Chocolate chip cookie monster

Chocolate chip cookies are one of my favourites- they taste of my childhood.  One needs the proper chips for them, however, and these are difficult to obtain in the UK.  Only Nestle Toll House chips will do.  I pleaded with my mother to bring me some this past Christmas and she obliged, so last week I made a batch.

They came out perfectly and were well-received by all who tasted them.  The recipe is here, and for UK bakers, it is imperative to replace the ‘All-purpose flour’ with strong white bread flour.

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Recent knits

Since my sister got me into knitting, I have become a bit obsessed.  As I have said previously, it is the perfect meditation after a busy, stressful day at work, and since my knitting has improved with practice I am really enjoying trying out new techniques.  My recent projects include my orange cowl, which is very lovely and soft, and was quite a time-consuming project.  It is essentially a big rectangle, which you knit from the wide edge, so each row was over 200 stitches!  At the beginning, it took me 15 minutes to knit a row, and by the end I was down to around 10 minutes.

For my last birthday, Lizzie got me the wool and pattern to knit my own pink cashmere bed socks, and they were my first introduction to cabling.  When I look at them now I can see the unevenness as I struggled to find the right way to hold the wool, and keep the tension even (I knitted them before the cowl) but I am still proud of my first proper knitting project.

The wool for my cowl was so gorgeous I bought some in a different colour just on a whim, and then decided to make wrist-warmers with it, to keep my hands and wrists warm while I knit (how very circular).  I have just finished them and am very pleased.  Next project!

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Apple and blackberry

I am still catching up on blogs I meant to do in 2012!

This year we had some brilliant blackberry-picking adventures.  Living out in the countryside, blackberries in hedges are as common as, well, blackberry hedges, so it was not difficult to find a field in which there were more blackberries than we could carry home with us.  We also have a bramley apple tree in the garden.  So there was much jam-making, all of it done by Mark, and a little bit of pie-making (by me).

The pie below is a simple blackberry and apple pie, with an all-butter crust (half the weight of butter to flour, rub in, add ice water to bind etc) and about equal volumes of chopped up bramleys and blackberries, with a generous sprinkling of sugar.  Doused in cream, it was very good indeed.

I should confess now that whilst I did an extraordinary amount of Christmas baking this year, I took no photos of any of it.  Oops.  I was extremely proud of my mince pies, though, particularly as the pastry finally actually worked out.  I put this down to a combination of tips from Nigel and Nigella (Slater and Lawson), who suggest, respectively, chilling the liquid used to bind the pastry with ice, and placing the bowl full of flour and small cubes of butter into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill once you’ve measured it all out and before you rub the butter into the flour.  I did both, and the pastry was consequently very easy to work with.  I also followed Nigella’s tip to use 00 flour (that’s 2-1 Nigella to Nigel, if you’re counting.)  I may need to make another pie shortly to be sure I’ve cemented my skills from this festive season.

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A lovely Christmas present

My mum has just retired, so naturally she is busier than ever.  One of her many current projects involves honing her skills as a potter, and thus I am the grateful recipient of an increasing (but not yet large) number of pieces of pottery.

She gave me this bowl for Christmas, together with a dish and a little pot which are also very lovely.

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A little hat

I have been doing lots of knitting recently.  It is calming and meditative, a counterpoint to a busy day spent in front of a screen and piles of paper, speaking to people and reading and writing.  I love the feeling of the wool in my hands, and watching progress being made (sometimes veeerrry slowly, sometimes surprisingly quickly!)

One recent project was a little hat for a newborn, which I will shortly send to my colleague who has just had a little baby boy.  It has a bit of lace in it, which might be slightly ‘girly’, but I’m sure we don’t need to be so gender-prescriptive at this stage (or indeed at any stage).

The pattern is here: the story of a hat.  I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, a lovely soft washable wool blend.  I might scale it up and knit it for myself…

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Very belated birthday cupcakes

It was my sister’s birthday this week, and since she is now all the way in Australia (sniff) I cannot make her a birthday cake.  When I go to visit her I will make one to compensate, no matter how belated it is!  Which brings me to very, very belated photos of my own birthday cake(s).  My birthday is in July, so these are fairly out of date, to say the least, but I’ve just realised I never posted them.

I am firmly of the opinion that one can never have too much cake.  I also have a baking reputation to uphold at work.  I therefore turned to the trusty Hummingbird Bakery ‘Cake Days’ cookbook for some cupcake recipes- I made hot chocolate cupcakes to take into work during the week (and even had the forethought to acquire some very miniature marshmallows with which to decorate them), and vanilla cupcakes the following weekend with my sister.

Needless to say, both were excellent, as I find is always the way with Hummingbird recipes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet and salty chocolate cake

Well, that last post was a bit of an experiment with the WordPress app on my phone. I am sure everyone else knew about that, but I didn’t, so am now feeling simultaneously very technologically advanced, and still behind the curve.

We had a joint birthday the other week for my stepdad Pete and my uncle Tim, and I was asked to produce a ‘gooey’ chocolate cake. Fancying a challenge, I set about making the sweet and salty chocolate cake from the Hummingbird Bakery’s Cake Days book. It involves making two lots of caramel, mixing one with chocolate, and making some kind of fancy icing out of it which I’d never tried before, having first layered the other caramel onto the cake. It mostly turned out absolutely fine, and received rave reviews from taste testers, but I would like to make it again and do it better next time.

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