Wednesday, 24 December 2008

A Kick up the Backside

I finally got a kick up the backside and some motivation to update my part in the blogging world. I was rather suprised to be honest. I knew i had a handful of followers but it seems the numbers are gathering! Juliet left a comment on my previous post asking me what she could do to get my motivation back so she could catch upon my news. Thank you Juliet, i am really touched. Things have picked up slightly but the depression cloud it still hanging around and swamping life. However, i'd kind of expect that during the festive season. It never seems to be a happy time these days, and we always debate what we're going to do.

There was the idea thrown around about going away somewhere to try and escape the festivities, but we came to the conclusion that you can't avoid it - afterall the shops start Christmas in October! Plus it was a case of we can hide at home and watch TV/play board games or pay to stay in a cottage somewhere and watch the TV/play board games. Needless to say we are staying put although you'd never know it was Christmas other than the cards which are stapled to ribbons hanging on one door of the lounge. I'm not sure how tomorrow will progress but we bought some new Trivial Pursuit cards to keep us entertained when the TV gets truely dreadful.

So what have i been up to since my last post, a shocking 20 days ago? Well from my photos it looks like baking bread and not much else! Time to add some photos and then write around them (reminds me what i want to say and formats easier that way too).

So starting with the bread. i've made about 6 loaves so far, today is the 7th and i think i've finally got the flour and water just about right so the bread turns out at a density we all like.
1st - Spelt. I love the flavour of spelt but using a recipe from the Doves flour website created a loaf that was very dense and a little difficult to digest.

2nd - 100% spelt again but this time i used more water. Again lovely flavour but the crumb was still far too dense for us.

3rd - 80:20 wholemeal:white. I think this was 300ml water. Nice loaf, ok crumb but i wasn't sure if it was light enough.

4th: same flour ratio but 400ml too water....hmmm a bit too holey!

This loaf had 350ml - Just right!

So there we are, i'm a baker too now. There's a book i want to get, it's not too expensive but i've seen it cheaper on ebay a couple of times. Only trouble is both times i've meant to log on at the ending time and i've been distracted and forgotten! However i got a book voucher through the post the other day, so i guess i have the funds now.

I was sitting on the sofa the other day when i heard the familiar thud of, as we call it, a bird splat. Fortunately Little Robin didn't fly at the patio doors as the female blackbird did a few weeks ago. It wasn't such a happy ending for her, although i don't think she would have known much about it.

He was a little stunned though and wasn't bothered by me just the other side of the glass. I started to think i might have to go and get him until he warmed up and came round but as i opened the back door he flew away.

As with the past couple of years, for the festive season once again, we have created a hamper for my grandparents with various homemade items included.
Mum had mentioned previously that she fancied some sloe gin, so once i'd finally found a decent crop of sloes, we got some gin and created magic! But we had a few to many sloes it turned out so we made some more. So thats 2 bottles for mum.

And a personalised one for the hamper.

D had a meeting/party to go to where normally everyone takes a little something for their buffet lunch. A great excuse for me to bake!! Especially with my new found interest in yeast
So i got creative with these flavoured rolls. The flavours were slightly adapted however due to what i had in stock.
Sundried Tomato
Green Olive (which were also stuffed with pimentos)
And onion (from the garden) and rehydrated porcini mushrooms.
Mum kept one for her lunch - and so i could get a shot of the inside of the roll, which turned out to be soft and light. As for the rest of them? who knows..... they went with D to his party and they didn't come back, although by the sounds of it they had so much food the host is probably still eating them!

I haven't really done anything in the garden. I'm not go with even remotely cold weather so the only times i've been out there is when i want to harvest something.
There's still parsnips, carrots, red cabbage, white cabbage, chard and a few tiny onions. Mum's requested a red cabbage for tomorrow, so i've left a larger one out there for her.

More items for the hamper now. I picked up this idea on Martin's Money Saving Forums (the link should be in the side menu). Something personal for Nan this time.

So easy (well almost) and yet impressive. I wanted little chocolate rounds so i decided to melt the chocolate in the silicone muffin moulds. Also by melting the squares in the microwave already in the moulds saved the agro of pouring melted chocolate - less waste too. whilst it was still molten i topped them with chopped crystalised ginger.
One thing to bare (is it bear or bare?) in mind though is that different chocolates have different melting points. For the mix i had to heat the white in one half for a little first then put the dark square in the other half and finish them together. You learn from your mistakes.

At the beginning of December mum and i went to Bremen on a day trip to experience a continental festive market. We left home at 6.15am, the flight was scheduled for 7.40am and we evenually arrived in Bremen at about 10.30am.
The journey from Bremen airport to the town centre was so straight forwards, a tram journey lasting 10 minutes. It was certainly chilly, i think the forecast was saying not about 3 degrees celcius...brrrrr!

Mum sampled the gluhwein in the morning and whilst we were having that drink mid morning she was watching what else was being served and decided that the afternoon's drink was going to be eggnog, although when it came to that her verdict was too sweet and perhaps a little too alcohfrolic!

Lunch was soup (cabbage, carrot and smoked sausage broth style for me and goulash for mum) to warm us up. We picked up a decoration, that is now sat on the kitchen window sill...... A hearted shaped "Frohe Weinachten" iced lebkuchen cookie as a novelty item for the hamper. Some speck and salami for grandpa for the hamper. And finally i too a step out of my comfort zone and got a small Bretzel (german pretzel/bread) to keep me going for the journey home. Which again was without any major hitches, so we were home by 9pm. It was nice to be back where is wasn't attempting to snow, that was a bit too cold for me as it was more like sleet than snow.

Now for the final part of the mini cakes for the hamper. Roughly based in this recipe.
Why is it cake mix tastes so yummy? The cakes themselves didn't bad either once cooked!

I had plenty spare so i took one into town with me, complete with a carefully positioned sticker with my contact details (hint hint!!) but i think he was in so much of a hurry to eat the cake, the sticker may have been missed sadly. Perhaps i have to be less subtle next time, if indeed i do try again....
Anyway i placed a round of marzipan and a round of icing on top secured with marmalade and topped with some clementine slices that i dried in the oven and some dried cranberries.

The board are coasters from sainsburys and with a little red ribbon round the middle i think they look quite cute.

So that's one each for the hamper and an extra one for one of their friends who will be having a stressful time alone attempting to cope with her husband and his dementia and alzeihmers over Christmas. One small problem right now is the icing - made the mistake of putting them in a tin overnight - having now learnt that this make them sweat and the moisture from the cake (of which there is a lot! they don't need feeding) is taken up by the icing. So i can't put the cellophane round them right now as it just sticks to the sides.

And finally something i've been wanting to try for a while - Carp. A traditional festive Czech meal, tescos (and waitrose i have since noticed) have been selling them in the run up to the 25th. Rather expensive at £10/kg, but half price off, so £5/kg at tescos (£8.99/kg waitrose) meant this monster cost almost £10, which i gutted then baked whole and we shared it between the 3 of us. Lovely unique flavour and i think the moisted fish i've ever tasted. Worth trying but i can see due the cost why it would be the special one off festive meal!

Seems as well as a baker, i'm a fishmonger too now! Especially with my efforts at Salmon filleting below.

Anyhow, i hope that will keep you going to a bit Juliet! Who knows what the next few weeks holds, i don't really have any plans, but i'm sure it will include more bread in these credit crunch times.
I'm off to meet mum from work now and hopefully find some lunch in a pub somewhere and later i've decided i want to do the crazy Tescos closing time bargin fight. nothing better than a supermarket scuffle!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

I haven't vanished - honestly. Things have been a little tough. Hopefully soon i'll find the motivation to do a catch up but in the mean time here's a photo of something i have started doing - baking my own bread!

Even better than that, i actually eat it myself too! Well - it's just too tasty to resist really!