Saturday, 19 July 2014

Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...

Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...
Naked, in a church, in Blackrod? Really. Thankfully I am talking about the cakes, not us. I was quite specific about that... Today's cake club was all about the cake itself. Although my merry band of bakers are a creative little bunch, it was time to strip back (cue childish laughter) and concentrate on the bake. 

A couple of months ago my friend Sarah suggested that we use our local church hall for a cake club meeting. We first met over a boardroom table about five years ago where we talked about rubbish every morning. No, literally - we talked about bins. Luckily this is now a distant memory and today we were reunited over a shedload of cake. She's heavily involved in the church's community activities, and was keen for our group to visit. 

Sarah and her pals had gone to so much trouble. We arrived to tables covered in pretty oilcloth, plates already stacked with gingham napkins and large pots of tea and coffee on the go. We had little cake forks too - oh yes. They had worked incredibly hard to make us feel welcome. Sarah had even written her own recipe for happiness - too cute. 

We were all really excited about tasting these cakes, as there was no faffiness or fancy-shmanciness, just good bakes with lots of flavour. We had 12 cakes in total, including:
  • White Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Cream and Lavender Berries
  • Apple, Pecan and Bourbon Cake
  • Madeira Cake
  • Light Jamaican Fruit Cake
  • Banana Bread
  • Ginger Loaf
  • Cardamon Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake
  • Bareback Plum and Damson Bundt Cake
  • Banana Loaf
  • Lemon Drizzle Loaf
  • Lime and Ginger Cake
  • Dark Sticky Gingerbread
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...
As if I wasn't already on the verge of bursting with excitement, Ian walked through the door with not one, but two beautiful loaf cakes, each with its appropriate drizzle! Ian started coming to cake club as a guest of a baking friend, and now look at the fella. Not one, but two cakes! I've known Ian since we were at school, and I'm pretty sure that if I could go back in time to show him this picture, he would have probably sworn profusely. Ha!
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Naked...
Once again, a fantastic time was had by all, and we owe a huge thank you to our hosts at St Katharine's Church in Blackrod.  The next meeting will be on 16th August, which will be loaded to the Clandestine Cake Club site shortly...



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Monday, 14 July 2014

Pimms Bundt Cake

Pimms Bundt Cake
On Saturday we went to our friend Jenny's house for a bit of a birthday knees up. Whilst everyone else was taking meaty goods to whack on the barbecue, I was tasked with making a bundt - naturally. Whilst her husband James did a sterling job of barbecuing meat in near tropical conditions, I did the easy bit in delivering a bundt - here's one I made earlier kind of thing.

There was no way I was re-doing a cake I had made before. It was her 30th birthday and we were having a garden party in the middle of Summer. As I was handed a glass of Pimms on arrival, I knew my choice was a wise one. It was always going to be a Pimms bundt cake.

For years I convinced myself that I hated the stuff, yet it turns out that I'm just not a fan of it being infused with cucumber - the devil's seed. Remove that muck and we're laughing. I bought a ready made can of Pimms and lemonade, which was also the perfect quantity for popping in a bundt too. The bubbles made a beautifully light cake, which also picked up the contours of my Heritage tin perfectly. Not a crumb out of place.

Ingredients:
April enjoying her bundt... 
  • 225g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 100g solid vegetable fat at room temperature 
  • 650g golden caster sugar
  • 5 large eggs, beaten
  • 460g plain flour, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 250ml ready made Pimms and lemonade - these come in cans.
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • A few drops of sweet orange extract
  • An orange, a handful of strawberries and some sprigs of mint.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
  2. Prepare a regular sized bundt tin - 2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch with Cake Release spray and dust with flour.
  3. Beat the butter and vegetable fat together until creamy.
  4. Add in the sugar and beat on a medium speed for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs one by one on a slow speed.
  6. Add the flour and salt to a separate bowl.
  7. Add the extracts to the Pimms.
  8. Add 1/3 of the flour to the batter and fold in.
  9. Add 1/2 of your Pimms.
  10. Alternate with flour and Pimms until it is all incorporated. 
  11. Give it a whizz for about 10 seconds on a medium speed.
  12. Pour your batter into the prepared tin.
  13. Pop the cake in the middle of a preheated oven for about 1 hour 30 minutes. If it's not shrinking away from the sides of the tin, leave it in for another 10-15 minutes. This is a big cake so will need to be cooked for a long time on a low heat. Long and low is the way to go. Don't worry if the crust looks brown. It should be. That's the caramelised sugar and tastes fantastic!
  14. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
  15. Decorate with some orange segments, a few strawberries and the mint sprigs. Oh yes, and a ridiculous cocktail umbrella - this is essential... 

Bloggers: Please respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and basic recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than recreating the recipe on your own page.
Please see my Creative Commons Copyright information for more details. Thank you.

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Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Mouse Trap, Ramsbottom

The Mouse Trap, Ramsbottom
Imagine the scene... Boxing Day 2013; a day where most normal folk are suffering from a major dose of over-indulgence, and others are even considering whether they may have developed gout. What was I doing? Messaging a cheese shop about their tasting evening! It's just not normal, is it? The demand for places at The Mouse Trap's cheese and wine evenings is so high, that the next available Friday was at the end of March. We were willing to wait.

Our friend Kev had heard about it through a friend at work, and was dying to go. Cue some fool getting a new job and having a leaving party on the same night as said cheese and wine evening. I was not a popular individual! The next available night was 4th July. I calculate that as being roughly a six month wait. It was worth it.

The Mouse Trap is situated on the main road running through Ramsbottom, just a couple of doors down from the First Chop pub. For such a tiny town, Ramsbottom boasts some of the best food lovers destinations in the North West. Sanmini's, The Chocolate Cafe, Ramsons, Hearth of the Ram, The Eagle and Child, and now Levanter are all but a stone's throw away. Do you see why we love it?
The Mouse Trap, Ramsbottom
It's only a tiny place, much like many of the other establishments on Bolton Street. The shop is packed with mouse related memorabilia, chutneys, home baked goods, and an absolute shedload of cheese. We were greeted by a friendly couple, who offered us a seat by the window, took our wine to chill and then promptly poured us a glass. They don't usually serve alcohol, so guests are encouraged to bring their own, with corkage being included in the £9.95 per head tariff. We took a nice Prosecco. 

There were thirty six cheeses on the standard menu, plus a further four specials. Choosing from this epic list was a nightmare, but it was suggested that rather than do the standard five per couple, that we just share the ten between us. 
The Mouse Trap, Ramsbottom - Menu
Your platter also comes with a decent range of accompaniments, all of which are refillable at no extra cost:
  • Butter
  • Apple and sultana chutney
  • Tomato and balsamic chutney
  • Black olives
  • Fruit loaf
  • Wholemeal seeded loaf
  • Cheese crackers
  • Fruit and seed crackers
  • Herb crackers
  • Crisp-breads
  • Water crackers
  • Red and green grapes
We went for:
  1. Isle of Mull - very firm with a tongue tingling flavour. Perfect on the seeded bread with either of the chutneys.
  2. Flamin Eck - a jalapeno infused creamy cheddar with sun dried tomatoes. A subtle warmth at first and then boom! Those chillies have quite a kick.
  3. Comte - a beautiful hard French cheese that has a slight sting on your gums. I like this cheese sensation... 
  4. Wensleydale and Cranberries - one of my favourites from the evening. Very creamy with a subtle flavour and plenty of fruit. 
  5. Oakwood Smoked - A lovely rich cheese with a subtle smoky flavour. Great with the tomato and balsamic chutney. 
  6. Lancashire Bowland - more like a dessert than a cheese. This was creamy yet crumbly with plenty of plump fruit and cinnamon. It was matched perfectly with the fruit bread and apple chutney. 
  7. Camembert Rustique - a real gloppy little number with a smooth texture. I love a cheese that's trying to run off the plate. 
  8. Brie de Meaux - pungent yet strangely inoffensive at the same time. I often find Brie a little underwhelming, but the strong flavours in this smelly little article won me over.
  9. St Agur - reportedly the 'best blue cheese to come out of France'. I'm not a huge fan of blue cheeses, but this was creamy, delicate and all kinds of wonderful. Nice spread on the fruit and seed crackers. 
  10. Blacksticks Goats Cheese - this was from the specials. I sometimes find goats cheeses too powerful, but this one was much more subtle. 
The Mouse Trap, RamsbottomThe Mouse Trap, Ramsbottom
The Mouse Trap, Ramsbottom
The Mouse Trap, Ramsbottom
Kev getting cocky with the Flamin Eck and Paddy proving that you can take
the boy out of Horwich, but you can't stop him mixing the cheeses...
The Mouse Trap, Ramsbottom
As you can see, we did a pretty stirling job of polishing off that cheese. I think we even ended up eating the rest of the grapes before it was taken away! While most mere mortals had a coffee after their cheese, I decided a massive hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows was in order. It's about addressing that all important sweet/savoury balance.
The Mouse Trap, Ramsbottom
I think you all need to experience The Mouse Trap. Their selection of cheese is fantastic, and the people running it were just delightful.You don't have to wait months to book onto a tasting evening as they are open during the day as a normal cafe, or you can simply buy cheese to take home where no-one can see how much of a pig you are...

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