Monday 31 October 2016

I carved a pumpkin!

I'm not really one for Halloween, but last week my son requested that we carve a pumpkin, so I thought we'd give it a go. Last Monday we picked up our pumpkin, purchased from a house round the corner from us that always has a stack of pumpkins at Halloween, and finally got round to carving it on Saturday.

As this was my first go at carving a pumpkin, I decided it would be wise to watch a couple of videos on how to clean out a pumpkin, and quickly realised it wasn't going to be as hard as I thought it might be - just cut the top off, scoop out the gunky bits and give the inside a bit of a skim with a spoon or ice cream scoop. My son was fascinated by the insides, but didn't want to touch them, so I did most of it myself while the kids pulled faces.

Fortunately my son's decoration requests were simple: a spiky mouth and some triangle eyes. We managed both with a small sharp kitchen knife, then stepped back to admire our handy work. 'Now it needs a candle Mum.' Yes it did, but I hadn't made the hole in the top big enough to get a candle in and light it without injuring myself, so we quickly whizzed to the shops to pick up some battery powered LED tealights, much easier!

And here is our pumpkin, and it's not bad for a first attempt.

We also roasted the seeds with sunflower oil, paprika and a bit of salt. They taste a little like popcorn, and it felt good not to waste them, although if I do them again I might use cinnamon and sugar to flavour them, I much prefer sweet snacks.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Bake Day Wednesday 2016: Week 10: Final week

This evening is the final of Bake Off, and I'm looking forward to it! I've been feeling a bit off colour today, so any plans of baking have been put aside and instead I'm going to review what I've baked over the course of Bake Off this year.

This year's Bake Day Wednesday bakes
My favourite bake was the Chocolate Mousse Cake I baked for Dessert Week. It turns out that desserts aren't as faffy as I remembered, so long as you remember to make them the day before you want to eat them, or first thing in the morning.

My sausage rolls for Pastry Week told me that I need a lot more pastry practise (or to buy puff pastry from the supermarket). I usually make sausage rolls for Christmas Eve, so they recipe may get revisited then.

The choux buns I made for Patisserie Week were delicious and great fun to make. They're definitely going on the must-bake-for-a-special occasion list.

My least successful bake was the marble cake in Cake Week. The glaze was awful (I'd blocked it from my mind before looking up the photos for this post!), so maybe I need a little more practise at icing!

What were your favourite and least favourite bakes and episodes from this year?

P.S. Andrew to win!

Friday 21 October 2016

Bake Day Wednesday 2016: Week 9: Patisserie week

Phew, the past couple of weeks have been busy and I am a little behind on baking (yes, I know I skipped Week 8, this will be rectified over half term next week), but I managed to bake something for patisserie week (and on a Wednesday!): choux buns.

I don't tend to make patisserie as it requires several stages of chilling, which doesn't work in a house where the inhabitants think food should be eaten the second it leaves the oven, but I decided that I would give it a go this week. I browsed a couple of my favourite baking books (Gorgeous Cakes and Great British Bake Off: Big Book of Baking), before deciding that I would make eclairs. I have made choux pastry before, once, over 20 years ago (about the same time I made puff pastry at school), so had pretty much no idea what to do, apart from what I had picked up from watching various baking programmes. Choux pastry is apparently not all that hard, but does require constant attention - lots of carefully melting, vigorous beating (very vigorous - it looks awful when you first start to beat the eggs in!), two oven temperatures, and piercing the pastry near the end of the cooking time to release the steam - so I was pretty surprised that it turned out ok, and the buns didn't collapse when I took them out of the oven (they became buns rather the eclairs as it took longer than I'd planned to make the dough, so dolloping the mixture on the tray was the only option I had time for)!

The buns are pretty much hollow, so it didn't take too long for them to fully cool, ready to be filled with cream and coated with chocolate, both of which were easy compared to making the dough, and the buns were ready in time for pudding on Wednesday evening, just before Bake Off. The buns went down well with my family, with everyone enjoying them, but they did feel pretty decadent for an everyday bake, so if I make these again they'll be baked for a special occasion.

Next week is the final of Bake Off, and I'm really looking forward to it. I've enjoyed this series more than the past couple; the bakes have been simpler and I've managed to pick up the odd tip along the way. I really want Andrew to win, and I think it'll be either him or Candice. I'm less excited about the programme moving to Channel 4 next year, and this might be the final series that I watch as I think it's Mary, Mel and Sue that make the programme, and whatever happens it's not going to be the same. There might be some amazing combination of presenters that I haven't thought up that would work as well or better, but I can't think of any, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

My new website!

After several weeks of pondering the issue, this weekend I finally decided to move all my knitting content over to a new site: There I'll be posting all the information about pattern launches as I have been here, but I'll also be adding lots of new content including reviews, tips and tricks, tutorials and interviews. I hope you all enjoy the new site.

And here, might become a little quieter, but will be focused on baking, (which makes much more sense given its title!), and anything else I fancy posting about that is non-knitting related.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Bake Day Wednesday: Week 7: Dessert week

So last week on Bake Off it was Dessert Week, and I decided that I would postpone baking a dessert until I'd seen the show as I needed some inspiration. I don't often cook desserts (I make puddings, which are much less refined, far more frequently), so wasn't sure what I fancied. I really liked the look of the mousse cakes that the contestants made, and I don't think I've made mousse before, so that seemed like enough of a challenge. I searched through a couple of recipe books and decided to make the chocolate and raspberry cream pie from Gorgeous Cakes by Annie Bell (my favourite cake book, all the recipes work really well; the lemon drizzle cake is the best I've tasted).

I went to the supermarket on Friday and picked up the ingredients, then life started getting in the way. By the time I had emptied and painted my daughter's bedroom and nursed my poorly son, it was Monday... Undeterred, I set about making my rather belated Bake Day Wednesday bake. The base was easy: chocolate digestives and melted butter, all left to set in the fridge for a bit. And the mousse was surprisingly simple - melt the chocolate, beat in egg yolks, then whisk up the egg whites to peaks and fold them in carefully. There's also a layer of dulce de leche in there for extra decadence. This is a recipe to prepare ahead (as with most desserts, another reason I rarely make them), so we finally got to eat it for pudding on Monday evening (after it had been decorated with raspberries) and it was good. Squidgy, chocolatey and delicious. I'll definitely make it again, although my husband has requested that I leave out the dulce de leche as neither of us felt that it added anything, and it needs more raspberries as a contrast to all the richness, but very much a success!

I'm not going to be baking today, Tudor Week definitely requires quite a lot of additional inspiration (and probably quite a lot of research), so I'll be back with more baking in a few days. Hope you're all having a good day.

Friday 7 October 2016

Yarndale 2016

A couple of weekends ago my friend Amy and I had a lovely day out at Yarndale. Yarndale is, as the name suggests, a festival of yarn in the Yorkshire Dales (Skipton Auction Mart, to be precise) and is now in its fourth year. As Amy and I live at opposite ends of the country, we decided to make a weekend of it, and stayed in an AirBnB apartment in York. It was the first time either of us had found accommodation using AirBnB and, based on this experience, would recommend it.

On Saturday morning, we drove from York to Skipton, only getting lost a couple of times (for the satnav to be useful, you actually have to follow the instructions it gives you). We parked at the Park and Ride car park, which was already pretty busy when we got there a little after 10. As the queue for the bus was long, we decided to walk (via a supermarket to pick up some sandwiches for lunch; there is catering at Yarndale, but it's limited and we didn't fancy queuing). As previously established, I am not the best at navigating, so I let Amy find the way from the centre of Skipton to the Auction Mart, and we stumbled across the Yarn Walk, which used crocheted decorations to point us in the right direction. The walk through the park was lovely, and I really like some of the yarnbombing (it certainly helped us find our way!).

Yarndale yarn walk yarn bombing

Entry into the show was quick and easy - we'd pre-booked tickets, but they could be bought on the door, and were given our wrist bands and allowed to enter in a matter of minutes.

The exhbition hall is, in fact, a sheep market, with the stalls in pens. The gangways between the stalls were fairly wide, which was good as there were a lot of people! Amy and I happily wandered about the stalls stroking yarn and admiring many project bags. I had a very specific list of things I wanted to buy (you can't let me lose at a yarn event with no clear direction on what I want to purchase, or I will buy all the things), which did stop me spending too much time admiring things I definitely wasn't going to purchase. In the morning a lot of the stalls were rather crowded, which did make it a little hard to see things, but most people were polite, so the busy-ness wasn't unpleasant, and so long as you were patient you could see everything.

While I wandered round I took photos of a few things that caught my eye: I loved Sparkleduck's stall, where the mini skeins were called Ducklings, and there were many giant rubber ducks modelling scarves and shawls. Cuddlebums' stall was a riot of rainbows, all beautiful (her yarn was on my list, so I am now the proud owner of a skein of jade rainbow 4-ply yarn, which may become a scarf, it is too beautiful for socks). Sincerely Louise (and Amy, who has created several animal heads, and most of a tiger rug) almost convinced me to buy a unicorn head, but at this point I don't really have anywhere to display it, boo. I might still relent and buy a reindeer head via Etsy though as there is always more space for Christmas decorations!

A duck with a shawl! I loved everything about Sparkleduck's stall
Gorgeous rainbows from Cuddlebums
This one came home with me
Sincerely Louise's unicorn. Who doesn't want a mythical friend?
My purchases were pretty restrained: one skein from Cuddlenbums, a stripey grey and purple skein from Rosie's Moments, a printed fat quarter from the Knitting Goddess (which I will make into a project bag), a souvenir mini skein from Devon Sun Yarns (which will be added to my sock yarn blanket), a birthday card for my mum, some more 4 mm needle tips (I own a set already, but always have two projects on the go using them, and swapping the tips out is annoying), and that's it.

My lovely purchases

I haven't decided if I'll go to Yarndale again next year. It's great fun, but it's far too easy to spend lots of money, and I was really tired by the end of the day from all the walking (and driving!). If you get the chance, go!

One final Yarndale essential: a hot chocolate, some cake and a sit down!

Thursday 29 September 2016

Errata: Barley Twist cardigan

Barley Twist baby cardigan
There is an error in the version of this pattern that appears in Knit Now Issue 65.

At the end of the yoke instructions, Rows 1 and 2 should be worked 8 times in total, not 8 more times after the first repeat. This will give you 144 sts and the sleeve separation row will work correctly.

If you find errors in any of my patterns, please email me and I will do my best to rectify the error.