Grapefruit Sandwich Cake

This post is a little bit late but the bank holiday weekend was so busy I didn’t have time to write anything at all. The first episode of the Great British Bake Off last week was cake themed with the contestants asked to make a signature sandwich cake, Mary Berry’s own recipe for angel cake and a showstopping chocolate creation. It was great to see the old bake-off charm back in spoonfuls from Mel and Sue with their own brand of baking related humour to the mismatched judging pair of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. When Series 3 was first aired I was writing my thesis 18 hours a day and although I made time to stop and watch each week while I ate my Tuesday dinner, this year I was adamant that I would express my bake-off inspiration weekly in the kitchen.

My initial plan was to take one of the challenges and create my own response to them and this may be what happens in the weeks to come. However, this week I was so intrigued by the grapefruit cake made by Beca in the first signature bake that I knew I had to try it myself. Luckily this was one of the recipes that featured on the BBC website. I made the grapfruit curd and crystallised grapefruit on Saturday. I have never made curd before and was surprised at how easy it was.

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I LOVE this grapefruit curd. I have eaten it on toast every day since I made it and I have a feeling there will be a jar of it in my fridge for the forseeable future as I make more and more and more. I used red grapefruits although the recipe didn’t specify. I think this probably reduced the sharpness of the cake but also gave an attractive colour overall.

The next day I made the sponge cakes and the delicious grapefruit syrup. The recipe was easy to folllow and the cake came out perfectly soft with a beautiful fluffy texture. I don’t have an electronic mixer so I used the traditional wooden spon and creamed the butter and sugar together, then added the eggs followed by sifted flour and then folded in the other ingredients.

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The only element I had an issue with was the cream. Having to whisk by hand made this tiring and I couldn’t get it fluffy enough. I whipped it until the whisk left a trace and then put it in the fridge overnight. It set quite nicely and I constructed the cake. This cake was awesome. It wasn’t too sweet and the grapefruit flavour was quite mild yet still distinctive. I will make this cake again and it has already been requested for a friends birthday. The photo below shows the last slice…..the rest was eaten before I remembered to take a photo.

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Counting Sheep……..

Somewhat scarred by my attempts at a sorbetto I decided to go back to something simple. Before my sorbetto campaign, I bought some soft blue fabric with a sheep pattern on it that I planned to use for some pyjama bottoms. These were to be based on some pyjamas that I had but had come to a weary end. Hoever, I did not buy enough fabric not realising how much fabric is need for the crotch region. I am still stunned by how complex garment construction is and how take for granted it is as well. I decided to use this fabric to make some snuggly pillowcases for camping.

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I didn’t really bother with a pattern for these pillowcases but as it turned out, when I cut it in half it was the perfect size allowing for a 5/8″ seam alowance. I judged this by comparing it to an existing pillowcase. In order to have this project contain some new skill to practice, I decided to use french seams for the construction. This project also provide some more practice at controlling the sewing machine and keeping the lines straight.

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There isn’t much more to say about this project other than the French seams were a success and I plan to use this extremely neat technique in future makes and the big kid in me is insiting on using this pillowcase tonight 🙂

In anticipation of the Great British Bake Off

I cannot wait for the new series of the the Great British Bake Off to start this evening. I love baking and find the whole series inspirational. For those

of you who do not know, a national newspaper published a set of bake off recipe cards and a recipe booklet last week and I managed to collect all except the sorbet cake. In honour of the first episode of the Bake Off appearing on our screens this evening, I decided to use one of these recipes to make my tea. One of the few savoury recipes in the collection is for goats cheese and mixed pepper muffins. Having spent the whole weekend eating barbecued meats, this inspiried me to make a veggie teatime treat for myself and Mr elbi.

I started by making my filling for veggie cottage pie which is lentil based (with a recipe to follow) and then made up a half batch of the muffin mixture. I followed the recipe almost to the letter substituting low fat yogurt and quadrupling the amount of cayenne pepper (I like a good kick to my dinner)

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Once the liquid of the filling had reduced right down, I combined the wet and dry ingredients and spooned the mixture on top and baked as per the recipe instructions.

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The yoghurty, cheesy topping went perfectly with the lentils it made an excellent alternative to mashed potato. The muffin mixture was incredibly soft having been partially steamed by the filling below and that combined with the bite of the lentils and carrot to give a very satisfying veggie supper.

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This is going into the regular rotation! Hope you all enjoy the Bake Off tonight. I just have time to wash up before curling up on the sofa to watch.

Triple Chocolate Muddy Puddle Cakes

These were supposed to be sticky chocolate cupcakes topped with an elegant swirl of chocolate mousse. But…….Ifgo impatient and put the mousse on top before it had had time to set. This didn’t seem to detract from their appeal though. I left these alone for less than three hours and came back to find one solitary cupcake sitting on the side and many empty cases. My mister had had his mates round and they had demolished them.

The cake itself is a straightforward sponge made slightly wetter by the addition of cream:

50g of dark cocoa was mixed with 100 g of single cream and then set to one side. 100g butter and 100g sugar were creamed together until fluffy and then 2 eggs were added. This was followed by 50g of plain flour, 1tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt and half a teaspoon of vanilla essence. The cocoa mixture was then folded in along with a large handful of white chocolate chips. These were baked in a pre-heated oven at 180 oC for 25 min. The were then left to cool on a wire rack.

I won’t include the recipe for the mousse here as it really didn’t work but any chocolate frosting would probably work. But here is a photo of the last remaining cupcuke. It may not look the prettiest but it was sticky and chocolatey and delicious. Hopefully I’ll make them again witha more successful mousse top!

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A Failed Sorbetto

At this point I will point out that my failure is by no means the fault of the pattern. As a project this fulfilled many of the objectives that I had when I embarked upon making this top. Having downloaded the pattern, I traced the pattern pieces onto paper without sticking them together first. The main reason for this was that I had printed it out double-sided at work and then snatched it out the printer and into my handbag before anyone could see it………not easy to disguise dressmaking patterns as chemistry.

This approach was fairly successful and I cut all the pieces out of my fabric without any problems. The instructions were clear and easy to follow even for a complete rookie like me. I particularly liked the explanatory information accompanying some of the steps. In particular, stay-stitching is something that I haven’t come across before and is the kind of think I would perhaps be tempted to skip not really seeing the point but by including a reason for the instruction, the people at collette patterns succeeded in convincing me it was necessary. I made the darts and pressed them into place very neatly and was very pleased with myself although it was at this point that I started to question my choice of fabric. The mystery fabric was very easy to handle which meant I could concentrate on using the machine and keeping my seams straight but it was very stiff and when I made the darts they kind of kept their shape without any support in a manner that comically reminded me of the bras favoured by Madonna in the 80s. Hmmm…….

Again the pleat was fairly easy to do given the nature of the fabric and I constructed the pleat and stitched the front and back together without much difficulty (although the seams were in place interesting shapes). I couldn’t seem to get neat small stitches no matter what I did. The fabric scooted through the machine apparently unchecked giving long wonky stitches. On further investigation I found that my machine opened in a way I had not anticipated and revealed this dial.

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The foot pressure is ADJUSTABLE!! and set to the lowest setting so the fabric was not held by the machine. After sorting this out the fabric moved much more steadily and I redid all my seams. How conscientious am I.

Now to the next new element – bias binding. As something else previously unknown to me I read through the instructions for this several times before I proceeded. The instructions for this element were so clear and easy to follow that I have kept this page in my sewing machine case for future perusal next time I need to use this. Unfortunately, no amount of detail and assistance in the instructions could make up for my inability to control the fabric on curves. I cannot tell you how many times I unpicked this binding but I will reveal what was left at the end (it’s still pretty bad). I know I should have practice controlling my machine before I started this sewing project but I’ve never been very good at drilling the basics. Learning scales on the clarinet for exams was such a painful experience it was almost enough to put me off music forever.

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I would have unpicked these seams again but at this point I tried the garment on and decided there was no need as it will never be seen in public. The stiffness of the fabric meant in hung like a lampshade around me. This fabric has no drape at all. In addition to this, I am quite tall (6 ft) and had I hemmed this top it would have been a cropped lampshade revealing more of my untoned stomach than I am willing to let anyone see.

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So lessons learnt during this make:

  1. Consider lengthening makes in future
  2. Foot pressure must not be too low
  3. Stay-stitching is important
  4. Think about drapiness of fabric needed for project at point of purchase
  5. Bias binding is not scary but I need to practice

I will definately make this pattern again in the future but I will use a much more drapey fabric.

Pork in Black Bean Sauce

Chinese food is something of a mystery to me. I have always enjoyed eating it in restaurants, even more so since discovering the Mayflower in Bristol. (Best chinese food I have ever come across and well worth a visit if you’re in the area.) Anyway, like I said chinese food is a mystery to me, Not the eating of it but more cooking it. I do frequent a chinese supermarket to buy soy sauce, prawn crackers, chilli sauces, green tea and assorted pre-made frozen chinese starters (sping rolls dumplings etc.).

However, I would love to be able to make more chinese food so when I came across some fermented, salted black beans at the chinese supermarket, I decided to give black bean sauce a go from scratch. I googled black bean sauce for some hints and came acoss this recipe. My version was slightly difference. The sauce was the same but I wasn’t sure how to mash such a small quantity of black beans so instead I just chopped them very finely. I then marinated pork strips in this for about an hour.

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When it was time to cook, I seasoned a wok with sesame oil and seared the marinated pork strips. I then added a sliced onion, a couple of handfuls of shredded red cabbage, a handful of sliced mixed peppers and some green beans to the wok and mixed through. I then added a couple of tablespoons of ginger wine to the pan and covered to give the vegetables time to steam slightly. While the vegetable were still firm, I added all the black bean sauce the pork had been marinating in and on a gentle heat reduced it sown to a dark sticky sauce. Served with noodles, this made a great meal for midweek – no long preparation steps and the actual cooking only took 20 minutes (would have been less if I had remembered to boil the water for the noodles. This recipe is definately a good simple start for anyone interested in cooking their chinese restaurant favourites at home.

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I think the choice of vegetables makes it look vibrant and awesome!!

Planning a Sorbetto

This is my next make. Spurred on by my success with the hessian bag I decided to try a Sorbetto by Collette for my next sewing challenge. There were a number of reasons for this decision not least the number of gorgeous sorbettos that are all over the internet.

I wanted something simple that would not be so difficult that I never finished it but I wanted to challenge myself at the same time.

The Sorbetto has bust darts:

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A pleat:

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Curved lines that need to be stitched AND binding (something that I have only read about and never seen up close):

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It doesn’t have sleeves, gathers, “easing-in” (not really sure how this works) or a zipper.

So some new challenges but there are no elements that are too scary. The other brilliant thing about this make is that the pattern is available as a free download and can be made with a relatively small amount of fabric. While my sewing is still as dodgy as it is, I don’t want to spend a fortune on fabric and patterns and haberdashery just to turn it all into a mangled mess.

So now I have a pattern, I need some fabric, some thread and some of this mysterious bias stuff.

I bought some fabric (pictured above) from the ‘Fancy Silk Store’ in Birmingham. I pass this shop regularly travelling to work but never while its open and as I live in Bristol it is a bit far for making a special journey. I was early heading home for once and I nipped in and in about 5 seconds saw this, decided it was light and fresh and summery so I would have some of it for my sorbetto. As I writing this post retrospectively, I can tell you that this was not the correct fabric choice but more on that later.