Lordie… January Blues…

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Doing double time on the detox – cakes and wine are playing a much less significant role in my life these days, money spending is at a minimum (I’ve got a wedding to pay for, for heaven’s sake!) and, as I’ve been fairly organised so far, I can’t even write any more lists for said wedding.

Dull, dull double dull!

So, post-work I’m forced to find other ways to entertain myself, such as tidying up the kitchen cupboards. Most of it was tedious, but the ordering of the baking cupboard was joyful and it is now a thing of beauty, which leads me neatly on to another top ten list (thank you Lesley Carter) – the baking essentials:

  1. Digital scales for precise measuring

  2. Cup measures so you can easily use American recipes as well as British ones

  3. Vanilla extract/paste for delicious flavouring

  4. 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate (so many lovely things to create with it)

  5. A good, solid mixing bowl

  6. Condensed milk (see dark chocolate above)

  7. Soft brown sugar

  8. Icing sugar

  9. Stork margarine – use half and half with unsalted butter for lusciously light cakes

  10. ANYTHING from Lakeland.

The (Mucho) Joy of Chocolate

Ridiculously proud of the shine on those chocolates…

Friends, I experimented with the idea of home-made favours. I took my Lakeland chocolate mould, I made whisky truffles and I filled said chocolate mould (beforehand coating the moulds with a thin layer of plain chocolate) with the truffle mixture and I sighed in a Nigella Lawson style domestic goddess ‘I make my own’ stuff type contentment…

I did NOT. Yes to filling the chocolate mould, yes to the making my own truffles, but absolutely no to the ‘sighing in contentment’ thingie. Two-thirds of the way through lining the chocolate moulds I got bored and shortcuts were taken. The blasted truffles did not seem to stick together. My hands got seriously dirty. Chocolate worked its way underneath my nails and made me look like a dedicated gardener (reader, that could not be further from the truth).

In short, the whole exercise was a lesson in why people buy chocolates for their favours. Mind you, in true chef privilege style I did taste some of the truffle mixture and it was a bit wow-ee. It’s pretty easy too so here goes…

225g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids and above naturally)

75ml double cream

3tbsp whisky*

1 tsp vanilla essence

Finely chopped hazelnuts (or other ideas, see below)

Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place in a non-metallic bowl in the microwave. Put on for 30 seconds at a time until the chocolate has melted. Stir well, add the vanilla essence and leave to cool till room temperature. Add the whisky, then use an electronic whisk to beat the mixture for five minutes until it seems lighter and is paler in colour.

Cover and refrigerate for an hour or so until firm. Roll the chocolate mixture into balls (about walnut-sized shape) and then roll in either cocoa, chopped nuts, grated white chocolate or icing sugar. Eat within four days. They should be kept (covered) in the fridge.

If you do make them, please let me know and tell me what you think! You can substitute the whisky for Cointreu or Bailey’s too.

 

 

*I want to love whisky. It’s such a romantic drink. Think whisky, think sitting in front of a roaring log fire having hiked four or five hours up and down hills, think ancient clan chiefs sneaking the distillery away from the excise men (and Rabbie Burns was one!). Unfortunately, it still tastes pretty cough mixture to me.

Fortune Favours the Spendthrift

Favours – again, what’s with weddings and daft names..? Wedding breakfast when you probably don’t mean bacon and eggs eaten at 9am and favours when you mean small gifts dished out to guests.

Should the budget bride splash out on such extravagances? You can pay a small fortune for customised miniatures, bottle stoppers*, chocolates et al. Again though, the pink, frothy tidal wave that is wedding planning may well sweep me off my feet and I’ll feel as if my wedding just isn’t right without some wee piece of kitsch to give out at the end of proceedings.

Sweet, sweeter, sweetest? On sale at Lakeland. Diabetics, look away now

So, I could make my own… I visited Lakeland at Windermere recently. Any bakers out there? If so, you’ll know what a huge deal Lakeland Windermere is; the mothership of baking. Here, all kinds of wonderful things are available to buy – moulds, tins, chocolate melts, sugar paste, sugar craft. If baking and all things creatively culinary is your thing, best leave the credit card safely at home.

I picked up a handmade chocolate mould at said store, so I’m wondering about venturing down the home-made chocolates road. This could get really serious! I could temper the chocolate for a smooth, glossy finish. Then there could be a variety of fillings:

Alas, my concentration span isn’t the longest**. I fear I would embark on this fine endeavour and get really, really bored half-way through, quality control would dip rapidly and the guests would end up with half a chocolate each. This probably needs a re-think…

LATE NEWS

Flash update! I’ve been diet coke free for two weeks. So, my teeth feel better (less sensitive), my stomach feels flatter and I feel as if my energy levels are more evenly spaced throughout the day.

There is an awful lot of miraculous things written about deserting the D-word, including the weight loss one. Y’know, you stop drinking something rammed packed full of nasty chemicals and suddenly you lose three or four pounds. Sadly, not true in my case…

 

 

*I love these bottle stoppers, but they would cost in excess of £300 for all of my guests…

**Personally, I blame the iPhone. Instant access to all those apps has ruined me forever.