I am an unashamed Winnie the Pooh fan. I guess, strictly speaking, I am a A A Milne fan rather than just a Winnie the Pooh fan as I love the poems as much as the stories. I think it must be genetic as my mother also loved them.  So much so, that at her funeral my sister read an AA Milne poem – Wherever I am there’s always Pooh, there’s always Pooh and me . . .Nic & John in Winnie the Pooh

I remember learning Forgiven to earn my entertainers badge when I was a Brownie. I still know most of it – along with King John’s Christmas, The King’s Breakfast, Rice Pudding, Sneezles, Vespers and Disobedience. David shares my delight in all things Milne and 15 years ago directed  a production of Winnie the Pooh for our local theatre. Our second son (who was 6) played the ‘real’ Christopher Robin while we had an older boy play Christopher Robin in the stories. I played Kanga.

bookImagine my delight when I saw Return to the Hundred Acre Wood in a book shop. It looked like the real thing, was ‘an authorised sequel’ and had illustrations that looked like the original E H Shepard ones. I sampled a few pages and was convinced enough to request it for my birthday.  So, on Sunday, I duly settled down in a sunny spot for a couple of hours escape. I enjoyed it tremendously but found it, on the whole, a little unsatisfying. The illustrations were spot-on, the characters were the same as the ones I had come to know and love (with one addition) but the stories lacked something. I have been mulling it over for several days now trying to work it out and I still haven’t entirely got the answer but it seems to me that the stories in this new book stop rather than ending. They are also quite unmemorable whereas who could forget Eeyore’s Birthday or the Heffalump or Pooh’s quest to get honey? It might be because I have read them so many times that the original stories are so clear in my mind, but I don’t think so. This book will takes its place in my bookcase alongside the 4 original Milne’s but I suspect it won’t be taken down nearly so often.

Despite all the other members of my household having had at least 2 colds each this year, so far I have managed to avoid one. A couple of  times I have felt one waiting to pounce but my usual preventive strategy of dosing up on garlic/vitamin C/Echinacea/zinc, soaking in a hot bath then heading to bed  nice and early, has stopped the bugs in their tracks. Until yesterday. I couldn’t do the bath thing because I had a rehearsal, so instead, when I got home,  I went to bed with a hot water bottle and some ginger tea but I could tell this morning that I was fighting a losing battle. So far it’s fairly mild but I definitely have my first cold for 2009.

I didn’t feel much like eating, so had a smoothie for breakfast and made myself some garlic soup for lunch. This is great when you have a cold as it is light,  tasty and full of cold fighting ingredients (chicken stock, garlic and chilli). It is also super easy to make.

Garlic Soup for One

1 1/2 c stock or water (I used some turkey stock I had in the fridge)
4 cloves garlic, peeled but not crushed
1/4 tsp salt
pepper and chilli powder to taste
1 egg
a slice or 2 of French bread

Add the garlic to the stock or water along with the seasoning and simmer 20 minutes.
Stir the stock in a clockwise direction, then crack in the egg. Poach according to your preference as to the hardness of the yolk.
Put a slice or 2 of French bread (or whatever bread you have) into a bowl and pour the stock and egg over.
Enjoy!

garlic soup

I didn’t get round to photographing my soup so went looking for a photo on the Internet. In the process of finding the one above I discovered that this recipe (more or less) is actually a Julia Child one. For her version (via Julie Powell) check out this blog.

Modern VegetarianI am not a vegetarian but we enjoy vegetarian food and usually eat vegetarian meals several times a week. I am always on the lookout for new recipes so was keen to check out The Modern Vegetarian by Maria Elia.
 

 

This is an attractive book and it is a useful size. There is one recipe per page and most are accompanied by a full page colour photo. The recipes are easy to follow and most of the ingredients are readily available in New Zealand. Maria has obviously been influenced by the cooking of a number of cultures but has then given things her own particular touch. Many of the recipes sound like dishes that would be listed on the menu of a fancy restaurant – Dukkah-Rolled Soft-Boiled Eggs with Chickpea Puree; Chilli and Rosemary Aubergine Parcels with Smokey Mash; Mushroom, Beetroot, Mozzarella with a Lentil Cartouche – but although this book would suit someone who has some cooking experience, the recipes are not particularly complicated.
With most recipe books I borrow, there are usually only a dozen or so recipes that I can be bothered copying them out, but I think I may have to ask for this book for my birthday as almost every recipe sets my tastebuds tingling. So far I have tried 2 – Sweetcorn Polenta with Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms and Banana Baklava Spring Roll with Greek Yoghurt. Both were delicious and I will make them again.
 

 

 

I thought I was done with cake decorating for a while but I had lots of fondant left over from the wedding cupcakes and I needed to make something for the Calf Club day cake stall so . . .

A selection of cupcakes

A selection of cupcakes

There were 24 originally but the dog stole one. Before it was decorated luckily.

They were priced at $1.50 each and didn’t last long. One woman bought 12 of them.

Khaki Campbell ducklings

Khaki Campbell ducklings

We have Khaki Campbell ducks for their egg laying abilities. Our original ones were great and laid year round apart from a few weeks off in late December/early January. Unfortunately they are not very good at hatching eggs or rearing ducklings, so after a while I needed to get some more. Our friend gave us some but I don’t think they are very good Khaki Campbells as they don’t lay nearly as well and some of them have some white on them. They do seem to be marginally better mothers though and each year at least one manages to sneak off and hatch out some eggs. 

A week ago Timothy reported that one of the ducks had eight ducklings so I ventured forth to catch them. I called the ducks into the pen and was very impressed that the mother duck managed to bring 5 of her 8 ducklings with her. I caught those 5 and put them in a separate duckling rearing pen. I then found and caught the other 3 and added them to the pen. Finally, I caught the mother duck and put her in with them since she seemed a reasonably devoted mother. The next day one of the ducklings was dead and another one looked none too good. This has become a daily occurrence until we only have 2 ducklings left. Two of the ducklings had definitely been attacked by something (probably a stoat or ferret) but the rest had no marks on them – just limp little bodies in the grass.

Next time – no matter how devoted the mother – the duckling will be coming inside where I can keep a close eye on them!

Duck and ducklings

Duck and ducklings

Just before I leave this topic for a while (I don’t think any of my other sons will be getting married soon) I thought I would post a couple more photos.

cupcakes

These are photos of the cupcakes I made for the flowergirls (packed for the journey). I used the Chelsea Eggless Chocolate Cake recipe. The icing is bought fondant icing which I rolled out and cut using a fluted cutter. The rosebuds and leaves are smaller versions of the ones I made for the main cake and the butterflies were also made from the white chocolate plastic. I rolled it out and cut with little butterfly cutters. I put the cut-out butterflies into a V-shaped length of cardboard to set.

buttonholes
And these are buttonholes I made for my sons. I got some spray roses from the supermarket and raided my rosemary bush for the foliage. Because the rosemary was new growth it was fairly soft and wilted pretty quickly but they lasted through the ceremony.

After all the preparations, the time finally came to make the final version of the cake. I picked up the tins on Thursday – a 6″ and a 10″. I made 1 batch of the recipe and divided it between the 2 tins and when those were baked I made a second batch so I ended up with two 10″ cakes and two 6″ cakes. On Friday I levelled the cakes then split each of the cakes in half. I stacked all 4 layers of each sized tier with boysenberry filling in-between.

                                 Berry Filling

   1  1/2  kg               boysenberries
   2  1/4  cup           water
   1  1/2  cup           sugar
   9      Tbs                cornflour

1. Add the berries and  water to a pot. Cook for 5 minutes
over medium-high heat.
2. Sift together the sugar and cornstarch and then stir into the berry
mixture. Cook until the mixture is thick and the berries have broken
down, about 15 minutes.
3. Let cool before using

This recipe made enough for all the layers with quite a bit left over.

Before putting the filling on I piped white chocolate ganache around the edge to stop the berry filling bleeding into the covering ganache.

Once I had both tiers individually stacked I put the first coating of ganache on.

                        White Chocolate Ganache

1.2      kg             white chocolate
 400   ml            cream

1. Melt together using a bain marie or the microwave. Let cool before using.

I warmed the ganache till it was quite runny and poured it over. This worked reasonably well but I needed to add extra on the sides. Once they were done they were put in the fridge till Saturday.

On Saturday I put a second coat of ganache on and got it as smooth as I could. Putting the cakes on a Lazy Susan made this step much easier. After a further spell in the fridge I used the 6″ tin to mark the top of the 10″ cake so I knew where to put the smaller tier. I sunk 4 sharpened dowels into the cake just inside the mark I had made – these were to support the 2nd tier. I had already inserted a longer dowel through the top tier and the foil-covered cardboard base it was sitting on. Once I had positioned the top tier correctly I pushed this dowel through the bottom cake to hold them securely together. I piped some ganache around the join and to fill the hole in the top, then it was back into the fridge till Sunday – the wedding day.

On Sunday I put the cake onto the presentation base using a liberal application of buttercream icing as glue. I then put the cake into a large box with a thin piece of foam in the bottom. The box was then put on another piece of foam in the car and I proceeded to drive very carefully the 20km to the church. I had put a sign in the rear windscreen – “Caution: Wedding cake on board!”. Once at the church the cake was put on the table and I added the flowers, leaves and tendrils. Voila!

DSCF3939

DSCF3940

When I got to work yesterday I discovered several large piles of new books on the counter for me to use to top up the new book display. One was Divine Cupcakes by Tamara Jane. On the front was a picture of a beautiful cupcake with a rose on top. Given my current obsession with cake and roses, I had to have a look. The book starts with the cupcake recipes (all yummy-sounding and beautifully illustrated), then moves onto toppings and frostings (a great selection) and finally decorations (easy and beautiful). It was while I was reading the ‘toppings’ section that I had a eureka moment (or should that be ‘an eureka’?). The recipe for ganache had 2 variations – one for dark chocolate ganache and one for white chocolate ganache. And, surprise, surprise – the white chocolate ganache had a much higher ratio of  chocolate to cream. No wonder I always have trouble with my white chocolate ganache being too runny. I have been using the wrong recipe!

Armed with this new information I set to work to make another trial wedding cake tier. Following the recipe in the book resulted in a ganache of just the right texture and I was very pleased with the final result.

On Saturday it will be the real thing and I am feeling much more confident now. Watch this space!

Chocolate plastic roses

Chocolate plastic roses

Having trialed the top tier of my son’s wedding cake I thought it was time to start making the roses that will decorate it. I found a site that made it sound very easy [www.bakingobsession.com] and with my recent experience making rose buds from fondant, I thought I was set – I even have the proper cutters.

I made my chocolate plastic and put it in the fridge as specified. After 3 hours I took it out and let it sit on the bench for an hour before trying to knead it. It was quite hard and when I tried to knead it, it just crumbled. The only departure from the recipe was the addition of some powdered colouring as the bride wanted red roses. I wondered if that had mucked things up. Or perhaps my ingredients weren’t quite right. I used corn syrup but wasn’t sure whether it was ‘light” or not.  I did a bit of googling and found a site that recommended zapping the chocolate plastic in the microwave for 10 seconds to warm it up. I did that a couple of times and was then able to knead it.

Chocolate plastic roses

Chocolate plastic roses

As I suspected the finished product was pink rather than red but the bride and groom are quite happy to have a mix of pink and white roses.  I made 5 roses before heading to bed and will make the rest tonight and tomorrow. I was quite happy with how they turned out but I think they look more like camellias than roses. The book recommends having a total of 20 roses in various sizes – I think I will make slightly more white than pink roses and will make more than 20 so I can use some on a second practice cake.

trial wedding cake

trial wedding cake

The date of the wedding is approaching much too fast but I have been working on some things.

ringbearer's cushion

ringbearer's cushion

 Having been asked to make the ringbearer’s cushion, I headed to the library (of course) and found a book with a suitable design but then had trouble finding the right laces and ribbons or even some red satin. In the end I sewed 3 strips of wide satin ribbon together and place the lace so it covered the seams.

I decided it was time for a trial run of the wedding cake – the top tier at least. The bride is now on a low-fat diet due to gall stone problems which creates a bit of a problem with the plan of using a white chocolate ganache for the icing. After a bit of lateral thinking, I suggested that I make egg-free, low-fat, beautifully decorated cupcakes for the bride and groom and the flower-girls. This would mean that I could use my tried and true chocolate cake recipe for the main cake and ice it with chocolate ganache.

I should have remembered the last time I tried to make white chocolate ganache! I followed the recipe in the wedding cake book only to find that it was far too runny – deja vue! Even refrigerating it overnight  didn’t thicken it enough. I added the rest of white chocolate and then some icing sugar until finally it was thick enough. I had used all the white chocolate so I couldn’t try making the roses. I think I need a bit more practise with the icing and you couldn’t really taste the raspberry jam I used between some of the layers. One of my Foodlover friends pointed me to a recipe for a filling using fresh (or frozen) berries so I think I will try another cake using that and see if I can do a bit better with the icing.

trial wedding cake - cut

trial wedding cake - cut

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