• One door shuts and another door opens

    This week was a busy week at the Coln Community Stores as one of my colleagues is on a much deserved holiday abroad.

    Rather than just doing four days, I am doing six and five out of the six started at 5.30 am.  Monday through to Wednesday, the early starts were fine, but by Thursday early starts on about five and a half hours sleep were starting to get to me.  After a short shift on Thursday (5.30 am to 11 am, albeit that I should have finished at 10 am if there hadn’t been an impromptu sandwich making requirement) I decided that I was going to have a nap before I started the daily chores.  After a quick cup of tea and a snack, I fell asleep only to wake up less than an hour later feeling decided disorientated.  With the sun streaming through the curtained windows, despite heavy duty lining, my first thought was that I had forgotten to set the alarm and was now late for my morning shift at the Stores.  With panic coarsing through my veins, the fog of an afternoon sleep began to dissipate and I realised that I had indeed fallen asleep after and not before I had completed my morning shift.  Calmed by a cup of Yorkshire tea, I began some mundane domestic tasks as well as tried to focus on some of the tasks which I had started but had not yet finished.

    Given that I was working to a ‘to do’ list, I will share my ‘to do’ list with you:

    1. Send Jo a copy of my birthday list i.e. a list of presents which I am hoping to receive from family members on my next birthday (helpful, rather than greedy hints, I hope) – PS he did ask me to send them to him.
    2. Finish the proposal for the Coln Community Stores cafe i.e. something which the manager asked me to put together in advance of the next Committee meeting.  You will be glad to hear that I completed and send this to my manager yesterday.
    3. Complete overtime sheet for Coln Community Stores.
    4. Send Rob, the owner of Lynwood & Co some of the ideas I had (some time ago) about diversifying Lynwood & Co’s offering.
    5. Put together some meal ideas for an elderly couple who are looking for someone to cook for them on a regular basis.

    Although all of my ‘to do’ list items could be expanded upon, the two which best highlight the title of my blog are no. 4 and 5.

    With reference to no. 4, Rob’s response to my ideas was very positive and I was glad to hear that he had similar thoughts and in fact was already implementing some of them unbeknownst to me – I am very much out of the loop at Lynwood & Co. since I went part time and even more so now that I am on a leave of absence.  A leave of absence which may be permanent, but which at this stage I am not sure.  Anyway, on the back of this, he rang me yesterday and asked me whether I would work with him in coming up with a fruit loaf for Lynwood & Co’s collaboration with Stay Cotswolds.  A collaboration in which Lynwood & Co provides a welcome gift of sourdough bread, granola and coffee.  They want to extend this gift to include a fruit loaf.  As I type this blog my first attempt at a fruit loaf for this venture is cooling in the kitchen.  It smells delicious.  Let’s hope it tastes delicious.  I am just waiting for it to cool enough to cut a slice to test.  Depending on the outcome, I might be taking my first attempt up to Rob’s house for testing this evening.  If the taste does not match the smell, it will be back to the drawing board tomorrow with a second attempt.   So the reference to doors in this anecdote is that even if the main door of Lynwood & Co. is shut (although I am not sure if this is the case yet), there may be a small door, which a small person could enter and do a bit as a side line.  This may just be a one off, but we will just have to wait and see.

    With reference to no. 5,  I was at work at the Coln Community Stores on Tuesday when an elderly gentleman came into the shop with an inquiry about his account, as well as asked to put a notice on the notice board.  Being nosy I took a quick peek before I posted it to see what it was about.  I note mentioned that the residents of one of the bigger houses in the next village were looking for someone to cook evening meals for them.  I thought this may be of interest to me so to cut a long story short, I met the residents on Tuesday to find out what they were after; informed them of a potential rate of pay on Wednesday and left some meal ideas for them on Friday with a note of how we could proceed if they were still interested.  Although very excited about the prospect on Tuesday, albeit a bit apprehensive, by Wednesday my enthusiasm was waning a bit and by Friday I was becoming quite uncertain.  I really do just want to bake and in a way, I am not sure whether I want anything else to get in the way of my end game.  Yes, it could be a means to an end, as well as could lead to other things, but at the moment, I am not sure.  The ball is currently in their court.  I doubt they will call me over the weekend, so I will just need to wait to see what next week brings.  So with reference to doors in this anecdote, a reading of a note has potentially opened a new door.  I am just not sure at this point whether I want to enter the door.

  • 60 ‘Maltese’ cupcakes

    Looking back at my Instagram account, it doesn’t look like I have done a huge amount since I last wrote.

    Perhaps the most significant events, although not very significant in themselves, are that I got to bake the 60 cupcakes for the customer order which I mentioned in my last post and I trialed our proposed pizzas for the Coln St Aldwyns fete, which is to be held in September.

    On Friday evening, after an early morning shift at the Coln Community Stores (5.30 to 10.30 am); a quick trip to Fairford to pick up some ingredients; a two-hour mow of the lawns to get our garden sort of in order for visitors, I set about making pizza; tomato sauce and caramelised onion, and preparing the toppings for 11, eight inch pizza.  You might ask why, 11 pizzas.  Well, we have just purchased a pizza stacker with 11 slots for 11 pizza trays.  Our mission (Jo was in charge of cooking them in our new Uuni Pro) was to see how many pizzas we could cook in a certain amount of time, in preparation of the Coln St Aldwyns fete.  We are hoping to cook 60-80 pizzas in two hours at the fete.  Limited by only two toppings (the organiser’s suggestion), pepperoni and  caramelised onion and goat’s cheese, we prepared and cooked 11 eight, inch pizzas, which were tasted by 6 of the fete’s organisers to determine whether they were worthy of appearing on the fete’s menu.  With Jo able to cook 6 in 9 minutes, and a thumbs up particularly to the caramelised onion & goat’s cheese topping (the firm favourite, not surprising given the discerning palates of the organisers), we have been given the go ahead to appear on the fete’s menu.  The leftover pizza dough (I made enough for 16 pizzas), together with the caramelised onion (of which there was loads), tomato sauce and goat’s cheese were made into a delicious calzone with added anchovies and mushrooms.  I think after the trial run and the calzone, we were all pizza’d out for a while.

    If cooking a shed load of pizzas on Friday night was not enough, on Saturday, after 6 days straight at work (albeit between the two jobs), I went to work ready to make 60 cupcakes (actually I made over 80 to ensure that I had 60 decent cupcakes for the customer) along with preparing what else needed to be made for general cafe use.  I didn’t envisage that some of my day would be spent supporting the front of house chef as it was a very busy day at the cafe.

    I made a decision to make the cupcake mixture in two batches as I didn’t want the mixture to sit around for too long before putting it in the oven.  I painstakingly made the first batch of mixture and took my time filling the cupcake cases.  I adjusted the oven to 10 degrees below the suggested 180 degrees Celsius as the recipe I was using did not specify if the suggested temperature was for a conventional or fan oven and baked the cupcakes for 20 minutes (the recipe suggested 20 – 25 minutes baking).  A skewer test suggested that the cakes should be cooked so I took them out of the oven.  In retrospect, I should have taken them out a couple of minutes later but retrospect was too late at this time.  That being said, after letting them cool for a while, and cutting open 3 or 4 cakes just to be sure that they were cooked (the less decent looking cakes) the cupcakes revealed themselves to be of a very light and decent texture.  With my first batch of cupcakes cooling, I set about making my second batch of cupcake mixture.  With time pressure on me, I tried to hasten the cake mixture (I thought that maybe I had been a little too cautious the first time around).  The result was that the second batch of mixture was not quite as good as the first and there were fewer cupcakes in the second batch that I thought were worthy of finishing off for the customer.  In retrospect (there is that word again), I should have made a single batch of cupcake mixture (our industrial mixer needs a lot of ingredients to ensure that it mixes them properly).  Irrespective, I had 60 plus cakes worthy of icing out of the two batches.

    Towards the end of the shift, we started the task of making the icing for and then icing, all the cupcakes.  The intention was that my colleague, who bakes and decorates cakes in her spare time would ice the cupcakes, as I never feel that this is my forte.  The first challenge was to get half the icing red enough.  Armed with 6 tubes of extra strong Dr Oetker gel red, food colouring, we attempted to get the correct colouring.  It was a deep pink rather than red.  My colleague made the correct call to try to add some more colouring.  A quick message to my husband Jo, saw the arrival of three more tubes of Dr Oetker.  These did the trick.  The second challenge was to ensure that the icing was firm enough to ice the cupcakes (it was sweltering in the kitchen) – a short chill in the fridge did the trick.  The third and final challenge was to get an even swirl of white and red icing on top of each cupcake.  My colleague used a method used by her aunt, which was to wrap the two coloured icings separately in cling film and the place them in a large piping bag to pipe.  This method ensures that the colours do not mix when piping.  Ingenious!

    After all the icing prep, which took much longer than expected we set about icing the cupcakes, 60 for the customer and the rest for the staff.  A test by my colleague and me revealed that I could in fact ice neater than her so it became my task to ice the cupcakes.  80 iced cupcakes later, 60 of which were left neatly tucked in boxes in the fridge (it was too hot in the kitchen to leave them out – it was the right call as the icing on the ones that we left out for staff, melted slightly), we left for the day, praying that the cupcakes would be okay in the morning.  As I had the Fairford 10km run on the Sunday morning, I was not going to be around for the pick up.  To end this rather long-winded story about the life of a cupcake, lets just say that they were picked up and that the feedback from the customer yesterday was very positive.  The customer came into see me personally to thank me for the cupcakes.  She said that they were more than she had expected and that her Mother (whose Birthday it was) had tears (of joy, I should add) when she saw the cupcakes.  The sentiment most probably came from the colouring of the cupcakes, rather than the cakes themselves as the red and white was supposed to represent the Maltese flag and their heritage.

    Going back to the Fairford 10km.  It was a very fast race with the winner averaging a speed of over 18km an hour.  Although we didn’t place well we were happy with out time of 47.22 minutes.  Our goal was to achieve a sub 50 minute 10km, which we did.  After the race I did a short stint in the kitchen at Lynwood & Co (2-3 hours) and then some paddle boarding and canoeing with my husband, sister and nephew.  Needless to say that we were exhausted so resorted to pub meal and a glass or two of wine at the New Inn.  While at the pub, we got talking to Daisy May Cooper, the actress and recent BAFTA winner from This Country.  She was an absolute delight and asked Jo and I for our phone numbers as she thought we were lovely (her words) and suggested that we meet up for a drink sometime.  She is unlikely to call, but I am sure we will bump into her in the pub sometime.

    The last thing I should mention is that I have made some progress in setting up a business from home.  I am now registered as a business with the Cotswold District Council and have an environmental health officer coming to see me on Monday afternoon.  I have one supplier secured, to provide me with ambient goods and for the ingredients for the Coln St Aldwyns Fete.  I now have a few days, starting after breakfast this morning, to get to grips with the Safer Food Better Business document before the meeting on Monday afternoon.  While I say that I have made progress, any progress that I have made may be thwarted if our landlord does not approve of me operating a small business from home.  We will just have to wait and see what he says.  It is not the end of the world though, as our year’s contract is coming to an end in August and we can look for another property if needs be.

  • 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……