Today is Halloween, and I decided to have a bit of fun this year.
To start with I made some spooky gingerbread using a simple recipe I found online, and some halloween cutters I bought from Hobbycraft for a pound. They came out very well and went very quickly in the office!
- Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon and pour into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and blend until the mix looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
- Lightly beat the egg and golden syrup together, add to the food processor and pulse until the mixture clumps together. Tip the dough out, knead briefly until smooth, wrap in clingfim and leave to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
- Roll the dough out to a 0.5cm/¼in thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using cutters, cut out the gingerbread men shapes and place on the baking tray, leaving a gap between them.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown. Leave on the tray for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to finish cooling. When cooled decorate with the writing icing and cake decorations.
As we were likely to be getting Trick-or-Treaters this year, I thought a few decorations at the front wouldn’t go amiss. I made some silhouetttes from Black and white card and popped them in our front window. (I’ll admit I drew around the cookie cutters for some of them!) Put an LED torch behind the window for an extra spooky effect and ta-daa! The perfect Halloween setting! I couldn’t get a good photo of the window, so here are my silhouettes before I put them up.
Something which often surprises visitors is that Tom and I do not keep bread in as standard. When we do have it in, it tends to be just enough for a specific meal and any left overs do not last for long. So when we had visitors to stay last weekend, I decided to be adventurous and make some fresh bread to have with lunch. I decided on the Essential White Loaf recipe from Nigella for which I had all the ingredients.
I was very careful to check that my yeast was in date, use warm water not ice cold and to knead for at least 10 minutes and then more. Making the bread was really quite soothing, and standing at the counter gently pummelling the dough was an excellent opportunity for quiet reflection and a bit of light stress relief. I felt quietly confident that when I got up in the morning to check on my dough it would be swollen and rounded, perfectly proven and ready to bake.
Nope. It had not grown even the slightest smidgen. But that was OK, my recipe book gave instructions for this eventuality and I left it out on the side for a few hours to allow it recover. We nipped out to run a few last minute errands before our guests turned up, and returned expecting to see it ready to go.
Nope. At this point I decide to give up and just shove it in the oven to see what would happen. I popped it in to bake for half an hour, and while it was cooking whipped up a quick Lemon Cake for afternoon tea. Yes, I will be posting on that later. The bread came out looking bread like, but no bigger than when it went in. In despair I tried to work out what had happened and turned to the only culprit I could imagine – the yeast. I got the tin back out of the cupboard and read the instructions on the back. Oh.
It turns out that this stuff is not your like your easy blend packet yeast. you can’t just bung it in and go. It requires activating in warm water first – you have to mix it in and let it get all foamy before it’s ready to use – who knew! So the next loaf I make I will do it properly, and see if it works any better. Nigella doesn’t recommend this yeast, but I might as well use it up as I have it, and I can always buy easy packets if it doesn’t work.
The final verdict on the bread was that it was edible, and the flavour was good, but it was just a little bit dense.
I’ve had a bit of a break from posting, mostly because I have had a bit of a break from baking! This does not mean that I’ve had a break from learning to be a domestic goddess, just that my hands have been turned to a different set of skills. The somewhat dubious arts of DIY.
It turn out that the biggest difference between moving house when you’re renting and moving house when you’re buying is which property you need to work on. Renters need to tidy up the old place and restore it to the original condition, while a home-owner will concentrate on bring the new place up to scratch. So if like us you have been renting and are moving into a new, it makes for interesting times.
My latest adventures have been with the paint rollers. This my second foray into painting, and so was much quicker, and managed to get myself much less paint splattered. This is a room which had been painted, wallpapered, painted again, papered again and then given a final coat of paint. Stripping all this crap off the walls took a while, so we didn’t managed to get it done until a couple of weeks ago. Then I gave it a coat of white emulsion to seal in the newly uncovered plater, a rather messy task and my first ever attempt at painting. It took me all day to do the whole room, and I came out of it covered in paint and exceedingly happy!
Things I learned when Tom got home:
- The roller sleeve is meant to fit snugly on the roller, it should fall off just because you turn it round.
- Tom had bought different sized rollers and sleeves and not noticed.
- Don’t always assume that things are meant to be difficult. Sometimes there’s just been a small human error.
- When someone says do one coat it means run the rollers across once. It does not mean continually roll until the wall is as white as the paint.
- Just because you have a whole tin of paint does not mean you need to use a whole tin of paint.
- If your plan is to do a base coat next, the wall does not need to be white now.
Fortunately this was the cheap paint…
So yesterday evening’s task was to put on the layer of base coat. This should smooth the slightly wrinkled walls and give us a nice finish on the next layer of colour. This time I had a 2 inch roller and a 2 inch roller sleeve, which sped the process up quite a lot. I got the 2 larger walls done in one hour, and then left the rest for tonight.