• 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.

     

  • Vegan ginger cake

    As promised, here is my recipe for the vegan ginger cake.  This recipe makes 2, 900g loaves.  Happy baking!

    Ingredients:

    • 450g self-raising flour
    • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 2tbsp ground ginger
    • 2tsp ground cinnamon
    • 2tsp ground mixed spice
    • 210g Trex or 230g dairy free butter
    • 230g black treacle
    • 230g golden syrup
    • 230g dark brown muscovado sugar
    • 550ml oat milk
    • 4 tbsp water, 4 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp vegetable oil mixed together as the egg substitute.
    • 2 x 900g loaf tins greased with butter and lined with greaseproof paper.

    Method:

    •  Heat the oven at 170 degrees Celsius. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice together in a bowl.
    • Add the Trex or dairy free butter and rub into the flour mix.
    • Place the treacle and golden syrup into a small pan and warm gently until melted and runny but not hot. Set aside until lukewarm.
    • Put the sugar and oat milk into another pan and heat gently, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Leave to cool until lukewarm.
    • Whisk the oat milk into the flour mixture, quickly followed by the treacle mixture and the egg substitute, to make a smooth thick batter, the consistency of double cream.
    • Put the mixture into the prepared tins.
    • Bake the gingerbread in the heated oven for about 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.
    • Set the tin on a wire rack and leave the gingerbread to cool completely before turning out.
    • Store in an air tight container.
  • 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.

  • Apple and rhubarb vegan loaf cake with a hint of orange and ginger

    So pleased have I been with how this vegan loaf cake has turned out that I thought I would share it with you in case you are looking for a vegan cake for yourself, friends or family.  Happy baking!

    Ingredients:               

    Rhubarb:

    • Stem of rhubarb
    • 1 tsp ginger
    • 50g caster sugar
    • Juice from one orange
    • Water as required

    Dry mix for loaf cake:

    • 500g plain flour
    • 60g desiccated coconut
    • 5 tsp baking powder
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 160g soft brown sugar
    • Zest from two oranges

    Wet mix for loaf cake:

    •  280ml orange juice (use juice from zested oranges and then top up with orange juice)
    • 90ml oat milk or other non-dairy milk
    • 20ml vanilla extract
    • 120ml vegetable oil
    • 2 large Braeburn/Cox apples
    • 125g sultanas
    • Ground cinnamon and soft brown sugar for dusting

    Method:

    •  Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line two loaf tin tins.
    • Cut a stem of rhubarb into 0.5cm pieces and place in a pan over a low heat with the juice of one orange, ginger, sugar and a splash of water and cook until just tender. Set aside
    • Peel the apple. Cut one apple into small pieces and the other into thin slices.  Set aside.
    • In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Then add the desiccated coconut and the orange zest.  Mix well.
    • In a measuring jug, add the orange juice, oat milk, vanilla extract and oil. Mix well.
    • Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, then pour in the wet ingredients. Add in the chopped apple pieces, drained rhubarb pieces and the sultanas.  Fold and mix gently until a thick batter is obtained.  The batter may look quite dry (although less likely with the addition of rhubarb).  Do not be tempted to add more liquid as the fruit will release some moisture when the batter is baked.
    • Pour the batter into the two lined loaf tins. Spread the batter evenly in the tins.  Then place the apple slices on top of the batter in a row.
    • Sprinkle with a mix of sugar and cinnamon.
    • Cook for 20 minutes at 180C and a further 15 to 20 minutes at 160C. When time is up test cake with cake tester and if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
    • Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin before removing and cutting it.

    Please note that the cake can be stored in an airtight container for a couple of days. To keep it longer it should be kept in the refrigerator as the fresh fruit can go mouldy if not refrigerated.

    Source: Veganlovie

  • 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.

     

  • Start as you mean to go on

    Christmas has been and gone, with the last remnants of Christmas being removed this morning.  We are now well and truly into 2018.  I am back on the early morning shift and my 4.45 am wake ups for a 6 am start at Lynwood & Co.

    I started the New Year with a pamper day at Barnsley House Hotel; treating myself to a facial and a massage. Yesterday, I got myself a new hairstyle – shorter and a bit more flattering than my last ‘hairstyle’.   I have decided to treat myself better in 2018, despite the fact that I can ill afford it on a chef’s salary.  That being said, I am not feeling too good today as we had my Mum and her friend Normski (real name Norman, but he Normski gives him more street cred) around last night for dinner and drinks and we all overindulged a bit on the liquid side of things.  Not a good idea given that we are just about to embark on one of our weekend runs.

    Okay, so I am just back from a 6.5 mile run.  Well not quite ‘just’, I have had a bath as well as prepared dinner (stuffed mushrooms with pesto, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, olives and feta, accompanied by broccoli and asparagus, followed by cinnamon, apple crumble and vanilla ice cream).  I should possibly mention that my run went okay despite overindulging last night.  Although we have now completed our 1000 Mile Challenge (I have the medal to prove it) we are still running – just not quite as much as we were doing last year.  Jo has set us a new challenge for 2018, 100 exercises per day (e.g. press ups, pull us, tyre flips, lunges, squats, crunches etc.).  So far, so good!

    As mentioned in my last post, I was going to bake 12 chocolate and orange muffins for my muffin fan and his wife.  Well I did as planned, albeit that the order changed to 6 chocolate and orange and 6 orange and cranberry muffins.  As I went into work on my day off to make the muffins (and this was disclosed to my muffin fan and his wife by one of my colleagues), I was surprised with a personal thank you from both and a bottle of Prosecco.  They were both very happy with the muffins, so much so that the muffin fan’s wife was happy to pass them off as her own, or so she said.

    Not much change on the cake front.  I did however experiment with a cherry and coconut cake with a raspberry jam, glace cherry and coconut topping (to potentially replace the Bakewell tart traybake) and a blood orange, blueberry, almond and polenta traybake (to potentially replace the lemon, almond and polenta cake).  As I have been off work for a couple of days (my days off), I haven’t heard how well they went down.   I guess I will find out tomorrow when I return to work.

    Other than what I have already told you, I haven’t much more to say.  I bought myself a copy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s much more veg and have made a few of his meals; mainly soups as I have been using up Christmas vegetables.   I have attempted celeriac and parsley soup; leek and cauliflower soup with mustard and thyme and celery soup with pear, as well as a tartare hash with poached egg.  I have to say that none of the meals disappointed and I would thoroughly recommend the book, even if it is just for the delicious soup recipes.   You may ask why a pastry chef is blethering on about delicious savoury meals.  Well man/woman can’t live by cake alone.

  • A rolling stone gathers no Moss

    Okay, so I am not sure where the time has gone since I last wrote other than work, Christmas preparations and trying to complete the last miles of my 1000 Mile Challenge have taken up my time.  You will be glad to hear (I certainly am) that I managed to complete my Challenge and the pressure of doing a certain number of miles a week is now over.

    On the cake front, the cherry Bakewell traybake, courtesy of the recipe from Marsha’s Bake Blog is now on the menu.  It is a bit of a labour of love, but seems to be going down well, as well as gives a pop of colour to cake cabinet, thanks to the icing, toasted flaked almonds and the glace cherries.  I recently tried a orange and cranberry loaf, which despite taking a lot longer than suggested to bake, is very tasty indeed, as confirmed by the Big Boss, who pinched the bit of the cake I was testing as he walked passed it in the kitchen and then proceeded to cut himself a rather large slice, which he proceeded to eat as well (okay, he did give me a bit of his second slice as compensation for his earlier theft).  A more even distribution of cranberries is in order next time around.

    On another note, my muffin fan, has ordered 12 orange and chocolate muffins for the 30 December, which I am going into to work on my day off to make.  Speaking of muffins, I did make the 4 orange and chocolate muffins for the customer as requested on the 11 December, but she didn’t come in to collect them.  It was a bit disappointing, but such is life.  We did manage to sell them in the cafe, so all ended well.

    Speaking of customer orders, a week or so back, I was responsible for making four quiches for customer orders, all with different fillings.  All went well, except for the pea, pancetta and ricotta quiche, which didn’t seem to want to cook.  I left the quiche in longer than the recipe suggested and it looked okay, except that the top of the quiche was a little browner than I would have liked, but once I took it out of the oven, the filling shrunk away from the pastry.  In my attempt to ensure that the quiche was cooked, I had unintentionally overcooked it.  I had to redo the quiche, within two hours of the customer collecting it.  My second attempt was much better and worthy of customer consumption – phew.

    It is now 4.45 am and I am going to have to leave writing this blog for a few hours as I want to get into work early today to start the pre-Christmas preparations.  I will make a concerted effort to finish this later before Christmas mayhem descends in the Upton household.  Okay, so I didn’t get back to my blog after work on Saturday.  When I got home, Christmas star biscuits for a biscuit Christmas tree took precedence, as did making pizza dough for dinner.

    Entry on 24 December: It is now 5.27 am on Christmas Eve morning.  My chipolatas with plum jam and sesame seeds are cooking in the oven and my puff pastry is thawing.  I had a bit of an oops moment this morning when I discovered that my husband had forgotten to buy chilled, ready rolled puff pastry yesterday.  My lunch menu revolves around puff pastry so I can’t do much until my puff pastry thaws.  If it hasn’t thawed by 7 am, we will need to visit the local Londis to purchase alternative puff pastry.

    Update on 25 December: Good news, the puff pastry thawed and I managed to make everything I had planned for our Christmas Eve lunch: goat’s cheese, honey and thyme bites; cranberry and Camenbert puffs; turkey and brie rolls; mandarin, spinach and pomegranate salad; Christmas salad; roasted turkey crown; butternut squash and halloumi salad and chipolata sausages in plum jam and sesame seeds.  I should mention that I had a few more oops moments before everything was prepared.  We couldn’t find the cranberry jelly so I had to make some from scratch (thank goodness I had purchased two bags of frozen cranberries as a just in case) – Jo later found the missing cranberry jelly in our car which had been parked at the car hire place, after I had made my own homemade cranberry jelly.  I also ran out of carrots (I accidentally used the carrots for my salad as a base to cook my turkey) and walnuts, so Jo had to rush to the next village to purchase some, just as our guests were arriving.  With all of my oops moments, my lunch was served some 50 minutes late.

    Talking of Christmas, and further to my previous post, Jo and I did go into Bath to do our Christmas shopping. as planned.  In fact, we ran 9 plus miles into Bath from my in-laws house to do our shopping, which helped me to complete my 1000 Miles Challenge.  You will be glad to hear that we did not run back – we were very grateful to my Father-in-Laws offer of a lift, especially considering the number of parcels that we had.  Christmas baking at Lynwood & Co wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped as baking the regular cakes took most of my baking time.  I did try a paneforte, lots and lots of mince pies and some star shaped biscuits.

    On a completely different note, the holiday season is starting to bring celebrities back to Lynwood & Co.   Our sighting of Kate Moss on two occasions in one week has been our highlight, hence inspiring the title for my blog.  She was kind enough to sign the wall in our cafe and complement our coffee at the same time.

    Anyway, I had better sign off as it is now Christmas day and I am being a bit rude writing my blog with my whole family around me.  Merry Christmas.  It is likely now that my next post will be written in the New Year.

  • Christmas trees and jelly tots

    Same old, same old but with a little bit of variation.  As before, the last week or so has flown by; I have good and bad days health wise and I am slowly reducing the miles on my 1000 mile challenge (50 miles to go).   I even managed a trip to the gym on Tuesday morning.  I thoroughly enjoyed doing a bit of OCR gym training again – tyre flipping, TRX, grip strength etc.

    Last time I wrote I had been catering for 50 people at a wine tasting session.  Last week, as suggested in my previous post, I spent a bit of Friday and the whole of Saturday baking Christmas delights for a private function for our customers as part of the turning of the Christmas lights in Lechlade.  I made nutty Florentine bites; countless mince pies and some Christmas tree cookies with jelly tot ‘decorations’, which went down a treat.   There wasn’t anything left at the end of the night.

    Since last I wrote, I can confirm that the lemon, almond and olive oil cake and gingerbread loaf continue to go down well.  I seem to be on a continued roller coaster of making these two cakes.   I did try to zhoosh up the gingerbread with a clementine glaze topped with pistachios and pomegranate seeds but it wasn’t sensible given that the cake is not always eaten immediately.  The gingerbread has gone back to being plain.

    Today, when I visited the Fairford branch of Lynwood for a quick bite to eat in between appointments, I did a little survey of what cakes were selling well.  Carrot cake still seems to be a firm favourite.  But the gingerbread loaf and bread and butter pudding also sold whilst I was there.  I was listening to a customer who was tucking into a piece of carrot cake with her partner (I wasn’t eavesdropping, l promise, I was doing a bit of market research).  Not long after they started eating the carrot cake, they called time on the sharing.  A bread and butter pudding with all the trimmings was ordered.  The lady continued eating the carrot cake, declaring that it was ‘too good to share’ and the gentlemen devoured the bread and butter pudding.

    Although the muffins went down well with some customers, they have been taken off the menu for a while as they weren’t selling as quickly as we had hoped. That being said, the gentleman who has complemented me on my muffins before, not only complemented me on the lightness of my muffins after tasting my latest offering, orange and chocolate muffins, but also suggested that he liked the cherry Bakewell muffins.  Despite all this choice, hIs favourite is still the orange and cranberry muffins.  Also, no sooner than the muffins had been taken off the menu, did one of our regular customers ask for four of the orange and chocolate muffins  for the 11th December.  I will make these as a special for her.   Although the cherry Bakewell muffins have been taken off the menu, it is likely that cherry Bakewell will appear in another guise shortly, a cherry Bakewell traybake.  I tried out an Allrecipe recipe yesterday and although it was delicious to taste, it didn’t have any raising agent in it and as such did not have much height.

    I am planning on trying out an alternative recipe from  Marsha’s Bake Blog, which substitutes half of the ground almonds with self raising flour.   This substitution should give the bake the height it needs to compete with the other cakes in the display case.  Subject of course to the Head Chef’s approval.

    Other than this,  I haven’t much else to tell you.  I need to knuckle down and get my Christmas shopping done.  In fact as I write my final words on this post, Jo is packing the car for a trip to Bath to see the in laws and to do our Christmas shopping tomorrow.  Although I say that I need to knuckle down, I have actually wrapped up all the Christmas presents I have bought to date, bar one.   On the subject of Christmas, I am looking forward to putting some Christmas bakes on the menu for the next 23 days.

  • Nattering about Nata

    I am not sure where the last two and a half weeks have gone, but wherever they have gone, they have gone very quickly.  They say that time flies when you are having fun.  I can’t say that the last two and a half weeks have been all fun (ill health is still plaguing me from time to time) but there have certainly been some pleasurable moments.

    Running is still hit and miss.  I have 72 miles left of my 1000 mile challenge.  Earlier in the year I was knocking the miles off at between 20 and 30 miles a week.  Now, if I am lucky, I am managing 12ish miles a week.  With the end of the year looming, I need to get a move on if I am going to succeed in my challenge.  I did manage my longest run so far since my illness this morning, 6.69 miles, so at least this helps towards reducing my miles this week.  The run was made more pleasurable by the fact that Jo and I decided to treat ourselves to a stay at Cowley Manor to try to relax for a couple of days so our run was in a new environment.  We are going to relax properly in about half an hour with some spa treatments – a back massage for Jo and and a back massage and facial for me (I am spending my Birthday voucher on my treatments).

    Work has been good, albeit that my hours have started to creep up again and a long week last week, with the additional pressure of catering for 50 people (a venison casserole with boulangerie potatoes) at a wine tasting session held after hours at Lynwood & Co on Friday definitely took a toll on my health.

    While I have thoroughly enjoyed extending the ‘sweet’ offering at Lynwood & Co, this together with being largely responsible for the Fairford takeaway offering (not the ideas, our Head Chef has to take credit for this) is quite a lot to keep on top of.  I know things will get easier as we decide on what we want to offer on a regular basis and I get quicker at the Fairford takeaway offering, but at the moment experimenting with new recipes and being slowed down by less that perfect health is making things a little more difficult than they should be.  Okay, I must sound like a ‘Moaning Minnie’.  I don’t mean to.  I am actually very happy, just very tired.

    Lets’s talk about something nice.  My experimenting over the last two plus weeks has included:

    • An afternoon baking gluten and dairy free cakes with Trex.  I tried an apricot, apple and walnut loaf; a lemon, almond and polenta cake and and lemon and lime drizzle cake.  The apricot, apple and walnut loaf and the lemon and lime drizzle cake were relatively successful but the lemon, almond and polenta cake was a little on the dry side.  I have however, found a delicious alternative to the latter in the form of a lemon, almond and olive oil cake from Belleau Kitchen, which is going down a treat with the customers.  This looks to become the official replacement to our orange polenta cake.

    • Cherry Bakewell and orange and cranberry muffins.  At the moment it looks like the cherry Bakewell muffins will become a fixture at both the Lechlade and Fairford cafes.  Although the Head Chef has decided that this is the muffin of choice, I have had a regular customer approach me twice now about the orange and cranberry muffins.  His first inquiry was to whether I was the person for making the muffins and if so when would I be making them again.  The second time, when he spied me putting the finishing touches to a batch of cherry Bakewell muffins, he inquired whether they were the orange and cranberry muffins.  When I explained that I was making cherry Bakewell muffins instead, he purchased two and said that he would give them a try.  I haven’t seen him since to see what his verdict was.

    • Various types of cookies, using Donna Hay’s chewy chocolate chip cookies as a base – milk chocolate cookies, M&M cookies, dark chocolate and hazelnut cookies etc.  It looks like the M&M cookies may become a regular at both the Lechlade and Fairford cafes.

    • On the home front, I made Nata yesterday.  Delicious cinnamon and lemon infused bake custard in flaky puff pastry.

    The sticky gingerbread loaf has already become a regular fixture at the Lechlade and Fairford cafes.  I am hoping that I will be able to zhoosh it up a bit for Christmas with a clementine glaze topped with pistachios and pomegranate seeds.

    With the above becoming regular fixtures at the two cafes, the cake trials are likely to come to an end soon until the season changes again.  I am however likely to be experimenting a bit at the end of the week again as Lynwood & Co are offering regular customers Christmas tipple and eats on Saturday as part of the turning on the Christmas lights in Lechlade.  I have some ideas, but I will need to discuss them with the Head Chef first.  Hopefully I will have something exciting to show next week.