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27 Jun 2009

Choco cherry tastic!

It's that time of the week again! This weeks choice was the delectable sounding double chocolate cherry cookies as chosen by Megan of My Baking Adventures. Cookies again I hear you say, but who ever gets tired of chomping on a cookie? Not me!

The preparation for these biscuits were exactly the same as the toasted almond and chocolate chip cookies from two weeks ago (or last week for me), mix, chill, chop, bake. So simple yet so delicious. I much preferred these to the choc chip versions, although I'm a cherry addict so I think I'm a little bias here. I adored the rich, velvety taste of the chocolate when paired with those wonderful dried cherries, add a cup of tea and I was in comfort food heaven.

Check out the other Sweet Melissa Sundays girls for more cookie fun and also don't forget to check Megan's blog for the recipe, you won't be sorry!

24 Jun 2009

Sunday is my favorite day

Not only because of the wonderful Sweet Melissa Sunday group but Sunday is the day my very good friend and I meet up for our weekly cakeathon. I'm still keeping shtum about the reasons for this but all will become clear in the next month or so.

This week was our first week back after my op and I was dying to get back into the swing of things. Not to let myself off lightly I decided to make three batches of cakes for us to sample while my chum brought over three batches of her own. I think I put around a stone on that day, bad times. First of all I decided to try a recipe I came across on How To Eat a Cupcake, cherry chocolate cupcakes. Let me tell you, they are delicious! Even my non-cherry eating boyfriend couldn't get enough of them. The cherry flavoured cream cheese was to die for and the little chunks of cherry strewn throughout the cake, well I ate about three and I think that speaks volumes.

Next up I made a smaller batch from a book gifted to me by my very best friend in the world, Cupcake Heaven (thats the name of the book, not my friend, her name's Sarah). From this I chose the banoffee cupcakes topped with cream cheese icing and drizzled with a toffee sauce (the latter was my addition to the recipe). I didn't try one of these as I was too full of choc cherry cake but I have it on good authority that they are amazing! My only problem with these cakes were they just weren't big enough. I'm going to do some experementation and get back to you on this one ;)

Last of all, inspired by the Marks and Spencer's version, I whipped up a batch of vanilla cupcakes filled with strawberry jam and topped with strawberry butter cream. Anyone who's tasted the M&S version will probably agree that they are just too darn sweet and one cupcake is just too much for a single person to enjoy. With this in mind I used quite a tart jam and went easy on the icing. They turned out quite nicely, although the icing was far too stiff, I think next time i'll add a drop more milk.

Can't wait for this Sunday :D

20 Jun 2009

Double Trouble

At long last, I'm back. Three weeks off from the wonderful Sweet Melissa Sunday baking group has been far far too long. As most of you know, I've recently been in hospital for some intrusive abdominal surgery and was advised by the doctor to take it easy for a few weeks. Boredom has finally gotten the better of me and the lure of my kitchen was just proving too much to resist so here I am ready to get stuck back in!

After reading every ones fantastic review of last weeks cookies I just couldn't bring myself to miss them out so I thought I'd do a double post for my return. Chocolate chip cookies and butterscotch cashew bars, sweet treats a plenty. First of all, I'd like to thank Melissa from one of my favorite blogs Lulu the Baker for being kind enough to send out two bags of Nestle butterscotch chips and a box of peanut butter Whoppers just so I could partake in this weeks challenge (ok the whoppers weren't for the recipe, they were just for me, yum!). I was over the moon when I opened the door to a sweet treat bearing postman. One whole bag went into my butterscotch topping and the other will be kept aside for something extra special. Thank you so much Melissa, you made me a very happy Katie :)

The cookies were so super easy, even if a little time consuming, to make. I say time consuming, I mean I'm far to impatient to allow things time to chill. Everyone that came into contact with these lovely morsels simply couldn't stop at just one. I was planning on sending a few to Sunday night band practice with Kris but alas, I have only one solitary cookie left......although not for much longer. Mwahaha! If you want to give these chewy numbers a try the recipe is on the Sweet Melissa Sundays site. (It was chosen by the one and only Sweet Melissa herself, wowsers)

Next up we have Butterscotch Cashew Bars as chosen by Pamela of the lovely blog Cookies With Boys. I thought these bars would be a lot more difficult to make than they were, mix, press, melt, pour, done. Wonderful! I only topped half of mine with the cashew nuts as most of the people I know hate anything nutty. No doubt the crunchier side will be nommed by me and myself while the plain side will be enjoyed by the extended family this fathers day. I also used half light and half dark brown sugar in the base which gave the biscuit a lovely caramel flavour.

Have a mosey over to the Sweet Melissa Sundays ladies for their butterscotchy treats!

12 Jun 2009

River Cottage

For my 26th birthday my loving boy, Kris got me the best present I could have ever asked for, a day of bread making at River Cottage HQ. I was utterly taken aback by this thoughtful gift as the drive alone is 6 hours of motorway hell and I never thought for a second I'd ever be so lucky. Do I have the bestest guy in the world?! I think I do!

We drove the grueling 350+ mile drive in 7 hours, we probably could have made it much sooner if the Tom Tom didn't keep trying to force us onto a traffic filled, accident laden road. Damn you Tom Tom. But, we rolled into Harmshay Farm B&B, a 16th century farm house at 8pm and readied ourselves for a short stroll to the local pub where we sampled some home made cider, and boy was it strong! Anyone planning a visit to River Cottage I can thoroughly recommend Harmshay Farm, with just 3 rooms it's a very intimate B&B resulting in fantastic service, the breakfast was to die for!

My day started at 9.30am where, upon arriving at River Cottage I boarded a tractor with the other bread makers to be and rode the steep downhill trail towards the farm. Myself and the other guests were offered tea, coffee or elderflower cordial and with us being blessed with the most beautiful day of the year the cordial was gratefully received. At 10am we moved into the main barn where Dan Stevens was waiting for us, as we sat down for our first demonstration a small group entered the barn to tell us Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall was indeed at RC and filming for the new series. How exciting.

Once the murmuring had died down Dan talked us through basic bread making and demonstrated his preferred method of kneading which was super fun and super messy. I never knew you could get a bread dough as wet as he showed us but it really made it much easier to work with. After leaving our bread for it's first rise Dan demonstrated how one basic dough can be used to make several types of bread like English muffins and flat breads. Whilst nomming upon Dans freshly baked treats we moved outside into the glorious sunshine where a huge table was set up adorned with amazing pizza toppings. After a quick demonstration we were instructed to make our very own pizzas before placing them into the huge, and very very hot, wood burning oven. Dan explained to us that for a pizza to be a true representation of the pizzas made in Napoli they must be fully baked in no more than 90 seconds. Mine, topped with caramelised onion, goat cheese and smoked ham took little more than a minute and was utterly delicious.

After two more rises from our lovingly created loaves it was finally time for them to go into the very same oven. Each member of the class was prompted to slash our loaves in a slightly different way to ensure we could identify them when they were done, once slashed Dan spritzed each specimen with water to emulate the steam injection of industrial ovens. About 40 minutes and a hearty lunch of pressed pork coated in honey mustard and seasonal salad later and the loaves were out of the oven, cooling in the afternoon sun. Once cool enough to handle Dan picked out what he thought was the best example, and which loaf did he choose, mine! Yep, I was over the moon even when mocked by the rest of the class for being teachers pet. Hurrah!

As the day came to an end we all gathered round as Dan fried a huge batch of doughnuts while answering all of our questions. I had the most wonderful time and can't thank my Kris (you can see his photos from his day of exploration here) enough for such an amazing present. I came home a better baker and a happier girl harboring a bit of a crush on Dan. Oooops.

Oh, and I almost forgot to add, I spoke to Hugh!! Or rather, he spoke to me and I grinned like a loon! Not only this but I stood and watched the crew filming H-FW discussing strawberries when I stole away from the group for a bathroom break. It was so bizarre watching the show I tune into every week actually getting shot, so if you see a wee girl in a black dress milling around during the show, that's me :D

3 Jun 2009

SMS: Very late!!

Oh dear, I really am behind with this week aren't I? I do apologise fellow Melissa Sundayers but it's been a pretty hectic few days. Sunday I was out all day basking in the rarity that is Newcastle sunshine then I jetted (ok, drove) off to Devon/Dorset for a wonderful day of bread fun at River Cottage HQ. More on this later, when I've had time to recover :)

Sunday's challenge was chosen by Jaime of Good Eats and Sweet Treats and is one of the few pictured recipes in the SMS book, Bee Stings. Melissa claims she discovered these little treats while trying to create a doughnut recipe that could be baked rather than deep fried. The result is small sweet buns, almost like brioche, filled with a vanilla custard and glazed with a honey caramel. Sounds delicious. Unfortunately, mine weren't. Like most of the SMS bakers, my dough simply did not form a ball nor did it stop sticking to the side of my Kitchenaid bowl as the recipe stated. I added more flour and continued to mix, after a while it looked almost ball like so I gave up and set it away to rise. I had to give it the full 3 hours but eventually it did double in size, so I formed it into balls and stuck them in the fridge. The following morning I allowed them their second rise which didn't seem to do much but make them slightly fatter. At this point I was pretty sick of looking at them so baked them regardless.

The pastry cream came together quickly and easily and smelled delicious. I refused to taste it cold as I have a fear of chilled custard, it's just so very wrong. I filled the buns, dipped them in caramel, topped them with almonds and stood back to admire. Sure they looked pretty, but how did they taste? Not very good is the answer to that question! I just found the buns a little boring and really not worth the effort involved in making them. I doubt I'll be trying this one again, but I'm sure glad I gave it a go.

As usual, check out everyone elses Bee Stings!

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