7.06.2015

Muesli Flapjacks: what to do with yourself


Lately I have been in a weird “I just don’t know what to do with myself" mood. Today I have a sort of day off and I start having stressing or feeling anxious of what I “should” be doing with my time. I should be doing the laundry and food shopping and going to the bank and doing all these things that need to be done. Because that’s my roll as a mature adult (whatever that means.) On top of that I have three or four posts that are waiting to be written. I also have a cupboard filled of baking supplies that are calling out to be used. Along with the stack of books sitting next to my bed waiting to be read. 

It’s the stress of these various things I should be doing vs things I want to do vs things I never seem to have time for that make me just want to lie down and take a nap. So, basically nothing gets done and I feel rushed and claim I have no time for anything. When actually I am just terrible at time management and my “I just don’t know what to do with myself" mood stems from having too much choice of stuff to do.

The practical part of me says I should be doing all the responsible things and the other part me of is writing this blog post. I also did get a shopping list written… it’s now just going to the store. Perhaps I can keep procrastinating by doing something I want like baking or reading a book. 

Every once in a while it’s okay not to do anything. It's just that I feel like someone somewhere is judging me for being lazy and not spending my time wisely. As someone who promotes not caring what others think, it’s a mystery to why fictional people who can’t see me matter. 

So, if you find yourself with “free time” and need to fill it with something so you don't get judged by "them" or "they" - these flapjacks are super easy and delicious. They make you feel like you at least accomplished something during the day. Everyone needs to eat! 


Muesli Flapjacks 

175g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
150g demerara sugar
300g muesli 
pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line a 8x8 square pan with grease proof paper
Melt the butter in a sauce pan with the golden syrup and sugar on a low heat, stirring continuously until combined but the sugar is still a little grainy. 
Remove from the heat and stir in the muesli and salt. Dump into the prepared pan and smooth it down with a spatula as evenly as possible. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes if after a chewy flapjack. Give it 5 or more minutes if after a crunchy flapjack. 
Leave to cool completely before cutting into squares. 


I love a good muesli and even more so baked with sugar and golden syrup. Dorset Cereals make a small trial box of their simple range that sells for £1. It’s just enough to make these at 350g a box and have a bowl of cereal. However, any muesli would work! 

notes: recipe comes via The River Cottage Cakes Handbook or on their website; Dorset Cereals have not endorsed this post, it was just I found that for £1 it was a good deal that I would share with you. 

7.03.2015

Five Ways to Keeping it Cool in a UK Heatwave.


Let’s face it the UK isn’t known for it’s weather, but it’s forever predictable. I know many who would disagree with me. For instance: You wake up look outside and it’s raining, by the time you get the bus it’s blue skies, by the time you get the office it’s sunny, then by lunch it’s raining again and then it’s nothing by grey skies until the sunsets and you get a gorgeous one as big sun rays shoot across the sky. 

This doesn’t scream consistency, however the process is consistent. In England you prepare for every type of weather as you step out of the house! At the moment we are experiencing the yearly heat wave. It comes about this time every year. Since I now live in a country that doesn’t believe in central air here is how I keep cool in a UK Heatwave.

1. Shopping.
Chilled and freezer isles are your friend. Take as long as you need picking out your dinner and stock up on all sorts of cool treats! 

2. Fans. 
If you ever take any advice from me do not wait for the predicted heatwave to go out a buy a fan. You will be shit-out-of-luck. I don’t know who gets all these fans because someone somewhere must have come to the store and bought them. But every year there is a fan shortage. If you are smart you will buy your fan in the middle of winter. You can never have enough fans. 


3. Iced Treats. 
Ice lollies/popsicles or ice cream are your friend during a UK heatwave. Make your own or buy them and eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We used our favourite soda, Cherry 7-UP, for the ice lollies pictured. Just added a few cocktail cherries and you have a great iced treat. Use this theory will work with any of your favorite soda's. Leave them out for a while so it cango flat if you don't want the bubbles.

4. Water. 
Water is not just for drinking! Water gun fights are fun and a great way to stay cool. If you want to be a real dick just put ice in yours to watch everyone freak out when you get them! Water balloons, sprinklers, paddling pools, anything that hoses you down! 

5. Statue. 
If all else fails find a cool place in the shade and sit as still as possible. Your body will eventually adjust to the temperature that’s outside. If you don’t have a shady place outside to chill in, find the darkest and coolest place in the house place a fan directly on you and don’t move. Might sound lazy, but it’s a great time to relax and mediate or read a good book! 

The Teashop on the Corner by Milly Johnson was my sit and do nothing book. 

How do you keep yourself cool when it’s super duper hot? Please leave a comment below, I’m always looking for ways to not be hot. Also just so you know I’m not one of these annoying people who always complains about it being either too hot or too cold. Especially the latter, as I love a good cold day! 


Tips: Do be sure to wear sunscreen and hats and sunglasses! Drink water to keep yourself hydrated and cool!  

7.02.2015

The Pastry Challenge June Round-Up! {Breakfast}

Last month I asked for you to share your breakfast pastries with Jen and I for our Pastry Challenge. We started the challenge because we both felt out pastry skills could use some work or improving. Mine definitely did and do! I struggled with my pastry this month it just didn’t turn out how I wanted. I, of course, am my own worst critic and perhaps they were okay. So, even if you’ve tried out a pastry and it didn’t turn out how you expected please still enter it, we’re all in this together! 

Breakfast pastries are the best way to start out the morning! Here are a handful of great recipes to try out at home! 


I don’t know what goes on in Angela’s kitchen, but if she’s making Gin & Tonic Cronuts I want in! These look amazing and must taste amazing too! If you like these she has some more great recipes over on her blog Patisserie Makes Perfect! 


These All-Day Breakfast Bites from Cakeyboi literally could be eaten All-Day! I know I would! If you found yourself having to serve a lot of people breakfast, I think these would be the way to go! So, simple and it has everything you’d want in one bite! 


Quiche for breakfast makes perfect sense, it’s eggs (which we all associate with breakfast) and whatever takes your fancy. Why not start your day right with Bellau Kitchen’s Oven roasted Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Quiche with gluten-free pastry


Joanna over at The Keen Cook gave us a pastry recipe and a couple of different ways to use it! I hope one day I find that recipe that just works right every time and it seems like she may have!? Check out her Danish Pastries and find out how she used up her leftover pastry! 


When I think of Croissants, I think of many breakfasts while traveling through Europe. They are great with butter, deli meats, and jam! A simple yet delicious breakfast pastry that should be savoured at every opportunity! 


Bear Claws were my pastry of choice. As I mentioned above they didn’t quite turn out how I expected or wanted, but I posted them anyway. They probably needed to rise more or maybe I over rolled or kneaded. Or perhaps I left it in the fridge too long. Know matter what I did I do need to try making them again. It’s the whole point of this challenge! 


For July Jen’s asking for any Quick Pastry recipes. Ones that you can just throw together and ta-da dinner or breakfast or snack! It’s basically really hot and no one wants to be in the kitchen for long so get your pastry out and quickly make something to share with us! 

6.30.2015

Supper Safari at the Oracle in Reading, Berkshire

Last week I was invited out for a Supper Safari at the Oracle in Reading. The safari had us run around (not literally) the Oracle to three different restaurants. First for appetisers then for a main meal followed by dessert! 


We started our adventure at Jamie’s Italian we were greeted by the bar manager who was full of knowledge and answered all of our questions, even the ones we didn’t know we had! They started us out with a glass of Jamie’s Italian Prosecco. Which is sold exclusively at Jamie’s Italian because when you’re Jamie Oliver you can do that! Then we were brought out the three planks in the Anti-Pasta and side section of the menu. 



Before we were allowed to tuck in we were told all about what was on the plate and I would love to say I memorised everything we were told or that I am an expert note taker, but I’m not. I am referring back to the online menu for spellings and such. However, I do remember being told that by telling us about the food before hand we would want it more. That we’d literally start salivating and I have to say he was right. It makes sense as I can’t watch a food program without wanting what is being shown to me, even if I’ve had a big dinner! 


The first of the three planks was the Cured Meats one which had (surprise) a selection of cured meats. The second plank was the vegetarian option. With sliced, chargrilled, and marinated seasonal vegetables in a herby olive oil. Both of these planks came with mini buffalo mozzarella, pecorino and chilli jam, along with pickles, olives, and a kale slaw that has a secret ingredient that we weren’t allowed to know…otherwise it wouldn’t be a secret. The third plank had a mix of the first two and a little more adventurous then the first two. It had some of the same meats, but included spiced duck-liver pate, truffled salami & fennel, pork scratchings, and my favourite the Italian Nachos! It is their second most popular starter. They are crispy fried ravioli stuffed with three cheeses, served with arrabbiata and parmesan. Also the mozzarella had a sun dried tomato topping which was delicious! What we had on the sharing plank was slightly different then the one on the menu. 


Then we were given a quick tour of the restaurant. We were sitting in the new bar area, which was only built recently, before we went upstairs to see the view of the riverside. There was also the mural of a woman, they call Jules after Jamie’s wife. It’s a gorgeous mural and just underneath is where all the prosciutto was hung. If you’re visiting ask about a silver flying pig that is on the meat label! 


We then made our way to Cau (pronounced cow) the new Argentina steak restaurant that just opened up in the Oracle for our main. We started with a glass of Zuccari ‘Animado’ a vibrant red wine - again one that is made just for Cau. Then it wasn’t long before we were served the Cau Feasting Plate. It had three different cuts lomita, aside de chorizo and tire de ancho - the king of steaks. There was a selection of sauces to accompany the steak, I apologise for not knowing all of them! We were also given a selection of sides including truffle macaroni and cheese, chips, coleslaw (another one with a secret ingredient) and corn on the cob! 



The atmosphere is friendly and comfortable in a shiny new part of Oracle. Plus the food was amazing! I will be planning another visit soon! 


Last but not least we had dessert at Ed’s Diner. Ed’s Diner’s niche is 1950’s style diner, think Grease. They serve all three meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However we were there for dessert and it was hard to choose what to have. It was suggested to us to try the sundaes and it’s what we all choose! I went with the berry sundae as it seemed the most refreshing after all the rich tasty food we had previously! 

I actually reviewed Ed's for the Oracle when it opened up in 2013 check out that review here! There is also a review of one of Jamie's Italian's desserts here


I had a lot of fun going to three different places for a 3 course meal! I will definitely be doing that again! Especially when the Oracle launches it’s new app (App Store & Google Play) for diners called the Plus app this summer on August 1st. The app is free to download and will give you discounts to the participating restaurants throughout the summer. Keep your eye out! Who doesn't like eating out and saving money? 


notes: I was invited out by the Oracle PR team and was compensated for my time not for a favourable review, all options are my own for more information please see my contact/policy page. 

Jamie’s Italian 
Unit 1 Riverside level 
The Oracle, Reading, RG31 2AG

Cau
The Oracle, Bridge Street, Reading RG1 2AQ 
01189 505 559

Ed’s Easy Diner
The Oracle, RG1 2AQ




6.28.2015

Bear Claws: non-successful #thepastrychallenge


When I was little very occasionally we’d go to a bakery and get doughnuts and other breakfast pastries for breakfast. I would always choose a bear claw. I was and still am that kid/adult who likes a good gimmick. I like the fact that it looked like a bears paw and it made it taste all the better for it. 

Bear Claws are something that I have wanted to attempt to make for a long time. However, until we started this pastry challenge, pastries have always been something I didn’t want to try in fear of failure. It’s not the failure that gets me, it’s the waste. I hate waste. I hate throwing out a bunch of no good flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. It just makes me sad and a bit annoyed. 


The theme this month, breakfast pastries, came out my want to make these Bear Claws. Leaving it to, literally, the last minute I finally got around to making said Bear Claws yesterday and today. The hottest weekend so far this summer! I love it! I made the dough the night before and left in the fridge overnight. Then I rolled the dough out and while that was resting made the filling. 


Everything was going well and then I went to bake them. They didn’t seem to want to rise much even due to the nice warm weather we had this weekend. Then when I baked them the timing seemed to be a little off. I keep a thermometer in my oven to check it, however that could be wrong too. 

Needless to say half of these weren’t so good and the second batch was a little better. If I have said it once I’ve said it twice and still I don’t listen to myself. Recently I have been really struggling with American based recipes. I am convinced it’s the butter. I used Sprinkle Bakes recipe that can be found here. I noticed that her dough, in her pictures, looked very pale to my very yellow pastry. I could be eggs though too. 


If I hadn’t been such a procrastinator perhaps I would have had time to re-due them before the end of the challenge and to show you that they do work! But as I recently wrote I am not happy to leave things, so I already have plans to make these again making adjustments where needed! 

I am not happy with only about 6 coming out okay, I want all of them to come out amazing! This is why I agreed to start the pastry challenge with Jen, because I don't just want to be getting by when it comes to pastry. It is a way to challenge my pastry making skills. 

As I pretty much followed the recipe from Sprinkle Bakes, well I did change the filling, but as I am not 100% happy with the way they turned out I won’t be sharing a recipe for these on here. But please check out the website linked above! 


What has been your biggest pastry fail? I don’t like saying fail, but it’s easier then saying non-successful pastry bake? Either works I suppose? 


challenges: The Pastry Challenge

6.25.2015

Bath Buns

It goes without saying that I was inspired to make these bath buns by my recent trip to Bath. I like playing the role of tourist ever once in a while. In some ways I still am a tourist. I am not a British citizen, but a guest who has paid quite a lot of money to stay as a permanent resident. Unless I leave for more then two years, then it’s void. So, one could say I am still a tourist. 


The other form of inspiration comes from Jane Austen's books Persuasion and Northanger Abbey; her heroines, in both titles, spend some time in Bath. It is also rumoured that Miss Austen enjoyed a good Bath Bun from time to time. 

While we were visiting Bath we did try Bath Buns from a tea room of he same name. They were good, but these were better. It’s not because I’m some great bun baker; I am still finding my way with bread and yeast risen bakes. I would say it’s because they were fresh … anything fresh out of the oven is usually better then something that came out of the oven that morning or perhaps even the day before. 


I’m really not trying to be rude about bakery’s because I love a good bakery, they are professionals and I’m just a home experimental baker. I just think home baked goods have a different feel/taste to them! 

The sugar cube in the middle of these sweet buns is what makes them a Bath Bun. There are several variations such as sugar covered caraway seeds, sultanas or raisins, or candied fruit peel. I however kept them simple and just used sugar! Sugar is good for you in moderation! 




Bath Buns

7g dried yeast 
250ml milk, tepid
450g strong white flour 
30g sugar
1 tsp salt
225g butter, softened 
12 demerara sugar cubes 
1 egg, beaten

Stir the yeast into the milk and set aside. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt and work in the butter until it resembles bread crumbs. You can use a stand mixer for this, as I did. Stir in the yeast/milk which should look a little bubbly by now, with a wooden spoon until completely mixed together. This is a wet dough, now leave to rest for 10 minutes.  

Since I used my mixer here is what I did: 
After letting the dough rest, using my dough hook I kneaded the wet dough for about 5-6 minutes, before tipping it out on to a floured work surface and finished kneading by hand for another 4-5 minutes until the dough was smooth and elastic. As it was a wet dough I liked using my mixer first as it kept it from being too sticky, but as I’m learning more about kneading I wanted to feel the dough, hence the stopping early. IF you are doing one or the other in the mixer do not knead for more then 8 minutes and if doing it by hand about start by stretching it out in the bowl before kneading it on a floured work surface for 10 minutes.

Place the smooth and elastic dough in a large bowl and leave for an hour to an hour and a half in a warm place until it’s doubled in size. 
Once it has risen, turn it gently out on to a clean work surface and knock it back by gently punching it. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces as best you can. I start by dividing it in half and then each half into six. Roll the pieces into balls, by cupping the dough in your hand and gently rolling it on the work surface until it become ball shaped. 
With the dough ball seam side up press a sugar cube into the dough and fold the dough around it so it’s completely enclosed. If needed re-roll into balls and place on a prepared baking sheet seam side down. Repeat with all 12, cover with a clean damp towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. 
Heat the oven to 190C. Once doubled in size brush the beaten egg over the buns and bake for 15-20 minutes until they are starting to turn golden and sound hallow when tapped. 

to finish:

Milk Glaze: 1 tbsp milk & 2 tbsp sugar
Sugar Topping: demerara sugar cubes, smashed 

Prepare the milk glaze when the buns are just about to come out of the oven, by gently heating the milk and sugar in a small saucepan until he sugar has dissolved. Once they are out of the oven cover the buns with the milk glaze before topping with crushed sugar cubes. 


notes: the recipe is adapted from Jamie’s Magazine Issue 27 Mar/Apr 12 it can also be found online here. My Bath experience was posted yesterday and can be read here. 

challenges: Bready Steady Go hosted by Jen’s Food along with Utterly Scrummy 



6.24.2015

Day Out in Bath, United Kingdom

One of the reasons I love the UK is because of its history. The USA has a history too, don’t we all?? However, the history of this country is much older and it’s reflected in pretty much every town you visit.


For my birthday we went to Bath for the day and we were lucky that the weather was beautiful! We got there just in time for lunch. We ended up at Wagamama because we were all hungry and when feeding kids it’s sometimes good to go somewhere we all know and love.

Then because it was my birthday we went to The Jane Austen Centre. It is located on the same street that Jane Austen lived on when she resided in Bath. I could be wrong, but I believe they told us that Bath is mentioned in all of her books. Of course if you’re a fan like myself you know that in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion her heroine’s visit and reside in Bath. All the staff at the center wear the name of one of Jane’s many characters and they will answer any questions you have. I found a lot of the information available I already knew from reading up on her before, but there was also a bit more on her family and herself that I wasn’t aware. It was interesting and enjoyable!

Right out side The Jane Austen Centre is a little park and lucky for us that weekend there was a sort of pop up/kickstarter children’s event called Forest of Imagination. There was a lot going on and the girls had a lot of fun jumping around on space hoppers and writing their names on the giant rabbit and more! I would love to see something like this in Reading.


After that we went in search of Sally Lunn’s. Still full up from lunch we took some of the famous bun’s home with us along with some homemade cinnamon butter. We were instructed by the lady on the till to split the buns in half and gently toast them under a grill before spreading with the cinnamon butter and grilling again to get the cinnamon butter smell throughout the house! That’s what we did and we weren’t disappointed! We also stopped to get Bath buns from The Bath Bun. There are so many tea places in Bath and there is no way we would have gotten to them all in one day.

We stopped for ice cream and while we ate our ice cream listened to some street music. The human statues were also fun to see! Then before we left we stopped at an art gallery, Rostra Gallery. There were some prints in the window that drew my attention and as a fellow/former printmaker I had to have them. The simple style of imagery is inspiring and I highly admire this type of art. The best part is that Ruth Broadway, the artist, is local to Bath. I don’t know why that makes it the best part, but I like the fact that she’s a local artist.


I think that’s what I loved about Bath the most, the art. It’s everywhere including the architecture! I can see how it inspired Miss Austen to create her work.

Places I have been in Bath before:
The Roman Baths
Bath Abbey
The Royal Crescent
Hands Tea Room
Walking Tour/Bus Tour

Things I’d like to see and do next time:
Richard Bertinet Bakery and Cookery School
Jane Austen Festival (September)
The Pump Room
Alexandra Park.

notes: All opinions are my own: for more information see my contact/policy tab above.

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