Perfecting Sourdough by Jane Mason {a book review}

Jane Mason has written 3 books on a topic she has a real passion for. Bread. Her latest title, Perfecting Sourdough, was published in May, but her love of sourdough started way before then. A long time ago her friend gave her a very old wheat sourdough starter and a copy of an old American sourdough book.

Each sourdough starter has a story, a history so to speak, and Ms. Mason’s had traveled far and wide. Even though she can’t share her sourdough starter with us, she can teach us how to make our own and in doing so we can begin our very own sourdough story.

How to make a starter isn’t the only thing this book gives us. It gives us the basic knowledge on bread, sourdough, and the ingredients and equipment we need to get started. Then it gives us recipes for Batter Breads, Everyday Rye, Everyday Wheat, Flavoured Wheat, and Sweet Breads and Buns. The book ends with top tips on sourdough and a bit on bread and our health.

Bread has been given a bit of a bad rep in recent times with so many people having gluten intolerances. If you have a sensitivity to bread and you aren’t a coeliac it might be worth having a look at the additives in your bread and in turn having a go at making your own bread. Who doesn't love the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through their home?

I have found myself a jar to get my starter started and can’t wait to share with you how I get on. I especially can’t wait to have a go at making my very own San Francisco Sourdough to make bread bowls with. Along with the Onion and Olive Bread, Rosemary Bread, Cheese and Onion Bread, and Cinnamon Rolls!!

Jane Mason takes the mystery out of sourdough and gives us to it straight that it’s actually a lot easier to make! Especially once you’ve got your starter sorted. Making bread is a very simple idea, but sometimes if it wasn’t proved long enough or under or over kneaded the bread doesn’t turn out just right. These things take experience and practice so don’t give up! Try again. Keep moving forward.

In the words of Jane Mason “Everything is good toasted, even if it’s ugly.”

notes: I was given a copy of Perfecting Sourdough by Jane Mason to review by the publisher, Apple Press. Retails at £14.99 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page for more information.

Let Today Be the Start of Something New

Hello! How are you?

I didn’t know how else to start this post. It’s been a while since I blogged and I have several things to share with you all my lovely readers. That is if any of you still exist?

United Cakedom’s blogversary was last week. It falls on a day that is in a series of days that have some importance.

June 9th - the day I moved to the UK (2005)
June 10th - the day I moved into my very own flat (2016)
June 11th - the day I started United Cakedom (2011)
June 12th - the day my friend Lauren was born (we will leave the year out)

This time of month just seems to be a turning point where things happen to me and things get muddled and I miss important things like my blogversary. I mean how could I forget my blog! It’s the one place where I can express myself and feel like life isn’t just about the daily grind.

When I went to Food Bloggers Connect last September at one of the courses/lessons given by the amazing Urshavi Roe she asked us why do we blog? There are many reasons why I love blogging, but the first answer I wrote down was because it was a place for me to have a voice.

Now I haven’t been baking as much as I used too or should I say I am experimenting less. I tend to stick to my favorite recipes and make them over and over again. Since I haven’t been baking I’ve been catching up on a lot of books I have been meaning to read. Reading a book is a lot easier to fit in and around all the normal day stuff then baking is.

I have noticed that the new trend in blogs isn’t to have a niche, but to be a little bit of everything. I think eventually blogs evolve like that because blogs are personal and no one is just one thing. We’ve all seen High School Musical - we don’t all fit into one mold.

I started blogging as a mommy blogger and then a book blogger before settling into being a baking blogger or more broad of a term a food blogger! I won’t be changing my blog name, but I will be adding more and more lifestyle things into my blog. With events and book reviews and days out with my girls.

I hope you stick around to see it.

Part of the reason I've been a bit absent is that I've moved into a new flat! It's all been a bit crazy! I also just hooked up the internet! Look at me being all independent!! In the next few weeks I have a recent event I went to to share with you as well as a few new books I want to show you! Along with my summer reading list, maybe a movie, a giveaway, and my new baking adventures with the little freestanding thing I now call my oven.

Until then!!

photos: Top - Arthur Newbury Park, Reading, England. Second - Plenty of counter space in my new flat for my pretty mixer. I've been told that KitchenAid now do a matching pink kettle and toaster. Maybe if I am really good this year Santa will be nice to me? Third - Bought at Dunelm Mills a few years back and it now sits on my kitchen counter! Fourth - My bookcase that houses all my cookbooks. I had asked fellow bloggers and foodies how they keep their cookbook collection from going mad! A few said they just let it go mad and collect and keep all cookbooks they come across. Another few said they have a set number that is set and will switch books out every so many months or so. Others just told me to keep the ones I love and can't live without! So about half of these are ones I can't live without and the other half are ones I am waiting to see if I can't live without them. Time will tell. Last photo - my new cooker! I was weary at first, it's the one white good that came with the flat, but it's actually proven to be okay. It heats up relatively fast and so far as cooked everything I put in it. Now hopefully in the up coming weeks I will see how it does with cakes, cookies, and brownies!

Smash! VIP Night - Ping Pong, Pizza, and Drinks!

Ping-Pong is the name and the game at Smash, a new bar in Reading town centre. I was invited to check it out before it opened the doors to the public last Friday night!

There are plenty of bars in Reading, but none quite like this one. I felt right at home as it has a very American feel through the decor and the fact that they call themselves a bar.

I've done the nights out on the town just hanging out in a bar/pub and I can say that Smash offers something different, a game, one that I've learned I'm not very good at, but was so much fun trying!

There are four ping-pong tables set up in the back of the bar and if you want to have a try you can book a table in hourly slots and is a minimum of £5 for that hour. If you get hungry they have a nice selection of handmade pizzas! And if you get thirsty they have a variety of craft beers and ales as well as an exciting cocktail menu!

With ping pong, pizza and pints you can't go wrong!

Book a table today to avoid disappointment! Also watch out for their events! Every day from 12pm-4pm enjoy their Daily Smash offer, which allows you to play ping pong and enjoy a pizza and a drink for only £6.95!

Do you think you have what it takes to be a ping pong champion? Join in a Ping Pong Tournament this Saturday (4th of June 2016) starting at 3pm!

Ping Pong isn't the only game you can watch at Smash visit this Sunday (5th of June 2016) and catch the Sweden v Wales Euro 2016 warm up game. Book a table for you and your friends and enjoy the match with a pizza and pint!

Find out more about Smash and their events on their website:

Did I mention that I got to be Ollie Locke from Made in Chelsea? I did!

notes: I was invited to the VIP night as a guest - All opinions are my own - I was not compensated in any other way for this post. For more information please visit my contact/policy page tab above.

Snicker (stuffed) Brownies

You are only as old as you feel.

One of those sayings that is suppose to give hope to people who are afraid of getting old that if you are 50 odd it doesn't matter if you still feel 25! However, there are times that it could mean the opposite. I am going to be 33 in about a week and right now at the moment I feel like I'll be turning 53! Maybe 103?

I feel like I've lived a million lifetimes and I could do with a good nap.

Then after my nap I'll get up and binge watch the new series of TMNT with my girls, maybe thrown in a bit of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic and feel about 8 again!

Anyway, May is a busy month of birthday's not only do I have a May birthday it was a good friend's birthday last week. He loves Snickers and I had all these ideas and thoughts on how I was going to make him a Snicker like cake.

Then I just thought you know what brownies taste great with chocolate bars in them so that's what I did and I was right. It's not very often that happens, me being right about something, especially at the moment, but this time I can definitely say I got it right.

I have made these brownies a million times in a million different ways and they have turned out great every time. The recipe originated from a special edition of a Good Food magazine a few years back and the caramel sauce comes from the Outsider Tart Baked in America cookbook.

Snicker (stuffed) Brownies: 

150g dark chocolate, broken up
150g milk chocolate, broken up
250g salted butter
400g light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs
140g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
8 Snicker bars

Preheat oven to 180C/gas4 and line an 8in square pan with parchment paper. Line the 8 Snicker bars on the bottom. I didn't want mine touching so spaced them out a bit. But line them up however you want!
Very gently melt both chocolates with the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan. Just before the chocolate is completely melted, take off the heat and gently stir until it’s completely melted.
 Then add the eggs one at a time to the melted chocolate mixture. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the pan and stir until just combined.
Gently pour the mixture over the Snicker bars and bake in the pre-heated oven for a minimum of 35 minutes. As these are bit fatter they may need an extra five minutes. Up to you though! Leave to cool as you make the caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce
225g sugar
120ml water
120ml double cream
60g butter
100g salted peanuts, chopped

Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Gently whisk before placing the saucepan on a low heat. Once it is on the heat it is important you do not stir it. Swirling the pan is okay, just don't put a spoon in and stir. As the mixture heats brush with a wet pastry brush to remove any crystals that have formed. 
When making caramel it's important to stay close by as it go from clear, to a beautiful amber color, to burnt in a matter of seconds. I suggest keeping it on a low heat which means it can take about 20 minutes or so. Once the mixture takes on an amber/caramel color take it off the heat and add a little bit of the cream and whisk it in. It will bubble up so be careful! Then continue to whisk the cream in little by little until combined. Add the butter and whisk until smooth. Cool slightly before pouring on top of the cooled brownies. Sprinkle over the chopped peanuts and leave to cool in the fridge for about an hour.

For more treat filled brownies check these out: 

Rolo Brownies from Penne For Your Thoughts
Peanut M&M Brownies from Emily's Recipes and Reviews 
Rolo Stuffed Brownies from Supper in the Suburbs 
Slow Cooker Crunchie Brownies from BakingQueen74
Caramel Egg Brownies from Lovely Appetite 

Favorites Friday! - from kitchenware to makeup!

Between now and just before Christmas I have collected a few new things that I really love and I just want to share with you! I’m going to say from the start that none of the brands or stores that I am about to mention have anything to do with this post. Everything I’m about to share with you are things I bought because I wanted them!

I don't buy a lot of kitchen stuff these days because I have most of the stuff I need. It's the odd occasion I add stuff to my collection and here are a few of the random things I've recently added!

The cookie stamp that says "Eat Me" I picked up at Home Sense on clearance for £1.99! I couldn't say no and I have yet to use it! Perhaps this post will make me go make some cookies so I can at least  say I used it once! If you have never been to a Home Sense I have to recommend that you do! It's a sister store to TK Maxx therefore it's very similar the main difference being that it's all homeware! It's wear I bought 2 of my 3 Nordic Ware bundt pans for only £16.99! 

The Mummy & Me mugs I bought around Mother's Day from Sainsbury's. My youngest loves elephants and a good cup of tea so I couldn't resist getting these mugs as a matching set! 

The butter dish is from Lakeland's and was bought with a gift card from my father-in-law gave me for Christmas! It was a little bit more spendy then just a regular butter dish, but it's insulated and is suppose to keep butter at a spreadable consistence at all times. Which has been mostly true as the weather has started to warm up. However our kitchen is the coldest kitchen and in the winter the butter was cold because the dish was cold and therefore not very spreadable! 

I used to have so many and as I love to share my baked goods with friends and family most of them have gone "missing." I decided it was time to invest in a nice set of cake tins - these are called Hearts Cake Tins and I also got them from Lakeland's with my gift card! 

I have a confession I am a coffee drinker! What I live in England! I know, but I just prefer coffee. I used to drink a lot of of those Nescafe cappuccino and latte sachets until they started effecting my bowels. No the most pleasant thing to talk about on here, but I realised that something in the sachets were upsetting my stomach so I was on the look out for an instant coffee that suited me. I have been drinking this CafeDirect for about a month and I really like it! I sometimes add the vanilla syrup to make it a bit like a latte! 

These post cards are my absolute favorite - Gotta love Paperchase! Especially the Loch Ness Monster one! As long as you believe in yourself then nothing else matters! 

Everyone always tells me to shop at Primark and when I do go in I very rarely seem to find something, but my last stop in I came across these two t-shirt and I couldn't say no! At about £5 a shirt why not? 

When I was in teenage years I loved candles! It's only been recent I've started buy candles again. The top one is from Paperchase and smells like avocado and mint - I have yet to burn it so will have to get back to you on it. The other two smell great and burnt evenly across. If a candle doesn't burn evenly and it just goes down the middle it's not a good value candle. Candles should burn straight across and another way to ensure this is by allowing candles to burn for at least an hour at a time. Of course as always with candles do be careful - never leave it unattended and in reach of children or on ledges where pets may jump up on. 

Never in my whole life have I ever been into make-up and beauty type stuff, but I suppose things change!

At the top is what I recently bought from Kiko at the Oracle in there 5 items for £10 deal. It was hard to choose, but I went with a nail buffer block, white shiny nail polish, a nude lip gloss, a red lippy and complimenting red lip liner. Wasn't impressed with the nail polish, but love the nude lip gloss!

Speaking of lip glosses I added my two favorites at the moment! Vaseline (limited edition) and classic Carmax! Keeps my lips from chapping! 

Speaking of chapping I love love love Soap & Glory's Hand Food lotion for dry/chapped hands! I have used it for years now! I also included a new face wash from Soap & Glory that I like and have been using for about a month now.

I ran out of eye make up remover and decided to try one by Simple and I find it quite nice. It doesn't try out my eye lids and is fairly gentle on my skin.

Since I had my hair cut shorter it means it needs to be styled more! When these two products, Smoothly Does It - Frizz Free Cream and Mega Hold styling mousse have been my saviours most days!

And I almost forgot the Barry M foundation primer and concealer! There isn't a bad thing about them and would recommend them to those who need make up on a  budget.

These are from Barry M - the lip glosses called Cor Balmy! are just the right about of color and moisturiser and they come highly recommended! The Sunset nail polish is also from Barry M and I have to admit I am pretty impressed with these! If the instructions are followed two coats of the color topped with the Sunset curing polish they last absolute ages! 

That's it for my Favorites Friday! There is no way I could write one of these every week or month for that matter as it's taken me months to collect all these new things! I haven't been baking as much lately because life stuff has been taking priority. It's unfortunately not easy life stuff either. I do hope to bake this weekend and will be sharing with you next week!!

Five on Friday - 5 Shows I'm Currently Watching on Netflix

I am a bit late to the Netflix bandwagon! So, I have a load of series and movies I need to catch up on! Here are the five shows I've either just finished watching or in the middle of!

Shadowhunters - The Mortal Instruments 

I read all the books except the last one so I was curious about the show. I haven't seen the movie, it apparently flopped and if it's anything like this show I understand why! The show is actually not that good, but because I love the Shadowhunter world I'm stuck watching it!!

Fuller House

I watched most of the series in one sitting! I grew up watching Full House and I can't help, but love this. Yes it's a bit cheesy and all goody goody, but I can't help but think we need a bit more of that in the world.

The Ranch

As a huge fan of That 70's Show (see previous post) when I saw that Danny Masterson and Ashton Kutcher were to be reunited in this made for Netflix series I just had to watch. It's about a prodigal son returned to help out on the family ranch. A different kind of show and I hope there is a second season!

Mako Mermaids

My girls really wanted to watch this show and I was all "Ugh, it looks terrible." However, I spent one Saturday night watching the last four episodes of season 1 with the girls because we, me included, just had to know does Zac takeover Mako Island? Does the pod return? I have refrained from watching season 2 as I was sucked in once and didn't want to get sucked in again!

Him & Her

A series that really focuses on the characters and they are loveable and completely outrageous. I started watching this on TV, but never caught all of them and now they are all in one place! Steve and Becky live in a bedsit and most of the show takes place in that bedsit with their friends and family coming in and out bring drama and comedy with them! I can't wait to get through the seasons!!

Classic shows that I love:

  • That 70's Show
  • TMNT
  • Buffy
  • Arrested Development 

On my too watch list:

  • Once Upon a Time 
  • Firefly
  • Daredevil
  • Jessica Jones
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Making a Murderer 
  • Between
  • Scream (the series)

Series I wish were on Netflix

  • Ugly Betty 
  • Angel
  • Felicity 
  • Coupling 

And one show I don't have to wish for: Gilmore Girls! I am so looking forward to the reunion!

Are there any other shows I should be watching? 
Please leave a comment below if you have any suggestions!

note: images are not my own, they come from Netflix or Wikipedia - this post is also in no way associated with Netflix, all opinions are my own please see my contact/policy page for more information. 

Chocolate Chip Brownies - Inspired by That 70's Show

One of my favorite shows of all time is That 70’s Show and now it’s on Netflix. I binged and finished all 8 seasons in a few weeks. See when it was on I only made it to about season 5 before I stopped watching due to real life commitments - like university, part -time job, participating in my sorority and hanging out … down the street.

I think the reason I love the show so much is that I relate to it. It reminds me of my life between the ages of 15-18. My parents had moved us to a small remote town in northern Minnesota. Where it was cold and not much to do.

We did what Eric, Donna, Hyde, Kelso, Fez, and Jackie did we literally hung out down the street! We had to make our own fun running around town or hanging out at each others houses hosting movie nights.

We all had crappy part time jobs and drove cars from the 70’s and 80’s and in winter would pull donuts on the frozen river and in the summer “cruised the dubs.” The Dubs was short for double as in double lanes - there was one road that had double lanes. All part of spending your teenage years in a small town.

I can’t go back to being in high school and I’m not so sure I’d really want too, but I don’t mind having flashbacks through a well written TV show! Kitty was always baking from scratch and one of the things we saw her bake over and over was brownies!

In the last season she baked them for Jackie to win over her boss (Mary Tyler Moore) and was very upset when Jackie took the credit. It was after watching that episode I had a craving for brownies and made them the next day!

I’d like to think these brownies would have passed Kitty’s approval! It’s the only brownie recipe I use these days and this time time I added chocolate chips to it! If I were Hyde I would have added a different “special” ingredient!

Chocolate Chip Brownies

300g dark chocolate, broken up
250g unsalted butter
400g light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs
140g plain flour
pinch of salt
50g cocoa powder
100g chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180C/gas4 and line a brownie tin (8x11) or an 8in square pan with parchment paper.
Very gently melt the chocolates with the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan. Just before the chocolate is completely melted, take off the heat and gently stir until it’s completely melted.
Then add the eggs one at a time to the melted chocolate mixture. Sift the flour, salt, and cocoa powder into the pan and stir until just combined.
Then pour the mixture into the prepared tin/pan. Scatter all the chocolate chips over the top of the brownies before baking in the preheated oven for 35 minutes. If you want them a little gooier only bake them for 30 minutes.
Cool completely before cutting into squares. They are good for 3 days in an airtight container not that they will last that long!

notes: recipe is adapted from a recipe in Bakes & Cakes Magazine Summer 2013 (BBC Good Food Mag) - If you haven’t seen That 70’s Show I highly recommend watching it! The image I used of the cast comes from this website, I doubt they own it, but I thought I'd link anyway! I used milk chocolate chips to help cut through the dark chocolate, but use whatever suits you!


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