I went back to the German Market again and picked a random stall to buy my lunch. This time it was one of the Pretzel stalls. The salami pretzel sounded good so I bought one of those.
The pretzel was pretty much what you expect: soft, chewy and very salty on top. I had change left so I thought I would try a dessert next. The choice of desserts was reasonably wide and included pancakes, sweets, cakes, marshmallows or chocolate coated fruit kebabs. The dice took me to a marshmallow stand.
I chose an orange and a gingerbread one. The marshmallow is softer and stickier than the sort you get in bags, and sits on a small waffle or wafer-like disc.
The German Market is in full swing in Birmingham and I am still using the random number app to choose my lunch.
The dice took me to a schnitzel stand which offered a choice of different meats. I let the dice decide and came away with a chicken schnitzel. I also got some chips to go with it.
I had asked for the mushroom sauce and I think they gave me the curry sauce but it was still good, and went well with the schnitzel.
Half metre sausage
The choice was a bit easier this time. The dice chose the half-metre bratwurst stand so I didn't have any extra choices to make. I didn't let the dice choose my condiments, I added half ketchup and half mustard.
The sausage was fine but the bread was a bit chewy. Although it looks a lot of food, I still felt hungry afterwards.
This was another 'make room in the freezer' baking session. I had more grated pumpkin in the freezer, along with some 'shop damaged' bananas (6p for a bag). I defrosted them and made two cake mixes. My idea was to pour them in opposite ends of a baking tray, giving the middle a swirl so the ends were one type of cake and the middle had both combined.
The original recipe was based on the pumpkin cupcakes. I beat together 175ml of vegetable oil, 3 eggs and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, then divided the mixture in two.
In one half I added the pumpkin cake ingredients (but using cranberries instead of sultanas):
- 85g golden caster sugar
- 100g of grated pumpkin
- 50g cranberries
- 1 tsp cinnamon with ½ tsp of mixed spice
In the other half I added
- 85g of drinking chocolate powder, with an extra tablespoon of sugar
- 100g mashed banana
- 50g sultanas
Both halves also had
- 100g self raising flour
- ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda
I poured the two batters into a 10x6 inch tray. I expected the cakes to take about half an hour at gas mark 4 but it was well over ¾ hour before the middle stopped being liquid.
When the cake had cooled, I made a lemon juice icing, slightly runny so I could drizzle it over the top.
I took some of the cake to work to share (since that was where the hot chocolate powder came from, it was only fair to do that). People seemed to like it - I got favourable comments from people, someone even noticed that I had used an oil based recipe. Both cakes were definitely worth doing again.
The German Christmas Market returned to Birmingham last week. We popped out for an inaugural pint or two when it opened but this week I decided to get some food. Instead of using the Wheeldecide website, I used a random number generator app on my phone to choose which of the many food outlets to choose.
I found myself in front of a chalet-style take-away which had a range of different menu items all based around burgers, potatoes and mushrooms. Instead of letting the dice choose how much I ate, I went for the full menu since I didn't want to end up hungry.
The garlic sauce was a bit too strong but the meal itself was good, as was the wheat beer.
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I made a second batch of the apple sauce and drinking chocolate brownies. This time I added a handful of dried cherries to the mix. I also used half apple pureé and half olive oil, since I only had half a cup of apple pureé in the fridge (the rest is in the freezer).
When the brownies came out of the oven, I sprinkled 50g of plain chocolate over the top and waited for it to melt before spreading it over the top.
I took the cakes to work the share out and the everyone seemed to like them.
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We have a glut of hot chocolate powder in work, left over from when we used a different drinks machine. I was talking to a colleague in the kitchen and I wondered whether I could use some of it to make cakes. I decided to take some home to make an experimental batch of chocolate brownies. If they were any good, I would make some more to take back to work to share.
Every now and then I use apple sauce in recipes, since it can be used to replace some or all of the butter. We recently bought an Instant Pot, which we use several times a week as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, bread proving pot, or sometimes just a giant saucepan. It is very useful and I fully intend to blog a bit more about it in the future.
We had recently been given a bag of apples from the tree in Emma's Auntie Val's garden. I peeled them, cut them into big chunks and put them in the instant pot with a splash of water. I cooked them on the 'Soup' programme for 15 minutes and they had cooked down to a smooth pureé, there was no need to mash or liquidize afterwards.
I looked up some brownie recipes to get a feel for the quantities, then decided to use the hot chocolate powder to replace both the sugar and cocoa powder.
- 1 cup of apple purée
- 3 eggs
- 1½ cup of hot chocolate powder
- a pinch of salt
- 1 cup of plain flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 50g of plain chocolate, broken into chunks
- Heat the oven to 180C or gas mark 4. Grease and line a 9 or 10 inch cake tin.
- Mix the apple pureé, eggs and hot chocolate powder together
- Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and sift into the wet mixture. Fold in.
- Stir in the chocolate pieces.
- Pour into the tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Unfortunately I had to leave the house before the brownie was fully cooked so I turned the oven off and left it in while the oven cooled. When I got back, the brownie was properly cooked though, possibly a bit over-cooked because it wasn't moist and squishy inside.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the flavour though. Chocolate cakes do need a lot of cocoa powder or they just end up like brown sponge cakes. This was probably about right. I tried a square, then remembered that I needed to take a photo to put here. After taking the photo, I made a coffee and ate the second piece. If there is any cake left on monday, I'll take it to work, but I'll probably have to make another one to make sure there is enough to go round.
I've been doing some work in Leicester for a few months. I had to test out a new camera which has been bought for a project which needs images taken at regular intervals.
I decided to take the camera for a bit of a walk at lunchtime, along with a fisheye lens, and took some photos in the Leicester Castle area.
One of the towers at the approach to the Castle.
St Mary De Castro Church
I saw these giant custard cream biscuits in the Costa near work and had to buy one. I photographed it next to a few normal sized ones for scale.
My second attempt at making a loaf from the sourdough baking booklet was a Molasses and Rye loaf. I used treacle instead of molasses (which is a fair enough swap). I didn't have enough rye flour so I used a mixture of that and wholewheat.
The end result was a good loaf which smelled slightly of treacle but didn't taste sweet or treacly.
The cookies were made because it was my turn on the Cake Day rota in work. The recipe was called Thumbprint Cookies. I filled them with either jam, lemon curd or marmalade. They seemed to go down well and there weren't any left for me to bring home.
It looks like, at long last, the almost continuous rain has ended and summer has arrived. The garden is growing again, and some courgettes seem to have appeared on one of our plants almost overnight.
When I left work this evening, it was a bit toasty in the car. The thermometer actually measures the temperature underneath the car rather than inside but I can easily believe that it was over 40c, since the car is practically a mobile greenhouse. The temperature originally read 42c when I first got in but by the time I got my phone out to take a photo, it had dropped a degree.
Just over a week ago I exchanged sourdough starters with a colleague in work. I gave her some of my wild yeast starter and in return I was given a tub of Herman starter.
The Herman starter mix is made using flour, sugar, milk and yeast. Unlike the traditional bread starter, which ideally should be fed every day, the Herman starter is only stirred each day and fed on the 4th and 9th days. The feed consists of equal quantities of sugar, milk and flour.
On the 10th day, the cake is ready to make. Take 1 cup of starter and add all the other ingredients, mixing well to make a stiff batter. As usual, I made a few substitutions based on what we had in the house at the time. I used:
- 1 cup of sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 cups of plain flour
- ⅔ cup of vegetable oil
- 2 medium eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 medium sized apples, chopped but not peeled
- 1 cup of dried mixed fruit
- 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp of mixed spice
- 2 tsp baking powder
I poured the mixture into a couple of loaf tins and sprinkled them with demerara and a little melted butter. I then covered them loosely with foil before baking them at gas mark 4 (180 °C). One of the cakes was ready after an hour, the other was in a deeper tin and took nearly twice as long.
The apples help to keep the cake nice and moist. I think it would work just as well with pears, and possibly using apricots instead of the mixed fruit.
One problem with my new office is that you aren't allowed to eat or drink at the desks. Another problem is the nearby communal seating area and kitchen are being refurbished so there's quite a long walk to the next nearest place where I can sit and drink.
My old office was near the department kitchen and I used to keep a good selection of teabags and loose leaf teas on my desk. I am now reduced to keeping a selection of teabags in my bag for those occasions when I manage to take a tea-break.
I found an interesting tea related chart on the Tea Appreciation Society website which lists a number of interesting tea related facts. Among them are the ideal temperatures for different styles. I already knew that green and white teas should be brewed at below boiling, but I didn't realise they only had to be at 65-70°C and 65-70°C respectively.
At the moment I have the following teas in the house:
- Gunpowder tea: One of the most readily available green teas, and usually a reliable option.
- King Bladud's Blend: A black tea, named after the legendary king who founded the city of Bath. These first two teas were bought from the tea and coffee stall in Bath market.
- White tea: from Whittards. A mild refreshing tea.
- Te Med Blåbärssmak: A blueberry flavoured tea from Ikea.
- Tesco Loose Leaf Tea: Claims to be leaf but is actually more like tea dust - the contents of a teabag but without the bag. OK for when I want a decent strong cup with milk.
- Earl Grey: Teabags, made by Clipper.
- Redbush: Teabags, from Tetley. I have had various flavoured redbush teas but usually prefer the plain ones. A redbush flavoured with orange which I bought from the German Market in Birmingham a few years ago was quite nice though.
- Darjeeling: Asda own brand 'Selected by you' Teabags. Nice light flavour, better without milk.
Most of the time I drink tea without milk, which is handy in work since at the moment there isn't anywhere to keep any. I first started drinking it milkless when I was at university in Aberystwyth. Milk would go off before I had chance to use it so I just stopped bothering buying any. Now, when I have milk in tea, I prefer it to be semi-skimmed. For some reason, skimmed milk seems to make the tea taste worse, and full milk is a bit too creamy for tea.
I'm in Chicago for a week, attending a conference. We got here on tuesday but our luggage didn't arrive until last night thanks to our 1st plane being late and the airline not having enough time to transfer the luggage over to the 2nd plane. Unfortunately my laptop charger was in the luggage so I had to restrict computer use because I didn't want the battery to run down and leave me unable to do any work.
I'll upload some photos eventually but I'll just waffle on slightly at random for a few minutes first.
There seem to be a lot of 'news' style programmes on in the mornings and I found myself watching a lot of 'Good Morning America' on ABC but I had to give up because they were spending so much time talking about the upcoming Royal Wedding. I'm sure I've seen more about it here than back home.
I really can't watch Fox News. It seems to be aimed at 10 year olds, or at least aimed at people who like inane comments and slightly stupid sounding presenters.
Why did CNN give Pierce Morgan the Larry King job? Surely they could have found someone better, or at least less annoying.
About half the adverts seem to be for pharmaceuticals of various types. A lot of these have a spoken warning at the end which seem to imply that one of the side effects might be death. I know they have to be careful and try to cover all eventualities but that would put me off wanting to take some. Also I mocked an advert for a product aimed at people who couldn't produce enough tears and so needed something to lubricate their eyes. I really wouldn't have thought there was a huge need for such a product and couldn't understand why it was being advertised so much. That was until I spent 2 days in an over-air-conditioned conference centre which seems to be sucking all moisture from my body. Now I understand. If most offices are as bad as that then there is definitely a need for the product, but surely a simpler solution would be just to turn the air conditioning down a little. Where I am right now, there is a bridge between the conference centre and the hotel and there is often a howling gale blowing though, probably caused by an imbalance in the air conditioning in the two buildings.
OK, I spent longer prattling about medicines and air conditioning than I really intended. One thing which has impressed me about Chicago is the public transport. The buses and trains are cheap at $2.25 for a journey or $23 for a pass which is valid for an entire week. This even includes a trip from the airport to the city centre. The buses also have a loudspeaker which gives the name of the next stop or road junction, which makes it really easy to find out where you are and when you need to get off. This is so much better than the buses in Coventry, which are expensive and not part of a properly 'integrated transport' system and half of the drivers don't seem to know their route very well so if you try to ask them if they go past a particular place they can't or won't answer you. The 'Travel West Midlands' company which runs most of the Coventry bus service can't even be arsed putting prices on its website so as an infrequent bus user it's a pain finding out the prices because all the buses are 'exact change only'. The Chicago buses are also exact change, but since all journeys are the same price and that price is well publicised, it's a much friendlier system.
Beer is quite expensive here with pints being between $5-8 depending on bar and type of beer, but a lot of bars seem to stock a good range of 'proper' beers and not just industrial factory-made tasteless lagers. I've been impressed with the beer selection in most of the places I've been to so far.
Food in bars is reasonably priced and of course the portions are enormous. We've not been disappointed by either size of quality. Food in shops is quite expensive, with fruit often costing $1 a piece and snack bars are at least that much too. I was terribly disappointed with the american Tropicana juice. Back home, Tropicana is a premium brand and is nearly all 'freshly squeezed' or at least not from concentrate. All the juices I've seen so far here have been made from concentrate and have other flavours added, usually listed as something like 'Naturally occurring flavours not from Orange' or something similar. The flavour is nowhere near as good as the UK Tropicana.
It is the monthly cake day in work tomorrow. Normally it is held on the last friday of the month but it's been moved to coincide with Comic Relief day and the cakes are going to be sold for charity.
Since I like lemon drizzle cake I decided to have a go at making an Orange Drizzle Cake, based on the recipe in the Daily Mail. I followed the recipe fairly closely and only made a couple of small changes: I used granulated sugar instead of the caster and icing sugar and I reduced the amount of sugar used in the syrup because my oranges weren't very juicy.
I made one full-sized cake for tomorrow and two small 'samplers' in bun cases for us to try tonight. The cake turned out well - definitely a recipe I'd recommend.
I received an email this morning where the sender had requested I return a 'receipt' when I had read the email. I clicked the button to send it but it didn't work. Instead I saw the following error message:
I suspect the problem was caused because I was at home but sending an email from my work account, which by default tries to connect to a particular email server. This server is configured to only accept connections from on-site.