2014 – In Review

How on earth is it already the end of 2014? It’s been a pretty mixed year. Started a bit low but had some real highlights. Including (but not limited to) taking my friends to Mull for the first time, my sister getting married, Chicago, Groezrock & moving to London (at last). It’s been pretty damn busy to say the least. I’ve made a lot of new friends, and got closer to old ones. I saw my sister walk down the aisle and was her new husband’s groomsmen. I baked a serious amount of cake. Averaging more than once a week.

Below are some visual highlights from a year in the life of a beard.

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Above image by Rob Booker Photography – www.robbooker.co.uk

Chicago

Sound of Mull 03

And now I’m going to do a few year top 5’s.

My favourite first time bakes:

  1. Oven Baked Cinnamon Donuts (recipe to come)
  2. Triple Chocolate Brownies
  3. Triple Chocolate Brownies

  4. Strawberry Drizzle Cake
  5. Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes
  6. Sticky Ginger Loaf w/ Dark Rum Drizzle and Lime Buttercream
  7. Sticky Ginger Loaf

Albums of the year:

  1. The Hotelier – Home, like Noplace is there
  2. Cayetana – Nervous Like Me
  3. PUP – PUP
  4. Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss it All
  5. The Lion & The Wolf – Symptoms</li>

Songs of the year:

  1. The Hotelier – Your Deep Rest
  2. The Menzingers – I Don’t Wanna Be An Arsehole Anymore
  3. Die Antwoord – Happy Go Sucky Fucky
  4. The Smith Street Band – Throw Me In The River
  5. Cayetana – Scott Get the Van, I’m Moving

I’m going to end it there and stop myself from moving on to things you really don’t care about. I could easily go on to list stuff like my top 5 burgers, top 5 wrestling moments and things along those lines. But the majority of you are only here for cake, so even the music was probably a bit far.

Bring on 2015! I’ll be seeing it in on Mull with some friends, what are you doing? And tell me some of your best moments from 2014.

Chocolate Yule Log

Chocolate Yule Log

Once again I should probably be apologising for a lack of Christmas posts. But you know what? I’m not going to. I’ve been that damn busy enjoying the festive period that well, I’ve not really had time to do updates. I’ve been baking plenty, but the food I’ve been making has been going straight to the plate. Since my last update I’ve also died of a hangover. This is my ghost writing this. I’m not exaggerating. My work Christmas do left me a shell of what I once was. I think it made my top 5 hangovers and possibly clinched the number one spot. Those that follow me on twitter, sorry, but I took it out on my twitter feed with some live tweeting.

Christmas Yule Log

Apparently my Cranberry & Orange loaves arrived in one piece and were devoured by the winners. I apologise for not sending out others like I said I may, but at £8.50 a pop I just couldn’t afford the postage. In the new year, you are all (well some), getting cake sent across.

Christmas Yule Log

Christmas Yule Log

I wanted to do something properly Christmassy. So who wants a Yule Log? This is basically my Chocolate Swiss Roll recipe slathered in chocolate and made to look like a log. If anyone wants to pass me some holly I’ll get it looking extra festive.

Christmas Yule Log

I’ve failed at a couple of recipes of late, and it’s annoyed me a little. I tried making a gingerbread sleigh the other day and just couldn’t get it to stick together. Not quite right anyway. Below is a fairly awful picture of what I did make, along with some pretty awesome Christmassy treats from Lindt. It didn’t stick together well and didn’t photograph well, so it doesn’t get its own post I’m afraid.

Gingerbread sleigh

 

Chocolate Yule Log
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 12 slices
Ingredients
  • • For the Swiss Roll:
  • • 3 large eggs
  • • 75g caster sugar
  • • 50g plain flour
  • • 25g cocoa powder
  • • For the Buttercream:
  • • 175g Good quality dark chocolate
  • • 250g Icing Sugar
  • • 225g Butter, soft
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C(180°C fan assisted) and line a swiss roll tray with paper. Whisk together the sugar and eggs for 5-10 minutes until it forms a pale, creamy mixture. The whisk should leave trails.
  2. Sieve in the flour and cocoa powder and mix well. Be careful not to knock the air out but make sure it is well combined with no clumps.
  3. Spread the mixture out evenly into the prepared pan. Using a palette knife to ease it into the corners. Place in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes (or until the cake is springy to the touch. I could have baked mine for a minute or so less).
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan, covered with a damp cloth. In the meantime, lay out a large piece of greaseproof paper and dust with cocoa powder. Transfer the cake to this.
  5. While it cools on the new parchment, make the buttercream. Melt the chocolate, either using a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of water, or in the microwave. Set aside and allow to return to room temperature.
  6. Sift the icing sugar in a mixer with the butter and cream together. Pour in the chocolate and cream until well mixed.
  7. Spread the buttercream over the whole cake, making sure it goes to all the corners. Carefully roll the swiss roll from the longest edge close to you, getting the roll as tight as possible.
  8. Once rolled tightly, cut off either end at a slight angle, use these to make the branches of your log.
  9. Cover the log in the remaining buttercream, using a fork afterwards to drawn the pattern of the bark. Dust with Icing Sugar to get it looking extra festive.
 

Fifteen Festive Favourites

It’s Christmas next week and I feel a bit bad about my lack of Christmas posts. I’m aiming to get a bit more up over the weekend, anyone say chocolate sleigh? Or Yule Log? But anyway I was tagged by Sybil across at Gin Fuelled Blue Stockings for 15 Christmas facts.

01. Favourite Festive Food
Far too easy, I remember being a kid and discovering Pigs in Blankets and it shattering my world. I could probably just have a Christmas dinner consisting of them and gravy and I’d be happy. As far as the favourite thing I make it’d probably be Cranberry & Orange Loaves though.

02. Favourite Reindeer
Blitzen, I haven’t really got a reason for this, it’s just a pretty good name. Plus why not route for the bad guy this Christmas, they always get such a hard time of it with all these soppy Christmas movies. I can’t say this is something I’ve ever particularly thought about

03. Favourite Day of Christmas
Boxing day, we usually go on a walk around wherever it is we are spending Christmas. This ranges from a stroll down the lane if it’s in Appleton Roebuck or a proper hike if we’re somewhere like Scotland. Plus you get the leftover Pigs in Blankets, what’s not to like? Also football is on, so it gives me something to watch that isn’t just Christmas tele.

04. Favourite Christmas Song
Ah, this one is an easy one. Reuben – Christmas is Awesome

05. Favourite Present
There are three here, from very different times of my life:
• The first would be my old mountain bike. It was a Giant, white with those pointless antler type handlebars that every kid wanted. 21 gears and everything. The use I got out of that in my youth was huge. I loved it. It’s still kicking about in my parent’s shed actually. I think it’ll be going in the move unfortunately.
• My Kenwood food mixer. Other than the above mentioned bike I’m not sure if a present I’ve received has ever had so much use. I use this thing 2-3 times a week, sometimes more. It’s fuckin’ brilliant and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. Gone are the days where I have to whisk to a stiff peak by hand. It may not be a Kitchenaid but it doesn’t have to be and I love it.
• My “The Bearded Bakery” apron & Mug from last Christmas. My Mum did this unprompted and it made me so happy. The original apron disappeared during the year but my friend Katie helped me sort a new one before the shoot we did earlier this year.

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06. Favourite Festive Film
Die Hard. What says Christmas better than “Now I have a machine gun, Ho-Ho-Ho.”? It’s a masterpiece, from start to finish. From the cheesy Germanic bad guys to Rickman pretending to be a civilian. It’s just pure cheesy action filled with one liners and ridiculous clichéd action.
Definitely not Elf. No.
My runners up: Muppet Christmas Carol, Arthur Christmas and Home Alone.

07. Favourite Festive Cracker Toy
Bottle openers, they help me with the booze situation on Christmas day and mean I’ve not got to walk over to the kitchen to get an opener. I can just sit there getting more and more full and a little bit drunker while watching Lord of the Rings for the millionth time.

08. Favourite Cracker Joke
Who hides in the bakery at Christmas? – A Mince Spy

09. Favourite Christmas Decoration
I am not in the slightest religious. In fact I can say I am an out and out atheist that spends time discussing with people he knows about atheism and science etc. However, possibly my favourite Christmas decoration is the nativity set that my Grandfather made our family. This is purely for sentimental and nostalgic reason.

10. Favourite Christmas Candle Scent
The one I’m currently using, which is a Cinnamon Bun scented candle. I do however really like the winter spiced ones you can get at this time of year.

11. Favourite Christmas TV Advert
There isn’t a lot I can say here. Adverts aren’t particularly things I go crazy for. So I’m going to say none of them, soz Grinch.

12. Favourite Festive Tradition
Getting up at about 6am to get the Turkey ready with my dad. He used to do it on his own but these days I usually help him (if we are having Turkey, we’ve mixed it up on the odd occasion lately. For instance we had Goose when we Christmassed in Vienna). He’s got an exact recipe that he likes to use every year, from a Gary Rhodes or Delia book he read back in the 90s and it requires wrapping in various layers of foil, sort of like a parcel and then cooking it over a number of hours.
Yup, that’s right my favourite tradition for Christmas involves getting up ridiculously early. I am mad, I know this. Unfortunately we won’t be doing it this year as we are having a big family get together in Devon and we’re only in charge of starters and desserts.

13. Favourite Place to Spend Christmas
Mull. Only done it once (so far) but I really enjoyed it. I can safely say that I go on about Scotland and Mull far, far, too much but it’s just wonderful. Getting to the middle of nowhere for a bit and really switching off is just the best way to spend Christmas. Even if like last year, it’s in the middle of a storm. With my parents moving to Mull at the start of January I’m expecting to be spending a larger number up there and I can’t wait.

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14. Favourite Christmas Fact
John McClane is actually Father Christmas.

15. Favourite Snowman Accessory
Scarf. Which is odd as neither of the scarfs I own are ones that I actually wear. I just think a snowman looks better with one.

I hope you enjoyed this completely inane ramble. I now tag:
Thom @ Cous Cous Bang Bang
Daisy @ Pretty Green Tea
Emily @ Recipes and Reviews

Cranberry and Orange Loaves

Cranberry & Orange Loaf

IT IS CHRISTMAS NEXT WEEK. GET EXCITED. Stick on your favourite Christmas song, get the wine mulling and tuck in to some form of festive sandwich from your local convenience store. Better yet, make one a Cranberry and Orange Loaf. I love this recipe and make it every year, several times, yet somehow I managed to not write it up last year. I think it was because it’s something I usually make to gift to people or to take places. Which means I never get a chance to actually photograph it.

Cranberry and Orange Loaf

Cranberry and Orange Loaf

Speaking of gifts. This is actually the prize from my Mystery Cake Box giveaway I ran in November. So congratulations to the winners and I hope you enjoy the cakes. I may well be sending a few of these in the direction of some friends if I’ve got time this week so keep an eye on the postie.

Cranberry and Orange Loaf

Cranberry and Orange Loaf

It contains nuts, usually walnuts but I’ve made it with pine nuts for a nut allergy fearing mother before now. The crunch that gets added from the nuts and the extra flavour is a great addition. I have tried a recipe that replaces the Orange with Orange Juice and I have to say, it was much too orangey for me and a bit too sharp. This is a much preferred method and I thought I’d lost the recipe a couple of years ago but managed to dig it back up. It’s one of the few that I have on a scrap of paper that has somehow survived a few years.

Cranberry and Orange Loaf

Cranberry and Orange Loaf

It’s something I usually bake in batches of 2-3 as well. Which you will see below as this recipe makes 2 loaves. The only really time consuming bit is halving all of the Cranberries.

 

Cranberry and Orange Loaves
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 2 Loaves
Ingredients
  • 510g Flour
  • 400g Sugar
  • 3tsp Baking Powder
  • Couple of pinches of Salt
  • Juice and Zest of two large Oranges
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 100g Walnuts, chopped
  • 300g Fresh Cranberries, halved.
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (155°C fan assisted) and grease/line two loaf tins.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of your mixer, add the zest.
  3. In a measuring jug combine the butter, juice and eggs. Add enough water to the jug to make it about 350ml.
  4. Pour into the dry and mix at a medium to low speed until just combined.
  5. Add in the cranberries and walnuts and mix again.
  6. It makes a very thick gloopy batter. Divide this up evenly between the two prepared tins and place on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf will come out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to set in the tin for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool
This recipe is featured in the LV= Very British Cookbook.