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It was the cover that caught my eye… #5

It’s really great to see publishers fighting against the rise of these new-fangled digital book things by bringing out beautiful new covers.

This lovely Penguin hardback edition of Flappers And Philosophers, a collection of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a great example. Why would anyone not want this book on their shelf? I do, even though I already have most of these stories in other collections.

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It was the cover that caught my eye… #4

The question I find the most difficult to answer is always “What’s your favourite…?” Be it film, book, song or pizza topping, I can never choose just one.

Now, I don’t think this is my all-time favourite cover; but I have been thinking, and I reckon if I were really pressed to choose, I would say that Thrump-O-Moto is my favourite book.

This book has been in my life a long time and the cover is something that has always fascinated, intrigued and excited me:

Written by James Clavell and beautifully illustrated by George Sharp.

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Weekend Baking- the best lemon bar things ever

EVER. Seriously. The husband and I had people round for dinner and I made a batch of 12 lemon bars; we each sampled one before the guests arrived, of course, but the other 10 we ate between the four of us quite quickly! They were just too nice, if I do say so myself; I had my proud face on all evening.

Here’s the recipe- lots of steps but simple enough and so worth it.

Pastry base:

  • 140g/5oz plain flour
  • 60g/2oz granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 115g/4oz cold unsalted butter

Filling:

  • 1 lemon, unwaxed and scrubbed
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 200g/7oz granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Before you begin, grease and line a roughly 8-inch square baking pan (mine was rectangular and about 7″ x 10″!) and stick the oven on to preheat at 180 C.

First up, the pastry base. Start by stiring together the flour, sugar and salt with a whisk until evenly blended. Cut the butter into cubes and combine with the dry ingredients. I did this by hand; one of the benefits of having constantly cold hands is that I have the power to make great pastry 🙂 The consistency you’re after is mostly coarse crumbs, but still a bit chunky. Basically, I would make sure there are no huge lumps of butter and then not worry about it too much. Press this mixture evenly into your prepared baking pan.

This goes in the oven for 15-20 mins until lightly golden, giving you the perfect amount of time to prepare your filling.

Zest and juice the lemon. You’ll need 1 tsp of the zest (or more, if you like it zesty) and 2 tbsp of juice. Put these in a big bowl and add the eggs and sugar. Beat these together until well mixed (I recommend an electric whisk, if you have one) then speed things up for about 1-2 mins, until themixture is pale and foamy. Combine the flour and baking powder and then whisk into the lemon mixture.

By now your base should be ready. Pour the topping evenly over the crust and pop it back in the oven for 25-30 mins, until lightly golden on top.

Once you’ve taken it out of the oven, DO NOT get over excited and try to take it out of the pan to cool. Leave it in there. After it’s nice and cool you can turn it out, cut it up and enjoy!

 The recipe suggests dusting with icing sugar, however, while it looked pretty and tasted nice, it tended to just fall off when you picked them up; which is a shame as I spent ages dusting little stars!

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It was the cover that caught my eye… #3

Beautiful as book covers are, when they’re all lined up on the shelf you can’t see them. That’s why this book cover post is decicated to one of my favourite book spines.

The little ship on this edition of King Solomon’s Mines makes me smile every time I see it on my bookshelf.

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Weekend Baking- Cornflour ribbon cake

This is something I found in my grandma’s recipe notebook and thought it sounded interesting. The notebook is a little scrappy one, with no cover (shock horror! If Grandma Wheeler were still alive, she would have recieved a fancy new notebook for Christmas) and the contents are often equally scrappy, meaning there’s often a small amount of guess work. Here’s the recipe as it stood, word for word:

Beat 4oz marg and 5oz caster sugar together. Add 2 eggs and beat until smooth.

Sift 4oz S.R. flour and 4 oz cornflour tog. and add to ingredients with 1 tbsp milk.

Divide mixture into sections and to each add a diff. food colour, or cocoa to one mix. 

Grease a 7″ baking tin and drop a little of each coloured mixture into the tin, till all mixture used up.

Bake at mark 4 for 3/4 to 1 hour.

Now, this seems quite straightforward, but if you are going to attempt this, here are some handy tips…

DOs: Use butter instead of marg if you wish, it’ll be fine. Really make sure the flour is mixed in well; there’s a lot of it! Thus, when it says ‘drop a little of each mixture’ what it should really say is ‘thwack it off the spoon’. Seriously, with all that flour it’s never going to be dropping consistancy. I made a MESS doing this.

DON’Ts: Be careful what kind of tin you use. I used a round one, which was fine, but it meant that the mixture went in lumps side by side; I think it would be much easier to use a loaf style tin, and try to layer the mixture. If you do dollop, (which does provide a nice effect still) when you’ve dolloped the mixture into your tin, don’t just leave it; I was in a rush and made the mistake of leaving mine in dollops, and ended up with a… textured surface… I think perhaps trying to level it would have been a good idea.

However, once it was cut up it did look rather pleasing.

Due to the cornflour, the taste and texture was a bit different to regular sponge cake; however, not at all stodgy or heavy, which was my worry. It was in fact rather tasty.

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It was the cover that caught my eye… #2

There’s not much I can say about the cover of this edition of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine. I think it’s clear why I love it:

The spine is equally exquisite:

The fact that this book is clearly old and worn just makes it all the better for me. A well-loved book is a happy book. Just don’t bend the spine back or I’ll slap you on the wrist.

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CAKE POPS

I made 40 cake pops, they lasted  just 11 hours when shared with work colleagues and friends.  Apparently once you eat one, you just can’t stop.  Here is how it all happened.

It all starts with the very normal baking a cake…

Make a basic chocolate cake recipe.  I made mine by mixing 250g salted butter (at room temperature) with 250g caster sugar.  Slowly add 4 medium eggs, continuing to beat the mixture.  Sift over 250g self-raising flour and 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder.  Mix everything until combined.  Pour into 2 x 8 inch cake tins, bake in a preheated oven at 160ºC for 25 mins.  Test it with a skewer, it cooked the skewer comes out clean.  Leave the cake to cool.

Now things start to get a bit crazy, it’s time to destroy the cake, yes, really…

I know it seems so terribly wrong, but it has to be done.  Put the cake into a food processor and process until you get a crumb consistency.  I do not have a food processor, so I had to go with the slower method of breaking the cake until a big bowl, and then using a fork to break it up into a crumb-like consistency.  Yes, this takes quite a bit more time, but if you do it whilst sitting in front of the TV watching ‘The Big Bang Theory’ then the time passes by quickly.

In a seperate bowl mix together 140g full-fat cream cheese and 280g sifted icing sugar until smooth.  Add this to your cake crumbs.  Stick your hands in and combine together.  You should be left with a moist mixture. 

Time to make some balls…

Weigh out 30grams of the mix and roll into a ball, push in a lollipop stick, and place on a tray.  Do this about 39 more times and you should have used up all your mix.  Put the tray into the fridge for a few hours (if short on time you can put them in the freezer for about 10 minutes).

Now for the fun part, it is time to decorate…

Melt some chocolate or candy melts, I used Cadbury milk chocolate as it is my favourite.  Dip the naked cake pop into the chocolate, ensure it is fully coated, tap the excess chocolate off.  Decorate with sprinkles, glitter, sugar stars/hearts etc, whatever you fancy.  Place into a stand to dry.  You can buy proper cake pop stands online, but they can be a bit pricey.  I used oasis (the stuff that is used for flower arranging) and found it was a very useful substitute.

And the result is…

A very pretty, cute and tasty treat, something that is almost like a chocolate truffle.  Seriously, they were eaten so quickly by my work colleagues and friends that I did not even have time to eat one myself, I found myself making another batch a few days later, and I got to eat my first cake pop, and it was delicious, worth the time and effort for a special occasion/treat.

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It was the cover that caught my eye…

Everyone knows that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. This is often quite literally true; however, beautiful covers do entice. I often find myself, having spied a pretty book on the train being read by someone else, making a concerted effort to find that book, and indeed that particular beautifully bound edition.

The first cover I’m featuring is one that I indeed spied on an early morning train journey; I could not take my eyes off the cover or fail to be intrigued by the title.

My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk, Faber & Faber edition, has a well laid out cover featuring an exquisite illustration:

This book is definitely worth a read in my opinion. I found it quite hard to keep on going while I was reading it; but whenever I wasn’t reading it, I found I was constantly thinking about it.

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Festive baking- reindeer cupcakes

It’s a bit late now, I know; but I didn’t get round to making these until after Christmas and I simply couldn’t wait until next year to do them. 

My mother-in-law gave me these adorable edible decorations from Holly Cupcakes, a website that shall be thoroughly investigated very soon.

The cupcake recipe I used was a very basic one. I got some tips from the Queen of Cupcake Corner, who said recipes with milk usually turned out nice and light. Here it is (makes 12):

  • 150g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 2-3 tbsp milk

First, cream the butter and the sugar. Make sure the butter is nice and soft before you begin. I usually do this by hand, but as I was at my parents I used their food processor- so much quicker!

Next, beat in the eggs. I was told you need to do this for a long time, which is much easier with a food processor- it got the mixture really really smooth.

Then fold in the flour carefully, making sure you don’t over mix it. Add a little milk to make it dropping consistency, then fill your cases. As I wanted poofy tops for my reindeer, I filled some up more than others. Bake at 180 degrees C for about 20 mins. They turned out pretty good!

To ice them, I made a batch of butter icing; 6oz of icing suger, 3oz of butter. I know, I used grammes before, but I’m not fussy, I just use whatever recipe I like the look of! I replaced just under 1oz of icing sugar with 1oz of cocoa powder, to make a vaguely reindeer coloured icing. Not having anything else, I just smoothed this on with a knife.

After that it was just a case of decorating! I used some red icing to do the noses, but you could use lots of things: chocolate peanuts or raisins, cherries, cranberries…

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Weekend baking- The truffle experiment

If you’re making truffles for someone as a gift, it’s probably not the best time to experiment. But that didn’t stop me.

I decided to make two different types; Amaretto centre, with ground almonds on top and plain milk chocolate filled ones decorated with a white swirl.

         

I put the white swirl in first, as the writing icing I was using was quite soft, and I thought the chocolate might help it set. It didn’t. Lesson learned!

After coating the moulds with melted chocolate, I made the ganache. To do this, I poured 60ml of boiling cream over 75g of well broken up chocolate and mixed frantically until smooth. Then I split the mixture in two and added Disaronno to one half.

I was using Wilton Candy Melts. They’re really easy to use and brilliant for coating and making solid chocolates. However, it turns out that if you try and make a ganache with them, they don’t really solidify. So I ended up making chocolates with almost-liquid centres. Which was unexpected, but really nice.

Results:

Need to practise neatening the edges, but I think they turned out pretty well.