Reviews


Primrose Bakery Celebrations
(published by Square Peg)

Some people have a weakness for shoes, perfumes or perhaps handbags; my weakness is cookery books! These books are slowly but surely taking over our house. They started off neatly confined to a bookcase in the kitchen. However, books were soon fighting for space and it wasn't long before they started to multiply. A fair number of my cookery books are now wedged under the sofa and under the bed! Despite my love affair with them I am the first to admit that most of the books remain unused. After half an hour of flicking through the crisp pages they are relegated to the dusty pile under the bed.

I am pretty sure that I am not the only cookbookaholic out there and certainly not the only person guilty of leaving books unused! There are just so many new recipe books appearing, but most seem to repeat each other. How many recipes can you have for a Victoria sandwich or a carrot cake? Very few seem to come up with bright new ideas and fresh new recipes.

When I was given the Primrose Bakery's new book entitled Celebrations, I thought it would be just another cake book. However, I was happily proved wrong almost immediately. Behind the pretty girly front cover is a wide variety of new and exciting recipes, ideas and tongue tingling flavours. The styling throughout the book is superb, with lots of fun photos to run alongside all the celebration occasions. Most important, there is a photograph to accompany each recipe. This gets a big thumbs up from me as so many baking books neglect this simple but in my mind essential rule.

The book is broken up into eight themed celebrations, such as a young girl’s birthday party, a young boy's cartoon-themed party, cuptails and cocktails and summer picnic, etc. The first recipe to catch my eye was the Puffed Rice Doughnut Cake. It looks amazing. However, the recipe is in fact ridiculously easy to follow. The Plum Wine Drizzle Loaf sounds absolutely delicious and the Christmas Trifle Cupcakes are inspired! I wanted to try out a few recipes for my review and I found it almost impossible to choose. Luckily it was my husband’s birthday recently and he decided upon the Coconut and Elderflower cake, which was exceptionally easy to make. A simple coconut and elderflower flavoured sponge, sandwiched and topped with Elderflower Buttercream Icing. The flavours were simply divine, the coconut and the sweet elderflower gave it a tropical, fruity taste; a real summertime cake. 
A little bit messy but this Coconut & Elderflower cake hit the spot!

Next on my list was the Salted Caramel Cupcakes. I've never tried salted caramel before but everyone I know raves about it, so I was keen to try these cupcakes. Making the vanilla cupcakes was easy enough. However, the salted caramel buttercream entailed quite a bit of work and ultimately a lot of washing up! I wouldn't say the recipe was difficult, but it was a lengthy process. I must add that the end result way and beyond made up for all the mixing and washing of bowls! I usually don't like much buttercream but on this occasion I found myself eating the leftovers (of which there was a lot) out of the bowl with a spoon! I would make these cupcakes again but would definitely save them for a special occasion rather than an everyday treat!
A fair bit of effort required but these Salted Caramel Cupcakes were delish!
'Celebrations' is a gorgeous book of lovely new flavour combinations and exciting new ideas. My only regret is that some of the ingredients (such as grape essence) are a bit difficult to come by and there is not a list of suggested stockists in the book. It would have been very helpful to know where to shop for some of the more unusual ingredients.

I am already thinking up an excuse to try another recipe from the Celebration book. Perhaps some Eton Mess Cupcakes or Gin and Tonic Cupcakes for a girly afternoon with friends? Maybe some Green Tea Scones with Lemon Cream for an afternoon tea with family? This book is FULL of so many original recipes that I am spoilt for choice!





Mary Berry's Cookery Course
(published by DK Books)
Click Here To Go To DK Books Website

Perhaps I live a sheltered existence but I was almost hopping up and down with excitement when the postman handed over a rather heavy and well wrapped package. I didn't need to shake the parcel in question as I already knew what lay inside. My three year old son had just had his birthday so assumed the parcel was for him. Reluctantly I allowed him to help me tear open the cardboard packaging. My little boy immediately chirped “It's a recipe book”; he was of course correct! On the front cover of the large hardback was a picture of a smiling Mary Berry about to tuck into a jam and cream topped scone. I waited until it was nap time for my two boys as I wanted to savour every page of my new book. A car loving toddler and a teething baby can be quite a distraction!!!


Once settled on the sofa with a mug of tea I was able to devour Mary Berry's Cookery Course. My first thought was how wonderful it was to have a photograph for every single recipe. In fact there are even several step by step photographs generously provided which show us how to master each stage of the recipe. Mary obviously has the novice cook at the forefront of her mind in this book as, at the very beginning, we are treated to a section where we can see exactly what basic equipment is required. Photographs are given of every single utensil so that we can be confident that we have everything we need. There is also a very handy technique finder which allows the reader easily to find the tricks of the trade.

As with most cookery books the recipes are broken up into sections; soups, starters, poultry, puddings etc. However, unlike most other books, Mary has included a master recipe at the beginning of each chapter. The idea is to perfect this core recipe before moving on to learn the remainder. This is such a useful addition not only for the novice but also for the more experienced cook who wants to go back to basics. The step by step picture guide is brilliant as I'm sure a lot of us benefit from seeing rather than reading what it is we need to do.

Mary's secrets to success feature throughout the book, offering her invaluable advice on such things as browning meat and how to resurrect soft biscuits!

When looking through Mary's Cookery Course it is rather hard to choose which recipe to try first. After a few days of deliberation I decided upon the Cheese and Caramelized Onion Bread, Tagliatelle with Tomato Sauce and Plum Crumble for dessert. Of course the bread took time due to allowing for proving and kneading. However, the scent which wafted from the oven as it cooked and the sublime flavours more than made up for this!! The tagliatelle with tomato sauce was a complete revelation. It looked almost too simple and had only a small number of ingredients. This has to be the best tomato sauce I've ever eaten, amazing! It will now be a regular on our family menu. Lastly, the plum crumble took mere moments to put together. The plums just needed to be halved and de-stoned, then topped in a very simple crumble mixture, job done! My goodness it went down well with some vanilla ice cream! There are countless other recipes which have caught my eye, such as the Curried Parsnip Soup, Cheese Soufflés, Perfect Burgers, Paella, Lemon and Lime Cheesecake and Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia. Is your mouth watering too??
Cheese & Caramelized Onion Loaves
Plum Crumble
Tagliatelle with Tomato Sauce

Mary's Cookery Course has been put together with much care and attention to detail. It is extremely easy to follow and the results speak for themselves. I am delighted to have yet another wonderful cookbook by Mary Berry in my over filled cookery bookcase.




Lakeland's Easter Egg Moulds
In just a few weeks time we shall eagerly be tearing the foil from our Easter eggs. Much as I love to tuck into an Easter egg I've never contemplated making my own. It always seemed far too fiddly. Surely it is much easier to pluck a beautifully packaged Easter egg from the supermarket shelves and also far less messy! I was however thrilled when Lakeland asked me to review their Easter Egg Mould as I love a challenge and it gave me a reason to try something new. After all, one can personalise a handmade chocolate egg. I was beginning to think of the possibilities of decorating it with perhaps a pretty ribbon and adding sugar flowers. I had already decided that it would make the perfect gift for my mother’s birthday.

We were staying with my parents and I had brought the moulds with me. It was getting late when I started, but my spirits were lifted when I weighed the chocolate and realised there were several squares left over. I soon found a purpose for them!!!! As I tore the plastic moulds from the packaging, I was amazed to find there were not one but TWO large egg moulds and 36 mini egg moulds. Such good value when you consider the set is only £3.99. You can view the set here

I followed the instructions on the packaging and opted to melt the chocolate in the microwave in short bursts. I could have melted it over a pan of simmering water but this seemed like too much hassle late at night! I thought it best to move everything into the dining room so that I could sit down while I painted the first layer of chocolate onto the mould. I found the process to be quite therapeutic and relaxing and I enjoyed chatting to Mum as I worked! Once the mission had been completed I placed the two halves of the egg mould into the fridge for the chocolate to set. I anxiously glanced at the clock; it was nearly 11pm. I still had to brush three more layers of chocolate onto the moulds AND make the mini eggs. I felt sure I'd be in bed no earlier than 1am!
The moulds in action!
 To my utter amazement the two egg halves had set and were ready for another layer of chocolate after just fifteen minutes. I'd expected it to take far longer. I carried on applying the chocolate layers and chatting to Mum. It really was quite good fun and not messy at all. I contemplated making an egg with my little boy; he would love it but would probably lick the chocolate straight from the brush!!! By the time the final layer of chocolate had set it was almost midnight. I quickly melted some more milk chocolate along with some white and simply filled the mini egg moulds to the very top before placing them into the fridge. They could stay there over night to set and I could get on to bed. Thank goodness it hadn't taken as long as I had feared!

The following day as we packed to return home I just about had time to finish the Easter egg. I was terrified about pushing the chocolate halves out of their moulds. I held my breath as I very gently applied pressure to the moulds. With only a little bit of persuasion the egg halves came free, hooray!! I was delighted! Thankfully this theme continued with the mini eggs as they popped out even more easily.
The large egg moulds came out intact - yay!

Filled with milk and white chocolate mini eggs :-)

The pattern from the moulds transferred beautifully to the perfectly shiny chocolate. However, I was mortified when my fingerprints ended up all over my egg. Maybe I should have worn plastic gloves to prevent this. I filled an egg half with mini eggs and then came to the part I'd been dreading, sticking the two halves together! I melted yet more milk chocolate and painted it on using my forefinger as I couldn't find anything else suitable to use. A small piping bag and tiny nozzle or paintbrush would have certainly performed a better job. After sticking the two halves of the egg together I noticed there were gaps around the join. I hadn't been very neat when applying the melted chocolate to the moulds and it showed in the finished egg! Oh well, Mum didn't mind, she thought it looked great!

She said she was very impressed with the Easter egg as it looked so professional. She managed to eat a good part of the egg but there was plenty to share with Dad and my sister!

My untidy join - whoops!
To my surprise I really did enjoy making this Easter egg. I am not sure I would make them for all my family and friends as it takes up space in the fridge and also takes quite some time. However, it is certainly something special for a loved one. It could even have other fillings if desired. I would definitely make an egg with my boys when they are a little bit older as I'm sure they would think it great fun and would of course enjoy licking out the bowls of chocolate - if they can get there before Mummy!!

I've now caught the chocolate making 'bug' and want to have a go at some other things. Which should I choose next? More Lakeland chocolate ideas to try. - it all looks like fun!




Lakeland's Hemisphere Cake Tin Review

As a keen baker my kitchen drawers are stuffed full of cake tins of varying sizes. Although the measurements differ by an inch here or there, they are all the standard round and square shapes. I was amazed when I came across Lakeland's hemisphere cake tin. Surely you couldn't bake a spherical cake? If it were indeed possible, then this would make my life a lot easier. I love baking but have never fared well in the cake decorating stakes. The mere mention of cake carving has always been enough to send shivers of dread down my spine! If I could avoid reaching for the knife to create a spherical cake, the possibilities were surely endless.

I could choose to bake one cake and make either a ladybird or bumble bee or perhaps bake two cakes and conjure up a football, princesses’ carriage and, for the upcoming festive season, a Christmas pudding!

Once Lakeland's small hemisphere cake tin had arrived, I carefully read through the instructions. I had been dreading lining the tin with greaseproof paper due to its curved shape. However, I had nothing to fear as we are instructed to grease the tin with butter; no mention of greaseproof paper is made – yay! My smile stretched further when I read that, after just a few uses, the “anodised aluminium will build up a natural patina that further enhances the natural non-stick performance”. How wonderful!

With a happy heart I whipped up a lightly fruited Christmas cake and spooned into the greased cake tin, being careful to fill it no more than two thirds full. I was worried that the tin might tip over with the weight of the mixture but, apart from a little wobble, it was surprisingly steady. I followed the instructions and carefully placed the tin onto a baking tray before transferring to the oven. Every few minutes I peered anxiously into the oven to be sure that the tin was still standing proud. However, I needn't have worried as the tin remained stable and the cake cooked beautifully. I left the cake to cool in the tin. When it came to extracting it, all that was required were one or two firm shakes and it was free and completely intact. Hooray! As I wanted to create a Christmas pudding style cake, which would require two halves, I re-greased the tin, filled it with mixture and confidently placed it into the oven; there was no need to keep checking on the second cake!

Once both cakes were cold I could sandwich them together, then stand back to survey my masterpiece! I had created a perfectly spherical cake and it had been so easy to do. For a finishing touch I laid a piece of white marzipan on top to look like a splodge of icing and I used fondant for the holly leaves and berries. This was so effective but super simple to do. If I were a skilled cake decorator I could have used just one half of the cake and made a festive igloo adorned with penguins and polar bears. Maybe next year after a bit of practice!

These fantastic hemisphere tins can be bought in varying sizes and can be purchased individually, which is great if you only have the need for one. The tins are also superb value for money with a starting price of £2.99, so you can happily buy several without putting a big dent in the credit card!

I am delighted with Lakeland's hemisphere cake tin. I would never have imagined that I could make a spherical cake without the help of a knife and a LOT of tears! My Christmas pudding cake was a hit with my family and friends and was greeted by a fair number of oooohs and aaaahs. No need for them to know how easy it was to make!
My Christmas pudding cake along side Lakeland's Hemisphere Tin.

 

Marshmallow Magic - by Genevieve Taylor
  
Baking is very much in vogue at the moment. We can find a staggering number of cake recipes in baking books and also online. I for one own far too many books and it takes me an age to scroll through the bookmarked recipes on my computer. It is a real treat to discover something new in the world of baking, something different to whet our appetites. I was thrilled when I came across Marshmallow Magic, a book completely and utterly devoted to marshmallows. Once we learn how to make the basic vanilla marshmallow, we can move on to many melt in the mouth variations. Before coming across this pretty book I had never considered delving into the world of marshmallows. It was surely easier to buy them from the shop!

After spending just a few moments flicking through the pages of Marshmallow Magic and eyeing up the beautiful photographs, I felt an overwhelming urge to whip up some egg whites, locate my sugar thermometer and make a start! There were just so many mouth watering flavours to try. Should I start with the chocolate orange squares, Turkish delight or add a kick with the mojito marshmallows? There are sections within the book for nostalgic, celebration and grown-up marshmallows and I could have happily sampled them all!!

After much deliberation I decided it only sensible to start right at the beginning and make the vanilla marshmallow, the staple for all the recipes. If I could master this I could feel confident of success with the remaining recipes. It was time to dust off my free standing mixer and make a start. I was a little concerned that I was about to deal my little machine a death sentence. Within the very handy and informative section within the opening pages of the book the author, Genevieve Taylor, makes it clear that a free standing mixer is essential as the marshmallow would need to be beaten for some ten minutes. Would my cheap and unassuming mixer be able to take the pace?!

I am delighted to report that my mixer passed the test with flying colours. Apart from a faint whiff of burning plastic, it survived to tell the tale! The vanilla marshmallow was straightforward to make and it was easy to follow the simple and well explained instructions. I admit that things did get a bit messy from time to time. I watched with horror as the marshmallow attempted to clamber its way up the rotating beaters and out of the mixing bowl! Thankfully all was well and I was left with fluffy, pure white clouds of marshmallow. I was extremely excited to taste my wares. It tasted quite different to what I'd expected. It was unlike what I had been used to, eating from packets bought from the local shop. My homemade offering was light as air and very nearly melted on my tongue. Thanks to the cornflour and icing sugar coating, I could slice it into neat squares which would no doubt look perfect if packaged in pretty gift bags to give to family and friends.

Spurred on, I was keen to try a different flavour. I was soon whipping up a batch of delicious malted chocolate honeycomb marshmallow. It not only looked good but tasted delicious too. As I was just adding a few ingredients to the basic vanilla recipe it was amazingly easy to do. Next on my ‘must make’ list were the little rocky road fairy cakes. This is a great way to use up surplus marshmallows (if you don't scoff the lot). It is a simple recipe to make with willing little helpers; they will have great fun mixing the ingredients together and then spooning it into the paper cases. However, the best bit will of course be eating the finished article!

I have to say that I am now hooked on making and eating marshmallows. I can't stop thinking about what flavour I will try next. I think it will either be the banoffee swirls or the lemon meringue layer. Perhaps I'll just make both!
My marshmallow creations!


You can purchase Marshmallow Magic for just £7.59 from Amazon - Just click the above links for the Paper and Kindle versions :-)





Lakeland's St Kew Tea Cup Hamper Review

I've never received a gift hamper before, so imagine my delight when the kind people at Lakeland.asked if I would like to review the St Kew Tea Cup Hamper (to view Lakeland's Christmas Hampers click here). I was intrigued by the description but one thing was clear; tea was very much the star of the show!

I have a three week old baby along with a very active toddler and am feeling more than a little weary. Receiving a parcel from Lakeland was a very welcome distraction! It was with much excitement that I tore open the box and pulled out the beautifully presented tea cup hamper. Pretty floral cellophane encased the hamper and was tied neatly with a large bow. I was left in no doubt that this would make for a very special gift. However, it was the wicker hamper itself that really caught my eye. Despite the description I wasn't expecting it to be tea cup shaped; there is even a little handle, while a saucer provides a flat base! All too soon my greedy eyes strayed to the contents of the hamper. There were oatie flip biscuits, strawberry and cream shortbread, strawberry and champagne conserve and breakfast tea bags. Well, of course the kettle was soon boiled and, before I knew it, I was happily sipping tea and devouring numerous biscuits - purely for testing purposes of course! The oatie flips were additively moreish. Their mere hint of sugar almost convinced me that they might be healthy. The shortbread was simply gorgeous and I found my hand repeatedly making a return visit to the packet. Before they even passed my lips I could smell the strawberries! With my elder boy tucked up in bed for a nap and my baby sleeping off a feed, I thoroughly enjoyed those few minutes to myself. I savoured every sip and every bite; it was heavenly.

Gorgeous bounty of goodies
Of course I still had the luxurious jam to sample. I waited for my husband to return from work before placing a few slices of bread in the toaster. It was raining outside and there was a distinct chill in the air. Jam on toast with yet another cup of breakfast tea would be perfect. I was correct. It was indeed PERFECT!

I really am delighted with this Lakeland Tea Cup Hamper. It is great value for money, costing less than a bouquet of flowers yet lasting longer.....I admit the biscuits probably won't last as long! There is no reason why the hamper cannot last a lifetime. I've found it to be perfect for storing eggs. How wonderful! This really is a special and luxurious gift to give to family and friends for Christmas or any other occasion.

My new way of storing eggs!
There is currently a great offer on this tea cup hamper - two for £30.00; brilliant value for money!

1 comment:

  1. Great write up Anneliese - you make it sound a wonderful pressie - although anything from Lakeland has to be good!! :) xx

    ReplyDelete