Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Great British Bake Off English Muffin Challenge

Have you ever watched The Great British Bake Off and thought,  I  could do that.  No, neither have I.  But for some reason, this week's English Muffin Challenge intrigued me.  Against all reason and good judgement I am attempting to make Paul Hollywood's English Muffin Recipe .   As I type this sentence, the dough is proving.... I hope!

I am pretty sure I would be evicted from the Bake Off tent almost immediately.  I don't have a set of scales which measure individual grams. I don't have a griddle and I don't have the right size pastry cutters. So far, not so good!

I have 'guesstimated' the following quantities:

6 grams yeast = 2 teaspoons
6 grams salt = 1 teaspoon
15 grams sugar = 1 Tablespoon
15 grams butter = 1 Tablespoon

My large iron skillet will have to take the place of a griddle.  Other than that, we are good to go.  I am off to make English Muffins, back in a bit.

Approximately an hour later.....

As I cut the dough I had the feeling things weren't going as they should.  But it was too late to turn back.  I let the English muffins rest for 30 minutes more and placed the iron skillet over a low flame to heat up.  To check the temperature, I sprinkled a few drops of water into the skillet and they skittered across the bottom of  the pan and evaporated.  It was the moment of truth.

In went the muffins and I waited... and waited... and waited.  After five minutes I turned them over and my fingers squished into the raw dough.   They will be fine, I lied to myself.  I turned the heat up a bit... the semolina scorched.  I turned the heat down and the dough refused to bake.  

To make a long, sad story short... my English Muffins are terrible.  I will be leaving the Great British Bake Off tent now.  On the way home, I'll stop at the shops and purchase a packet of proper English Muffins.  

English Muffin Update:  Something strange has happened.  As the muffins cooled they firmed up and became more muffin-like.  Andy has eaten three without butter or jam!  Maybe I won't be kicked out of the tent after all!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

How to Make Mud

Today I felt like spending some time in my 'Pottery'   Actually, it's the pottery/garage/garden shed/cat's summer house.  I confess, it isn't really a pottery but then I am not really at potter. 

But today I felt lucky.  I was sure I could just sit down a the wheel and whip out a really nice little pot.  The first one was a beauty and took no time to throw, then disaster struck. In haste and hubris, I destroyed the little pot taking it off the wheel.  Actually, I had the wheel spinning so fast the little pot flew across the room and crashed into the wall.  You real potters will know what I mean.  

My parents were great for confidence inspiring platitudes;  never give up, you can do ANYTHING if you put your mind to it, if at first you don't succeed, etc.  I am afraid I took what they said to heart and actually believe them, most of the time.   In that 'never admit defeat' spirit I threw another pot.  It was wonky.  I tried again and that one was even WORSE!   It was obvious that I wasn't going to create the perfect pot.

Undaunted, I turned my attention to recycling and reclaiming scraps of clay.  It was the task I should have been doing all along.  Surely, that's why I couldn't throw a proper pot.  

Ever the optimist, or perennial fool, I finished recycling the clay and tidied up my mess.  I was about to go to the kitchen and make some lunch when I was overwhelmed by the urge to sit down a the wheel and try one more time. Surely the Muses would favour me. I'd done the dirty work and would be rewarded for my efforts.

I wish I could tell you I made the most wonderful pot...a pot of perfection.. a masterpiece.  In truth, I made MUD!  Some days are like that.  No matter how many times you try again or how much you put your mind to it, you are going to end up with MUD!   But I wouldn't be surprised if I am not back out there trying again before the day is over because as we all know, you can never, ever give up!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Ide's Beautiful and Historic Cottages

After our large and delicious Sunday lunch at THE HUNTSMAN INN we decided to take a stroll through the charming village of Ide.   I tried to research the history of the village but could only find that it pre-dated the Doomsday Book.  There is a Roman hill fort nearby, so I assume there has been a settlement at Ide long before the Romans came to Britain. 

Today, Ide is a quiet village full of charming cottages.  This row of 17th century cottages is called 'The College'.   It's impossible to resist the urge to follow the path along the ford, so we took a wander down to see where it lead.

Along the way, we saw lots of lovely cottage gardens.   These baskets of apples were sitting on a garden wall, free for the taking!  In Devon, it's not unusual for cottagers to put out eggs, vegetables and home made jams for you to purchase.  There is always an 'HONESTY BOX' where you put your money. It's a system that seems to work very well.

Everywhere you look, there are interesting and individual houses.  No two are exactly alike.

Most of the cottages are beautifully traditional with slate or thatched roofs.

 This protective thatch roof over a doorway almost looks like a fat mushroom.

This cottage reminded me of the little French shops you see in Normandy with it's painted striped awning.  

Drake's Farm House sits majestically in the middle of the village.  It would appear that is was the finest house in Ide.  DRAKES FARM HOUSE is now a Bed and Breakfast. I'd love to spend a weekend there.  Grand as this big house is, there is one little cottage that steals the show!

Set in a perfect English garden, guarded by two giant topiary birds, sits a tiny cottage. It looks as if it should be in a story book.   You won't see it will take you by surprise...

The most perfect fairy tale cottage in all of Ide.... perhaps all of Devon!  

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Sunday Lunch at The Huntsman Inn

Andy and I just got home from having Sunday lunch at the Huntsman Inn at Ide.  

I have mixed feelings about sharing this delicious secret with you but it's too good to keep to myself.  I am afraid if everyone knows how good it is, there won't be any room for us to have Sunday lunch.

Ide is a tiny village at the edge of Exeter and the Huntsman is an ancient pub.

It's small and intimate and probably very much as it has always been since it first opened in the 16th century with one exception....

The food is brilliant!  Click HERE to see the Sunday Roast menu.  But be sure to book a table in advance or you will miss out.

And PLEASE don't tell anyone else about the Huntsman Inn.  It will be our delicious little secret. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Who Was There at Buckham Fair?

Yesterday, I told you about our day out at Buckham Fair.   Would you like to see who else was there enjoying the fair?

There were ponies giving rides to small children....

And dogs, as big as ponies...

Who pulled carts for small children to ride in.

 I saw some very elegant dogs...

And some handsome dogs, like this Airdale...

There were dogs with babies...

And baby dogs....

This dog brought his boy...

We all had a wonderful time at Buckham Fair.

For official Buckham Fair information visit their website:

Sunday, 18 August 2013

A Brilliant Day at Buckham Fair

Every August, Martin and Philippa Clunes invite the public to their beautiful Dorset farm and host  BUCKHAM FAIR  For one summer's day a verdant field becomes a fair ground and raises funds for a local charity.  This year Weldmar Hospice was the chosen charity.  

This is the fifth year of Buckham Fair. We have always wanted to attend but things just never worked out for us...until this year.   It was amazing! 

There is a Fun Fair with games, a fun house and lots of exciting rides...

And balloons!

There are artists and trade stalls, so many wonderful shopping opportunities.

And lots of lovely food. There are too many options to mention.  If you are old enough, you can wash it all down  with  the local tipple, beer from Piddle Brewery.  There is even an old fashioned Ice Cream Vendor.

And best of all, there are animals!   Horses and ponies for eventing...

Ferrets for racing...

And dogs.... beautiful dogs....everywhere!

There all sorts of events and activities for dogs and their owners including dog shows, obedience trials. and an agility course for all to enjoy.

And if you are very lucky, you might get to have your photograph taken with 'Doc Martin' 

Also known as Martin Clunes!  

Friday, 16 August 2013

Chocolate Madeleines and the Christmas Wish List

At our house we ALWAYS have afternoon tea. During the week it's usually just a cup of tea and a biscuit or a little bit of cake...but it's still tea and in the afternoon.  This means we need a regular and varied supply of tea cakes.  We enjoyed the  vanilla Bun Tin Madeleines so much I thought I'd try to make some chocolate Madeleines. 

I seem to be in Madeleine making mode right now.  I think it's because I am trying to justify purchasing a proper Madeleine tin.  If I had any self discipline, I'd put a Madeleine tin on my Christmas Wish List and hope I'd get one as a gift.  Is it too early to begin a Christmas Wish List?  

Madeleine purists are probably tearing out their hair right now.  Proper Madeleines are shell shaped and NOT chocolate.  Making tiny fairy cakes may be a step too far but I couldn't resist these very pretty blue paper cases. If you disregard those facts, this is a very traditional recipe:

Grease and flour a 12 hole bun tin, or place a pretty paper fairy cake case in each hole.  (If you have a Madeleine tin, you lucky baker, prepare it for the batter)  Preheat the oven to 190C/350F.


2 eggs - room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
125 grams icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
plain flour*l
125 grams butter - melted and cooled 

*Place 2 Tablespoons of cocoa onto the kitchen scales then add plain flour until you have 100 grams of cocoa and flour combined.  Sift the cocoa, flour and baking powder together and set aside for later.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed for 5 minutes.  Gradually beat in the icing sugar.  Beat for 5 -7 minutes more, until the mixture is thick and very smooth. 

Add the sifted dry ingredients a little at a time, gently folding to combine. Then fold in the melted butter.   

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin, bake for 10 - 12 minutes.  These are tiny cakes so watch them very closely so they do not over bake.  Let them cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing them from the tin to cool completely on a wire rack.  Decorate the little cakes anyway you like - with a dusting of icing sugar, a fondant butterfly or a drizzle of melted chocolate and serve with your favourite cup of tea.  These are a great treat to enjoy while you begin writing you Christmas Wish List.  

*Please note: My Christmas Wish Lists include gifts I wish to give other people.  It's like making a list for grocery shopping only better!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Pat's Decadent and Delicious Scones

My friend, Denise, is a tea expert.  She knows EVERYTHING about tea and all the accoutrements that go with it.  Take a look at her charming blog, TEA IN ENGLAND and you will understand what I mean.  Denise is a graduate of the UK Tea Council Tea Masterclass and has been designated as a London Destination Specialist by the Travel Institute.   So when she offered to share her favourite scone recipe with me I jumped at the chance! With Denise's Afternoon Tea expertise, I knew this was going to be a great recipe.  

This is a scone with an interesting past.  Denise got this recipe from her good friend, Pat, who ran a tearoom back in the United States.  Pat learned how to make these scones from her Scottish grandmother.  Now the recipe has made the trans-Atlantic voyage back to Britain.  Thanks to Pat and Denise, I am going to share it with you....

I called these Pat's Decadent and Delicious Scones because of one special ingredient in the recipe,  HEAVY CREAM, the kind you can whip!  So if you are ready to whip up a batch of decadent, deliciousness I'll share the recipe with you.  This is exactly how Pat wrote the recipe when she shared it with Denise:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons sugar
4 ounces cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 to 1 cup heavy whipping cream (double cream)

Optional Ingredients:
1/2 to 1 cup dried fruit/nuts

Pat says:

I use a food processor and put the first four ingredients in and pulse a couple of times to mix them together.  Then I add the butter pieces and pulse a few times to work them in.  If I am adding any zest, I put that in before the butter.

I then dump that into a ceramic bowl, that is cold.  If I am adding things like nuts, raisins or other dried fruits I add those next, so they are coated with the flour mixture. I then add the cream to which I have added the vanilla and mixed. 

Pour MOST of the cream into the flour mixture and start mixing it in with a wooden spoon.  This is the tricky part that is hard to explain.  Add more of the cream until the dough comes together.  This is where you will have to switch to your hands.  In pretty much one big blob, put it on a lightly (flour) dusted surface.  I usually work the dough in 2 pieces.  Pat it out with your hands into a 1/2 inch thick round and cut into triangles or 2 inch circles.   If I am cutting circles I do all the dough at once and then work the scraps together and re-cut.  If I am doing triangles I do two rounds.  

Before baking: Place the scones on a baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart and place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.  

Preheat the oven to 425F/ 220C.  Bake for 13-15 minutes.  Ovens vary so the time will also vary.  

Optional but suggested: brush tops of scones before baking with an egg wash or cream.

Reading Pat's recipe is like baking with a friend, comfortable and easy to understand.  I must confess, I didn't use a food processor but my trusty pastry making tool.  When forming the scones I left the dough a bit thicker than Pat suggested, more like 3/4 to 1 inch thick.  These were the lightest, fluffiest scones I've ever made!

Thank you Denise and Pat for sharing the recipe for these delicious, decadent and delectable scones.  From now on they are going to be served regularly at our afternoon tea.