Friday, 25 October 2013

Cupcake Commissions

Justice has been done... Frances won the Great British Bake Off! I personally reckon they only went on about her producing things with "style over substance" to keep the others 'in the game'. She's has insanely good taste (including the same casio watch as me!) Ha!

Just wish I had a baking repertoire to match hers....; one day!
Sticking with what I know well, I had 2 baking requests last month.
Firstly, alien cakes for Monty's 4th "Outer Space" themed party:-

They were a bit fiddly (and I had help from Bella and Scanners) so dread to think how long 30 of these would've taken otherwise!
In my frenzied baking there was someone who wasn't taking it quite as seriously though!

Not a great deal to say about the alien cakes really; I quite liked them; I wouldn't want to eat one though to be honest. The ears and antennae were made from:-

cut out with a teardrop shaped cutter, kindly loaned to me by Georgina and texture applied with a "leaf veining tool". Then the eyes were made from white royal icing too and black detail applied with a dr Oetker icing pen. The frosting was the basic buttercream from the original hummingbird book, tinted with a green wilton food gel but the cakes themselves were a new one for me that I randomly found, and I liked them a lot! 

And I had next to no time to get M a card so I made one and utilised the free stickers that came with "The dinosaur that pooped a planet" book that I bought for the school library...

And then came the cakes for Dave's parents' 50th wedding anniversary party...
And I made a few of these as an experiment as it had been a long time since I'd made them for Kelly's wedding. 

I needn't have worried though and they came out perfectly once again, my only difference being that I used the corn oil that Dave gave me after the last supper club. Apparently, it's one that counts as a "flavourless" oil.

Here are the full instructions for these lovely cupcakes:-

Also keen to point out that Frances used this pineapple idea for her showstopper wedding cake in the final. I'll stop hero-worshipping soon (probably).

And Dave liked the design and it fitted his brief of NO BLING perfectly, but then he went and ordered edible rice paper heads of his parents. So I just ate these:-

Plan B didn't happen either though as the heads didn't arrive so I regretted eating my pineapple flowers and rushed to TESCOs for some emergency embellishments....

For the cakes with the raspberry jam filling I used raspberries and mint...

and dried pineapple, coconut and a pecan to tie in with the flavours in the hummingbird cakes. 

And they were boxed and ready to go as soon as he knocked the door leaving us an extra 5 minutes to worry about where to buy balloons and which suit he should wear!

And I was just about to launch into cheesecakes galore but I think that'll keep for a few days,
 plus I have baking to do (what a surprise!)

Jo :)

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The cool kids are drinking Campari (and his cousins!)

Drinks from the Italian Campari group are having a huge resurgence; I'm noticing it everywhere!
No self-respecting drinks list in Barcelona didn't feature an Aperol Spritzer. It was only right to see what all the fuss was about...

It's bitter, it looks like lucozade but it's strangely addictive and once you adjust to how unusual it is... Wow! At 11% strength (half that of Campari) it's one of the weaker liqueurs out there...

When I introduced Annabel to it the other day she said "it reminds me of Irn Bru" - I'm not sure I totally go along with that, but in any case, the problem being??? I love Irn Bru too, when I visited Liz in Fife we took a detour to have this:-

Irn Bru flavoured ice cream; oh yes! It's weird but so good!

So I bought myself a bottle of Aperol, this stuff is easy to get your hands on and it only took a trip to Sainsburys. This guardian article explains how you can make yourself an Aperol spritz in the comfort of your own home...

I'm not sure why he felt the need to keep saying "optional gin" - that would appear to me too much like a "negroni" (a massively alcoholic concoction that seems, sorry to be sexist, more of a "manly drink"). I "got through" my experiment of drinking this, feeling more than a bit guilty for not realising all it's constituent alcoholic parts on James's round.

As well as this, David has "helpfully" got me into this:-

Now owned by the Campari group too, this is a liqueur made from... artichokes. Being the determined person that he is, Dave tracked down the only place in Bristol to sell it (Aqua) but even they didn't have it last weekend. I checked with the dumbfounded barman who was trying to push "a new kind of mojito" onto us. He looked straight back at me with poppy eyes repeating "A liqueur made from artichokes?" which was promptly followed by "but why would you want that?" I'd have been inclined to agree if I hadn't tasted Dave's "Cynar (pronounced Chin-arrr") on the rocks, previously. It was the obvious choice of birthday gift for Dave last week and Scanners and I treated him to a bottle. I did, however, have to order it online. My 'googling' has taught me it's popular in Switzerland and often mixed with orange juice, and regarded as a 'digestif' as well as an 'aperetif' because of it's artichoke component. Give it a go...

And finally, there's this:-

 And, just as my obsession with these beverages with hitting it's peak, there it was... a recipe for Campari and Cantaloupe lolipops by Shutterbean (one of my favourite food bloggers). So I made them at the "Karen-van". Alcoholic ice lollies; it's what school summer holidays {for over 18's} are made of!
I am not going to beat the photography of Tracy Shutterbean; I'm not even gonna try, but if this idea floats your boat here you go...

I have a confession, these drinks are not my only obsession at the moment.
There's also this:-

Yeah, I know; don't judge me; I didn't murder anyone!

And I haven't gone this far (yet;)

Oh, and there's also this:-

It's had a lot of bad press lately but I used it loads on my 3 Spanish city breaks and I'm on a "reviewing frenzy" at the moment posting my humble opinion. I used to get offered quite a few Mystery Customer assignments with a company I found a few years ago but I think tripadvisor has filled that gap now.

Anyway, 'necessity is the mother of invention' as they say, and with Spain's crumbling economy Barcelona got creative...!

The first clandestine eatery I read about was this:-

Yep, a drycleaners...

Except it's not; 'Tintoria Dontell' means "Don't tell" and it's a pretend shop front that you walk into and then they mock finger print you and lead you down a long corridor lined with white leather sofas until you get to this completely over-the-top secret supper club...

How ridiculously cool is that!

We also read about a few other smaller affairs that were "pop-ups" hosted in all manner of places but a permanent fixture is this "prohibition style, Bugsy Malone-esque" supper club; "Speakeasy",
that's "secretly" accessed by walking through the kitchen of "Martinis".

This place plays homage to "all things martini" with hundreds of different cocktails. I think it's probably top of my list of places to go next time.

Although my envy was shortlived as I remembered the uber-cool, clandestine, "Milk thistle" Bristol has that "does 1920s glam" like nowhere else I've ever seen...! I love it (but go on payday!)

And so back to Barcelona... not to be missed, housed in MNAC (Museu Nacional de Catalunya)
{The national art museum} is the multiple award winning "Oleum" restaurant

The views were breathtaking...

You earn them a bit though at 'Oleum' as you trek on up to this museum via a pile of steps interspersed with outdoor escalators, and if you eat here (at a price that's not outrageous) you will be viewing the city from where those 3 arched windows are just below the dome... Ahhhhh!

And finally, there's ice-cream to be had, very good ice-cream, and if you're like me you'll be glad you went out of your way to find it...

First up "Gelaati!"

With an "ice-cream lab" at the back. I opted for this very niche combo with sheep's milk, saffron, ricotta and pistachios. I'll admit, it sounds disgusting and I actually hate saffron but something told me to go for it and it tasted sensational!

And just outside Barcelona in Girona, the multiple michelin starred restaurant "El Celler de can roca" now own an ice-cream shop, but it's not just any ice-cream shop, it's called "Rocambolesc" and it's so cute it hurts!

Ladios; Barcelona you were amazing! 

Jo :)

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Rube Goldberg greatness.

I have always loved dominoes and marble runs. When the PTA gave me money for "wet playtime stuff" for my class these were the first 2 things I bought (they're essential in my opinion!)
I also had a really tall marble run installed in my bathroom for a few months for the fun of watching it whilst having a bath. My 2 bed end-of-link new build doesn't really have the space or ability for it to not be a trip hazard though and my sister doesn't remember me having it so it can't of lasted that long. Maybe one day when I have my mansion with clay pizza oven, slide to connect upstairs and downstairs like this...

walk-in wardrobe like this...

and bunk beds for Ben and Tom to stay over like this...

I'll also have a fantastic marble run adorning the wall!
Or maybe I'll at least have this:-

If you are also a fan of the marble run you can visit the UK's biggest one that is, quite aptly, housed in "The House of Marbles" (in Bovey Tracey in Devon). Despite him thinking I was (losing my) marbles over how excited I was about reading of this attraction, an ex-boyfriend, who hadn't been there either, agreed to driving me there to ogle it (on condition I visited his parents who lived near it). I was horrified when he told me about this - how could he have lived so close to this marble museum for all those years without visiting it????!!!! So, we went, and it looks like this:-

If you want to see it in (in real life) here's their website:-

Or, someone has very kindly filmed it and put it onto youtube:-

Ahhh, reminds me of endless hours playing this with Kazmo...

And that kind of moves me onto Rube Goldberg machines.
I cannot define a Rube Goldberg machine without Wikipedia's help; so...

"A Rube Goldberg machinecontraptioninventiondevice, or apparatus is a deliberately over-engineered or overdone machine that performs a very simple task in a very complex fashion, usually including a chain reaction."
The U.K equivalent might be a "Heath Robinson" contraption, apparently.

Think this:-

And of course someone has made a life-size one (in America)

Sorry I don't know how to "embed" videos; click below the pics...

Remember the band OK-GO who did that amazing synchronised treadmill video?

Well, they made a mouse-trap parody video:-

But, the reason I started thinking about all of these things is because of OK-GO's 
Rube Golberg machine that was playing in a Barcelona design museum we visited this week.
You have to watch this!!!

And why not remind yourself how good their treadmill video is while you're at it:-

I actually just looked up OK-GO tour dates; they must do some great wacky stuff live but no future ones are listed, just previous ones including the flippin' Bristol Thekla!!! Gutted doesn't come close!

And finally, all these kooky videos reminded me of how trippy and cool this chemical brothers video was / is :- 

Right, better go, I'm off to make a Rube Goldberg machine! Only joking (probably;)

Jo :)

P.S. Anyone got a venue I can use to try doing this...?

Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Stars & Stripes Supper Club

If you attended or read about my pop-up restaurant then you’ll know all about the “Daffodil Supper Club” that I set up in memory of my Granddad and to raise money for the Alzheimer’s society. You may also know that I’ve decided to “re-run the fun” with a new theme, continuing to make money for this great charity.

Ever since I did my teaching placement in New York, I've had a soft-spot for American recipes, have followed numerous American food writers and have listened to their podcasts and bought their books. I have also paid huge sums for imported foods to be able to obtain the necessary ingredients to make Yankee creations, so, it seemed like an obvious choice for the next theme in my pop-up restaurant repertoire. 

So, here it is...


I really wanted to hire 40 Alfred place for independence day but the hire fee for the 4th July (a Thursday) was a negligible difference from the weekend rates, so I’ve gone with Friday 5th and Saturday 6th

The taste tasting has begun (at home and away) and David and I are researching how we can best deliver on the chosen dishes.
It is the same deal as last time; there is £15 per head to pay in advance which needs to go straight onto my JustGiving page with a note stating which day you’d like to attend and if you need a vegetarian option or have special dietary requirements.(dairy-free/nut-free/diabetic can be catered for)

Then there is a further £10 per head to pay on the night which covers the costs of ingredients and the venue hire – so please turn up!!!

So, for your £25 meal you can expect the following (or very similar)

A complimentary glass of wine / bottle of Budweiser / Non-alcoholic milkshake

On tables: Nachos and salsa, jalapenos and sour cream dip

Starter: Sweetcorn fritters 

Main: Slow cooked pulled pork/homemade coleslaw/spicy sweet potato and potato wedges
(Vegetarian alternative of spicy beanburger)

Dessert: New York style baked cheesecake

Tea/coffee and salted caramel popcorn

I will have a license to be able to sell reasonably priced drinks on the night and would be so pleased if you’d do that or if your taste is more niche a £2 per person corkage fee applies.
I’m hoping to make the event even better than last time and hope that it will enable me to say that I (we) raised £3,000 over the 2 events.
I’m also in the process of negotiating an appearance from a “Welsh Elvis” to liven things up on the Friday and hope to find some entertainment for Saturday also.
I will also hopefully be selling cupcakes and other homemade goods that you can purchase to take away on the night if you’d like.
As coincidence would have it I was walking around Tescos the other day thinking that I really should get on and write this blog post when I saw something VERY exciting!
An American food section!!! Reese's puffs in a British supermarket, are you kidding me? Not to mention the eggnog syrup, chocolate covered cookie dough and tins of pumpkin puree! Awesome!

So, that’s about it, I have no creative endeavors to photograph just now, the pumpkin is saved for Autumn, the eggnog for Christmas and I’d better get back to planning this pop-up event.
But I've one more job to do today, and that is to email 40 Alfred Place with my "logo" and details of the event, watch this space.... 

 and... Have a nice day!

Jo x

P.S. The main course got even better this week (Here is what I was able to add to my facebook event) - Yay!!! 

Some friends and I met up at "The 3 Tuns" (just off College Green) this evening for another round of the best sandwiches Bristol has to offer. Indeed they are the best sandwiches that I have ever tasted in my life! 
The guy (Ben) who runs "Meat & Bread" has been a chef for years and has a particular flair and passion for curing and smoking his own meats. This fascination led to him setting up a wildly popular sandwich cart that sold his mega sandwiches in central Bristol every lunchtime. To make life interesting and just because he could, he would tweet about the day's flavours and announce where he was going to trade from that day. With instant queues of 50+ people arriving and with demand outweighing supply it was time to trade from a premises. You can get his magnificent sandwiches that look like something from a meat-worshiping American diner TV show, Tues-Sat 12-2 and 6-9p.m or earlier if they sell out (often). And the reason I am telling you all this is because....... 
Ben has agreed to provide all the home-cooked, unbelievably tasty pulled pork for the Stars & Stripes supper club at a very reasonable cost. I simply cannot believe my luck right now and neither will you when you taste that meat. In the meantime I can highly recommend a super sandwich......! 

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Baking For Birthday Boys!

Ben turned one this week and I made a promise to myself that I'd make my nephews the best birthday cakes I could for their 1st birthdays. "It's what Aunties are for" according to Georgina.
So I'll give you a quick peek at my efforts, just in case you have a funny 5 minutes and decide you want to make a giant pirate ship cake like this...

Step 1: Go to Toys R Us and buy a Playmobil Pirate set.

Step 2: Buy a cake board large enough for your beast of a cake.
Step 3: Get 3 wooden kebab skewers and thread some cardboard "sails" onto them.

And now start baking...

I made the victoria sponge "all in one" recipe from BBC good food which has always served me well. Liz W would tell you that you should weigh your eggs and scale up or down the other ingredients. She may well be right but I have never bothered and the results have always been good enough for me...

Then I made Priya's (that was Claire's) reliable chocolate cake that is super easy.

6 oz marge
6 oz caster sugar
3 medium eggs
5.5 oz cocoa
5.5 oz self-raising flour
1 tsp water

Cream the sugar and marge
Add the 3 eggs
Add the water
Sift the flour and cocoa to the other mixture and mix
Divide the mixture between 2 greased circular tins
Bake for 15-18 mins on 190

Then I cut the cakes in half to make semi-circles

Then I cut the edges off so the boat could stand up.

Then I made chocolate frosting from a recipe in my Joy The Baker cookbook. The I sandwiched the (alternating) chocolate and vanilla cakes together with masses of frosting and slathered more on the sides and top of the boat. This frosting recipe was a pain, I won't lie. It was however, as good as Joy promised and I'm sure I'll never find better! The recipe isn't on her blog but this book is worth having (and worth the time to convert US to UK quantities, I promise). I won't type out the whole frosting recipe unless it's requested, but here's the book of utter loveliness, that Scanners was cooing over whilst she helped me decorate the cake:-

And here again, is the lovely Scanners, posing with the day's handywork! (The light was fading at this point after hours of assembling and we were both on a bit of a "sugar low" when the effects of eating a pile of leftover "cannonballs and barrells" had worn off :S)

The chocolate twist "ropes" are wafers from B&M bargains, the cannonballs are maltesers and the mini barrels are made from putting 2 rolos together. The KABOOM cannon ball candle and the musical candle came from Occasion cakes and I borrowed some blue Wilton gel from Georgina to dye the buttercream blue for the sea.

The idea came from a lady called Bree who I found by googling pirate ship cake. Her photography is A LOT better than my few rubbish shots downloaded from my iphone so do check her efforts out...!

And, as Karen had bought cupcake bargain pirate stands, I had to make a few cupcakes too.
Priya says The Primrose Cafe book has the best vanilla cupcake recipe. I made mine from a BBC good food recipe and a Hummingbird Bakery one, neither of which were perfect, so maybe I'll try the Primrose next. The recipe does appear to have a ridiculous amount of sugar though! 

How I wish you could see the "bandanna-style" print on the cake cases - so cute!

And that was it for Benny Boy's birthday.

When Tom turned one he got this from me:-

The track was liquorice wheels rolled out onto lollipop sticks.

I'm not sure if you can really appreciate the size of this train from these pictures but when you know that each wheel is an oreo and that it's sitting on a shelf from Owen's book case you get the idea...! It was HUGE! Every carriage is a loaf tin of Hummingbird bakery pound loaf. Priya was integral to the assembly of this creation and at one point she said it was feeling like a cake-making Ofsted. Luckily, however, the pain of "Cakested" had faded enough for me to put the same effort into Ben's cake(s).

So, Tom and Ben are very welcome to request whatever cake they'd like from Aunty Jo for their future birthdays, but they may be given this book to choose it from as it has a good selection of easy to make cakes of all descriptions and really is the best book I've seen for kids' cakes. 

Happy birthday Ben, I love you and Tom very much!

Aunty Jo xxx