25 January 2013

Not Very Perfect Bread Rolls!

A little more practise needed!

Today I've made some white bread rolls. I've made bread a couple of times before but this is the first recipe from Paul Hollywood's Bake that I've attempted. The white loaves I've made before have turned out OK but bread baking is really something that I would like to get better at.

People always assume that bread baking is something that takes ages and are therefore put off from making it. But actually most of the time is taken up from the proving stages. This recipe needed two proving stages so the rolls did take all morning to 'make' but only needed about 30 minutes actual work - and the KitchenAid did the hard work kneading anyway! The recipe was surprising because Paul Hollywood states in the recipe to use a food mixer with a dough hook to knead the bread. Usually he is quite militant about making everything by hand so that you understand how things feel. It's also easy to over knead when using a food mixer whereas its almost impossible to do this by hand. 
After Kneading
After the first prove

I've also been practising my shaping skills so I was pleased with the shape of the before the second prove. They were also all of a similar size because I weighed them to get them all the same size. This might have been a little over the top but I wanted them all to bake in the same time.

Perfectly shaped rolls..
Unfortunately I didn't oil inside the bags that I put them in for the second prove. When I took the bags off, the rolls were stuck and as I peeled them off all the air from the second prove was knocked out of them.

...left to long on the second prove!

I baked them anyway and they still tasted really lovely! But next time I really must remember to oil the bag for the second prove...

23 January 2013

Preparing The Fabric For My Quilt

After some research on the internet and reading a few other blogs I followed these steps to prepare the fabric for my first ever quilt! (I'm sure there are some technical terms that I should be using so apologies to those who know them!)

Step 1. Wash the fabric. If this is not done first you risk your finished project shrinking or the colours running together. I wasn't prepared for the amount of fraying that would occur during the the wash though. 
Step 2: Iron the fabric - This is important to ensure that the fabric can be measured out properly. 
Step 3. Square up the fabric - I cut the edges of each fat quarter to ensure that when I cut out the blocks they would all be squares rather than slanted squares!
Step 4. Cut out each of the blocks. Because this is my first quilt I decided to keep things simple by cutting by largish squares to stitch together. (This quilt was my inspiration.) To have 15cm square blocks, my 10 fat quarters gave me 60 squares (with fabric left over to make a cushion cover!). The quilt is for my son's toddler bed so this should (in theory anyway) be enough to cover the bed with some overhang. I will need 3 more blocks so have cut these from white fabric I had in my stash.

Next step is to sew them altogether!

To remember for my next quilt (and there will be one as I'm finding quilting to be quite addictive!):
1. Cut a little corner off of each section of fabric before washing. This will not stop the fraying completely but should prevent most of it. 
2. Plan the quilt a little more carefully before purchasing the fabric

20 January 2013

My Fabric Has Arrived!!

The ‘Henry’ Fat Quarter Bundle – Peak Hour – Riley Blake Designs
From Emma's Fabric Studio

After making the patchwork ball for my daughter I have decided to be a little more adventurous and make something a little more substantial. I am going to make a quilt for my son to go on his new bed, hopefully in time for his birthday next month. I may be pushing myself a little bit with this as it's less than a month away but if I don't set myself a deadline I will probably still be making it for his Christmas present!

My search for fabric had to be done online, which isn't ideal as it can be difficult to get a sense of the scale of the patterns and the true shade of colour. (I have got a good fabric shop near me but taking two under two's is just asking for trouble!) Finding fabrics for boys also proved to be a challenge, although when I come to make something similar for my daughter I'll be spoilt for choice. After a long time searching however, I came across Emma's Fabric Studio. This amazing website is full of fantastic prints  with hundreds of funky and modern prints. Emma has also put together some fat quarter bundles with co-ordinating fabrics from the same designer to take the stress out of choosing fabric online. I went with the 'Henry' bundle as my son is currently obsessed with all things on wheels. 

The fabric arrived today so now I've got to start cutting! I need to look carefully at how the different fabrics will work together to see whether the rough plan in my head is actually achievable. I think the planning and cutting is going to take a lot longer than the sewing up of the quilt!

I'm going to blog about each stage of making the quilt so I hope you will follow me!

18 January 2013

Chicken, Ham and Leek Pie

To help encourage me with my One New Thing a week I've been going through my cookbooks and trying to add new meals to my weekly meal planning. This week I made a Chicken, Ham and Leek pie from the Hairy Bikers 'Pie' cookbook. And it was an absolute triumph! Even my partner, who can normally find a fault with everything I cook, said it was perfect!

The finished and baked pie!
It was quite an involved recipe. First step was to poach the chicken, then make the sauce, then make the pastry and then put it all together. The recipe also involved a lot of butter and cream so maybe not an every week staple!

The white sauce (I think it's called a roux?) was the most difficult for me as I've never made anything like this before. At one point it look like it was becoming a solid paste but I just kept following the recipe (this is becoming a bit of a mantra for me!) and it turned out fine.

This is only the second time I've made shortcrust pastry and this attempt was much more successful. I tried to roll in one direction only and turn the pastry a quarter turn after each roll. This is supposed to stop the pastry becoming too tough. I also kept the pastry a bit thicker - my last attempt meant I had to do a patch up job which, although it tasted nice, didn't look too pretty! I did forget to egg wash the edge of the pastry base before adding the top so I had to do a bit of lifting and poking to make sure that the top and base stuck together.

I will definitely be making this again! The only improvement I will make is to cut the chicken pieces smaller. The recipe called for 3 cm chunks but I will make them half this size in the next pie.

A piece of sliced pie - two slices needed though as it was so nice!


I have wanted to have a go at making these for ages but have always been put off because they seemed to be quite fiddly to make. Every time I've seen them made on the (numerous!) cookery programmes I watch, the baker always seems to be saying how complicated they are. But after getting some liquid egg white delivered with my weekly shop I thought I would have a go.

There are numerous recipes and everyone seems to approach them in a different way but I decided to use the recipe in the Great British Bakeoff - How to Bake book (from the second series). The recipe itself was simple: whisk egg whites, add icing sugar, add colouring, add ground almonds. This formed a mixture which was then piped onto baking sheets and then baked in the oven for 14-18 minutes.

The reality was a little a different though! They came out ok but did not have the lift that macaroons should have - I think the technical term is 'legs'. They also needed a little longer in the oven as I don't think they were cooked properly all the way through. The double cream I used to fill them also needed to be whipped for longer. But not too bad for my first attempt!

I've looked at some more detailed recipes online and found a few hints and tips. So to improve on my next batch (which I'll probably make tomorrow as I need to use up the egg whites!):

1. Be careful not to overmix when adding the almonds. 50 turns should be enough apparently!
2. Don't pipe such big macaroons. I need to aim for 4 cms in diameter.
3. Once piped, drop the baking sheets two or three times on the worktop. This should help to prevent cooking.
4. Whip the double cream for the filling for longer.

I will update after the second batch!

13 January 2013

A Hand Stitched Patchwork Ball

After making a duvet cover for my son I though that it was only fair that I made something for my daughter! I attended an afternoon patchwork class last year and made a pincushion with the traditional paper technique. I found the technique really relaxing and, because it was all done by hand, I didn't need to get the sewing machine out. Attendance on the course meant that I received a free copy of Cath Kidston's "Patch" which is filled with patchwork projects using different types of patchwork,  so I chose the patchwork ball so I could use the paper technique again. (So this isn't strictly a New Thing as I have completed something with the same technique but I've never made a ball before!) 

The cutting out of the pieces of fabric and the paper templates took a while - I really need to invest in a rotary cutter to make this process quicker - but the sewing together of the pieces didn't take that long. I completed this project in three evenings. 

If  I made this again I would want to think more carefully about the positioning of the different fabrics. I used six different fabrics to make the two halves of the ball that I then sewed together but having made both of these the same, the finished ball has the same fabric together in two different places. (You can see this in the photo with the dark pink fabric). This might not bother some people but it just looks odd to me.

I am fairly happy with it but my daughter is only 10 weeks old so it will be a little while before she plays with it!

A Duvet Set For a Cot Bed

My almost 2 year old son moved into his toddler bed this week and I have been looking for a duvet cover for a toddler cot bed for a while. However the only ones I could find were other character duvets (Peppa Pig, Thomas the Tank Engine) and he isn't really interested in any specific character, or were really expensive. So I decided that I would make my own!

I brought two plain white flat sheets for a single bed and measured them out to ensure that they would fit the dimensions of the toddler bed duvet. The ends of the sheets had a 5cm hem so I kept this on one end to make the fastening for the duvet. I then sewed three straight lines with a normal straight stitch to bind the two sheets together.

My next task was to make the fastening for the bottom of the duvet. I considered making ties but I also wanted to use the existing hem and these would not have looked very neat. So I decided to make buttonholes and use some of the buttons from my button jar.

I've never made buttonholes before but once I'd figured out how to use the specific foot on my sewing machine it was actually really easy! I had wanted to make the ties because I thought they would be easier but I'm glad that I pushed myself to do something new (which is actually the whole point of this blog) because I am really pleased with how the duvet has turned out.

The cover fits the duvet really well so I am planning on making another cover in the same way. Now I am confident I might even buy some more expensive and exciting fabric!

4 January 2013

Sweet Pastry

So my first One New Thing was sweet pastry. I made some mince pies before Christmas using ready made pastry and half a jar of mincemeat - so an assembly job more than actually making anything! When I was putting away my weekly shop I remembered the half full jar and decided that I'd make another batch but make my own pastry using this recipe by Paul Hollywood of the Great British Bake Off.

The recipe was easy to follow but the dough seemed to be very sticky and I did wonder whether I should add more flour as I couldn't see how it would come together in order to roll it out. But I resisted (with Paul's advice on the Bake Off - always follow the recipe - ringing in my ears!) and, once I'd turned it out onto my floured work surface to knead it, the dough came together to form a soft ball.

I left the dough in the fridge for longer than the 10 minutes specified in the recipe and I found it easy to work with. I could definitley feel the change in the dough the more I worked with it. I had to re-roll the dough a few times to get the required number of tops and bottoms I needed so when I make this pastry again I will try to limit the number of times I re-roll it.

I was pretty pleased with the finished result and they were much nicer than the ones I'd made with the ready made pastry. Maybe a One New Thing later in the year will have to be mincemeat!

Week Two: A duvet set for my son's Cotbed

2 January 2013

One New Thing a Week!

After making a decision to become a stay at home mum at the end of 2011, I wanted my New Year's resolution for 2012 to reflect my new role as a (not very) domestic goddess! I set out to make one new recipe a month to add to my weekly dinner menu. I thought that this sounded an achievable goal but I failed, mainly because after January had passed I forgot all it!

This year I have decided to be a little more ambitious and my resolution for 2013 is to try One New Thing a week. I have also decided to blog about it so that I am more likely to stick to it! (Disclaimer - with a 2 month old and almost 2 year old the blog may not always be up to date...)

To ensure my success in One New Thing I haven't limited myself to new recipes. However I love to bake, and with two new baking books for Christmas, many of my One New Things are likely to be recipes. But 2012 also saw me completing a sewing course and patchwork course so sewing and crafting are also likely to feature.

This blog is really to motivate and inspire me to achieve more with the few hours I have when my children are asleep but if you have found me I hope you enjoy the blog too!

Coming up:

Week One: Sweet Pastry (A recipe to start!)