Category Archives: Summerhouse

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

 

Tagged , , ,

Peterborough chocolate indulgence tea party

After weeks of anticipation it was finally here – my chocolate indulgence tea party to raise funds for Age UK. I love, love, love chocolate and couldn’t wait to create some new recipes to wow my guests and their taste buds. Several weeks ago I tried different scones/clotted cream/jam combinations to incorporate chocolate and I really didn’t like scones with chocolate baked into the dough. Lesson number one. Lesson number two – I tried an awful (awful being the right word) lot of savoury+chocolate combos and boy let me tell you some things just taste horrible when combined with chocolate (chocolate+olives anyone?!).

Here’s what I finally decided to serve today:

Hot chocolate on arrival in the garden – yes it was a bit chilly and yes it was a bit rich but I couldn’t resist. I also laid out some Willies Cacao samples to taste but I think my guests were a bit shy at that point so they didn’t really dig in.

Once seated in our shabby chic little summerhouse, complete with fairy lights and candles (including a gorgeous little blueberry pie candle from the Emporium Oundle which looked good enough to eat!) we had a good old natter whilst eating:

Cream cheese and chive finger sandwiches

Cheese scones with sweet chilli pepper and dark chocolate swirls

Walnut scones with blue cheese cream

Salted pretzels dipped in milk and dark chocolate

(so I didn’t add too much chocolate to the savouries in the end)

Then… plain scones, served with morello cherry jam or Nutella and a choice of white chocolate or Talisker single malt clotted cream. Something for everyone…including a new male guest who claimed not to like chocolate but who did not let the side down by the end of the afternoon!

Cake/sweet selection included a new favourite, chocolate Guinness cake topped with a cream cheese frosting and chocolate curls. I find this quite heavy personally; and in case you’re wondering, no it doesn’t taste of Guinness – the stout just makes the cake dark and rich.

I made chocolate brownies as my friends always rave about these – I’ve used Nigel Slater’s recipe since it was first published in the Observer in 2004 – it ALWAYS hits the (chocolate) spot! So fudgy and dense – no tinkering required – look for the recipe online and just follow it to impress your friends!

I experimented with a couple of new recipes which I think turned out rather well. These were inspired by my absolute favourite recipe book (I sit and read this in the evening, I just love it) – Green and Black’s Ultimate, published last year, and the Ghiradelli Chocolate Cookbook which I picked up a few years ago when I visited ‘America’s premier chocolatier’ in San Francisco. So, one recipe was rather British in origin and the other quite American.

I made meringue nests, then poked a little hole into them into which I poured salted, velvety caramel (I’m salivating now….it was very gorgeous indeed!), then I put a small blob of whipped cream on top so I could anchor a rich chocolate truffle – I infused the cream with rosemary from the garden – then I drizzled the little beauties with melted milk chocolate and a little more caramel. Heaven.

Experiment no. 2: I crushed oreo cookies, mixed with butter and lined a mini tartlet case with the buttery crumb. Into the freezer they went. Then I whisked some cream with icing sugar and combined it with some smooth peanut butter and some cream cheese. Oh and some chopped dark chocolate. I froze these babies until an hour before the tea party. I could have happily eaten the whole tray of these Peterborough mud pies!

I spent some time experimenting with loose teas to serve today and everyone tried the black tea with almond and the Maya Gold though we all decided the former was a winner (smells like marzipan!) and the latter was quite pleasant, something perhaps to drink at bedtime? The almond tea came from Imperial Teas in Lincoln – worth a visit to the tasting room on the Steep Hill. Maya Gold came from Nothing But Tea in Bedford.

Whilst everyone packed their take home tins (which I’d asked them to bring along!) with leftover cake I handed out little bags of chocolate which I’d tied with ribbon. I tempered dark chocolate with chilli and sea salt and white chocolate with pistachio and cranberry – lovely little gifts which they can either give away or consume greedily!

I’m constantly surprised how cosy our little summerhouse is – the windows steamed up and no one needed to borrow a scarf, though I’d supplied several, just in case… What a pleasant way to spend an afternoon with new and old tea party guests. The conversation didn’t wane for even a minute and covered local schools, special needs, child minding, secret tea rooms, commuting, research, conferences, where we were brought up and jobs. A fabulous tea party and yet again I’m a very happy secret tea party hostess!

Lemony Drizzle 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