• #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……

  • Best pizza dough and tomato sauce recipes

    Okay, so I am a bit hooked on my new Uuni Pro pizza oven.  I have now had two pizza evenings with my family.  My younger sister, Gillian, was so taken by the pizzas that she asked me to give her my pizza dough and tomato sauce recipes.  As I was writing them up for her, I thought I would share them with you too.  Happy pizza making!

    Pizza Dough (makes 3-4 decent sized, thin based pizzas)

    Ingredients:

    • 7 g sachet fast-action yeast
    • 300 ml tepid water
    • 500 g strong white flour (Italian 00 is best)
    • 2 tsp fine salt
    • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

    Method:

    • In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and dried yeast with the olive oil and water and form the mixture into a ball.
    • Knead the dough on a floured work surface for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes of kneading the dough should be springy.  Form the kneaded dough into a ball; flour the top; place in a bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm.  Leave to rise in a warm place.
    • After at least 30 minutes, but ideally when doubled in size, your dough is ready.
    • Divide the dough into 3-4 pieces and then roll them into round discs (pizza bases).
    • Top with toppings of your choice and cook in domestic oven/pizza oven as required.  It is best to place pizzas directly onto a hot baking sheet or pizza stone within a preheated oven.

    Source: Polpo

    Tomato sauce

    Ingredients:

    • 2 x 400 g tinned tomatoes (blended)
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • Large pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
    • 1 crushed garlic clove
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 sprigs of basil
    • 1 onion – quartered.

    Method:

    • Over a medium heat, cook the garlic in the olive oil.
    • Add the blended tomatoes when the garlic starts to sizzle.  Don’t allow the garlic to brown.
    • Add the quartered onion and basil.  Season (to taste)  with the sugar, salt and pepper.
    • Simmer for 20 minutes, until thickened.
    • Remove the onion and the basil and allow to cool to room temperature before using.

    Source: Uuni Pro