Friday, 28 August 2015

GBBO15 Wk 4 - White Chocolate & Raspberry Creme Brulee

So here we are at week 4 of GBBO and I think we are starting to see the stronger bakers emerging. Sadly my two favourite bakers don't appear to quite be there! Sandy left this week and Matt remains, but is perhaps on borrowed time? It's a shame really, I like that he is a baker that I can relate to, some of his recipes are untried and the results are not always as expected, but he gives it a good go and seems to always have at least one strong round each episode. I'm afraid that GBBO may start to go down the route of Masterchef and have contestants that are far and above the Joe Average home baker - making it and the challenges set unrealistic for those watching at home, I guess we shall see?

So onto this week's theme - desserts. I've posted a salted caramel baked cheesecake recipe already this year and with no dinner parties planned, making a tower of meringues to fill with cream & fruit seemed a little excessive (and expensive!). I've never made creme brulee before, despite eating more than my fair share so I was excited to give a recipe a go. Unlike most of the contestants recipes this one does not need the custard to be cooked first, making it perfect for a novice brulee maker! My original flavour pairing of spiced apple & blackberry was scuppered by the distinct lack of berries in the garden, but this white chocolate & raspberry version more than made up for it.

White Chocolate & Raspberry Creme Brulee - Makes 6 individual ramekins

450ml double cream
80g white chocolate chopped
5 medium egg yolks
45g caster sugar
1.5tsp vanilla extract
100g frozen raspberries - I broke mine into small pieces, but you can leave them whole if you prefer
Extra sugar for topping - I used both soft brown sugar & icing sugar, preferring the finish from the brown sugar.

Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas 4

In a medium sized saucepan gently heat the cream and chocolate until the chocolate has all melted, set aside.
In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until pale. Slowly stir in the cream mix and combine with the egg mix. Add the raspberries and fold in. Pour the mix into your ramekin dishes.

Place the ramekins into a large roasting tin and fill with boiling water halfway up the side of your dishes. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until they have a slight wobble but are set. Leave to chill for 1 hour in the fridge.

To finish heat your grill to medium hot. Sprinkle 1 tsp of sugar onto the top of each brulee and spread around. Caramelize for 2-3 minutes. The tops will be extremely hot. Do not touch them with your finger to see if they are melted me! Leave to harden for 5 minutes and serve immediately.

Un-caramelized brulees can be stored in the fridge for 3 days.

Next week - "Free From" bakes

Linking up with

Mummy Mishaps

Cook Style #GBBO

Thursday, 27 August 2015

#HiddenGems of Bournemouth

I grew up in Cornwall and have never lived further than 15 miles from the coast, so I sometimes forget how lucky I am to have the beach on my doorstep. In fact we mostly visit the beach outside of the traditional season for a bracing walk to blow away the cobwebs away from the summertime crowds.

Our usual beach area of choice is Bournemouth, although we always start in Southbourne to the east of Bournemouth and head towards Poole and the uber-posh Sandbanks. This is a long walk, however there is plenty of parking along the coast and transport links are good between Christchurch, Bournemouth & Poole.

Here are my five hidden gems around the Bournemouth area that we either regularly visit, or that are on our list to explore this year!

Bournemouth Upper Gardens - Parallel to Branksome Wood Road
Top -
Bottom (both) - 
Bournemouth's gardens are split into three areas and stretch from the seafront, up through the town and to the boundary with Poole. The Lower Gardens, closest to the seafront, have lots of events and attractions in and around them so can get busy, particularly in the summer. Head up into the middle and upper gardens and the crowds thin out and the planting becomes more informal. You will find red bridges criss-crossing the stream throughout the garden, along with a Victorian Water Tower built in 1885.

Russell Cotes Art Gallery & Museum - Russell Cotes Road BH1 3AA

Images from Russell Cotes Gallery website

Originally called East Cliff Hall, this house was built in 1897 as a birthday present to the wife of the hotel owner, situated next door. Annie Russell-Cotes then donated the house to the people of Bournemouth in 1907 and her husband donated his extensive art collection. You can now visit not only the four galleries, but also large sections of the beautiful house and gardens too.

Bournemouth Vintage Emporium & Tearooms - 1172-1180 Christchurch Road BH7 6DY

Images from Vintage Emporium Facebook page
Lose yourself in this huge warehouse, home to over 50 different traders selling clothing,jewellery, furniture, books and everything in between. When we've been before we've come across childhood toys, retro sportswear and a book on weight lifting poses, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger! If it all becomes a little too much pop into the adjacent tea room for a well earned sit down and feast your eyes on the beautiful lampshades handing above your head - be warned the homemade cakes sell out fast, so a morning visit is advisable!  

Conto Lounge - 418 Wimborne Road, Winton BH9 2HB

Image from Conto Lounge website
We came across this cool, Americana cafe/bar when we were heading to a spa day. The laid back vibe is reflected in it's interior and layout, there are plenty of traditional wooden tables and chairs for cosy twosomes up to large groups dissecting last night's activities! The menu takes you through the whole day from healthy breakfasts, to american brunch items and burgers as well as hearty meals and a selection of tapas for those long, lazy lunches. Service is with a smile and no pressure to eat up and ship out! Children are entertained with a selection of games & toys and the bar staff are happy to heat up milk & food as necessary. (Other "lounges" can be found thoughout the country)

Sandbanks Beach Cafe - Banks Road, Poole BH13 7QQ

Image from Sandbanks Beach Cafe website
Admittedly more Poole than Bournemouth, this cafe is worth the walk (or drive). Park along Banks Road (arrive early, Pay & Display in operation) and head over to the beach, the cafe is found just past the crazy golf courses. This Cafe is large, light and airy. The coffee is gorgeous and the homemade cakes are to die for! As well as the usual cafe fare, Sandbanks also serves up lunch options such as battered squid, pulled pork sandwiches & sharing boards - they also hold an alcohol license so you can enjoy a cold glass of wine with your lunch! Walk off your lunch with a stroll around Banks Road and Panorama Road to lust at the multimillion pound beach homes.

Of course this is only a small snapshot of what Bournemouth has to offer. With the New Forest only a stone's throw away, Bournemouth is the perfect place for a long weekend. Travelodge has a range of hotels to suit every budget in and around Bournemouth, just waiting for you!

Where would you head to for a long weekend? Let me know if you have your own #HiddenGems for Bournemouth too!

This is a collaborative post with Travelodge

Monday, 24 August 2015

London August 2015 - Saturday

It's become somewhat of a tradition now that we head up to London around my birthday for a day of treats and a night in a beautiful hotel. This year we decided to stay for two nights, with the idea of taking a more relaxing stroll around London rather than trying to cram everything into one day.

Oh my word, this did not happen!

Our hotel, Dorsett Shepherds Bush very kindly let us check in when we arrived just before midday on Saturday. We pretty much dropped our bags inside the door and headed straight back out again to explore Holland Park & Notting Hill.

Leaving the crowds behind we wandered back to the hotel, via The Defectors Weld, a beautifully hip bar, to get changed before dinner. We love to walk as much as possible, you get to see so many little snippets of daily life that we would never see on a Tube, like street art & bustling markets.

Dinner was at Roka Aldwych, the most incredible Japanese restaurant that deserves it's very own post later in the week. Our 7pm booking gave us plenty of time to enjoy the warm summer evening and we found ourselves strolling along Southbank, not wanting the evening to end. Luckily we found The Bloody Oyster still serving cocktails! 

One final walk over Westminster bridge as the clock struck 11 and we headed back to the hotel and a final nightcap, or two, before sinking into bed ready for flying, street food and happy hour the following day!

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

GBBO Week 3 - Mediterranean Soda Bread

Anyone else completely blown away by the bread lion?! As much as I would have loved to turn my kitchen into a bread heaven this week, time and health were not on my side. A weekend in London, followed swiftly by a hit of the serious sniffles means my energy levels are somewhere close to a cheapo battery with barely a charge!

Luckily for me this week's theme was bread - more specifically quick bread (no yeast) for the signature bake. I wanted to move away from the technical challenges, so this suited me perfectly. As lovely as soda bread is, I think it needs added flavourings to give it a lift, I went for a Mediterranean theme, but of course like the bakers this week, you can go with anything you fancy.

Soda bread needs buttermilk to react with the Bicarb to give it a rise. If you can't find buttermilk, stir in 1 tbs of white wine vinegar for every 250ml of milk. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before using. Alternatively 200ml of regular plain yogurt to 50ml of milk will also work well.

Mediterranean Soda Bread 

This will make enough for two 10cm round loaves, or one round loaf & 12 mini loaves.

10-20 large fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (I used 12 and got a very subtle flavour)
300g ground wholemeal flour
410g plain white flour
1.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
175g Red Leicester cheese cut into small cubes (feta would also work well)
50g pitted green olives, sliced
50g sun blushed tomatoes, sliced
450ml buttermilk or buttermilk substitute.

Preheat your oven to 180C/Fan oven 170C/Gas 4.

If you are making mini loaves flour your tin and place a small rectangle of baking parchment into the bottom of each hole.

In a large bowl mix the basil and wholemeal flour, before adding sieved plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Mix together, before adding the other dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk and mix until you get a soft dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead only until the dough fully comes together.

Shape into your desired loaves. If making round loves cut deep cuts into the top to form a cross.

Bake for 20-30 minutes for small loaves, 35-45 minutes for larger ones. When they are ready they will sound hollow if you tap the base.

Let them rest for 10 minutes before cutting.

Next week - Desserts

Linking up with

Mummy Mishaps

Cook Style #GBBO

Friday, 14 August 2015

GBBO Week 2 - Rosemary & Parmesan Arlettes

So week two of GBBO gave us the theme of "Biscuits" with Biscotti as the signature bake, Arlettes the technical and biscuit box as the showstopper. Hats off to anyone brave enough to attempt a biscuit box (especially one in the shape of a fireman - I have a new favourite!) this week, but a full week at work and a weekend in London firmly pushed that challenge out of reach! I've made biscotti before and so that left me with the scary arlettes!

My aim each week is to bake something new, or attempt a new baking technique and while I've made rough puff pastry before now, this was my first "proper" puff pastry, with the correct number of turns and folds rather than my usual more haphazard approach. The bakers made a reverse puff pastry (with the butter wrapping the dough, rather than dough wrapping butter) but I stuck with a traditional puff for this recipe.

The online photos that I researched showed the arlettes paper thin, and palm sized. They were to be baked with a second weighted sheet over them to stop any puffing up creating a biscuit perfect to be served alongside a delicate dessert or dark coffee. Watching GBBO though, Paul Hollywood created much larger ones, allowed to puff during baking. To me these suited a savoury arlette more, similar to a cheese straw, and used as a large cracker or loaded with a dip of some sort. Hence my flavour combination of rosemary and parmesan -

Rosemary & Parmesan Arlettes

To make Puff Pastry

250g strong flour
Pinch of salt
150ml cold water
225g cold butter (I started with a 250g pack and cut away 25g leaving a single block)

Add the salt to the sifted flour and mix using a metal spoon.
Gradually add the water 50 ml at a time and "cut" into the flour using a butter knife.
Once all the water is added, quickly bring together using your fingers, rather than palm, wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and leave to chill for 20 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, put the butter between two layers of parchment paper and hit it with a rolling pin to soften and flatten it. Cut the butter in half, place one on top of the other and repeat until the butter is pliable but still cold. Shape it to roughly the size of a postcard and chill for 10 minutes.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll your dough into a 25cm circle. Put your butter pat into the centre of the pastry and fold over the right & left sides so that they overlap in the middle. Gently roll your dough so that it is about 40cm long. Fold the bottom third up, and the top third down to overlap. Seal the top and bottom edge with your rolling pin to stop butter leaking out. Turn the dough a quarter turn.

Once again roll the dough out to a long rectangle, about 15cm x 40cm, keeping it as square and straight as possible. Once again fold the rectangle into thirds, seal the top & bottom edges and give a quarter turn. Repeat one more time, cover in clingfilm and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Repeat the rolling and turning process twice more, but chill in between and follow with at least one hours chilling time before you use it. It total you will roll out and fold your dough into thirds, five times.

To Make Arlettes

One batch of puff pastry (or one pack of ready made)
4 x 5cm sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped into a powder
50g grated parmesan cheese
ground black pepper to taste

Roll your pastry out to a 1cm thick rectangle and sprinkle your flavourings over the dough. Starting on the shorter side roll up into a swiss roll shape. Chill for 30 minutes before cutting 1cm thick discs.

Preheat your oven to 190C

Roll each disc as thin as possible (I rolled onto a sheet of greaseproof paper dusted with flour to stop them sticking). Stack them on a plate between layers of greaseproof paper and keep chilled in the fridge until you are ready to bake them.

Place two arlettes onto each lined baking tray and bake for 8-10 minutes, before turning the arlette over to continue baking until golden and crispy. Keep checking thoughout the bake as they will change colour quickly.

Allow to cool before serving.

Linking up with

Mummy Mishaps

Cook Style #GBBO

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Sage by heston Smart Waffle - The stuff of dreams

I was lucky enough to recently win a Sage by heston blumenthal Smart Waffle.

This waffle machine, blows others out of the water. All the guess work is taken out of you deciding if your waffles are cooked enough, leaving you with perfectly browned, easy to remove waffles each & every time.

The controls are simple to operate and easy to understand. Depending on your mix you first choose between Belgian, Classic, Chocolate, Buttermilk or Custom and the preferred finish of your waffle, ranging from light to dark. The smart machine will beep to tell you when it is hot enough to cook on.

Then using the sturdy measuring cup, you pour the perfect amount of batter into the mould & close the lid. The easy to read timer shows you how long cooking there is left and once done it will helpfully beep again to let you know (if you're anything like me though, you'll be hovering around and counting down the seconds out loud - I am not ashamed of this!)

You can see that there is also a wide "well" all around the edge of the waffle irons. This catches any leaking batter and cooks it so that it is easy to remove (eat)

There's even a "little bit more" button so that if your waffles are not quite browned enough it will give another little cook to increase the crispiness.

So how do the waffles look when they're cooked? Let me show you...

Perfectly cooked, perfectly crispy, blank canvas ready for you to add your toppings too. I added fresh fruit, low fat yogurt & a drizzle of honey for one option, then cranked up the calorie count by cooking grilled bacon, caramelised banana & syrup for a really filling Sunday brunch.

One batch of batter was enough to make seven waffles so I froze some to defrost the following weekend. Warmed through under a low grill they tasted just as good as a fresh batch.

Now many gadgets are fun to use, but a nightmare to clean afterwards. Not so the Smart Waffle. The photo below was taken straight after I lifted out my last pair of waffles. No stuck bits, no raw batter. Just a quick wipe with some kitchen roll and we're all set for next time.

The Sage by heston blumenthal Smart Waffle retails for £169.95. Trust me when I say "you get what you pay for". Not just for traditional waffles, you could use it to make potato waffles, hash browns, even omelettes. This is one appliance that will be kept on our work surface - definitely not forgotten in a cupboard!

Despite winning this waffle machine in a competition, I have lusted after one for a long time! I was not asked to write a review. All words and thoughts are my own opinions.

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