Saturday, 17 April 2010

Scot-ter-land, shortbread and my first soufflé

I spent a right Royal few days in Edinburgh with my Ma last weekend on our second sleeper train adventure. We we wandered along the Royal Mile, peered with curiosity and wonder at plants in the Royal Botanic Gardens and went aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia where we were surprised by the Queen's taste in interior design and perplexed as to why her and Duke-y have separate beds.
I like the unassuming flowers best

Edinburgh was full of tourist tat shops crammed with tartan paraphernalia, bagpipes and knitwear. But Mum, on her best behaviour, spared me a trip to Edinburgh Woolen Mill's flagship store - phew.
Toot shop in Edinburgh
A good pun at least

So, since I didn't get my self a new sporran, I baked some shortbread to commemorate our little excursion. This was a perfect opportunity to I test out the new electric whisk my grandma gave me. Mechanised baking equipment feels like an industrial kind of progress. Perhaps I really will be selling biscuits on the pavement just as children sell lemonade from their front gardens in the movies come summer! Butter and sugar from zero to pale and fluffy in under 60 seconds...
new whizzer!
watch out woman with baking abilities and a new whizzer in the kitchen!

I baked shortbread using the recipe from my trusty Best-kept Secrets of the W.I book. I got a bit worried when after I added all the flour and cornflour the mix looked like breadcrumbs rather than dough. But once I had pressed the mix into a tray and baked the result was... pretty alright! After thinking about it, the 'short' bit of the word shortbread is old-fashioned baking-speak for crumbly so that explains it (go etymology go!). I only regret not poking it with a fork with a bit more conviction to make those authentic little holes.
shortbread jenga?
Shortbread Jenga anyone?

For dinner, with only broccoli, eggs and cheese in the fridge I was going to make an unenterprising omelette but the electric whisk enticed me into trying my hand at a soufflé. Can't be that tricky can it? I found this recipe for cheese and broccoli soufflé and off I went.
my first souffle
Guess what? It soon went fl-oo-mph. Soufflail. Better luck next time.

Also, not being keen on salad in winter because its cold and lacking in calorific content, I made my first salad of the year today. Sadly lacking in tomatoes but a tasty mix of leaves, cucumber, olives, feta, sautéed potatoes and dressing nonetheless.
First salad of 2010
Greco-Irish salad inspired by my mother's love of the potato

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Not so 'one a penny' Spiced Stout Buns

Hot cross buns are one of my favourite seasonal foodstuffs so when I came across Dan Lepard's recipe for Spiced Stout Buns - hot cross buns with the addition of Guinness and tea - I couldn't wait to try them out. Please note: I am convinced that the stout adds a certain 'depth of flavour' (it isn't just that I revel in baking with booze). After reading the recipe over a few times I realised I would have to start mixing up the dough the night I arrived home to Petersfield from the 'fine city' so the buns would be ready in time for Good Friday "keep your nose tidy" breakfast with the family.

Shaped dough ready for the final prove, too many raisins?

Peel does not appeal to me (or Dad) so I used apricots instead. That seemed like a good idea except that finely chopping dried apricots is a beyond sticky process. I'm not sure if I would do that again. Something I do enjoy though is the thrill of watching bread dough bubble. Waiting for dough to prove leaves you with delightful amounts lots purposeful yet idle time. Whilst I was kneading, waiting, kneading and waiting Dad 'fed' the rhubarb with compost our heap.

This week rhubarb plants are mainly eating worms and egg shells.

As things got messier I enlisted the help of my favourite Norwich fan and little brother. Thanks Bob for preparing the baking tray whilst I was covered in dough and sorting out some music to bake by.

Lots of buns, only one brother
Bob's thumbs, the city and hot cross buns are on the rise!