Monday, August 27, 2012

Bake-along week one: upside-down cake

Week one of The Great British Bake-Off and the bakers attempted variations on a retro classic: pineapple upside-down cake.

Alongside that, there were Rum Babas, and, of course, that kind of cake where, when Paul got a massive knife and unceremoniously chopped them in half, they sort of looked like something else. Neither of these things tempted me for my bake-along.

The upside-down cake? That did. I love fruity cakes: I've made a few clafoutis in my time, the odd tarte tatin, and peppered classic sponges with raspberries, blueberries, strawberries… in my opinion a yellow, fluffy sponge (or airy batter, or flaky pastry) is only improved by a slightly-tangy explosion of a berry, or an autumnal slice of apple. I did like the look of Cathryn's appley, hazlenutty confection but I want to do this bake-along my way. And the obvious fruit to me for an upside cake? Cherries. Who doesn't like cherries?

Just look at them, all burgundy and delicious. So I adapted a classic pineapple upside-down cake recipe (Nigella's versh, to be specific) replacing the pineapple with cherries (around 400g). Yes, you do have to pit the cherries. Yes, you will have red fingertips. No, it's not going to make you wish you'd never started (unlike peeling tomatoes, which, one tomato in, makes me think I'd rather peel my own eyes than attempt one more). Just run a knife around the belly of the cherry, twist like it was an avocado, and the pit should, after a little gentle encouragement, slip right out. The most difficult bit for me was not chucking the pit into the cake tin and throwing the cherry half into the bin. Smart.

Nigella's recipe uses pineapple juice in a classic sponge batter. So I replaced that with vanilla-infused whole milk (when I say infused, I mean mixed up and heated briefly in the microwave), to make sure the consistency of my batter matched hers. Taylor & Colledge Vanilla Bean Extract is my absolute favourite and though it seems expensive, will instantly improve your sponges.

The only other changes to Lawson's recipe: firstly, halve your cherries and line the bottom of your buttered and sugared tin, like so:

Isn't it satisfying to see them lined up like that? Secondly, and obviously, omit the glacé cherries. All that's left to say? Yes, this was delicious. I served it with cream, and, according to my boyfriend, the best bit was the edges, where the sugar turns the cherries all sticky and divine, and the edges of the cake batter turn a touch more golden and just the right side of crispy. The proportions are perfect – it seems like it will be a thin sponge, and it is, but all that means is you get more cherry in each forkful. Which can only be a good thing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Great Brixton Bake-along

My long-neglected blog finally has a purpose.

It comes in the form of a tribute, an homage, if you will, to a TV programme I hold dear; otherwise known as a cunning excuse to eat cake. A LOT of cake.

Yes, it's my very own version of The Great British Bake-off.

There will be recipes. There will be gratuitous Instagrams of cake taken, totally casually, on vintage china. There will be some successes and some spilt milk. And there will be times when I'll wonder how I'm going to go on because I forgot to buy sugar.

But go on I shall. The rules are simple: each week I will bake something from the show, my way. I know, right?

Welcome to the bake-along.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fury Unbound

Unbound is a neat little idea. A digital platform (oh, go on then, website) which allows authors to upload details of their project, courting support from individuals, corporations, anyone with their credit card at the ready I guess, which, when published will give them privileges including their name printed at the back of the book. Financial support equals eventual publication. Fantastico, one thinks, a gem of an idea which will surely result in the unpublished, the unsupported, the under-funded and the undiscovered becoming – well, becoming the reverse of all of those things.

Stanford Kay

And then you visit the website and discover that current submissions are from authors already described as 'legendary' and future submissions are limited to those who have already been published. Yes, the unpublished can submit if they're supported by an agent, but what about those undeservedly in the literary wasteland? It does seem like a wasted opportunity, with the burgeoning homogenisation of the book trade – support for the unsupported should be a priority. Surely these 'legendary' authors could get their newness published anyway? What do you think?

Picture: 'The Natural World', 2009, by Stanford Kay

Five-minute face #1 – Peachy keen

A recipe for looking lively on a grey Sunday lunchtime (without a vodka martini)

1 x application of Control Color N in Coral by RMK (a very fluid base product – don't expect OTT coverage, do expect an even-ing of skin-tone, a brightening of your wintry pallor and best of all, quick-as-a-flash application)
1 x slick of Lash Doubling Mascara by Clinique (mascara for the shy – it's not a Geordie Shore look, it's just a little glossy black tint, a little volume and a lotta separation)
1 x dusting of Revlon Blush in Perfectly Peach (no shimmer, no shine, just a fifties flush)
1 x slick of Rimmel Moisture Renew lipstick in Nude Delight (I don't think you'll find a better nude for a fiver or so – if you do, let me know)

Wear with a floral, a flat, and a polka-dot brolly, in case of grey skies. As Sinatra says, anything goes.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I heart baking

Have you seen that Lurpak advert where the burly-yet-adorable guy makes a really rather delish looking pie? I love it, because to me, that's cooking. It's messy, it's imperfect and things do go wrong but nine times out of ten you get something amazing for your efforts – and your friends love you for it. Baking's a little bit different: you create heaps of mess around the edges but in the middle needs to be something deliciously perfect and really rather enviable, both aesthetically and with a view to popping it in your mouth. I think these jammy hearts are the very embodiment of that. Occasion baking gets me through the 'holidays': baking something adorable totally makes up for the general tackiness of Valentine's Day. I've baked these for the adorable café You Don't Bring Me Flowers in Hither Green – they'll be on counter this weekend, raspberry red and ready to be bought for V-day!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

How to dress for Vogue

1. Ensure you are prepared in advance by only washing a peculiar mix of items from wardrobe, leaving majority of respectable clothes on floor or in washing basket.

2. Lay in bed until last possible moment, telling self you are actually SAVING time by planning outfit in head rather than running around like headless chicken.

3. Get up with twenty-five minutes to do everything, but feeling very smug that out of nothing you have managed to assemble outfit of decent proportions using only imagination. Possibly MORE of an achievement than if you had limitless clothing budget and insatiable thirst for doing laundry.

4. Remember not only is it painfully cold but Britain is in the clutches of the BIG FREEZE – hence planned outfit is useless, mainly because heeled boots are rendered impractical, unless of course you are Nicholas Coleridge and have chauffeur-driven car. Wasted.

5. Decide warmth and safety are paramount and no one is going to look at what an intern wears anyway.

6. Put on ALL clean clothes from The Clean Pile – good combinations include different stripes together, jeans with broken zips, jeans with rips and don't forget the odd socks.

7. Tah dah! Admire very padded, very mismatched look. Congratulate self for totally channelling the Michelin Man crossed with Wurzel Gummidge look this season. SURE Lucinda Chambers will be doing same in A/W 10/11 Marni show.

8. Decide very wise to wear wellies to walk in, take suede boots to change into when entering W1 postcode. Upon removal of wellies, realise they are actually odd and one is wearing a green size 8 welly with grey sole, and one size 6 green welly with yellow sole. Laugh in public, as if a bit of a crazy. Curse damned dark under-stairs cupboard and pre-coffee brain.

9. Enter Vogue House, shudder, and vow to be better, prettier and more stylish tomorrow.

10. Repeat.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Back to black

I am a fan of black nail polish. In editorial. When it looks all glossy and neat, when it's paired with a super-cool outfit (probably including studs or feathers), painted onto short, sweet nails all ultra precise and lovely by some uber nail tech-trix. Then – and only then – does it look amazing.

At home, black just isn't the same – it often looks very DIY because it's totally unforgiving, so it's probably a bit messy, jagged round the edges, marked from your bedsheets or iffily smudged around the cuticle region, where a bright or nude colour could get away with not being superbly applied. What's more, black polishes tend to need at least three coats, even if you use a good brand (Essie, par exemple) and this only exacerbates the risk of mess-up.

What's more, I think black nail polish has a strong tendency to look a bit like door paint, or undercoat. That nasty not-matte not-gloss compromise ... a sort of Satinwood for nails. And that I do not like. I bring good news, though: I have happened upon a solution. Credit must be given to the therapists at Glow Urban Spa who introduced me to this little trick about a year ago... I've only just cottoned onto this as a home trick, though. It's tres simple. Paint on two coats of navy, dark green, dark red, or similar – whatever you want. Then finish with one thin coat of black – Essie's Licorice is ideal, or I'm using Bourjois So Laque! in Noir de Chine. It looks black, but not dull like house paint. You get the depth of the underneath colour which sort of tones the black, so it's almost imperceptible as a deep deep deep dark blue and just looks like a really great 'shade' of black. Somehow it also looks glossier, though a coat of Jessica Brilliance top-coat won't do any harm.

Hurrah! Smart girl's goth nirvana.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Forget cupcakes

I'm kind of over cupcakes. That may sound terribly self-conscious but there was a time when there was novelty in a giant, creamy, Magnolia Bakery style American cupcake. No longer – every Tom, Dick or Sally's setting up a kitsch-themed cupcake co from their kitchen and every other wedding has a tower of them in place of cake: no longer are brides content to send home guests with a slice of cake – each attendee must have their OWN.

Snobbishness aside, the trendy kind of cupcake is too big to be eaten elegantly at parties, too sweet to be satisfyingly finished and has far too much icing – you're always left with a lump of the crumb-y toothache inducing stuff in your napkin. So time for a change. How about a return to the fairy (or butterfly) cake of school fêtes and Sunday teas? Not small enough to be a canapé but not so large it could constitute a small meal (a few delicious bites and it's gone), cute beyond anything and not so sweet it should have the number of a local dentist printed inside the bottom of the paper. It's along these lines I've been thinking for a special recipe I'm trying to concoct for a friend's hen night, or potentially wedding – and here's the first incarnation below. It's a mini Victoria Sponge with a catch: it's filled with créme patissiere and a raspberry reduction instead of buttercream and jam and the sponge is infused with rosewater for a tiny twist. I think they've turned out rather well – next time I'm making a few amends and after my second 'draft' I'll let you in on the recipe...