Times are a changin’

I haven’t really got a bake to share today. Just touching base, after a really long time, once again.

Today I’ve been feeling nostalgic. It feels a crazily long time since I first started blogging back in 2011. This blog emerged in 2012, but only after lots of playing around with blogger and wordpress, and trying to think up catchy names that kept changing in my head.

It feels in many ways like the world has become a more unkind place – especially with all the events of the last two years and the impact that they’ll have on the future. I want to try to be more positive about the future and what it will bring.

It’s one of the reasons I still love to read blogs – how people are pottering around, baking, crafting and making, thinking and living life. I’m glad to see there are still some stalwarts from this time posting away, and I love to read these more intimate homely kind of blogs even if the posting becomes more sporadic, and the content changes from student angst to careers and family and the undeniable temptation of the John Lewis homewares section. Let’s be honest, as those six years go by in your twenties, a lot changes. You get a job that perhaps you realise isn’t that career you wanted after all, you learn how to do DIY and botch it as well, mundane household tasks like weeding and cleaning the windows and generally become a “grown up”. Saying that, I’m still feel completely “un-grown up” inside, and have no idea how I’m going to deal with the Great Responsibility of Life.

That next age milestone is looming…

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Chocolate Silk Cake

I have this idea of a chocolate cake in my head that I can’t quite find the recipe for. It’s rich, chocolatey, not too heavy nor light. A Goldilocks of chocolate cake if you will. Nigella’s recipes have gotten close, but not quite there. My go-to chocolate sponge cake is great but it’s a lightish cake and not the Bruce Bogtrotter behemoth I’m after.

So I saw this recipe on the Waitrose recipe and thought I would give it a go after the heavy sugar-fest that was the Konditor and Cook Curly Whirly Cake.

I’m a bit out of practice with decorating layer cakes so I went for straight and simple. I also had some dark chocolate truffles in the cupboard so popped them on top for a bit of extra flair.

So what was the verdict?

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This chocolate cake is delish! It falls firmly into the sponge cake category, but it is a bit richer than your standard chocolate cake flavoured with cocoa powder alone. I could definitely see myself making this again for birthday cakes and other celebratory cakes in the future.

It’s been so long since I regularly blogged that I forgot to take a photo of the cake being sliced, by which time it was so late in the evening it was dark outside and I was having to rely on the horror that is indoor lighting. So I cut a second slice just for a quick photo so you can see what it looks like inside. Sorry about the yellow appearance!

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Whether it’s the chocolate cake of my dreams…well perhaps not quite there. This cake was great, and definitely one to bookmark, but I’m still searching for the one! ❤

 

Curly Whirly Cake

Thank goodness January is over. It’s definitely is a month where everybody goes a bit nuts. The gym is suddenly full, the streets are full of joggers. I end up going absolutely mental for online shopping. There’s no explaining it, I just want to buy EVERYTHING. I also spend many hours fantasising about my perfect duvet day, waking up when it’s light outside, and spending the whole day snuggled up in my pyjamas reading novels and chocolates. Seriously, old lady proclivities rule.

It’s also been a time for heart-warming puds. I baked this sticky toffee pudding and discovered the deliciousness that is this cake, which had gone a bit stale in the tin but was utterly delicious gently warmed through, and poured all over with hot sticky toffee sauce. It is sooo tasty, try it with any plainish cake that’s gone a bit dry and old and you will see miracles happen. I wish I had taken more photos but to be honest, the cake was deeply unphotogenic, and we ate it straight out of the pyrex dish in around 1 minute flat.

I’ve also been on the hunt for a brand-new delicious chocolate fudge recipe. This one from Konditor and Cook looked incredibly promising. Unfortunately, when I baked it, it turned into an absolute stodge-fest.

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Just look at how claggy that sponge looks!

I’m sure I probably did a few things wrong in the making of the cake, but even so, it just didn’t taste of much either, just sugar. Disappointing, because Konditor and Cook’s Curly Whirly Cake seems to have a cult following, but perhaps it’s just not for me.

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I’ve seen another recipe on the Waitrose website for a chocolate silk cake that looks like it has a similar method, and I might give that one a whirl next time.

If you want to give the Curly Whirly Cake a go, the recipe is all over the internet and can be found on the The Guardian here.

Onto 2017

Christmas has been a week of dreamily pink morning skies, the fields heavy with mist and foliage sparkling with frost. The nights have been speckled with stars, and it has been glorious.

It’s been a while hasn’t it?

The blogging world is shiner and glossier than ever, but here I am, still pottering away in my corner of the internet. I’ve been crazily busy in the last couple of months but it’s so satisfying to look back at what we’ve achieved.

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We moved house again for starters. A and I are now the proud owners of a tiny house deep in the middle of leafy countryside. We’ve left the stultifying atmosphere of decaying seaside resort behind, and now life is filled with the middle-class mediocrity that is trips to Homebase and planting bulbs in my garden. I can’t help but love it.

Amidst the turmoil on the world stage, there have been staycations in honey-coloured cottages tumbling with roses, jaunts down meandering pathways pathways to hidden fishing villages, watching magnificent sunsets from the tip of a Greek island and simply standing in the garden in my pyjamas, toes sunk into the dewy grass.

I don’t bake anywhere near as much as I used to. Busy schedules and changing tastes mean I’m not as partial to some baked goods (macarons, I’m looking at you) as I used to be. A good savoury meal means just as much to me as a beautifully golden apple pie. That’s not to say I haven’t baked because I definitely have! I christened the new oven by baking a damply delicious orange and white chocolate cake. There have been s’mores brownies, cheesecake, chocolatey cookies, an apple crème fraîche cake and a gorgeously bouncy gingerbread sponge slathered in the most moreish of Biscoff cream cheese icing, pictured above. Most of these have remained unphotographed. It’s really rather relaxing to take a step back from making everything look deliciously photogenic, and not worry about collapsed cakes or exploding mince pies too much.

As we go into 2017, I think the most important message for me to remember is to relish these small delights. To not drive myself nuts trying to be like “everybody else,” to hold in check the desire for new things all the time, to remember that life must be lived as well as worked, and really, to stop checking that harbinger of bad news and social insecurity that is Facebook. I guess that’s my New Year’s resolution sorted then! 🙂

Hello and Goodbye?

Back the the ye olde days of baking, I was always trying out new recipes and versions of favourite treats, keen to hunt down the favourites and bookmark them away forever.

Now I’ve got to the happy stage where I have a small collection of favourite recipes. Unfortunately as my baking repertoire has consolidated itself, the scope for blogging about these bakes has shrunk. Seriously, who wants to read about a victoria sponge a million times over?

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So even though I’ve been baking here and there, the results haven’t appeared on the blog. The eaters ooh over and appreciatively consume the results and that’s what really matters.

Perhaps this is me saying that lick + spoon has indeed reached its natural conclusion. I’m not sure. I certainly feel that there is less scope within me for creating new posts. With life getting busier outside of work, new exciting responsibilities and a desire to not get too stuck in living my life via the internet, we shall see what the future holds, but I think it’s time for a break and a (possibly) temporary goodbye.

If I don’t pop back, muchos thanks for all sticking around and reading the blog :).

 

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.

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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Cranberry, Pecan and Chia Seed Granola Bars

I haven’t jumped onto the healthy eating bandwagon, but that’s not to say I haven’t had a deep curiosity about the fuss associated with superfoods such as chia seeds, avocado and coconut oil. Perhaps it was when Nigella Lawson started using these ingredients in her TV show that I realised this is no longer a niche market, and has started to become much more mainstream.

So yes, last year I succumbed to temptation, and bought an enormous packet of chia seeds. Fast forward a few months later and it was still sitting in the cupboard unopened, and I was scratching my head in perplexity, wondering how on earth to use it up (I must add that the same situation occured several years ago with a giant bag of cocoa nibs, and I’m still working through them – obviously I don’t learn from my mistakes!).

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After a lot of googling, I couldn’t say I was hugely inspired by most of the online recipes out there for using up chia seeds. Eventually, I decided to heavily adapt an Ottolenghi recipe to incorporate ingredients I desperately wanted to use up.

It seemed to do the trick. These aren’t exactly what I’d call healthy, but they aren’t quite as bad for you as, say, flapjacks, and taste along the same sort of spectrum. Next time I’d probably leave out the flaxseeds which had a bit of an earthy aftertaste I wasn’t hugely enamoured of.

Cranberry, Pecan and Chia Seed Granola Bars

Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

  • 190g rolled oats
  • 30g ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 40g chia seeds
  • 40g flaxseeds
  • 60g dried cranberries
  • 40g pecans
  • 80g coconut oil, solid at room temperature
  • 80g brown sugar
  • 80g maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 140˚C and toast the pecans for around 8 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 160˚C.

Soak the dried cranberries in hot water for 10 minutes then drain with a colander.

Toss all the ingredients minus the coconut oil, sugar and syrup together in a bowl.

In a saucepan, heat together the oil, sugar and syrup until bubbling then pour over the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly together to combine, then pat down into a lined 20cm square tin. Bake for around 20 minutes, then leave to cool before slicing into squares.

 

Salted Caramel, White Chocolate, and Cocoa Nib Brownies

Happy Valentine’s Day y’all. Not that I’m planning on doing anything exciting, probably just an evening of curling up with sticky, gooey brownies, bemoaning the end of War and Peace.

I’ve got major War and Peace withdrawal symptoms. My Sunday evenings just won’t be the same without those stunning costumes and James Norton’s brooding silhouette. The only cure for my BBC period drama-itis will probably be the eventual return of Poldark, but in the interim, brownies instead.

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For the past year, A has gotten a huge hopeful grin on his face every time I suggest baking salted caramel brownies again. Unfortunately for him, talk has never turned into actual baking of the aforementioned brownies, until now. Behold, salted caramel heaven!

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These are supposed to be a homemade version of Paul A Young’s famous salted caramel brownies from his veeerrrry expensive chocolate shop. I had the pleasure of finally sampling this illustrious brownie, and boy it was good. Mightily expensive at £5.95 a brownie but I can quite honestly say it was one of the most delectable brownies to have passed my lips.

The homemade version are a bit squidgier than the official version, and I can’t quite replicate the exact chocolate flavour – probably because Paul A Young uses a particularly fancy chocolate. I used a combination of Waitrose continential, and my stash of Valrhona.  The recipe is pretty much lifted directly from Poires au Chocolat, this time I sprinkled on some white chocolate chunks before baking.

They are really rich brownies, so a small square goes a long way. They have a smooth, dense texture that with each mouthful slowly melts in the mouth, releasing an intense shot of chocolate and caramel flavour.

It’s maddeningly tricky photographing brownies (and in fact, most chocolate/brown baked goods) so they appear photogenic, but I think I just about managed to refrain from making them look like somebody scooped them up from the soil outside. I think my next bake will definitely have to be something iced and pretty! Got to get round to using my stash of flowery cupcake cases after all.

I don’t tend to bake especially for Valentine’s Day, but if you are feeling particularly romantically inclined, I’ve stuck a couple of luuurvely (haha) links underneath to dive into:

Felicity Cloake makes the perfect chocolate pots for two.

Date and rum cookies, just perfect for wooing and twoing.

If you want to get out and about, biscuit icing classes for two with the Biscuiteers.

Or if you’ve been on a January diet, and are still somehow managing to avoid all things biscuity and carb-filled, how about buying the love in your life this custard-cream cushion? 🙂