Tuesday 29 May 2012

Cardamom Twists...my fancy piece

A few weeks ago I wrote about my experimental baking afternoon trying to emulate two very different cardamom buns.  The buns I produced weren't great, they were alright...but nowhere near as good as they could have been.  Since then I have immersed myself in all things dedicated to the Scandi trend.  I've found some pretty awesome food blogs and of course I have been deeply engulfed in the latest Scandinavian dramas aired on the Beeb (first the Bridge and now Sebastian Bergman) and have just polished off two Wallander crime novels...

This past weekend, in preparation for the Eurovision Song Contest I decided to roll up my sleeves and get down to Cardamom Bun business.  Since my previous attempt I have been researching (more carefully) recipes and methods and decided to use a recipe on the gorgeous Scandilicious Blog.  I vowed not to alter the recipe, I promised to just stick to the method, I tried my best...

You prepare the dough the night before and leave it to cold ferment overnight in the fridge.  I am a little bit nervous about cold fermentation, only because you just have to trust that something somewhere is going to react with something else and that everything will be hunky dory when you take the dough out of the fridge the next morning.  To be honest there wasn't any noticeable difference in the dough, it might have gotten a bit larger but for the most part it looked the same...but cold and hard.  After an hour out of the fridge coming to room temperature I still wasn't feeling confident, but I kept plugging away...rolling the dough out into a rectangle (read oval) and then slathering it with a sugary cardamom butter spread...

And then I improvised...I couldn't help myself.  I hadn't been able to roll the dough out into a rectangle. No matter what I did it just was too round.  So...after slathering it with the sugary butter I folded the dough up into a rectangle and then rolled it out again and then cut it into strips and twisted. 

They turned out pretty well I think. 

Monday 28 May 2012

Return of the Risotto

It was a scorcher of a weekend...you know, the kind of weekend when all you want is a salad and a never ending bowl of ice cream...it was gorgeous, we had all the windows open, the sun was shining bright...the bread rose oh so fast and...I made a risotto for dinner.

That's right...it was hot hot hot and I decided to stand over a hot stove stirring my little heart out.  Those of you who have been reading for yonks will know that I love a good risotto and I am rarely happier than when chopping and stirring one up for myself.  I won't give you the whole tirade again, but for me the perfect risotto is a personal thing.  I can't abide by food snobs telling me that my risotto should be loose and al dente and...even worse...eaten with a fork.  I like it the way I like it (and will rarely order it at a restaurant).  

Right, so...way back before this freakish heat wave attacked us I was busy menu planning in single digit weather and came across a pretty spectacular sounding (and looking) recipe for fennel risotto in my copy of Jamie's Italy.  While fennel isn't technically in season at the moment in those dreary middle days of May it just screamed summer.  A fennel risotto, how perfectly different. 

If you like fennel and risotto this is a sure fire winner.  I made a few adaptions to the recipe...like I couldn't find firm ricotta so used the stuff in the supermarket and substituted chilli flakes for ground dried chillies at the end, but for the most part it was pretty easy to whip up (in the time it takes to slow cook fennel and make a risotto) and even easier to devour.  

Sunday 27 May 2012

a farewell visit to lovecrumbs

Yesterday I met fellow Cake Lady (and Canadian) Sophia at the über kool lovecrumbs for a cake and a chat before she packs her bags and heads home to back and beyond British Columbia.  I was super excited to be meeting at lovecrumbs, since Sophia hadn't been before, and also...cause I seriously love their cakes and the whole atmosphere in the shop.  

A quick tweet out and we were joined by a couple other Cake Ladies and then another with a friend who just happened to be popping in off the recommendation of a Cake Lady (do you follow?).  Sophia and I were early so we undertook a "cake with a view" photoshoot (check out her website linked above) on the windiest corner in Edinburgh, and nearby some dodgy strip clubs, before sitting down and getting down to the cakey business. 

Sophia (and almost all those who joined us) had a tall slice of white chocolate and blueberry triple layered cake...let's just say that it was a complete cake when we arrived and it was finished by time we left.  It was tasty.  We sat around a gorgeous round table and gabbed away. 

As expected it was a tough choice deciding on my cake.  I hummed and hawed and in the end opted for the first slice of a gorgeous looking chocolate ganache covered chocolate cake with pink peppercorns.  It looked so pretty I actually asked the lady bakers if it would be ok to ask them to slice into it for me.  It wasn't a problem, the first slice is one of their favourite things to do! 

I'm not a huge chocolate cake lover, I really can take it or leave it.  The combination of the chocolate with the pink peppercorns is what called me to it (that and it looked absolutely gorgeous).  Somewhat out of character I took my time eating this cake (I know...something must be wrong with me...I blame the heat) and I am glad that I did.  The pink peppercorns were a lovely addition...spicy and warming.  Definitely a hit! 

Two sticky thumbs up for lovecrumbs. A lovely way to spend a hot Saturday afternoon bidding farewell to a new friend. 

Saturday 26 May 2012

A girl cannot dine on steak alone...

David and I rarely eat meat at home, partly because it is too expensive and partly as an ethical choice, but when we go out to eat we often indulge in something juicy and bloody.  When Steak Edinburgh opened way back in February I couldn't wait to get the glad rags out and sink my teeth into a steak.  Unfortunately, for the most part, the prices are out of my league.  That is not to say that they are astronomical, they are fair (steaks are priced per 100g with a minimum of 250g order) and competitive, just out of my little league.  

However, on a Thursday night they offer a fantastic deal...


That's right...a Steak (with chips and bernaise sauce) and a Milkshake for £13.50.  The only problem...until last week Thursday was my college night.  Six weeks ago...when I found out that after my exam I would no longer have to shlep out to college on a Thursday night...I made a plan.  A quick tweet out and the date was set.  

9 ladies +steak+shake= 1 excellent meal.  

The steak (250g of sirloin) was cooked perfectly and the bernaise was smooth with just enough of a vinegar tang for my liking.  

Served with a huge portion of chips.  Perfectly crisp and hot, accompanied by numerous homemade sauces (the ketchup was incredible) 

And to wash it all down a banoffee milkshake.  The hardest part of the evening was choosing my milkshake flavour...vanilla, chocolate, mocha, banoffee, peanutbutter, and the "guest" shake Bounty all sounded incredible. I opted for the banoffee and was very happy with the flavour.  The only downside it wasn't thick enough for my liking so I drank it far too quickly! 

I expected a good steak and I got it.

Friday 25 May 2012

Cabbage and Tofu Bowl

Sometimes I crave Tofu

spicy green chilli and ginger broth
steamed leaks and pointed cabbage 
rice noodles 
pan fried tofu 
and a splash of soy sauce.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Post Exam Cake-up

Monday morning, bright and early, I took the bus out to my college to sit the most terrifying exam I have encountered since finishing high school (not to brag but my university exams were for the most part not terrifying...thank you arts degree).  I've been studying Intermediate 2 Maths (aka GCSE or Grade 11) in the hopes that I might do well enough to get onto a course here at Edinburgh University...my 3 degrees don't count for much without a "post the age of dinosaurs" maths credit apparently.  

After 2.5 hours of torture I headed back into town to meet some friends for a celebratory cake-up at our favourite little cafe Bon Papillon.  Although all I wanted after my awful morning was course after course of Stuart's lovely cake I had some soup and a herb scone to calm myself down before I got stuck into the main event...

Date, Honey, Walnut and Banana Cake.  

We spent hours chatting about this and that and before I knew it, it was 3:30! What a fantastic way to take my mind off my exam and to spend the rest of my day off from work.  

Sunday 20 May 2012

Pizza for One (one greedy gal that is)

Homemade pizza is taking over my life.  Slowly, it has gone from a monthly treat to a weekly event.  Friday nights are now pizza pyjama movie party nights.  It honestly does not get much better than that.  There is nothing that I look forward to more after 5 days of running around after small children, mediating arguments, improvising lessons and wiping snotty noses.  Peaceful bliss comes to me in the form of soft elasticy dough smothered in tomato sauce, cheese and a rotation of toppings.  

I've been experimenting with different flours for the bases as well...but have to admit that there is nothing quite like a dough made with type 00 flour...stretchy, soft and so smooth.  All of my dough "recipes" are based on my mum's basic pizza dough recipe...In a big bowl I mix 250ml of warm water, 2 TBSP oil and 1 TBSP dry active yeast with a good pinch of salt and 1 1/2 cups of flour and then gradually add more flour until the dough is soft and not sticky.  I didn't use to knead it at all, since there is a good amount of yeast, but I've been kneading recently and it has resulted in a much softer dough (with a much more dramatic rise).  If I use a mixture of brown and white flours I tend to use 1 cup of brown and 1/2 cup of white to start and then add in more white flour (and often another splash or two of warm water).  This isn't a finely tuned recipe...it is always changing. 

SO, back to the point of this post.  This weekend's pizza feast was postponed to Saturday night to coincide with the big Chelsea footy game...pizza and sport and pyjamas. Everything was set, the dough was rising the toppings were prepared and then the footy fan was invited out.  I greedily encouraged him to go (more pizza and the tv remote to myself...need I say more?) and got on with making MY pizza.  

Normally I just toss on whatever I have to hand, and some pepperoni purchased especially for the occasion.  Last night I followed a recipe...from Jamie's Italy for potato pizza.  It was seriously delicious.     Tomato sauce based covered with cooked New Potatoes sliced and tossed in oil, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice and then topped with mozzarella cheese.  

I had made enough dough to make a second pizza but seeing as I was dining alone last night (and I managed to restrain myself) I popped the left over dough into a container and into the fridge and there it sits waiting for lunch today...

Homemade pizza and a couple of cold beers is totally the new staying in.   

Saturday 19 May 2012

A Sweet Potato Kind of Day

The weather up here has been horrible, it has been cold and wet and windy and on the few recent days the sun has come out...it has still rained.  I am wearing my winter clothes for the most part and have just realised that the heating bill will definitely be eating into my social money this month.

On the way home from work yesterday I mentally zipped through my meal planner to determine what would be perfect for a Friday night dinner in front of the tv, wrapped up in a number of blankets.  On a Friday we usually make a pizza and settle in for the night, but this week the pizza has been reserved for the big football match Saturday night...so something else needed to jump to the rescue.

Sweet Potato Cakes.

Yotam Ottolenghi's Sweet Potato Cakes are delicious, filling and comforting. Think about it, soft sweet sweet potato mashed up with chili and green onion and then pan fried in blobs until crispy on the outside. A plate piled high with these orange fritters, tangy greek yoghurt herb sauce, a big salad and some fresh homemade flatbreads just screams "it's the weekend" to me.  

The recipe says to steam the sweet potato in large chunks.  I don't have a steamer and I did my best to steam them in about a cm of water in a saucepan...but next time I think I would bake them in their skins in the oven and then scoop out the flesh still leaving it a little bit chunky.  

Friday 18 May 2012

Towering Tray Bakes...an evening with the Edinburgh Cake Ladies

On Wednesday evening 20 excited Edinburgh Cake Ladies descended on one of our most favourite cafes in city, Bon Papillon.  

My second favourite man at Bon Papillon

While we are known as the CAKE Ladies, we have recently been enjoying other bakes...tarts in March and now tray bakes! 

The evening was hosted by the dynamic duo Alison and Michelle, and everything was "like totes perf". Tower after tower of tray bakes piled as high as the eye can see...I didn't know where to start.

First plate of samples

After 2 laps around the table to make my mind up I started with Parkin, Coffee Walnut, Banana Blondie, Maltesers Slice and a Pavlova...it took me a while to make my way through these five "bite sized" cakes.  

In true cake ladies fashion everything ran with a sort-of cakey-military precision...enter, meet, display, photograph, chat, wait, dive in, devour.  I spent the evening chatting to some first timers, including Claire who is setting up a bake club up Fife way, and before we knew it...it was 8:30.  Luckily our fabulous hosts were in no rush to kick us out so we took our time packaging up the leftovers and making plans for future social occasions.  

Sadly, for one Cake Lady it was her last meeting...she is moving back to Canada.  It was in her honour that I made my tray bake...

Canadian Nanaimo Bars from the aptly named New Canadian Basics Cookbook.  These are one of my favourite treats to make to take to a party.  They are really easy (no-bake) and I get to say things like "they are a Canadian delicacy" to everyone who drools over them.  

Yet another lovely eating with the loveliest ladies I know. 

Sunday 13 May 2012

two words...PUDDING CLUB

Do I have your attention?

A few months ago I received a text from a cakey friend in the know alerting me to Edinburgh's next hot supper club...devoted entirely to puddings...3 courses of puddings to be exact.  I didn't even have to think twice about snapping up a spot at the table.  

The big pudding event finally rolled around last night and I couldn't have been more excited.  Unsurprisingly, most of the guests were fellow cake ladies...as if we could stay away from an evening devoted to worshipping sweet delights...so you can imagine how much the room was buzzing with sugary  appreciation.

Hosted by the lovely Wendy, who runs the bespoke catering company Inside Out Chef, we dined on an incredible array of puddings.  Just like a supper club we were welcomed into Wendy's home, unlike a supper club there was not a savoury to be seen!

When Wendy emailed a couple of weeks ago to give us her address and reveal the official menu for the evening she kindly noted that starters would be served at 7:20...helpful to encourage people not to be late, but for those of us who were eager and notably early it was like torture having to wait.  If I am honest I was pretty much ready to go from the moment I woke up. Fortunately everyone was very prompt and after a glass of perfectly sweet pink lemonade we took our seats for the main event.

We started with a trio of shooters of pomegranate and sparkling wine jelly, chocolate mousse and a strawberry topped buttermilk panna cotta.  The portions were seriously generous and while they were all super tasty the buttermilk panna cotta was my favourite of the three.  It was creamy and smooth and the buttermilk lent it a slightly zingy taste...perfect.

The main course consisted of three substantial puddings. First we were presented with individual portions of Sticky Toffee Pudding served with jugs of custard.

Followed by a giant pavlova topped with strawberries, kiwi and passionfruit.  There was one PER TABLE to share out family style.  I know...share.  Obviously the diners who signed up to pudding club love their desserts as much as I do but it is safe to say that our table of 5 was dominated by a number of greedy-guts (moi included).  We didn't have any problem polishing off this huge pavlova (in fact some of us were spotted having a further helping at the end of the night).

The main course was rounded off with a selection of cheesecakes...baked rum and raisin and a no bake blackberry cheesecake.  Both equally as creamy and equally as moorish.

You wouldn't think that there was much space left after 7 portions of pudding...but there was.

A trio of ice creams to round off the meal.  Coconut and Ginger, Keylime Pie, and Red Ripple served with a light little shortbread.  I'll admit to being almost defeated by the time the ice creams rolled around, but managed to try them all.  I loved the ginger one, hands down.

A really lovely evening with great food and excellent company.

As well hosting pudding and supper clubs Wendy can cater afternoon teas and meals in your home and has recently launched her bespoke freezer fills, check out her website for more details (and details of future pudding clubs!).

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Scandi brunch at Peter's Yard

You all know that I've been obsessed with everything scandi the last little while, so you can imagine how excited I was when a fellow scandiphile agreed to meet for my brunch at the über cool Peter's Yard Cafe. I've been for coffee a few times and have drooled over the savoury delights, but hadn't (until now) actually treated myself to anything.  

The place was heaving when we arrived, but after mooching around for a few minutes we managed to snag a couple of seats at the bar by the window.  The atmosphere was very relaxed and, although it is counter service, we felt totally comfortable leaving our jackets on out chairs when we went up to order.  There is a range of breakfast choices, including a bread platter with cheese and jams, as well as porridge...but I went straight for the herring smørbrød with a pot of lovely lemongrass and marigold tea. 

The bread was dense with a great texture and topped with lettuce, a very generous portion of herring, salmon roe and a large dollop of creme fraiche with apples and celery.  I easily could have eaten two..or more!

I think it is safe to say I won't be getting over this obsession any time soon. 

Tuesday 8 May 2012

lovely little madeleines

After sampling a lovely petite violet madeleine at lovecrumbs on Saturday I fell asleep day dreaming of platters piled high with different flavours of these dainty little cakes. (I am not going to get into the cake/cookie debate here...to me they are cakes for no other reason than they get hard as they go stale.) Apologies for the digression...recently I seem to have drifted away from making small cakes in favour of something more substantial, but there is something about these shell shaped delights that brings a smile to my face.  

To (almost) instantly satisfy my craving I whipped up a batch of lemon almond madeleines using a basic recipe my mum sent me when I bought my madeleine tin a few years ago.  

Madeleines really are a doddle, especially if you have a stand mixer.  The toughest bit is waiting patiently for the eggs to whisk up and triple in volume.  My transcribed recipe does not mention letting the batter rest (my fault, I probs copied it off from an email instead of printing it off) which meant that the first batch didn't produce the characteristic bump on the top side of the madeleine...the second batch did since the batter rested for about 25 mins.  Bump or no bump they tasted great.  

Up next...cardamom madeleines, pistachio madeleines and possibly something with ginger...watch this space!

Sunday 6 May 2012

lovecrumbs...the NKOTB

There's a new cake shop in town...

lovecrumbs lovely cake shop officially opens on Monday, but a friend in the cakey know took me along yesterday for their soft launch...what a great marketing word (it is almost lost on me).  Well...it was hardly a soft launch...there was a full selection of cakes, tarts and scones as well as Artisan Roast coffee and looseleaf teas from Anteaques.  

I don't want to call lovecrumbs a cafe...it is really a cake shop, a meeting place to enjoy a good slice with a cup of tea...it is relaxed.  Everything is served on vintagey eclectic crockery, the decor is totally vintage rustic and the display case tops it all off...it is an old wardrobe! (From Harrods in the days gone by).  

lovecrumbs is not just about the aesthetic...the same attention to detail and love has been put into their cakes.  It was really hard to choose where to start, the selection was excellent...chocolate tarts, scones, chocolate layer cake, carrot cake, flapjacks, brownies, madeleines.  I must stress the only problem was where to START.  The friend I went with appreciates a good cake even more than I do and we can easily have 2 courses of cake (and take some home).  I didn't snap any pictures of her cakes...I didn't want to breathe my stuffed up nose germs over them...but I am assured that the fruit scone with homemade jam was excellent as was the carrot cake (which I also ordered to go!). 

Lemon Meringue Tart 

Followed by a Violet Madeleine (to go with my violet tea) 

Take away box containing goodies for home...and something to SHARE with David. 

Carrot cake and totally to.die.for brownie 

I'll be back...in fact it is only a 20 minute stroll from my house so I am destined to become a regular.  I love lovecrumbs already.  

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Cardamom Buns..a scandinavian experimental treat

My obsession with all things scandi have reached the inspiration level. Up until now I have been closely following any recipes I can get my hot little hands on....rye breads, almond cakes, beetroot salads...but yesterday I did something radical and totally out of character...I improvised.  

Right, it isn't like I've never improvised before...I work with children...I improvise hourly...but in my baking? I just have never really felt that comfortable going off piste.  I am going to attribute my new found bravery to the infectious enthusiasm I encountered at the Breadshare Bakery over the weekend.  That and some fabulously inspirational research I sampled there and at Peter's Yard Cafe.  

Inspirational Bun #1

Cardamom Almond Roll from Breadshare

Inspirational Bun #2

Cardamom Bun from Peter's Yard Cafe 

I managed to snaffle these two pretty awesome and totally different cardamom buns over the weekend and just had to try my hands at my own version.  For me there is something warming about cardamom. To me it just screams "out of the ordinary".  I've had a jar of cardamom pods in my cupboard for a while, I can't remember why I bought them originally, so when I decided to embark on my own version of cardamom buns there was no room for excuses. 

Cardamom Bun Trial #1

I did some research and decided to use a basic enriched sweet bread dough recipe and added 1 tsp of ground cardamom.  After the dough rested and rose I divided it into 8 portions, rolled those out into snakes and then twisted them up, rested them again for 20 mins and then gave them a milk glaze with a sprinkling of sugar.  They baked slightly too long but tasted amazing straight from the oven.  

For now...back to the drawing board (stuffing my face all the way)