Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Its Going to be the Best Year Yet! (Yeah erm that depends)

I'm sure most of you have noticed the many posts of new year resolutions and general Happy New Years floating around on the internet and in the real world, via friends and family. When blog posts, magazines or videos are titled "best year yet" or "Make this year great" it really winds me up. Although some are very inspirational and well written, my problem with these type of articles is that they assume that there is something wrong with all of us. You are perfect. These articles give you tips and tricks to sticking with your resolutions and changing your life, but the truth is that you are the only one who can make these changes and no amount of life hacks can help with that. You can read until your eyes pop out about the amount of new year life changes but its up to you. I believe greatly in setting your own goals for a new year but realistic ones. Did you know that 88% of new year resolutions fail in the UK? Rather then give you the traditional tips, I'm offering improved resolutions to consider in the new year to help you succeed. ive chosen three common resolutions

1. Old resolution: I want to lose weight/drop a dress size
This always comes up, every year. Maybe not for you, but for someone you know perhaps. January can be a cold and unforgiving month. Your body needs food during the harsh cold months, so starving yourself with that new diet will be much harder and more likely to fail. The best time to diet is around March and April, in time for the spring. Rather then dieting, make smarter choices for a healthier you. You fancy a chocolate bar, swap it for dark chocolate cover fruit (strawberries work well). Its the weekend approaching, you want to order a take-away, why not cook your own instead? You know whats in your food. You get the idea? Let me assure you, dear reader, you are perfect the way you are. Diets are the work of devils and often, end in tears and frustration and you are worth more then that.

Improved resolution: I will try to slowly start my healthly diet but making smarter food choices.

2.Old resolution: I will stop smoking/drinking
Drinking and smoking is very addictive. Much like dieting, it will be a slow process. Quiting smoking especially is the hardest thing in the world. Set a date to start cutting down and simply start. If you smoke 10 cigerettes a day, cut out one in 3 days and follow on from there. Do this with drink as well. Normally you may have a 3 glasses at the weekend, cut out the one and follow from there. This can be applied to most negetive habits. You can do it! Friends and family are there to support you at anytime, you only need to ask.

Improved resolution: I will gradually cut out smoking at my own pace.

3. Old resolution: I will not splurge on junk
Saving money is very tough. It can be hard when you like a good spend, a nice meal out or like a little shopping spree. Starting a money jar with loose change can help towards savings. You can even start a 'drink/smoke/swear' jar, wherein you put a little bit of money in jar whenever you drink/smoke/swear.Making your own lunch or drinks to-go can also save you money in the long run. by making small changes you can save that money and put it towards something great!

 Improved resolution: I will make my own lunches to save myself a little bit of money each week.

Whatever your resolution is, I fully believe That you can do it. If you need support then comment on the Facebook page! Goodbye 2014 and Hello 2015! Happy New Year!

Bake On! Penny x

Friday, 26 December 2014

Fat Friday #22 Homemade Mulled Wine

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas fellow food lovers. Do you overstuff your faces on chocolate and turkey? I hope so! (Just not at the same time at least!) I'm still in a festive mood and am still enjoying my mulled wine left over from Christmas. If you've never made your own, its worth making some as it is really easy to make. Mulled wine solves everything.
Got unexpected friends coming over and want to served something special? Mulled wine solves it. Talkative relatives? Mulled wine solves it and dulls the noise coming from their mouths. Had a rough shift at work? Mulled wine solves it. Even at 3pm in the afternoon.... I don't have a mulled wine alcohol problem!

Recipe: Makes 4 servings (Recipe inspired by Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen)
·       1 orange, plus a extra orange slices to serve
·       1 bottle red wine
·       1 teaspoon of ground ginger
·       100ml water
·       45g sugar
·       1 teaspoon ground cloves
·       2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
·       ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
·       1 star anise, crushed

·       Saucepan
·       Fine sieve
·       Serving glasses or mugs
·       Peeler
·       Knife

1.    Peel the rind from the orange and cut the orange in half.
2.    Place the peel, orange halves and the rest of the ingredients into the saucepan. Warm for about 20 minutes. Don’t allow to boil.
3.    Take pan off the heat and cover the saucepan with a lid and allow to infuse for 30 minutes.
4.    Strain the mulled wine through a sieve to remove the solid ingredients.
5.    Serve warm in glasses with slices of orange. 

Have a great Boxing day and a happy Friday! 
Bake On! Penny x

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Eve Cooking

Baking at the last minute? Or just want to make something festive at this time of year? Here is the blog's rundown of festive recipes!

So that's my Christmas baking list! Have a really great Christmas eve, a merry Christmas and I'll see you on Boxing Day with Fat Friday!
Merry Christmas
Bake On! Penny x

Friday, 19 December 2014

Fat Friday #21 Salted Buttered Toffees

Christmas is fast approaching. Have you finished that shopping yet? Better get a move on. If you planning to make some small gifts to give out to friends and work colleagues may I suggest these buttery soft toffees? They want to be caramels but are more toffee like. Or are they more caramels who wants to be more like a toffee? Either way, they make great gifts once you've wrapped them up in cellophane bags with a cute little ribbon plus a cute little tag (thanks Chloe!) and they are extremely addictive. Be warned...addictive!!

Recipe: Makes 40 soft toffees (depending on how big you cut the pieces) (Recipe adapted from Sweet Things by Annie Rigg) 

·       150g Demerara sugar
·       125g golden syrup
·       100g unsalted butter, diced
·       250ml double cream
·       150g caster sugar
·       ½ teaspoon of sea salt, plus a little extra for garnish
·       ½ vanilla pod seeds
·       Baking tray greased with sunflower oil and lined with silicone
·       Sugar thermometer
·       Small saucepan
·       Rubber spatula
·       2 litre saucepan
·       Knife
·       Extra baking paper
·       Airtight container

1.    Grease the tin with sunflower oil and line the tin with silicone paper.
2.    Put the Demerara sugar, golden syrup, butter, double cream in a small pan and place over a low heat.
3.    Stir the mixture until smooth and once the mixture is hot, remove the pan from the heat.
4.    Place the caster sugar in a 2 litre pan with the 2 tablespoons of water and place over a low heat. Don’t stir the mixture but swirl the pan from time to time. Continue to cook until the mixture turns an amber colour.
5.    Slide the pan off the heat and really carefully pour the hot cream mixture into the caramel mixture. It will hiss and spit so do be careful. Return the pan to a medium heat and place a sugar thermometer into the mixture and cook in 121c/250f.
6.    As quick as you can add the vanilla seeds and sea salt and stir briefly to combine and pour into the prepared tin.
7.    Leave to cool completely for at least for 4 hours or overnight.
8.    Cut into little pieces with a hot knife, sprinkle with a little sea salt and wrap in silicone paper in cute twists and store in an airtight jar.

Bake On! Penny x

Friday, 12 December 2014

Fat Friday #20 Chocolate Orange Tart

Its right in the middle of December at this point and I'm sure that most of you are either done your Christmas shopping early or are struggling fighting the crowds for those pressies. Well if your like me the main concern is food, especially at this time of year! I'm think rich, decadent, comfort food which is perfect for Fat Friday. This Chocolate Orange Tart will delight as well as impress on the table. Serve with a creamy vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce if need more of a chocolate hit!
I must state that I'm giving full credit to my friend and college buddy for the lovely photo. Why not pay her a visit on her cake website?
Recipe: Makes 1 tart
·       450g dark chocolate
·       300g butter
·       3 eggs
·       3 egg yolks
·       90g caster sugar
·       2 oranges zested

Pate Brisee:
·       250g soft flour
·       205g very cold butter
·       5g salt
·       55g ice cold water

·       Bowl
·       Saucepan
·       Bowl
·       Jug
·       Wooden spoon
·       Rolling pin
·       Knife
·       Chopping board
·       4 small round tins
·       Baking beans
·       Baking sheet lined with silicone paper
·       Cling film
·       Fork

For the Pastry
1.    Rub the flour, salt and butter together until just combined. If you over work the mix, the butter will mix too much. 
2.    Add the iced water and bring the dough together.
3.    Once the dough has been brought together wrap in a neat parcel and chill in the fridge while you make the other parts of the dish.
4.    Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4/180c/350f
5.    Cut the chilled dough into 4 pieces. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, until about 2 mm thick.
6.    Line the metal cases with the dough and roughly chop any remaining edges. Prick the dough base lightly with a fork.
7.    Place a little clingfilm into the dough cases and fill with baking beans.
8.    Blind bake for 18 minutes or until completely cooked through.
9.    Take the baking beans out of the tart and bake a little longer to dry the cases out.

Tart Filling:
1.    Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave or over a bowl of hot water.
2.    In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and sugar together.
3.    Mix the orange zest into the chocolate.
4.    Pour the chocolate into the egg mixture slowly and whisk.

To Finish:
1.    Pour the chocolate filling into the tart casing and bake on 170c/325f/Gas Mark 3/ for 12 minutes.
2.    Once cooked and cooled. Place the tart in the fridge overnight.

Have a great weekend!
Bake On! Penny x

Thursday, 11 December 2014

University. To go? Not to Go? That Debate.

This post has been a long time coming and was inspired by the chat I had with a friend at college. People are often surprised when I inform them I've graduated university with a BA in Hospitality, and how I decided to go back to college. Yes, I've done my years and I am richer for the experience.

But I'll let you in on a secret, I did not go to university for the right reasons. My decision was prompted not because I was unsure what to do with myself, or because I'm super passionate about business and cooking.

It was to prove a point. I can admit that now.

I felt that I had to prove to the world, that I could do the university thing. That I could make it through the studying and come out with a great achievement. I did it to prove to myself that I could get through to the other side.
That sounds very shallow and yeah, it is. But that was my thinking at the time. Even though I did perhaps go for the wrong reasons, I came out learning the right life lessons:
  • I came out learning more about business, including how much fodder human resources can be at times.
  • I have learnt that when working as a group there will always be one member, at least one, who does nothing and will still get the same credit for you and your groups hard work. They know who they are and the fact is, they don't give a crap. Try to deal with it maturely. People like this will confront you in all aspects of life and will always get found out in the end. Trust me, they get hated for it and people will purposely avoid them because of this trait.
  • I've met lots of people, but only a select few you stay with you in your heart.
  • I've drunk some ridiculous concoctions at uni. End of.
  • I learnt that my goal is to open my own business, doing what I love (which is baking and cooking...duh...).
  • Balancing a job and university work is bloody hard. But really shows to future employers that you can manage your time well. Oh and the extra money isn't that bad either.  
  • I learnt to open up my heart again, starting dating and so, fell in love. (3 and 1/2 years later, we're still in love. Awww.... ok Chick flick moment over).  
I have learnt more than I can list. It was all thanks to that shallow decision that turned my life into something positive. That's my rhyme and reason for going to university. I'm so grateful that I went to uni and that the whole experience was worth it, hard, but worth it.

So to go? Not to go? Its a big decision for everyone. With tuition fees higher then ever and employers not hiring graduates because their 'too over qualified', its made the decision even harder. The fees were at a high set price when I applied and so ,it was a natural move. Now students have to pay crazy fees that will be with them for a long portion of their lives. Its not a light decision to make, so I've rounded up some of my friends and family thoughts and feelings on going/not going to uni. These are REAL responses from REAL people, that I REALLY know... REALLY!:

Leanne's advice: "Join a club and meet people!"

Dan (didn't want to go to uni): "Cause I is thick as f**k
I dig your honesty Dan.

"Mad" Max's advice (went to uni): "Go on a place and meet people"

Chloe B (Didn't want to go to uni): "I'm too stupid. Being deado serious here."

Ann (Never had the chance to go to uni): "I never had the chance to go to university. I was never good enough. My family was more important to me. I still stand by that decision."

Rob (Uni goer and still studying): "I went for a fresh start and to enhance my career." and his advice: "If something is offered to you. Give it a go. I'll never play OctoPush again, but I gave it a go."

Claudiu's (went to uni) advice: "Experience life abroad and meet people."

Chloe C (Studying at the moment): "University is the best experience of my life! Eyeryone should go! (And at college I never wanted to) so I'm a complete convert."

Emma (Studying at uni too): "I would say don't go just because you feel you have to...if you can find an apprenticeship/internship in the field you want to go into that would ideally be better and cost less. [University]...has been stressful at the start... but starting to settle in now and enjoy it more...but still wish I was more active in looking at other options." Her advice: "Be prepared for people who bullshit...A LOT. Not everyone is sane."

I want to thank all of you who contributed and helped me write this article. I hope this post has raised a point with some readers and has made you think.
Did you go to uni? What advice have you got? Why didn't you go to uni? Let me know what you think
Bake On! Penny x

Friday, 5 December 2014

Fat Friday #19 Hazelnut Cake with Pistachio Ice-Cream & Cream Toasted Almond Cream

December. You know what that means right? Its shopping time! Lucky enough for me, I've finished all my Christmas shopping now which is a big relief. In the next couple of weeks there will be a some Christmas recipes coming up soon. Maybe on Fat Friday or who knows. Its my most busy time of year but I hope your not too busy enough to make this restaurant dessert.
Its a nut themed dessert with a sweet hazelnut cake, savoury pistachio ice cream and a luxury almond cream. Its a fairly simple dessert which takes minimal effort with maximum 'wow' reaction at all that 'effort'.

Recipe: Makes 8 servings 

·       225g ground hazelnuts, sieved
·       50g plain flour, sieved
·       1 teaspoon baking, sieved
·       3 eggs
·       200g castor sugar
·       200g butter, melted and cooled
·       Juice of 1 lemon

Pistachio ice-cream:
·       200g pistachio’s
·       300ml milk
·       7g milk powder
·       200ml double cream
·       6 egg yolks
·       60g castor sugar
·       10ml glucose

Toasted almond cream:
·       700ml double cream
·       100ml milk
·       75g toasted sliced almonds
·       110g sugar
·       3 gelatine leaves

·       Mixing bowl x 2
·       Sieve
·       Saucepan x 3
·       23 inch cake tin lined with silicone paper
·       Baking sheet
·       Whisk
·       Fine sieve
·       Ice cream machine
·       Small bowl
·       Small mould
·       Liquidizer
·       Sugar thermometer

For the pistachio ice cream:
1.    Bake pistachios in an oven 170c/Gas Mark 3/ 325f for a few minutes to release some of the nuts oils.
2.    Place the milk, milk powder, and cream into a pan. Bring gently to the boil, add the pistachios. Wait until cooled and then liquidize until smooth.
3.    Return to the plan and bring back to the boil.
4.    Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, glucose and sugar.
5. Pour half the pistachio mix into the eggs, whisking constantly.
6.    Return the pan to the heat. Heat to 84c using a sugar thermometer.
7.    Strain immediately through a fine sieve and cool.
8.    Place into an ice cream machine.

For the cake:
1.    Pre-heat oven to 170c/Gas Mark 3/ 325f.
2.    Melt the butter in a pan and allow to cool before using.
3.    Mix the ground hazelnuts, flour and baking powder together.
4.    Whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale, then slowly whisk in the melted butter.
5.    Fold in the hazelnut mixture followed by the lemon juice.
6.    Pour the mixture into the lined cake tine and bake for 40 minutes.
7.    Remove from oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the Almond cream
1.    Toast the almonds like the pistachios as above. Put cream, milk, almonds and sugar into a pan and bring to the boil.
2.    Remove and infuse the almonds for 40 minutes.
3.    Place the gelatine in cold water until gooey.
4.    Bring the cream mixture back to the boil and remove again from the heat.
5.    Add the gelatine and sieve to remove the almonds.
6.    Pour into small moulds of your choice and set for 4 hours.

To complete:
1.    Cut the cake into 8 pieces.
2.    Dip the mould into a little hot water to realise the almond cream.
3.    Scoop a little of the ice cream on top of the cake.  

Are you nuts over this dessert? Would you order it at a restaurant?
Bake On! Penny x
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