Friday, 28 September 2007
I came across an interesting technique while I was getting ready to start new projects - something I think Andy will particularly like ;) It's all about how to knit in the round without double pointed needles. Circular needles are good if you're doing a round project with a larger diameter (like the body of the SKB), but for smaller stuff like hats and sleeves and beginning at the center of a flat circle, you'd usually start on several double pointed needles. Well I have discovered some funky alternative methods with circular needles that allow you to do small diameter projects without having to buy a set of matching double pointeds. I don't think I'd like to do a whole sleeve or hat like this, but it's an excellent way of getting started on something that starts small later progresses to circular needles.
It's one of those things that would sound very complicated written down, but it's actually not too bad. Have a look at these v handy vids to get the idea, I'm having a go at 'magic loop knitting' right now!...
Wednesday, 26 September 2007
Oh my goodness, look at this dessert from Habeas Brulee! Amazing! Bubbles of caramel actually blown like glass, then yummy cardamom/lemon custard piped inside through a tiny hole. Looks very tricky indeed, but definitely one to impress. I sense an impending weekend of burnt fingers and sticky sugar strands all over the kitchen and all over me. Now where can I get my hands on a good metal tube...
Tuesday, 25 September 2007
5 egg yolks
80g sifted plain flour
knob of butter
Extra flavourings can be included once cooked for example vanilla, coffee essence, liqueurs, lemon, orange etc etc
Bring the milk to the boil in a pan. Beat the sugar and yolks for 2-3mins until pale and slightly thickened. Beat in the flour, and then pour on the milk gradually to incorporate it. Return to a clean pan and bring to the boil, whisking constantly for a few minutes until thickened. Remove from heat, beat in the butter and transfer to a clean bowl. Allow to cool with the surface in contact with a sheet of cling film to prevent a skin forming.
This mixture will keep in the fridge for a few days.
Choux pastry (serves 5-6 generously):
100g Plain flour
200g dark chocolate
250ml double cream
Heat the water, salt and butter in a pan until butter is melted. Bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Immediately beat in the flour until the mixture is smooth and comes away from the sides of the pan. Allow to cool for a few minutes then gradually beat in the eggs bit by bit. The mixture should remain stiff enough to hold its shape when piped onto a baking sheet so you might not need absolutely all the egg.
Run the greased baking trays briefly under the tap so that they have small drips of water on them – the steam helps the pastry to crisp up in the oven. Spoon the dough into a piping bag and pipe into blobs for profiteroles (about the size of a walnut), or sausage shapes for éclairs. Leave plenty of space between them for expansion. Bake at 200 for 10 minutes and then turn up the temperature to 220 for another 15 minutes or so, until the profiteroles are crisp and golden brown. Slit them open whilst still hot in order to let the steam out otherwise they’ll go soggy as they cool.
Just before serving fill the profiteroles with crème patissiere and make the chocolate sauce: Heat the cream until it reaches boiling point and pour it over the chocolate broken into small pieces in a bowl. Allow to sit for 5 minutes while the profiteroles are being filled. Whisk the chocolate and cream vigorously until smooth and glossy. Arrange the filled profiteroles on a serving dish and cover with warm chocolate sauce. Serve immediately!
Monday, 24 September 2007
Drool. I finished off the leftovers for breakfast on Sunday I'm not ashamed to say! I've once again failed to have pics, laptop and recipes all in the same place at the same time so recipe to follow, but I thought you might like the squidgy messy chocolatey picture to look at until then :)
Anyway, I finished that section by the end of Friday night thankfully, and moved back up to nice 5mm metal needles to storm through the rest. The entire remainder of the body was finished by Sunday night, although I might re-do the bottom ridges on the smaller needles to make them a bit less bulging. Time for the sleeves now, then all that will remain is to knit a few rows around the neckline. Hurrah!
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
- Although blueberries are native to North America, they grow extremely well in the cool and wet conditions here in Scotland. At the Scottish Crop Research Institute just down the road in Invergowrie they grow lots of soft fruit crop plants for various studies, a happy consequence of which is that there is a bountiful harvest of unwanted fruit! The raspberries are great of course, being what Tayside is famous for, but so are the blueberries - and a bargain at £5 for an entire kilo. According to wikipedia blueberries are one of only a few human foods that are naturally colored blue. I can’t think of any others (unless you count blue cheese). Any suggestions??
And of course they’re super healthy – full of antioxidants, vitamin C etc etc, so even in cheesecake form you can convince yourself it’s all good :)
I realise this is the second cheesecake recipe in a row, I need to improve on getting recipes into blog form, but it’s a good one so bear with me. Takes a while, but the advantage is that it’s made the day before so all you need to do is whip it out of the fridge when people arrive and leave it somewhere conspicuous to be admired!
Lemon and Blueberry Cheesecake
300g shortbread biscuits
675g cream cheese, softened
400g caster sugar
2tsp finely grated lemon zest
35g plain flour
1tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
6 large eggs
125ml lemon juice
lots of blueberries
Crush the shortbread biscuits and mix with enough melted butter to lightly coat the crumbs (I didn’t weigh what I used, but maybe something like 50-75g). Press into the base and sides of a greased 9in tin and freeze until required.
Beat together the cream cheese, sugar and lemon zest until smooth, then add the flour, cornflour, vanilla extract and salt, beating until well combined.
Add the eggs one by one, then the lemon juice, beating well between additions.
Put the prepared tin on a baking tray and pour in the filling. Sprinkle a few handfuls of blueberries over the filling using varying amounts of force so that they sink to different depths within the mixture.
Bake on the centre shelf at 130 for 1 hour, then at 120 for another hour, then at 100 for a further 1.5h – book says until internal temperature of filling reaches 79oC although I don’t have a temperature probe.
If there’s time, allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight. Due to the ridiculous length of cooking time and my own lack of planning/time, I usually end up having to stay up late waiting for the cheesecake to finish cooking. Not wanting to stay up a further hour or two waiting for it to cool, I just turn the oven off without opening the door and leave it in there overnight ready to fridge in the morning.
Once cool the top of the cheesecake will look a bit ugly – higher at the edges than in the middle and probably with some cracks and splits in it. To tart it up and make it look more presentable even off the surface by trimming the edges away, then coat with a thin layer of double or sour cream followed by lots of blueberries.
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
It’s a back to basics kind of bread, relying on natural yeast and bacterial cultures present in the flour and air, rather than the addition of bakers yeast (although a sneaky extra sprinkle can help things get going). The basic idea is that you initiate a kind of starter culture by mixing flour and water together and using it to catch and feed organisms that are all around in the air. It can take a few goes to get the ‘right’ culture but it’s pretty obvious by smell – ie if it's bubbly and smells yeasty and bready then it’s good, if it stinks then throw it away!
Once up and running the culture is kept alive by feeding with extra water and flour now and again, and it can be kept indefinitely (decades even!!) as a starter for breads, English muffins, waffles, pancakes etc. A quick google search revealed a few interesting websites on the subject, and comments by people who had been given their cultures by friends years and years ago, or been passed down through generations as kind of family heirlooms. Check out some info from S. John Ross for starters, also here's nice sourdough blog and of course wikipedia. There’s plenty of info in the RC Family Cookbook too.
What I did at RC was to mix 2.4L water with 2 kilos flour and a few ladelfulls of the starter culture. The resulting very wet paste was left overnight to form a ‘sponge’, to which 2 more kilos of flour were added the next morning, together with 2% salt. Knead for 10 mins, prove for 40, then bake. Easy! I’m going to have a go and making a starter culture from scratch but I really like the idea of an heirloom one. Anyone got a sneaky bit of starter culture that they’d like to share to begin a west end colony??
Here's a pic taken on the beach at Lyme Regis, a few mins down the hill from the campsite, and also the lovely view of RCHQ taken from the track that everyone walks down after leaving the cars at the top of the hill by the road. Nice.