2015 in review

I just came across the email from WordPress with their “Annual Report” for 2015.  Yep, I know it’s a bit late, but one thing is clear….

2015 was the busiest and had the largest number of views we’ve ever had!!!  Of course those stats wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for those who have visited and read our blog posts and so both Kim and I would like to say a HUGE thank you to you all.

Now that Kim has completed her Mary Berry baking challenge, we really don’t know yet in which direction our blog will take in 2016, but we would both like to do a lot more photography and share our experiences and images with you.

Kim is planning on writing a couple of articles about “women’s issues”, more specifically gynaecological problems so for your ladies out there, please keep an eye out for those…

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 63,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Week One Hundred & Thirty Six- Mary Berry’s Gateau Saint Honore & Chocolate Mousse Cake

Week 136 and I am catching up with my blogs all in one go….this week’s dip into Mary Berry‘s Baking Bible brought forth her gateau saint honore and her chocolate mouse cake.

I began with Mary’s chocolate mousse cake and had read the rising to the berry blog to see how this had gone for Annalise – my inspiration for doing this challenge. I read her blog carefully and set off.

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I halved all the ingredients so not to make too much and began with the sponge, another whisk the eggs and sugar together and then fold in the flour. This time I made extra sure that it was well whisked first and left a good trail. I poured the mix into two small tins and put them into bake. When the time went, I was really pleased to see well risen sponges and let them cool. I then put them on a cooling rack and got on with the next stage.

The mousse was interesting to make and I read the recipe really carefully and melted the chocolate with some brandy while sprinkling some gelatine on some water to begin to “sponge”. Once the chocolate had melted, I put the gelatine bowl over the hot water to allow this to dissolve gently.  I then mixed the egg yolks into the chocolate mix, whipped the cream , folded this in and stirred in the gelatine. Finally I whipped the egg whites and folded them in.  The next job was to slice the cakes in half and return the bottom half to the tins, fill with the mousse, add the sponge top and put in the fridge. I left mine overnight.

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The next morning I removed the cakes from their tins and the mousse was solid. I whipped some cream to cover the cakes and decorated with chocolate curls.

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The second recipe was a really long one – the gateau saint honore. Mary asks you to make patte sucree pastry and when ready, roll it out and cut out a 7″ circle and bake.

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The second part of the recipe was to make choux pastry and pipe out a 7″ circle and small walnut sized shapes. Bake these according to the recipe and prick them after baking to allow the steam to escape. The next part of the recipe was making the cream patissiere which involves several steps too.  I boiled my milk and vanilla, I beat in the eggs, sugar and flour and returned to the heat and cooked until thickened and then poured into a bowl to cool with cling film on to prevent a skin forming.This recipe was proving to be challenging and I wasn’t even halfway there yet and hoped it would be worth the effort. Once the mix was cool, I had to whip some cream and mix this in with the mix and then chill. Once this was chilled, I put it into a piping bag and filled the choux pastry. Finally I followed Mary’s recipe for the caramel- tricky stuff and began to assemble this dreaded thing!I started with the pastry base and put the choux ring on top, i dipped the small choux buns into the caramel and stuck them in a ring around the edge and filled the middle with the rest of the creme patissiere.

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It was not a thing of beauty but it was another recipe ticked off…..the count down had now reached….2

Which means that next week is my final two bakes and this amazing journey on my challenge to complete all the bakes in Mary’s Baking Bible will finally be at an end.

finish line ahead

I have left the New Year tipsy celebration cake as one of the recipes and …. the recipe that filled the Great British Bake Off contestants with dread…the “BIN-GATE” of all recipes….the Baked Alaska!

The 1 & 3/4 hairy hoolies are in the swing of the baking….but the pesky puppy did manage to run off with a crem pat filled choux bun! They liked the cream though….

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and now seem to be becoming good cuddle buddies too.

Cuddle buddies

Tune in next week for the final of Kim’s Cake Challenge!

you can do it too

Week One Hundred & Thirty Five- Mary Berry’s Quick Boiled Fruit Cake & Hot Chocolate Souffles

Week 135 and the end is nearly in sight now…and the puppy is getting bigger…no excuses still, I now had the last few recipes marked with book marks and dipped with some sadness into Mary Berry‘s Baking Bible and came out with her quick boiled fruit cake and chocolate souffles. I was in awe of the souffles as I had watched them on the Great British Bake Off and it did fill me with dread….

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Anyhow, I began with the strangely names quick boiled fruit cake. The main stay of this recipe is condensed milk which you pour into a saucepan and add the butter, fruit and cherries. Mary asks you to heat slowly until the butter has melted and then simmer well for five minutes and then set aside.Measure out the dry ingredients, add the eggs and fruit mix and stir well and pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 1 1/2 hours and allow to cool in the tin, then tip out. This cake was quite a contrast from the rich fruit cake and was quite sweet in comparison. I must say I loved this and would make it again.

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Now for the hot chocolate souffles. I prepared my ramekin dishes and then began melting the chocolate. I added the milk then removed this from the heat.

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In another pan, I melted some butter and stirred in the flour, cooked on a low heat for a short while and then stirred in the chocolate milk, brought it to the boil until thickened and then left it to cool. Finally I beat the egg yolks into the cooled mix, added the sugar, whisked the egg whites and folded this into the mix. Finally, I poured the mix between the souffle dishes and put them in the oven for about 10 minutes. I made a quick call to the chief tasters who were present with spoons at the ready when the souffles came out of the oven.

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All I can say is thank you to the Great British Bake off, I think watching the contestants go through it before me helped and they were rather tasty!

The countdown is getting scarily low….it’s now at the head heights of….

4

almost there

The puppy is ever growing and now joins the other hairy hoolie in greeting me when I bring the shopping back but he insists then on laying on all the bags! At the rate he is growing, I guess  I know have to say 1 & 3/4 hairy hoolies at the moment!

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Week One Hundred & Thirty Four – Mary Berry’s Gateau Moka Aux Amandes & Rich Fruit Cake

Week 134 and I make no excuses for the lateness of these blogs, just blame it on having a puppy in the house! Time just flies by and I have done nothing of substance! This dip into Mary Berry‘s Baking Bible brought forth Mary’s gateau moka aux amandes and her rich fruit cake.

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I began with the gateau and read Mary’s recipe through….but obviously not well enough. This is a sponge mix where Mary asks you to whisk the eggs and sugar together until it is “thick enough to leave a trail” (big clue in the recipe there) and fold in the flour. Who only knows what my brain was thinking but I mixed away, folded in the flour, put the mix in the tin and put it in to bake, expecting to see a well raised sponge when the timer went…boy was I disappointed. It was plain to see that I hadn’t spent enough time on the whisking and it looked like a pancake.

failed sponge!

I carried on and made the creme au beurre moka and cut the sponge in half….covered it and decorated it. Hubby and I sampled it …took one mouthful each and…..

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condemned it to the food recycling bin! Oh well, chalk that one up to experience.

food recycling

The second recipe, Mary’s rich fruit cake began the night before when I measured all the fruit out and chopped the apricots and cherries and soaked the mix in brandy.

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The next  day I lined my tin carefully, and measured out the dry ingredients and the soaked fruit and mixed it all together and poured it into the tin. Mary suggests you decorate the top with some blanched almonds and cherries and put it into bake. Hours later, the timer went ping and out came this beautiful cake. I let it cool in the tin and turned it out. Mary suggests then feeding the cake with  more alcohol but I thought it was rich enough. I left it in a tin for a few days and sent half to the chief tasters and “forgot” to mention the failed bake of this week!

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The countdown continues and there are now……6

bakes left.. This is a quick glimpse of the little pickle who is taking up most of my time…and yes he looks like butter wouldn’t melt..but remember, appearances can be deceptive…

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Week One Hundred & Thirty Three – Mary Berry’s American Chocolate Wedding Cake

Week 133 and this week I had to try and see if Mary Berry‘s Baking Bible would come up with a cracking recipe to suit the occasion. It was the Chief Tasters Golden Wedding Anniversary so I found the perfect recipe. Mary’s American Chocolate Wedding Cake.

golden wedding anniversary

When you read this recipe, you realise this is a MONSTER of a recipe and if followed to the letter, the three tiered cake would feed over 100 people. Now I made a decision to scale this down to a realistic level. I chose the middle tier sized cake to make and split the mix between three sized tins to create the tiers. Even making this one mix, involved melting obscene amounts of chocolate ! I followed Mary’s recipe carefully and carefully separated the eggs and beat the yolks with one whole egg and the sugar, then whisked the egg whites until thick and light then added the melted chocolate and ground almonds and a taste of coffee. the mixture did not want to fold into together and it took a little while to wrestle this mix into shape! I then poured it into my tins and waited for them to bake.

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The sponges came out well and I left them to cool. I then melted yet more chocolate and butter for the covering and drenched each sponge in this, smoothed them as much as a I could with a palette knife and stacked them. I was fairly pleased with my miniature version of this enormous cake. i decorated mine with golden edible bits and gave it to the chief tasters as part of their anniversary present…as their main present is still ” in production” and yet to be dispatched. I would like to wish you both a very happy anniversary with much love x

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We enjoyed an amazing meal with them to help them celebrate.

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The 1 1/2 hairy hoolies seem to have settled into a relationship of sorts and he is such a character! He is certainly keeping us on our toes and we are certainly sleeping well at night…in exhaustion!

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The Countdown is now at the heady heights of ….

eight left to go

 

The recipes left to go are:

Mary’s Rich Fruit Cake, Quick Boiled Fruit Cake, Chocolate Mousse Cake, New Year Tipsy Cake, Gateau Saint Honore, Gateau Moka aux Amandes, hot chocolate souffles and….the “bin-gate” of the last Great British Bake Off- the BAKED ALASKA!!!!

Week One Hundred & Thirty Two – Mary Berry’s Walnut & Raisin Loaf & Cranberry & Apricot Fruit Cake

Week 132 and again apologies for the tardiness of the posting but losing our beloved hairy hoolie Bailey, dampened spirits and moral and a lot has happened since then…but more of that later. I delved into Mary Berry‘s Baking Bible and surfaced after a brief browse with the last of the bread bakes, the walnut & raisin loaf and the cranberry& apricot fruit cake.

I began with the walnut & raisin loaf as this was going to take a while.I mixed together the flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon, melted butter, water and yeast into a sticky dough and by hand too this time, back to traditional methods for this last yeast recipe. I kneaded it for a while and then put it in an oiled bowl and covered it and left it to rise. While this was doing it’s thing, I weighed out the walnuts  and began the tedious task of chopping them, then weighed out the raisins and when the dough had finished rising, I had to knock it back and add the raisins and walnuts and divide the mixture into two loaves. I placed them on a baking tray and covered them with a bag and left them for a final rise. I then sent them to the chief taster’s to bake as my other bake was in the oven for a long slow cook and these guys needed a hot quicker bake.

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The loaves arrived back hot out of the oven after about 25 minutes and finished their cooling here. I then sent one loaf back to the chief taster with half the other bake.

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The second recipe was the cranberry and apricot fruit loaf. Mary tells you at the beginning of the recipe that this cake is robust enough to pack for a picnic but could also make a great alternative to a christmas cake.  I had to begin by draining a large tin of pineapple , coarsely chopping it and drying it as much as possible which involved lots of kitchen roll. I then had to cut the apricots into pieces and chop the almonds. Finally I was ready to mix all the ingredients together and pour into a tin and level the top. I didn’t decorate the top with whole blanched almonds as suggested- I forgot!!!

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The cake baked for about 2 1/2 hours and finally was ready, I left it cool as Mary suggested before turning it out. I got great compliments from the chief tasters who thought it made a really tasty fruit cake and dropped big hints about it being nice as a christmas cake!

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I have still been following the Great British Bake Off but with a heavier heart than before , and I have been keeping a close eye on Paul, Tamal and Nadiya and would be happy to see them in the top three.

As you may have read in my last blog, we were devastated to lose our beloved Bailey so quickly. The poem, The Rainbow Bridge gives us both comfort and hope that we will be reunited with all our dogs when it’s our time.

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The day after we lost Bailey, we went to see our friends who had bred both our dogs to tell them about Bailey as they have his mum and his brother. We couldn’t tell them on the phone and there were lots of hugs, tears and tea. It’s funny how things happen. Three months before, they had another litter of puppies that we enjoyed spending time with and helping to socialise and then we waved them off to their new homes. The day we lost Bailey, they had contact from one of the new owners asking them to take back one of the puppies as they were struggling to cope with him. Our friends knew we were still raw and heartbroken about our Bailey but asked if we would consider having him. We went away and spoke lots about it. Our other hoolie was very down and quiet as she had never been an only dog and was missing him lots…as were we. We came to the decision that when they collected the puppy, that they should bring him back via us to see how the two of them got on….and he never left. We now have 1 1/2 hairy hoolies ! He is not a replacement for Bailey- Bailey can never be replaced, he will always hold a special place in our lives. However, the new young hoolie is helping with the heartache as he needs a lot of attention. He is learning about my baking challenge already and has learned that the oven gloves are fair game!

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The count down continues as is now….9 recipes left to bake!

Week One Hundred & Thirty One – Mary Berry’s Buche De Noel & Old Fashioned Seed Cake

Week 131 and I apologize, I know that is has been longer than usual for either a bake or blog or both and I will explain why further at the end of this blog.

I delved into Mary Berry‘s Baking Bible with less than my usual gusto and came out the the old fashioned seed cake and the Buche de Noel. I began with te Buche de Noel which involved making the swiss roll recipe again

Buche De Noel

. Not an easy bake to make/roll and I had an issue in that I wasn’t keen on making a christmas log in August…..so I took the recipe and decided to give it a Kim twist and created a Buche D’ete or a summer log. I made a plain sponge swiss roll, filled it with lemon curd and cream.

kim's swiss roll

I covered it with freshly whipped double cream and decorated it with mini lemon and orange sweet slices. I loved how refreshing it was and I was pleased with it.

Kim's Buche d'ete

The second recipe was Mary’s old fashioned seed cake. This was a sponge cake recipe with caraway seeds and mixed peel. It was one of Mary’s all in one cakes and the caraway seeds revived memories of my Nan baking cakes with this seed and the unique smell and taste of caraway.

Mary Berry's Old Fashioned Seed Cake

Once baked, it was a light sponge with a unique taste. A bit like marmite, you will either love it or hate it, there is no in between!

Kim's old fashioned seed cake

I have been avidly watching The Great British Bake Off and have been predicting the person who leaves with good accuracy, as the numbers begin to dwindle I like to place my bet on the winner!

Now it is with a heavy heart where I need to share some sad news. I have frequently mentioned my two hairy hoolies and how they watch me bake each weekend. Well my big boy had a sudden illness that he was unable to recover from and we sadly had to say goodbye and let him cross the rainbow bridge to join Rosie, Tai and my Dad to await us to join them. We are devastated and heartbroken and all thoughts of baking went out of the window as we nursed him through his final time. Many tears have been shed as he was more than a pet- he was part of our family and leaves a  huge hole in our lives. xx

pawprints on our hearts

pooped pooch

The countdown has now reached….11