Saturday, 9 June 2012

The best bread

I have made a few batches of  bread, but it tends to come out chewy. It is ok for spreading with butter and pate or cheese, but not much use for sandwiches.

I finally got round to trying this recipe (seriously, go there and check it out). It makes, without doubt, the best homemade bread I have ever done. In fact, I have made some most weekends since I tried it. It even got the thumbs up from the OH who is usually not bothered by homemade bread.

The rolls are soft and perfect for burgers or filling with tuna, cheese, ham or whatever else you fancy. 

They do come out looking and feeling like they will be crispy but they soften as they cool.

I have made a couple of variations too, the top right in the picture have 50g of sugar and 100g of sultanas added to the mix. Next time I would make the dough with the sugar and add the sultanas in at the end, they got rather squished.

I have done some wholemeal ones too. Nothing complicated here, just switch the flour for wholemeal.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Melton cheese festival

Last weekend was the Melton Artisan Cheese festival. The £1 entry was definitely worth it, about forty vendors, offering tasters of a huge range of cheeses.

After a round of the venue we each picked our favourites, I opted for Coquetdale, a great chedder.

We also picked up some Stichelton (I think that is spelt right), a blue cheese that passed the taste test of an ex stilton maker.

There were a couple of non cheese vendors, some chocolate, UK sourced wine, pork pies, cake and a couple of ciders. This box of cider came home with us. I preferred the sparkling but the OH liked the still.

There was an excellent fruit cake made by Dickinson and Morris (the pork pie people). It is called Melton Hunt cake and is amazing. Unfortunately I can't find a recipe anywhere and didn't pick any up. I will have to find a recipe that looks similar and tweak it.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Candle making

Ages ago we bought the biggest candle you have ever seen from Ikea. I kid you not, this thing was more than a foot across and had seven wicks. Once it had burnt down (and been slightly melted at the side by leaving it too close to the fire) there was a lot of wax left. It seemed like a waste to just bin it.

The giant wax chunk was chopped into chunks. This stuff is suprisingly hard. The process involved a saw and a blow torch, no pictures of this as I am certain it is not a recommended method!

Supplies for remaking the candles came from ebay. I picked up wick cord and a pack of sustainers rather than the premade ones. It was cheaper and you can have the wick any length. You just use pliers to trap the end of the cord in the sustainer.

Plastic candle moulds were a good price so I picked up some of those, I used a couple of old jam jars too. A light spray with olive oil stopped the candles sticking. On reflection wick pins sound like a good idea, getting the wicks to stay straight and centered without them was a bit fiddly. If I make another order I would pick some up.

I weighed the wax chunk and put it to melt.

The wax took FOREVER to melt (ok, obviously not forever but a long time). The easy melt wax beads you can buy seem like a much better idea at this point, but the idea was to use up the leftover wax. It is doable it just takes time.

Once it was melted I added beeswax pellets (ten percent of the weight of the other wax).

Using a jug to melt the wax makes pouring into moulds fairly easy. Some of the wax had a little vanilla fragrance oil stirred in before pouring to make scented candles.

Once cooled the candles were taken out of the moulds and the wicks trimmed.

I did find that as they cooled the candles sunk quite a bit near the wick. Not sure what to do about this. Not a problem for ones being used but they look a little odd so not ideal for gifts. Letting the wax cool a little before pouring might help.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Spring gardening

Last week the seeds went in and onto the windowsill. Two of each thing I am hoping to grow- tomatoes, melons, squash, cucumber.

No signs of growth yet, I think the windowsill may not be warm enough but hopefully they will be ok. Some of the seeds were quite old so that might be the problem.

This weekend it was the turn of outside. Dead plants were removed, raspberries cut back, pots tidied up and plants moved to new locations. It looks much nicer out there now.

One of the mini fruit trees has blossoms and a daffodil and tulip are both in flower at the bottom of the garden, lots of buds and new growth about too. Spring is definitely underway.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


I keep making things, taking photos and then never getting around to blogging them. I am going to try and work through the backlog in the next few weeks and then hopefully the excitement of spring will give new things to blog about.

Starting with my most recent experiment, marmalade.

I had never made marmalade before, but figured it would be a good way to get small jars of shreddless marmalade. I used the Everyday marmalade recipe in Jams and Chutneys by Thane Price as a starting point.

The seville oranges were a bargain at ten for £1 on the market. The recipe uses seven, but I added the juice from the extra three anyway as I didn't want to waste them. A lemon and a couple of sweet oranges went in too.

The fruit was boiled whole for about an hour, until the skin is very soft. The boiling water takes on an orangey colour and smell. Some of the fruit popped open, but only juice seemed to have escaped.

The fruit was taken out and allowed to cool, then the insides scooped out and the peel finely sliced. I only sliced the skins of three seville oranges as some of the marmalade was destined to be shreddless.

I took a detour from the recipe here. The shredded peel was kept to the side and all the rest of the fruit chopped up and put in a jam bag. The bag was hung into the pan of water and simmered for a while until there was about 2 1/2 pints of liquid.

The bag of mushy oranges was taken out and the peel and flesh removed. The bag went back in the pan with just the pips in. Internet knowledge tells me they contain most of the pectin so I figured having them in a little longer would help the set.

Sugar went in next, a mixture of caster, a little ja, sugar and some golden brown suger. A radom combination, but that was what I had in the cupboard. The mix was stirred until the sugar had dissolved, then the marmalade was cooked at rolling boil, testing every 5-10 minutes until a set was reached. It took about 40 minutes, much longer than the book suggests.

Once it had reached setting point the heat was turned off and the bubbly scum on the top skimmed off.

About half the marmalade was put into jars, the rest was left to cool for a further 5 minutes, then had the sliced peel stirred in. The cooling stops the peel floating to the top. Then into jars.

It took a few days to summon up the courage to actually taste it. I was worried it would be far too bitter and totally inedible.

I am pleased to report it tastes right. The set is a bit odd though, not very jelly like, more thick and sticky, still goes well on toast.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Sloe vodka

This should have been posted a few weeks ago. We went on a sloe picking mission to get supplies for sloe gin and vodka.

Something odd was going on with the trees, some had loads of sloes, others had absolutely none, not like they had been already picked but literally not a single sloe to be seen.

This meant we got fewer sloes than in previous years, we came home with about 1lb 6oz of sloes.

The sloes were rinsed and several holes pricked in each one using a blackthorn thorn. This is a long process and best done with something interesting to listen to.

The sloes were put into a jar, then sugar and vodka added (1lb 2oz sloes, 9oz sugar and 1l vodka). It has all been left and will be strained just before Christmas with occasional shaking to make sure all the sugar dissolves. We also made a small batch of sloe gin to give as a Christmas present, using 4oz of sloes, 300ml of gin and 2oz sugar.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Pumpkin cookies

As promised I used the pumpkin scrapings in baking, and returned to show you some pictures.

Most recipes online start with pumpkin puree, so I pinged the bowlful in the microwave for a few minutes then poked at it with the hand blender. I ended up with a lot of puree.

I googled recipes, I thought chocolate would be the best option so went for cookies, adding cocoa to the recipe to make them chocolate chocolate chunk cookies. 

Honestly I am not blown away by them. The mix was very runny, it looked more like cake mix and I debated sticking it in cupcake cases but thought it might not cook through. The biscuits have a somewhat rubbery texture. Not inedible, but not "oh my gosh these are amazing".

They also used very little pumpkin puree, so I still have a huge bowl of it. I am not sure if it is worth baking anything else. I may freeze a few batches for adding to curry sauce.