Friday, 27 May 2011

Daring Baker's - Marquise on Meringue

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

I'd never heard of marquise before, but it's kind of like a chocolate mousse pudding type thing that you mold and then freeze. As you can see, my marquise froze rock solid, it was still a little soft in the centre but I figure that in addition to my nuclear oven I also seem to have a subzero freezer - it was probably a good thing because I used a tiny strawberry shaped silicone icecube mold and I'm not sure how my OCD would ahve coped trying to scoop out an oozey melty chocolate mess.

The other parts of the challenge were a toasted meringue and tequilla caramel. First, let me say, I realise my meringue looks like a macaron, that would be because I don't have an electric mixer and even after 15+ minutes of hand whipping my egg whites were still mega liquidy. I am going to pretend it was on purpose. I missed the toasted bit because I also don't have a blowtorch (you know that vital piece of kitchen equipment?!)

I planned to do a strawberry caramel sauce, but decided against it after tasting the marquise and went for a plain caramel instead. Doesn't it look all lovely and golden?

I am really enjoying these challenges, but haven't been too keen on any of the finished dishes so far. Hoping next month they are going to pick something delicious and cakey... (please, you can make it extra daring if you like??)

The next challenge is announced on the 1st and since my last couple of entries have been kinda safe I am going all out daring... bring it bakers!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

a link list and a to do list

So friends, I have been neglecting this little space what with all the moving, to-ing and fro-ing. Plus little Vin has taken to <5am wakeups which kill the rest of the day for me, meaning I can't motivate myself to bake or make stuff (or shower or clean my house, but I'm nott oo bothered about that bit).

I feel kind of in limbo in my new house, I have so many ideas for projects and decorating stuff and there are still unpacked boxes all over the place. Which is how this box-car came about:

And making fun out of junk has kind of got me thinking, about this blogspace and my job and what the future of our little family holds. I'm not making any big decisions right now, but maybe there will be some big changes soon.

Speaking of my job, I just wanted to say how humbling and amazing it was to watch my doctors in action in this Channel 4 documentary. Really puts thing into perspective when I watch my colleagues stress about an unread e-mail.

So that's what I've been doing, here's a little plan for what I will be doing:

I've been toying with the idea of getting a blackboard for the kitchen, to write menus and fun plans on (hopefully not just doctors appointments and reminders about washing up!) I was worried it would look too dark in the small space, so I thought I'd test-run with some black cardstock and our plans for tomorrow. We'll be having pancakes for brunch, speanding the afternoon in Crystal Palace Park, followed by a little date at Soulcialize, CP's new cupcakery, roast potatoes (our Sunday tradition) and... a little joke between David and me. See I always go on about Sunday being family day, and he always tells me with a nudge that when Vinnie goes to bed it becomes 'Mommy Daddy time'... in truth we will have a bottle of wine and a packet of m&ms and fall asleep in front of Desperate Housewives.

Some link love for your weekend:

Umm yes, I love this pinhole camera book

I've been doing lots of reading on Slow Family Movement which might be inspiring some of those big changes I talked about earlier

obsessing about Vin's first proper bedroom, I have been loving the boys rooms on ohdeedoh

Little Vin becomes "terrible two year old Vin" in just four months... which means party planning starts now. Loving these birthday party invitations spotted on The Sweetest Occasion

Hope your weekend is full of cupcakes, park action and 'moves' (ahem),

Blue Skies,
Charlotte xo

Friday, 13 May 2011

on not paying attention at work...

Mid-morning meeting, mid-daydream I hear the words "naso-labial reconstruction"... and having had an all natural but entirely damaging childbirth I shuddered in recollection and what I thought was an inperceptible manner. At which point one of my registrars wrote the following on a post-it and slid it across the desk:

"he means your nose, not your flower"

...mortifying right?

p.s. I promise a real post and a return to regular scheduling tomorrow friends

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Daring Baker's Challenge - Maple Mousse in and Edible Container

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz.. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at The Daring Kitchen!

Mandatory Items: There are 2 mandatory components to this challenge. You must make one of the 2 maple mousse recipes and you must make an edible container in which to place your mousse for presentation.


So I'm a little late with this (last) month's Daring Baker's Challenge because of the twilight zone between moving house and when the broadband guys can connect you (i.e. equal parts of cheeky flirting and threatening to take my valued custom elsewhere). But here is my first challenge entry... Maple Mousse in an Edible Container:

I made chocolate bowls, because as you guys know an evening spent melting chocolate is an evening well spent. Plus I am a sucker for anything heart shaped so I used the silicone heart shaped muffin cups from my Valentine Brunch. I would say they were meant to come out all ragged edged and rustic, but I don't think I can excuse away the fact that my chocolate went out of temper and therefore looks a little tie-dyed.

The inspiration behind the challenge was the cabane à sucre tradition in Canada (hence the maple syrup) and there were some amazing multi-coloured, many e-numbered, sugar loaded entries. I was going to go wild with a shaker of multicoloured sprinkles, but when I saw the elegant buff mousse in their dark chocolate shells I couldn't spoil it with synthetic colours, so I went for some candied almonds a la David Lebovitz.

I'll be honest, I didn't really like the mousse, too much sugar and gelatine I think. But I love how you can spend hours hunting down somewhat obscure ingredients and someone like my other half will still compare it to Angel Delight!

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Great Bunny, Hunt & Brunch

Did you know the Easter Bunny leaves a weblike trail when he's hiding eggs? Oh yes, at least when it is toddlers going on the hunt...

Since Vin was only just starting weaning at Easter last year, I am classing this as his first proper Easter. Which, of course means time for a new family tradition. The Great Bunny Hunt and Brunch.

I threaded the string from the bedroom door handle, all around the kitchen and living room. A Subtle Revelry did this with paper streamers. What's that popping out of the toaster?

... of course! Those are the bunny wrapped candy bars... Be warned, turn your toaster off at the plug. Those bunnies are wrapped in paper (duh) and you'll melt your chocolate!

I think this was so much fun, I'm considering doing it for all gift based occassions! A couple of things though. Hide the gifts after your kid has gone to bed, otherwise he will follow you round and remove all his new toys from their hiding places. Also, be aware of small children running through spiderweb liked criss crossed trail wrapped around the house. It was like that scene in Entrapment, only with balls of wool and screaming kids.

Oh, and while I promised myself a relatively chocolate free Easter, there were five eggs, eight creme eggs, one packet of mini eggs, one packet of chocolate buttons, two chocolate lollies, three chocolate bars, four tiny lindt bunnies and a packet of Maltesers... pseudo-hippy/facist parenting can't win them all right?

a rooftop beach in a box

I always thought the concept of urban beaches was a bit depressing. I remember back in Birmingham, every Summer a cheap flight company would dump a ton of sand next to a fountain in the middle of one of the squares and call it a 'beach'. But as someone who could happily live in a beach hut with an ice cold coke (in a glass bottle) and a tube of suncream even our little rooftop beach makes me happy.

I used a wooden crate we were using as a veg box and a bucket of sand that my Xmas tree stood up in - just add toys and small children with inherited capacity for small pleasures (and by toys I mean little yellow diggers and mummy's vintage teaspoons!)

And a little flag to make Sand-ringham Castle:

... and after the revolution:

Sunday, 24 April 2011

confetti, confectionary and anti-consumerism

I've never really celebrated Easter before. Before kids it was just another chocolate based long weekend. We were remniscing today  about Easter 2008. I was recovering from surgery, D had just quit his job so we could go travelling. We bought leftover eggs from a corner shop and played Mario Kart for four days.

I'm still a handmade punk at heart though. And I felt truly rebellious using The Financial Times to make cascarones.

It wasn't entirely an act of anti-capitalism though. I just love the natural peachy colour that looks so good with my white china and subtle palette.

I love the idea of plants instead of flowers on the table, plus I've had a packet of cress seeds tucked in the back of a notebook forever. I just washed out the shells and allowed them to air dry, popped a damp cotton wool ball in the bottom and sprinkled in some seeds. I was hoping they'd grow super long and I could draw faces on the eggs and cut crazy hairstyles like the Play-Dough Barber Shop. But it was not to be.

I made these message eggs too - let me tell you trying to get the egg out of this little hole was not easy. I later read you should make a smaller hole in the top and blow the contents out, but I never do things the easy way. There are no shots of these message eggs in action, because I filled them with ultrafine glitter and instantly regretted it. Little Vin had glitter in his eyelashes.

You know we love brunch in this house, like our love day breakfast and our pancake day celebration... we had poached eggs with those pods I bought for David and Hot Cross Cookies:

See, I'm not really a fan of the Hot Cross Bun, so I made a sugar cookie with a little cinnamon and orange zest, rolled them into balls and dotted with currants and and icing cross. I love playing a little with tradition, and I really loved these cookies.

Oh, and the cascarones. I haven't used papier mache since I was at infant school and it was so much fun. Sticky fingers and endless possibilities right? (yes, we had a Blue Peter Tracey Island). I think they made the eggs a little tough to smash though. See...

That is one hundred percent toddler effort right there. He did it though, and loved them. A whole evening with a hole punch and a whole lot of sweeping up later, but so worth it.

Cascarones are a Mexican treat, like a mini pinata and they're meant for smashing over heads (don't worry, it is supposed to bring luck!) They're doing the rounds on the blogs right now. Jordan Ferney posted a fun game here.

So friends, was your day filled with confetti, sparkles and sugar?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

the Easter Bunny cometh...

So, I'm attempting a somewhat chocolate egg free Easter. I may be kidding myself, I may eat my words this time tomorrow along with several packets of Mini Eggs. This isn't out of meanness, I hope you understand. But my kid is 19 months old, I don't wanna be spending £10 on a chocolate egg that's bigger than his head! And while we're on the subject... these eggs are hollow people. That's right, £10 for 125g chocolate!

But the holidays are all about the kids right? And I'm big on creating traditions for our little family, so a visit from a giant bunny and a breakneck hunt for sugar seems in order.

I figured the sugar coma was going to happen anyway, so I repackaged some mini marshmallows as tiny bunny tails. And did you know the Easter Bunny lays eggs... yep, multicoloured eggs.

And this one, I know is not to everyone's taste. But I live with boys:

I used Maltesers, but chocolate chips, raisins or Nesquik cereal would work... if you have older, and therefore more graphic and gross boys you could leave a trail of droppings for them to follow... trust me, I know my brothers would LOVE this idea

Little chick says 'don't forget about me'...

... I had grand plans for these sucker chicks (chuckers?) and I'm not entirely pleased with the Copa Cobana feathered headdress

And while I was digging around in my baking cupboard I found these flat lollies I was going to turn into ghosts for Halloween... so I made oeuf en stick instead:

I love how you can see the Toy Story alien arm poking out the side:

These candy bar wrappers are inspired (i.e. copied every detail) by these ones:

I wrapped up some fruit puree bars for Vin (which I'm sure have more sugar than regular sweets because they are like crack to my kid), and a Cookies n Creme bar for D:

And because it wouldn't be Easter without them:

I got some little toys and things for the hunt too, which is easier said than done, given my facist toy policy (no flashing lights, no brightly coloured plastic etc)

And these silicone poached egg pods - which are for David, though you know Vin loves his silicone baking set too.

And because I am that mom:

you can always tell where we've been...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

raspberry jam for summer-filled jars

You guys, have you looked out the window?? Summer has arrived, and I have to say London looks freaking amazing in the sunshine. Give me a cold corona with a slice of lime and a patch of grass large enough for me to wiggle my bare toes in and I'm happy. Oh and icecream. And sunglasses. And maybe an afternoon or two picking fruit.

Oh yeah, the fruit. See Winter is all about extra layers and thick comforting blankets of chunky veg, while Summer is all about mozarella salad and fruit. Seriously, I live off berries and salad leaves for three months of a year (don't worry, I make up for it at Christmas).

So in need of a vehicle for all this fresh fruit... and extra points for being in a jar - I had a go at jam making.

Let me tell you, jam making is ridiculously over complicated. Like special funnel/ upturned stool/ muslin seive complicated. So when I see a recipe promising to be 'hands free' I am all over it, and this recipe from Nigella's 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' was easier than promised and ruby red lovely tasting*

Jam is bascially equal parts of fruit and sugar and not one bit of scientific fidgegadgetry in between. Raspberries are low in pectin, which is the stuff that makes jam set - you can buy special jar sugar with extra pectin, or you could use a pectin rich fruit like apples. If not, you get a gentle set jam - but I most def prefer it this way!

1. Preheat oven to 180
2. Place 250g raspberries and 250g sugar in two bowls - place bowls in center of oven for 20-25 minutes
3. Take out both bowls, add sugar to fruit and stir
4. Pour into a warm sterilised jar (some more about sterilising in this post) and allow to cool before enjoying on crusty bread/ freshbaked scones/ spooned straight from the jar with a dose of slobbery

p.s. these amounts will fill one 250g jar - and trust me, if you are making this for a gift, make two because you will struggle to give it away*

*here's some gratuitous baby action to evidence the above claims:


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