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1  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Harvest Festival Sheaf on: September 23, 2011 04:09:58 AM

I'm not sure what the case is in the rest of the world, but here in UK around the Autumn equinox we celebrate Harvest Festival. It's a time for us to be thankful for the harvest and share food with people who are less fortunate. Churches are often decorated with fruit, vegetables and other food. It is also tradition to make bread that looks like a sheaf of wheat.

I wanted to make one for one of the schools I work at. As it was going to be on display in the school for 5 days before Harvest Festival Service I needed to make it from a decorative bread dough and it didn't matter if it wouldn't be edible.

I used the Hamelmans Light Yeasted Decorative Dough recipe but scaled it down to make just 900g of dough. (525g strong white bread flour, 2g fast action yeast, 8 g salt, 26g milk powder, 23g sugar, 26g butter, softened, 290ml warm water) Meaning that 400g for base, 40 x 10g wheat stalk, 3 x 20g braid, 30-40g mouse. I think the photos above explain the process better than I could ever do with words! It took about 2.5 to build then another 2 hours being slowly baked at 160oc.

I really enjoyed making it as the dough was so easy to use, but the dough did need to be chilled when not being used to stop it rising too much and being unworkable.

2  COOKING / Dessert / Baby Shower Cupcakes on: April 12, 2011 01:20:18 AM
Here in the UK baby showers are quite rare so when I was invited to one I wasn't too sure what to expect. I decided if I turned up with some cakes I wouldn't be turned away  Grin.
I'm quite new to using fondant and still getting used to working with it and colouring it but am really pleased with how the cakes turned out. They went down very well at the baby shower. The idea for the cakes is based on one that features in the Planet Cake book. I'm impressed what I managed to achieve with just a round cutter, cocktail sticks and a No.2 piping tip.

3  OCCASIONS AND HOLIDAYS / Winter Holidays / Brussel Sprout Wreath on: December 14, 2010 02:49:13 AM

Every year I make a wreath for the house to hang during Christmas. I suppose you could describe my husband & I as foodies so I always try and link the wreath to food. Last year I made a chilli & lime wreath. This year I had the slightly mad idea of making one from brussel sprouts. I'm not sure what it is like in the rest of the world, but here in the UK it is traditional to eat sprouts with your Christmas dinner. People either love or hate the vegetables!

Due to the extreme cold weather we've had here recently many sprout harvests have failed or been frost damaged. The sprouts in my in-law's allotment suffered and we're no longer edible. The majority of them had opened up like little sprout flowers. Not one to throw something away I decided to fashion them in to a festive wreath.

The base was just a moss circle I picked up from the garden centre and I just attached the sprouts by wrapping around with florist wire. I started with the middle ring of sprouts then worked on the sides. The final sprouts (the ones that were still tightly formed ) we're stuck on with a glue gun. All in all it took about 2 hours. Sorry for the first few blurry photos. I was too lazy to get out the tripod!


4  Halloween / Halloween Decor and Parties / Beetle Cakes (updated 10/24/2011 with new pics) on: October 29, 2010 04:45:56 AM
There seems to be a theme for me posting on Craftster. Last post was my Sweeney Todd pie and here is my project for this year. I do have another non-halloween project on the go which I'll post when I'm finished  Wink

Anyway, my husband's workmates are always asking me to bake for them. They are often the recipients of recipes I've been testing in the kitchen for my job. This time I thought I've give them something with a creepy twist.

The cakes are just basic chocolate sponge topped with chocolate buttercream with a bit of black food colouring to darken the colour and the edible dirt topping is crushed Oreos. As for the beetles I made them from marzipan and modelled them on cockroaches, scarab beetles and a generic beetle  Cheesy The first one I made had eyes that made it look too cute so I ditched the eyes on the others. I then dusted them with a bit of lustre to give them a shine. I also experiemented with making centipedes, but they were time consuming and didn't look as good.

To make the beetles:
First knead black food colouring into the marzipan until evenly coloured. Pinch off a Malteser sized piece of marzipan and roll into a rugby ball shape. Place on a piece of clingfilm and gently press to flatten. Shape into a beetle shape. Mark the head and wings using a teaspoon. Add additional detail with a knife and cocktail stick. Brush lightly with lustre dust. Roll six mini sausages out of the marzipan about 1.5 cm long. Attach two of the legs near the head and the other four to the rear. Leave on the clingfilm to dry for  few hours.

Gross fact: black marzipan when accidentally rolled the wrong way looks suspiciously like mouse/rat/bat droppings. While this could have given the cakes a rather disturbing twist I didnt think the recipients of the cakes would appreciate it or ever ask me to bake for them again!

Go to Page 3 of the thread to see the 2011 version of these cakes

5  POTTERY, CERAMICS, POLYMER CLAY / Polymer Clay: Completed Projects / Possibly the worst pie in London... [in-action pics added!) on: October 25, 2009 02:36:43 PM
Hubs & I are attending a Halloween party as Sweeney Todd & Mrs Lovett and I decided to accompany my Victorian Gothic costume I need just one essential prop - a really quite grusome pie.

It's a long time since I've done anything crafty like this and now am more used to working with edible materials. To make my pie I decided to use a material I hadn't used since I was a child - salt dough. I had forgotten how easy it is to make and was like working with pastry. To help with making the shape I used a small foil pie dish. This helped to support the dough as it was drying. The idea for the fingers was inspired by a Halloween shortbread recipe I had seen where the shortbread was rolled into fingers and flaked almonds were used as fingernails. I have to say they are almost too realistic for my liking!

It took an age to dry out in the oven, but I'm really pleased with the results.

My pie went down a storm at the Halloween party. It ended up being the centrepiece on the [real] food table. It was a great night and I certainly enjoyed dressing up as Mrs Lovett.

6  COOKING / Dessert / Peppermint cream rainbow on: May 27, 2009 12:19:49 PM
I teach 6-11 year olds cookery and try and keep it interesting. A few weeks ago one of my pupils approached me with a cookbook she had been given for her birthday and pointed out the Peppermint Cream recipe and how she would like to make them. As I haven't made them since my school days I decided to play around with recipes and dyes to get different effects. I admit I'm a bit of a novice when it comes to colouring things, but I really enjoyed it. I essentially mixed together 400g icing sugar with around 2tbsp water until I got the right consistancy then added some of my gel dyes.

After I took this photo I mixed all the different icings together and got quite a psychadelic effect that looked scarily like playdoh!
7  COOKING / Dessert / The Soda Cupcake Experiment on: July 22, 2008 02:32:43 PM
I work in education and am currently on my 6 week long summer holidays. I'm already bored! So, inspired by Moutain Dew Cupcakes and Coca-Cola cupcakes I had seen on here I decided to have a go with some fizzy drinks/soda that you can get here in the UK. Vimto, Irn-Bru, Tizer plus Dandelion & Burdock. Sadly you can no longer get Mountain Dew here  Sad I also managed to make some of the ugliest cakes I've made in a long time.  Grin

I used the Nigella coco-cola cupcake recipe but omited the cocoa and doubled it so I had enough to make 4 different sets of cakes.

Some of the sodas worked well, some didn't. Dandelion & Burdock made the best cake and interestingly it was the cakes made with the drink that claimed to have no additives (Tizer) that fared the worse. Cakes shouldn't be chewy and greasy!

From left to right: Dandelion & Burdock, Irn-Bru, Vimto, Tizer

I certainly won't be trying a Tizer cake again, but with a bit of tweaking Dandelion & Burdock plus Vimto could make nice cakes.

8  COOKING / Dessert / Raspberry Truffles on: July 15, 2008 02:04:20 AM
I have a bit of a raspberry thing going on at the moment. They are my favourite fruit in the world and I'm obsessed with them.

I came across the recipe on a blog (http://cherrapeno.blogspot.com/2007/06/raspberry-truffles.html) last year and have been wanting to make them for a while. I'm quite new into chocolate making and while making them thought I had ruined the chocolate as it went claggy and difficult to work with, but in the end they turned out very rich and delicious and not too ugly!

In good Craftster style I also sprinkled some dark pink edible lustre over them  Grin, though it hasn't really shown up on the photos. I'm thinking of trying them with white chocolate.

9  COOKING / Dessert / Gin & Tonic Jelly on: July 14, 2008 05:44:41 AM
I was told about this particular Nigella recipe that features in her How to be a Domestic Goddess cookbook a few months back and have been wanting to give it a try. Gin & tonic is one of my favourite alcoholic drinks, and the fact it can be made into a dessert is even better! I remember making a very dodgy vodka jelly in University, but that didn't work too well.The original recipe serves 8. I halved the recipe or Hubby may never make it to work tomorrow due to a hangover. I don't own any fancy jelly moulds so served it in tall glasses instead. Because of the alcohol content it takes a great deal longer to set than normal non-alcoholic jelly.

It had a lovely refreshing taste with a pleasing G&T kick. I believe a proper G&T should have lime and not lemon in it so next time may replace the 1 lemon for 3 limes. I'm thinking of using the same technique to make a Pimms jelly with the traditional Pimms fruit suspended in it for my Birthday get together at the weekend.

I think I now have a thing for jelly and could be making variations all summer long!

10  COOKING / Dessert / Irish Mocha Cupcakes. on: March 19, 2008 09:57:10 AM
On Sunday I had marathon "cheer up" baking session these Irish Mocha Cupcakes were one of the things I baked. I'm very proud of them, especially as I worked out my own recipe. These cupcakes were inspired by the fact it was St Patricks day and also by a coffee called a Baileys Blitz that fueled my university days. Baileys Blitz was a mocha coffee with a shot of Baileys topped with lashings of whipped cream and (rather randomly) maltesers....mmmmmmm..

In these cupcakes I've forgone the malteasers, but all the other ingredients are there in some form or another. I'm really pleased how well they turned out. Of course I had to "test" one of the cakes just to check they are fit for my workmates Wink The rich coffee chocolate sponge is complimented perfectly with the sweet Baileys icing. I'm still mastering the whole piping icing thing, but I'm getting there.

When my workmates tasted them they were quite shocked as to how much bailieys I managed to squeeze into the icing, you could certainly taste it!

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