it when making things from sugarpaste, to let them dry on, and also when folded to double thickness,you can use  greaseproof paper to make a durable handle – for a cake lifter, to raise a cake out of a snug fitting storage tin. This is one thing not to scrimp on, in my opinion, cheap baking paper can ruin a bake by sticking.

6. Clean cheap tea-towels – I wash mine on a very hot wash, and then use them to cover cooling baked goods – unlike kitchen roll, the slightest draft does not cause them to waft away, and leave your delicious produce in the path of evil blue bottles who are waiting to lay their eggs (and worse) as soon as your back is turned. I suggest the cheap microfibre ones, because they wash and dry in a matter of hours, and no need to iron!

Things you should know:

7. Not all recipes work – sometimes even if you follow a recipe from a book or online, the end product is not perfect, doesn’t look or taste right or is so bad you simplyhave to give it straight to the dog. This can be due to operator error, ie you have not measured your ingredients, followed the method, got your oven temperature correct or timing right. However if you are convinced that you have done all of these things, then make a note on the recipe, and try it again but differently, for example, I have a recipe leaflet from the 1980s from Kelloggs – I make the All-Bran loaf on it, but I reduce the sugar by a third, as the original is far too sweet for my, and most people’s taste. Also if the recipe is in both Imperial and Metric quantities, always stick to one or the other, as it is the ratios of sugar to fat to flour that should be adhered too; but also sometimes, especially with older cookery books, there are errors when converting from Imperial and the Metric recipes have one wrong quantity. If you think that very, very roughly 1oz is about 25g, then you can sometimes spot the mistake.

8. Go on a course – or ask a baking friend to teach you. People who bake for fun often love to share, and if you have a baking friend, they would almost certainly be happy to show you what they know. Or go to college or cookery school, you can pick up so much, even on a short course. It is so much easier to learn by watching someone else do it first. If a course is out of your price bracket, then look on YouTube, there are loads of amazing free videos about all aspects of baking.

9. All   bakers make mistakes – I have made a Victoria Sponge many times, and now do it without concentrating, and to my cost, last weekend, made one, and the eggs curdled, but I thought it would be OK, and it wasn’t. That sponge is now in bags, in the freezer, waiting to become trifle sponge – it was too miserable to make into a decent cake. If you make a mistake, try to decide what went wrong, and don’t let it put you off. Baking should be fun, and rewarding, and a hobby you can enjoy for life.

Go on – bake something soon!

Pinterest – Part 2

So immediately I see the familiar Social Media steps, log in, create account, go into settings and generate a profile, upload a picture and link to websites etc.

One day, I imagine everything will be linked to everything via Social Media,  6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon will be eclipsed and eroded as we are all linked together in the World Wide Social Media Web of Life. To this end, the next step is to find ‘friends’ from Facebook, Gmail, Email etc. Of course, a number of these people I have never met, but have come into contact with, through work, interests, online games, or simply through another social medium. However, they are now my friends, and must be linked to Pinterest.

I can upload an image to reflect my personality, maybe my face, my pet or maybe one of my edible “offspring”, and then start to create my boards.

It is at this juncture, that I start to ask what I want the platform of Pinterest for – my cakes and bakes, to show the world my various pets, my rather suspicious and varied taste in literature, and my favourite plants, perhaps the gardens I aspire to build. Then I have to decide what image I want Pinterest to present, of me, to the world. Do I omit the Jodi Picoult books, and only portray myself as a diligent peruser of the classic tomes, and what about the self-heal and ‘how-to-be-sick’ guides, thus revealing my less than perfect physical health. I am currently trying to lose a bit of weight, so do I create a board of Slimming World ideas and motivators, at least that would be a useful contribution and maybe even a reference guide. I will be interested to see the extent to which my friends and followers have chosen to open their hearts and/or bare their souls in photo form, it is already apparent to me which types of people this form of social interaction could easily appeal to. The arty, the crafty, the people who can look at something and see what colour might complement it, what plant should be behind it, what medium it should be made in, or how remarkable improvements could be made to an original object by some small but significant additional item.

I can already begin to see the value of a well maintained Pinterest site for retailers of items chosen as much for their visual impact as functionality, clothes, furnishings, works of art, and other objects to be desired. I am going to look at some boards now, and then see if I am inspired to begin building my own.

Pinterest – a foray into the Unknown Part 1.

I know I have a Pinterest account, I get emails from time to time, telling me which of my friends has joined Pinterest and and is ‘following’ me. I even get Pinterest Weekly – gotta be more fun that Woman’s Weekly – or has it?

I am going to make a promise to Pin something to my Pinterest wall (if that’s what it’s called) every day for a month, learn a bit about it, and share it on here, thereby saving you the bother of having to do so.

Unless of course you already do – in which case, let me in on the secret?

I attended an Manchester Cake Club event last Autumn, which was about Social Media and touched on Pinterest, and we learnt that, if you search for “Cake” for example, there are rather a lot of varying standards of pictures of cake – and that, dear reader, is all I know about Pinterest. Oh, and I am thinking Cath Kidston, and her kind, hangout there, but maybe that’s just unkind.

Fairtrade fun with fruit aka – my Banana Loaf

banana loaf

You know how you mean to eat more fruit, especially now it’s the New Year, and you are going to make 2013 the year you eat properly?

You know how you now buy rather a lot of lovely, healthy, one-of-your-5-a-day apples, and pears, and ‘nanas and stuff?

Well, you know how bananas do that brown spotty skin thing and then no-one fancies them anymore? That!!

This is the solution to your problem, what to do

with that brown banana and its sad blotchy chums.

My delicious, healthy Banana Loaf.

I try to buy Fairtrade bananas cos I hope it makes a difference to some fruit grower somewhere, but the other sort will do. It is also up to you how healthy this loaf is – as there are at least 3 options as to what you add to it, chocolate (also Fairtrade if it floats your boat), date and walnut or mixed fruit (you may even have some left over from your festive baking).

I use a silicon loaf tin (2lb/1 kg) size, and if you are new to baking, try and nip to a Pound shop, and buya loaf tin, they are rather wobbly but work fine, and a pack of waxed paper loaf liners, cos they are a.) quick and easy to use, but b.) look professional and therefore impressive!

An example of the silicon loaf tin I use         An example of the type of silicon loaf tin I use

Paper loaf liners - available in the Pound shop

Paper loaf liners – available in the Pound shop.

If you remember to, leave the butter or margarine out for an hour or so, to allow it to soften, and put the oven on at 180c or 160c if you have a fan oven like me.

The ingredients you need are

4/5 lovely bananas, who look as if their work on earth is almost done; mashed

225g self raising flour,

125g sugar (I like demerara or soft brown, but caster is fine – again Fairtrade is readily available),

100g softish butter or margarine ( I tend to use Stork for this recipe),

2 eggs (medium or large, I like free-range)

and  150g of EITHER dried mixed fruit OR milk or dark chocolate chips OR dates & walnuts OR any other blend of dried fruit you want to use up. (If you are using dried fruit you may want to also add 1 teaspoon of mixed spice)

Then beat the bananas for a bit and add the eggs, beat some more, then add the flour, sugar and fat, and mix til everything looks much the same. Then add a good pinch of salt (unless you have a real objection or medical need) then stir in the fruit or choc chips. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin, which you have lined with your loaf liner,put on a baking sheet and bake for about  1 and 1/2 half until a knife pushed into the middle comes out cleanish.

Allow to cool before removing from the loaf tin, and dust with icing sugar if you like.

This recipe can also be useful when baking for fairs or cake stalls, as if you double up the quantities and use about 10 bananas, it makes 3 reasonable looking loaves, but check them after about an hour of cooking. (You can buy browning bananas very cheaply in most green grocers and supermarkets ).

This cake will keep for up to a week in an air tight tin – if you hide it well!

Upside Down Cakes

I am sure you remember enjoying a pineapple down cake at some point in your life, maybe you made one at school, or it was something your granny made for you, and became a special treat. But this is such a lovely cake to make, and the result is always spectacular, plus, as I always say “it contains one of your ‘Five-a-day’ ” so it is almost healthy eating!You don’t have to limit yourself to pineapple either, any soft eating fruit will do – I have used pears, eating apples, plums and apricots, and am planning to try rhubarb once it is season.

Before you bake, just turn your oven on and set to:180c or 160c if you have a fan oven.

Ingredients and equipment: (btw I am listing everything so if you are fairly new to this, you can check you have everything to hand)

Equipment: 7″ or 20 cm silicon or metal shallow round cake tin, mixer, or wooden spoon, teaspoon(tsp) and tablespoon (tbsp), scales (to measure ingredients), knife for fruit, small pan, large bowl, cup (to break eggs into), paper cake liner or greaseproof (if you’re using a metal cake tin) and a baking sheet, and a dinner plate. Plus oven gloves or a folded tea towel.

(Upside down topping bit) 50g butter (preferably) or marg, plus 50g sugar (brown is good) plus fruit – 4-5 apples/pears or large tin pineapple rings and seven cherries or seven plums/apricots -optional choc chips or tsp cinnamon if you like it

Cake part – 100g butter or marg (I prefer stork) best left out of fridge for half an hour or so, 100g sugar (ideally golden caster, but ordinary caster, demera or soft brown all ok) -2 eggs, 2 tbsp plain yoghurt or milk , 1 tsp vanilla extract or essence (these are inter changeable) and 100g self raising flour

Method: Select the fruit, and prepare as you would for eating, ie wash and core, remove stones & stalk etc. With apples & pears, slice into four or five cross sections, or for plums, apricots, etc half, the riper the better really (see my photo of the plums) Or open a large tin of pineapple rings, you will need 7 of them, and seven glace cherries.  Melt the 50g butter and sugar in the small pan til they become a soft golden brown liquid.

Now if you are using a silicon cake tin, pour the liquid in, if a metal tin, then line with a cake liner, or greaseproof paper, and then add the butter/sugar liquid.

Now arrange the fruit ‘face down’ as when you are done, the bottom will be the top of your cake  (see picture) If you wish you can add some cinnamon to this, sprinkling it over everything, or a few choc chips ( these would be especially great with pears I think). If using pineapple rings, pop a cherry in the middle of each ring.

Now put the 100g butter or margarine in the mixing bowl and beat for a minute or so to soften, then add the sugar,and beat til the colour of the mixture lightens slightly. ( ‘Creaming’ it as my old cookery teacher used to say.) Break each egg into the cup first, remove any shell and then beat into the creamed mix, then whisk in the yoghurt or milk and the vanilla. Finally slowly stir in the flour, until everything is mixed to a smooth paste.

Then using the spoon, carefully spread this mixture onto the top of the fruit, making sure that is is roughly level, so it will bake evenly. (See picture)

This can then go into the oven for 30 mins or so, til golden brown, and firm to touch. (If you are using a silcon baking tin, I usually like to put this onto a baking tray as it makes it easier to lift out)

Then leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 20 mins.

Then loosen the edges with a knife, and put a dinner plate, face down onto the top of the cake tin, and holding the plate to the cake tin, quickly turn over both together, using a tea towel. Then remove the cake tin and you have a delicious, and impressive looking treat! Enjoy with custard, cream or greek fat free yoghurt as a tasty pudding or just scoff the lot .ImageImage

It had to be done!

 

I have been meaning to write a blog for a while – New Year seems a good place to start, so having eaten the last of the Christmas Goodies, and taken down the decorations, I delighted to welcome you to my blog.

I going to share my cakes and bakes with you: the recipes, the inspirations, the appearance,  the successes and the failures.

domestic diva, M.D.

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