• 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

  • 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:
  • Chocolate chip brownie cookies

    So here is the recipe for chocolate chip brownie cookies from Two Peas and their Pod.  You don’t need a happy mistake brownie to make these.  Use your favourite brownie recipe or if you don’t have time to cook brownies from scratch use shop bought ones.  Happy baking.

    Ingredients:

    • 360g plain flour
    • 1½ tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 240g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 100g granulated sugar
    • 270g brown sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1½ cups brownie chunks (use white measuring cup)
    • 1½ cups chocolate chips (use white measuring cup)

    Method:

    •  Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line 4 large baking with baking paper and set aside
    • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
    • Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars together for about 3 minutes. Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry ingredients.  Stir in the brownie chunks and chocolate chips.
    • Put cookie dough mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes to ‘set’ slightly.
    • Weigh out 40-45g of cookie dough mixture and form into balls. Place eight to nine cookies on each of the prepared baking sheets, about 5cm apart.  They can spread quite a lot.
    • Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden brown.
    • When baked, remove from oven and let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes.
    • Transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.
    • The cookies will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

    Source: Two Peas and their Pod

  • 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.

  • Ginger crunch lemon slices

    The other day, I was sent a photo of a ginger, almond and lemon slice which my owner’s wife had seen at a cafe in the departure lounge of an Australian airport.  I asked her if she had the recipe or the name of the cafe so that I could try to make the slice.  She answered no to both. So, over the last couple of days, I have been trying to looked at various recipes to see whether I can come up with a similar slice.  No recipe that I could find was the perfect combination of ginger, almond and lemon, so I decided to combine a couple of recipes (Scrummy Lane’s recipe for lemon Bakewell slices adapted from a BBC Good Food recipe and Lynwood & Co’s lemon curd recipe).  My first attempt required some tweaking, but here is a recipe, which I feel provides a wonderful combination of ginger, almond lemon flavours.

    Ingredients: 

    Ginger crunch base:

    • 250g packet of McVities Ginger Nut biscuits
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
    • 85g unsalted butter

    Lemon curd:

    • 3 eggs
    • Zest and juice of 3 lemons
    • 205g caster sugar
    • 100g butter

    Almond filling:

    • 100g unsalted butter at room temperature
    • 115g caster sugar
    • Zest 2 lemons (keep juice to make lemon syrup)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 45g ground almonds
    • 225g plain flour

    Toppings:

    • Enough lemon curd to generously cover the ginger nut base,
    • 5 tbsp flaked almonds
    • Juice 2 lemons and 100g icing sugar for lemon syrup

    Method:

    Ginger crunch base:

    • Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
    • Blend Ginger Nut biscuits in food processor.  When finely blended, add the tsp ground ginger and unsalted butter and blend together.
    • Press into the base of a line d 20 x 20cm baking tin to create an even layer.
    • Bake the biscuit base for 10 minutes and then allow to cool.

    Lemon curd:

    • Heat lemon, sugar and butter over a bain-marie.
    • Whisk the eggs and then add to the mixture.
    • Cook until it thickens (coats the back of a wooden spoon).  Allow to cool.

    Almond filling:

    • Beat together the butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy.
    • Gradually add the eggs and the ground almonds.
    • Stir in any remaining ground almonds and flour.

    Lemon syrup: 

    • Squeeze juice from two lemons into a small pan.
    • Add icing sugar and heat over a medium heat until the icing sugar is melted and the mixture becomes syrupy.

    Finishing:

    • Spread the lemon curd over the ginger nut base.  Try not to go too close to the edges to stop the lemon curd sticking to the baking paper.
    • Top with the almond filling and smooth over with a spatula.  Scatter the almond filling with flaked almonds .
    • Bake for 20 minute at 180C until the top is lightly golden.
    • When baked, prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester or wooden toothpick and spoon syrup over the top of the cake, ensuring an even distribution of syrup.  Allow the cake to cool.  When cool, cut into 8-10 slices.
  • Buttermilk pancakes

    This is the recipe I mentioned from Genius Kitchen.  Serves 2.  Happy baking!

    Ingredients

    • 1 egg
    • 128g plain flour
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 245g buttermilk
    • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
    • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 -2 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • Bananas, kiwi fruit, plain yoghurt and maple syrup for serving

    Method

    • In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg on medium speed until frothy.  If too difficult, froth up using a whisk.
    • Add the buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla and mix well.
    • Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, and beat on medium speed just until blended.
    • Heat a lightly greased frying pan or pancake pan.
    • Pour about half a soup ladle of batter onto the pan for each pancake.
    • Cook until the tops of the pancakes are covered with tiny bubbles and the batter is set, about 4 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook until the undersides are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes more.  Adjust cook time, according to hob.
    • Repeat with remaining batter.
    • Top with toppings of your choice, as suggested.
  • 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.