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13/02/2014

Chicory Success!


Last summer, I decided to try to grow chicory. A few years ago, I didn't even know how it grew and now I'm going to tell you how I forced it. Yep, that's how it grows.
I forgot all about it in the seed bed for ages so the plants weren't thinned, then I transplanted them to late, the pigeons had a good go at them, I pulled out the roots early January (it should be done in Autumn) and put too many in a pot of old compost, with a bucket on top. Despite all that, 3 weeks later, Mother Nature delivered. It can be cooked with ham and béchamel sauce but I prefer it raw in a salad (usually beetroot and hard boiled eggs). But those were my first: they deserved centre stage with a vinaigrette. Yum!


L'été dernier, j'ai planté des endives pour la première fois. Il y a quelques années de ça, je savais même pas comment ça poussait, maintenant je vais vous dire comment je les ai forcées. Et oui, c'est comme ça que ça pousse!
Pour commencer, j'ai oublié les semis et les plantes n'ont pas été éclaircies, je les ai transplantées trop tard, les pigeons les ont attaquées, je n'ai levé les racines qu'en janvier (ça devrait être fait en automne) et je les ai entassées dans un pot de vieux terreau couvert d'un seau. Malgré tout ça, Mère Nature a fait son travail. Je prèfère les endives crues (en salade avec de la betterave et des oeufs durs). Mais c'était mes premières: les voilà au premier plan avec une vinaigrette. Miam!  

26/01/2014

Leeks from the garden...

There isn't much in the garden at the moment: a few kales, swiss chard, perpetual spinach, purple sprouting broccoli (that hasn't started to sprout yet...) and leeks. Not the big nice leeks you can get in shops, more the tiny ones that stayed in a pot for too long and by the time you remembered them and planted them out, it was way too late... Anyway, small but tasty.

Il n'y a pas grand chose dans le jardin en ce moment: un peu de chou frisé, des blettes, du broccoli violet (qui n'a encore rien produit de mangeable...) et des poireaux. Pas les beaux poireaux qu'on voit dans le commerce, non, plutôt les minis qui sont restés trop longtemps oubliés dans un petit pot et qui ont été plantés bien trop tard... Tant pis, ils sont bons quand même!

Leek and Ham quiche
Quiche aux poireaux et au jambon


Soup with Leek, Potato, Sweet Potato and Haricot Beans (with a pinch of cumin a squeeze of lemon juice)
Soupe aux poireaux, patates douces, pommes de terre, haricots blancs (avec une pincée de cumin et un peu de jus de citron)

03/01/2014

More Chrismas biscuits...



The last ones for Christmas 2013!
I had some issues with the red bleeding (on the biscuits hiding underneath!) and my flooding was a bit too thick... but I really enjoyed making those and they don't look too bad from a distance!

Les derniers pour Noël 2013!
Le rouge a un peu bavé sur certains et ma consistance fluide était un peu trop épaisse... mais ils sont pas trop mal vus de loin et je me suis bien amusée! 


Those ones where made back home with my sister Caro. I'd like to point out that all the white 100s and 1000s were painfully sorted by my mum as I only had a multicoloured pot!  

Effort familial: Biscuits préparé avec Caro, et maman a passé des heures à trier les mini perles blanches (je n'ai trouvé qu'un pot multicolore...)


14/12/2013

Sweet things for a new Mum


I froze a few biscuits last time so I could make these (vanilla biscuits and orange-cinnamon variation, recipe here).

For the icing, I used:
piping white            flooding white
piping pink

The little foot was done with a stencil and I applied the icing with a paintbrush to have some texture. I used a tip #2 for the wings, #1 for the tiny dots and #3 for the big pink dots. As I only have had one #3 I decided to do the big white dots straight from a bag... it took me twice as long and they're not even. Never again.
Oh, and I used a cocktail stick get rid of the peaks. 

To keep the biscuits company, a few lemon cupcakes... Just add the zest of  2 lemons to your favourite recipe and prepare a glaze with some icing sugar and lemon juice to paint over while still warm (I usually do 2 or 3 coats).


J'avais congelé quelques biscuits la dernière fois pour pouvoir préparer ceux-là (biscuits à la vanille et version orange-cannelle, recette ).

Pour le glaçage, j'ai utlilisé (oula, attendez, je connais pas les termes en français! je vais voir si je trouve... alors, chacun s'invente ses termes donc c'est pas trop grave):
contours blanc            fluide blanc
contours rose

J'ai fait le petit peton avec un pochoir et j'ai appliqué le glaçage au pinceau pour avoir une texture plus intéressante. J'ai utilisé une douille #2 pour les ailes de l'ange, #1 pour les petits points roses et #3 pour les gros. Je n'ai n'avais qu'une seule douille #3, j'ai donc fait les points blancs direct avec un sac congel... mauvaise idée: ça m'a pris beaucoup plus longtemps et ils ne sont pas uniformes. Plus jamais ça. Aussi j'avais mon meilleur ami le cure-dents pour applanir tous les pics.

Et pour leur tenir compagnie: quelques cupcakes au citron. Ajouter le zeste de 2 citrons à votre recette préférée. Pour le glaçage, mélanger un peu de sucre glace et de jus de citron et le peindre sur les cupcakes encore chauds (en général je passe 2 ou 3 couches). 

PS glaçage royal pour les biscuits:
Sur les sites en français tout le monde à l'air d'utiliser des blancs d'oeuf frais: 1 blanc pour 300g de sucre glace et assez de jus de citron et/ou l'eau pour avoir la consistance recherchée. Si vous vous inquiétez des risques de salmonelle, c'est possible de trouver du blanc d'oeuf pasteurisé en poudre ou de la poudre de meringue. 
On mélange bien pendant 5-10min, et on triche pas: ça change vraiment de texture vers 5-6min. Question consistance, pour faire les contours on pense au dentifrice, et pour remplir l'intérieur, le "fluide", on rajoute de l'eau goutte à goutte jusqu'à ce que ce soit assez liquide. On s'aide d'un cure-dents pour amener le fluide dans tous les coins.
Très populaire aussi est la consistance entre les deux: contours et remplissage en une seule fois. Plein d'avantages mais il faut vraiment bien jugé sinon c'est galère assurée!
Je suis pas encore au point avec mes consistances donc je vais continuer à m'entrainer!      

10/12/2013

Biscuits: Christmas Collection


I had a play with my Christmas cutters and have selected 6. (more info on biscuit design here)

The snowflake, tree and house will be gingerbread biscuits with white piping icing.
The stockings, holly and angel will be vanilla and the orange and cinnamon variation with coloured icing.

List of icing:

white piping
red piping                       red flooding
green piping                   green flooding
brown piping (tiny amount)
black piping (tiny amount)

A lot of baking this weekend, all for research...

I made the dough Saturday morning:
Vanilla recipe here
Orange and Cinnamon, variation on the Vanilla biscuits - follow link above
a 4th Gingerbread recipe, from "Boutique Baking" by Peggy Porschen (very spicy!)
I'm still not 100% happy with the gingerbread... Nevermind, there's still next time!

Biscuits were baked in the afternoon/evening. I need a second oven! (more info on cutting and baking here)
Vanilla: 7 angels, 19 holly leaves, 22 stockings = 48 biscuits + scraps
Orange and Cinnamon: same a Vanilla
Gingerbread: 6 houses, 22 trees, 37 snowflakes = 65 biscuits + scraps
Grand total of 161 biscuits!!!

Sunday, icing and Monday, more icing! (more info on icing here)
I will try a different icing recipe next time.
I started off with the gingerbread using piping bag and tip n#2. It was a lot easier than I thought. I just need to remember to use a cocktail stick to flatten peaks.
I kept a few tbsp of plain icing for the details on the angels and divided the rest for red and green icing. I added a bit of black to both to darken the colour.


My flooding was too runny and made horrible marks when it dried. For the stockings, even though I waited before doing the second colour, they still started to bleed so I quickly put them in the oven fan on only and it limited the damage.
I used a tip #1 for the tartan and little dots and it wasn't too difficult. I just wiped the tip regularly as it tends to dry out quickly.
There was a lot of pressure when I started the wings of the angel (and then the eyes, and then the hair!). I went very slowly and they all turned out ok. I made sure nothing touched the red to avoid a bleeding disaster.

All in all, I'm quite proud of the results and I've definitely found a new hobby. I'll be practising and hopefully next year's Christmas collection will be even better!  :o)

By the way, the Orange and Cinnamon biscuits are fantastic: it's like putting the essence of Christmas in your mouth! Definitely worth making, even without the fancy cutters or icing! 

06/12/2013

Biscuit icing


During my "research" :p , I've found out that pros don't necessarily work with the expensive tips and bags so I wanted to compare the different options. Here are the result of my very unscientific experiment:

I started off with the tip (n#2), thinking that it would be the best it was going to get. And it was, only just...
The piping bag with just the end cut off: I found it very difficult to work with as it didn't make a proper circular hole, more a flattish one so piping curves wasn't easy but it was comfortable to hold. Maybe a different brand would give better results?
The freezer bag wasn't very comfortable to hold and I had some issues with the shape of the hole too. I would probably be ok using it for outline piping but not details.
Finally the paper cone. I was very worried about that one, thinking the icing would come out everywhere. It was actually very easy to use. Perfect for small quantities and piping details that are not too fine.

I would strongly recommend trying out the different options as it makes such a difference when you don't really know what you're doing! 

RECIPES
Plural because it depends on what egg white/egg white substitute you are using. Options are: egg white, liquid pasteurised egg white, meringue powder and egg white powder. You need to find out what's available where you live and find an appropriate recipe. A lot of other factors will affect the icing so you need to find what works in your kitchen.

I can find egg white powder at the supermarket so that's the one I use. 

The method is basically the same: mix all the ingredients for 5-10min. The icing should be opaque white and glossy, toothpaste like. If using an electric whisk, try not to move it about too much (to avoid air bubbles in the icing).
Have a small bowl/ramequin ready for each colour you need. Add colour a drop at a time, use a cocktail stick if it's in a pot (make sure you take a new one each time not to put icing in the pot).
Cover the bowl straight away so the icing doesn't dry out.

The question on everybody's lips: What is the right consistency? Just have a google and you'll see loads of numbers: 5sec, 10, 12, 15, 20. Basically you need to find what works for you. But I "think" there are different icing schools here:
- the outline and flood gang: you need a thicker icing to do the outline and a thiner one to flood the inside. Once totally dry, you can add more details with the thicker "piping" icing. 
- the middle of the road gang: one consistency for pretty much everything, thiner than "piping" but thicker than "flooding". It means you need to use a cocktail stick or similar tool to distribute and even out the icing. The big advantage is of course that you only need to prepare one bag per colour. If you watch videos on youtube, this is the method usually used.
When you start spending a bit of time hours on cookie decorating blogs, you'll start to notice the different methods and when to use them.

I haven't got enough practice to have good results with the second method. I think the outline and flood is more forgiving if the consistency is not spot on. So yes, extra prep for me.

TIPS  from books, blogs, videos, comments, experiments:

- if you feel you need to, practise your piping onto greaseproof paper first
- use a glass/jar to hold your bag while you're filling it with icing
- have cocktail sticks, moist kitchen paper ready.
- alway close your bag at the top (elastic or twist tie work well) fold down paper bag several times
- liquid colourings don't give strong colours and they can make the icing too thin
- alway keep some white icing "just in case"
- icing is best used straight away but can keep in the fridge for a few days (mix it well before use as it might separate).
- darker shades (reds, browns, black) take a while to develop so prepare them a day in advance to check the colour. Another option is to add some cocoa powder (mixed with a little bit of water to make a paste).
- wash up asap: fresh icing disolves in water. Dry icing, not fun...
- the cocktail stick is your best friend: use it to flatten peaks on dots and end of lines etc., to burst air bubbles in flood icing, smooth and repair
- some colours tend to "bleed" while drying. If possible let the first colour dry before applying the second and dry the icing as quickly as possible (see next tip)
- some people like to dry their biscuits in the oven fan only or 50°C
- use your leftover icing: practise piping techniques (yes, how sad...) or add some icing sugar to make it stiff enough to make embellishments. Small flowers, rosettes, butterflies etc can be piped onto greaseproof paper and left to dry. Use them to decorate cakes, cupcakes, etc. They can be kept in a airtight container for a month. 
- make transfers onto greaseproof paper to add dimension or help with tricky details
- use food pens or a cocktail stick/tool to trace the design before icing (or buy a projector...).
- for an harmonious colour palette, mix the colours. For super clear instructions have a look at these two blog posts - be prepared though, you're going to spend hours looking at their work, ahhh-ing and ooooh-ing! Thank you Georganne from Lilaloa here and Callye from The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle here.   

If you'd like to share tips, feel free to leave a comment or join our Facebook group.  
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