Instagrammers Anonymous: Tied to the Kitchen & Boxes

Whilst the weather outside isn’t frightening it is a touch on the bloody freezing side. Monday’s ice managed to partially melt by Thursday it was back this morning with a vengeance; the number of Christmas trees is also rising almost exponentially. As they say in the song: it’s winter time, in the city.

Although whilst I have encountered my fair share of the ice whilst walking the dog, I have spent a lot of this week in my warm kitchen, going on various baking adventures. So here is this week’s quick round up of festive fever – Instagrammers Anonymous.

Last weekend I went up to Perthshire and took lots of photos of the frost. I also took advantage of Historic Scotland’s offer of a free trip to Edinburgh Castle.Edinburgh Castle from the Esplanade

I bit the bullet and finally made good on my pledge to attempt to make macarons. Sure, they weren’t even in the slightest bit successful, however, the newly-branded dark chocolate and almond bites taste lovely, and go really well with the white ganache. This is what they looked like, before they didn’t quite rise in the oven.Chocolate macaron ready to go into the oven

And finally this week I have the excuse for not writing a post for Monday.The key to my new flat!

Yes, this is my new front door key! I’m (finally) moving house this weekend and consequently don’t think I’ll have much time for anything that doesn’t involve lots of cardboard boxes. On the plus side, my new flat is less than two minutes walk from a cheese shop; that can surely only be a good thing.

Enjoy the weekend!

Cr

Instagrammers Anonymous: A Moral Christmas Jam

After last week’s Bond-tastic, Christmas-decoration-busting Instagrammers Anonymous, this week’s edition is back to the good old ‘honestly, I’m not actually middle aged’ stance. Yup, I’ve spent a large chunk of the week in the kitchen.

First off, I started the Christmas Cake! Yes, I am aware that Christmas is still seven-or-so weeks away, but I’m making the actual cake this weekend (it needs to be ‘fed’ at least 5 times before Christmas), so I started prep-ing early. Most recipes say that your fruit needs to steep in the brandy for ‘a couple of hours’ or (in some audacious recipes) ‘over night’. This is clearly nonsense – mine are going to have 6 days. I call this Winning at Life (and most certainly not casual alcoholism).Soaking fruit for the Christmas cake

As if that wasn’t a middle-aged enough start, this week also saw my mum and I’s annual jam making session. We came across loads of wild fruit whilst walking the dog over the last few month, so we helped ourselves to some raspberries, brambles/blackberries (whatever you care to call them) and redcurrants, chucked them in the freezer, and the other night made jam. It’s pretty darn good, even if I do say so myself – just don’t look at the ingredients too closely.Raspberry, bramble and redcurrant jam

And finally, another little bit of ‘It’s too early for Christmas‘ moaning. From today a certain coffee chain (beginning with ‘star’ and ending in ‘bucks’ – I’ll leave you to guess who it is) started selling their Christmas flavours. At least, I suppose, they had the ‘decency’ to wait until November (unlike The Dome), but it’s still too early! Although in saying that, they do have a ‘buy one get one free’ offer on at the moment, so I might have caved and cheered my Friday afternoon up with a cheeky gingerbread latte. My morals are flexible, what can I say?Christmas Drinks (Gingerbread Latte) from Starbucks

My weekend is going to be taken up by Christmas-y things (too early, I know, but we’ve already established the flexibility of my morals), but no doubt there’ll be plenty of photos for Monday. Whatever you’re up to, have a great weekend.

Cr

Swedish Cinnamon Buns – Easy Like A Sunday Morning

A couple of weeks ago I made several references to the fact that I’d spent a (very domestic) Sunday morning doing a spot of baking and – the dreaded – ironing. Now that all the blog-birthday frivolities are over it’s time to share the better half of that morning’s labours – Swedish Cinnamon Buns.

Swedish Cinnamon BunsI’ve always been slightly scared of baking with yeast. No other ingredient has ever stopped me in my kitchen exploits (although granted, the octopus was an unmitigated, rubbery disaster), except yeast. It’s a bit pathetic really. It means I’ve never made a loaf of bread – I think we can all agree that using the breadmaker doesn’t count as baking, delicious as its produce is – not even a measly Chelsea Bun! But these times are a changing, and I’ve done a little manning up.

The Swedish (whose tourist board provided this recipe), it would seem, are quite into their buns. Take that as you will, but they would have it with a healthy dose of cinnamon – none of this icing nonsense that the Belgians and the Americans are in to – and use it as a snack to accompany coffee when they’ve guests about. In fact they like their kanelbullar so much that they even have a national day of celebration for it! Kanelbullar Dag – 4th October, if you’re interested – has been marked for the last few years by bakers up and down Sweden, and I think I might start joining them.

This recipe is really straightforward and whilst that nightmare ingredient might put some off as it initially did me, I would thoroughly recommend using this as the perfect excuse to get over the baking fear. I took the end result into work with me the day after I’d made them; I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that they didn’t last long.Swedish Cinnamon Buns

Swedish Cinnamon Buns

Ingredients

For the dough:
25g yeast
75g butter
250ml milk
50g granulated sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
600g plain flour

 For the filling:
100g butter
100g caster sugar
4 tsp cinnamon

For the Glaze:
1 egg
2 tbsp water
Pearl sugar/demerara sugar to decorateSwedish Cinnamon Buns

Directions

1. Crumble the yeast into a bowl and mix with a few tablespoons of the milk. Melt the butter and pour the yeast/milk mix on top. Add in the other dough ingredients and knead for 10-15 mins (I cheated and got the dough hooks for my mixer out of the cupboard).

2. Put the dough mix into a lightly-oiled dish (it makes it easier to get out), cover in clingfilm and allow it to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

3. Roll out the dough – it should be about 3mm thick and 30cm wide. Spread the butter over the dough, then make a mixture of the cinnamon and sugar before scattering it evenly over the dough.

4. Roll the dough up (the long way, like a Swiss Roll) and then chop into equal slices – the mix should make about 25.

5. Place the bun dough into muffin cases on a tray*, cover with a tea towel and allow it to rise for about an hour (or the buns have doubled in size).

6. Beat together the egg and water before brushing over the buns. Sprinkle with sugar and bake in the centre of the oven for around 10 minutes at 225ºC, or until they are golden.

Enjoy,

Cr

*The original recipe told me to put them in muffin cases, but if I did this again I would probably place them side-by-side on a baking sheet, then tear them apart when I wanted to eat them. I would have put this in the recipe, but since the photos show them in bun cases I thought I’d go for a little bit of continuity.

A Second Year In Photos: Instagrammers (Not So) Anonymous

One of this year’s regular features only started back at the end of April, but since then it’s happened almost every Friday; it is, of course, Instagrammers Anonymous. When I got my iPhone in April one of the first apps I downloaded was Instagram, and the addiction has flowed from that moment on. It’s slightly pathetic, I fully admit, but it’s so easy (and addictive) to take your phone out, take an average photo and make it look more fun with a simple filter. It’s certainly a lot quicker than using a camera and spending an age doing the same thing on photoshop! Over the last six months there have been pets and parties, cakes and castles, gin and *insert something beginning with G (excluding giraffe) here*. Basically, you name it, it’s been there. It seemed only right, therefore, to let Instagrammers Anonymous retain its usual Friday spot and make it day 3 of A Second Year In Photos.

Hello, my name’s Craig and I’m an Instagramming-aholic.

Following the success of the lime and chilli gin and other exciting home-flavoured alcohols I decided to refill my empty Raspberry Edinburgh Gin bottle with my own version of the scarlet nectar. Once bottled it… uhm… evaporated… very quickly…raspberry gin in a bottle with label

The following is one of the first photos I took with Instagram. And to this day remains one of my favourites (nothing like starting well and going downhill from there). It is, of course, of Keira, and until the delightful catastrophe that was me updating to iOS6 it was my phone’s background image.
Instagram, iPhone 4S, Keira

Tomorrow it’s time to celebrate the Jub-Olympic summer!

Cr

A Second Year In Photos: Feeding and Watering

As everyone knows, an army marches on its stomach, and I am very much the same (except I image I get slightly better food). I love being in the kitchen, and really value spending time sharing good food and drink with friends and family so it will come as no surprise that food and drink often feature on the blog. Very often this food is in the form of cake (something I don’t imagine this proverbial army get very often), so I’ve decided not to include any of that in this post and instead I have selected two of my favourite creations from this year which will make up day 2 of A Second Year In Photos. Oh, and a cheeky extra one, because I couldn’t decide which one to cut out.

For Mothers’ Day this year my brothers and I decided to drop the traditional box of overly-commercialised chocolates and vomit-inducing cards in favour of making her a Sunday dinner that we could all enjoy together. For dessert I took inspiration from the (then) recently finished series of Masterchief and made a chocolate and mango mousse. It was delicious (her words, not mine) and I thoroughly recommend you give it a go yourself.Mango and Chocolate MousseThe summer heralds surely one of Britain’s greatest contributions to the world of drinks – Pimm’s. A drink of near-universal popularity with those that have tried it, and one of my personal favourites. Unfortunately we don’t always have the weather for it – it’s definitely best served outside with a hefty dose of sunshine – so this year I opted several times to make something that can be consumed indoors with some excellent local soft fruits: Pimm’s whipped cream. With strawberries and a little chopped mint it’s even better than it sounds.

Strawberries in a glass dish with mint and Pimm's whipped creamOne lazy summery weekend (we got one or two) a friend and I decided that we’d go for a picnic. Our mid-afternoon trip led us to a nearby cheese shop and then armed with our fromage, glasses and decent bottle of red wine we spent the afternoon in the Botanic Gardens. Whether you are supposed to eat (let a lone drink) in the Botanics is still up for debate, but we had a fantastic afternoon and it’s something I’d love to do again.

Cheese, wine, sun, Edinburgh

Tomorrow for day 3 I’ll be looking at my favourite photos from the Friday round-up of Instagrammers Anonymous.

Cr