• #Masterbaker, #Coln St Aldwyns

    Okay, so the title of this blog is certainly not what I would refer to myself as but these are the hashtags used by the local photographer when he posted a photo of the chocolate cake I made recently.  Not only did he take some lovely photographs of the cake, enhanced by some personal props, but he then took it down to the cafe in the Coln Community Stores to be tried and tested by the customers.  Allegedly the feedback was very good and I received a five star rating from one of the tasters.  Lets hope it was five stars out of five and not five stars out of ten.

    Speaking of tasters, there are some builders in the local area at the moment, working on a Cotswold stone house in much need of transformation, who pop into the Coln Community Stores on a regular basis.  Not so long ago I took in some carrot cake muffins into the Coln Community Stores for my manager to try.  I left them on the fridge in the cafe when I got in, just as the group of builders came in for lunch.  One of them said that he thought that they looked nice.  I deliberated for a while and then decided to give one of the muffins to the builders to try.  I emphasised that they were homemade and had nothing to do with the Stores.  I said that they were welcome to try the muffins provided that they gave me constructive feedback.  The feedback was very positive and there were questions as to when I would be baking again.  Given that they were supposed to be in the area for just one more week, I promised that I would bake again.  Hence the chocolate cake.  Despite positive reviews from the customers at the Coln Stores about the chocolate cake, I don’t think it went down as well with the builders as the carrot cake muffins.  Next time, I think I will use chocolate with a lower percentage of cocoa solids so that it is less rich.

    In addition to the chocolate cake and carrot cake muffins, I have been experimenting quite a bit recently:

    • Challah bread
    • Fruit & plain scones
    • Mini cheese cakes in a jar (gingernut, blueberry & lime)
    • Challah French toast with blueberry compote and orange
    • Quadruple chewy chocolate cookies
    • Lemon and polenta loaf cake
    • Lemon slices
    • Fig and toasted hazelnut Dutch oven bread
    • Spelt party bread (bread dough base with multiple toppings)
    • Banana loaf with icing drizzle and dehydrated bananas

    My next challenge is to make 60 vanilla cupcakes for a customer on the 02 June; half with red icing and half with white icing to represent the Maltese flag.  The customer asked for fondant icing but we are keen to encourage her to have buttercream icing instead.  Not only will it have a better texture and taste, but it will look better, especially now that we are thinking of making the icing half red and half white.  I did a trial run of the cupcakes, using both fondant and buttercream icing in white and red.  The owner of Lynwood & Co. and the Head Chef are happy with the vanilla cupcake recipe.  We just need to decide on what’s best for the icing (or encourage the owner to choose buttercream icing) before the big bake on 02 June.  Hopefully the bake will not go on too late into the night as Jo and I are doing the Fairford 10km on the Sunday.

    Speaking of running, Jo and I completed our first 10 km run a couple of weekends ago, the Salming Trail Run in the Forest of Dean.  I was the 5th lady over the line and the 1st lady in my age category, so was quite chuffed.  I also took part in the Hatherop Fun Run last night in support of a local charity.  Although it was a fun run, there was certainly a competitive contingent.  There were some very fast teenagers running the 5 km race – definitely setting a pace that was slightly uncomfortable for me.  I managed to come second out of the ladies (overtaken by the 1st lady on the final hill), albeit that there were two female teenagers ahead of us.  Irrespective, I ran the 5 km in 22 minutes which is the fastest I have ever run a 5 km.  So again, chuffed.

  • All in a day’s work

    Other than offering you a recipe for pizza dough and tomato sauce, I haven’t written my blog for a while.  And yes, I am fully aware that I start almost every blog entry the same way and even if I don’t I am thinking it.

    My last few weeks have been a bit of a juggling act.  Having had reduced hours at Lynwood & Co for a while, I am now working at both Lynwood & Co and the Coln Community Stores.  I continue to do prep work (mostly baking) at Lynwood & Co, while working early morning and afternoon/evening shifts at the Coln Community Stores (doing anything and everything they need me to do).  I am quite enjoying the balance, albeit at the moment I am working six days a week and am a little knackered to say the least.

    I am waiting patiently (or maybe not so patiently) for the Lynwood & Co production kitchen to be set up in Hatherop so that I can focus on just baking for them in addition to doing my hours at Coln Community Stores.  I have sort of been promised this when the production kitchen has been set up.  It has been suggested that I will have 4-5 hours baking, 4 times a week when the production kitchen is set up.  I have agreed to the hours and the pay in principle but am still in the process of clarifying when I can do the baking.  I am looking for flexible hours to be done around my Coln Community Store hours as I feel that my balance of front of house work at Coln Community Stores and baking at Lynwood & Co will be an ideal combination as working in the prep kitchen on its own is a little bit isolating.  Although I joke that I don’t need human interaction and prefer the company of the animal variety (i.e. dogs), I have discovered that I do in fact need a job which has more human interaction.  I am hoping that things are sorted out in the production kitchen before I burn out again.

    Speaking of burn out, although my health took a bit of a dive the week before last – a combination of doing the early morning shift at Coln Community Stores on my own for the first time (and a couple of personal issues which arose at the time but which are best kept private) and looking after my Mum, who was involved in a bus accident, which resulted in a concussion and a need for on-hand support, this week has been okay health wise.  Good enough to compete in a 10km trail run yesterday in the Forest of Dean.  Although running is not my forte anymore (I am more of an OCR competitor these days), I managed to be the fifth lady over the line, so am very content.  Sore, but very content.

    After driving back from the Forest of Dean, we dropped the car off at Swindon station; changed out of our running gear into something more presentable (hopefully not watched by CCTV and the risk of being charged with indecent exposure); sprayed ourselves generously with deodorant; stopped for a takeaway lunch at COSTA and then hopped on the train to London.  Our mission was to meet five of my fellow (now ex) Diploma in Professional Patisserie students at Mommi in Clapham North.  We had a great catch-up.  It was well worth the journey.  I had forgotten (how could I) with everything that has happened since we left Ashburton Cookery School last year just how much I missed and love our group.  Note to self (just like Bridget Jones), I must make more of an effort to see them more regularly if I can.  If any of you are reading my blog, you are welcome to come to visit me in the lovely Cotswolds.

    Before I went to London, I was going to tell you about my very busy day baking at Lynwood & Co on Friday.  But now, I am not so sure if I should, having heard the hours that one of my ex fellow students is doing at the Ritz.  My workload pales into insignificance in comparison to hers.  Okay, okay; you twisted my arm.  I will let you know what was on my agenda yesterday but really in the context of my ex fellow student’s workload it is really no big deal.

    In my shift yesterday, I made:

    • Two large carrot cakes (48 portions)
    • Two large lemon polenta cakes with a crystallised sugar, cardamom and freeze-dried raspberry topping (48 portions)
    • Two large salted caramel and pecan brownies, including the caramel sauce to go into it (48 portions)
    • 26 chewy quadruple chocolate cookies
    • Four apple and rhubarb vegan loaves (32 portions)
    • Two banana loaves (16 portions)
    • Two ginger loaves (16 portions)
    • Rhubarb compote
    • Pesto for our Porto sourdough toastie
    • Double portion of flatbread dough
    • Cracked and blended 140 eggs and cracked another 70ish for baking
    • Etc.

    Having not made the caramel sauce or the salted caramel brownie before, I took the sugar and golden syrup to a level which I thought was correct and then added the salt, butter and double cream as required.  Although the end result was a lovely golden colour it ended up a rather piffling amount which then set too hard when it cooled.  I started again with three times the original recipe (at the Head Chef’s suggestion).  My next attempt resulted in a lovely free-flowing caramel sauce which didn’t set in its tracks and was the right consistency to add to the chocolate brownie mixture.

    Not long after I had completed my caramel sauce making, the owner of Lynwood & Co came into the kitchen and asked if he could try the discarded portion of hardened caramel (sauce).  He exclaimed that it was delicious and suggested that I could give Werthers a run for their money.  He then asked whether I thought I could replicate my mistake again.  I haven’t tried yet, but I think I may give it a go when I have a spare minute.  I have to admit that it was a very tasty and happy, rather than unhappy, mistake.

    On a final note, I should possibly mention the Coln St Aldwyns Fete, which is due to be held on the 1st September 2018.  My husband, Jo, is on the planning committee, in charge of the stalls and following conversations with other committee members recently, the fact that I ‘bake’ has been bandied around.  It looks like I may be roped in to do some baking for the fete.  Now for most people this may be a chore.  But for me, I think it may be an opportunity to ‘show case’ what I can do.  You never know where this may lead.  Nowhere, but possibly somewhere.  I hope it leads somewhere as Jo and I have cut short our wedding anniversary holiday to support the fete on the day.  I am also quite keen to get my beloved Uuni Pro out and ‘show case’ my recently acquired ‘pizza-making skills’.  I think that they are looking for additional food offerings, so they may be interested.  Watch this space……

  • Dutch ovens and pizza ovens

    It has been quite a busy time since last I wrote.  I have been using my reduced hours at work to practice and hopefully develop my cooking skills.  Over the last couple of weeks, I have made:
  • Happy mistakes

    When I was at Ashburton Cookery School, our Chef Tutor used to talk about happy mistakes i.e. a mistake which ended up resulting in something unexpected or better than the original product.  I am not sure if what I am going to tell you about first is exactly a happy mistake, but it is certainly a recovery of sorts from what would have been a very expensive disaster. 
    Last Saturday, I was happily baking one of our staple bakes, chocolate brownie.  All was going well until I took the chocolate brownies out of the oven.  I have no idea how I did it, but when I went to put the two large, gastro trays of brownies in the cooling racks, I managed to scrape the surface off the lower brownie with the base of the gastro tray of the top brownie.  The result was a bit of a molten mess with no surface skin.  A brownie of sorts, but certainly not a brownie which could be served to a Lynwood & Co customer.
    After my initial panic and thoughts of having to buy the whole brownie (large enough to serve 24 people), I plucked up the courage to tell the Head Chef about my mistake (I have to say that I did delay telling him for a while, mainly out of embarrassment).  We had a brief discussion about what we could do with the brownie, rather than just throwing it in the bin, which wasn’t really an option given that one brownie contains 15 eggs, 500 grams dark chocolate, 250 grams milk chocolate, 750 grams caster sugar, 750 grams ground almonds and 750 grams butter.  I left my shift with the task of coming up with a recipe/s to use up the brownie.  After scouring the internet for a while, I came across a recipe for chocolate chip brownie cookies from Two Peas and their Pod.  Armed with the recipe, which I will share with you shortly, I went into work on Sunday morning mainly to complete some Black Forest panna cotta lamingtons,  which I had started on Saturday but also to make some cookies from my disasterous brownie.
    Slightly nervous about trying the cookie recipe (as I didn’t need another mistake), I made the recipe as instructed.  The upside was that I produced 35 delicious chocolate chip brownie cookies, which were liked by the Head Chef and Manager and hopefully the customers at Lynwood & Co. 
    The downside was that the cookies only used a small amount of the damaged brownie.  With most of the brownie still unused, I set about salvaging some, freezing some and moulding some into brownie balls.  I managed to salvage 4 pieces of brownie, which were good enough to serve Lynwood & Co customers.  I froze a large section of the damaged brownie to use in further batches of chocolate chip brownie cookies. I froze the brownie balls and then coated them in melted chocolate to make chocolate truffles at home, as chocolate truffles are not quite a Lynwood & Co thing. 
    Although I have not managed to use up all of the damaged brownie as yet, I am well on my way.  I am sure with a bit of defrosting and further cookie baking there will be no further evidence of my disaster.  What better way of getting rid of the evidence than eating it.
    My other challenge last week, which I already alluded to, was making the Black Forest panna cotta lamingtons.  These were made at the request of my Australian owner using a Flour and Stone recipe.  As I mentioned, I started the bake on Saturday by making the chocolate sponge, cherry compote and vanilla panna cotta.  Initially concerned that I knocked too much of the air out of my sponge, my sponge either rose too much or the half gastro tray which I used was too small (although if I read the recipe correctly, the gastro tray was slightly larger than I needed) .  With the cake being quite thick, when I went to sandwich two layers of cake together with cherry compote, the resultant  cake was too thick and didn’t create a neat lamington.  Although the Head Chef suggested that the panna cotta had set just right (the right amount of gelatine), the way that I lined the tray meant that a lot of the panna cotta seeped under the baking paper and did not affix to the bottom of the sponge as required.  Although there was a thin layer of panna cotta on the top of the cake, the panna cotta layer was missing on the bottom of the cake.  As if this wasn’t enough, the recipe required me to use three types of coconut for the final coating.  Although I only had dessicated and shaved coconut, using the shaved coconut as well as the dessicated coconut resulted in a rather untidy finish.  All in all, I was not happy with the end result but at least going through the process of baking them means I know how to improve things next time – use a larger square tin, lined with a single piece of baking paper and use just dessicated coconut. 
    In conclusion, it has been a week of mistakes, some happier than others.
  • One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns

    Despite my good intentions of writing my blog while off work, I haven’t got around to it until now.   It has been just over three weeks since I last wrote my blog and quite a lot has happened in the meantime.  I am still largely off work.  Although I had every intention to return to work in the the same capacity as I left it, after a week of being off work, I decided that it wasn’t fair on Lynwood & Co to say that I would return in the same capacity as I left as I am not a reliable employee at the moment. because of my health issues.  I requested whether I could return in a part-time capacity, focusing on the cakes and doing customer orders and cover work.  Although, I think the intention is for me to possibly do this sort of role in the future, the business is in a transition period at the moment, with the new cafe in Burford opening up in eight weeks, so am playing a waiting game at the moment.

    I have been back to work, albeit on a very part-time basis.  I first went back last Thursday evening to make hot cross buns for the Easter weekend.  I ended up making 56 hot cross buns and some sable biscuits, shaped as eggs with an apricot jam ‘yolk’.  The biscuits were supposed to be a joke for the Head Chef, following on from my heart shaped biscuits for Valentine’s Day, but he misunderstood my intentions and the biscuits were sold in the shop, without him trying them.  By all accounts, they sold very quickly.  I also tried to make a Cadbury’s creme egg cake – a chocolate cake with creme eggs in the middle, but it didn’t work as depicted in the photo of the recipe.  Rather than having a lovely core of eggs in the centre of my cake, the centre of my cake was a gooey mess and when I went to move the cake (which I think I did prematurely) the cake fell apart, despite the fact that the chocolate cake mix around the gooey mix was well baked.  You live and learn.  Actually, I did learn something after the event – if you freeze the creme eggs for a couple of hours before baking them in the cake, they are more likely to remain intact.

    I then went back into work on Saturday to do the weekend baking, as well as make 36 hot cross buns for the investor for a party they were having on Sunday.  All was going to plan with the bake until I put them in the oven to cook.  I noticed quite early on in the bake that a few of the hot cross buns were splitting against the cross.  As this had never happened to me before, I was quite surprised and concerned as to remake the hot cross buns would take another three and a half hours.  Not happy with about half of the hot cross buns, when they came out of the oven, I decided to start again.  This was three o’clock in the afternoon.  At 6.30pm on Saturday evening (having been off the clock since 3 o’clock), I finally left Lynwood & Co with 36 decent hot cross buns made.  The only thing which I think could have resulted in the split hot cross buns was that I forgot to cover the hot cross buns in the second prove, which resulted in the surface of the hot cross buns drying out and splitting in the bake.

    Jo, who had come to rescue me from my woes ran home with me – 6.2 miles to Coln St Aldwyns.  We consoled ourselves with a glass or two of red wine.

    On a plus side, the rest of my baking went fine on Saturday and the Head Chef even said that my white chocolate and macadamia cookies were the best ones I had made to date.  These were the first ones I had baked since the ones I made on the night I went off sick as despite my intention of baking cookies during my time off, I heard via the grapevine that the Manager wasn’t too happy for me to go in on my own to bake, albeit that later I was advised that any concern she may have had got lost in translation.

    I should also say that they did manage to sell most of the dud hot cross buns at the cafe on Sunday, toasted with butter and jam.  I also heard via the grapevine that the hot cross buns went down fine at the party.  They obviously were well enough received as I was asked to go back into work yesterday and then hopefully again on Saturday.  I am still wanting more hours as still going spare at home.

    In addition to Easter bakes, which I should perhaps mention also included baking a couple of Donna Hay’s hot cross bun loaves, I have also tried a couple of traybakes.  The first was a gluten free coconut Bakewell slice with cherry jam, from The Complete Gluten Free Baker.  The second was something I concocted on my own from a photo which the Lynwood & Co’s owner’s wife sent me, ginger, lemon and almond slice.  The latter still needs a bit of tweaking to get the bake right and the balance of ginger and lemon correct, but otherwise it was a delicious bake.  It deliciousness was helped by the fact that I finally got a decent recipe for lemon curd, thanks to the Head Chef at Lynwood & Co.

    Although exercise was certainly out of the window in the earlier stages of my time off work, I have been managing to do more lately, including a few runs.  I also completed my first OCR since July 2017 – a 5km Tough Mudder in London.  It was good to be doing events again, albeit that it was not overly challenging.  I managed to do the 12 swinging rings, which I wasn’t sure that I would manage.  I was a little nervous on the walls, particularly because they were more slippery than I expected (I was wearing regular trainers rather than OCR shoes, as recommended by Tough Mudder) because of the recent rain.

  • Housebound

    Okay, so the title of my blog says it all.  I tried to return to work on Tuesday after 6 days away from work and my trip to Glasgow.  I managed 7 hours in the kitchen, starting just after 6 am, but from 11 am onwards my stomach pains became progressively worse.  I had asked to speak to the owner about my ill health on returning from Glasgow, so we had a brief chat on Tuesday morning.  When I chatted to him, I was feeling okay and our thoughts would be that I would see how the week went and then review the situation at the end of the week.  It was important that I tried to be in this week as the Head Chef is on holiday all week and I really wanted to ensure that he could have a holiday without having to think about Lynwood & Co.  Needless to say, it didn’t work out as planned.  In tears of frustration and sadness at not being able to do the job that I really want to do, I left work at around 1 pm on Tuesday and made my way home to my bed.  Shortly after I got home, the owner called and we agreed that I would take a leave of absence for 2 weeks to see if a complete break from work would aid my recovery.  I reluctantly, but gratefully accepted his offer, knowing that if I had any chance of recovery, I needed to take some time away from work.  I had one strange request for him and that was, health permitting, could I do a bit of night baking in the Lynwood & Co kitchen to keep my hand in whilst off work, as well as keep the Lynwood & Co cookie jar well stocked in my absence.  He agreed to my request.  Having rested all of Tuesday afternoon, I did my first night bake, a batch of toasted pecan and dark chocolate cookies.  As I haven’t baked anything else since Tuesday, these cookies are the featured image for this blog.  After posting a photo of my cookies on Instagram, my colleague, Harriet commented as follows: ‘Looking delicious Brigit (sic)! Happy to be in receipt of all therapy baking offerings’.

    With my stomach issues, my appetite has not been very good of late and my weight has been steadily dropping off.  So, with concern, I decided to make myself some buttermilk pancakes with fresh fruit and yoghurt, yesterday morning.  They were very delicious, but despite good intentions, I could only manage one.  Despite this they are definitely worth a ‘bake’ and I will share the recipe from Genius Kitchen on my blog shortly.

    Needless to say, exercise is largely out of the window.  I haven’t run for 10 days other than a half mile run down to Pret a Manager in Glasgow, last weekend, to get our breakfast.  I am managing to do our 100 exercises a day (on average, as I am missing some days and then doubling up on others), albeit that it is with difficulty.   I wrote to Mudstacle this morning to ask them to take my name off the Spring League table as I really don’t think I will be in a fit state to compete this season, unless I have a complete reverse in my condition.  I have got to the point that I am in the process of putting together a ‘hospital bag’ so that if I have to go into hospital again, Jo doesn’t have to have the added pressure of thinking what I need to take in with me.

    I guess things are not all bad.  I got to watch a lovely film yesterday called, Dough, which was about a failing bakery, which was turned around, so to speak, when a young apprentice was taken on in the business.  A generally, feel good film to sooth the soul.   I also watch a lovely documentary, called Expedition Happiness, which followed a young couple and their dog on a journey across the Americas and Canada.  Just what I needed to watch to give me a lift.  Although my time off work is giving me time to relax, it is also very frustrating as I am used to running, not crawling and being on the go 24/7 rather than the odd hour here and there and then having to rest up.  Anyway, lets see how the next few weeks go.  I have further tests in early April with my GP and Consultant to see if they can find out what is causing this ongoing pain.  I plan on continuing to do therapeutic baking during my time off, so I will continue to blog and post my bakes if there is anything to show.

    On a final and positive note, I wrote to our Head Chef to apologise for my absence again and that I was unable to cover him in his absence.  He sent me a very lovely response as follows: ‘Please just relax and hopefully everything will work out.  We love having you around and being a part of the Lynwood journey and we very much hope that it will stay that way’.   I hope it will stay that way too.

  • Let them eat biscuits

    It has been a while since I last wrote.  I am not sure why I haven’t written other than my health has not been good for a while and rather than coming home from work and writing my blog and doing other things, I have been going straight to bed.  Running has been out of the question most of the time.  This is a bit ironic, given that I have recently become an ambassador for Just Strong Clothing.  I hopefully put things to right by running a 8.2 mile round trip to Lynwood & Co in Fairford for smashed avocado, feta and sumac on sourdough toast and a loaf of Sourdough Revolution bread on Friday  last week and a 9 mile run to Bibury and back on Saturday.  I should mention, possibly, that the Friday run was done in the Beast from the East, so it was done in freezing temperatures, falling and drifting snow.

    In the Lynwood & Co kitchen, I have been able to do some experimentation, which has been good.  I also almost had a very unhappy mistake.  Let me talk about the very unhappy mistake first and then some of the experimentation .  After a couple of days off last week and on return to work on the Friday, I was advised that a customer had ordered a lemon, almond and polenta cake.  The cake is normally done as a tray bake, but the customer wanted it as a round cake and almost double the height of the tray bake.  All seemed to be going well.  I baked a large round cake, extending the cooking time and checking that it was baked by using a cake tester.  I finished it off with the lemon syrup and lemon sugar glaze with a sprinkling of toasted almonds.  As the customer was coming in at 3 pm to collect the cake, I thought I had better take it out of its tin and move it into a box to take it away.  As I did, the middle of the cake sunk and I realised that the cake, despite appearances, had not cooked properly in the middle.  With mild panic setting in, I sheepishly went through to the front of house preparation area to inform the Head Chef of my disaster.  Not sure what to say, I felt that he left me to my own devices and with an hour to go I had to remake the cake.  Bearing in mind that the tray bake takes 40 to 45 minutes to cook once prepped and a round, deeper cake takes longer to bake, I was definitely up against the clock.  Although the customer came in at 3.30 pm, the cake was still in the oven when they arrived.  While they went away for 5 minuted to complete a few errands, I finished off the cake and prayed that the cake was cooked through.  I left the cake on the base of the cake tin as I couldn’t risk the cake falling apart again.  We advised the customer that it needed more time to cool before removing the base.  I half expected to receive a call from the customer over the next day or so to say that the cake was a disaster, but the call never came.  A couple of days later, the cake tin base was returned by a happy customer saying that the cake was absolutely delicious.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief – relief that the customer was happy and relief that I hadn’t let the Head Chef and Lynwood & Co down.

    Absolutely loving John Gregory-Smith’s Orange Blossom and honey cookbook, I decided to try ghoriba (almond cookies) at Lynwood & Co for the Fairford cafe.  According to the Manager at Fairford they went down well.  One lady bought two and then came back for two more.  When Jo and I were there last Friday, two customers bought the almond biscuits.  One customer bought 4 and the other ate the last of the biscuits.  I didn’t hear any complaints so hopefully all was good.  My post of the ghoriba on Instagram got the comment ‘nice’ from John Gregory-Smith himself.

    With Easter coming, the Head chef suggested that I try hot cross buns at the cafe.  Having looked at a recipe for hot cross buns, and with a preparation, proving and cooking time of around 4 hours, I suggested to the the Head Chef that it may not be the most effective use of my time in the prep kitchen.  Still wanting to investigate the Easter theme, I looked at the simnel cake, which as I thought, in its pure form, is a little too traditional for the Head Chef (and to be honest, me as well).  I then happened across a recipe for hot cross muffins, which I thought I would try as an alternative to hot cross buns.  I made them Thursday last week and then had my two days off work.  Having tried them before I left on Thursday, I thought that their flavour and texture were excellent.  For me, the only thing I didn’t really like was the icing cross on the top of the muffins – it was a bit more obvious than the cross you find on regular hot cross buns.   Anyway after my two days off, I plucked up the courage to ask the Head Chef what he thought and he said that they ‘were not his sort of thing’.  Fighting back my disappointment in his comment, I just let it go, realising that they would not be sold at Lynwood & Co.  With his comment in my mind and knowing that it didn’t really tell me what he didn’t like about the muffins, I finally plucked up the courage to ask him what he didn’t like about the muffins.  He thought they tasted good, but when it came down to it, he just doesn’t like muffins, except for my cherry Bakewell muffins.  This is despite one of our regular customers regularly asking when we are going to make muffins again.

    On the same Thursday, and with our homemade biscuit biscuit supply rapidly depleting, I decided to make some Bakewell biscuits.  I had been looking for a recipe for almond biscuits, having been inspired by the Ghoriba, and came across a recipe for Bakewell biscuits.  Having some glace cherries left over from my Cherry bakewell muffin and slice days, I thought that the recipe would kill two birds with one stone.  I would use up the glace cherries as well as replenish the cookie jar.  Well I followed the recipe as stated, taking heed of the yield – I weighed the mixture and then divided the total by the suggested yield of 16 to get an individual yield of  50 gram per biscuit (my normal recipe yields 40 gram cookies).  Well as they say, hindsight is a brilliant thing as the 50 gram portions resulted in biscuits of unprecedented portions – delicious, crisp but unprecedented proportions.  One of my colleagues suggested that the biscuits were the best biscuits I had made to date.  I haven’t as yet received feedback from the Head Chef as to whether he liked them or not (I guess I should just ask), but if I do, I may just stick to 40 gram portions.  I am sure our customers haven’t complained about getting more bang for their buck.  I loved these biscuits so much that they have taken pride of place as the featured image.

    With some lemon curd left over from pancake day, the Head Chef asked me to think of something to make with it.  My first attempt at using it up was in the form of lemon curd thumbnail biscuits.  These are a delicate biscuits, which complemented the lemon curd beautifully.  The Head Chef’s comment on tasting them was ‘delicious lemon curd’.  I can’t deny that the lemon curd was delicious, but I was also quite happy with the biscuits as it was my first attempt at making these.  If I am honest, the biscuits were most probably too delicate for him.  They did go on sale at Lynwood & Co and to be honest did literally fly out of the door.  With more lemon curd left over, I made lemon curd bars with a lovely shortbread layer, a generous layer of lemon curd and a crumble topping, with shaved coconut and oats.  These took a bit longer to sell, despite the fact that they met with greater approval from the Head Chef and if I say so myself, were pretty delicious.

    Lastly, I tried Russian tea cakes at the request of the owner.  Before I read the recipe, I thought that they would be similar to British tea cakes, but then realised as soon as I read the recipe that they were more like biscuits than traditional teacakes.  They are described as ‘a kind of pastry, often eaten around Christmas in the United States – a form of jumble, a pastry common in England during the Middle Ages’ (Wikipedia).  They seemed to come out as they should, another delicate bake, but the icing sugar, which was supposed to be dusted over them when they were still warm kept on being absorbed into the cakes – they are supposed to have a generous coating of icing sugar on them.  However this was Tuesday and at the end of the day on Tuesday, my health had started to deteriorate again and my stomach cramps were back, so I left work with a request that the Head Chef applied a final dusting of icing sugar.

    I haven’t been at work since.  I was supposed to work Wednesday and Thursday, but I was not in a fit state to do so.  I am now in Glasgow (delayed by a day because of my ill health) visiting our sons, who are studying at Glasgow University, pondering whether working at Lynwood & Co is the right thing for me to do, despite loving the job and the people, as ever since I started working there, my health has been deteriorating.  I have some serious decisions to make.

     

  • Valentines debate

    The rest of Jo’s birthday weekend went well, besides my snuffliness.  We had a delicious meal at Ode and then the following night we had another delicious meal at the Riverford Field Kitchen with Jo’s family.  The Riverford Field Kitchen meal was a new experience – a set starter and main and then a selection of puddings for dessert, from which you could chose one large dessert or two smaller desserts – I chose the latter.  The meal was eaten at large communal tables which were shared with other guests.

    Although further running was out of the question on account of my cold, we did manage a session at Adrenalin in Plymouth, followed by lunch at the Whowouldhavethoughtit. a well known pub which I remember from my days living in Plymouth.  In addition to having a cold on Jo’s birthday weekend, my health in general has been a bit hit and miss over the last few weeks.  My stomach has been quite painful again, which has meant that running has been quite limited.  This has been quite frustrating, given that we have our first OCR event coming up soon.  We have managed to start cycling again, which is not quite the training we need for OCR events, but I guess it is still keeping us quite fit.

    Anyway, enough about my life in general.  Let me try to think what has been going on in the kitchen over the last few weeks.  I had to make 10 sandwiches with various fillings for one of our customers as a special lunch order.  This isn’t really important in itself, other than the customer told me that the sandwiches were absolutely delicious.  I can’t take full credit as although I made the sandwiches, it was the Head Chef who came up with the different fillings.

    My dabbling in veganism, so to speak, continues.  The Head Chef asked me to see whether I could make our ginger cake vegan.  In my first attempt, I combined a couple of recipes to come up with a vegan stem ginger cake, but it lacked the rich flavour of our original ginger cake.  The Head Chef, who is much more embracing of experimenting suggested that I just adapted the original recipe, so I substituted butter with Trex, cow’s milk with oat milk and eggs with a mixture of baking powder, water and oil.  The end result was a ginger cake, which tastes almost exactly the same as the original.  A success, me thinks.  I have posted the new and improved recipe for you to try.

    Having run out of 70 percent plus dark chocolate for our vegan cookies, the Head Chef suggested that we given the vegan cookies a break for a while and instead make some cookies for the kids during half term – he suggested a combination of M&Ms and marshmallows.  So armed with my go to Donna Hay recipe, I tried the Head Chef’s suggestion, slightly concerned that when placed in a hot oven the marshmallows would melt completely and result in a gooey mess.  My concerns were not completely unfounded, as rather than having 24 round and even looking cookies after baking, instead I had rather spread out, inconsistent and gooey cookies, which could not be sold to customers in their current state.  Slightly disheartened, but not put off completely and armed with a round cookie cutter, I cut out cookies from the molten mess, hoping that when the dough cooled that all would be okay.  I devotedly placed the cooled cookies in containers, crossing my fingers that after a final taste test the following morning that they could go on sale.  The alternative would be to make some fresh cookies, which would have been time consuming and also a waste of the ingredients in the cookies.   Luckily, despite being rather flatter than normal and with uniform edges from being ‘cut out’ from the cooked cookie dough, the cafe manager confirmed that they were fit for human consumption and that, in fact, she really liked their taste and chewy consistency.  I happy mistake perhaps, but one I am not sure I am planning on repeating.

    Speaking of mistakes, I made an unhappy mistake in the kitchen the other day.  Inspired by the mini doughnuts on top of a cake which the cafe manager made recently (she makes the most exotic cakes in her spare time for special events), I bought a couple of doughnut trays to try baked doughnuts.  Authorised by the Head Chef to make the doughnuts, I gave them a shot.  However time pressure and a batter in which the melted butter solidified slightly when added to the cold ingredients, resulting in a slightly lumpy batter and subsequent overworking to remove the lumps, meant that the resultant doughnuts were too chewy and hence not good enough for customer consumption.  I think I will try them again at home when I have more time to experiment.

    On the topic of authorisation and already armed with heart shaped cup cake cases and heart shaped cookie cutters, my request to make Valentine cakes and cookies was denied by the Head Chef, with the comment that it was just not Lynwood’s thing.  I can’t deny I was slightly upset by his decision as I had hoped that as part of my role as developing the bakes at Lynwood & Co that I would have more of a free reign on deciding what was on the menu.  I had a vision of celebrating key events during the year with special bakes.  A quick scroll through Instagram on the 13th and 14th February made me slightly more heartened given that the likes of Donna Hay and Ottolenghi had made bakes to celebrate Valentine’s day.  I felt that if Donna Hay and Ottolenghi thought that it was okay to indulge in Valentine’s Day, then I couldn’t have been that far off base.  Armed with renewed confidence, I decided to make some Valentine cookies at home.  Exhausted from a day’s work, run and domestic chores, I only had the energy to make some ‘jammie dodger’ heart shaped cookies, which in defiance I have selected as he image for this post.

    On the home front, I have been trying out a few savoury dishes, as well as my first plated dessert since I left Ashburton Cookery School.  I tried Nathan Outlaw’s fish pie from his book, Everyday Seafood, a Christmas present from my youngest son.  I lovely looking and delicious meal.  I also tried his rhubarb plated dessert, rhubarb cake, almond cream, stewed rhubarb and lemon creme fraiche, which elicited a ‘looks great’ comment from Nathan Outlaw himself on Instagram.  Another delicious offering from my favourite chef.

    I also tried the best stuffed mushrooms, stuffed with halloumi and pine nuts from Sabrina Gaynour’s ‘Feast’ and la3dass from Orange Blossom and Honey, which elicited this response from the chef and author, John Gregory-Smith, ‘Yummy, yummy!! Looks fab!!

     

  • Never look back

    My support of Veganuary, or more accurately, vegans in general has continued with me baking a variation of Ruby Tandoh’s chocolate and hazelnut cookies for Lynwood & Co.  I had difficulty finding hazelnut or almond oil so used walnut oil instead, so in keeping with the walnut substitution in the oil, substituted walnuts for hazelnuts in the cookies.  My colleague Charlotte took to Instagram with the following comment:

    ‘Can vouch for these … one was not suitable to sell as it was too … ummm ….small.  Had to dispose of it.  Yummmmy’.

    On the topic of cookies, although I was not around to witness the event, Kate Moss came into the cafe for a takeaway coffee again.  This time she came in with Nick Grimshaw, the Radio One DJ.  He picked up one of my cookies to go with his coffee and made some comment about the cookie looking somewhat smaller out of the jar than in the jar but lets hoped that he liked it, despite its size.  I guess, on the upside at least the cookies looked good enough to purchase in the first place.

    I should possibly mention that I tried a coffee and almond vegan cake recently, but despite having a very good crumb was lacking in taste (it needed a stronger coffee taste) and texture (a few more almonds wouldn’t have gone amiss).  I might try this again shortly, but I think my Head Chef wants me to stick with what we have for a while i.e. the apple and rhubarb vegan loaf cake with a hint of orange and ginger and the vegan cookies.  Speaking of rhubarb, and being inspired by its presence in the vegan cake, I made a rhubarb breakfast pot, courtesy of an Olive Magazine recipe – a delicious blend of stewed rhubarb, Greek yoghurt with an toasted oat and nut topping.  So much did I love this delicious breakfast offering, that I have chosen the photographic evidence of this offering to adorn this post.

    On a completely different note, we are currently staying in Beach Hut 5, Shaldon, Devon for my husband’s 50th Birthday.  This very diminutive holiday accommodation was featured in Episode 16 of George Clarke’s Amazing Builds by the Sea and is well worth a visit if you are not frightened of small spaces and are not claustrophobic.  That being said I border on being claustrophobic, but after a brief period of acclimatisation, I am feeling quite relaxed in my temporary home on the waterfront.  The accommodation itself is not why I am mentioning it, but rather that its location is in Devon, which is also the home of the Ashburton Cookery School, where I trained to be a patisserie chef.  As I was in the locale, I decided that I would pay the cookery school a visit, or more importantly the main chef on my course to say hello.  I stupidly expected a warm hello, but instead got a rather cold greeting and distinct feeling that I was not overly welcome.  I guess I am a past, rather than a current student and the chef is teaching a new group of students (his second since I graduated).  I know I wasn’t the easiest of students, given my fear of exams and the stress that they created for me, but in the end I didn’t think I was the worst student that they could have.  Anyway, late in life, I have learnt a couple of new lessons: never have any expectations and never look back.

    It is so typical – we have been looking forward to our mini-break in Devon for some time (we really needed a break from our respective work), but I think that with the thought of relaxing in mind that I made my body susceptible to catching the lurgy.  My poor husband has a snuffly, poorly wife to contend with.  My snuffliness has been added to another bout of stomach pain, which started on Tuesday.  The ironic thing was that my stomach had been behaving itself for some time – in fact on Tuesday morning I had been to the Great Western Hospital to see my Consultant (and to sign me off as fit).  Just after lunch (I think I wolfed down a bowl of mushroom soup to quickly, sending everything into a painful spasm), I started to feel poorly and I haven’t felt 100 percent since.  Despite my ailments, I am trying not to be too pathetic.  I did manage a 4.7 mile run yesterday and an 8.7 mile run/walk today along the South West Coast Path, along with keeping up our 100 a day challenge.  I say run/walk with reference to the 8.7 mile run today, as the coast path was very steep and slippery in places, which reduced us to a walking pace.  Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable run/walk – the sun was shining most of the time and the scenery was beautiful – we even incorporated an old smugglers’ tunnel into our training (running the length of the tunnel and ascending and descending the steps contained therein 10 times).

    On our return to Shaldon, after our walk/run, we decided to drop into the Shaldon Bakery, a local bakery, which was awarded Devon Life Food & drink Awards, Best Bakery of the Year in 2016.  Although slightly underwhelmed when we entered the shop, we purchased a multiseeded loaf and their signature Uglibun, which as the name suggests is ugly but nevertheless turned out to be quite tasty with a cup of warm tea.  The perfect reward at the end of a longish run/walk.

    Okay, I am now going to retire for a while – I need a quick snooze to recuperate before taking Jo out for his birthday meal to one of Tim Bouget’s Ode eateries.

  • Veganuary

    Looking back at my last post, just over two weeks ago, I must say that it was a little dull in content.  I wish I could say that this post is going to be more exciting, but I really can’t promise anything.  I guess things in the Lynwood & Co kitchen are a little same old, same old.

    I haven’t had much of an opportunity to experiment with any new cakes, except for a vegan, apple cake with a hint of orange.  Last weekend, we had a customer in, who asked whether we had any vegan cakes.  I had to hold up my hands and say ‘no’ as although I had considered introducing a vegan cake in the past, I had shied away from it as I had, incorrectly, thought that it was likely to lack flavour.  Anyway, after the customer asked about a vegan cake, I thought I had better bite the bullet and explore the unexplored.  It didn’t take me long to find a few vegan cakes which I thought may meet the brief: lemon; coffee and apple with a hint of orange.  Being a fan of apple and orange, I thought I would give the apple and orange cake a go first.  My first attempt at the cake yielded a tasty, moist and beautifully textured cake, even if I say so myself.  Although I was very pleased at the result, as were a number of my colleagues, my Head Chef suggested that it lacked flavour.  He suggested that I added a bit of rhubarb to my next attempt, especially as rhubarb was coming into season.  My next attempt, which included rhubarb, lightly poached in orange juice, sugar and ginger yielded a cake, which got the Head Chef’s approval.  When I say approval, it is difficult to really tell, but the fact that he sneaked an extra slice of the cake when he got back to the kitchen, speaks volumes.  I should also mention that one of our regular customers came in a bought a whole vegan cake.  This was exciting in itself, but I guess only time will tell if it is a complete success, now that it is a permanent item on the menu.

    I should mention that the cherry cake has gone through a couple of incarnations since last I wrote, and although quite popular, the Head Chef had decided to take it off the menu for a while to make way for the vegan cake.  I think that when and if it manifests itself again, it will reappear in the form of the cherry Bakewell, as this seemed to be the most popular of all the cherry cakes incarnations.

    Still on the topic of cakes, whilst I was standing in the queue at work after hours, waiting to pay for some coffee, I overheard a customer discussing the respective merits of our range of gluten free cakes.  According to him, or his wife more accurately, but as relayed through him, the carrot cake was too sweet but the lemon, almond and polenta cake was delicious.  As she had not as yet tried the chocolate brownie, this was her choice for the day.  I haven’t as yet heard the verdict.   Feedback from another customer, took a slightly different form.  When I was in the local wine shop in Lechlade recently, successfully buying my husband a good bottle of wine for his impending 50th Birthday, the owner asked me if I was the lady responsible for the baking at Lynwood & Co as she had noticed a welcome change in the offering in recent months.  She mentioned, particularly, liking the mince pies at Christmas – she thought that they were better than the ones at Huffkins and advised me that she had recommended to the Lynwood & Co owner that we should package mince pies at Christmas to sell to customers.  Something to think about for next Christmas.  Talking about the mince pies, I am not sure whether I mentioned that one customer, a local photographer, loved my mince pies so much that he took professional photographs of them, which he sent to me.  One of these adorns this post.

    On a slightly different note, there has been a flurry of activity on Whatsapp recently from my fellow students at Ashburton Cookery School as it has been just over a year since we embarked on our Diploma in Professional Patisserie.  I cannot believe that there have been two intakes of students since we left.  Despite there being fraught and challenging times during the course, I do miss the cookery school; my fellow students and learning new things everyday.  We are planning a reunion in May, in London, so something to look forward to.  It will be great to see what everyone is up to.

    Possibly not very exciting, but still very important, I have spent the last week doing the costings for all our cakes so that we have up-to-date costings for both our new and house favourite cakes.   Even though I suggest that the activity was not very exciting, it was quite nice to be doing some computer work for a change.

    On a non baking front, we continue to do our new challenge of 100 plus exercises a day.  So far we haven’t missed a day, but we are still in January and there are 11 plus months to go.  Despite being the resident baker at Lynwood & Co, my stomach muscles are beginning to become more defined, thanks to TRX pikes, press ups, crunches and leg raises.  Long may this continue.  We are also managing to fit in quite a bit of running, despite not having the motivation of the 1000 Mile Challenge.  We did attempt a rather unsuccessful first run out of our Christmas present from my Brother and Sister-in-law, ‘Day Walks in the Cotswolds’, Southrop and the Eastleaches.  We chose the worst day to attempt a run we were not familiar with – it was grey, visibility was poor, it was raining, cold and wet from rain and snow melt and half way through the run, it was getting dark.  To cut a long story short, we had to cut the run short after 5.7 miles of a 7.1 mile run.  Better time next time, I hope.

    Anyway, had better go as work is calling.  I need to be there in half and hour and I am not quite ready yet.