Tuesday, 26 July 2011

You have to make these

I wasn't intending to post again before we go away, but then something happened in the kitchen and I just had to tell you about it.
It's been a while since I posted a recipe. Mostly because the only thing happening in my kitchen at the moment are mountains of jam, and partly because everything I've made recently that hasn't been jam hasn't really been post-worthy. We've been eating pretty simply, with bread and cheese with tomatoes being our usual evening meal. Occasionally with the odd addition of couscous salad or potatoes instead of bread.

But with one day left in my kitchen before heading off I wanted to make something a bit special. I wanted something to keep us going through car journeys, airport check-in, train rides, bus rides, and lugging suitcases around. Because much as I enjoy going away, there is all the hassle before you actually get anywhere of note, and I knew we'd need sustenance somewhere in the midst of the chaos.
I initially thought I would make my usual cinnamon rolls, but then I remembered a bag of amazing new flour from Wessex Mill that I picked up last week. It's apple and cinnamon bread flour. Oh yes! The smell alone is enough to make you swoon. Although it's designed for bread it's great mixed with plain flour to add depth to cakes, and so I decided to go ahead and use it for my cinnamon rolls.

Then, when it came to rolling out and filling the dough I had another brain wave. Why fill something already apply and cinnamony with more cinnamon...why not fill it with maple syrup and butter and pecans.
And thus the maple and pecan apple cinnamon roll was born! I cannot even begin to describe how amazing the kitchen smelt while I was baking these. I also must admit to immediately having to try one fresh from the oven. All I can say is...You. Have. To. Make. These.

Don't worry if you can't get the flour, just add a healthy dash of cinnamon and some chunks of dried apple to your flour mix. About a tablespoon of cinnamon and a 1/4 cup of apple should do it. Go on...you know these will taste amazing on Sunday morning. You can knock them out on Saturday, leave them to rest in the fridge overnight and then bake in the morning while you make the coffee. Perfect.
Maple and Pecan Apple Cinnamon Rolls - Makes around 8

1/8 oz Active yeast
1/2 cup of warm milk (just warm to the touch)
1/4 cup soft brown sugar
1 tbsp melted butter
1 egg
2 cups of flour (either apple and cinnamon if you can get it, or just add 1 tbsp cinnamon and 1/4 cup dried apple pieces)

2tbsp butter,
2tbsp maple syrup
1/4 soft brown sugar
large handful of pecans.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and leave to bloom for five minutes. In the meantime melt the butter, and add the sugar and egg, beating in together. Then add this to the yeast mixture. Add all of this to the flour and either knead with a dough hook in a mixture for ten minutes, or by hand until the dough is still a little sticky, but glossy. Cover, and leave to rise for a hour.

Melt together the butter and maple syrup. Combine the pecans and sugar either by pestle and mortar or in a food processor.

Knock back the dough and roll out on a floured surface to aprox. 1/4 inch thick. Brush the dough with the maple/butter mixture, making sure to cover the surface, but leaving some for glazing. Then sprinkle over the pecans and sugar. Gently roll the dough like a Swiss roll and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths. Transfer to a baking tray, upending them and slightly squishing them down to hold them together. Leave to rise until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Glaze the risen rolls with the leftover maple/butter mix and then bake for 10 minutes, or until golden.

Remove from the oven and try and resist eating them until they are at least a little bit cooler!

p.s. I think the only way these might be better is with a smudge of cream cheese icing...

Monday, 25 July 2011

It's out there...

We're off to mainland Europe this week for a mixture of some family celebrations, and some very well deserved RnR after a ridiculous month of having a house of smelling of vinegar and vanilla and filled with hot jars and bottles of varying things
But before we head off, I wanted to give a huge thank you for all your lovely and supportive comments about the business. I really appreciate it, as it's all still a bit overwhelming, and there are various things I am still very much getting to grips with.
But, the product it out there! I can finally share with you some pictures of my preserves on the shelves. It's been rather weird selling things to regular customers, and being able to say "actually, that's my company, I make that." I'm always a mixture of proud and scared! So far it seems to be selling well, long may it last.

Monday, 18 July 2011

On the joy of hand knit socks

On the train into work a few weeks ago I had a lovely knitting bingo* moment, whereby an interested party sitting on the seat next to me asked "what are you knitting" and when I answered "socks" gave a small gasp and with great enthusiasm added "ooh, is knitting them cheaper then?"

I'm afraid I wasn't in control of myself entirely (it was early in the morning, before I'd made it to work and had my second coffee) and gave a large guffaw and in a disbelieving tone said "no!" I felt sorry for the interested commuter as she was clearly baffled by my response and gave a small "oh" and didn't engage with me again. Which is all when and good because I was at a particularly tricky moment in my sock and was rather enjoying the quiet before she sat down.
But, it made me think about the act of knitting socks. I am a very recent sock knitter. I was taught by a lovely friend in February, and when a mutual friend remarked one day "so does this mean you'll become addicted to socks like everyone else who tries them" I laughed and said "no of course not, I just want to prove I can do it." Little was I to know what was to come. I am now in the middle of pair number five, with pair number four also on the needles. I also seem to have inadvertently made some offers to knit pairs for people for birthdays and Christmas. I admit it, I have a problem!
When you look at it objectively from the outside (Like N often does as I frown my way through counting stitches on a chart and swear about missing a ssk on a heel turn) it makes no initial sense at all. Hand knit socks take a lot of time, effort and let's face it, money. When pondering
some yarn for socks for N at a recent jaunt to a knitting show I found myself seriously contemplating spending nearly thirty quid. It was a rush of blood to the head and I didn't, but the temptation was there.
And all for objects that are often hidden beneath trousers or worn through within less than a year of them being finished. So why are they so addictive and wonderful? Well for me there are several reasons. They are pretty. You can make them as long or as short as you like. Because they are not a garment and not close to your face and could be hidden if you wanted to, you can knit them in any colour or combination of colours you like. They are easily carried around when commuting (I have two cardigans floundering because recently my only knitting time has been on the train to work and they are just too darn big to carry). And finally, they are warm! I have long suffered from cold feet. I am, even now, in July, wearing hiking socks in the house because my little toes get cold and rarely get warm. As N has pointed out on many an occasion my feet exist in the Ice Dimension. As a result hand knit socks are a revelation. They truly are warm (unlike so many supposed "thermal" pairs that places sell), and ones that have colourwork and therefore two strands of yarn in them, are even warmer!

So I am knitting like the wind in order to get as many pairs of socks knit, in as many patterns and colours as I can before the winter sets in. This winter, I will have warm feet that will also be pretty feet.
I know you have to knit two, I know they can be expensive and fiddly, but frankly they are rocking my world, and I think they should rock yours too.

Sorry, preaching over...I'm back to knit socks and leave you alone!

*Knitting Bingo is a game invented by a friend and myself whereby if you have encounters with strangers who made particularly cliche comments about your chosen hobby you are obliged to share this with other players via text, email or twitter with the words "Knitting Bingo" and an explanation of the encounter. A good example would be the "oooh, you don't see young people knitting" or "I'd love to knit, but I just don't have time" the latter usually said by someone playing a mindless computer game on their smartphone on the same train journey as said knitter, and clearly implying that aforementioned craftsperson is a lady (or man) of leisure, and not one commuting to one of their three jobs (Sorry, little bitter about those comments!).

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Now I can tell you...

I have some pretty huge news. It's so large that I'm not sure I've even properly taken it in yet. As you've probably noticed I've been a little bit absent over here. I've been busy. So busy that I almost wish I was in bed rather than writing this, and yet this is super exciting.

I guess you want to know what I'm blabbering on about?
I've started my own preserves business. Not only that, but tomorrow my humble jars of delicious things go on sale in an amazing local shop. It's been a complete whirlwind. I've been spending every waking hour (and even some sleeping ones) frantically putting things in jars, building contacts, approaching local farms, getting a website, designing branding, and on top of all this working extra shifts in two jobs in order to afford all the things you need to run a preserves company. Who knew you needed so much stuff...jars, fruit and vegetables is not enough!

I know I've been very quiet about this here, with the exception of a few tempting photographs of fruit. I didn't want to let slip in case for some reason things didn't happen. I've been working on this full-speed since January, and the last couple of months I've been going truly flat out. I have hundreds of jars tucked away filled with things maturing and waiting for sale. I haven't gone into this lightly. I've been considering it for almost two years now, and began the process last summer. Then we moved and finally the house was ours and the kitchen ours and it could be registered as a business premises. I passed all the tests (with the highest rating, *ahem*) and when I started my job at the local deli the business was a bit of a temptation for them. This gave me the kick start I really needed, and so with their constant support and enthusiasm I put the wheels in motion and began producing preserves and building branding like a mad thing.
I won't lie. It's been really hard. It's not easy turning your "hobby" into a potential business or profession. It's damn hard work, especially when you have basically no start-up cash, and so are frantically working all the hours on all of the jobs. But it's also very exciting and a lot of fun, and makes me extremely scared, but also extremely proud.
I would like to think that I am proof that it can be done if you want it enough. I have big dreams for my little empire, but am sticking to the "build slowly, build to last" mantra.

Apart from being in two local shops I will be on some markets this summer, and hopefully more after that. I will of course keep you posted as my preserving madness continues.

In the meantime, I can be found over here at a brand new business website, and on twitter as No98Limited.