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Cracking on with things

Thursday was supposed to be hotter here (Ireland) than Barcelona. Must have been bloody freezing in Barcelona, then. It was dreich even with the heating and fire on. When the day is so cold there’s only one sensible thing to do – put the oven on and BAKE!

 

It’s a chocolate fudge cake, covered with chocolate buttercream (oh, the sweetie dust!) rich, tasty and perfect with a mug of good coffee. The fondant flowers were dotted all over in a wild celebration of the spring equinox (a day late, but that’s how we do things in our house). Actually, I was just using up the fondant flowers I had stored away…

 

I wouldn’t like to give the impression that all I make is cakes. In fact, I rustled up a cheese sauce and made a salmon and broccoli bake covered with grated cheese for tea while I was in the kitchen. It was delicious and both girls had little tidbit. Tummies full of salmon settled them both down to a full-on proper good cat bath and a serious snooze in front of the fire.

 

Baking really makes me happy though and cakes are always a joy. Obviously, running the oven costs money but heating costs are heavily subsidised in Ireland due to the fact that 40% of renewable energy is supplied by the cast of River Dance.

 

Love that River Dance gem – it was a Twitter comment in response to British MEP Daniel Hannon –  who, despite a double first in history from Oxford – was unable to grasp a few fundamental facts regarding Irish political history and offered up some f***wittery that received the good scundering it deserved. See more here for a laugh at the responses: Clickety-click.

 

On a more serious note, there is a shortage of housing in Ireland. The population is growing but due to the popular interior design of using house bricks to liven up dull floors here (Fr Ted Speed 3), there just aren’t enough bricks for new builds. Makes lives a bit gritty but that’s the modern world.

 

Sad to read about the death of Pat Flannon (Pat Mustard). He forgot his feckin’ trousers for the very last time and took his magical milk float to the great beyond. My next cake will be called a nungapunga (literally meaning without trousers) cake in his memory! Fyi, a cake left in its crumbcoat is often called a Naked Cake so that’s what I’m referencing (not slightly tenuously… ahem) and am going to bake next.

 

Since I’ve had a new kitchen, I no longer catch my sleeves on the handles of the units because my new ones don’t have handles. There were days when the snagging and yanking me back across the kitchen with sufficient force to cause whiplash injury drove me crazy but those days are no more!  I often suspected that inanimate objects harboured malevolent and hostile behaviour somewhere in their molecular structure. Just like I now suspect that the Internet of Things means that all my smart electronics are talking about me between themselves as well as passing all the embarrassing data like how I leave cucumbers in the fridge to the point of primordial slimyness to ‘interested parties’ out there.

 

They’re always listening, recording and reporting so for fun I often shout out random words like ‘Purple Blitz Pooper’ and ‘Soggy Foof Bags’ to see what seemingly random matches Google will pop up on my devices to incite me to take that one small click to Amazon… . I don’t need incentives! I am on already on first name terms with Jeff!!!

 

Anyway, I digress, and on to my interesting word find.  RESISTENTIALISM. It’s a noun relating to the theory that inanimate objects demonstrate hostile behaviour towards us. It’s a great word that our lord gave us to use here on earth when we feel beleaguered by the little boll**k goondas in our home and work environments intent on mischief and malarkey.

 

USAGE (from Word a Day: Wordsmith.org):
“Scornful and uncooperative objects — pianos that mock our sausage fingers; computers that develop transient but alarming hypochondria; keys, socks, and teaspoons that scurry off to their secret covens and never return. There are certainly days when resistentialism seems the only explanation.”
Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan; Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err Is Human; Bloomsbury; 2009.

 

I also love German for being the source of some of the most wonderful words I’ve ever met, how about:

 

Backpfeifengesicht – a face in need of a punch (similar to the French tête-à-claque)

or

Zweckentfremdung, which translates to ‘goal alienation’, or ‘using something for a purpose not originally intended’. Our closest English word is ‘utilise’ which is so dull in comparison.

 

That’s all I have to say for now so until next time, have fun and be good!

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Crystallised pear slices

 

This cake turned out brilliantly well at every stage. It’s a stack of 3 x 6″ chocolate sponge cakes, sandwiched with fresh buttercream flavoured and coloured with raspberry compote or goo. The sponge cakes turned out to be awesome. Standard sponge ingredients: 8oz flour, butter and sugar with 2oz cocoa powder and a little coffee with sour cream to lift it up.

 

I used cake strips round the edges of the tins and they do a fabulous job of preventing any caramelisation of the sides and help to level the cakes. The buttercream is a rich vibrant berry pink flecked with tiny traces of raspberry skin. I crumb-coated and put the cake in the fridge overnight then covered it with plain buttercream all around this morning.

 

Remember the crystallised pear slices I made a few weeks ago? It was time to use them. They went all round the cake with a few beautifully curled pear slices on top. Really enjoyed layering them up and loved the colours. Will be making more of them!

 

I used a fan-tailed make up brush (cheap from Dealz and only for cake decorating) to flick some gold lustre dust  and fine edible glitter over everything. Finally, I picked out a few highlights by hand painting some edible gold (Pixie Dust brand) paint here and there.

 

Finally, the picture. My second go at Dark Photography.

Mr T cut a side side off an old printer box, lined it with black foam board and pinned the construction together with T pins, leaving a vertical gap to create a chink of light between boards on the open side. I placed a diffuser-covered light to the open sideand mounted my camera on a tripod facing and cake for a head on shot with a 50mm lens.

 

I really like this shot. I love the vibrancy of the colour of the pear slices in the light and the otherwise dark, atmospheric nature generally.

 

Maybe it’s a little too dark…. here it is slightly lightened up:

 

Slightly less dark still?

 

Want to see the cake in full light?

 

 

Wonder how long it’ll be before I give in to temptation?

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Not baking for a change

 

I find telly so boring generally. There are only a few programmes I like to watch, currently The British Sewing Bee, the Stand Up To Cancer Great British Bake Off, Goggle Box and when on, the Undateables. We’re both huge fans of Daniel and Lily and were over the moon when they go engaged!

 

When there’s nothing much on, we tend to go to bed and watch Netflix or cast some You Tubes.

 

But, if stuck on the sofa in front of the bloody goggly box with the bloody news or other stuff that Mr T likes, I pick up some crochet and play hookey.One of my favourite things to make are applique flowers, or little animals like elephants, or houses from fine cotton and sew them onto hats and booties or other nice bits and bobs.

 

The coiled rose and green leaves are from Pink Milk’s blog.

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Fruity cakes

 

This cake was inspired by a Preppy Kitchen recipe. It was so light and lemony – just lovely to make. It was odd making a sponge without egg yolks but did make for a very white, fresh looking cake. Mine is layered with blueberry buttercream, crumb-coated with the same then finished with a rustic coating of lemon buttercream, stained with streaks of blueberry juice.

 

The freezer was getting a bit full so I defrosted a batch of cupcakes made a couple of weeks ago and covered them in raspberry buttercream. I like to buy packs of frozen fruits – they have to be fresh to be frozen so you know you’re getting fruit picked at their best. I use these to make fruit compote or fruit goo at a moment’s notice.

 

I pour about 150g into a saucepan and heat them to a simmer with maybe a TBS of sugar. Simmer and stir till the juice evaporates and the fruit reduces to a thickish goo. Sieve (a muddler is a great tool to help grind the goo through the sieve) making sure you scrape the underside of the sieve to catch every last bit into a jug. There you have it.  Goo.Let it cool and it’s ready to use. Use an apple corer to core a little chunk of your cupcake out and fill it with the goo. Makes a delicious filling.

 

Finally, made a swirl of piped buttercream (isn’t the colour intense and yet it’s totally natural!) and sprinkled hundreds and thousands over the top. Homely, informal tasty, fresh cupcakes.

 

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Cherry Sponge Cake

If you think my interests have been completely overtaken by cake making, you’d be right! My inner cakey diva has gone crazy bananas. Especially since getting a new cooker – it’s taken a bit of getting used to and I’ve cooked all sorts of things to get the measure of it and am starting to feel comfortable with it now. The kitchen is nearly finished but am beginning to think it’s turning into an example of the analogy of the frog hopping to the well in a succession of half distance hops each time to explain infinity…. – you understand the parallel?

 

Mr T is just better at some jobs than me. Fact. Otherwise I would do them. He can be, by nature, a difficult person to nudge along, though and he will very frequently  frequently often sometimes leave things half done. Resisting the urge to morph into one of my super anti-hero personas (Medusa) and have a hissy fit storm worthy of a head covered in petrifying serpentes, I normally nod acquiescently and ‘accept’ the feeble invalid frequently illogical load of nonsense bollo**s excuse reason for the latest stall. But the inner gorgon is just below the surface….

 

I am just joking with you, however passive-aggressive this may sound. He’s worked really hard and the kitchen has been a PITA at times and it’s looking so clean and bright that I love it already. I don’t want him to bust his belly getting it finished but it’s so nearly done that it’s frustrating.

 

The finishing touches would be the cherry on top (you see what I did there?|).

So, I made this cake yesterday. It’s fabulously decadent and lush. It’s an almond sponge layered with cherry buttercream (cherry goo with more cherries roughly whizzed in the blender and sieved a little to get rid of excess juice mixed into normal buttercream). It’s topped off with chocolate gananche and a bunch of fresh cherries, ripe and sweet.

 

 

The choc chip decoration… wish I hadn’t. They’re made from some kind of S*#% nasty compound chocolate. Note to self: avoid like the plague! Next time I’ll use cacao nibs or buy some Twirls or Flakes and smush them around.

The cake was amazingly fresh, light and tasty. Took two slices round to my neighbour – she rang me some 30 mins later to tell me it was the best cake I’d made – EVER! Made my halo a bit heavy, I can tell you but what a lovely compliment.

 

Also had a go at dark photography. Dark photography is kind of on trend at the moment and I really like it! It’s sometimes called ‘Mystic Light’, or Chiaroscuro (an Italian term pinched from the art world to describe a technique that emphasises the the contrast between shadow and light in an image.

 

The cake was mounted on an upside-down cake tin (as I had no matt cake boards), and then onto my home-made cake stand (the bottom is a candle holder on sale from Ikea in 2014, the top is a Snudda or Lazy Susan, also from Ikea, spray painted a chocolate brown and the two stuck together with Gorilla glue).

 

I extended my kitchen table full length, made an enclosure (a little housie, awww) out of black foam board held together with T-pins (the very same as used for blocking crochet) and lined the bottom with an A2 length of black mount board. I left a slit between two sheets of foamboard to let in a ‘slice’ of light.

 

My camera was popped onto a tripod facing the scene and lowered for a head on shot and the opening between the foamboard was covered with a diffuser (the light from the window was streaming in).

 

The shot above has been enhanced with various Photoshop interventions, increasing shadow, contrast, blacks, reducing whites and highlights, masking a couple of highlights and using Curves to dampen them a little, etc. I’m fairly happy with it for a first attempt but would like to achieve some properly good atmospheric shots. A little more Nosferatu….

 

I’m following The Bite Shot on You Tube for tutorials, tips, techniques and all other good alliterative T things. (see – did it again there – Nosferatu… The Bite Shot – groan – am good at puns and such like)

Nice to see cherries in the shops. Am looking out for fresh figs – I think they’re around some time in May… Love them.

Finally got round to making a tray of meringues using a Sultane nozzle. Crisp outer shell, gooey middle… but that’s enough about me… no seriously, the meringues are really nice and the squidgy middle is sumptuous. I like a couple with fresh blueberries and a dollop of Greek yoghurt for dessert.

 

Of course, using a bunch of egg whites left a load of yolks so they got turned into lemon curd which is surprisingly easy to make and tastes sooo much better than any commercial brand! And, I’ve found a recipe for blackcurrant curd!!! On that shortly!

 

Despite all the baking, I found some time to crochet a little and will post pictures of my crochet adventures next time around.

 

Am off to respond to a wonderful email sent by the united nations compensation commission – apparently I’ve come into an eye-watering amount of money – proper folding dollars! I can’t remember how much it was as I lost count of all the zeros after the comma… eleventy billion or thereabouts. To think that I qualify for such a life-changing cash injection having never lodged any compensation claim ever… AND have also received a notification about unpaid inheritance from a distant relative on the Ivory Coast on the SAME DAY. It’s truly a miracle.

 

Think lucky and you’ll be lucky, eh?! Have a lovely sun shiny day and enjoy yourself!

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