Friday, 12 November 2010

Proud Mother

I thought I’d share this photograph with you as it’s the first thing I’ve ever, ever, ever sewn.  Well, if you don’t count any of the atrocities that I made at school – which I don’t.  Strangely, my mother still wears the butcher’s apron with the squint pocket but the blouse (I call it a blouse in the loosest sense) ...the blouse has long gone.  Hopefully, it was ceremoniously burnt given that it was the ‘80’s and I’d chosen an off the shoulder/slash neck affair and, after spending HOURS in John Lewis’s fabric department, chose tiger print fabric!!!  What on earth possessed me?!

My latest creation is practical, functional and, I think, beautiful (if you don’t look too closely at the hand stitching, that is!).  OK, OK, it’s a tea cosy but I’m a proud mother showing off her newest child, so bear with me. 

It came about because I recently bought an Emma Bridgewater teapot with some of the money that my very much missed Granddad left to me.  After looking at art and artisan furniture to buy as a keepsake, I realised that none of that would remind me of a working class, miner who lived in a council house, brought up six kids and viewed the arts with more than a little suspicion and trepidation.  So, walking past our local gift shop one Saturday, I spotted an Emma Bridgewater teapot and knew instantly that was the thing.  The kettle was ALWAYS on at Granny and Granddad’s house and he drank tea all day long - the stronger, the better. 

I decided that my very fine teapot should have an equally fine tea cosy.  Clutching a pattern from the internet I went off to IKEA, where Toots and I spent a gloriously quiet Friday morning in the fabric department (I normally only go on the weekend  - I had no idea it could be so relaxed!).    I got completely carried away with myself because I’ve even bought some fabric to make Tootsie a skirt!  (But I'll leave that for another post).

And can I say, my tea cosy keeps my lovely teapot perfectly warm – and when I use them, I always think of Granddad and smile.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Baker Extraordinaire!

OK, that's completely overselling my talents but I decided today would be the day to make soup and bake bread - both of which I've done before but which I managed to do at a leisurely pace while my OH took the kids to rugby (one to play, one to watch).

Anyway, there is something remarkably therapeutic about baking your own bread by hand (I don't have a bread maker).  It's nothing like as much hassle or as complicated as I thought it would be and, if you have a spare half hour, it's a great way to relieve some stress, switch your brain off and think of other things.  Obviously, it takes more than half an hour to actually make the bread (what with proving the dough and all that) but it only really takes about 15 minutes to half an hour's work.  And then you can sit back and enjoy warm bread with soup or slathered in butter and homemade jam or honey (no, I don't have my own bees - yet!)  

All you need is:

500g strong bread flour (I used white this time but have used wholemeal and followed the same recipe before)
1.5 sachets of dried yeast
14g salt (might be easier to weigh out half an ounce though - it's the same)
310ml tepid water
15fl oz honey (or 1 tablespoon) - or maple syrup is just as good

Mix the honey with half the water and all the yeast - make sure the honey (or syrup) has completely dissolved.  You can also use the equivalent amount of sugar - it's just sugar to get the yeast to react.

Measure out the flour and mix in the salt.  Make a well in the centre then pour in all of the yeast mixture.  I then use my fingers (a la Jamie Oliver) like a spoon to mix it all together, starting from the outside of the bowl.  Once that's mixed in, pour in the rest of the liquid, mix in through and work it into a dough.  Tip out onto a well floured surface then knead for about 5 - 10 minutes until it's really pliable.  You may need to add more water or more flour - it depends on the kind of flour you're using - but I've found that these measurements tend to work well for most types of flour I've used (which ranges from Tesco's own to Hovis).

Shape into a round, score a deep cut in the top then leave in a warm place to prove for 40 minutes.  You can cover with clingfilm - I use a clean tea towel.  By the end of this time, it should have doubled in size (more or less).  Knock it back and knead for another minute then shape into the loaf you are making - or put into a loaf tin - then leave for as long as you can.  (You don't want to rush this bit).

When ready, heat the oven to 240C (Gas Mark 9), then put the loaf in for 30 to 35 minutes making sure it doesn't burn on the top.  (I usually turn half way through cooking).  Check whether it's cooked by turning the loaf out and knocking on the bottom.  If it sounds hollow, it's ready.

If you want a crusty loaf, leave out to cool.  If you'd prefer a soft crust, wrap in a clean tea towel while it cools.  Then...


Do you have any good bread making tips you'd like to share?  Or perhaps a killer recipe that no one can resist?  Or do you prefer breadmakers to hand made bread?  Let me know in the comments and please share any of your favourite bread recipes.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

We’re Witches (and Wizards) of Hallowe’en – the Sequel

Well, after frantically spending days putting together Cheeky’s Harry Potter outfit -  which involved, finding a cape in the wardrobe in my room and adapting it with a Gryfendor Badge, printed from the internet; purchasing a burgundy sweater from ebay; buying burgundy material to make a school tie and face paints for the scar – Cheeky decided he’d rather wear the ghoul outfit we got from Tesco last year!!!

Hope you all had a good Hallowe’en.  The kids were stuffed full of sugar after not one but TWO parties on 31st followed by a stint of guising (as we call it in Scotland) or trick or treat as it’s known across the water – and bed at 8.45pm (on a school night!!)

Oh well, here’s to next year.  Perhaps he’ll allow me to unleash my creativity then!

What about you?  Did you have a good Hallowe’en or were there any homemade disasters?!