Sunday 26 August 2012

A Royal Vicky Sponge

At the beginning of the summer I spied a gorgeous Earl Grey Victoria Sponge in the wardrobe over at lovecrumbs.  It looked awesome and I immediately fell in love with the idea of baking with tea.  That was ages ago...this weekend I finally got around to doing something about it.  

I rarely bake sandwich cakes.  I am not sure if I shy away from sandwich cakes because I don't own two tins of the same size, or because I don't really like making buttercream, or because I only have one shelf in my oven.  Whatever the deep down reason is I managed to expel it from my mind on Friday night while I rustled up this beauty.  

To start I infused some milk with Fortnum and Masons Royal Blend Tea and then got down to the business of the sponge.  I used Mary Berry's Victoria Sponge recipe from her Baking Bible (copied out by hand from the copy at the Lakeland store I used to work in) and which I have also found online.  Instead of vanilla and regular milk I added about 2 tbsp of the infused milk into the sponge batter at the end.  

The cakes were baked one after the other due to the lack of same sized tins and an extra oven shelf. Once cooled I filled the sandwich Tiptree Victoria Plum Jam and a buttercream flavoured with the infused tea.

Unlike Earl Grey, Royal Blend does not have a very distinct flavour.  I liked the idea of using a tea blended for King Edward VII in a cake named for his mother, Queen Victoria (I'm geeky like that), but the tea flavour just wasn't strong enough.  

Tea flavour or not I'm happily devouring it...

Tuesday 21 August 2012

The forgotten jar....Tahini

I have a jar of tahini in my is waaaaaaay at the back of the top shelf, behind some curry pastes and tom yum paste and a couple of different sits there unused, forgotten.  Every once and a while I remember about it and wrack my brain for ways to use it up.  It was pretty expensive considering I have probably used one tablespoon maximum from it in the last however many months it has been since I bought it.  I don't even remember what I bought it is just there.  

I hadn't planned on using it in last night's Asian inspired supper...but as I was waiting for the water to boil to cook my soba noodles (I know...get me) I spied the recipe on the back of the package for a miso tahini dressing...ah ha! I didn't have miso but I sure had some tahini...and an idea.  

I loved this dinner the moment I started daydreaming about it on the bus...soba noodles tossed in some sort of asian dressing with shavings of a soft cabbage, red endive and spring onions...piled high on a plate and served cool-ish.  The cabbage and endive part came from an Asian slaw my aunt made while I was visiting her...with napa cabbage and radicchio...perfect for mixing with buckwheat noodles.  The dressing was the component with the most potential of letting me down...the part that would either bring it all together or have me ordering a pizza.  

Brown sugar, soya sauce, lime, oil, tahini and a pressed garlic clove...easy. 

Friday 17 August 2012

Scandilicious Baking...Spiced Blueberry Buns

It seems like it was months ago when I pre-ordered Scandilicious Baking by the lovely Signe Johansen.   If you have been following my scandi mad posts over the last 9 months you will appreciate how excited I was for this new Scandinavian baking book to be released.  What I did not anticipate was how long I was going to have to wait for it to be delivered, how it wasn't delivered on the release date, how I had to wait even longer than necessary because I was on holiday when the post office attempted first delivery, how I would only be able to collect it the day before my trip to Canada, how I was not going to leave it in Edinburgh so hauled it across the ocean with me...What I did anticipate, however, was how much I was going to love Scandilicious Baking.  

Recipes for Musli Bread, Pumpkin, cheese and sage muffins, Cardamom almond twists, Greengage and elderflower muffins and an Upside-down blueberry and elderflower cake have made me positively giddy.  In Canada I only managed one bake from my new book (there were so many other things to make), a Toscakaka Cake for a family meal at my Aunt Sandi's house.  The cake was a deliciously moist sponge covered in an Almond Praline, it was salty and sweet and oh so yummy (and perfect with Skor/Daim bar ice cream).  

I've been back in Edinburgh for a week now and although I have been itching to bake every day I managed to hold off until yesterday.  I realise that might seem a bit cruel, but I wanted to make something for the weekend, something to last a few days.  

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I could happily make and devour every recipe in this book.  In fact I am mentally planning which recipes to make for which upcoming occasions.  The hardest choice really was what to make first (well second...but first here at home).  I knew I wanted to make something with berries since Scotland is finally enjoying summer weather...and I kinda knew I was leaning towards blueberries.  

In the end it was the recipe for Spiced Blueberry Buns that won out.  Described as being inspired by Eccles Cakes these are gorgeous little pockets bursting with flavour.  Instead of the pastry casing of an Eccles Cake they are made with a cardamom dough, and then smeared with cinnamon sugar butter and filled with blueberries.  I used a combination of stoneground spelt and plain wheat flour for my dough, leaving it with a slightly wholegrain texture.  

I was in a bit of a rush, having woken up late and had arranged to meet a friend in the afternoon to take in some of the Fringe so I know that I didn't let the buns prove enough before whacking them into the oven...but I was banking on the fact that spelt tends to rise faster and it was blooming hot in the kitchen yesterday. I poked them, the indent remained and so into the oven they went.  

They taste amazing.  Even David, who hasn't been very enthusiastic about cardamom, devoured his bun.  Some of have been frozen and the rest are sitting on the counter taunting me....must....not....devour....

Wednesday 15 August 2012

it's the little in the mall

In North America a good mall is a status symbol.  The better the mall...the bigger the names...the more people will come and spend their seemingly endless supply of disposable income.  When I was growing up in Toronto there were 2 main malls...the Eaton Centre downtown and Yorkdale uptown.  There were, of course, other smaller malls....many of which have grown into major malls in their own rights over the last decade or so...but for me the 2 big ones are the 2 main ones.  

During my short visit to Toronto my mum wanted to stop by the ever expanding Yorkdale to check out a few stores and to wander around "the new section" consisting of stores you have to provide evidence of your bank balance to enter...we were simply window shopping.  The day we planned to go we were up early so thought we'd venture over and put my mum's Starbucks gift card to good use before the shops opened. 

Only when we got there we found out that the Starbucks was actually IN the bookstore and therefore not open until the store was...onto plan B.  

The food court. 

Three words that just scream fast food, squealing teenagers and poor choice.  Not here. The Yorkdale food court has had a is no longer called The Food Court, it is called Dine On 3...posh.  There is still the same fast food element selection but there are also a handful of sit down places, and...the gem...on it's own illy coffee shop.  

Epressamente was exactly what we were looking for to pass the 45 mins or so we had until the shops opened.  The cafe is separate from the food court and has its own seating area, and although it wasn't busy at 8:30 in the morning it was a nice escape from the mall...secluded, sedate.  

The coffee is illy so you know it is going to be good.  My coffee of choice, of late, has been a flat white but seeing as the Aussie style hasn't made it across to North America yet, I settled for a latte...but I knew it was going to be more coffee than steamed milk.  

The breakfast special...a latte, cappuccino, or espresso with a pastry for $4.50 is a bargain considering a coffee alone is $4.00!! I know...$4.00 for a coffee, albeit a fine coffee.  The breakfast special was great, a huge selection of pastries to choose from and a really good coffee.  I savoured my raspberry scroll and latte equally and my mum enjoyed her regular croissant and cappuccino while we peered through the glass and watched the people below.  

An excellent coffee at the mall.  

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Afternoon Tea at the Pommery pop up

Last year, by the time I got use the huge influx of people into Edinburgh for the Fringe I had missed out on my chance to go for afternoon tea at the Pommery Champagne Bar.  Last year was my first year as a resident of Edinburgh and I have to admit I found the whole swell of tourists thing overwhelming.  This year...I am prepared for the crowds and noise and slow moving pedestrian traffic.  This year I know the short cuts to where I want to be...and...well I don't actually feel like I HAVE to be out there in the middle of everything.  This year Afternoon Tea at the Pommery must happen.  

This pop up Champagne Bar is open for 3 weeks in the Signet Library on the Royal Mile.  There is a gigantic advertising banner hanging on the building so you can't really miss it, but once inside it feels like you are miles away from the hustle and bustle of the main drag.  

I met some cakey friends for a catch up over Champagne and Afternoon Tea.  I had envisioned tables nestled amongst stacks of books with very little light...the only private library I've previously been too was at the Linnean Society while they were I was pleasantly surprised when I saw just how big the Signet Library is.

We spent a pleasant 2.5 hours chatting about this and that...catching up on vacation happenings and Fringe gossip and, of course, oohing and ahhhing over the food.  The sandwiches were substantial and a great mix of veggie, fish and meat.  The scones were cinnamon, and while the cream wasn't clotted cream I was happy for something slightly lighter this time around (shocking I know).  The cakes and pastries were plentiful and perfectly 2-bite sized.  Brownies, Banana Cake, Caramel Slices, Coconut Blackberry Squares and Phyllo Cream Fruit Tarts.  The service was attentive with offers of fresh tea and coffee, and pitchers of water.

If the Pommery Bar was open all year round it would quickly become a favourite haunt of mine, seeing as it is only open for 3 weeks this year makes it extra special...a summer treat.  

Monday 13 August 2012

it's the little things...buttermilk scones

Leftover buttermilk means only one thing in my mind...scones.  Sure sure there are loads of great things that can be made with buttermilk but, for me, scones...or maybe muffins at a push, are a thrifty way to use up leftover buttermilk...they freeze great.  

When visiting my parents, my mum bought me some buttermilk (only available in 1 litre containers) to make a cake for my aunt...the recipe called for something like 70ml of we had loads left over.  One great thing about buttermilk is that it can last for a while in the fridge so we weren't in much of a rush to use it up immediately.  After days of rearranging the fridge to fit everything in the HUGE buttermilk container was driving me nuts! I had to do something.  

While my mum prepared dinner I whipped up two batches of scones...cranberry and lemon and cheddar cheese.  The basic recipe I used is my go-to recipe from The New Canadian Basics Cookbook, to which I chucked in some dried cranberries and lemon rind...and some grated Canadian cheddar.  The recipe doesn't call for buttermilk...I just substituted it for the whole milk, but I think it adds something a little bit extra (I love a little zzzzing).  

I could easily eat scones for breakfast, lunch and snacks...oh ok maybe for dinner too.  I especially love how well they transport...perfect for lunch boxes and picnics...and hikes! 

The next day I went to Algonquin Park with my mum and dad for a day of exploring the Canadian wilderness.  We packed a picnic, including a selection of scones, and I took the opportunity of taking a snap for my friend Sophia's website.  Cranberry and Lemon Scone with a view...Algonquin Park and Lake of Two Rivers. 

Sunday 12 August 2012

It's the little things....homesmoked ribs

My uncle has a a proper outdoor smoker for smoking meat.  While I was visiting my parents he arranged for the fam to get together for a smoke was awesome.

As an extra he made these Atomic Buffalo Turds (ATPs).  I could have easily eaten the whole plate of them...jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon....smoked to perfection.  

The main event was, of course, the ribs.  Smoked with applewood chips...they were to.die.for.  Accompanied with the ATPs, pasta salad, caesar salad and mini corn breads this was the ultimate in BBQ meals.  

And to round it all aunt made pecan pie....I know....I'm lucky.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

It's the little things...road trip to Rosseau

There are some really cute itty bitty towns within a reasonable drive of my parents' new house.  Last week we took advantage of a slightly overcast day (can't waste beach time) to visit the small town of Rosseau on the northern edge of Lake Rosseau.  This town is small...but since it is the only town around for miles it is pretty happening. 

We wandered around visiting the general store, antique shop, a couple of gift shops and 2 bakeries (one had completely sold out of butter tarts...but offered to put us on the special order list for the next day).  We stopped for lunch at Crossroads Pub and Grill where I enjoyed a gigantic slice of Julie's Famous Carrot Cake...complete with maple syrup drizzle.