Our celebratory trip to the Isles of Scilly this year, taken as our annual holiday, was utterly and completely glorious. Good walking, a bit of pampering and relaxation and delicious food in a quiet and beautiful location was what we were after and that is exactly what we got. The weather wasn’t too bad either. We only got three days of drizzle and mists and the rest of our week was near unbroken sunshine – not bad for this part of the world.
|View from Samson Hill Cottage|
|Cromwell’s Castle, Tresco|
|Rocky islet, Bryher|
|Our last night|
We’ve been promising ourselves a trip to the Scilly Isles for years. I went to Bryher on a school camping trip when I was twelve and fell in love with the island then. I’d never been back and CT had never been at all despite all the botanical delights to be seen there. If it hadn’t been for Issy of Clotted Cream Diaries, I very much doubt we’d have made it this year either. Issy is Scillonian born and this year left her life here on the mainland to go home and set up an eco B&B which just happened to be on the island of Bryher. What with significant birthdays to celebrate and total exhaustion to alleviate, the call was just too strong.
|One of many roadside stalls with honesty box, St Agnes|
|Get your pizzas here|
The Scilly Isles are made up of many islands, but only five of them are inhabited. Bryher is the smallest, but also the least developed with a particularly wild moorland quality, which made me feel right at home. We managed to visit all five islands whilst we were there and although Bryher remains my favourite, we were both taken with St Martin’s and St Agnes as well. One of the great delights was the virtual absence of motorised road traffic – bliss. We found the Scilly Isles in general to be very laid back and the people friendly – it was like stepping back in time and reminded us of our six months spent in New Zealand back in the 90s.
|Scilly rock art on Bryher|
|Weather forecasting on St Agnes|
|Boys and their toys! Tresco|
|Gaia, Tresco Abbey Gardens|
|Last resting place of Harold Wilson, St Mary’s|
Samson Hill Cottage is the last dwelling on the sheltered side of the island, so it was wonderfully quiet and secluded. Overlooking Tresco, we had a stunning view of the sometimes turquoise waters. On the day of our arrival, we were welcomed with a huge cream tea, with local clotted cream and jam and a pile of scones made by Issy, which we scoffed in the garden. As well as a fabulous breakfast with more menu choices than I’ve ever seen and using as much local produce as possible, we also enjoyed three evening meals. Each afternoon when we returned from our various outings, we’d find a piece of delicious homemade cake in our room. Goodness me, Issy’s double chocolate brownies were something else, in fact they were so good, I forgot to take a picture. In addition to the B&B, Issy and her husband Gareth also do two pizza nights a week from their wood fired pizza oven in the garden. Despite our feeling of repleteness, we couldn’t resist a pizza on our last evening and we are so glad we indulged. Oh, did I mention the fudge? We had a packet of locally made fudge (which just happened to be made by Issy’s mum) left in our room on a couple of occasions too.
|Sweetcorn Fritters, one of the many vegetarian breakfast options available|
|CT raring to get started on the Full Scillonian|
|Issy’s homemade pain au chocolat – what’s left of it anyway|
|Scilly pea soup with goat’s cheese & croutons|
|Couldn’t resist this cheeseboard with four Cornish cheeses – who needs dessert?|
|Not on the menu – Portuguese Man-of-war, all washed up with nowhere to go|
As well as the chocolate brownies and pain au chocolat, we did have a couple of other chocolate indulgences whilst visiting the other islands. Sadly the chocolates, handmade on St Agnes, were not available on our visit, but luckily the island had chocolate ice-cream, made with Jersey and Ayrshire clotted cream. It was the best ice-cream I’ve had in a very long time – thick, creamy and rich. It worked really well with the, ahem, “bonus” scoop of rose geranium – a complete revelation.
|Troytown Farm Ice Cream|
So with all that food, lunch and sometimes dinner was hardly a priority for us. Quite honestly, the flapjacks I made before I left were not really needed, but they did come in useful on the long boat trips to and from Scilly and allayed any possible hunger pangs that arose during the day whilst we were out walking. I think we’ve come back two stone heavier than when we left.
- Melted 125g unsalted butter in a large pan with a heaped tbsp of Cornish runny honey.
- Stirred in 75g demerara sugar.
- Stirred in 280g rolled oats.
- Added 50g chopped dried figs, 50g chopped almonds and 25g dark 70% chocolate chips.
- Stirred until all incorporated.
- Pressed into a 9 x7 inch tin and scattered with sesame seeds.
- Baked at 180C for 20 minutes.
- Allowed to cool, then cut into 12 rectangles.
Homemade by Fleur is doing a flapjack challenge, so I couldn’t resist entering these figgy delights, even though it is a little late in the day (11/10/12).
Cake decorating is an art I haven’t quite mastered. I seem to lack the necessary patience to create a glorious edifice or maybe it’s that my mind is concentrated more on the taste than the look. To be honest, I’m not really interested in the high art of sugarcraft as the homemade look resonates more with me, but I would, nevertheless, like to improve the overall finish of my cakes. Sadly, I am not destined to attend that most prestigious of cake decorating events, Cake International: the Sugarcraft and Cake Decoration Show. My skills, will therefore, remain basic – for the time being. However, I do have a pair of tickets to give away to one keen cake decorator.
Cake International: the Sugarcraft & Cake Decoration Show is an annual event held at the NEC near Birmingham on the 9-11th November 2012. It is the place to go to learn about cake decorating, discover the latest techniques, buy books and get them signed by the authors and to stock up on those more unusual and hard to find supplies.
And it’s not just about decorating either. In addition to the plethora of decorating demonstrations given by cake decorators from both the UK and abroad, you will also find baking demonstrations. After all, who wants a beautifully decorated cake that falls apart or fails to fulfil its promise in any other way? If you fancy trying out sugarcraft, but don’t really know where to begin, you could attend a workshop to get you started on some basic techniques.
I was very pleased to discover that chocolate has not been forgotten. Top tips for creative ideas in the art of chocolate are on the programme and a chocolate box Christmas house complete with smoking chimney will be on display.
There are lots of competition classes to enter too, including two-tiered wedding cakes, shoes & handbags and cupcakes. Each day of the show will feature a live decorating challenge and to tempt you, a grand prize of £1000 is being offered. The deadline for competition entries is 26th October 2012.
A one day ticket is £12 or £10 if ordered before 5 November
Photographs were taken at last year’s show by Susan of A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate who has very kindly allowed me to make use of them. Do take a look at her posts covering last year’s show: Cake International Part 1 and Cake International Part 2
To have your chance of winning a pair of tickets please complete the Rafflecopter below. You will need to leave a comment on this post which then gives you additional chances to enter if you so wish. Rafflecopter will pick a winner at random from the entries received. If you are commenting anonymously, please give me some way of identifying you as I will be verifying the validity of entries. Any automated entries will be disqualified.
Closing date is Tuesday 25 September
There was nothing for it, with a fridge load of blueberries in need of using up, I just had to do some baking. Interrogating my books, via Eat Your Books, two recipes appealed: Dan Lepard’s blueberry almond bar from Short and Sweet and blueberry streusel muffins from Tea with Bea. It was a tough choice, but in the end Dan won out. Shockingly, chocolate did not feature in this recipe, so I added some. I also decided to cook the blueberries in rose syrup, as I’d recently made another batch. I tried to upscale the recipe a little as I didn’t have the required 20 cm tin.
This is how I did it:
- Washed 300g blueberries and put them in a pan.
- Added 100ml of rose syrup and 25g caster sugar.
- Bought the mixture to a gentle simmer.
- Mixed 2 rounded tsp of arrowroot in about 40ml water.
- Added this and stirred well, continuing to simmer for about 5 minutes, until the mixture had thickened and was a very deep blue.
- Sifted 180g flour (80g spelt, 100g white) into a bowl with 3/4 tsp baking powder.
- Added 60g ground almonds and 75g cardamom sugar (caster).
- Cut 110g unsalted butter into pieces and rubbed this into the flour.
- Added 1 duck egg and mixed.
- Poured this into a 21cm square tin lined with baking parchment and pressed it flat.
- Poured 50ml milk into a small pan.
- Added 2 tsp honey, 100g light brown sugar, 75g flaked almonds, 25g ground almonds and a drop of almond extract.
- Bought mixture to a simmer and cooked for a few minutes until mixture thickened slightly.
- Took off the heat and added 30g dark chocolate (G&B Maya Gold).
- Spooned the blueberry compote over the biscuit base.
- Spooned the almond caramel over the blueberries.
- Baked at 180C for 30 minutes.
The blueberry and caramel mixtures amalgamated completely during cooking, which was a little disappointing. But that was where the disappointment ended. They tasted fruity and the almond shortbread base was delicious and just the right texture, with the caramel adding just the right amount of sweetness. Remarkably some of these survived for several days and the last ones tasted just as good as the first.
As soon as I saw this cake over at The More Than Occasional Baker, replete with my guilty pleasure, Maltesers, it was only a matter of time before I was going to bake it. Luckily, my birthday provided the perfect excuse. After all the birthday festivities, ahem, back in July, it was time to go back to work – this means taking in birthday cake. If ever we get boxes of chocolates at work it is usually the Maltesers that disappear first. I thus reasoned, a Malteser cake would be a popular one for my work colleagues. As Ros didn’t actually have the recipe on her site, I googled it and found it over at BitterSweetSpicy. The recipe comes from Annie Rigg’s book Make, Bake & Celebrate – I obviously have a serious gap in my baking book collection!
Having just read Alida’s post about using vinegar as well as eggs and baking powder, I thought I’d give this a try rather than using buttermilk which I didn’t have. Because I made a mistake in the amount of sugar I used to begin with, I upped all of the quantities slightly as well as making a few other adjustments.
This is how I did it:
- Creamed 175g unsalted butter with 150g sugar (half vanilla sugar, half dark brown) until very light and fluffy.
- Added a pinch of rock salt and creamed some more.
- Beat in 3 large duck eggs one by one.
- Sifted in 275g self-raising flour (half wholemeal, half white), 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 2 heaped tbsp of Horlicks.
- Stirred in 100ml water mixed with 80ml of milk and 1 tbsp cider vinegar until just combined.
- Divided mixture between two 21 cm cake moulds and baked at 180C for 30 minutes.
- Poured 200ml double cream into a bowl over warm water and whisked in 50g of Horlicks.
- Added 250g 37% milk chocolate (G&B) and left to melt.
- Removed from heat and stirred in 1 tbsp golden syrup and 75g unsalted butter.
- Left to cool and turn thick enough to ice.
- Slathered the mixture all one cake thickly and placed the other one on top.
- Covered the other cake and sides with the rest.
- Placed maltesers around the edge.
What I realised as soon as I’d put the cakes together and it was all too late, was that I had forgotten to crush some maltesers and put them in between the layers. Well what a shame, I was really looking forward to that bit. However, this proved to be the most popular cake yet with my work colleagues and I have to say I could very easily have demolished a goodly proportion of it myself if I’d had the chance. I had to make do with a modest slice though, which means only one thing – I will have to make this again.
I am submitting this to Jac’s Bookmarked Recipes over at Tinned Tomatoes.
Can you believe it? We Should Cocoa has done a stunning two years, that’s a total of 24 monthly chocolate challenges – wow! I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has entered during this time and made it such a fabulous event. We’ve had so many creative, tasty and beautiful entries submitted over these two years. I wish I had enough time in my life and space in my stomach to sample them all. I’d like to give special thanks to the We Should Cocoa stalwarts who contribute on a regular basis, in particular those who were there for the very first challenge over at Chocolate Teapot:
- Hannah from Corner Cottage Bakery
- Suelle from Mainly Baking
- Phil from As Strong As Soup
- Lucy from The KitchenMaid
- Caroline from Cake, Crumbs and Cooking
While I’m in grateful mood, I’d also like to express my gratitude to those that have guest hosted some of the challenges and have done such a wonderful job of managing the event:
- Laura of How to Cook Good Food chose Almonds
- Lucy of The KitchenMaid chose such a popular ingredient she had to do her round-up in two parts Coffee 1 and Coffee 2
- Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen hosted last month’s challenge which was Cherries. If you haven’t seen the round-up, do check it out.
|Here’s one I made earlier 😉|
So, as it is a birthday month for We Should Cocoa and it rolls into its third year, I’m hoping you will all join us in celebration and create something chocolatey that is inspired by a cocktail. Now, don’t panic. This doesn’t have to be a cocktail, although it could be, it doesn’t have to contain alcohol, though it could do, it doesn’t even have to be the flavours of a specific cocktail, just something that conjures up cocktails for you.
Apologies for the annoyance caused, but I am re-instating word verification on blog comments for the time being. I am being inundated by spam and can no longer cope with the sheer volume. I might try turning it off again in a few weeks time to see if the break stops the comments.