Monday, 18 August 2014

Honey and Spice Cake by Dan Lepard & Richard Whittington

This recipe came straight our from 'Exceptional Cakes'.  There was some rye flour, as well as wheat flour, three spices and honey, so much to like.  This is the first time I have grated fresh ginger and just added the juice...

The recipe says use a heavy duty electric mixer, so I used the Kitchen Aid a gift from Vickie, but could not see why, except that you have to keep it running for 2.5 minutes twice.  The amount of mixture was so small that I turned it all into another bowl and used my hand held Kenwood mixer which I have had for over twenty years!  This worked much better.

The cake is very light, delicate in texture, and packs a lot of flavours...I think I slightly overcooked it.  It continues to cook as you leave it to cool completely in the tin before unmoulding, and it shrinks away from the sides of the tin further on cooling...but then it is a very delicate balance and I do not like any hint at raw bits in the middle.  On balance it was probably almost perfect.  Although the texture looks more airy toward the tops this was just against the tin, and the cut slice showed no variations.  Mr S was perfectly happy to have a slice instead of pudding over the weekend!

Pecan Butter Biscuits

On Friday I made biscuits.  I had just gone through my stash of nuts, and realised I had a large packet of one of my favourites: Pecan Nuts, which I wanted to use. From one of my books which I have not really used at all;  Exceptional Cakes by Dan Lepard and Richard Whittington, I found Pecan Butter Cookies.  Reading through the recipe, I thought it was fairly low on sugar:  350g plain flour, 300g butter, and only 60g sugar.  I scanned the internet for errata, or for anyone else who had made these but nothing came up.

I then turned to Short and Sweet, and again using the useful index from Pecan Nuts arrived at the Orange almond butter biscuits.  I made half the quantity with his suggestion of substituting pecans for the almonds.  I made then 20g each, but as they are fairly rich, well very rich and tasty and more the petitfour type of nibble to go with after dinner coffee, two needed...I would make then 15g each next time.

I love these and the orange zest works well too.  I think this would be a great treat to take to dinner at friends, or for Christmas.  I love the tossing in icing sugar as they cooled..a bit messy, but hey no one was looking!  And it was a reason to wash down everything on the counter afterwards.

New Succulents from the Shrewsbury Show

The Kenilworth Horticultural Society had organised a trip to the Shrewsbury Show, and this time Hubby came with me.  I don't often go on outings but this time members of the Committee had turned out to support our outings secretary who goes to great efforts to organise trips which the members would enjoy.

I didn't know quite what to expect.  The large tent with growers was spectacular, with exhibits of herbaceaous plants, gladioli, fuchias etc.  My eye was drawn to the succulent growers.  At first I thought there was just the one, but I think there were three.  The first one I came to had a magnificent bowl of Faucaria Tigrina,

but non for sale, so I bought the very similar Faucaria Bosscheana, which I noticed this morning has just come into flower.  Here I have re potted it.  It is actually in a smaller spot, burried in the stones to give it space to show itself off.

Later I found at another stall the Faucaria Tigrina, so got that too.  I call it Tiger Jaws.  The spikes are soft not prickly, so fine for me.  I just can't get on with cacti with thorns etc!  Reminds me of when I fell in a large thorny cactus in Mauritius when I was little!

Another few to add to my collection was Scilla Nervosa, well that is what it said on the label, but I am not sure of the name.  It is very small, succulent like, with purple skin on its bulbs. It does not look like the other pictures I have found on the internet.

Pachphytum Oviferum, a bit bruised after its journey!

Haworthia Tessellata,  which I loved on account of the patterning on the leaves.

Crassula Plegmatoides v Arta,  with oscularia deltoides in the background.  This will have pink flowers in good time.

I find these succulents so interesting, and with south facing windows and a conservatory this carries through my gardening through the winter months.

Another little purchase was the grass Halonecholoa Macra Albo Striata.  Again I was looking for a slightly different plant the golden grass.  I shall keep it growing in a pot, down in the shady part of the garden along with my ferns and bamboo.

The flower displays were beautiful and there were some interesting little modern touches...

This one has wool wound round canes, so of course I was interested in this!

I seem to going through my grumpy old woman phase again...I feel that these shows are getting a little too big for their boots, or else I get as much from more local, smaller shows.  It was fairly expensive to get it, and especially when I think there was one of us who went just for the ride.  Yes they were lots of other things to do, with bands playing, dog displays etc.  I thought there would have been many more gardening type stalls outside, rather than being just  'general' merchants of this and that.  If I pay good money to go to a Show  I expect more than that.  Also I feel that the food stalls were on the poor side, so it will be packed lunches next time we go!

What I did like was being able to speak to a few plant specialists.....and finding out the correct name for one of the succulents I have had for many years now:  Cotyledon Orbicularia

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Cherry and Polenta Pudding

When Vicki called this morning I mentioned the dessert I made yesterday.  We have been without dessert for some time now..a real desert that is, not just fruit or yogurt!

I've been reading through the recipes in Short & Sweet, so had a few ideas in my head, so when I wondered what to do with a very large bag of cherries I quickly made up my mind.  I had bought the cherries last week to send back for Matthew on Friday but I had missed putting them by the front door, so they got forgotten in the kitchen until too late!

I would really recommend this as a great summer treat.  The recipe is available on line too from the Guardian.  What I like about this book is the way that ingredients are listed in the Index.  Even if you don't know what you want to make, and have some ingredients you want to use, its easy to find the recipes which include it.

This is the mixture before the surface almonds were added.  Next time I would reduce the sugar to 150g in the mixture, and add 50g demerara sugar after the almonds.

 Dan just says butter and flour the inside of the cake tin. I lined the bottom on my springform tin with baking parchment, which I think is an absolute must, if you don't wish to scratch the bottom on the tin with your serving knife, and it also makes it easy to move the 'tart' to a serving dish.

As there were about twice the amount of cherries, I cooked the whole lot, pitted first, and used some of my garden plum cheese, as I had no cherry jam, and then some alcohol other than grappa.  Half the cherries went into the cake, the other half to serve alongside.

Brioche bread and stitches

These little 'brioches' I made a couple of weeks ago, made mainly with pumpkin puree and just one egg and 50g of butter.  I made these in readiness for Veronica and Izzi coming to stay.  So these are breakfast buns with dried red fruits, baked in some lovely sturdy brioche tins which my sister Lizzie bought for me a few years ago.  The buns were a little on the large size, so will make 12 rather than 11 next time.  They freeze really well, so I keep them as a treat for Sunday breakfasts.  I added some Mace Spice and some of the Arome de Panettone from Bakery Bits.  I only call these brioches because they are in the brioche tins!  They are as light as brioches, and a healthier alternative perhaps.

 I like 'Associations', so when I had the opportunity to learn how to do 'brioche' stitch, you can guess, I just had to try.  It is such a complete departure from my usual very light and lacy scarves.  The fabric looks remarkably 'simple', but like a brioche bun with its fat and sugar and eggs, this stitch is complex and has far more behind it than what a first glance affords.  Also the colour of yarn I chose was almost 'pumpkin' which is why I posted this together with my pumkin brioches.  The weight is Aran, which is quite thick, and this one is Wool and Alpaca, so guaranteed to be really soft, cosy and warm.  I think it would suit either a woman or a man.  Maybe a scarf to share?

Here is my dilemma...I have too many scarves already, and I would like it to go to a good home.  I tentatively asked my daughter in law if she or my son may like it, but no.  I feel that if I ask any friends face to face, they may say yes so as not to hurt my feelings, but not really want it.  So I am offering this to a person, any person who would really like this, wear it, and enjoy it.  So if you would like it or know anyone who would like it, ask them to look at this, and decide.  I'd like to know why you want it.

Whilst I was knitting it, I thought of the patterns in fields of wheat, so maybe a farmer would like this, or even a miller.  I thought of the patterns in Japanese gardens, so maybe there is a gardener out there who needs keeping warm when doing their gardening in the depth of winter.  I thought of the patterns of mazes, I thought of the pattern left in the sand by receding waves, and thought of DaisyDebs whose blog I have enjoyed reading.

Don't be shy in 'claiming' the scarf.  It will be posted out when I have found the right recipient.