Saturday, 30 August 2014

Bake Off Week 4- Desserts

I love a good pudding! This week I'm back in my comfort zone with one of my favourite recipes of all time- Lemon Pudding. It's an old family favourite and genuinely requested at like every party. Where it originally came from is beyond me so I'm going to cite my Gran as the source! It's a cheesecake type affair but not really since there's no cheese! Minimal ingredients and it took me all of 40 minutes to assemble- which included time out to take the top quality photos you've come to know and love! 

200ml tub of whipping cream (this volume may be wrong...not a teeny one!) 
Tin of condensed milk
2 large lemons
Few drops of yellow food colouring (optional!)

Base (estimations!)
15(ish) digestive biscuits 
2 tablespoons golden syrup
50g butter

Greased round tin- preferably one with a loose bottom.

Optional: device to watch Extra Slice whilst you bake

1. Crush the biscuits. I use a rolling pin, you can use a food processor if you want extra washing up and a ridiculously smooth base. I've said 15 but I used 18 for this one and no one can determine your own base thickness!

2. Melt the butter and golden syrup over a medium heat. Then stir it into the crushed biscuits. If it's still crumbly, melt more butter and syrup until it'll hold a shape. Transfer into the tin and flatten to make your base. Pop in the fridge to set whilst you make your topping.

3. Whip the cream until it's really quite firm- like past the soft peaks stage and into damn I've over whipped this. You'll be adding a lot of liquid later!

4. Zest and juice the two lemons. Add the juice, the condensed milk and a wee drop food colouring to the cream. And whip again.

5. Stir in the lemon zest until it's evenly distributed. If you whip it it'll all get stuck to the beaters so just use a spoon! 

6. Spread the topping evenly over the base and put back into the fridge to set. Lick all spoons and bowls and marvel in the speediness of this pudding! 

What's your favourite pudding? Are you enjoying the bake off this year?

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Bake Off Week 3- Bread

I know I declared my love for cake early on but my other favourite food group is bread. Rolls, loaves, brown, white or granary; I'm there. How I'm not yet the subject of a Channel 4 documentary called The Half Tonne Woman is beyond me. But anyway bread. Yum. I cracked open that fabulous Bake Off- How to Bake (by Linda Collister) book again and discovered the tempting treat- Monkey Bread. It also said it was good to make with kids and as someone who is useless with bread, this seemed like a good idea.

How hilariously wrong I was.

Ingredients (Makes 1 large loaf)

500g strong white bread flour
1 and a half tspns sea salt
1x7g sachet fast action dried yeast
50g unsalted butter, melted
200ml lukewarm milk (I zapped it in the microwave for about 25 seconds)
1 large free-range egg

For Coating
100g unsalted butter
75g light muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
100g pecan or walnut pieces, chopped a little smaller. (I missed these out but you fire on in there nut lovers!)

1 Large loaf tin, greased with butter or oil. For reasons you will see later on, I'd suggest using a liner. Lakeland do good ones here.

1. Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a large free-standing electric mixer. If you're using dry yeast, mix it into the flour and make a well in the middle. 

1b. In a separate bowl, mix the melted butter, milk and egg.

2. This is where I like to pretend I'm Paul Hollywood and use my hand for the mixing, but you can be boring and use a mixer if you like. Pour the liquid into the well you created in the flour mixture and mix to make a soft smooth dough. If there are still dry crumbs then add a more milk, a little at a time. If it's the dough is really sticky, then add more flour, a little at a time.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured worktop and knead thoroughly by hand for a good 10 minutes. Hold one end of the dough with one hand, and with the heel of the other hand stretch the dough away form you. Fold the dough back in and give it a quarter turn, then repeat. Your arms should be sore by the time you're finished and the dough should feel elastic and smooth. Form it into a ball

4. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with cling film or a damp tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size. My house is currently like the ice planet of Hoth so it took about 2 and a half hours. Joyful

5. Punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into about 60 tiny pieces and roll each piece into a ball.

Hi I'm Lauren and I have OCD
6. Melt the 100g of butter in a small bowl. In another, combine the sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Dip each dough ball into the butter and then roll in the sugar mixture, before placing in the tin. They don't have to be arranged particularly neatly, there CAN be gaps, but fill the tin evenly.

7. Cover the filled tin with cling film and leave for ANOTHER hour in a warm place, until the balls have doubled in size. Near the end of this hour, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.

8. Uncover the tin and bake for about 35 minutes or until a good golden brown. Run a round bladed knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the loaf, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

NOW. this is where you should be looking at a beautiful loaf of bread, salivating at the heavenly cinnamony aroma and trying to cut it before it's even cool enough. My results did not allow for this…

This is genuinely my favourite baking disaster ever- I considered sending it into An Extra Slice to have Jo Brand mock me. I genuinely believe a tin liner and my house being about 10C warmer would have helped avoid this…but I just had to deal with eating some genuinely tasty cinnamon dough balls…silver linings and all that!

Whats your most disastrous bake recently? Have you any tips for making monkey bread?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Building my MAC Palette #1

Aren't I the greatest photographer in the world?! Unfortunately the new lid on these palettes makes photographing them closed a challenge…my David Bailey-esque prowess (or lack thereof) aside, we're talking MAC eyeshadows! Pretty much every beauty addicts favourite topic- am I right?! The pigment, the range of colours, the general wonder. They're glorious. I'm physically incapable of leaving a MAC counter without a multicoloured hand and a new lust list. 

Luckily my lovely friend Nikki over at Nikki and Things shares this compulsion and got me started with my very own palette for my birthday last year. She started me with 8 great shades that she loved and I too have grown to cherish them.
Top Row: Cranberry, Satin Taupe, Shroom
Middle: Sable, Patina, Woodwinked
Bottom: Copperplate, Wedge

L-R: Cranberry, Sable, Copperplate, Satin Taupe,
Patina, Wedge, Shroom, Woodwinked
Now I'll admit, I'm not the most adventurous with my own eye make-up. I love a bit of Patina or Sable and Satin Taupe. Or Copperplate and Wedge for more day to day eyes. And Bobbi Brown gel liner (and ode to that wee beauty coming soon).

But if I'm at college (I'm doing a HND in make-up artistry) or doing freelance-y stuff, I'm all about that Cranberry. It's gorgeous. Especially mixed with a bit of Satin Taupe *swoons*. It's just the right balance between pink and a kind of burnt terracotta. It's basically the love of my life.

Shroom is a beautiful highlight shade, with just enough shimmer - no disco ball brow bones here thank you - to accentuate that arch. However, I do find myself longing for a matte option for daytime…Apologies again for my poor camera skills- DSLR is on the horizon! 

I neglect Woodwinked terribly. I love it but I seem to finish my eye make-up every time and then remember it. I'm endeavouring to show it some love in the near future...

So I have made it my mission to finally finish this palette…and then start another one. I'm aiming to have one all matte palette and one all shimmer. With a range of shades in each to cover any eventuality… #makeupartistprobs…

So are there any shades you would recommend? Or any way you love to use the shades above? I'm so excited about finally filling this bad boy!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Bake Off Week 2 - Biscuits

Ah the dreaded biscuit. This and pastry week always leave me the hungriest and the most impressed. Any biscuits I make (as you will soon see) tend to turn out a bit hap hazard in size and colour…no one seems to care because it's still a cookie. But Paul and Mary see differently. Bit picky really. But ANYWAY! Biscuit week. I pulled out my Great British Bake Off: How to Bake book (by Linda Collister) and decided to attempt some Chocolate Crackles. 

Now fair warning before we start, the mixture needs an hour in the fridge so just bear that in mind!


100g dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids is best- milk chocolate makes them too sweet.
100g unsalted butter, softened by softened I assumed they meant a few seconds from melting.
150g light brown muscovado sugar
1 large, free range egg
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
175g self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2-3 tablespoon icing sugar

Prep a couple of baking sheets- either grease them or line them. This recipe apparently makes 30 cookies. I got 12 but I like a large biscuit…

1. Gently melt the chocolate- best way is in a bowl over a pan of boiling water but carefully watched in the microwave is fine too. When it's melted, add the soft butter. Stir until the mixture is completely smooth and then add the muscovado sugar. Leave the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.

2. Beat the egg with the vanilla until just combined, then add that to the bowl. Then sift in the flour and bicarb and mix like your life depends upon it. It's quite a sticky mix. Cover it with cling film and pop it in the fridge for about an hour.

3. This is your opportunity for bowl and spoon licking. Take it. It's a tasty raw mixture.

4. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Divide the dough into even sized portions and roll them into balls. Apprently 30 but we're not making toddler sized cakes, in the words of Joey what are you afraid you'll run out?! Cut me a real piece!! … anyway! I made 12 but I think 18 would be reasonable. Put your icing sugar into a shallow dish and roll each ball in it to coat thickly. Place them on the baking sheet spaced well apart. Now these things spread for miles. And I cannot stress this enough; DO NOT flatten these down. I did this and I ended up with extremely flat, albeit tasty, biscuits. I'd suggest the lightest of touches to flatten the base. then walk away!!

5. Bake for 10 minutes (watch them after 8) for a softer biscuit. 12 minutes for something crunchy. I went soft and they were yummy if i say so myself. Leave on the sheets to cool for a minute then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely and they'll firm up as they cool. 

Now apparently these will keep for 5 days - they'll be lucky to last 2 in this house. Next time though, I need more icing sugar, smaller pieces and less flattening. Lessons learned!

Next week is bread week so I shall be flexing my muscles for that! 

Are you enjoying the bake off? Who are you rooting for?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Ultimate Chocolate Brownies

It's Bake Off Day! So I have decided that I will try and post a weekly recipe. This week is the ultimate chocolate brownie. I have been making these for years and get asked for the recipe all the time. So I'm sharing it with you! It's originally from You magazine about a million years ago and is the work of Gary Rhodes :)


280g caster sugar
4 eggs
225g unsalted butter
75g cocoa
75g plain flour
225g plain chocolate
115g white chocolate- cut into chunks
115g hazelnuts or pecans, chopped (I always miss these out but y'all go ahead and add them if you like!)

1. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and line a 20cm/8in shallow square brownie tin. Or an Edge Brownie Pan if you're one of those people (read:weirdos) who prefers the edges of a brownie to the middle squidgy bits!

2. Beat together the sugar and eggs until the sugar has completely dissolved. Melt the butter and then whisk it into the sugar and eggs.

3. Sieve together the cocoa and flour and add it to the butter and eggs mix.

4. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water (or in the microwave if you want to save some washing up) and then add to the mixture. Add the nuts and chunks of white chocolate and stir until they're well dispersed. Turn the mix into the tin and bake for 25 minutes (closer to 20 if you like them squidgy in the middle). Leave to cool a little and then cut into squares (a word of caution: these are deadly. Go for small squares).

I personally like to have these slightly warm with some vanilla ice cream.

Hope you enjoy! Is there anything you do differently? Any recipes you'd like me to post?

What I've Been Reading #1

1. The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
2. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
3. The Body Book by Cameron Diaz

I was recommended the Outlander books by a friend in America and I have literally not been able to put them down. They follow the adventures of Claire Randall; a nurse in WWII who, whilst on a second honeymoon in Scotland, travels back to the 18th century and right into the midst of the Jacobite rebellion. She meets Jamie Fraser; a brave Scottish warrior and wanted man. And general adventure ensues. Being a self confessed fantasy fan (Terry Pratchett is my home boy) I wasn't too sure about these to start with but they are a brilliant read. Great mix of romance, history, drama and a bit of fantasy. I read the first two - a total of almost 1900 pages - in just over a week. I'm speeding through book three and already itching to start number four. So good. Go buy one and I dare you not to buy the rest.

I've wanted to read The Princess Bride for a while but seemed to forget this fact every time I wandered into my local Waterstones. Well at the beginning of the summer it was in the staff recommendations section so I picked it up. Now for anyone thinking "hang on! Didn't Morgenstern write that?!" He did. The version I have is the "good parts", abridged version, by the screenwriter of the cult classic film. It awesome. You get Goldman's little notes on the original version and why he chose to change it. It's like the flashbacks to the Grandfather in the film. It's still the classic story that everyone loves, it's just the bits you actually want to read. I love the film and the book didn't disappoint. 

Finally this summer, I picked up Cameron Diaz's Body Book. I'm not a major fitness, healthy person. I try to be…but then I see cake. But I was really intrigued by this book - obviously having a healthy day. What I've read of it so far, I've enjoyed. And I'm definitely drinking more water…mostly in the hope that I'll suddenly look like Cameron Diaz. Maybe not the best recommendation. However, I'm quite enjoying having it on the shelf to go back to when I suddenly feel the need to wear lycra and do energetic things.

I've just purchased Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. 
Is there anything you'd recommend? What have you been reading this summer?