26 January 2013

And... More Snow?!

This morning I woke up to another thick blanket of snow. It has been promised to thaw out by the start of next week though and this is probably a good thing -I'm sick of being overly bundled up in layers and as much as I love my wellies, two solid weeks of them is a little much...
Speaking of wellingtons, I had to replace mine today. I'd only had them three or four months, but water has been getting into the right foot, which was annoying. Luckily I still had the receipt, and a 12-month guarantee, so I got some new ones! I had thought about maybe switching to a deep grape colour or glossy black but there wasn't much choice in stock. Luckily there was one pair of navy Hunters left so I didn't have to have an odd colour, or size 11's...
 We took a walk out of my village to the farmshop while the snow was relatively undisturbed. The path to the shop is along an old railway track. The railway buildings are still used as a sports hall and the village social club and bar.
While it is definitely a shame that there isn't a train service to use, the path is gorgeous on a day like today.

I think that this is my favorite shot: the snow just looked so pretty in the morning with the sun shining on it.
 It has been absolutely gorgeous, but I think I'm ready for the big thaw now... roll on summer!

20 January 2013

Weekends by the Fire

On Saturday morning, I woke up to another fresh coat of snow covering the road outside. We drove the ten miles across rolling northern countryside to have a peak at our new house, and to do the weekly food shop. Naturally, I grabbed my camera, but to to my dismay I forgot my camera batteries! So sadly I don't have any spectacular photo's, just a few of outside the house.
 Cats paws: the first creatures out in the snow!
In the evening, we stacked up the fire with wood and bunkered ourselves in for the night. Mum had picked up a copy of The Simple Things magazine, which I hadn't heard of before. I was soon hooked though; finding myself inspired by the organic, healthy lifestyle of health coach Sarah Wilson, and wanting to try all the recipes featured.
As the embers of the fire began to glow in place of flame, we got the toasting fork and crumpets out for supper. It's the first time that I've actually toasted crumpets in this way, and it made such a difference to the taste.
 Spread over with a generous layer of butter, crumpets are heavenly:
On Sunday, inbetween sessions of homework and revision, I wanted to keep myself in the mood set by the magazine, so naturally I turned to tea and baking. The tea was rose, from The Lawn, and was later drank chilled with frozen raspberries, and I had a go at some blueberry muffins.
I think that the muffins would had benefited from much smaller -or even dried -blueberries as the juice from the fruit made the bottom of the muffins quite damp. The muffin mix itself was really nice though; not heavy, but not too light and sticky like a cupcake. It even managed to survive me forgetting the sugar, and having to fold it in last minute...
Once I have adjusted the recipe I will write it up in a post.
Hope you all had a good weekend, and didn't get too frozen in!

19 January 2013

Favorite Vintage Shops

I thought I'd do a post summarizing a few of my current favorite vintage shops that I have been browsing in. I have listed a few places from both the north and south of the UK, and I will be sure to let you know about any more that I discover on my travels.

Poot, Frome
I love this shop! It is located up St. Catherine's Hill in Frome, the street that turns this fairly ordinary town into a mecca for those that celebrate eras past. I have been to many great cafe's here (including The Garden Cafe for artisan food and fabulous coffee's and Stardust for cupcakes, frangipanes and vintage crockery) to quench the thirst caused by hours of rummaging. St. Catherine's Hill is filled almost exclusively with independent shops, vintage stores, dress agencies and other places of interest.
Poot, however, is possibly my favorite. It is crammed with vintage clothes and accessories -especially accessories -and has a rail of replica dresses which are lovely. I got a really cool briefcase from here, with the original owner's name still printed on (presumably a boy's school bag).
And you never know, you might just bump into somebody famous; in Company magazine, Daisy Lowe spoke about her love of Poot, and how her much-loved leather jacket was bought there. So if you are ever in Somerset, do try and pop in -you'll be in good company.

Scarlett Vintage, Bath 
Tucked away in Queen Street (right by the Wild Cafe which makes the most fabulous stack pancakes with strawberries, don't you know) is a real gem of a store. Scarlett Vintage, though perfectly petite, is always well stocked with gorgeous things. The website is excellent, as are the regular tweet-updates of new stock and goings on in Bath.
Although the range, in terms of decades and eras, is varied, Scarlett Vintage really comes into it's own with beautiful pre-1920's dresses.
 In addition, if you like vintage designer gifts, you have a good chance of finding some here; I have seen various brand scarfs, most recently Dior and Liberty, and the first time I ever visited Scarlett Vintage I came across a pair of Rayban Wayfarers. I have also spotted tweets about Jasper Conran dresses and Lanvin capes... race you there!
 [Thanks Scarlett Vintage for the kind permission to use these photos!]

Purple Haze, York
Purple Haze, located on Fossgate, a cobbled street that is home to niche shops, luxury delis and award-winning coffee shops; has a fantastic range of both men's and women's clothing. I bought my favorite green scarf from here, although it's real specialism seems to be cream knits -there is a whole rack dedicated to them! Purple Haze also buys in Barbour jackets every now and again for a pretty good price. They are typically men's parkers, but I think there are often smaller sizes if you're quick.

I love the decor of this shop too; wardrobe-fronted dressing rooms, bookcase designed wallpaper and all the clothes are laid out neatly with plenty of room to browse rather than rummage.

Where do you like to shop? Leave a comment if you have any recommendations!

18 January 2013

From Russia with Love

Oh my goodness!! The weathermen and women weren't joking when they promised an eastern cold snap. I have been in my wellies all week and it has just kept on snowing.
On plus side, my Dad has been at home a bit this week, so we have been warmed with his signature one-pot dinners -vegetable curry, goulash and yesterday we tucked in to some gorgeous rice pudding for afters.

While I haven't done much cooking bar a quick bit of spaghetti bolognese, I have been rummaging at potential new recipe's and cookery books.
 I found was Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen. While being one of a family of three does not afford me much of a chance to go for showy bakes, especially as my Dad is not a fan of icing, I was really tempted to get this. It features lots of adorable little nibbles to glamorize any morning coffee or showcase at a vintage afternoon tea. I would have also liked to have had a go at the techniques to make normal tiered sponge cakes become centerpieces in their own right by the use of decorative techniques and additional ingredients.
Peggy Porschen
These meringue kisses look so pretty; I really hope that the oven at our new house is easy to become accustomed to because I really want to make these!

I was delighted to discover that York Waterstones has an extensive range of cookery books. I was intrigued by Rose Prince's Kitchenella (I have linked a review of it here). In some way, it reminded of the books written in the 1950's -huge and full of text. There seemed to be lots of interesting comments, stories and tips at the start of sections and surrounding recipes, which I really like. I will definitely buy this next time I do a book haul.

In the meantime though, I'll be nursing my bruises from a few snowball hit. I haven't let the snow stop me from wearing skirts and dresses this week, particularly as I have found that it is so easy to sneak a few extra layers underneath!! I was very grateful for my fluffy Seasalt socks that I was given to wear under my wellies... cold feet are not my idea of a good week!
 Jumper, Wallis; Dress, H! Henry Holland and wellies by Hunter

15 January 2013

Red Velvet Cupcakes

For the last week of term I baked up a batch of red velvet cupcakes for everyone in my group. This is one of my favourite cupcake recipes; slightly chocolaty, very light in texture despite its deceptively deep red colour. On top of that is a wonderful cream cheese frosting that cuts through the sweetness of the cake. My preferred recipe, proudly unaltered from TheHummingbird Bakery’s cookbook, almost guarantee’s perfectly decadent results.
Red Velvet cupcakes

  • 80g (unsalted) butter, at room temperature
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 free-range egg, room temperature.
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 30ml good quality red food colouring, or a paste, loosened with a tsp water.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120ml buttermilk (either buy or see below how to make it)
  •   150g plain flour
  • ½ salt (or use salted butter
  •   ½ tsp bicarb of soda
  •   1 ½ tbsp. white wine vinegar.

Cream Cheese frosting

  •  300g icing sugar
  • 50g softened butter
  • 125g cream cheese, cold
To make buttermilk: For every 225ml of (whole, ideally) milk, add one tablespoon of white wine vinegar or lemon juice. Don't worry if it is a little lumpy; once stirred in it will smooth out.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 3, 170’C. Prepare either 12 muffin-sized tins, or 18-24 medium cake tins with paper cases. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula inbetween steps!
Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk, for five minutes or so, until fluffy. Add in the egg and beat in over a high speed.
In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa powder with the red food colouring or paste, and vanilla extract to make a thick paste. Add to the butter until well combined. Turn the electric whisk down to a low speed and gradually stir in the buttermilk. Then gently add half the flour and beat again. Repeat this, until all the ingredients are incorporated together. Add the salt, bicarbonate of soda and white wine vinegar, and turn the whisk up to a final, high speed beat until everything is smooth and evenly mixed.
Spoon the cases until 2/3's full. Bake for 15-20 minutes if using medium cases, or 20-25 if using larger cases until the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cupcakes to cool.

To make the cream cheese: 
Beat the icing sugar and butter together with an electric whisk on a low speed until well mixed. To avoid an icing explosion, I initially mix the two together with a spatula before letting my whisk go anywhere near the icing sugar!
Add the cream cheese and beat until incorporated. Turn up to a high speed and beat for a good five minutes to get an aerated, fluffy frosting -but be careful not to overbeat!
Spoon onto the cupcakes when they are completely cool.

14 January 2013

Week Roundup

Little bit late, but here's my photowall of what I've been up to!!
Clockwise, from top left:
  1. My gorgeous new fingerless gloves, bought as a birthday gift from my friend Maddy.
  2. Cupcake cases mentioned in a previous post.
  3. Huge history of fashion book, a birthday gift from my aunt.
  4. My new apron!!
  5. These lovely chocolates, also bought by Maddy, came from a little chocolatier's in the French Alps. They are, quite honestly, the most divine things that I have ever tasted!
  6. My spiced birthday cake.
  7. The demolished houses in Whitby, damaged by landslides. The destruction made national new, but guess what? See the row of houses directly below the demolished houses, visible by only their roof's? The one in the middle used to belong to my Great Grandma! Luckily she is currently living in Scotland, so hasn't had any property damaged, which is luckier than many of the residents of Whitby.
  8. My vintage-style hanger, also mentioned in previous posts.
  9. Middle: Red velvet cupcakes, which I'll be blogging about very soon...

13 January 2013

Vintage at York Barbican

Yesterday I took a brief break from my maths revision -I think my current tally for past papers is 12!- and nipped into York with my Mother to have a rummage around a vintage fair at the York Barbican. I haven't got any photos of it I'm afraid -we were half way there when I realised that it was still sat on the side at home.

We left a little later than ideal, arriving some time after the start, but surprisingly it wasn't too busy considering that it was late morning on a Saturday. Whist I didn't buy anything in the end, I saw some gorgeous vintage and vintage inspired dresses, and was seriously tempted by the glittering allure of antique jewellery. My Mother had more luck: at a sixties stall playing out records, she picked up a great copy of Peter Gabriel's first album for Dad's record player. She also spotted a Glen Miller swing album in a charity shop, so our house sounds just like all the vintage shops that I love to rummage in!
I happened to overhear one other shopper discussing with a stallholder about the lack of entertainment. Previous vintage fairs at the Barbican have involved pop-up tea shops and often live performances. When I considered this, I realised that the woman had a point; part of the joy of vintage shopping is the experience. Whenever you go into a good vintage store, you can be certain to enter an atmosphere of nostalgia, with record players crooning out old songs.

Just over a year ago, I went to a similar-sized vintage market at the Cheese and Grain in Frome. The organizers had transformed the little servery at the back with printed table cloths and vintage-themed banners to add a touch of glamour to the tea and cake being sold. At another fair in Chipping Sodbury, the local WI baked up a huge array of cakes and treats to serve the shoppers resting their legs on cushy chairs that looked over the main street of the market town.

Thinking about this, I wonder if perhaps there is a niche for those that bake to promote their businesses by renting a stand at a fair or market and to create a little bit of vintage hospitality and class for everyone. Who knows what might pop up -a 50's style diner serving milkshakes to ladies in flapper dresses? If I walked into a vintage market to be greeted by the clinking of vintage crockery and a the rich husky voice of a jazz performer, I know I'd stay for another root around the stalls!

8 January 2013

Baking Gifts

I thought I'd do a post on some of the baking bits that I got over Christmas and my birthday. It's all very well to be cooking away and creating beautiful dishes, but having beautiful things to present your creations makes everything seem more special, never mind looking good yourself in a cute new apron!! Here's what I've received:
 My Mother got me the December edition of Love Baking magazine, which came with Christmas-themed cake topped and wraps and a cake stand. I think I might hang on to them until next Christmas seeing as we're past 12th Night, but they are seriously cute!
 I adore these cupcake cases from Meri-Meri! They were a birthday gift from one of my oldest friends, along with a pair of vintage-y knot earrings.
I have been looking at the Meri-Meri website, and I want to buy everything!!! I especially love the practical, yet pretty cake boxes.

 I think this is possibly my favorite: a floral apron bought for me by my Grandma from Sledmere House Christmas market. I'm trying to find the name of the company, who make lots of gorgeous things including all of our gift labels this Christmas. As soon as I do, I'll let you know!
Not exactly baking related, but too cute not to mention. This was bought for me by my mum on my birthday. We nipped into BHS to buy a birthday gift for my Tammy-obsessed little cousin and spotted this little hanger. It was from the kids' section and is too delicate to hang much more than necklaces and trinkets, but I love it! At £3.00 (Reduced from £10.00) it was a great bargain. It is also the first thing bought for my new bedroom, as fingers crossed we should be moving house in a few weeks.
I also got an apron with dozens of measures and conversions on for cooking, which is such a good idea.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that 2013 has started well! xxx

6 January 2013

My Spiced Birthday Cake with Cinnamon Icing

Mmm, was I pleased with this cake!! I didn't want to make anything overly rich or something that we'd done a dozen times before, when I came across inspiration with a couple of old cookery books. I didn't have enough cream cheese for the suggested cream cheese frosting, but I was really pleased with my zesty cinnamon icing.

I broke tradition and made it myself, as I didn't trust my Father to make a cake... possibly a little cheeky, but I counted the baking as a birthday gift to myself.

If you ever feel like a change from the normal birthday cake, I really would recommend this one!
I think it looks best as three narrow tiers (although due to there being only three of us I reduced the recipe and made two layers) but if you want to use the same amount of cake mixture for two layers, reduce the temperature by between 10-20'C and leave for an extra 5-10 minutes in the oven before checking.

Spiced Cake with Cinnamon frosting
  • 170g soft butter
  • 300g sugar
  • 1 egg and 3 egg yolks
  • 300ml milk
  • 2tbsp golden syrup
  • 2tsp vanilla essence
  • 285g plain flour
  • 1tbsp baking powder
  • 1tsp of each cinnamon and grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp of each ground cloves and ground ginger
For the cinnamon frosting:
  •  350g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Juice of an orange

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 180'C. Grease and line the 20cm round caketins
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and egg yolks.
In a separate bowl of jug, combine the milk, golden syrup and vanilla essence. Beat a small amount of the milk mixture into the sugar and egg mix before stirring in the rest with a spatula. Because of the high liquid content, small lumps of mix may make the mixture appear to have curdle, but hang on in there.

Sift the flour, baking powder and spices together two or three times so that it is nice and aerated. Gently add the flour into the liquid mix, in at least four batches, using the spatula to gently fold each addition in. If the mix still looks a little lumpy when all the flour has been added, give it a very quick blitz with an electric beater to smooth out, but not so much as to make the cake heavy.

Pour the mix between the cake tins evenly, and bake for around 25 minutes. The cake should be coming away from the sides of the tin, be lightly coloured and should spring back when gently pressed. Cool on the side for 5 minutes before turning out to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the icing. Sift together the icing sugar and cinnamon into a bowl that can be heated over a bain marie, then stir in the orange juice. The icing should be a little thicker than normal water icing, but if it is totally solid, add water or extra juice a teaspoon at a time. Heat the icing over a pan of simmering water so that it goes a little runnier. About the thickness to be able to cover the back of a spoon is about right.
I love the soft coffee colour the cinnamon lends to the icing.
Spoon over each cake layer, stacking as you go and leaving enough to be a little generous on the top layer. You could use cream cheese frosting, or even a mix of both. This is my preferred recipe:
  • 300g sifted icing sugar (add in the cinnamon here if you like)
  • 50g soft butter
  • 125g cold full fat cream cheese

Cream the icing sugar and butter together (I'd use a spatula or spoon for this to save mess!), then add in the cream cheese. Beat with an electric mixer for at least five minutes until light and fluffy.
I decorated my cake with crystallized ginger, although on hindsight I maybe should have cut them a little finer... ginger packs a serious punch!

4 January 2013

Joining Bloglovin

I'm just posting this up to let you know that I have joined bloglovin, so if you have an account, follow me! And comment below; I'll follow you. Thanks xx

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Slow Braised Venison Pie

It has been nearly a month since my last blog for which I am profoundly sorry. In my defense, I have been snowed under with homework and revision for my four -eek! -January exams that are hurtling towards me. Cooking and baking unsurprisingly, has been at a minimum, and what I have made, I've had little time to blog about it.
I am allowing myself a brief half hour break to blog about last night's dinner, which I am way too proud of to not talk about it. It's also my birthday tomorrow so there should be a restaurant review and cake recipe coming up! In the meantime, keep up with me and CoffeeWithCroissants on Twitter and Instagram.

I found this recipe when curled up on the sofa with my Mother watching Kirstie's Vintage Christmas. What with moving house, Mum has got quite into crafts and things, so for the five or six weeks that Kirstie's Vintage was showing on the telly, we've been there and watching. When I saw the slow braised venison pies featured, I knew I just had to try them. We've been buying a lot of game and venison recently, after finding ourselves an excellent new butcher's. So I ear-marked a pack of diced venison and got cooking. I've adjusted the amounts to make it more suitable for our smaller family, and to make use of the ingredients in our fridge. You can find the original recipe here.

Even if you're new to venison, do try this because it is a perfect and rather festive winter warmer.

Slow Braised Venison Pie
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 stalks celery, peeled and chopped.
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  •  Olive oil, for frying
  • 400g  venison or beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
  •  Plain flour, around 3-4tbsp
  • 3 tbsp cranberry sauce
  • 2 large sundried tomatoes, finely chopped, or 1tbsp tomato puree
  • 175ml port
  • 250ml good beef stock
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little milk for the eggwash
For the pastry (if making)
  • 200g plain flour
  • 110g cold salted butter, cubed
  • Ice-cold water,around 3-4tbs
 Preheat the oven to gas mark 2, 160'C.
Heat a little oil in a frying pan over a medium-high temperature. Add in the vegetables and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onion is soft and turning golden. Tip the vegetables into a large casserole pan.

Add a little more oil, and brown the meat. If your pan is a little on the small side, cook in two or three batches, as crowding the pan with too much meat won't let it get hot enough, and all the moisture from the venison or beef will drain into the pan. When the meat is brown, add this to the vegetables. For a vegetarian option, swap the meat for chopped mushrooms with pine nuts or chestnuts and extra celery.
 Cook the  cranberry sauce and tomato over a low heat for one minute. I used our homemade sauce, which I will link the recipe for here. If using store bought, add the zest of an orange to create an extra tang to your dish.

Turn the heat up and add the port to deglaze the pan -use your spoon or spatula to get all the flavour left from browning the meat off the base off the pan. Give that a minute to heat through and tip into the casserole dish, along with the beef stock. Give it all a stir and add in the thyme and bayleaf.
Pop the lid on and cook for an hour and a half. You could eat it just like that, but to turn it into a fabulous pie, get your rolling pin out.

If you don't have time, there is no crime whatsoever in using bought pastry. However, if you're up for a challenge, have a go at making your own. Below is a recipe for a shortcrust. Next time I make puff pastry, I'll take some photos and do a recipe post because it tastes great with this recipe.

Rub the flour and cold butter together, using your fingertips to make breadcrumbs.Make a well and gradually add in the water. Bring together using a fork or spatula if you want to keep your hands clean -phones and doorbells ALWAYS ring whenever you let both of your hands get covered in cooking material!! Once the crumbly mixture can be pressed into a smooth ball, cover in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Roll out the dough. I think these pies look much nicer as individual portions, but make sure that whatever you pie ends up in, to cut the pastry so that is large enough to drape slightly over the sides of your container as it will shrink as it bakes. If using a large pie dish, pop a pie funnel or upturned egg cup to stop the pastry from sinking.

 Take the casserole out of the oven and turn the heat up to gas mark 7, 200'C. Give the oven a few minutes to heat up, then gently spoon the casserole into the pie dish/es. Avoid pouring in too much of the excess liquid; a little brings flavour but too much will create soggy pastry! Glaze the top of the pastry with the egg wash, and pierce it to let steam out. Decorate with any left over pastry if you feel like it.
 Bake for around 20 minutes until the pastry is cook and golden. Serve immediately with a salad or non-root vegetables.

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