Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gigantic birthday cakes...

I think this is the longest break I've ever taken from writing. There's no excuse and no reason, it's just sort of happened!
We are super busy right now. Our Wee Farm is up for sale. It went on the market 2 weeks ago. So far we've only had one viewing. It's just a waiting game - a waiting game where I feel that everything has to be immaculate all the time!

We had a long holiday in Rarotonga in September. It was absolutely wonderful, despite being incredibly sick for a few days near the beginning.


Here's a few holiday pics...

We spent hours in the water.



Hours on the beach...





and on the last day got a tattoo...


Last week it was Lloyd's birthday. We were invited over to NandS for a wee party with a few other friends. I made a birthday cake. Lloyd's only stipulation was could it please be an orange cake. So I ended up making the biggest orange cake in existence.

Here it is! It's always a bit nerve racking when you make a big cake like this, because you don't really get to taste it before!

I made TWO Sicilian Orange cakes ( so double these ingredients)


Ingredients
250 g lightly salted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
250 g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1 1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest
250 g self raising flour (i used plain flour and add 1 tsp of baking powder) 
85 ml freshly squeezed orange juice


Method
Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line a 22-cm clip-sided round cake with non-stick baking paper.

Using the kitchen aid, cream the butter and sugar together for 4-5 minutes until very pale. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating very well between each one, if necessary adding a spoonful of flour with the last egg to prevent the mixture from curdling. Beat in the orange zest. Add the flour all at once and mix in well, then slowly mix in the orange juice.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean. If it starts to brown too quickly, cover loosely with a sheet of lightly buttered foil.

Leave the cake, in its tin, to cool on a wire rack, then carefully remove the sides and base of the tin and peel off the paper. Put it onto a serving plate.

I used a lot more orange zest - than the recipe cos we wanted it really orangy.  I mixed up a batch of buttercream ( adding in a little orange oil) then I put some marmalade and a bit of buttercream in the middle of the 2 cakes to form the sandwich. Then I covered the whole ( huge) cake in a thin layer of buttercream to seal it and keep it from getting crumbs in the main buttercream topping. I let this chill for a wee while then set to work covering the cake in buttercream roses. I only got half of one layer done when I ran out of buttercream. I ended up having to make 3 batches. There was almost a kilo of buttercream on the cake!!!

After that I decorated it with hand made fondant flowers.  Not totally manly, but very spring like!

I have to say, it was the most lovely, moist cake ever, so this is a recipe I will definitely use again.

A birthday snap - and see how huge the cake is!


We were also lucky enough to be invited to the World of Wearable Art down in Wellington, buy Lloyd's work. It was mind blowingly good and we loved every second of it. 

This is a fraction of what we've been up to!

Oh and if anyone wants a nosey, here's the link to the advert for the wee farm...


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Brioche

Lloyd and I like brioche. Well, actually, it would be fair to say, I love it. I've never once seen it to buy up here so that means we never have it. In Glasgow we used to have it with home made chicken liver pate.

A couple of days ago we were watching Dean Brettschneider's baking programme and he made some Pain aux raisin. I reckoned I should turn my hand to giving brioche a go. So I used Paul Hollywood's recipe cos he is the bread god as far as I'm concerned. 

It's not difficult - just follow the steps.

Ingredients
- 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 7g salt
- 50g caster sugar
- 10g instant yeast
- 140ml warm full-fat milk
- 5 medium eggs
- 250g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

Method
1. Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the milk and eggs and mix on a slow speed for 2 minutes, then on a medium speed for a further 6 – 8 minutes, until you have a soft, glossy, elastic dough. Add the softened butter and continue to mix for a further 4 – 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl periodically to ensure that the butter is thoroughly incorporated. The dough will be very soft.
2. Tip the dough into a plastic bowl, ( I only had a china one) cover and chill overnight or for at least 7 hours, until it is firmed up and you are able to shape it.
3. Grease a 25cm round deep cake tin.
4. Take your brioche dough from the fridge. Tip it onto a lightly floured surface and fold it on itself a few times to knock out the air. Divide it into 9 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball by placing it into a cage formed by your hand and the table and moving your hand around in a circular motion, rotating the ball rapidly. Put the 8 balls of dough around the outside of the tin and the final one in the middle.
5. Cover with the clean plastic bag and leave to prove for 2 – 3 hours, or until the dough has risen to just above the rim of the tin.
6. Heat your oven to 190°C.
7. When your brioche is proved, bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Bear in mind that the sugar and butter in the dough will make it take on colour before it is actually fully baked. Remove the brioche from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.  *I found that the top of mine was going to go too brown for my taste, but the loaf wasn't properly cooked, so I put some tinfoil over the top to stop it from browning too much*
My biggest problem was where to prove the loaf. It's the middle of winter here, we don't have central heating and today the house is freezing After about 2 hours nothing much had happened. Then I had a brainwave - prove the bread in the greenhouse! Man, that worked a treat. 


While it was baking the house smelled amazing. 

voila!



So tonight we are having home made chicken liver pate, on brioche for perhaps the first time since we moved to New Zealand.




Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I have got some MAJOR news.

Lloyd and I have bought a new house!

It's still in this area, but it's over by the sea. It's got a very small actual garden, but has some lovely native bush with a bush walk right down to the water, with amazing views over the Bay.



We have plans for it - well, it wouldn't be us if we didn't!
It's a totally different style to Darroch Cottage. It's more modern and open plan with a lot of glass. It's not huge, though, so we will extend it a bit. New flooring, kitchen changes, bathroom cosmetics! bigger deck, fence the garden so that the dogs are safe and secure ( not that they are ever out without us anyway!). I'll probably put in a greenhouse - still want to grow our veggies! 

However, Our Wee Farm isn't even on the market yet, we're just not quite ready, so the actual move to the coast is quite a bit away. 

It's hard to explain why we want to move. I suppose it's a whole lot of different things. We want to travel more, or at least not have the ties, so that it's easier to get away when we want to. At the moment it's a huge feat of organisation to even go away for a long weekend! I know that in the not too distant future I'll tire of the vast amount of work keeping a farm and a huge garden under control and looking like I want it to look, in the sub tropics, where there is no rest season!  I want to leave loving this place. 

We've arrived here almost 10 years ago knowing nothing about having a garden, let alone running a small farm and we managed to create a beautiful place, but soon it'll be time for a change. We want to be near the water. 
We want to be closer to our friends. We spend a lot of time with each other so it will be lovely to be within walking distance rather than over an hour round trip in the car. Lloyd only has a couple of years left on his contract, and even though he'll most likely stay, he has ideas of what he'd like to do and this may involve a bit of travelling around the country. I'm all for this, but it's impossible if we live on a farm!

I know when the time comes for the move, and the day I drive down the drive for the last time my heart will break a little. And I know that I will never want to even drive past this lovely place and it not be ours.
I will miss our wonderful neighbours.

But for now, and perhaps the next year (or more!) this is still our wee piece of paradise and we will love it as we have done for the last ten years. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Scrummy Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache




I've made these a few times now and they really are delicious if you like chocolate. I'm not a huge fan, but Lloyd likes it.
I have to say, though, I think these are pretty nice.

This recipe  makes 24. I half it and make 12. Also recipe states 3/4 fill cases. I only half fill them as they really expand.

Ingredients
65 g unsweetened cocoa powder
190 g flour
 300 g sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
180 ml warm water
 180 ml buttermilk  (If you don't have buttermilk, get the amount you need in ordinary milk and add lemon juice. Leave for about 10 minutes)
3 Tbls sunflower oil (I used olive oil)
1 tsp vanilla

Instructions
Preheat oven to 175C. Line 2 cupcake tins with liners and set aside. 

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to ensure batter is well mixed.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen. 





Simple Chocolate Ganache
170 g Good quality chocolate, shaved or chopped into small pieces
160 ml cream
1 tsp corn syrup ( I used golden syrup)

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup on the stove until simmering, then pour over the chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes and stir gently to combine. 

Assembly

Spoon warm ganache over cooled cupcakes and top with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios and royal icing roses, if desired. And yes, I made the roses!






Sunday, July 13, 2014

major storms, flooding and general mayhem!

We have just come out the other side of 4 days of complete chaos as regards the weather. Northland does get wet and we have a lot of flooding, but usually the severest of weather is over in a day, so it's not a long term thing. But this time we had around 4 days of the worst weather we have ever had in the 10 years we've lived here. In the two main days of rain almost half a metre fell - yep - over our wee area we had 450mm of rain. This is off the scale! The was paired with hurricane force gusts of wind. Lloyd seriously thought all the windows in our wee cottage were going to blow in at one point.

This is what we've just been through. If you can see the outline of NZ's north island we are in the reddest bit with the lines almost touching!


Now that it's over and we have wandered around it's amazing how little damage we've suffered. There are a few trees down and absolutely everything is waterlogged. The driveway down to The Acorn is trashed, there's mud everywhere, and we had no power for all of 6 hours, but it's tiny in comparison to what others are going through. Some were without power for 3 days, lots have been evacuated from their homes because of flooding. Roads have literally disappeared because of landslips. State Highway 1, pretty much our only way south had large areas of it underwater. It will be ages until it's repaired.

The weather is an amazing thing.

During the storm - this was how we roll during a power cut! If the electricity does go off we have no water either as it's all done by a pump.

Lloyd cooking dinner with a headtorch on! Over our wood range.


Our ponytail palm lost his head!

Trees down all over the place!



 I took these yesterday, once the rain had stopped,  on our drive from home into Kerikeri. It was early morning and the mist was just burning off, it turned into a beautiful day. ( there is a difference between iphone pics and good camera pics!!)



All the reflections are in flood water. There are farms underneath.



We had to drive through this to get into town, but we had the trusty old jeep.


We saw the farmer inspecting this, and he waved and smiled - still smiling!







Now, I didn't take the following photos and it's proving impossible for me to find who did to credit them, but here are some photos of what it looks like. It should also be pointed out that these roads aren't back roads - this is State Highway 1! Our main road to basically anywhere!








The emergency services, electricity linesmen/women, ordinary folk...pretty much everyone has been amazing. Let the clean up begin!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Garden Share Collective - July

I can take an ok photograph, but I most certainly cannot do a video!
I wanted to do a quick film of the garden cos there's really nothing happening just now, but it was raining, and I don't really know how to work the video part of my camera.
The result is this.
Possibly the worst video in the world.

Hope it gives you a laugh, if nothing else!




please look at the much better Garden Shares for this month! All the links!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lemon Curd then Lemon Roulade

Lloyd and I were down in Auckland this weekend. Him to do some paragliding with Simon and then meeting me so that we could all go and see Jane Goodall speak.  What in inspiration she is.

Lloyd had gone down a few days earlier than me, I aminal sat, then took the bus down on Monday. He'd had a wee bit of time to kill before my bus arrived, so he got his car cleaned and also bought me a surprise. I have been lusting after these for about a year...

Yes, a huge glass mixing bowl and a beater that will scrape down the sides of the bowl. He is the best husband.


I thought I'd use them for the first time today. I'm going to make a Lemon Roulade. Last time I made one of these I was in a rush and bought some lemon curd for the filling. What a mistake that was. I bought a very good, expensive brand, but it just tasted so fake and wrong. Today I won't make that mistake, so I started off by making lemon curd. Then I realised that I've never posted the recipe I use. So I'm going to rectify that now.

Lemon Curd
Ingredients
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely grated, loosely packed lemon zest (from about 5 to 6 medium lemons)
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 85g unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, at room temperature


Instructions

Fill a medium saucepan with 1 to 2 inches of water and bring it to a simmer over high heat; reduce the heat to low and keep the water at a bare simmer.

Place all of the ingredients except the butter in a large heatproof bowl and whisk to combine. Set the bowl over, but not touching, the simmering water and whisk constantly until the yolks thicken and the mixture forms ribbons when the whisk is lifted from the bowl, about 20 minutes. This happens a lot faster for some people so just let it cook for the time that works for you

Remove the bowl from the simmering water; whisk in the butter one piece at a time, waiting until each piece is completely melted and incorporated before adding another.  

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Strain the curd, pressing on the solids and scraping the extra curd clinging to the underside of the strainer into the bowl; discard the solids left in the strainer.


Then put into a sterilised jar and bung in the fridge. 
The result is a very lemony, very smooth lemon curd.


Next!

Lemon Roulade
Ingredients
1 teaspoon cornflour
1    "          vanilla extract
1    "          white wine vinegar
4 egg whites
150g caster sugar
75g ground almonds
40g flaked almonds

For the filling
300g of lemon curd ( that you've just made, of course!) 
175ml cream

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 150c fan, 170c non fan. Line a 24cmx34cm (or thereabouts) baking tray with baking paper.

Whisk egg whites until they form stiff peaks
Gradually add the sugar and whisk well between each addition
Then gently fold in the cornflour and add the white wine vinegar and vanilla extract.  Fold in the ground almonds then gently spread the meringue onto the lined tray and sprinkle with flaked almonds.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. It should be pale golden and slightly springy to touch. Remove from oven and let cool.

Slightly more silky now that the sugar has been added


Adding the ground almonds


Folding them in, gently

Smoothed out meringue topped with almonds


Whip the cream.

Then remove the meringue from  the baking tray. To do this place a clean tea towel on the work surface then tip the meringue out - almond side down, and peel away the baking paper.

Spread the lemon curd, then cream onto the meringue, then roll it towards you to form a roll.


The baked meringue


Home made lemon curd spread all over it. 


Next - the cream!

All rolled up - this is simple if you remember to use a tea towel and roll it up towards you. 


YUM