Monday, 19 September 2016

GBBO - Week 4

Last weeks Bake Off episode started with a tone of sadness. Not the episode itself but the viewers who (from what I've read) are all saddened by the recent news. If you have been hiding in a cave you may now have heard that the BBC have lost Bake Off and channel 4 will be it's new home. As a result there will be no more Mel and Sue and who knows what other changes will take place. This is one of those shows (in my humble opinion) which doesn't need changed. Bake Off fans like it the way it is. That's a year away so for now we can enjoy it.

Last week was batter week. Sounds easy but far from it. I've never really worked with batter before. I think helping my mum with pancakes years and years ago doesn't really count.

First up was Yorkshire puddings. Not only did the bakers have to make perfect mini puddings but they had to fill them. Val mentioned that you can be kicked out of Yorkshire for a rubbish pudding (paraphrasing) and another said that there are lots of debate on the perfect recipe. A friend of mine once told me that she judges everyone on whether or not they make their own and it should be perfect. Unfortunately Val and a few others didn't quite manage it. There were a few flat puds about. Selasi did not have that problem as most of his could be described as giants and they were well filled with a Sunday roast. Jane also did well with her Sunday roast filling. However, Salasi received Hollywood approval for his crackling.

The technical challenge involved pancakes. Seems simple for bake off but they bakers had to make sure that they were lace. This has proven to be popular over recent years. Facebook is flooded with these videos of people creating famous characters from pancake mix. A few over cooked their pancakes while others didn't quite manage the lace pattern. Benjamina won with the perfect design and bake. If you want to try your own the recipe is here on the Bake Off website. I am going to have a go this week too. Who doesn't love a pancake. I don't promise that the pattern will look brilliant mind you. Decoration is far from my strong point.

For the show stopper the contestants had to make cheeros which is a spanish sweet dish popularly sold at street vendors. You have no idea how glad I am that this wasn't the technical challenge as I don't do hot oil. Benjamina again made the perfect cheero. She went with a simple design and flavour and put her flavours into the dip. A fab idea as she was the only one who impressed Paul and Mary. Tom and Andrew made the mistake of making the cheeros as is commonly done which involves cutting the batter straight into the oil. This made for lots of uneven cheeros. Rookie error as Paul and Mary like their conformity. In fact poor Tom did not have a good week overall as he succumbed to the curse of star baker.

Benjamina was the clear star baker. There was really no contest. She did well with her Yorkshire puddings and came out on top with the final two. I have always like Benjamina and she seems to do well with most of her bakes. I'm hoping she continues to do so despite winning star baker last week.

Sadly it was the turn of Kate to leave the show. I was actually a little surprised by this. She did have a bad week with all her bakes. However, Tom had a bad week too and Val seems to be scraping by each week. I have a feeling that Val's time on the show is growing short but I can't help but like her.

As always the above images don't belong to me and were courtesy of the Bake Off website.

After humming and hawing for days over whether or not my first bread attempt should be the technical bake (Dampfnudel) I decided to stick with my orignal challenge. I had no expectations as to whether or not I would manage it or even like it. I actually surprised myself. I managed it and they actually tasted good. They aren't as doughy or revolting as I thought they would be. Like Mary said they are a little like a sweet bun without the icing. This is thanks to the lemon zest that is added to the dough.

I confess that while I liked them I don't think the effort that went into them was quite worth it. My favourite was actually the sauces which went with them. The vanilla sauce tasted much like vanilla ice cream and I was impressed with managing to make the plum sauce. All first for me. Anyone else have a go?

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

September Socks - Basic Socks

I am 100% all caught up as Septembers socks were finished last week. Of course it helped that I used the basic sock pattern. After two months of patterns I decided that I wanted something simple that would make the sock more about the yarn than the pattern. Plus I wanted to work more on my own pattern from August.

Deciding which yarn to use proved difficult. I decided again not to use blue. With the help of my sister I picked out this yarn called Beach Huts by Owl About Yarn. I bought this earlier in the year when I was picking out yarn for fibreshare. It's a nylon/merino blend and knits up beautifully. It's on the heavier scale of 4 ply which I always love to knit with.

So the yarn still has blue in it but I love the colours and I loved the way it striped. I didn't want to interrupt that striping and so I used a short row heel. It made for a pretty heel. I was also left with quite a bit of yarn left and I think there is enough to knit a pair of ankle socks for my tiny footed sister.

Next month I will use a pattern again and the yarn I have picked out has absolutely no blue or green.

Friday, 9 September 2016

GBBO - Week 3

Bread week! I love bread week too. It's not my favourite week but it is up there and it's one of the daunting ones for me. I have never attempted to make bread although I have always wanted to. Previous bread weeks (I am talking about Paul's Lion last year) have been impressive so I was looking forward to this despite the biscuit show stopper disappointments.

The first bake for the contestants was a pleasant surprise. Chocolate bread. I have a very sweet tooth which is why I was excited about it. And then they baked. Only three of the bakers managed to bake their breads all the way through. Three! Andrew was the surprising winner of this one. He was one of the few (if not only) bakers who proved his bread only once. At first this appeared to be a mistake but then Paul congratulated him on the decision as it meant he cooked bake the bread properly in the time they had.

For the technical challenge the bakers had to make a German sweet bread called dampfnudel. This looks like the least appealing technical I have ever seen. Yet, it looked like both Mary and Paul enjoyed it stating it tasted like an iced bun without the icing. I am on the fence as to whether or not I am going to attempt this one. The bakers on the other hand didn't have a choice and most of them fared a little better than they did with the chocolate bread (still a few raw efforts). Well done to Val who won it by making dampfnudel almost as good as Paul's (which came from the man himself). If you want to have a go the recipe is on the Bake Off website.

For the show stopper the bakers had to make a savoury centre piece using three different types of flour. I could have shown you Val's attempt at a bread Noah's ark, or Andrew's basket but this is the one that caught my eye as well as the twittersphere. Tom baked Thor's hammer using chili and seaweed. Interesting shape there.

Despite the shape pre-bake Tom won star baker for his show stopper. He is been up near the top for the last few weeks and has been commended for his flavours so well done Tom.

It was Andrew's turn to leave this week. I was a little surprised that Candice wasn't the one to go as she had a pretty bad week. Andrew on the other hand has probably been the least memorable this week. Feel a little bad for saying that and maybe he should have had another chance to shine.

This week I enjoyed last weeks technical challenge while I watched. The biscuit was very light and quite fragile but melt in your mouth (if I do say so myself). It's been years since I made biscuits (cookies don't count) and I quite enjoyed it.

More importantly I made my very first jam and it actually turned out. It was actually quite easy to do and it tasted good too. Very proud of myself for that one.

Anyone else attempting the technical challenges?

As always only the last two images belong to me. The rest belong to the BBC and the Bake Off website.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

August Socks - Birthday sock pattern

So August's socks were actually finished on time. I am all caught up and I have almost finished September socks too. August's socks were a little special. I decided that since it was my birthday to make myself some birthday socks. I make them for other people so why not myself. To make them even more special (or to add to the stress of getting them done on time) I decided to design my own pattern and I did. Pat on the back for me.

As if all that specialness wasn't enough I asked the lovely Lisa to design the yarn. She went with my favourite colours and look at the pretty! She even gifted it to me. I LOVE the colourway. A mixture of blues, teal and greens. Not to mention the sparkle. It's a pity the above photo doesn't do it justice.

I got myself some squared paper to work out the pattern and I even did a little swatch (not pictured). I never swatch.

I wasn't sure how it would turn out. I wanted some mini cables and created a repetitive diamond pattern. I quite like the way the colours in the yarn worked out with it as you can still see both the colours and the pattern.

I knitted them up in a larger size to accommodate the many, many mini cables. I thought they would be a little large and so I planned to make a smaller size and adjust the pattern to suit for my sister. However, they size was fine. I will still knit up a pair for Lorraine. I have a solid yarn planned for it and once I do I might release the pattern.

While the pattern is not available yet you can still get Lisa's scrummy sock yarn over at her etsy page.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Guest Blogger - Lorraine Sime

At the moment I am fascinated with what I call 'misunderstood creatures'. This top spider was found in my dad's house. Since he isn't a fan of spiders, I was asked to take it outside. I saw an opportunity to do some drawings too.

The above creature is a hoverfly, although the poor thing looks like a wasp, so it really is a misunderstood creature.


 Drawing these creatures inspired me to write too, which I plan to make a concertina book combining the drawings and poetry. The first and third verses of the poem are:

Us creatures, misunderstood
discuss everything,
from humans to food.
Our safe place, a must,
is our retreat, to
escape their disgust.

Our poor crab, who's dead,
our meeting point,
was kicked in the head.
The human nerves frayed,
they tossed him aside,
he'll soon be decayed.

 The final poem has five parts and will be integrated with the drawings. I have still to play about with the composition before I create the final piece. Juat now I'm enjoying filling my sketchbook with these little bugs and insects.

The above post was by my very talented sister. She has started up her own blog (finally I here you cry) and you can find her under Lorraine Sime Artist. Pop along and say hello.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

GBBO - Week 2.

So this week was biscuit week. One of my favourites. And just so you know I am anti-dunking. An argument my sister and I have consistently (at least every time I catch her dunking). Why would you voluntarily make a biscuit soggy and then eat it? Biscuits are meant to crunch, just ask Mary Berry.

First up the contestants had to make 24 identical biscuits. A few people failed in that their biscuits were more cake like and lacked a crunch. Others failed because they didn't do all 24. I felt sorry for Val as she ran out of time and wasn't allowed to forget it throughout. Poor woman may have got all 24 done if she hadn't dropped and broken some of them but she kept that to herself. I thought Benjamina's (pictured above) were rather pretty. A huge congratulations to Tom who got the first Paul Hollywood handshake for his chai tea biscuits.

For the technical challenge the contestants had to make 12 Viennese whirls. Last week the jaffa cake was classed as a cake although most of us Brits think of them as a biscuit. This week the whirl was questioned as some class it as a cake (thanks to Mr Kipling). It's a biscuit people. A fancy one but still a biscuit. I have to say that most of the bakers struggled with these so it was a very well done to Kate (a fellow nurse) who came first. I'm going to attempt these myself next week and you can too thanks to the recipe being available on the Bake Off website.

For the show stopper the bakers had to bake a gingerbread construction and it had to represent something important to them. I was a little disappointed with this round. In the past we have had some fabulous towers and constructions. This year was pretty poor. A few failed to stand up and a few looked rather child like.

Candice's pub won her star baker. She might not have done as well in all the other challenges (somewhere in the middle) but this bake deserved it. She put so much into it that the judges were worried she wouldn't get it done. There was a pool table and little figures and a sticky carpet made with ginger cake. It was the most impressive.

Sadly we said goodbye to Louise. It feels a bit soon for her. She was always somewhere in the middle but this week was a bad week for her. Especially when her biscuit church fell apart. Val was alongside her having a bad week but she was higher in the technical challenge and she just about saved herself with her flavours.

As always the above images are not mine and come courtesy of the Bake Off website.  The following though are mine as I attempted last weeks technical challenge.

Yep, I managed to make 12 jaffa cakes following Mary Berry's recipe. The recipe was actually fairly simple to follow but it is rather bitty.

I was impressed with my little sponges. They turned out well. More importantly I was able to get them from the tin with no problem at all (a first for me). I actually made them twice. The first time I realised that my whisk was back at my dad's. So I did the first by hand. It took me an hour to whisk the eggs up and I wasn't going to waste my jelly on cakes that might be rubbish (they weren't). I picked up a cheap whisk as I wasn't doing that again.

The jelly was actually from a packet. I was a little surprised about that. It also had some orange zest (hence the little bits). To make it extra difficult I used vegetarian friendly jelly which is made slightly differently from the normal jelly and meant I couldn't make it as per the recipe. It turned out though. I used a little cutter and then waited for the melted chocolate to cool so that it wouldn't melt the jelly.

Turned out well I think and my sister loved them (who is a huge jaffa cake fan). So high praise.

Speaking of my sister, she will be guest posting on Monday in preparation for starting out her own blog. Please look out for that.