Monday, 30 March 2015

Apple Buns

What do you do or plan to do when you know its going to be raining all day Sunday, and you have a poorly person at home?  I can think of various options: knitting, watching Smiley's people  back to back, and baking bread, and ironing.....

I managed all of these...well the last three episodes of Smiley's people on Sunday, as we had watched three on Saturday!

With only five more buns in my list of catch ups, I selected the Apple Buns from The Book of Buns.  I read and reread the recipe after I started the predough with 25g of flour and 125g water.  It felt like I was about to make some very thin flour glue, so I knew there was something wrong.  Also later on in the recipe the predough was being used twice!  I went with my instinct and trawled the internet for a solution.  There were comments on the facebook page I was following regarding some errors, but with little Huddle it was not easy to find the original comments and corrections.  However thanks to 'A Shaggy Dough Story' Blog, I found the solution.  It should be 125g flour and 125g water.

For a bit of 'aromatherapy' I cooked up the apple stuffing Saturday evening.  In the end I decided to leave on the lovely apple skin.  When cooled the sugar, butter and spices made a lovely  coating.  It was fun shaping, stuffing, and encapsulating the apple in the soft dough, in a sort a masochistic sort of way that is.  After leaving my 16 portions to rest, I realised that the dough was not smooth enough, so made them all into loose balls as detailed with good pictures at the beginning of the book.  Then I started again with the stretching into rounds and stuffing the balls.

When I thought they were sufficiently risen, they went into the oven, with a gentle lick of the pastry brush laden with glaze, and a light sprinkling of cinnamon.  Mr S is now 'converted' into liking this level of cinnamon, it is so well balanced with the other flavours.

As we looked forward to tea, we were debating when this would be, as this was the day the clocks changed.  Would three o'clock be too early, well its really four in 'old time', so we compromised:  three thirty or thereabout.   With a mug of tea, and a slow enjoyment, the flavour is gentle, subtle, but builds well.  The dough is soft and smooth.  We really did have only one each:  elegant sufficiency as Aunty Prue would say.  I can just see repeat batches with different fillings.....


Thursday, 26 March 2015


These buns I read, are the snack of choice of the Uruguayan Police Force.  I'm still catching up with back bakes from The Book of Buns.

Again I mismanaged my day and got in a 'pickle'.  Well I was doing the washing, painting a wooden bench, administering to the sick, shopping on my bike etc etc.

With Mr S at home the timetable was a bit Topsy Turvey.  Imagine this, the dough was shaped too late, so I put the stuffed buns in the fridge as I had to go out to a committee meeting, which I had forgotten about, and when I got back, they seemed to be set very firm.  So I left them in the conservatory overnight!  I almost thought that they would have to be thrown out this morning uncooked!

This morning I coerced them back to life, using the grill space above the oven as a warming drawer, but alternating the two trays to avoid overheating. I could see that they had come back to life, and whilst I was washing up etc., baked them ready to have a couple for our breakfast.

I stuffed 10 buns with my homemade blackcurrant jam, and the other 10 with my fresh fig and sherry conserve.....

How should I describe them:  delicious buns ready filled with jam, a sort of 'Danish Pastry' without all the butter, light and tasty, a nice little morsel to have with coffee.  Have frozen a few again, so as not to have too many to eat, to keep and to savour them at a later date.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Weekend Away with visits to Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Only a week before I saw that a blogging friend had been invited to paticipate in a Print Maker's Event at the Hepworth Wakefiled Gallery, and despite Mr S being rather poorly, we headed up North.

After parking up we made our way to the Gallery, to meet up with Heather and Gary of Little Ram Studio Fame.  I know how Heather loves her garden, and as if visiting a friend, I did not want to go with 'les bras ballant', so took some of my  wild pink primrose plants which are in full bloom.

It was great to meet them...and after lunch we went back again.

It was great to see their work.  The colours are rich, and the linocuts are strong, and the right size to have framed up on walls...I was really chuffed when Mr S suggested the living room for my new print.  I thought it would have been hung up in the Study.  As I have another blogging friend on my mind, it was not surprising that I chose the one called 'Daisy'.  I've had a look at Etsy and I think I shall have to keep some in mind for birthday presents.

After a little walk round the Hepworth, I knew I wanted an indepth view of some of the items, and found a great seat with a view of the river to plant Mr S down, to rest.  He was fairly poorly at this stage...but he loves old buildings more than 'modern art'.

later a close up look showed that although this is a thing of great beauty, little care is given to it, and from the dust and debris by the door, I wonder when last it was opened.  I've overexposed this on purpose as the building is so very dirty, and this shows up the detail of the carvings.

I loved the Lynda Benglis sculptures, large fanned metal pieces with the look of folded silk....

The exhibition:  British Scultors as Printmakers was really well set out,  I loved this one called Danse du Soleil by Stanley Hayter.  I'm sorry that I did not have the right light setting for this one...

I loved the large well lit space, which gave room to walk around the exhibits

The following day we set off for home, but Mr S being sweetness and kindness, agreed to stop off at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  It was from there I had sourced my Angie Lewin Mugs for my birrthday present.

In the grounds there was a Camellia House, and some large specimens were in full flower.

We enjoyed walking in the sunshine, but again I found a sunny sheltered spot for the man to rest just above the underground gallery, where there was a fabulous exhibition of some of Henry Moore's sculptures and other works called Back to the Land, but no photography there was permitted.

 I had started to wonder whether Moore did not do hands and feet as he found them difficult, but just seeing some of his detailed sketches of these, made me throw that thought right out.  There were some impressive works dotted around the wonderful landscape...Hepworth of course

Henry Moore...I had not realised that he also designed textiles, and I have just looked some up, and lots of oos and aaws escaped my lips!

Marialuisa Tadei, I took this one for my art teacher who also has mosaics as one of her mediums

Anthony Caro

and Sophie Ryder which Izzi would have loved

All in all a great and inspiring weekend away.  I was so pleased to also meet up with blogging friends.  Mr S is now tucked up trying to recover from this dreadful virus.

Growing Amaryllis

We met up yesterday for our 'advanced knitters' group, this time at Katherine's place.  Her garden was beautiful, and she had taken on the subliminal suggestion for Coffee and Walnut cake.  With a great DVD giving us a master class on Fair Isle Knitting, it was a perfect morning.

Someone mentioned the topic of growing amaryllis so we have various discussions.  The main one being how tall they can grow.  They do need as much bright light as possible.  Even with that sometimes, well very much so in my case, you have to make a support of canes.

I bought this white one called Matterhorn from the local market a few weeks ago, and have kept it well watered.  It has three flower spikes, so it will have flowers for several weeks.  The flowers are also too large for the stem to support.

At Christmas I bought Izzi one to grow for herself, and she was really proud of it.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Pink Grapefruit Marmalade

This is the second marmalade made this year, with Lime being the first.  The lime marmalade didn't have a very good set so I had to be a little more careful this time.  I realised that I had probably used too much water.

If you cook the fruit in a pressure cooker first, you really need to use half the water given in the recipe for standard boiling.  It saves a lot of time, and there is much less steam in the kitchen, so I really favour the pressure cooker method, even though I do transfer the prepared fruit to my jamming pan where it is boiled up with the sugar.  If you are making a small amount with less than 1Kg of sugar, and do not have a jamming pan, it is fine to carry out the last stage in the large pressure cooker.

I had bought these lovely fresh firm grapefruits a couple of days before.  I had meant to have them for breakfast.  However I had one thing on my mind, and that is the forthcoming Kenilworth Horticultural Club April Show.  We had moved the Marmalade Competition from the September Slot.  My argument is that all the lovely fresh citrus fruit are available early in the year, and later in the year we are all busy making jams and chutneys, and also getting our plants, fruit, flowers and vegetables ready for exhibiting.  We'll see how it goes, there were some disgruntled voices.

As a committee member I really want to contribute and know that my lime is not really good enough, though I shall put a pot in 'to swell the numbers', but I wanted a better pot of marmalade to match up against other excellent preserve makers in the club.This is how the idea of the Pink Grapefruit Marmalade popped up in my mind.  The ingredients were staring me in the eye.  Having consulted my books and records, I found that it is about three years since I last made some.

Once cut up, I could see that the grapefruit were fresh, very juice without too much pith

often I cook the peel then slice, but this time I sliced first

the flesh was juiced up in the processor along with the lemons, but all the pips were first removed then tied in some muslin to extract the maximum amount of pectin during the cooking.  If you let the skins steep in the water and juice for at least a couple of hours before you start to boil, you get a softer result.  Sometimes I even leave it overnight.  This time I just got on with it, as I wanted to finish the process completely before getting on with some baking.

In record time I had the marmalade potted, the kitchen cleared, the labels printed and everything tidied up...

I am yet to taste it, and it is yet to be judged!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015


When I decided to catch up on my back list of bakes, the recipe from Jane Mason's book caught my eye.  Its nearly two years since our holiday to Norway, and I remember very well having a break in a beautiful traditional house in Stavenger where we had coffee and a delicious yeasted treat.

I have just read that these are called Norwegian Custard Buns, and have found pictures and recipes for these, so will have to try them soon.

Skillingsboller, boller is Norwegian for bun, is a little different both in construction and flavourings.  As it was Sunday and I was determined not to go to the shops, I realised that I would even have to make my own flaked almonds from whole almonds with skins on.  Its a little fiddly, and next time I make these I would definitely have some flaked almonds in the cupboard ready.

By creaming up the sugar, spices and butter with the hand mixer till soft and fluffy, it made it much easier to spread the mixture on the dough which at 60 x 30 cm took up a fair proportion of my kneading surface.  Mr S normally does not like cinnamon, but I do, and for the sake of the challenge did not want to substitute this for something else on this occasion.

Because you roll up the dough from the narrow end, you end up with lots of swirls...

After the last rest, they were brushed with glaze and had sugar nibs liberally sprinkled on top.  The two small ones are the ends of the long roll trimmed off...which being smaller, cool much faster, and are the baker's treat!

By this time with the drear weather outside, and the warm spicy smells in the house, tea time was being looked forward to.

I just had to have my weekly cup of tea...with this beauty.

And Mr S pronounced it delicious even after I confirmed there was cinnamon in the bun.  I think it is the balance with the cardamom in the dough, and the toasted almonds together with the slow rise, which make these buns a really delicious tea time treat.  I took one round for my friend Lita, who turned down coming round for after noon tea with us, as she was busy filling out job applications.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Last full day in Amsterdam

We were really getting used to the City Layout, the tram routes, where to walk, etc.  So on this day we headed for a couple of smaller Museums in the city.

We stopped off and had a walk through 'New Side' of the Medieval City, aiming for the Begijnhof, where the lay Catholic sisterhood sought sanctuary.  There are pretty houses around a calm green, which came with some early snowdrops and daffodils.

We then walked along the floating flower market and headed to our first Museum of the day: Museum Willet-Holthuysen.  It is fully furnished, and gives a great idea of life for a wealthy couple during 19th Century...just loved the pattern on the velvet settee

 Next stop was the Museum of Bags and Purses.  Vicki is a very high end handbag lover and has several, and I think she could not quite believe it when I said I was a one handbag lady!  This museum is a real gem.  They have some very early ones, and many of the top designers from the 20th and 21st century.  However for my knitting friends, and for those who knit with is a special kit

Afterwards we headed for the Hortus Bonaticus, but it was as if asleep ready to spring into life.  The glasshouses with their warm and humid atmosphere, felt like being back in Mauritius looking at the plants I grew up with.

However before we reached there, we stopped at a little pub which had been making this wonderful soup for nearly 50 years.  We were served by the daughter, the father made the soup, and the mother the excellent spiced apple pie.

This soup is made with dried green peas is just the thing for a cold day, and we certainly walked a lot...12.5 Km according to Vicki's gizmo and laptop!  Another soup which Vicki had during the holiday was mustard soup, so that will be another one to try.

I made a very large pot of this at the weekend, with dried peas, onion, celery, celeriac, carrots, smoked ham, pork, and smoked pork sausage.  So there is now plenty in the freezer ready to bring out for quick weekend lunches.

For our last evening meal, Vicki found us a place where we had couscous...

These were several days holidaying together with plenty of exploring and lovely art and architecture.  Thanks again to Vicki.

Beyond Amsterdam, a day trip to Harlem

I had thought the train travel was included in the ticket since two museums were shown on the back of the Iamsterdam map.  The train fare was fine, and we boarded the top of the double decker train.  We had great views and I loved the little 'village' of summer houses with small gardens where the city dwellers must escape to.  Harlem was a delight.  I felt so comfortable there.  Its only a short walk from the station to the old town.

There was this charming statue in the coutyard of 'sheltered housing scheme'.

The main square was magnificent.  We just had to stop and sit in the sun at a cafe.  We later saw a painting from the almost this same view, from the 17th or 18th century.

Sadly we arrived too late for a visit of the Cathedral which closes at 16:30.  

Before lunch we had made a bee line for the Teylers Museum.  Its round foyer lead to exhibition spaces

in the Exhibition gallery they had on a special water colour exhition..with a few delightful subjects a nice wooly one after my own heart.  This painting called Herder with Sheep is by Anton Rudolf Mauve.  He grew up in Harlem and I have since learnt that he was a great influence on the early Van Gogh.
High up on the wall of Painting Gallery II this charming daisy picture took my fancy.

In and around the old part of Harlem there are small streets with virtually no traffic, where the houses give straight onto the road, but non the less you cannot tame some gardeners

We had lunch in an old 'pub', which served a large selection of beers chalked up

There was a charming tilting bridge not far from Teylers Museum

After lunch we walked around the old part aiming for the Frans Hals Museum.  I could have spent a full day just here... here is a section of a large painting with a bread 'bucket'

and here a lady is making lace, whilst waiting for her customers to come for bread, having sounded the horn to announce that the bread was out of the oven.  In 1670 the bread looks not dissimilar from what I now bake!

This breakfast painting with explanation, alongside the audio guide is just one of the delights of this museum.

Outside on our way back I admired some pretty flowers outside a florist shop