Thursday 31 March 2011

Puddings & other stories...

Busy is not the word at the Bakery right now...this is the first chance I've had to post in almost a week. I keep forgetting to take pictures! Every time I have left a delivery recently I've smacked my forehead as I remember that I forgot (!) to snap my creations! Anyway, here I am. It's mainly brownies, brownies, brownies right now. Charlie, my biggest customer, is well into his new season on the equestrian eventing circuit. Each weekend (and during the week too) he tows his wonderful trailer, complete with Italian coffee machine, all over the South West supplying tired and hungry competitors...and excited spectators...with coffee & cakes to sustain them! So I am kept busy at my kitchen unit, producing trays by the dozen ready for pick up. There's only so many pictures of brownies you can take!

Still, there are my other customers too of course. It's a big weekend for the catering industry here in the UK. Mother's Day is one of the most popular 'going out' days in the calendar, so the pubs and restaurants I supply are ordering extra.
Bread & Butter Pudding is a huge seller on the menu. A traditional British dessert that most people love (I say most because I can't stand it....!) I make these with brioche instead of regular white bread, for extra richness. And I flavour them with real orange zest, as well as plenty of raisins. The liquid is cream make them luscious.

They are eaten hot with either custard or more cream. Yum!
The Coffee Tree, too, will be busy this weekend...

These 'Charlie Bars' are my own creation...crunchy, crumbly peanutty shortbread (there are some chopped Reeses Pieces in there too) with a middle of peanut butter & chocolate. Perfect with coffee.
It was Fresh Raspberries & Cream Muffins this morning....made with cream, studded with ruby raspberries and dusted with icing sugar...

and an Almond Tosca Cake too. Based on a Swedish recipe, it's very, very moist & almondy with a lemon glaze & toasted flaked almonds too. This is one that I would love! I may make it at the weekend too, as we have some dear friends from Italy visiting...and Roberto adores CAKE!!

Happy Thursday....can you believe that it's April tomorrow? Have a wonderful day xoxo

Friday 25 March 2011

Beautiful breakfast....

Firstly, the Coffee & Walnut Cake that was delivered to the Coffee Tree this morning. There was also a Date Slice, but the photos were too dark to post! This is one of the most popular cake flavours at the cafe, and true to form I received a call shortly after lunch to say that the whole thing had been sold and could I please supply an extra cake tomorrow! So that's made now...more in the morning!

I didn't make that delivery today...Paul dropped the order off on his way into the office, as I stayed last night in London so that this morning I could have breakfast with a friend at this restaurant....
NOPI in Soho. It's also partly owned by a friend, and I've been several times already (although it only opened officially a month ago) but this was my first breakfast there. As you can see, today was a gorgeous, sunny Spring day in London...the kind of day that makes perfect strangers smile and wish you 'Good Morning!' which is fairly rare in the UK! Everyone was happy as I walked from Marylebone through the bright shiny streets. I arrived first as my friend was caught in traffic on the I ordered a coffee as I looked at the menu...

everything looked gorgeous. I wsa deciding what to choose when my friend arrived, slightly breathless and apologetic! We're the sort of friends who immediately talk and talk...and forget that we're actually there to order and it took some patience and gentle prompting from the waitress to get us to make a decision! This was my choice...

Black Rice with Coconut Cream, Fresh Mango & Banana. There was also some palm syrup on the side in a beautiful little misshapen jug. Divine. My perfect breakfast (which is saying something as I don't usually eat first thing...) Like a nutty, flavourful, milkless rice pudding with zingy fresh fruit & tropical hints....beautiful. My friend chose...
Courgette & Manouri Fritters with a mint & dill salad and yoghurt dressing. Crispy, fresh, cool....a little salty for my taste, but savoury and good. We shared each others plates and were greedy enough to order a mixture of sourdough bread and pastries on the side as well (although we were good and only ate what we wanted - regretfully leaving what we couldn't finish!) It all sounded so lovely we didn't want to miss out!

We ended up catching up and laughing for longer than I thought - I had to run to catch the train home, face red from the heat! But I've been smiling all day, because of the lovely beginning to this Friday. A special treat, a special feast & special friends. And now the weekend! Perfection.

Enjoy your day too - I wish you sunshine and laughter! xoxo

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Today on the Farmer's Market...

This is my friend Debbie's stall, to my right! The day was beautifully mild - not warm exactly, but I didn't need the thermal underwear this month! It makes such a difference to everyone's spirits when we're not shivering & sheltering from the wind for 5 hours. I didn't even wear a coat until the last 45 minutes - amazing!

Selling well today:
Cranberry Carmelita Bars. My own recipe - chewy, caramelly, crunchy, buttery & with a little tang from the dried berries.

Sticky Jamaica Ginger Cake...made with wholewheat flour & stem ginger for extra gingeriness! Keeps so well as it gets a sticky top to it after a few days...irresistible (if you like ginger!)

Double Chocolate Brownies...ahh, my all-time best sellers. The bread & butter of the Blue Angel Bakery! What would I do without them?!

The Apricot & Ginger Flapjacks you saw being created yesterday. Always very popular, especially with those who prefer not to eat wheat. Some people make a bee-line for the crunchy corners, others prefer the softer middle squares. Everyone's so different!
My brownie of the month. Each market I create a new brownie flavour, so that regulars don't get bored. March's offering was Cookies & Cream - topped with mini Oreos as well as filled with the chunky pieces of the larger version. These flew off the stall so fast - I sold all I had before lunchtime! I make a note of all the bestsellers so I can repeat them somewhere down the line.
I also had the cheese scones, walnut brownies and loaf cakes...quite a loaded table!

It wasn't the busiest market, but still quite good. I have a 'Quote of the Month' too: these are the funny (or ridiculous) things that people sometimes say to me behind the stall. A woman asked me if the Carmelita Bars were Date Slices. I said no, and went to some lengths to explain exactly what was in them...cranberries, chocolate, caramel....etc etc. She tasted a sample, wrinkled up her nose and said 'I can't taste any dates in there!!' The great British public!

Happy Tuesday xoxo

Monday 21 March 2011

My second home...

The Coffee Tree delivery today was Sultana Scones...tasted lovely but I've shown you my scones before & I thought they didn't look special enough to warrant a whole post! So instead, I thought that I'd introduce you to my work kitchen. This is the view I look out on when I'm washing up! I think I said before that the industrial park that it's built on is a former WW2 airfield. It's surrounded by farm land and we're lucky that the unit is at the far end of the it backs right onto rural green! Rabbits regularly put on a display for me on this patch of cute!
Inside is big and spacious and full of stainless steel! I actually took lots more photos than this, but not having the hang of my new phone completely yet....for some reason they didn't all download correctly! Duh..still, here's a feeling. You can see 2 big bowls of the ingredients for Apricot & Ginger Flapjacks. I have the Farmer's Market tomorrow and another big order for the end of the week. In the past 2 days I've made 72 trays (approx 9 servings to each tray) which will probably be enough. But it all depends on how tomorrow goes!
I finished by making 120 cheddar scones. I have so many regular customers at the stall who just come for I have to bake plenty!

Busy days...but I love to be occupied. I'm happy in my little unit, radio on, gas humming, bowls and ovens full of good smells & mixtures. How lucky I am that I get to do what I love every day and get paid for it! I try to never take it for granted.

Hoping you've had a wonderful day too xoxo

Sunday 20 March 2011

Upside Down Cakes!

11 days since my last Brownie's for Mozart's been so annoying, wanting to blog and not having the equipment. Modern technology is SO fantastic...the only problem is that we come to rely on it for so much. When it's like a cloud of fog descending. Nothing feels right. I'm just so lucky that I got a new 'smartphone' recently, so I've been able to keep up a little with the online world. And compared to the tragedies in first New Zealand and then Japan...not to mention man-made horrors unfolding in Libya as I write...I guess that puts it all in perspective a little.

Just to continue the theme of computer blues....

ok, this is weird...good, but weird! The photos that I took of just a few of my creations this past week-&-a-bit all came out upside down! Hence the title to this post. I just thought that I'd write it anyway to get started again. And hey presto...when I downloaded to the blog, they're the right way up! Who knows how these things work? Not me, obviously....I'll just hold my breath & thank goodness that something worked at last!

Above is a Whipped Cream Strawberry Cake. It's from Rose Levy amazing recipe as it contains no butter! Just whipped cream. It made a beautiful, moist, white cake...I filled it with mascarpone cream, home made strawberry preserves and fresh strawberries too...a breath of early Summer in March - felt wonderful!

This was my own recipe...Toasted Pecan cake. Ground pecan vanilla sponge inside, sandwiched with vanilla buttercream and covered in more toasted pecans. I ADORE pecans, and even though I didn't get to eat any of this cake, I just love to think about it! It sold out fast...

Last Monday I made Cinnamon Rolls. I've never made them before but I'll be doing so again...and often! They are flavoured with cardamom and filled with brown sugar, unsalted butter & lots of cinnamon. Heaven. I did make an extra few...took them to my parents where my Mum, youngest sister & 3 year old nephew devoured them over coffee while catching up on news. We did leave a little for my Dad - but it was difficult! I shared the recipe with my lovely friend Joann from The Girl Gets Real and I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out for her!

So that's a little catch up. But I'm back on line for good now (famous last words...) so I'll see you tomorrow!

Thanks for coming back - I hope you've had a great weekend xo

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Rachel's Little Helpers...

A slightly different post today. I thought you might like to see some of the thingsI find essential in my home kitchen...things I'd be lost without! The first is my gas hob...for years I struggled with slow to react, so inconsistent. Finally, when we built our new kitchen (9 years ago - wow!) I got my dream. Gas hob and electric oven...perfection!
Cranberry isn't essential! Any colour will do...but I now wonder what I ever did without my Kitchenaid mixer! So versatile, so strong and SO beautiful!

Cups. These were a wonderful present, and are collapsible which makes them so easy to wash & store. I have other sets too. Indispensable for all those amazing American & Australian baking recipes...

My fantastic and enormously heavy granite pestle & mortar. I use it for so many things....from crushing large quantities of garlic & ginger for curries to pounding spices to breaking up hazelnuts or almonds.Looks beautiful enough to leave on display but is SO functional too.

Pyrex. The name makes me think of my grandma...and I'm sure she found it as useful as I still do. Bowls, of course. But my measuring jug is one of the things I use most often. For measuring milk when making muffins & scones and for melting chocolate or butter in the microwave...a great product.

Measuring spoons. Again, I have many sets. How did I ever do without these? Just so important for accurate measuring of raising agents and flavourings..and I love the tactile feel of them too.

Finally, my offset spatula. I have lots of these and they're something I use all the time in my work kitchen too. So useful in so many ways...loosening biscuits & cookies from baking sheets, smoothing the top of cake & brownie mixture, running around the edges of cakes before turning out...and indispensable for decorating cakes, swirling frosting, spreading jam. If you're serious about baking, you NEED at least one of these!

So that's my list - did I leave any of your favourites out? I'd love to know!

Happy Wednesday xoxo

Tuesday 1 March 2011

A Taste of Paradise

That isn't as arrogant as it sounds! Today's offering to the Coffee Tree was actually called...

Paradise Slice! It's an old fashioned almond shortbread on the bottom, a thick layer of raspberry jam and then a moist coconut sponge on top. It's delicious and very popular...

and I never change or fiddle with this recipe as it's such a favourite and perfect just the way it is!

I've been so busy this week and it will get busier. My biggest customer has a mobile coffee trailer (a very upmarket one, with a proper Italian machine) that travels to all the major horse eventing trials in the season which is from early March to early November. He takes my brownies, flapjacks and other things with him (I'm happy to say!) but it means I don't often stop during the day.

This is one corner of the first order of the season, completed yesterday. The first event starts on Friday so it'll be full steam ahead now until the end of October. Yesterday I went to pick up 100kg chocolate (yes, 100kg!) That will last about 3 weeks but I don't have space at the kitchen to store more...
I love being so busy and feeling that sense of satisfaction that comes from a completed order delivered on time!
I hope your week has started well too xoxo