This is my kitchen. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

As I continue to try and blog more often I thought I’d post something about “my working conditions”. I didn’t do much baking in the first few weeks of the year and my kitchen was unusually clean so I’ve taken some photos of the space, equipment and utensils I use and my usually store cupboard fillers.

I love my kitchen. It really is my home within my home. I’m never happier then when I’m pottering around my kitchen usually with a cooking program on my tv and a cup of tea within arms reach. It’s the first kitchen that’s ever been mine and I have everything laid out just how I want it. It’s not huge but there’s only me and my flatmate using it and it’s big in proportion to the rest of my place.

When I was looking around for an apartment to buy some of the kitchens are really shocking (galley kitchens are for submarines and trains!) and I don’t blame a lot of people for saying they don’t enjoy cooking when you see the space they have to work with. The only thing I’d change about my kitchen is the amount of storage space…I only have one cupboard dedicated to stolen pub glasses which really isn’t acceptable to a modern bachelor such as myself!

I’ve been slowly building up baking equipment over the last couple of years, when I first started out I thought you could make do with whatever you have around but as I’ve tried to do more recipes I’ve needed more specialist tools. Some things have been purchased cheaply in my early days, other things have been more expensive.

I use a fair amount of sillicon moulds and some of it was bought a bit naively (like the cupcake trays) but I generally do like it and one massive advantage for me is you never have any trouble squashing it in to the bottom of carry on bag and jumping on the plane which I do a fair bit.

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Next up is my general storecupboard; it’s missing something vital which I only realised when I tried to start baking recently; see if you can spot it 😉 .

As I mentioned in an earlier post I don’t make many recipes more then once, some of the more unusual ingredients below were bought once and have stayed in the cupboard ever since. If anyone has a recipe that will help me use up all of this stuff in one massive bake please sent it on!

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Other then getting in eggs and milk fresh when needed and chocolate (which I don’t stock up on cause I end up eatting it) the missing store cupboard essential is yeast.  I’ve picked up more since these shots were taken and I have to make sure I don’t run out as I plan to do a lot of bread in the months ahead.

So that’s everything I guess. The vast majority of things I post will have been produced in the few square meters of space I have and using the equipement shown above (except Kenneth who’s gota post featured all to himself).
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*If anyone isn’t familiar with where I’ve nicked the idea for the title of this post it’s from a passage called The Rifleman’s Creed which features in two of my favourite films Full Metal Jacket and Jarhead. It’s commonly used by US Marines in training but I think the opening few lines work quite well if you replace the word rifle with the word kitchen:

This is my kitchen. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My kitchen is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.

My kitchen, without me, is useless. Without my kitchen, I am useless.

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Toblerone Cookies and the benefits of recycling

Long ago when I was in my 20’s (early 2012) and thought “this blogging thing looks easy” I briefly flirted with a Tumblr account before deciding I didn’t like the format and set up this WordPress blog…where I promptly failed to post  anything for several months.

I’ve been a bit busy this week and as I’m flying off on my hols tomorrow I’ve decided to recycle one of my only Tumblr posts.

It’s normal in our office to bring back a bag of sweets from your holidays but I like the idea of picking up some sweets or chocolates from whereever you’ve been and using them to bake something. After my ski trip last year I made Toblerone cookies and here is my post from the time in all it’s original (lack of) glory:

“On the way back from my ski holiday in France I picked up a bag of mixed mini-Toblerone in the airport and decided to make them in to cookies to bring in to everyone in work! I followed the receipe from http://www.toblerone.co.uk/toblerone1/page?siteid=toblerone1-prd&locale=uken1&PagecRef=636.

It’s straightforwards and quick to do; I kept the white, dark and milk chocolate ones seperate to create different varieties of cookies but I’m sure a mix of all three would be nice too.

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…you’d think Toblerone had paid me for this post…they haven’t, but it’s not too late! I managed to make and bring in about 70 of these to work but they didn’t last very long, I’ll have to do twice as much next time!”

 
So that was it. I think I’ll try and get something a bit more original and regional to bake with this year, hopefully something will get my attention and spark an idea when I’m over there.

I’ve been an organised little blogger and have two posts in my draft folder ready to publish whilst I’m on my hols so althought I’ll be away there will still be a couple of posts going up in the next week followed by 2 or 3 posts in the week after I get back.

Stay tuned to find out what I make my colleagues this time and the answers to other such exciting questions such as:

  • Did I break any bones?
  • Did I find any horse burgers to eat?
  • Is there really a Michelin Star Restaurant in the local town with an all you can eat dessert cart?!?!

My first date with Kenneth

 

It was a Saturday night and of course being the eligible bachelor that I am I’d a date lined up that I was pretty excited about.

I’d like to introduce you to the new man in my life – Kenneth.

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Kenneth is pretty sleek as you can see, he’s a ‘Major Pro’ and we were first introduced by my parents on my 30th birthday. As you can see he has a diverse and exciting personality:

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I was a bit busy over Christmas and stuck with tried and tested baking methods for recipes I was doing to some tight deadlines. This was the first chance Kenneth and I had for a night together. and as with most first dates I decided to do something safe and boring. I’m off sweet things for January as I’m watching my figure so decided to make Ciabatta from Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads.

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I probably let the dough rise a bit too long; I gave it over 2 hours instead of the 1 in the recipe, in the end it meant the loaves didn’t rise much after they’d been shapped but did rise a good amount in the oven.

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I could certainly do with working on my loaf shaping technique but all in all not a bad first date, I’ll certainly be seeing Kenneth again and I’ve a feeling he’s going to be in my life for years to come!

🙂

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes – The year gone by and the year ahead

Ok, so this post is a little late, but probably not as late as you might think. One of my resolutions last year was to set up a Twitter account and blog etc which I did on the 13th of January so I’ve just turned one year old!

I hadn’t really made any New Year resolutions before 2012 but I ended up sticking to them fairly well including hauling myself around my first marathon. Highlights of the year would have in include my first ski holiday for a good few years, my friend Gary’s 30th (@BlueFrogWorld) in June, the Park Life Weekender Music Festival in Manchester, all my friends coming to Dublin for my 30th in November and my friend Shaun’s 30th (@ElitePondCovers) in December  followed by a great Christmas. Some of these will be mentioned over the next few weeks in blogs as I took lots of food photos…some photos will never see the light of day!

Foodie highlights for the year involve my first real cake stall (which sold out in a couple of hours), my first trip to Bon Appetite in Malahide, the Flavour of Fingal festival, a trip to the Cube in London for an amazing meal from Daniel Clifford (blog soon!) and obviously the Great British Bake Off and our Irish Bake Along which has been the subject of all my other blogs before this.

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One of the things that’s consistently kept me engaged with food and baking and my number one favourite thing about 2012 has to have been all the fun I’ve been having on Twitter. It’s honestly been great especially any TV shows or current affair incidents when my timeline just lights up with all manner of funny jokes and insightful observations. The volume of people out there who are doing some amazing things with food constantly has me thinking “I must try that.” “How’d they come up with that?” or the most common of all “Wow, I’ll never be able to do that”.

I’ve managed to pass one thousand followers now which wasn’t something I set out to do but I was really pleased (for some reason, vanity?) and I’ve also been surprised how quickly you feel you get to know some people and start to consider them friends. I am averaging a worrying amount of tweets per day but at least I’m committed to something!

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 It’s not all been smooth sailing this year though, there has been some serious illness and loss in my immediate and extended family and also in the family of my flatmate which left 2012 feeling a little bitter sweet.  On a more trivial note I also didn’t blog as much as I’d hoped and I’m still in a job which I don’t have a passion for so they are still things to be worked on.

So on to this year – 2013 and all it has to offer

Resolutions:

Blog more, a lot more, I’ve to catch up on posts that should have gone up months ago as well as keeping up on posts from everything I plan to do this year. I’ve a list of 12 or 13 to have up by the end of February and this is only number 2.

Buy more baking and cooking books  – at least one a month. I started off relying largely on internet recipes but as I’ve been acquired more books over time I’ve started to prefer them more and more and I’m now at the stage where I want a proper collection. If I’ve 12 more books at the end of the year I’ll be happy!

Pick something and get good at it – I rarely try a recipe more then once and jump between bread, cakes, biscuits and pastry all the time and it means I never get all that good at any of them.

Visit places – I don’t visit and eat from enough places that are out there and making a success of baking. Ninety per cent of all baked goods I eat are my own or supermarket shelf fillers. I have never been to the Honest 2 Goodness Market, Arun Bakery, Lolly and Cooks, Brother Hubbards, The Cake Cafe, Brown Hound and many others I’m sure I’ve not mentioned. Lots of these are very near my office. I’ve been to Fallon and Byrne loads for ingredients but only their own stuff a couple of times. This all has to change this year and these are just the baking places…there’s a huge list of great restaurants I have to get to as well.

Non-baking resolutions include doing another marathon (or two), to stop spending ALL my money on nights out and to generally act more like a grown up. I’m on my January detox at the mo so being very well behaved but we’ll see how long that lasts!

So watch this space, lots planned for 2013, just have to see if I can pull it off!

Four months late and two bakes short – Great Irish Bake Off Round Up

I’m approaching 2013 determined to blog a lot more often but before I plunge headlong into new blogs I have to finish off a series of blogs started back in September last year. I had started the #GIrishBO telling myself I’d manage one bake and a follow-up blog each week with ease but in reality by week three I was baking and submitting entries at the last-minute and the next weeks challenge was looming up at me before I’d even had the chance to look at doing a blog entry.

Here are all the entries I completed with some brief summary notes and links if you want more info.

Week 4

In Week Four we had a choice between a classic Creme Caramel or a Layered Meringue Cake. I’m not a fan of the Creme Caramel so went with the Layered Meringue Cake.!

All of the entries and the winner from this week (spoiler alert – it wasn’t me!) can be found on Caitriona’s blog http://wholesomeireland.com/?p=1130/ and this is my entry in full:

I made a batch of meringue and separated it in to thirds, coloured one-third with red colouring, one-third with green and left the other plain. I piped the meringue on to a baking sheet in a style that ended up looking a lot like the countdown grid! I was using a Victoria sponge for my base and topped this with cream, strawberries and kiwis.

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I’d a clear idea of what I wanted it to look like  at the start but it didn’t come off for a few reasons. I wanted the meringue layer to mirror the fruit and cream colours a lot more but would have needed a better quality colouring to do this, like gel or powder. The meringue layer was also a lot less stable then I’d have liked and I think if I did this again I’d pipe the colours a lot smaller and tighter together. As you can see in the photo above there are spaces in the layer so it didn’t hold together as well.

Week 5

Week 5 was a Key Lime Pie challenge, I didn’t enter (can’t remember why, hangover perhaps?) but you can see the entries here: http://wholesomeireland.com/?p=1165 I do intend to bake one at some point.

Week 6

I loved doing the Sticky Toffee Pudding challenge, I’d never done one before and had always wanted to and I also loved eating it afterwards; unlike most of my baking none of this made it in to work and I ate them all myself! Results and other entires from week 6 can be found here: http://wholesomeireland.com/?p=1190

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Week 7

Chelsea Buns were the challenge for week 7 and I didn’t do well at all. I left it very late to begin and my dough didn’t rise at all so I couldn’t enter and didn’t bake them. I’ve still not made them even though they are something I like eating. Again, will have to put a pin in it and come back to do these again at some point. Successful results can be found here: http://wholesomeireland.com/?p=1240

Week 8

Gingerbread houses! I’m not great at decorating so this week was never going to be my strong point, running out of time certainly didn’t help but I enjoyed the challenge. I decided to base my Gingerbread house on a real life winter/alpine house which my parents have out in the French Alps. I’m heading back over there soon, I love it and the local food is amazing, keep an eye out for blogs on my trip early February!

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Other entries and the winner are here: http://wholesomeireland.com/?p=1279

Week 9

The penultimate week was a St Honore Gateau which I’d never heard of before the episode of the Great British Bake Off aired. It’s got a few different stages to it and involves two different types of pastry. I found it a lot of fun to make but wasn’t totally happy with my finished bake. Blog post on the other entries: http://wholesomeireland.com/?p=1308

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The Final Challenge!

The very final challenge was a Chiffon Sponge Cake, we could use any flavour or design we wanted but I didn’t want to stray too far from the recipe used on the show as I was new to doing Chiffon. I did want to make a bit of effort though so added the macaroons for decoration:
The other entries and the final winner can be found here: http://wholesomeireland.com/?p=1329

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So that’s the lot, all in all I really enjoyed doing the bake along. It was a tough and a lot of effort some days but it certainly pushed me to bake things I’d never done before which is why I got involved in the first place. If I bake competitively again I think I’ll need to put in a lot more planning and allow a lot more time, hopefully that’s the lesson learnt anyway; I’m sure I’ll be attempting to bake along with the next series of the British Bake Off and with the Irish series whenever it first airs.

The most important thing I learnt from all the challenges is you have to push yourself – I had stuck to the same basic baking and same sources for recipes before the challenges began and I could easily have kept on like that for another few years. Avoiding recipes that looked hard or complex is never going to get anyone that far. I do think I’d ‘have a go’ at almost any recipe now and know that even when things go wrong I’ll learn lessons from it I can use the next time around. I’m still a long way off from being able to produce good versions of most of the recipes above, but I’ve made the first attempt and that’s a start.

Last of all  I’d like to say a massive, massive thanks to Catriona from http://www.wholesomeireland.com for organising it all, the judges for the time they put in to it, Dr Oetker for the prizes every week and all the other contestants for the non-stop twitter taunting 🙂

More blogs will follow this one, I won’t be slacking this year with posts…which I’ll be discussing in my next blog!