Category Archives: Bread

Mothers’ Day Tea Party

I was really excited about baking for this Mothers’ Day tea party. It was my first Top Secret Tea Party since mid-December as the February event was cancelled because of snow – who’d have thought the weather could change so dramatically by mid-March – birds singing in the blue sky and sunshine warming our hearts – absolutely lovely. Secondly because seven daughters were bringing their three Mums and I wanted to create something special – no one wants to ruin Mothers’ Day, do they! Thirdly because this was another chance to hold a tea party at Tilly’s Vintage Workshop and Craft Studio in Chesterton, Peterborough. Tilly’s barn just gets cosier and cosier. There are currently lots of vintage wedding gowns hanging up – amazingly Tilly is going to cut them up to add to wet-felted scarves she’s creating with designer Sue Hughes (it’s thanks to Sue that I wear colourful felt flower corsages when I get to ‘be’ Lemony Drizzle) – think ‘cobweb’ fine merino wool in delicate colours, with lovely vintage wedding dress detail added in – beautiful – and although it sounds scandalous to cut something up that’s old and wonderful – it will be ‘reborn’ into something equally beautiful rather than simply hanging up, never to be worn again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usually I take three days, minimum, to prepare for a tea party but due to the pressures of work I only had two days so it felt like a mammoth bakeathon to get everything baked and ready for the tea table.

I served elderflower cordial, chilled, in champagne flutes on arrival and bought in more almond loose tea from Imperial Teas of Lincoln. I LOVE this tea, which I first served at my chocolate themed tea party last November. It’s so delicate and refreshing, with or without milk. I also served an assam blend and Blue Lady, which is similar to Earl Grey.

I decided to try a new sandwich filling for this event – coronation chicken. I thought it was something grand and sophisticated, suitable for the gathering of mums and daughters. I used an old recipe, which required poaching chicken in water (I used free range chicken breasts) with bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, carrot and onion. I left the chicken to cool in the cooking liquor before pulling the meat into small chunks. I then cooked finely chopped onion, well seasoned, in some olive oil and butter with a little garam masala and turmeric. Once the onion was cooked and cooled, I mixed it with mayonnaise, mango chutney, lemon juice and zest and a little fromage frais to loosen the mixture (I intended to add some cream but it didn’t need it).

I also served cheese scones topped with sundried tomato and lemon mousse. I’d been up to my elbows in scone dough that morning (well, not really but it felt like it) as I made cheese scones, plain scones, cherry scones plus a batch of gluten free scones. There was a moment of panic when the guests got their hands on the plate of gluten free sandwiches and scones, specially prepared for one guest who can’t eat wheat but luckily I managed to shout STOP before they’d eaten the lot!

The plain and cherry scones rose so much during baking that they actually toppled over in the oven. I’m not sure there’s any such thing as a scone that’s ‘too high’ though?! They were all eaten, topped with strawberry or cherry jam and lashings of clotted cream.

As for the cake selection….one of the guests had asked me to serve her favourite, carrot cake. No problem really, except I decided to use a different recipe than normal. I also decided to make it gluten free so that all the guests could eat it. It was a three layer carrot cake, completely covered in cream cheese and butter frosting. I was a tad nervous but as you can see from the picture, I needn’t have worried – it really was moist and delicious with a hint of orange (added to the batter and with zest grated onto the top; I also decorated the frosting with toasted coconut).

I made a chocolate and hazelnut torte which, as it’s a flourless recipe, is a relatively ‘flat’ cake, covered in a thin and glossy chocolate glaze which I then scattered liberally with chocolate flakes and toasted hazelnuts. I’ll certainly make this again as it was very moreish. One guest commented it would be nice served warm as a dessert with a dollop of cream and I couldn’t agree more. I certainly enjoyed eating the crumbs when I was clearing up, as that was all that was left!

Also gracing the table (well, actually, a side table as we couldn’t fit everything on in one go) were pretty fondant fancies, Florentines and meringue with coffee mascarpone cream and pools of caramel. The only sweet item that the wheat-free guest couldn’t have was the fondant fancies. I think it’s important not to ‘single out’ guests with particular dietary requirements – it’s really quite easy to provide ‘naturally’ gluten free baked goods, like flourless tortes, meringues etc. and substituting GF flour for wheat flour can produce equally good results in your usual cake recipes (just make sure there is adequate liquid in the batter otherwise the texture will be very dry). Of course if the guest can’t take any risk that their tea has come into contact with food containing gluten then it wouldn’t be advisable that they attend; and as for catering for ‘fussy’ eaters with dietary demands…No, I don’t think so, but I’m happy to try to include guests like this lady who simply can’t eat wheat.

I hadn’t made Florentines before but they were generally declared to be ‘yummy’. Next time I would flatten the mixture with a spoon to ensure they come out wafer thin. I always like making up concoctions to partner a fluffy meringue and this version worked well. I flavoured the meringue mix with coffee extract (you could just use a few drops of espresso or even instant coffee granules diluted in hot water as that works equally well) and then added the same to some mascarpone cream along with some icing sugar. I made a lovely creamy golden caramel sauce and put a small pool into the top of each meringue before topping with the coffee mascarpone. To finish off I mixed more coffee with muscovado sugar and sprinkled the mix on the meringues, along with a shard of toffee – inadvertently created when the caramel started to go lumpy – waste not, want not!!

Conversation at the tea table centred on keeping chickens, baking disasters, Master Chef, children with special needs and reminiscing about school (two guests realised they knew each other as teenagers!). Once everyone could eat no more I insisted they pack away the leftovers into the tins and tubs they’d helpfully brought with them (a suggestion of mine which worked in everyone’s favour!) and they left, emerging from Tilly’s into the beautiful Spring sunshine.

I hope everyone enjoyed it – I packed up and headed off to see my own mother and grandmother along with the rest of the family – and ate more cake, drank more tea and, finally, put my feet up whilst Mr Tea very kindly washed up.

Lovely. Now it’s time to start planning for April’s tea party. Details are on the ‘events’ page of the blog.

Lemony x x

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New year, new cake?

Hello – well it does seem a long time since I last posted on my blog. I find the beginning of the year a bit of a struggle. After over indulging at Christmas (who doesn’t? do you know anyone?) I always feel I need to be restrained in January. Lots of pounding the treadmill (which is just not the same as running in the great outdoors, but I don’t enjoy running in the dark, gloomy half light of January or February so I make do with the gym; needs must). Lots of cooking with a ton of veggies. “Being good” perhaps you could call it. But BOY does it get boring after a while! So as we’re more than half way through February surely, SURELY it’s time to EAT MORE CAKE?! The rest of the year I don’t have this dilemma; I bake. I test. I lick the spoon. I eat cake. I share my cakes. And I run/keep fit and do my best to burn off some of the calories. It’s a nice life. So please, please can the winter be over so I can get back to normal? It’s not that I haven’t done ANY baking, that would be unthinkable. I’ve made brandy snaps (SO easy, SO nice, SO  retro, SO difficult to photograph!!), I’ve made coffee and walnut cake, I’ve made orange and almond cake – and that was actually wheat and fat free – take that January!! I’ve made chocolate sponge to soak in coffee and alcohol to turn into chocolate tiramisu. And I made Mr Tea a chocolate cinnamon cupcake, with chocolate fudge frosting and hand made plump red hearts (just a small cake you understand, what with Valentine’s Day falling in blooming self righteous February). But I want to bake MORE! I want to share more cake, I want to take tea sitting in my lovely little summer house, with Mr Tea or some other family and friends. It’s TIME – make it happen, somebody, please!!!

And as I’ve been focusing so much on thinking about baking lately (nothing new there) – I’ve also noticed just how many other people are getting into baking. People I wouldn’t normally expect to see sharing a cake or two have been bringing them to meetings. Even at a meeting at the Food Standards Agency recently, sshhh, don’t tell anyone – they baked and ate chocolate brownies!! Another running/baking colleague and I might even run for Sport Relief in March – and bake cakes to eat and sell afterwards – it’s a new trend, bake-share-run – you heard it here first! We even discussed having a Sport Relief Bake Off in our department – but we’d need a bank of ovens, oh and the time to bake all morning rather than doing any work…..

So the baking trend is not only continuing but reaching out to new bakers young and old in 2012. I commented on nostalgia and the need for us to have civilised, sophisticated tea parties in the article that Nene Valley Living Magazine published in January (you’ll find it online).

So bring on the warmer weather, spring flowers, green not brown roadsides and verges, bird song and more opportunities to bake and share cake!

Why not treat your Mum, Daughter, Son, Grandchildren, Wife, Friend, or Yourself! Sunday, 18th March 2012 – Peterborough

Join me and my co-host Tilly at a beautiful vintage barn venue in Peterborough for full afternoon tea on Mothers’ Day. Enjoy finger sandwiches made with Hambleton Bakery bread, savoury and sweet scones (everyone loves them!), and a selection of cakes and bakes. All served on pretty bone china, with starched white table linen and fresh flowers, with lots of loose leaf tea (or coffee if you’d prefer), friendly chatter and time to browse the pretty surroundings. Just what you need to drag you out of the winter slush and gloom!

Email mslemonydrizzle@sky.com to book and pay £20 per guest in advance via PayPal.

Lots of love, care and cake

Lemony Drizzle x

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Top-Secret-Tea-Parties/159296277491762

 

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An afternoon of vintage loveliness!

Finally, I have time to post details of the delightful topsecretteaparty
at Tilly’s Vintage Craft Workshop a couple of Sunday’s ago. I was really
excited about this tea party, because every time I visit Tilly’s barn, at Hall
Farm, Chesterton on the outskirts of Peterborough I come away with bags of
ideas about things to make and sew – of course I can rarely find the time to
make most of it a reality, but the inspiration is there and surely it’s only a
matter of time before I actually make some of these projects?! It was at Tilly’s
that I learnt to applique (I made a lovely little lavender bag and was very
pleased with my efforts), the wonders of bondaweb (great for a lazy sew-and-so
like Lemony he he..), and the possibilities for upcycling tired clothing / how
to jazz up jackets etc., plus all that is fabulous about wet felting – I got to
make a gorgeous flower corsage out of beautiful merino wool. Have a look at Tilly’s
Facebook page/events and see what takes your crafting fancy https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Tillys-Vintage-Workshop-Craft-Studio/216476658376432.

Anyway….Tilly and Lemony decided afternoon tea at the Barn
would be a fab way of introducing people to vintage crafting – a civilised tea
party around Tilly’s wonderfully large table whilst drooling over my cakes and
scones and Tilly’s shelves full of fabric, linens, ribbons and books/magazines…
what could be nicer? The fact that Tilly currently has several vintage wedding
dresses hanging up was a bonus – so pretty!

Six lovely ladies came to tea – a wonderful
mix of chatty people with such different backgrounds and interests –
dressmaking, photography, textiles, academic research, a café owner,
radiography…!! They all enjoyed browsing Tilly’s shop and workshop whilst
sipping their elderflower cordial from champagne flutes.

Then they got down to
the serious business of afternoon tea…which included egg mayonnaise finger
sandwiches on wonderful Hambleton’s Bakery 7 seed granary bread; cheese scones
with red pepper cream (Appearance No.2 for these little savoury delights, as
they were such a hit at the fashion+tea party the weekend before); plain scones
with Hall Farm strawberry jam – made by the farmer’s wife a few feet from Tilly’s
barn! Plum, pear and apple jam was also on offer from Saints and Sinners in
Spalding (Lovely) and, of course, lashings of clotted cream.

I made a morello cherry and vanilla
buttercream layer cake – which was incredibly messy to cut and serve but tasted
great nonetheless!! Meringues sandwiched with my homemade lemon curd (always
have to have something Lemony on the menu!) 

and some iced gingerbread biscuits –
which I have to confess were a last minute substitution as I seem to have lost
the knack of making shortbread – two attempts were nibbled on by myself and Mr
Tea and rejected – what’s happening?! I have won awards for my shortbread in
the past (at Nassington and Yarwell village show, in case you were wondering!)
and now I just can’t get my act together – I’ll keep trying though as I love
shortbread and I hate to be beaten by something so simple!

Tilly told the guests all about her
Barn and workshops and one of the guests, Sue, gave everyone lots of ideas for
crafty keepsakes including using baby clothes. I then forced everyone to take
home bags containing leftover cake – I like to think they can share my baking
goodies with their loved ones long after their own tummies are full up! And as
luck would have it, one of the guests, Amy, is setting up a photography
business so asked to take some piccies which I’ve made use of here… isn’t it
nice meeting new people and helping each other out? You can look at Amy’s
photographs on her blog http://amylewinphotography.wordpress.com/

Tilly and I have lots of ideas for
future joint ventures and I’m hoping to become a more regular visitor to the
Barn, at Tilly’s regular sew-in café (Wednesdays 7-9pm and Saturdays 2-4pm) –
after all, I’m determined to make at least some of my Christmas gifts this year
so I need to get sewing! And if you come along to the topsecretteaparty on 2nd
December you might just get to visit Tilly’s for some Christmas inspiration of
your own…

Lemony x x

 

 

Summerhouse tea party – grand opening!

Well, that’s it then – my first ‘public’ tea party event is
over! Myself and Mr Tea had to work really hard last week to get the
summerhouse looking ship shape and lovely in time, but, I think we did it – I was so pleased that I managed to sew some vintage shabby chic cushions despite being up till the wee hours. Then it was up early last Friday to make bunting –it looks so fresh and fabulous, don’t you think?! I want to make some more…once I can face cutting all those triangles out again!! Good way to use up
remnants of pretty fabric and VERY satisfying when you do it all yourself!

Now to the food…… I spent a fair while deciding what to put
on the menu. Partly because there were two men coming and lets face it, men don’t
always like dainty afternoon tea (Mr Tea is an exception maybe!). So my
solution was a) make a sticky date cake – dark, rich and not at all dainty –
which went down well with the four women as well as the men actually so I’m
glad I went with that option. 2nd solution? Serve scones (I baked a
mixture of plain, fruit and almond) with Talisker whisky clotted cream!!! That
did the trick too – what man could turn down cream with single malt running
through it?! I decided to serve honey as I thought that would go well with the
whisky cream and it seemed to work – I loved the honey/scone combo, even
without the cream. I have to say my scones came out SO big this time – rose and rose in the oven! I’m not complaining but I think I’ll use my smallest cutter
next time so they’re not too big. Strawberry jam, of course, for those who didn’t
want honey; the jam came from the farmhouse kitchen at Hall Farm, Chesterton,nr. Peterborough and very lush it was too.

I also made the tallest, wobbliest layered sponge you’ve
ever seen, as Mr Tea felt we needed a spectacular centre piece for our inaugural
tea party event. So I used a whole jar of my homemade lemon curd (another blog post about that when I have time to write it…) between the bottom two layers and then cream whipped with lemon juice and icing sugar between the top two. Very nice, but personally I find these big layer cakes a bit over the top when you want your guests to enjoy a bit of everything on offer – a tower of sponge can be a bit daunting don’t you think? Or maybe that’s just me!

Also on offer were chocolate dipped Viennese Fingers – using
the recipe that the lovely Lynn, she of the Bakelady blog and Clandestine Cake
Club fame, recently posted online. http://bakelady.wordpress.com/recipes/chocolate-covered-viennese-fingers/ Thanks for that Lynn – I hadn’t made these
before and I thought they were extremely tasty. I sort of preferred them
without the chocolate – bit rich maybe? But I might try dipping them in white
chocolate, or milk? I’ll give it a go – or pipe them into circles and sandwich
together with buttercream or jam as per Lynn’s suggestion online.

I’m working backwards here..sorry folks! Onto (or back to?!)
the savoury fare…… I’ve been experimenting with bread at my ‘practice’ tea
parties, to find some that’s both tasty and also suitable for having the crusts
cut off for finger sandwiches. Whilst I’m always more than happy to bake my own
loaves it’s hard to make homemade bread that’s ‘square’ enough for dainty
sandwiches. But I think I cracked it this time….. firstly, I made some mini bread
rolls (poppy seed and plain), and served these with individual pots of homemade
smoked mackerel pate. Each pot had a little fabric cover tied over its lid to
add to the vintage shabby chic feel. And many thanks to my lovely friend Shan
who had the patience to tie the bows around the jars when I was getting rather
hot under the apron in the kitchen! Secondly – I’ve discovered Hambleton’s
newest bakery branch, in Oundle – all the bread is baked locally (mainly in
Oakham I think) and the staff were SO knowledgeable and happy to discuss my
requirements. So we had their 7 seed wholemeal bread and also a white tin loaf
and not only did they slice beautifully, they tasted delicious (properly proved
bread with no nasty ingredients – worth its weight in gold in my opinion) AND
the remaining bread is STILL fresh – 3 days after we bought it. I shall be back
to Hambleton’s (and you should see their chocolate brownies!!). Fillings for
sandwiches…. Rare roast beef and mustard (another manly addition!) and cream
cheese and chives.

Watching my six guests run down the garden path under huge
umbrellas was so funny! I stood in the kitchen until they were all settled by Mr
Tea and then we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate the grand opening of
the summerhouse. I’ve never seen rain get harder and harder and harder with no
sign of stopping – but we were all cosy inside our little pop up tea room and
we lit some candles which added to the atmosphere. A few runs back to the
kitchen to top up the tea pots was a doddle and, before we’d finished our cake,
the rain stopped and the sun almost, almost came out! We all sat around the
table until well after 5pm and it was so lovely to be with such great people
having a nice chat and a laugh. I’ll tell you how nice they all were – we received
flowers, 6 x duck eggs, chocolates and a thank you card afterwards – that felt
pretty good I can tell you.

So now I’m wondering whether we could use the summerhouse as
a winterhouse?! If guests wrap up warm I can provide blankets to go around their
legs and we can warm ourselves over endless pots of tea whilst we chat and eat
cake…… sounds like a good plan to while away a gloomy winter afternoon rather
than wait for spring to appear? I’ll keep you posted! But I have other tea
parties planned at different venues in October…. Watch the events page closely
and do pop along and join in the fun if you can.

Lemony x

Baking for gluten free guests

I must say I was a little daunted by the thought of catering for a
friend who has Coeliac Disease – this is not a matter of someone being ‘a bit
fussy’ (and we all know a few of those) … but Coeliac sufferers really do
just that, suffer, if they eat any food with gluten in, which includes wheat,
rye and oats. So I was determined to do my best so my friend didn’t miss out on
the full afternoon tea experience. I was amazed to be able to buy xanthan gum
in the supermarket, which helps the ingredients in GF recipes emulsify and
stick together, but couldn’t for love nor money buy rice flour around any of
the supermarkets or more specialist shops in Peterborough. Not being a GF
expert I wasn’t sure whether I could substitute a GF mixed flour blend for rice
flour so I avoided some of the gluten free sponge recipes I’d had my eye on
trying.

I made sundried tomato bread, which used the GF flour blend and didn’t contain yeast (so a bit like a savoury cake really) – it was really runny when I poured it into the loaf tin but it came out lovely and moist and easy to slice for sandwiches. I also made another loaf with GF bread flour and yeast, which looked like wallpaper paste, not nice at all!! But it cooked fine –looked like a blond German rye bread in texture (not to everyone’s taste I imagine) but tasted quite pleasant.

I also made scones, using the flour blend and xanthan gum – I divided
the recipe to make half fruit and half cheese scones and I could tell by the
feel of the dough that they were going to be a success. I must say I really
enjoyed both of them – just as nice as my ordinary scones.

I also baked a lovely cinnamon, date and fig cake – which, as well as being gluten free also contained no sugar – though I did sprinkle liberally with sugar so it didn’t seem quite such a virtuous cake when served! It was so moist and so sweet from the dates and figs – just gorgeous really!

Finally I made a batch of almond macaroons – I think making cakes
or biscuits that don’t call for wheat or oats is a good choice for Coeliac
sufferers – it’s not tweaking or imitating – it’s making the most of cakes
which just don’t need flour to make them delicious.

So I was rather pleased with yesterday’s efforts and we all sat at
the table for a very long time, waiting so we could eat just a little bit more….
What more could a hostess ask for? Fab.

If you want to find out more about Coeliac Disease visit http://www.coeliac.org.uk/