I have made flapjacks before but they have never been quite right - I like them chewy and not too soft, just like the ones we had fresh from the Aga on cold winter days when we were children. Actually the way my aunt cooked them meant you practically had to chip them out of the tin with a chisel, but they were still very very good.
I decided to keep mine simple and try to get the consistency just right before I start adding all manner of extra ingredients as is my way, and since Mary served me so well with the gingernuts I thought I would give her another try. Well they were just perfect, hurrah! I really couldn't fault them. Chewy and golden and full of warm fuzzies. This book is fast becoming my very favourite thing.
So this weekend I chose to continue my baking education with vanilla cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe book. I have made vanilla cupcakes many many times and they are pretty much the simplest things you can possibly bake (besides a potato), but this recipe looked a little different and the Hummingbird Bakery has become quite an institution so I thought I'd give it a go and see what all the fuss was about. Well...
It was a nightmare! For some bizarre reason the recipe said to mix the butter and flour together first...for the life of me I can't understand why anybody would want to do this as it just ends up lumpy and you really need the gritty texture of the sugar to get the butter to mix in properly, but I had vowed to follow the recipe to the letter so I suspended my doubts and went ahead. The result: lumps. Lots and lots of lumps. And it just got worse as I went along. The batter that the book said should make 12 cupcakes only spread far enough to make five at a push (I triple-checked all the measurements and sizes but no joy) and it looked so horrid and runny and lumpy that I didn't even get the nice warm fuzzy joy I normally get from baking. Maybe it's just me but I just can't understand how they managed to make something so simple seem so complicated. I didn't have this problem with Mary or Nigella!
And when it came to the method for making frosting it was more of the same...I got halfway through and couldn't get rid of the lumps so reverted to my old standby of using a fork and quite a bit of elbow grease and I thankfully managed to salvage things quite nicely.
By some miracle the cakes were actually not too bad in the end, though they were much heavier than I would normally make them. Edible, but certainly not mind blowing. To top it all off though I had intended to make the icing a nice pale salmon-pink colour but by the time I had messed about with the rest of the recipe I had no patience left to add the food colouring carefully into the mixture drop by drop and thought I would just gently tip the bottle up instead, which as usual was a mistake and I ended up with a shade rather closer to raw salmon!
Despite all that though they still look quite cute and I can't quite bring myself to give up on the Hummingbird book just yet. Everything looks so yummy and is so beautifully photographed I still want to try more. But I think I am probably going to take less notice of their methods and use my own common sense to put the ingredients together. Who knows, after a bit of a re-jig I may even be tempted to give the vanilla cupcakes one more try...maybe.
The snow may be melting here but it is still mighty cold outside. At home I am constantly surrounded by three hot water bottles to keep warm and snug but I fear it would look rather odd to strap them to myself outside of the house. And so I knitted myself a super-scarf.
It is the warmest, longest, cuddliest scarf I have ever encountered and it is the perfect thing to act as a buffer against the vicious winter winds that attack me each and every time I step outside. Don't get me wrong, I love winter, but in my opinion one of the very best things about the season is the snuggling opportunities it brings, and my super-scarf is the perfect snuggling-companion for when I am out, and indeed, about.
Whilst I am rather proud of this scarf it would be wrong of me to imply that I am some sort of knitting genius...I can in fact only knit things that are flat, rectangular and of a single colour. I deeply admire people that can knit more taxing things but I simply don't have the patience or the inclination to do them justice. But merrily knitting a long, long, long chunky scarf is one of the most satisfying things in the world.
It is actually far longer than I intended because I just didn't want to stop knitting. And talking about it is making me want to make another one immediately! But I must get on with my stitching...I will soon have something new to show you.
If you visit me here often you will know that I am rather partial to the gentle art of baking. That said, what I do falls quite outside the realms of art and is more of a slap-dash, throw-it-all-in-and-see-how-it-turns-out sort of a thing. And so I have decided that 2010 is the year I am going to learn to do things properly. Ish. Cue the masters:
Armed with a fresh pile of scrumptious recipe books, yesterday was the first day I was lucky enough to find myself at home with an hour or two to spare and so I thought I would begin my education with the simple gingernut biscuit, courtesy of Mary Berry's Baking Bible. I almost completely stuck to the recipe (almost...). I just substituted a mix of golden caster sugar and dark muscovado in the absence of demerara, and cooked them for an extra 7 minutes to make sure they were as dark and hard and crunchy as traditional gingernuts - i.e. hard enough to rival Hagrid's rock buns with their tooth-shattering crunchiness.
As you can see they really don't look too shabby. I was a Mary Berry virgin but her recipe was such a success I cannot wait to try more. The biscuits were so good my mum did not believe I had made them at all and was convinced I was trying to trick her with gingernuts from a shop! A resounding yum was heard. Let's hope whatever I try next turns out as well...don't worry though - as soon as I have taught myself to bake properly I will happily get back to making up recipes and sharing them with you all in the knowledge they will have a firmer basis to them than pure whimsy and luck!
Having just about recovered from a lovely Christmas filled with family and snow and lots of scrumptious food I cannot wait to get started on 2010. I have rather a lot of plans for this year and if even half of them happen I will be very happy.
Before all that though I just wanted to show you the gifts I made for my two little sisters: Cassia (above right) and Jasmine (above left). Cassia and I are very alike as you can see! Mini as they are they took forever to stitch...but worth every minute.
Oh, and lest I forget I would just like to thank Jamie, aka Mr X Stitch, for mentioning me here. Thanks Jamie!