Cakes and Calligraphy

Happy Easter everyone!

I’ve been enjoying the last couple of days off from work,  and it has been a blissful time filled with leisurely lie-ins, lazy lunches, and plenty of retail therapy. It was so nice not to worry about all the usual holiday palaver of flights, accommodation, and struggling with directions in a strange destination, but I certainly managed to consume plenty of cake and empty my wallet shopping!

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I sadly didn’t photograph all the cakes but we ate delicious sticky toffee tweener from Selfridges, sugary doughnuts from Bread Ahead, and gorgeous french patisserie from Le Patisserie des Reves.

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I oohed and ahhed over beautiful cake displays, and pink flowers galore. The floral displays outside Liberty never fail to impress.

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I dragged poor A along for a calligraphy class which was so interesting – now I see what I’ve been doing wrong all along, and now I’ve got all the equipment handy will be keen to continue practising!

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Work hasn’t been great recently, and it’s been a real struggle getting myself to keep going every day. I’ve been thinking about ways to try and make my free time go further, and I think this break was a great way of utilising time without spending ridiculous amounts or going to a huge effort.

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Duck and Waffling

I’ve been thoroughly spoilt for my birthday, with A buying me my coveted 45mm lens for the perfect blurry background. I ran around the flat taking photos of everything in excitement, how sad am I?!

My new lens had its first proper outing when we headed out to Duck and Waffle. I’ve been wanting to try their menu for years, but we just hadn’t got round to it until now. It’s a meat-heavy post so veggies look away now!

Getting to Duck and Waffle for the lunch hour rush involved dodging many a suited-and-booted city worker dressed head to toe in black or grey. We went through the wrong entrance, got redirected by a security guard, then finally found ourselves whizzing up the speedy glass lift to what felt like the top of the world.

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The food and the ambience in Duck and Waffle were pretty special. It’s pricey – we paid £50 a head for a substantial meal, and two non-alcoholic drinks. For a special occasion, definitely worth it, but certainly not a weekly affair!

Crispy pig ears to start off with, smoky with paprika, and absolutely delicious.

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Then juicy bacon wrapped dates followed next, with a mustardy sauce for dipping. We had some spicy n’duja and gruyere bread on the side with this.

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Then came the small plates of oxtail doughnut and foie gras creme brulée. The doughnut was an interesting combination of sweet and savoury.

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Cut through to reveal the interior…

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The foie gras brulée looked incredible, and I really wanted to love it, but it was just too rich for me, so that one was happily polished off by A.

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Finally, the famous duck and waffle, with a side of beautifully cooked broccoli. Truly the star of the show, the duck glisteningly crispy, the duck egg golden-yolked and perfectly runny. This was a dish we really consumed with glee.

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Side note – nail colour is Essie’s Watermelon. My latest favourite – just loving bright colours again as we are heading towards Spring again.

So, after all that food, we really needed to walk it off, so went for a long stroll along the river, giving the tums a bit of a much needed rest, before heading down to catch the train back out of London.

It’s feels like such a treat so save up special occasions like this, and I would definitely recommend Duck and Waffle for occasions where you want good food, a central location, great views and don’t mind splashing out a bit more than normal. The other such place I have had my eye on for some time is the afternoon tea at Sketch, so that will probably be my next treat destination… perhaps this time again next year!

More Salted Caramel Brownies

You know when you’re just too impatient to wait for a newly baked tray of brownies to cool? So you dig into the warm tray with a spoon, scooping out the glistening chocolatey brownie itself. It’s warm, meltingly good, and what’s more, there’s a burst of sweetness from the salted caramel you swirled in earlier, and an extra flavour hit from the caramelised white chocolate chunks and cocoa nibs. Then, after you’ve lifted a spoonful of brownie from the tray, temptingly trickles out a golden rivulet of caramel which of course belongs inside your tum too.

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Last time I made salted caramel brownies, I had more self-control, waiting until the batch had firmed up overnight. This time, I used a different base brownie recipe – one of my favourites – and swirled in the same additions. Of course, I just couldn’t wait, and dug in with a spoon at the earliest opportunity. Warm salted caramel brownie – what a taste sensation.

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I’ve noticed that despite using the same brownie recipe, the crust turns out pretty differently depending on the oven. I have to say that this is the only bake whose results I prefer from the rickety gas oven. They emerge with a fine papery, crackly top enclosing smooth meltingly soft brownie. I used the electric oven here, and as you can see, that crackly crust is missing.

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I had a look online about what makes a brownie develop a crackly top. It’s an interesting read – most hypotheses suggest that the crackly top is created by a meringue effect of eggs and sugar being beaten together. So, batters where the egg and sugar are beaten together very well – or batters where there is a very high proportion of sugar are more likely to develop the coveted crackle. The odd thing here is that the recipe and the method are the same, so I’m not sure what it is about the baking that is affecting the crust formation.

Could it be that the electric oven provides better heat coverage over the surface of the baking brownie so the crust forms more thickly? Whereas the gas oven doesn’t heat the top well thus creating the crackly film?

I guess it doesn’t matter much either way as both brownies are delicious but it is interesting to try and figure out what’s causing it the difference.

What are your thoughts on crackly tops versus non-crackly tops?

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