Saturday, September 10, 2011

come on over

Hello friends,

Sorry for my absence this week. It's been a busy one where I've been trying to play the game of being a proper, professional teacher as best as I can. It's been fun & surprisingly tiring. I've wandered around my classroom many times, talking to myself in an attempt to try & stay sane. (is that a contradiction in terms?!) 

There have been lists galore flying around - lists of children, lists of parents, lists of things we need & of jobs still to do. My head is full but my heart is happy. I love my school.
In other news, for a very long time, I've wanted to make some changes to my blog, and it has taken me an equally long time to do something about this. Well, I finally have, and while the changes might look small, I am pleased that I have finally made the little changes, and hope that there will be some more to come over the coming months.

One of the major changes is that I have a new blog address! If you follow my blog in google reader, please update the details for my blog, as I will no longer be posting in this little space.

So, please, come on over to my new blog (it will still feel oh so familiar) and let me introduce you to the little changes I have made.

Monday, September 05, 2011


On Monday morning I woke up, and did what I do every morning, seconds after waking. I thought about breakfast. It's definitely my favourite meal of the day. I think this is because I am always hungry as soon as I open my eyes. I am most definitely not someone who can skip breakfast.

So, on this particular morning, as I lay in bed thinking about what we could eat for breakfast, I realised we had no bread left, and hadn't put a fresh batch in the breadmaker. We didn't have any cereal or nice fruit. Basically, we had nothing. So I got up and baked some flachswickel. Never heard of it? Neither had I until I opened a recipe book and found it.

Last week I received the most exciting delivery of my life in the post - a kenwood chef major. Oh my. I love it. I have dreamed about having a freestanding mixer for quite some time now, but it has taken a long while to part with my money. Amy's wedding cake was the final push I needed, and so I ordered my new baby to arrive in time for wedding cake baking. 
Back to the Flachswickel story. Monday morning seemed like the perfect time to try out the dough hook on my kenwood, and so I excitedly threw in the ingredients for flachswickel, and this is what came out:

This German bread is lightly spiced with cinnamon & cardamom, and has a wonderfully light and fluffy texture. We ate it while it was still warm, with butter & honey and a fresh cup of coffee. I love breakfast time.

Recipe :: yields 7 - 8 rolls
150g butter
200 ml milk
500g flour (I used strong white bread flour)
7g dried yeast (1 sachet)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 eggs
pinch of salt
icing sugar to dust

1. Put the butter & milk into a saucepan and heat gently until butter has melted

2. Place all remaining ingredients into mixing bowl & add butter + milk misture. Mix together, then knead for 10 mins by hand, or if using a free standing mixer, knead on a low speed for 3 minutes.

3. Cover and leave to rise for one hour in a warm place.

4. Preheat oven to 170C / gas mark 3. Divide the dough into 21 - 24 pieces and roll into long sausages. (original recipe states 24 - mine made 21 at a stretch.)

5. Take 3 of your dough-sausages, pinch together at the top, then plait. 

6. Dust with icing sugar then place on a baking tray and bake for 25 - 30 mins until golden brown. 

Sunday, September 04, 2011

sunday snapshots

Hello friends! We are back with internet sooner than we thought, which is fabulous, although it wouldn't have done us any harm to go a little longer than 24 hours without access to the online world. 

I hope you didn't get too fed up of my posts about wedding cake, although I'm afraid this post is a little on the food-heavy side too!

If you have any suggestions of things you'd like to see on here other than lots of food, flowers & baking, I am always open to your thoughts & ideas!
morning coffee
 the deliciously juicy snack I ate after our 10.5 mile run
 granola making & baking
evening reading as the rain falls

Friday, September 02, 2011

the wedding cake :: trasportation

Once we had completed the decoration of each tier, we then had the challenge of transporting the cake from Bristol to Bath, all in one piece, with plenty of hills and tiny roads set to try us.

We put the biggest tier in the footwell by my feet, which meant some serious leg contortions for me to avoid squishing the cake, the smallest tier sat on my lap and the middle tier? We strapped her in.

See? Perfectly safe and sound.

We took an emergency repair kit with spare strawberries, gold powder, cigarillos, ganache, ribbon & pins. This turned out to be a very good plan, as those big Bath hills caused a bit of bumping with our smallest tier's strawberries. But we weren't worried because we had back-up.

We held our breath as we positioned each tier on the cake stand, and let out a sigh of relief when the last tier was in place. Then all we could think about was whether the ribbon and lace were all aligned...

Thursday, September 01, 2011

the wedding cake:: decoration

Decorating the cake was both the easiest and the most challenging element of the whole process. Amy had shown me a picture of a cake that she liked, which made it very straightforward for me to know what it needed to look like. We decided to hire a cake stand that would allow each of the tiers to sit separately from one another, rather than facing the challenge of balancing each tier using doweling rods to support them. 

A friend had recommended a catering supplier called Squires Kitchen where I might be able to source various useful items from, and I ended up ordering the white chocolate cigarillos from them. They were brilliant - very speedy delivery, carefully & beautifully packaged items, and juts altogether efficient. 

I did a fair bit of research into making white chocolate ganache, and working out what the best kind of chocolate would be. Another friend (who was the caterer for our wedding) assured me of the quality of callebaut couverture chocolate for making the ganache that would cloak each cake. He knew what he was talking about - I bought 2.5kg of callebaut white chocolate chips for £15, which was enough for the trial cake and each of the 3 tiers, and I still have plenty leftover! 

Making the ganache:
To cover all 3 tiers...
1.1kg white chocolate
600ml double cream
approx. 80g butter (at room temperature)

Place cream in a heavy based saucepan and gently heat until on the verge of boiling - as soon as you start to see tiny bubbles emerging around the edges of the pan, remove from the heat. 

Pour cream over the chocolate & butter, agitate the bowl to help the cream migle with the chocolate, then stir gently until the chocolate has completely melted.

I deliberately used a very small amount of butter, as I had found before that a higher ratio made the ganache too thin & runny. While it felt like a slight risk to just put a small amount in & hope for the best, the consistency was perfect. 

It was so helpful to have Rebekah on my cake decorating team, as the distribution of ganache can be a messy old process. We put each cake in turn on a wire rack inside a very large roasting tin to catch all of the run off. I ladeled the ganache & Rebekah ensured it covered the sides beautifully with the aid of a pallette knife & a steady hand.

We put the chocolate cigarillos on each tier after cloaking in ganache, while the ganache was still sticky. My caterer friend gave me a useful tip that if the ganache hardens before applying the cigarillos, you can just soften it with a hairdryer!

We saved the excess ganache which came in very handy for sticking each strawberry securely in place on top of each tier.

Rebekah had the great idea of filling the little gaps that were too small for strawberries with blueberries. We loved the splash of colour they added.

Amy had requested the strawberries to be sprinkled with gold glitter. I learned a few lessons about all things edibly gold in a very short space of time. Having purchased five pots of lovely gold glitter, I realised on the night before the wedding that it was not actually edible! Oops! So on the morning of the wedding, we took an early trip to Kitchens and bought a can of gold lustre spray & some gold lustre powder to cover our bases.

Lesson 1: Gold lustre spray on strawberries doesn't work so well because of the natural moisture of the strawberries

Lesson 2: Gold lustre dust will go everywhere & clashes a little with white chocolate, but when carefully applied with a fine brush, it glows!

The final stage of decoration was to add lace & ribbon to the middle of each tier. I loved this twist on the traditional ribbon decor often added to wedding cakes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

the wedding cake :: baking prep

Tier Dimentions: top tier: 6 inches; middle tier: 10 inches; bottom tier: 12 inches

Amy & Matt's wedding cake was my first ever 3 tier wedding cake. Although I have made cupcakes for weddings on a few occasions, there were different challenges involved in this 3 tier affair.

The first stage involved calculating the volume of each tin to work out amounts of ingredients needed for each tier. Maths has never been a strong point of mine, but I quite enjoy the maths involved in baking, even though there is the great risk that if I mis-calculate, the cake will all go horribly wrong. Thankfully, my checking and double-checking of quantities paid off, and each layer of each tier turned out just fine.

The cake boards for each tier were an inch wider than the diameter of the cake. This extra inch is necessary to allow for the extra width added on to the cake by the ganache & cigarillos.

As obvious as this might sound, if purchasing cake boxes, buy ones that are the same diameter as the cake boards, or an inch larger. Using boxes that are significantly bigger than the cake inside is a dangerous game to play if you're transporting them any distance!

The practicalities of baking 6 layers of cake when you don't have your own professional kitchen is a challenge, as is the timing. I had planned to bake the vanilla layers for each tier on one evening, freeze them once cool, then bake the chocolate layers the day before the wedding. However, I realised that I had greatly under estimated the cooling time of the larger layers, and if I waited until the day before the wedding to bake 3 of the layers &  decorate them, all in one evening, I would have been waiting until the middle of the night for them to be cool enough to decorate! So I changed the plan, and baked each layer over the course of the week, so that by Thursday, I only had one 12" layer left to bake.

While freezing might seem like the freshness of the cakes would be compromised, I would place bets on 99% of guests not being able to tell that some of the cake had been frozen. Another benefit of freezing sponge cakes is that it reduces the level of crumbs they create when icing & cutting, which is always useful when trying to create a neat finish.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

a little note

Hello, friends! 

We are going to be without internet in our little home over the next week, so I have scheduled in a few posts, filling you in on all of the behind the scenes details of making Amy's wedding cake. 

I don't know how many of you are interested in all of the details - recording the process is as much for my own record & reference as it is for your interest. If these posts are not of great interest to you, I apologise, and I'll be back soon with other posts that aren't food related. I am aware that sometimes it might feel a bit like a food blog around here, which doesn't appeal to everyone, but I can't help blogging about my baking adventures, as this is what I spend a significant amount of my time doing!

As you read my scheduled posts, I will be settling in to my brand new job of being a primary school teacher! I am excited about the adventures & learning that will take place as I try my very best at being a real teacher.

wedding of the week

Did you have de ja vu when you looked at the title to this post? Another wedding of the weekend, only a week after the last wedding? 

Well, friends, you read that right. I spent the day on Friday celebrating the wedding of a wonderful friend who I have got to know over the last year, as we have trained together to be teachers.

It is always an honour & privilege to share in a friend's wedding day, and even more so when you are asked to help in some way. I have shared a couple of glimpses into Amy's wedding over the last few months, with a peek at the lace bunting & the trial wedding cake. I finished stitching the 50metres of bunting last week, along with 25 lace cushion covers which were used at the wedding reception, for decorating the hay-bale seating next to the dancefloor.

The making of the wedding cake was the feature of my week last week, and I think it deserves a post to itself, so I'll fill you in on all the details very soon.

The weather forecast for the wedding day was filled with rain, and sadly, on this occasion, they got it right. While you might not wish for rain on your wedding day, it certainly didn't detract from the joy & celebrations.

Soggy guests heading to the cricket pavillion for Pimms

 The beautiful Bride, well equipped for the rain in her Hunter wellies
The Groom
 The highly tempting treats table, complete with stands made from sections of silver birch trees
 a small section of the lace bunting
 handmade cupcake favours
 beautifully colourful hydrangas for table decorations
 Me & Rebekah, who helped me with cake decoration & transportation, with our creation
 the back half of the marquee had an amazing dancefloor - the only part of the marquee not to get flooded at all
the lovely Lydia (who sang during the wedding ceremony) getting her groove on

We all went home with happy hearts, having loved every minute of Amy & Matt's wedding.