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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Finished Simple Skyp Socks...

I finally finished these yesterday and they will be winging their way to Dunedin tomorrow as they are a birthday gift:

The pattern is another pair of Simple Skyp Socks
and the yarn is JohnQ Earthwear, which is a blend of recycled possum and nylon. The yarn is listed in the Ravelry database as a sport weight yarn but I felt this was more like a regular fingering weight/4 ply yarn.

I started spinning some of Radar's Chocolate fibre that I cleaned and combed last year. I'm going for a lace weight yarn so I haven't got very far with it:

It's beautifully soft and fluffy, no set plan on what I'm going to knit with it yet but I'm really enjoying spinning it.

Still knitting bed socks, onto my 5th pair now :-)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Trio of Tea-Time Bakes....

Yes, I've been baking again, I didn't bake all these cakes today, these are what I've made over the last week. Morning teas, afternoon teas, weekend visiting, there's always an excuse to bake in my house.

These are some of my favorite things ~ there's a Yorkshire Tea Loaf, which I have posted about before on here, but this recipe is slightly different and gives a nicer loaf in my opinion.

Secondly there's the ever so naughty Jam Donut Muffins that really do taste like a jam donut but must be far healthier than a deep fried version, these won't last two minutes, believe me.

Last but not least is the English Walnut Cake, because it's walnut season. I sat and shelled 5 kg of them over the last few evenings. I love walnut & coffee cake, or walnut & maple syrup cake, but sometimes it's nice to bake a plain cake and let the flavour of just one ingredient shine through, in this case the humble walnut. It doesn't need icing or frosting or buttercream, it's lovely as it is without all that.

Yorkshire Tea Loaf:
275g mixed dried fruit soaked overnight in 400ml fresh hot tea (any kind of tea will do)
75g Glace cherries Halved
70g soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon mixed spice
270g self raising flour

Oven pre-heated to 150 deg C

you will need a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin

Soak the fruit overnight, the next day stir in the sugar and spice. Then beat in the eggs and mix well, next add the cherries. Sift in the flour and mix quite vigorously until it looks well combined. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 90-100 minutes. It will be well risen, golden brown on top and should feel firm when you press it in the middle. Cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool. This is lovely cut into thick slices and spread with salted butter. It will keep well for a few days in an airtight container or you can wrap it in foil and freeze it.

Jam Donut Muffins:
300g Self Raising Flour
150g caster sugar + 100g extra for coating
80 ml vegetable oil
1 large egg
175 ml buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Jam, about 9 teaspoons (strawberry or raspberry is best)
100g melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degC, 375 deg F, Gas Mark 4. Grease a muffin tin, the recipe usually makes 8-9 cakes.

Mix the flour and sugar with a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. In a large jug mix the oil, buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract. Pour the wet into the dry and mix very gently, you only want to combine the two, don't beat the life out of it or your cakes will be tough. If it's still a little lumpy that's fine, it will all work out int he end.

Put a heaped teaspoon full of cake mixture into the bottom of the muffin cups, you need to completely cover the bottoms of the tin with it, then add a teaspoon of jam into the centre and top with a further heaped teaspoon of cake mixture. The tins should be about 2/3 full. The trick is to make sure the jam is fully enclosed within the cake mixture so that it doesn't boil out.

Bake for 20 minutes, they will be well risen and golden brown. Let them cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then pop them out onto a wire cooling rack.

Mix the remaining sugar together with the cinnamon. Brush the cakes with melted butter and roll them in the sugar/cinnamon mix. These are best eaten within 24 hours of baking, but I bet they won't last that long!

Walnut Cake:

Use either a regular size loaf tin, 2 mini loaf tins or a 6" round cake tin, greased and lined.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C, 375deg F, Gas mark 4.

110g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
125 g soft unsalted butter
80g caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
60g walnuts, ground finely in a food processor or finely chopped by hand
Extra walnut halves for the topping

Cream the butter and sugar until very pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes with an electric mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between.

Sift the flour and salt together. Stir in the walnuts then add this to the butter and egg mixture, folding it in whilst adding the milk. Mix well to combine. Put the mixture into the tin and level the surface, decorate with walnut halves.

Bake times depend on which tin you use ~ my 6" round cakes take 40 minutes to cook, the mini loaf tins 30 minutes and the regular loaf tin 45-50 minutes, but which ever tin you are using start checking after 30 minutes. The cake will be golden brown, risen and feel firm in the centre when cooked. It needs no other adornment:

Friday, May 13, 2016

Cupcake Success

Gingerbread cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting, for a birthday morning tea:

After the Bundt cake disaster the other day, well these little cupcakes came out just perfect. I piped the roses on top with a 2D flower nozzle and added a cube of crystallised ginger at the centre. The recipe is here.

I've been knitting bed socks to help out a friend who needs 40 pairs to gift to International Exchange Students. They are fairly quick to knit as they are made in DK weight wool and are all garter stitch, but the legs seem mighty long to me for bed socks, these will possibly be almost knee length. These are knit in Naturally 8 ply wool, I'm onto the second pair which are being knitted in grey Gotland wool. Nice T.V. knitting.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

When it all goes wrong.....

Here's todays effort ~ almond & cherry bundt cake. It all went wrong, but I wanted to show it so you know that my baking is sometimes a failure. I did a pretty good rescue job on it. A shame because this is a really lovely cake and I have used that tin more times than I can remember and have never had an issue with it. This is a very traditional English kind of cake and is quite moist and not too sweet. When you have mixed it up it will seem to be quite a thick consistency, that's how it's supposed to be.

The cake, fresh from the oven ~ I greased the tin with melted butter using a pastry brush, popped it in the fridge for a few minutes and greased it again, then floured it generously. Baked then cooled in the tin for 10 minutes.

The top if the cake was left behind in the tin! Never mind, I can patch this up.

A bit of almond flavoured glace icing drizzled over and the top scattered generously with toasted flaked almonds.

There we go ~ I don't think anyone will really notice. Crisis over.

Cherry & Almond Bundt Cake

You will need a 23cm bundt tin, well greased and floured (see pics above).

For the cake:
150g glace cherries, quartered
225g self raising flour
175g soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the tin
175g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
3 large free range eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract

For the decoration:
175g icing sugar
15g flaked almonds, toasted
few drops almond extract

Pre heat the oven to 180deg C, 350 degF, gas mark 4.

Cream the butter for a minute or so, then add all the other cake ingredients to the bowl except for the cherries. Beat for a minute until smooth.

Spoon half the mixture into the tin and smooth it out as best you can, sprinkled the quartered cherries over the top of then put the rest of the cake mixture over the cherries, gently spread it evenly with the back of a spoon.

Pop it into the oven and bake for 35 - 40 minutes, it will be golden brown, well risen and feel pretty firm when you press it with a finger.

Leave it to cool in the tin for 10  minutes, then run a flat bladed knife around the sides of the tin. Lay a wire rack over the top of the tin and quickly invert the cake. I find a sharp tap on the bottom of the tin will (usually) release the cake. Let it cool completely, then mix the ingredients for the icing together, using just enough cold water to give a nice smooth and thick consistency. Drizzle it over the cake and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Quince Season & Overdyed Wool

It's quince season again, I'm not going to repeat last years post in which I described how I make quince jelly & membrillo paste, but I will tell you that I also tried something a little different this year, bottled quince poached in a honey and rose water syrup.

The 3 jars at the rear left of the photo are the bottled quince, the rest are the quince jelly. The membrillo is bubbling and spitting away as I'm typing, no doubt there will be a major clean up session later ha ha.

I'm considering using this tin to set the membrillo, however, do I brush the insides of the cups with glycerine to try to prevent it sticking, or do I line the cups with baking paper? The safest bet is probably the paper. The cups on this tin are deep and cylindrical, not like a muffin or cupcake tin, I think the finished membrillo will look like good if my plan works:

I overdyed some yarn last week. I bought it over 10 years ago and came across it while having a clear out/stash tidy. There was 600g, enough for a cardigan and it was a shame to throw it out as it's really good quality stuff. Debbie Bliss merino DK, I just really disliked the colour which was a very very pale baby blue. So I skeined it up, soaked it and overdyed it to a nice semi solid shade of deep hunter green:
I could have either gone green or purple with it owing to it's original colour, but I had a pattern already in mind and wanted to go with the green. I'm really pleased with how the dye job turned out. The cardigan is knit from the top down in one piece.

I still haven't finished the cowl, but only have about another 10 cm to knit so almost there with it.

Here's my Mother's Day Terrarium ~ I'm over the moon with this. I normally get flowers but it's so nice to receive something that will last much longer than a bouquet.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze

I seem to be on a bit of a bread making drive at the moment. Last week Pitta breads, this weekend I made fruited buns and today cinnamon rolls. Here's the recipe, it's quite a long one, but most of the time you aren't actually doing anything:

For the rolls:
2/3 cup milk
1 package active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
3 cups plus 2 Tbsp high grade flour

For the Filling:
50g butter, melted
2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup soft brown sugar

For the Frosting:
100g cream cheese
50g soft butter
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Warm the milk and sprinkle the yeast over it, let it sit until it begins to get foamy. About 5 minutes

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the butter, sugar, salt, and egg.

Fit the mixing bowl onto the mixer with the dough hook. With the mixer on the lowest setting, pour in the milk/yeast mixture and the flour. Increase speed to medium and let the dough knead for about 5 minutes until it forms a soft sticky dough. The mixture will seem quite wet at first, but will form a smooth soft dough once kneaded. If the mixture is too wet after kneading, add more flour a little at a time until a soft but sticky dough forms.

Let the dough rest, covered with a damp tea towel for 10 minutes.

Roll it out into a rectangle approx 15 x 10".

Brush with the melted butter and sprinkle over the brown sugar and cinnamon. You can add a cup of dried fruit at this stage if you like.

Roll the dough tightly into a large tube starting at the wide side. Pinch the dough shut to seal. Cut into individual rolls (approx 12) and place on a baking sheet or in a greased rectangular tin. I use dental floss for this, slide it under the dough and then pull both ends together and across each other ~ it will slice straight through it without compressing the dough or dragging out half of the filling.

Cover with plastic film and allow the rolls to rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in size. If you are making the dough a day ahead, cover the rolls in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to baking the next day. Preheat oven to 190ºC

Bake the rolls for 20 - 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

For the frosting/glaze ~ mix all the ingredients together and beat well. 

Spread the frosting over the rolls while they are still slightly warm.

Before rising

After 50 minutes rising

After baking

Ready to eat!

I've made some progress on my Callicarpa cowl,  I decided to add beads on only alternate mesh panels:

 ~ I can never seem to find a crochet hook with a small enough head when adding beads. So instead I use dental floss to add them quickly and easily. You can see from the above photo where this is going - slide the stitch off the needle then slide the bead down over the stitch and put the stitch back on the needle using the floss.