Bake Off Fail

I enjoy my baking and if you’ve followed my posts for any length of time you’ll have probably seen the photographs of some of my creations.  I go for substance over style, which is probably fortunate as I haven’t a clue about the latter.

Almost now as a national institution the BBC television programme ‘The Great British Bakeoff’ offers  10 weeks of amateur bakers pitting their skills against each other on challenges which are well beyond anything I could imagine producing. Perhaps more oddly that such a programme exists on national television is how amazingly watchable it is – whether bread will rise or if the pastry will result in a soggy bottom – yes the programme is wall to wall full of innuendos – somehow a large proportion of the country is hooked.

It’s all good clean healthy TV easy watching. Unless you are my satellite recording box as I discovered yesterday when looking for something to watch that I’d recorded.

When Bake Off goes bad
When Bake Off goes bad

I must say I watched that episode with some trepidation!!!!!

BELLS2

A weekend away

I’ve spent an enjoyable weekend away in the Nottingham/Derby part of the world. Sadly no sign of Robin Hood, just a couple of branches of Greggs and a Poundland. But that wasn’t the reason for the visit.

It’s the annual bell ringing trip which is organised by a fellow Stopfordian ringer where we spend a leisurely two days visiting about 5 towers and try to ring some decent changes. Last year we visited Chesterfield; this year is a little bit further down the M1 for us.

Radford
Radford

Our first stop, at Radford was to ring a quarter peal of Yorkshire Surprise Royal. A nice tower only let down by the fact the person supposedly letting us in had forgotten to turn up. After a bit of chasing around and having discovered that nobody else seemed to be aware of our visit, we were let in and got underway. Thankfully the trip was at a gentle pace and only an excessively long lunch was to be impinged. Or at least that’s what we thought.

Beeston
Beeston

Having successfully rung the method we headed off to Beeston. We were forewarned to avoid coming in from the East (where we already were) and to avoid the tram works at all costs. It would seem that the Sat Nav didn’t seem to want to be subjected to these restrictions and we got stuck in a Tom Tom loop around three streets in the middle of the tram works, only broken when we disobeyed the machine and did it ourselves.

Other than the tramworks, there wasn’t a lot to distinguish Beeston, with all the same shops as every other identikit UK high street. We did however stumble across what appeared to be a nice bespoke sandwich shop. And it was bespoke too – serving only pulled pork or beef cobs. Sure, they had a huge menu, but actually only had the two meats in stock. Fortunately pulled pork sounded good to me, and too much choice is over-rated anyway.

With minutes to spare before we started ringing, our final ringer finally emerged from the tram-works and we were ready to go with quarter peal number two - Cambridge Surprise Royal. And again, great bells and some pretty good ringing throughout. Day 1 of the trip was working out rather well, at least from a ringing point of view.

We left the tower, and with a couple of hours before the final tower of the day went to find our accommodation.

Unfortunately and presumably due to user error, the Tom Tom took us to the wrong Premier Inn, but we were quickly put right and arrived at our destination which seemed to be surrounded by Hospitals on all sides. Hopefully not an omen of things to come! It’s clearly one of the newer ones, or at least had a recent lick of paint and a quick shower and cuppa later and I was ready to go out to Derby Cathedral to wage war on Stedman Caters.

Now I’m fine with most ringing methods but for some reason have always had a mental block with Stedman. I can never seem to get it right, and thankfully I was given the heaviest bell to ring, which simply tolls behind the rest of them in this method. And I can do that reasonably competently too :-) Last year’s attempt at the same method (in Chesterfield) was a demonstration of how not to ring Stedman. At least the 2014 rendition was far better, and whilst I could never admit to it being an enjoyable experience, it was quite pleasant to listen too. And we were even given a billing on the church noticeboard should anyone care to know what we were up to.

Derby Cathedral
Derby Cathedral
Look who's on the events list.....
Look who’s on the events list…..

We then found ourselves locked in the church and had to break out. Not that this was particularly difficult as the deadlocks were on the inside. However it did mean we couldn’t secure the building afterwards without the relevant keys which resulted in a number of frantic phone calls and nearly getting back late for dinner. And we couldn’t have that! Still, all was resolved in the end and we were seated at dinner with seconds to spare. I don’t think the world would have stopped turning otherwise, although there was a risk I might have eaten a postbox or park bench in the interim……

Sunday morning started with a run from the hotel to the Cathedral and back, a distance of just over 10k and a nice way to start the day. Followed by a long shower and a huge breakfast.

Sunday morning in fact was totally unplanned. This was a good thing as most of the band needed to learn the method for the first quarter peal of the day at Duffield.

Duffield
Duffield

Needless to say, the effort was in vain with getting about 15 minutes into it before it completely imploded. Such is the way of these things and there’s no guarantee about any method getting to the end intact. So instead we finished our time there with a bit more Stedman Caters, this time with me ringing the method. Surprisingly this didn’t implode in any violent fashion which is unusual when I’m involved in this method!

Our final tower of the weekend is the huge church of Youlgreave, which is a small village on a hill in the middle of nowhere.

Youlgreave
Youlgreave

Despite ringing a straightforward method – Grandsire Caters, the whole Youlgreave story was anything but easy.

Our first road-block occurred somewhere out in the hills near Winster. Road closed – none shalt pass. This didn’t perturb the sat nav who insisted we kept going through the sign regardless of poking it to say the road was blocked. In the end we worked our way back to the A6 and continued on the most major route. Which was fine until we turned off and headed into the wilderness towards the village, whereupon the next ‘Road closed – none shalt pass’ appeared. Which was a blighter as there wasn’t much in the way of options!

Cue a 15 mile diversion , during which the diversion signs totally stopped whilst the sat nav was insisting that the road being closed wasn’t an issue and that we really ought to ignore the big warning sign! Many miles later, on roads which mostly had grass growing up the middle, we arrived in Youlgreave. We were all late but thankfully our tower keeper had faith in our arrival, safe in the knowledge that the Gas Board was digging the hell out of their road system for much of the rest of the year!

When finally we were assembled, a decent quarter peal of Grandsire Caters rang out from their tower, and marked a good end to an enjoyable weekend.

Well, ignoring the big detour on the way home when we went the wrong way along the A515 (sat nav switched off at this point and probably being quite smug about our failed directions)!!!

Running header

A week of running

I’ll do another recipe soon, but I like to get a photo of the goods first, just to whet your appetites :-)

In the meantime a running update. Because I’ve not spoken of running recently……..

So Chester Marathon is feeling a distant memory. The route and statistics are recorded on Strava and on Smashrun which is all very jolly (with the latter generating a number of new badges for my efforts having completed it quicker than a list of celebs quoted on their site!) and the T-Shirt (very nice!) has been worn, washed and this evening ironed. Most of the goody bag has been eaten. Well, except for the papery-bits as they didn’t taste very nice.

My last marathon experience in 2012 was less pleasant (I’m not saying running 26.2 miles could ever be considered a pleasant experience) as I picked up a couple of injuries then. This time, all was fine and dandy; a couple of pre-squashed toes and a lot of feeling exhausted, but actually that was it.

In fact it was only two days after the marathon that I laced on my Saucony 11s and went out for a run. Admittedly this was a gentle paced ‘do my legs still work’ 5k and the time hardly set the world on fire. I didn’t care, the important thing was that all systems were still fine. There was an ulterior motive as I needed to know that I could still run as this was going to be required for work two days later. Not that there would have been much I could have done if my legs had detached from hips instead. But it was nice that they didn’t.

Come the Saturday morning, 6 days post marathon and I needed to be up and about in the morning to go to a basic bicycle maintenance course. This might seem odd, but due to me not having ridden a bike much as a child (and certainly not after the age of 10) I’ve never dealt with the world of punctures, and the fact it took about 2 hours to change my mountain bike tyres for road tyres once has always been a concern that a long distance bike ride could take considerably longer should a mishap occur.

Hence the course.

So I decided I’d cycle there. But not directly, no. Because Saturday morning is Park Run morning. Due to work, I next to never manage to get to a Park Run, despite there being an epidemic of them in the surrounding area – I think there’s 5 in Stockport area alone! I’ve tended to do the Woodbank Park Run in the past because it’s not over-subscribed (it has a hill in it which has to be tackled twice, which puts off those fair-weather (sensible) runners). It was helpfully sort-of en route to my course as well. I was concerned whether the combination of a recent marathon and a bike ride might render me incapable of the course, but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I pulled a PB out of the bag – 20.42 by my watch, although the official time was strangely 20.51 so I’m not sure how such a discrepancy occurred, although there was a problem with my finishing tag which may ultimately be the culprit.

Chuffed with my result I went off to learn about fixing punctures and following a cycle home set about being virtuous about my morning by being slothful all afternoon :-)

I had thought about running a half-marathon the day later, but Oxford was already full and Wirral (which is a lot closer) seemed to be an A-B course rather than ending somewhere close to where it began and I decided I didn’t want to be risking public transport in an area I didn’t know to try to re-locate the car! So instead I sat down with Strava and looked at some local routes. I picked out an interesting 13 miler covering routes I’d never tried before.

On setting out it was clear that the energy available in my body, despite the irresponsible eating over the previous few days, was lacking. Having tackled the hills in Marple I decided that a downhill dash back home was more sensible than disappearing into the bowels of Lyme Park where more hills were lined up on my route. So it reduced to an 8 miler and to be honest it was more than enough. My only frustration was a shot at a personal best time on one of the back-roads being thwarted by the incompetence of a driver being unable to navigate past a couple of workmen taking up none of the road.

Come Tuesday and following a frustrating day at work, I was chomping at the bit for this PB and went for it. And SMASHED IT :-D So much so that I came home and booked myself another half marathon (I know how to to live).

So off to Conwy in November, hopefully to make a better job of it than I did in 2013! On balance, this shouldn’t be too much of an ask!

And as if to prove a point (it wasn’t) – I mapped out a local 10 mile route  which I ran today. Lots of new roads which basically meant I got lost. Several times. But at least this time I found my way into Lyme Park, and successfully got back out again!

I wouldn’t normally have got this carried away, especially with the running injury still relatively fresh in memory. However, with relatively decent weather still available, it would be a shame not to. I just need to get the energy levels back in check for Conwy in 6 weeks’ time.

Simple White Loaf

Simple White Bloomer

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Time: 3hr
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

White Bloomer Loaf
White Bloomer Loaf

There are probably 1000001 different recipes for making bread on the internet so I’m not really sure why I’m adding to the list. I can’t remember exactly where this one was derived as they’re much of a muchness, at least the simple stuff is.

Seriously, if you’ve never tried to make your own bread, you need to give it a go. You won’t be disappointed. I use the dough hook on my mixer but you can quite easily bring the dough together by hand, it just takes a little more effort. The actual kneading will be done by hand – think of it as a workout to use up in advance the calories you’ll be taking in with slabs of jam-smothered bread!

Ingredients

  • 500 g Strong White Flour (for bread making)
  • 14 g Fast Action Dried Yeast (readily available in the baking department of your supermarket)
  • 10 g Salt
  • 340 ml Cold Water

Method

  • In a mixing bowl place the salt in first, then the flour, then the yeast on top. It is important that the yeast and salt are kept apart as the salt will damage the yeast and the bread may not rise.
  • Pour on the water and start to mix the ingredients together. To begin with the mixture will be a sticky mess (as will be your hands if you’re mixing by hand) but keep kneading it together and the mixture will come together as a smooth ball after 5-10 minutes depending on whether this is a machine or your hands working.
  • Once the dough has come together, lightly flour a clean work surface and scoop out the dough onto the flour.
  • Now it is time to knead the dough to continue to build up the gluten which makes the dough stretchy. I use my hands to flatten the dough out, and then stretch it out and fold it back on itself. As you continue to do this (10 minutes roughly) the dough will become stretchier and smoother.
  • Place the dough back into the bowl and cover it with cling film. Leave it in a warm place for about an hour or until it has doubled in size. This is the first ‘prove’.
  • Turn the dough back out onto a floured work surface and flatten it. The yeast will have expanded throughout the dough and will make more air pockets in the second prove. Fold and stretch the dough before shaping it into the final shape that you want , be it a bloomer, a number of individual rolls, a plaited masterpiece etc, and place onto a baking tray, covered in baking paper.
  • If you are making a bloomer, with a sharp knife score a number of lines across the dough, about 1cm deep. This will help the dough to expand lengthways and to create that familiar ridged look.
  • Cover the dough again with cling film (give it room to rise) and leave in a warm place until roughly doubled in size.
  • Pre-heat oven to about 180 Celcius and place a tray of water on the base of the oven. This creates steam which helps to give a crisper crust to the bread.
  • Remove cling film and bake the bread for 30-40 minutes keeping an eye to ensure it is not burning. A quick method to test that the bread is cooked is to carefully lift the bread off the baking tray and tap it’s underside. If it sounds hollow then the bread is baked.
  • Allow to cool before eating!

Red-fruit yoghurt smoothie – OAS friendly!

Fruit & Yoghurt smoothie

  • Servings: makes about 4 drinks
  • Time: 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Here’s a surprisingly healthy recipe from yours truly.

Some of the steps will seem surprising to you. In fact you probably won’t need them at all. One of the difficulties with having a food allergy is that you have to take steps to mitigate the risk of an allergic reaction. This might be through complete avoidance of the foodstuff in question. There are some items which I avoid anyway such as apples, which is one of the reasons I can’t drink the shop-bought smoothies, as they are frequently apple-juice based.

In my case, I can get around my OAS by cooking  the fruit first. Unfortunately this will destroy some if not all of the Vitamin C (although to be fair reading up about how fragile Vitamin C is, just looking at it wrongly is likely to damage it!) As such when I pick my fruit, I freeze it until I need to use it.

Ingredients:

  • Blackberries
  • Blackcurrents
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 bananas
  • 100ml Orange juice – if using concentrate dilute with water to get the desired volume
  • 2 dessert spoons honey
  • some sugar – if your juice is too tart for your taste
  • 500g Greek Yoghurt (I use fat free)
  • 1 scoop of vanilla ice-cream if the pudding seems too healthy without it :-)

Method:

  • heat the soft fruit in a saucepan along with the orange juice, honey, sugar (if needed) and grated ginger until simmering but not boiling. I have to do this to destroy the allergen in the fruit. If you don’t suffer with OAS then you probably can avoid this step.
  • pour the saucepan mix into a blender and allow to cool.
  • slice the banana into the mixture and blitz until smooth (I’m able to eat bananas and citrus without cooking them these days, so I add them now).
  • Add the Yoghurt and ice-cream and blitz again until smooth. Blitzing the mix gets some air into it which makes for a fluffier texture.
  • Pour into dessert glasses and chill before serving (not required if you’ve not had to cook out the fruit).

I’ve found that the desserts will last a couple of days in the fridge although they have separated out on me before to have a deep fruit juice layer underneath a lighter yoghurt layer. With a straw and decorated with squirty cream this can actually look quite an interesting pudding, albeit somewhat less healthy than my original design!

Red Fruit Yoghurt Smoothie
Red Fruit Yoghurt Smoothie

I've tweeted, Flickr'd, Facebooked, Google plussed and probably done a whole host of other things too yet I seem to prefer the blogging world for rambling about the world I live in.

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