Step 0 is find lard. Don’t waste your time at Safeway, head to a Mexican market, they have it by the bucket.
This was my first time making hot water crust pastry. I was very wary of burning my hands with boiling water and lard. It was odd because normally when making pastry you’re moving quickly so the dough doesn’t get too warm and you don’t want to over work the dough.
For hot water crust, you move quickly so the dough doesn’t get too cold and you almost can’t over work it.
You have to roll out the pastry fairly thin and then cut out circles of the correct size for the top and bottom. I always find something in the kitchen to act as a guide.
For the filling, cook the quails’ eggs in a pan of boiling water for two minutes then refresh in cold water, peel carefully and set aside.
Put the onion, pork, bacon and parsley into a bowl, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix until well combined.
Spoon a little of the mixture into each lined pie case, place a quail’s egg in the centre and spoon over a little more filling.
Brush the edge of each pie case with a little beaten egg, place the lids on top and crimp the edges together to seal completely. Make a small hole in centre of each pie and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
When the pies are cooked, set them aside to cool for 10 minutes. If making the jelly, dissolve the stock cube in the boiling water. Soak the gelatine in a little cold water until soft then squeeze out excess water and whisk into the warm chicken stock.
(N.B. I did not do jelly because I was planning to eat them for dinner)
Verdict: B+ It was fiddly and the first time with hot water crust was odd. I did enjoy the crust and would use the pastry again. The quail eggs were annoying (sorry state bird!). They were difficult to peel and they had an odd taste, sort of sour.
I would bake this again, if only because my family really liked them, but I would probably omit the eggs unless I was really trying to impress someone.
Preheat the oven. Line two baking trays with baking parchment then oil a thickish handle of a wooden spoon and lay it on a cooling rack.
Thickish? Not the thickest, but not thinnish.
Measure the butter, sugar and syrup into a small, heavy-based pan. The easiest way is to measure the butter, then the sugar on the scales (in the pan if you have digital scales), then measure the syrup on top to make up to 165g/6oz total weight.
I didn’t do that. I measured it all individually. Still worked. Although that’s Mary, looking out for how many dishes you have to do.
Heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. This will take about 15 minutes over a low heat.
15 minutes? LOL!!! I ain’t waiting that long. Just make sure it doesn’t burn or boil and there is no graininess left over from the sugar.
Leave the mixture to cool slightly, then sieve in the flour and ginger. Pour in the lemon juice and mix thoroughly. Drop the mixture onto each of the prepared baking trays to make neat circles.
Can we go with neat-ish circles? How neat is neat? Tell me!!! (These were neat enough)
Bake until the mixture is well spread out, looks lacey and is a dark golden colour. Once baked, you need to work fast to shape the brandy snaps, so its easier if you bake one tray at a time. Remove each tray from the oven and leave for a minute or so to firm up slightly, then lift from the baking parchment using a fish slice. The mixture needs to be just firm enough to remove, but pliable enough to shape. Check by releasing around and under the edges with a small palette knife.
So dark you think they might burn, much darker than a cookie. Have faith, trust in Berry.
I had two pans going – one cooling and being rolled while the other baked. That worked out well. You’re going to be on your feet for a while with this one, wear comfortable shoes, have your drink ready (I always drink coffee when I bake [That’s a lie, sometimes I drink beer]).
Quickly roll a circle of the warm mixture around the handle of the wooden spoon, having the join underneath. Press the join lightly together to seal, then slide the brandy snap off the spoon and leave it to firm up on the wire rack.
You need to hit these at just the right moment. Too soon and the edges will just crumple in front of the spatula, too late and they will crack.
Have fun with different molding shapes. Cigars are fun, you can wrap them around oranges for little bowls that you can fill with custard or something else delicious. There are many possibilities for these. Given how quick and easy they are, go nuts. Even if the shape doesn’t come out, they still taste good!
I waited until serving to add the whipped cream so the snaps wouldn’t soften.
Verdict: Good! Very tasty in a caramel sort of way.
Simple and easy to make, lots of fun as well, especially if you get into doing various shapes. You could do some really fun desserts with little baskets or bowls filled with other delicious things. A would bake again.
I have one more night to finish my part of Nightmare Moon (husbeast is working on wings and horn). I realized last night that the hoof guards were going to need to be sewn on by hand. I don’t like the way the glue I have looks.
I got the hoofguards cut out, traced the helmet, cut out the eyeholes and prepped the mane & tail.
P got into bed and then I threw on Underworld and got to sewing.
(N.B. I love hand sewing. It’s a bit crampy but I find it very satisfying)
My little falcon is four years old and well into My Little Pony.
Halloween is coming and she wishes to portray Nightmare Moon.
As both a loving and a crafty mum, I’m making her a costume.
We started with research and creating a Pinterest board. There are some very cool interpretations out there. I decided on a decorated set of sweats.
We bought embellishing fabrics. It took me ages to find a periwinkle to match the illustrations. Everything was lavender, which is too red, or light blue, which is too blue. We also found some sweet, spangled tulle – upper right in the pic – that I can match with some regular tulle for the mane and tail.
We washed the fabrics, some by hand, some in the machine. Got them ironed and then set out to get the design done. I went with freehand sketching and it’s coming out really well.
Fun fact about me, I have an interior voice that is always looking for the ways that I’m not good enough. It told me that being “able to draw” meant that one should be able to draw something with no reference – just hey presto, with no model or anything. This is, naturally, bullshit.
I measured the sleeves and legs to get the right size. I got some reference images up on my phone and traced out the hoof guard motif onto paper and breastplate design right onto the hoodie.
Then I transferred the breastplate onto paper, added another sheet and traced out the back of the breastplate. I’m going to have one piece wrap around and I’m feeling very clever about it.
She has school Halloween on the 28th, so that’s my deadline. More to come!
Why this book? I have been following Rachael Herron since before she was a published author and was just a somewhat random knitting blogger. I had the opportunity to join her review team and got a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for posting a review (full disclosure).
This is the second book in the Songbird Trilogy series. The Darling Songbirds are a fictional musical trio of sisters –think Dixie Chicks from Bolinas. When we start our story, the band has been broken up for the better part of a decade and the sisters are slowly making their way back to Darling Bay. This book focuses on Molly, the middle sister.
Molly is chunky. Is she actually fat or is she just not super Hollywood thin? I couldn’t really get a picture of her in my head. A lot of Molly’s character is wrapped up in her weight, controlling her weight, people commenting on it, etc. It’s the chain that other people use to yank her around – regardless of their intentions. It’s very definitional for her and I understand that for a lot of women in the US weight is a huge _thing_ in their lives and identity. It’s not in mine. I have a really hard time connecting to contemporary female characters who are weight focused. I hate the propensity in “light” women’s fiction for female characters who are presented as psychologically normal to think about food in a pathological way. Molly knows that she doesn’t have the healthiest relationship with food and her self awareness helps to mitigate how much I was put off by her food talk.
So Molly has come home for Christmas after having been away from Darling Bay for more than ten years. The sisters have inherited a bar with attached hotel and cafe from their uncle. Adele, the eldest sister (and subject of the first book) is running the bar. Molly returns home from working on a cruise ship for six years and decides to re-open the café.
While poking around the abandoned café in the middle of the night she meets Sheriff Colin McMurty when he tries to arrest her and she throws her phone and hits his head.
This almost killed the book for me. It seems like every week I hear about another black person being gunned down by police while doing absolutely nothing wrong and this little bitch (the character) can fucking assault a sheriff and get a date out of it? The fucking privilege of even being able to conceive of this scene in this day and age literally made me nauseous.
To be honest, if I was not committed to writing a review, I would have stopped reading right there.
Now, knowing the author’s background helped me back up a step. She was a 911 dispatcher for more than a decade. Her perception of and relationship to law enforcement as a whole and individual members of LEOs is much different than mine. She was illustrating a side of law enforcement that she has seen and values.
Colin’s big issue is that he is bossy. It’s sort of his job to tell people what to do but it gets in the way of his ability to have functional relationships. His father was also the sheriff and for a guy who doesn’t want to be like his father he sure doesn’t seem to have tried to steer himself very far from the tree. There is a lot of fatalism in Colin that reflects a fatalism in Darling Bay. People from certain families end up in one way or another. It’s part of the small town trope that Herron uses but it’s depressing as fuck to think of all these poor people trapped by destiny.
Not the fun kind either
Molly and Colin feel instant attraction and that’s all very well and good. Because I don’t have a lot in common emotionally with either of them I had a hard time connection with their conflict. Colin’s bossiness, which is a deal breaker for Molly, wouldn’t be for me. Molly’s internal journey felt very jerky. They dance around each other. Or really, Colin sort of boils in his own skin and Molly weebles until they come together.
The lead up to the climax felt like it was tacked on, or maybe it was the start that was tacked on to the climax. Everything is moving along with Molly and the café and then BAM! She decides to start a second, far larger, far more ambitious project and it was jarring. I thought “Where the fuck did that come from? You can’t do both of these things!”
Spoiler: You are not going to start and run a national domestic abuse assistance hotline and website within six months of starting your own restaurant business.
It really felt as though Herron was trying to fulfill her theme of each sister running part of the old family business and at the same time create huge stakes for Molly and Colin to come together over. It didn’t work for me. Either Molly is a small town woman who had some time being larger than life but was fine going back to where she started or she is fully embracing that she is a world renowned music star and goddamnit she’s going to use her powers for good.
I think she might have used this while writing…
Wrap Up: There are one of two laugh out loud moments but this was not Herron’s best effort.
You will know you’re reaching culinary heights when you have multiple forms of salt in one recipe. Yes, it makes a difference. Finer, iodized salt (pictured above receiving the blessing of the baking princess) mixes in better. Sea salt or Kosher salt, with larger flakes, provide a nicer aesthetic and a pleasing crunch sprinkled on top of a loaf.
-Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and most of the water into a large bowl. Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.
Oh so messy!! A big hurdle for me has been getting my hands dirty while cooking. When I was a teenager I had very bad eczema on my hands. Washing my hands hurt. So I kept my hands as clean as I could. I didn’t mix things by hand, I didn’t touch food while I was cooking.
Then I started watching Gordon Ramsay cook. That dude is all about touching food, especially meat, in the pan! Won’t he get burnt??? I’ve watched Paul Hollywood make cake frosting with just his hand.
I’m getting to the point where getting messy is part of the game not something to be avoided at all costs. You make bread – take off your rings and get sticky. The more I accept that there will be a mess, the less messy the mess seems. Clean up goes quicker when I accept that it’s just another step in the recipe. (You do clean up as you go, right?)
-Stretch the dough by hand in the bowl, tuck the sides into the centre, turn the bowl 80 degrees and repeat the process for about five minutes.
It really grinds my gears when the recipe and the how-to video differ. I default to the video. If Mary Berry tells me to do it, her recipe editor can go hang.
This dough is very wet, so it’s best to keep it in the bowl until you have some of the gluten developed. But if you pull it out earlier – it’s no biggie. And your loaf won’t fail if you turn the bowl 82 degrees :P.
-Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.
Oil, oil, more oil. I’ve experienced two kinds of bread so far: flour for kneading and oil for kneading. I certainly didn’t need any moisturizer after I finished this. If it sticks – more oil. Don’t bother with the high quality stuff for the mixing and the kneading. Use decent stuff tho.
-Line two large baking sheets with baking paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and divide into two portions. Flatten each portion onto a baking sheet, pushing to the corners, then leave to prove for one hour.
I used one half sheet pan because I didn’t have jelly roll sized pans – which is what they ask for. One big one worked great. Less crust overall, if that’s important to you.
Getting the dough stretched all the way out was a challenge. There was a lot of gluten going on here and it kept springing back. Foccacia is very close to pizza dough, so keep that in mind and you wrestle it out to the corners – be rough! The video instructs you to stab the dough with your fingers to push some air out and to make divots for the oil, don’t skip that step.
-Drizzle the loaves with oil, sprinkle with fine sea salt then bake. When cooked, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve hot or warm.
This is the time for the good oil and the crunchy salt. Don’t be shy, oil that bad boy up and whack it in the oven. I still use a thermometer every time I bake. My oven is inconsistent in how inaccurate it is and how long it takes to pre-heat.
I actually put the how to video up to the oven to check the color of the bread before I pulled it out.
We are it while it was still warm. It was good but very plain. I ended up discussing this bake with my sister in law’s mother, who is from Sardinia. I got grilled on my Focaccia by an Italian mama. It was nerve wracking! She asked me if it was Northern or Southern. I told it was from an English guy. She approved of the color and the crumb and suggested I add herbs next time.
Verdict: A – would bake again. Easy, satisfying, very simple to convert to a pizza by adding toppings. You should definitely learn to bake this. I can see this as an easy weekend lunch with plenty of leftovers, especially if you do have two pans or just hold half back for later in the week.
Bonus: It’s not all sunshine and tiaras when I bake with a four year old. We both learn – she learns to bake and I learn to calm down and enjoy the time we spend together.
Special Guest Kitchen – My father in law’s house and his hard to understand oven controls and long unused appliances.
cold butter – butter temperature is a crucial thing. Too hot or too cold and your bake will not come out.
This was my first sweet pastry. I was poking right along, using the food processor that father in law has probably not used in a decade. I got it all pulsed and looking like breadcrumb, pulled it out, kneaded it and realized I had forgotten the powdered sugar.
I threw it all back in the processor, added in the powdered sugar and hoped like hell I wasn’t overworking it.
Given that I had that cock up, I chilled the pastry before rolling it out as an appeasement to the pastry gods. I think if you can you should probably always chill if you have time. If you’re smart, you should plan it so you do always have time.
I got a shiny, new proper tart tin for this, using the old employee discount. The edges are quite sharp, like, you could use it as a very large cookie cutter, sharp.
When I watched the masterclass video, Mary had a particular way of rolling out the pastry.
“Lay a piece of parchment paper on the work surface. Remove the base from the tart tin and lay it on the paper. Using a pencil, draw a circle onto the paper 4cm/1½in bigger than the tin base.
Dust the base of the tin with flour. Place the pastry ball in the centre of the tin base and flatten it out slightly. Roll out the pastry, still on the base, until it meets the circle mark. As you are rolling out, turn the pastry by turning the paper. Gently fold the pastry surrounding the tin base in towards the centre.”
-When I watched this part on the masterclass video I was so impressed with Mary’s cleverness. She is all about getting you there as quickly and easily as possible while getting “a result.” This even goes to making sure you have as few dishes to wash as possible. When I watch her cooking videos, her care for home bakers, among which she places herself, really comes across. This technique was perfect for this pastry, which was frighteningly delicate.
This is when you can grab a little extra piece of the pastry to press pastry on pastry to avoid over heating it with your fingers. The pastry felt fragile and I was petrified of it cracking as I placed it in the tin. Didn’t though, went in a charm using Mary’s method.
Time to blind bake (that’s baking a pie shell with weights but no filling so the bottom doesn’t puff or or become…soggy!). I used lentils, that’s what was in the guest kitchen. (How does it feel, Niel?)
I didn’t blind bake long enough. I will give it a minute or two longer in the future. From this bake and others I have learned that I don’t get good results when I have a time pressure – like getting a tart done in time for the kid to go to bed. You can see below how pale the pastry was. Needed just a bit more color.
powdered sugar, for dusting (nope. I hold no truck with putting bloody powdered sugar on every damn thing) (See, I’m getting opinionated – that means I’m growing as a baker)
I prepped everything while the pastry case was chilling and baking. I filled the pastry case as it sat on the rack, partially in the oven. It was nerve wracking. Getting it as full as I dared and then holding my breath as I slid it in the oven. I want a fancy oven with the racks on rollers so they glide in and out. Failing that I think I might take care to clean and lube my rack edges.
One bakes until there is just a wobble. This is one of those things that is just based on experience. My brother in law, who is a professor of theoretical physics, and I stared at the center of the tart. We shook the rack a bit and agreed that it had stopped being jiggly and had moved to a wobble. I’ve got science on my side for this one.
(I had never seen the technique of putting the tart pan on a large jar to get it out before I watched Bake Off. Genius.)
I wanted, per Paul’s criticism of Norman in Season 5, perfectly straight, clean, shiny custard. It was straight. The shine wasn’t perfect. Some of the fat in my heavy cream had separated and I shook it to redistribute it. The shaking made bubbles that carried through the custard making and the bake. The pastry could have used a minute or two more in the blind bake but there was no soggy bottom. We also ate it too early (a common flaw in my bakes is that we don’t wait very long before we eat them) so the custard wasn’t completely set.
It was completely delicious with a wonderful texture and a light flaky pastry. When my lemon tree recovers from the ill timed pruning I gave it last year this tart will definitely appear again. It would also be wonderful with other citrus flavors. I’m partial to lime.
You should make it, it’s not difficult and you’ll feel like a boss. Just get a consult on the wobble and you’ll be fine.
The Season 1 technical bakes were really quite easy, if you had the recipe in front of you. The first season of GBBO that I watched was season five. When I went back to watch season 1 I thought “are they joking?” The standard was so much lower. I think that a lot of people watched the first season and thought “Well, I bake a lot better than that, I’ll have a go!”
Thus, the Season 2 Technical Bakes are no joke. Even with the recipe and the masterclass videos – wherein Mary and Paul show you exactly how to make the recipes – the recipes have been difficult to execute. (Yeah, I’ve almost finished the Season 2 bakes and am well behind on blogging – much content to follow!)
So, the Battenberg. You may have noticed that the title and the assignment differ. My brother, who judges the bakes, is allergic to walnuts. I adapted this so he could eat it. Yep, it’s not the same, nope, I’m not sorry.
Instant Coffee was the weirdest ingredient I had to get for this, that and margarine (or “baking spread”). The instant coffee adds a full cup worth of coffee flavour without the excess moisture that would mess up the sponge texture.
From here we moved on to a fairly standard sponge mix (that’s cake, America) and a craft project.
I am now confident in my ability to make sure the cake comes out of the pan. Thoroughness is the key. Grease, maybe some flour and parchment paper. Don’t skimp (my mom was a skimper because her mom – who taught her – was raised in the Depression when skrimping was really just being. I’m learning better ways now. And that has been a short lesson on how poverty interacts with multiple generations of a family long after members of that family are actually poor. /sjwrant) and your cakes will come out!
You can go out and buy a special Battenberg pan. I was not about that. I am completely willing to buy equipment as I go about my quest, but I am pretty sure I’m not going to be popping out Battenbergs again (spoiler?). Mary Berry, being crafty like ice is cold (I put on my records, she knew all the grooves) shows one how to use foil backed parchment to separate your pan into two baking chambers.
My pan was 8*8 instead of 7*7, so my Battenbergs were more rectangular than square. No biggie.
Beat up the sponge, then, split it in half and add flavor to each half. Instead of walnuts, I used almonds. Next time I would toast them to add even more flavour.
I tried to be exact on this part, to get identical sponges.
And yet, my sponges were quite different sizes. That was frustrating. I tried very hard to make them even before baking and it just didn’t happen. I don’t know if it was the nuts. I got the sponges out, separated them and then went for a run.
Coming back it was time to assemble!
I mixed up a truly miniscule bit of frosting. It was not enough!! You are meant to use it to stick the pieces of Battenberg together and then coat the outside so the marzipan sticks. There was just not enough of it to do all of that. The sponge was crumbling when I tried to get the icing layer thinner and by the time I got to trying to stick on the marzipan there was none left.
Marzipan! or Almond Paste? Marzipan! The recipe called for 8 oz of marzipan. The package had seven. I didn’t buy a second package so I would have the right amount and then have six ounces of marzipan left over. It didn’t make a difference. I had enough to roll out and cover the cake.
Rolling the marzipan and wrapping up the sponges was much easier than I had been anticipating. As a material, marzipan was fun and easy to work with. Paul likes to crimp, so I crimped and added almonds on top.
It looked good! The marzipan was separating from the sides due to the lack of frosting to stick it on.
We sliced it, ate it and… it was really gross. The commercial marzipan was disgustingly sweet. You couldn’t taste much coffee or almond, just sugar. For all that work it was not delicious. I would not make this again, unless I made my own marzipan (which I have done in the mean time and it came out great). If you make this, be selective about your marzipan and I think you will be much happier than I was.