Sunday, 23 October 2011

Perfecting That Pie

Practise, practise, practise is the theme of recent bakes. After an unexpected, but well received phone interview from a certain amazing baking programme (*cough* GBBO *cough*), I have decided it's time to perfect some of my otherwise not perfected baking areas.

Today's task:

Pie Crust!

Back to Basics.

Basic Pie Crust:

225g Flour

1/2 tbsp Sugar

1/2 tsp Salt

100g Butter (non-salted, cubed)

120ml Cold Water

Sift together the flour, sugar & salt, then pour into a food processor. Drop the butter cubes into the processor and pulse the contents in 3 second bursts until mixture forms small pebbles. Whilst still pulsing, slowly pour the cold water into the mixture. The contents should begin to loosely form a ball.

Remove the mixture from the processor and fully form it into a ball. Wrap the dough in cling film, and place it in the fridge for approx 40min to cool.

Liberally dust a clean countertop with flour, then roll out the dough into a thin layer and place it into a lightly buttered pie tin. Wrap with cling film, and pop it back in the fridge until needed (it's best to bake with a cold, or even a frozen, dough).

Classic Pecan Filling:

200g Pecan Halves (toasted)

3 Eggs

177ml Maple Syrup

3 tbsp Brown Sugar

2 tbsp Caster Sugar


1 tsp Vanilla

3 tbsp Butter (non-salted, melted)

100g Chocolate Pieces

Evenly arrange the pecans onto a baking sheet and toast them in the oven at 160C for approx 7 minutes. Remove to cool. (They should keep a golden hue, and will make a lovely sizzling noise.) When cooled, split the contents into two batches: batch 1 for the topping (try to pick out the prettiest pieces), and batch 2 for the inside of the pie (coarsely chop these little buggers with a sharp knife).


In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, maple syrup, brown & caster sugars, salt, vanilla, and melted butter until well combined. Fold in the chopped pecans and set aside.

Sprinkle the chocolate pieces onto the base of the pie crust, then blanket them with the wet mixture. Decorate the top of the pie with the remaining pecan halves, then pop in the oven at 180C for approx 60min.

A Bit o' the Old South.

*Tip: Rotating the pie every 20min or so will ensure even baking. And remember to closely monitor the crust & pecans so that they do not burn!

Verdict: The late night smells of pecan and chocolate swirled through the chilly October air and over to my neighbour's house, who in turn came right over for a slice. Dark chocolate and a twist of maple give this pie a bit of a sweet bite. And the crust turned out nice & crisp if I do say so myself - no soggy bottoms here...though I could have rolled it a bit thinner.

Until next time...(bread time!)


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Gone Grovin

Every September I hitch a ride back to the land of my alma matter to reunite with family members old and new. Tailgating with the rest of the Ole Miss community (and our rivals - we southerners are very hospitable), the extended family bluebirdcage pitched tent next to the University's iconic Lyceum.

Ain't no family reunion like a Grove family reunion!

The Lyceum - a true icon of the University of Mississippi's past. Once an old plantation home, transformed into a hospital to serve wounded soldiers in the Civil War. Years down the line it provided the backdrop for a major civil rights movement.

The family tents: 2 for dining, 2 for lounging

The sweets: pecan pie, banana pudding (two LARGE batches), cookies, trail mix...

Assorted chilled salads & Rebel roses.

Breakfast scramble, brisket & the infamous Shipley's donuts.

More nibbles (not pictured, glass bottled coke with salty peanuts.)

My niece getting ready to attend her first American football game - Go Rebs!

Family portrait with Colonel Reb (and a random drunken Georgia fan who's buddies paid $50 to pop into our picture)

Until next time...

Hotty Toddy

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Don't You Step on my Blue Suede Shoes


Main Stair Case

Peacock Room

TV Room

Jungle Room

Shag Carpet!

Memorial Garden

The Lisa Marie

Takin Care of Business in a Flash

Car Collection

Say 'Uh huh huh'

Friday, 26 August 2011

Lost Me Marbles

So, the Great British Bake Off is back on telly, filling my head with countless baking ideas and illusions of baking grandeur. A couple weeks back, one of the contestants baked a beautiful two-tiered marbled cake dolloped with truffles. Unable to shake this from my head, I thought I'd attempt a marble cake of my own.


Two-Tiered Marble Cake


250ml Water (boiled)

55g Cocoa Powder

400g Plain Flour

2.5tsp Baking Powder

2.5tsp Baking Soda


400g Sugar

200g Butter

4 Eggs

100g Cream Cheese


In a small bowl, whisk together the water and cocoa powder until well incorporated. Set aside. (This will be used for your chocolate cake mixture.)

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder & soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs to the mixture one by one, then blend in the cream cheese.

Now mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until all is smooth. Separate the batter evenly into two separate bowls. One bowl will be used for the plain portion of the marble, the other will be used for the chocolate marble.

For the chocolate part of the marble, mix your cocoa powder & hot water concoction into the other half of the batter until well blended.

dark & light

Randomly dollop the two mixtures into a well-greased pan, making sure to alternate the chocolate and plain batters.

Next, do what I call the 'Pan Shimmy': gently & quickly shift the pan from side to side several times- this will make the batter sit evenly. Lastly, use a knife to drag a zig zag pattern through the batter up to 8 times.

Pop in the over at 180C for approx 50 minutes.

Get your marble on.

Decorate when fully cooled. I used chocolate buttercream and freshly picked blackberries between the layers.

Buttercream and Brambling

bon app├ętit

Until next time...


Saturday, 20 August 2011

Vol. 3

Side A:

Elvis Presley - Hound Dog

Dent May - Oh Paris

The Horrors - I Can See Through You

Jay Reatard - Wounded

Best Coast - When the Sun Don't Shine

The House of Love - Destroy the Heart

Vivian Girls - Dance (If You Wanna)

Side B:

Mel Torme - Comin' Home Baby

Bread - Make it with You

The Doobie Brothers - Black Water

Warren Zevon - Werewolves of London

Seals and Crofts - Summer Breeze

The Spencer Davis Group - I'm a Man

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Hot Jam!

That's my jam!

Last weekend saw me at taking high tea with assorted yummy mummies at the Nutfield Priory Hotel. Endless cups of coffee were served alongside stacks of finger sandwiches, mini cakes, and cream teas. The scones were some of the best I've ever eaten!

Since then, I've been in the mind to test out a recipe for scones - something I've never attempted baking before. Random baking book in hand, the above beauties are what resulted. Crisp and golden on the outside, fluffy and warm in the middle. Three of those bad boys are sittin in my belly right now.

To top the scones, I ventured into another new territory: jam making!

Today I swallowed my wariness of wild berry picking after confirmation from assorted sources & a phone call to my mother-in-law (gotta play it safe, right?). With a plastic container in hand and the pup in tow, we set off into Surrey's rolling hills for some prime brambling spots.

Bramble Buddy

A few things I learned while wild berry picking:

1) Ensure berries are ripe and free of bugs when picking them - spiders and worms like to hang out with these juicy wonders.
2) Another of the blackberry's best friends is the stingy nettle! Safety is in a pair blue jeans.
3) Berries stain! Make them an old pair of blue jeans.
4) Wash thoroughly before eating. I soaked my findings in a bowl filled with cool water for several minutes, rinsed, then soaked again. Also, add a pinch of salt to the water to coax out any little critters that might be chillin in your berries.

Bramble Berry Preserve
(hot jam!)

150g Blackberries
1tbsp Cold Water
180g Granulated Sugar
Juice from 1 Lemon

Place the blackberries and water in a pan and bring to a boil for 15min, stirring occasionally.
Remaining at boil temperature, slowly stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Boil for several more minutes, then remove from heat. Cool the mixture before adding to a sterilised jar.*

*Geeky fact: Jar sterilisation helps you preserve jam for a longer length of time - without it going all manky. To sterilise your mason jar, fill a pan with cool water and place your empty jar into the water. Bring to a boil for approx 15min. Remove the jar using an oven mit or tongs - the glass will be very hot!! Set aside to cool before using.

Until next time...


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Tea for Two, Two for Tea

One year ago today, my sister brought this wonderful girl into my life:

Happy Birthday Eliza!!

To celebrate, sister bluebirdcage is throwing an English style tea party in her back garden…in Iowa. None the less, I plan to attend via video messaging (bless the internet!) and have baked sugar cookies to enjoy from this side of the pond.

Admittedly, sugar cookies have high precedence on this blog - whether they were baked for an event or collaboration, there's no beating this simple truth: I love the versatility of a sugar cookie!!

Teacup Cookies

'ave an edible cuppa

To assemble:

1: Cut out several cookies using a circular cookie cutter

2: Using a sharp knife, split the circle into two pieces

3: Gently press the rounded ends of the split cookie together, so that they stick to each other once again

4: Use a sharp knife to cut away 3/4 of the bottom portion of the cookie - the small piece remaining will form the base of the teacup.

5: To make the handle, roll a small piece of dough until it is long and thin, then shape it into whatever handle style you'd like.

6: Gently press the handle into place - voila, you've got yourself an edible teacup!

Cuppa Edge Cookies

a simple side to your cuppa

1) Cut out your desired shapes

2) Using a sharp knife, cut out a slim rectangular shape running from the edge to the centre of the cookie.

3) Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 15min at 170C.

4) Slide the cookie onto the edge of your cuppa, or go straight in for the dunk!

tea time!

Until next time...


Sunday, 24 July 2011

Ain't Nothin But a Hound Dog

Ever since Delilah's penchant for leather turned to the demise of her (rather expensive) collar bought from Doggy Fashion in Hove, Mr. Bluebirdcage and I have been on the lookout for a new doggy boutique for Lila's neckwear.

Enter Holly & Lil.

Set on Bermondsey Street, just shy of London Bridge, this quaint boutique opens its entrance (a white picket fence) to a beautiful assortment of hand crafted collars and leads for dogs & cats alike. Can't find the size you need? Holly & Lil, also offer bespoke designs & fittings to accommodate to your pet's needs.

Boutique wrapping. Wall of leads. Resident pups. New collars.

The staff are very friendly & accommodating and even remembered the names of Delilah & Vinny (our new boy) when the hubs & I returned for a second visit.

The collars are not cheap, but the price is credited in the craftsmanship & couture styling of each season's lines. For Delilah, we opted for a limited edition pale pink Harris Tweed (yes, certain lines have limited availability!), and followed it up by a vibrant pink colourblocked number.

We're bound to go back for another visit once Vin joins the family for good.


Until next time...


Saturday, 16 July 2011

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Cake Truffles

On the cool

Your eyes aren't messin with ya.

Big ball

Little Ballz

Drizzled Ballz

Dry ballz

Cake truffles!!


Practising cake pop shapes for when the dipping technique is mastered....
watch this space!