Makes and Ends

Yet again I have had a huge gap in my blogging. I have done things, and I have come up with loads of ideas for posts, but just not got round to finishing them. But since it is half term, I have had a good Bank Holiday weekend at Dad’s, and I am shattered from organising the house (looonnng way to go yet), I have been baking and sewing. Because, of course, that is what you do when you are so tired, you seriously contemplate using matchsticks to keep your eyes open 😀

This evening’s offering is a Chocolate and Coffee Marble Loaf Cake, recipe courtesy of The Pink Whisk. I originally planned to make this last week, and even got as far as measuring out the butter, but never did anything else. Anyway, it was an easy, basic sponge cake recipe, with a bit of flavouring, a bit of swirling, and then a bake. It looks like the original and tastes lovely. Will definitely be making this again.

image

Chocolate and Coffee Marble Loaf Cake

I made cheese on toast for Maxi Mister earlier as well, but that doesn’t really count as baking. He is quite easy to make meals for as he eats most things, although does go through random spates of hating things (one time it was only melted cheese, then only orange cheese, then only grated cheese, then no cheese – argghhhhhhhhh!). Mini Mister is harder to cater for as he doesn’t want to eat anything he hasn’t specifically decided is OK for any particular day. And that changes hourly, let alone daily. Yes, it is his age, but who doesn’t like chips???!!! At least he tends to eat well at Nursery. We did discover yesterday that he seems to like cheese toasted inside a tortilla (had lunch at Chimichanga in Canterbury), but, of course, if I try giving it to him, he will probably reject it (“No more” is the death knell for an awful lot of meals at the moment).

On Monday I made a beef pie with the remains of the roast beef and gravy from Sunday lunch that Dad had cooked. It was nice, but both Hubby and I thought it would have been improved by the addition of an onion and some mushrooms. With Mini and Maxi being fussy about both (OK, they won’t eat them!) I didn’t even suggest adding them. I did, however, decide to cheer up the top and make it obvious what had been made for lunch:

Pie

Pie!

 

Over the weekend I have also been sewing. Since I have done so many hexies now, but haven’t started sewing them together, I decided to have a go at a mini project which I could aim to finish soon – a Flower Garden Pincushion . I got the kit from Sew & Quilt when I ordered my latest lot of hexie blanks. I also ordered some of the Tulip Hiroshima piecing needles that Jessie sells, just to see how I found them compared to my usual John James quilting needles. Jessie has also been really helpful asnwering a load of questions I had about thread, despite them being about a quilt top totally unrelated to the EPP things she sells. So far, I have basted all the tiny little hexies needed for the pincushion, and sewn the first 7 together. They are really pretty, but oh so tiny (half inch, compared to my usual 1 inch). My aim is to finish piecing and to quilt it by the weekend if I can…

Hexie flower pincushion centre

Centre flower for pincushion

I have a whole truckload of other makes and bakes to tell you about, including several presents, and at least 1 recipe for a cake. They will be in future posts (as soon as I finish them…)

And as for Ends….well, my job has finished. For a variety of reasons I left at the end of this half term. I could have finished at Easter and been paid to the end of April, but I decided the extra money was worth the extra weeks. I have had a difficult few half terms, especially the last couple, mainly resulting from huge anxiety issues which have nearly overwhelmed me. I have yet to decide whether to blog about those. It may help, it may not. Suffice to say, that I have been really lucky to have the support of our local GPs and my Health Visitor. And leaving the job means I no longer have a difficult commute which was increasingly taking me away from my children. I have regrets. There are colleagues I will miss terribly, and some of the classes I taught and lots of the kids. I loved doing the shows. Loved the space I taught in.

But it was time to end and to move on. An end after nearly 12 years, and an end to the commute. Hopefully this means more time for making as well as more time with my wonderful children and husband.

 

And the other Ends? Well, they get posts of their own 😊

A Bit of Baking After A Break

You may, or may not, have noticed that I haven’t posted in a long time. It wasn’t intentional, and I am aware that, yet again, I have not been a good blogger. Real Life has been rather busy and I just haven’t managed to catch up with much. Several sewing projects have been abandoned part way through, I have done little baking, and although I have thought about blogging, I just didn’t have the time to dedicate to it. I intend this to change, as I need to have more time for me and my family. I have to get going again with everything, as I love making stuff.

I have a couple of sewing projects from earlier in the year to blog about, and am trying to catch up with my list of cakes to bake. The only thing I have really managed to continue working on, is my hexie stash. I think that will keep for a separate post, though, as I would like to show off the prettiness in all its glory.

Today I got myself in gear and tried out one of the cupcake recipes which has been on my Try List for ages. It did involve me sitting on the kitchen floor going through several different cookery books, as I couldn’t remember which one the recipe was in. I knew it was one I had bought a few years ago, but wasn’t in the one I expected. I eventually found it (in the book which had fallen down the back of the shelf, typically) and gave it a go. Here they are:

Turkish Apple Tea Cupcakes

Turkish Apple Tea Cupcakes

I am pleased with how they turned out, and they taste really nice. They are made with Turkish Apple Instant Tea from Whittard. I was a little concerned about how they would taste when I made up the tea as it really did not smell nice, but it was very concentrated. The cakes have a good apple flavour and smell without being overbearing, and are light and fluffy inside, while still remaining reasonably moist. The buttercream is also made with the instant tea and has a refreshingly sharp tang to it. Overall, we thought the flavours were more subtle than we were expecting, but this is a good thing.

I would definitely recommend trying out the recipe, which comes from The Hummingbird Bakery‘s book ‘Cake Days‘ – Apple Blossom Cupcakes. This book and rdcipe helped to kickstart my interest in sugarcraft as the recipe and illustrating pictures show the use of sugarpaste and flower cutters to produce decorations for the cakes. That goes to show how long these cakes have been on my Try List, as I did my first cupcake course nearly 5 years ago!

As for future developments, I have several of Whittard’s other instant teas, and think I will adapt the recipe for those at some point too. So keep an eye out for English Fruits Cupcakes, Cranberry & Raspberry Cupcakes and Dreamtime Cupcakes 🙂

Afternoon Tea Bites – Baking Fun!

I made another visit to Sarah at The Cupcake Oven a couple of weeks ago. It was for a course, Afternoon Tea Bites, I have been looking forward to for months, and it didn’t disappoint.

 

Sarah has always done a wide variety of decorating courses, from sugar flowers to royal icing, to modelling. See here for the results of many of the classes I have taken with here over the years. More recently, she has started teaching people to bake, from the basics, cake-wise, to cookies and cake pops. This class is one of her more recent inventions, and I was gutted when I missed its first outing a few months ago.

 

Bright and early (well, mid-morning), with lunch bag clasped in hand (which I forgot at the end and had to go back for), I bounced up to Sarah’s front door ready for a long day of making yummy treats. I had actually forgotten how long it was due to be, and didn’t dare tell hubby during the day – oops!

 

Sarah and Maddie (a fellow Cupcake Oven Course addict, and Sarah’s help for the day – can’t remember her job title, sorry Maddie, but she did a fab job of keeping us topped up with hot drinks and washing up the detritus of our making) had a packed day planned, and the 4 of us attending the course set to work after going through everything we were going to cover.

 

I have actually forgotten the order we did everything in, but it was meticulously planned (although we did end running late as we were having so much fun, but no-one minded that – except my hubby!). We made sweet pastry, which was one of the main reasons I wanted to do the course, as my pastry-making generally leaves a lot to be desired, crème pâtissière as a base for Chantilly cream, meringue kisses and chopped up sponge cake covered in apricot jam and marzipan (ready for fondant fancies).

crème pâtissière

Crème Pâtissière – doesn’t look very promising…

The pastry looked fine when we popped it into the fridge to rest and chill. I didn’t burn the crème pâtissière and got the measurements right for the sponge. Woo-hoo!

Foodie Flavours

Choices, choices… which flavour?

We had great fun choosing flavours and colours for the meringue kisses. The flavours came in many choices, and are lovely non-oily flavourings made by Foodie Flavours. I have come across them before, but hadn’t realised that their flavour range was so wide. You only need a small amount and they provide the most wonderful, natural flavours. And they didn’t ask me to say that, as they don’t know me or the fact I am posting about them (yet!). I went for Christmas Pudding, which smelt wonderful, although the jury is still out on whether it is a flavour that works with meringues, or not…

choux pastry

Choux pastry piped ready to bake – they do look rather like slugs!

A quick lunch was followed by making the choux pastry (first time I have attempted it since I was a teenager), finishing the Chantilly cream (oh wow! Mmmmmmmmmmm!), making the filling for the tarts we had made the pastry for, and covering the fondant fancies in Squires Kitchen lemon or strawberry fondant. The last was incredibly messy, but very yummy.

Chantilly cream

Chantilly cream completed

Fondant fancies

Fondant fancies drip-drying

frangipane tartlets

Frangipane tartlets ready to bake

I had a great day, met some lovely people (most of whom I had met before at Sarah’s) and went home with boxes and boxes full of yummy goodness. I have an enormous bag of Chantilly cream in the freezer, and the remains of the huge number of meringue kisses I made, but the rest has been gobbled up.

I think I did a reasonable job of everything. Hubby liked it all, especially the tarts and the choux pastries (he said they were lovely and light!). I will definitely be more confident about trying pastry myself again, and Hubby has already requested frangipane tarts, including in a larger size!!

 

Thanks Sarah! Look forward to seeing you soon 🙂