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Week Three – Bread Week

Warning: there are spoilers in this blog - who won star baker, who left the show, who received a handshake from Paul, what necklace was Prue wearing, things along those lines.

Am I the only one who didn’t understand the opening this week? Maybe it’s because I didn’t understand what the fish was saying?

Anyway, it’s Bread Week…

Oh sorry, wrong Bread show!!

Signature Dish: Focaccia Bread

Any flavour and any style, crispy crust and an open and irregular crumb structure: two hours, 45 minutes.

Breadmaking advice from Lucius Malfoy from Harry Potter

George’s Greek Inspired Focaccia:
Packed and busy. Lovely. Good bake, good blend of flavours, but needed more water to open it up a little bit more.

Maggie’s Classic Focaccia:
Attractive, filling wasn’t pushed down into the tray, stretchy, soft texture, soft on top, but good flavour. A decent focaccia.

Freya’s Mexican Fajita Focaccia:
Smells great, nice texture, well baked.

Rochica’s Roasted Garlic Focaccia with Tomato, Feta & Pesto:
Lovely design, strong garlic taste, okay texture, try to keep flavour throughout the bread.

Amanda’s Chasing Grainbows Focaccia:
Overbaked, filling in lines, Prue recommended scattered so you get a taste of everything in one bite,

Chig’s Spanish Cheesy Meaty Focaccia:
Overbaked, lovely powerful flavours, delicious.

Crystelle’s Feta and Grape Focaccia with Fennel & Walnut:
Open structure, needed to be much thicker. Beautiful taste, great flavour combination, fresh.

Lizzie’s Final Furlong Focaccia:
Nice top, filled the tin nicely, good flavour, nice and soft and crispy on the outside, could have been proved longer, a great focaccia.

Jürgen’s Kipper-caccia Focaccia:
Slightly overbaked, more proving and less baking, quite tight inside needed more mixing, more cake-like than bread-like, Prue wasn’t mad about the flavours, could have been a little bit better!

Giuseppe’s Breakfast in Gaeta Focaccia:
Soft with focaccia structure, beautifully light focaccia, mouthful of everything in every bite. Paul said it was beautiful and he was rewarded with the first Hollywood Handshake of the series!

The first Hollywood Handshake
of the series!!

Technical Challenge set by Paul – A batch of 15 olive and cheese ciabatta breadsticks

Words of advice from Paul – “It’s a fairly complicated recipe, but be careful how you add the filling.”

We can see you Noel!

I love the Tweets from innocent drinks!
Position in Technical Challenge:

1st – Giuseppe
2nd – Lizzie
3rd – Amanda
4th – Freya
5th – Jürgen
6th – Chigs
7th – George
8th – Maggie
9th – Crystelle
10th – Rochica

Those in trouble before going into the Showstopper Round:
Jürgen
Maggie
Rochica

Those in line for Star Baker:
Giuseppe
Lizzie

Showstopper Challenge – Themed Display Using Milk Bread

Three dimensional, shape and decoration to reflect chosen theme.

Probably one of the best bread showstoppers – Paul’s lion!

George’s The Very Hungry Koala:
Adorable, bread a bit heavy, milk bread can’t carry weight of an upright sculpture. Clever design.

Lizzie’s Pig Banquet:
Some caught in the oven, clever design. Nice texture, light.

Chigs’ Honey Milk Bread Picnic Basket:
Beautifully done, well proved. Really well made. Hint of flavour. Colours consistent, good design.

Maggie’s Things You’d Find In A Rockpool:
Abstract, rustic, under-proved, no flavour, very cake-like, could be a bit lighter.

Jürgen’s The Baby:
Clever use of flavours in different breads, design is simple, lovely flavour, sweetness level just right, slightly underproved.




Crystelle’s Bready for Sunday Roast:
Very clever, longer in the oven would have created more of a darkness, great flavours, fantastic citrus kick, lovely texture.

Giuseppe’s Your Five-A-Day:
Incredible design, amazing job, beautiful execution, very clever, absolutely delicious and lovely texture.

Amanda’s I Just Fish We Had More Time:
Overall, a really good job, clever and highly effective, delightful, lovely flavour, sweetness just the right side of sweetness. Spot on texture, but a massive air pocket just underneath.

Rochica’s Bird Cage:
Over-proved, tight, sweetness level is right, too dense. Tastes delicious but the texture is not right – not sure it was four hours work.

Freya’s Under The Sea Milk Bread Display:
Amusing, very neat, nice milk bread, light structure, holds its bake, sweetness levels just right, tastes great.

Star Baker and Who’s Going Home:

Thoughts

I have to agree with the judges on both counts, Giuseppe had an amazing week and Rochica did struggle with bread week. Lizzie pulled herself up in the ranks and I loved George’s Koala bear this week.

Next week is Dessert Week – let’s hope their skills don’t dessert them and they don’t crumble to the pressure!

One last thing, Prue’s necklace, I’m sure I’ve seen it somewhere else!

Sunday, 12th September, 2021

After a restless night, the cabin was far too hot and hubby was snoring, we woke up at around 6.30 AM and hubby did his morning ritual of going to the Horizon buffet and fetching a cup of coffee for himself and a green tea for me.

We had breakfast at the Horizon Restaurant where we both had a fried breakfast. We decided to go on a more detailed tour of the ship as we hadn’t really seen much of it the night before.

I have to say that the ship is very well sign posted and so it is fairly easy to navigate around. We took the stairs as much as possible: 1, to try and lose some of the pounds we will gain over the cruise and 2, the lifts are a bit of a faff. The maximum people allowed in a lift is four and there is a sign stating that you have to stand on the markers on the floor and no talking!

We stopped of at Vista for a Costa Coffee where I had an iced latte, which was just a cold coffee (urgh) and hubby had a Caramel Frostini which was very, very sweet. He has the sweetest tooth I know, but even he couldn’t finish it!

After picking up a few things from the cabin, we went up to the Sky Dome, it wasn’t very busy and we managed to get a couple of sunbeds next to the pool.

As I’ve mentioned in another blog (G131N Staycation Cruise) I love people watching and in particular which books people have chosen to read, but sitting at the side of the pool another kind of people watching was discovered: looking at people’s faces as they get into the pool, as it was VERY cold. When hubby got out he said, that it was so cold, everything got smaller!

Time to start reading our books….

As it was before midday I ordered a non-alcohol cocktail and hubby, who doesn’t let something like that get in the way, ordered a beer. The waiter service is a bit slower on Iona, but we never had to wait too long to be served, but we did notice people who accosted the waiters before they have even found somewhere to sit, ensuring they get a drink straight away.

Craig Stuart

Not being a huge gin fan, I decided to order a Pink Gin Spritzer cocktail, which was actually very nice and hubby had a Strawberry Mojito and then Busker, Craig Stuart started his set. A great singer who was also entertaining with his comments and who had amassed a couple of groupies with two women who hung on to his every word!

Then I’m ashamed to say we went back to the cabin for a nap! When I woke up hubby was sat on the balcony reading his book, I’ve never known him to read so much, it must be good!

Earlier hubby had booked us into the Coral Restaurant, when he tried to book it for two there was no availability, but when he put in three people, it came up with availability? So he booked it!

On arrival at the restaurant we went straight through, but when we sat at the table we were questioned as to why there was only two of us. They were a bit taken aback when we said they couldn’t make it and it didn’t go down well with the waiting staff. After a few minutes of talk, we were moved from our table for three to a table of two, seated next to the window, so it worked out well for us!

I had tomato soup followed by sirloin steak and hubby had smoked mackerel pate and then the beef brisket. A special mention goes to the thick cut chips, they were wonderful! We had a glass of Prosecco each and dessert was lemon seed cake for me and cheese and biscuits for hubby together with a port.

We had about half an hour before we were due to go to the Headliner’s Theatre and went to the Club House and saw Tucker, the comedian. We didn’t have very high expectations with Tucker, but he was funny, his jokes about the internet package and the strength of the signal hit the nail on the head. Talking about the internet signal, I couldn’t log onto any of my computer equipment, so I had to resort to the old fashioned way of writing everything in a notebook! And so hence this being uploaded after the cruise.

Writing my diary the old fashioned way.

The act in the Headliner Theatre was Craig Lloyd, a soul singer. We aren’t fans of soul music but he was a great singer. He was also a name dropper, Simon Cowell, Sinitta and Gary Barlow. He was in the first series of the X Factor and made it to judge’s houses and became a vocal coach for The Voice.

A highlight was at the end when Andy, the Assistant Entertainment Manager, had to orchestrate everybody leaving the theatre row by row. his comments made everyone laugh as we exited safely within Covid guidelines! You have to keep your masks on in the theatre and there is no food or drink. This was pre-bookable on the Cruise Personaliser and people were being turned away who hadn’t booked.

We went back to the Sky Dome and watched Pulse’s Rock Show. The sound wasn’t great, I couldn’t make out what they were singing straight away for a few of the songs, but the lighting was fantastic. A Pina Colado for me and a Mojito for hubby while we were watching them.

I had heard a lot of things about the 710 club via Facebook before the cruise, the overwhelming comments were how good it was, but the main complaint was that people would enter at the beginning of the evening and stay there for the entire evening. I did notice in the Horizon newsletter that it requested people to vacate the club after they have watched the session. So we went down to Deck 6 and were pleased to be able to join the queue for the next session.

The 710 Club is an intimate venue with seating for 75 people. We found a good seat and ordered a Baileys (for me) and a Jamesons (for hubby) and settled down. All I can say is the hype is well and truly worth it. To say I was blown away is an understatement, the pianist and singer, Harrison was simply fantastic, his piano playing skills need to be seen to be believed. The guitarist and singer, lends a more soulful voice to a couple of the songs. We will definitely try to get in there again!

Totally enamoured by what we had just heard, we headed to the Crows Nest for our nightly nightcap of a Baileys and a Jamesons.

Again, past midnight and we went back to the cabin after a thoroughly enjoyable day!

Autumn Leaves written by Natasha

tash

My first guest blogger is Natasha, whose blog, Neutral Words, is well worth a visit.  I reached out to her as I knew she wrote short stories, something that I love to do and she very kindly sent me her short story, Autumn Leaves. So sit back with a cuppa and enjoy….

Autumn Leaves

The temperature was dropping, a fragrant smell of damp gravel, leaves, and musk was strong in her nose. Halloween had passed and in a blink of an eye, it was already coming to the end of November. Where has this year gone? She was sad that her favourite season would be over in just a few short months, the excitement of festivities washed away to a memory. She had just finished a very long and tiring shift at the tiny café just placed by the top of the hill which overlooked a scenic park, adorned with wobbly wavy trees, piled with dead and vibrant red, orange and yellow leaves below. The wind would continuously blow the leaves around, painting a new scene every day. No matter how many times a gardener would try to straighten them up they would always rebel by dancing away later, feeling free across the gravel pathway.

Forgetting her gloves and scarf, she only had a coat to wrap around her torso, locking in as much heat as possible. Sadly, it wasn’t proving to do much as her teeth chattered away like a wind-up toy bouncing across the table with great force. Although she was fighting through the icy chill to return home for a much needed bath, a smile remained on her rosy face. She loved to spot the different coloured leaves, trying to find some hard crunchy ones to jump on. The street lights came on as the sun set further in the sky, it truly was a typical and beautiful autumn evening.

She sniffed as the air laced around her nose and ears, nipping as hard it could to get her sneeze or shiver. Already looking like Rudolph the red nose reindeer, she was now desperate to get in that bath. It was quiet, the only noise she could hear was her feet scuffing through the 2-inch piles of leaves, the naked branches whipping around and … a dog whimpering. Slowing herself down to a stop, she focused herself to try and discover where the source of the whimpering came from. It wasn’t far away, but it wasn’t very close either.  It was difficult to see as the sky grew close to black, the only light source was the streets lamps illuminating the path.

Looking out beyond the trees, she saw a pile of leaves in a peculiar shape. Smothered slightly under it, appeared to be a cardboard box. With her heart thumping slightly due to her speed walking and the air nipping at her, her instincts were telling her to go further on and look in the box. Taking cautious steps into the dark area of the park, her eyes darted around to watch out for any sign of people watching her. Now a foot away from the box, she stopped again to listen for any noise. There it was again! A whimper and baby bark came from the leaf covered box. Now with adrenaline pumping, she let out a breathy gasp and threw herself onto her knees, hands scooping up the leaves and throwing them in any direction. She uncovered the box as fast as possible, a motherly feeling welling up inside her. Her eyes grew one size as a smaller pair looked up at her, sad and watery. It was damp, muddy and cold. Its fur was mucky yellow colour, long and unkept. A small golden retriever puppy. It wasn’t until she saw the drop land on the small dogs head that she released she was crying. Taking a deep breath, she gently held out the back of her knuckles for the tiny creature to smell and gain some trust towards her.

“What monster could leave you here?” Her voice shook, the cold and her emotions overwhelming her. It was supposed to be just like any other day. Go to work, serve some old ladies some tea with a slice of cake, walk home and go to bed. Not today apparently! Today she would find an abandoned dog in the park! It let out another whimper, shivering and padding its feet against the soggy cardboard. Gently scooping it up, she sat back on her bottom, not caring that the leaves were going to soak through her clothing. Now discovering that the puppy was a boy, she continued to look him over to make sure he didn’t have any injuries or another other sign of neglect. She unbuttoned her coat, tucking the bundle of matted fluff in her jumper, trying her best to provide him some warm. She stood carefully, buttoned up her coat once more and headed towards the lit path. Now seeing him in the light, she let another tear fall. All of her childhood, she had wished to have a puppy. Fate finally decided to grant her an early Christmas gift. She felt a small licking under her chin, setting her off into quiet giggles. The puppy was happy in her jumper, a noticeable bond beginning.

“It’s almost Christmas and looks like you’re my present this year… I’m gonna called you Nicky, after good old Saint Nick.” She muttered, avoiding any eye contact with others as they passed her through the park. Gently stroking the top of his head, she grinned again. An unexpected turn of events gave her a happiness that she didn’t think was possible to experience. She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out her mobile. Finding the number she needed, she pressed call and held it to her ear…..

“Hello, Mary?…, Hi It’s Lucy!… no no, I didn’t leave anything at the shop. I’m just calling to say that I’m not going to be able to make it to work tomorrow morning, there’s a family emergency that I need to attend too… No, I’m fine! Thank you!” She hung up, taking a satisfied breath. She reached the end of the park, now breaching the loud high streets of London. Gently hushing him as he whimpered slightly, she crossed the road and reached her block of flats. She was thankful once she stepped into her hallway, the flash feeling of warmth hugging her skin like a welcoming from a loved one. With ease she took off her coat and pulled her jumper off, cradling Nicky in her arms. She made it her task to get him cleaned up and bathed before taking him to the vet in the morning. He sat quietly and still on the counter as she slowly and nervously snipped away the clumps of matted hair away with some scissors she had in a sewing kit that her mother got her a Christmas ago. She did her best to make him presentable, giggling a little at how smily he was. She forgot all about running a bath for herself, her priority being him. He loved the warm bath, the splashing and the shampoo she used to clean him.  He looked like a normal puppy now and she couldn’t wait to get him to the vet to get him checked up.

From what was a normal simple day turned into one of great surprise. Nicky was a surprise and a memory that would last for a long time.

Bread and Butter Pudding with orange and raspberries

As hubby and I are huge fans of desserts, we decided to try out one. We recently purchased the Hairy Bikers British Classic recipe book from Amazon and on perusing it discovered the bread and butter with orange and raspberries recipe.

HB

So, after doing a lockdown shop to get all the ingredients, here’s how we got on….

Ingredients

BBP-1Softened butter
10-12 slices of square brioche loaf
300g raspberries
1-2 tbsp Framboise liqueur (optional)
125g caster sugar
4 eggs
400ml whole milk
400ml double cream
grated zest of 1 large orange
1-2 tbsp demerara sugar

Even though we went shopping, we did forget to buy an orange, but then hubby came up with the idea of using marmalade, so we substituted that and I have to say, it may have even enhanced the flavour!

How did I get on?

This was a very easy recipe to do – here’s the Hairy Biker’s take on it:

“We think this is one of the all-time great British puds. We’re pretty proud of this version, which is quite glam, made with slices of brioche and flavoured with orange zest, raspberries and a splash of raspberry liqueur, if you have some in the cupboard. It’s really easy to make too and you’re gonna love it!”

BBP-2So first of all, it’s just a question of making up the dish; crushing some of the raspberries with two tablespoons of caster sugar in a bowl, arranged the first layer of brioche and placing the crushed raspberries on top, together with a few more whole raspberries.

Then top with the remaining brioche slices and arrange the remaining raspberries over the top.

BBP-3

You then whisk the remaining sugar and the four eggs together, add the milk, double cream and orange zest.  This is where we added the marmalade, which we had put in a microwave for about 20 seconds, just to soften it. Making sure all this mixture is combined well and then this liquid is poured over the brioche and raspberries. You then need to wait half an hour, I assume for the liquid to soak into the brioche, and then you’re ready to put in a oven preheated at 180ºC/Fan, 160ºC/Gas 4.  I have to admit when I used to do recipes and they said to leave for a couple of hours to marinate etc., I wouldn’t do this, I would just crack on with the recipe, now being older, and a little bit wiser(?) I always do this and have found the results to be much better, guess I should have listened to the experts!

After the half an hour is over, I used the time to do our main course, which was Cod, Pea and Potato Casserole, from their Hairy Biker’s One Pot Wonders recipe book, the bread pudding was put in the oven and 40 minutes later, there you have it: Bread and Butter Pudding with Orange and Raspberries.

BBP-4

Thoughts

As I said earlier, we are dessert lovers and this one certainly ranked amongst the best we have made at home. It was so easy and it smelt wonderful as it was cooking. This recipe serves six and as there is only two of us, we can enjoy this pudding over a couple of days. I will certainly make it when we can get together again as a family, it’s a good home comfort type of dessert.

 

Week 10 – The Final

This blog contains spoiler of who won the Great British Bake Off 2019. 

So this is it, the final of the Great British Bake Off. The odds on favourite must be Steph (won Star Baker four times), followed by Alice (won Star Baker twice) and lastly David (not a recipient of the Star Baker award).

Signature Dish

The final Signature Dish was the “Ultimate Chocolate Cake,” something that my husband was invested in as he loves chocolate cake, me, I don’t like it at all. I do like chocolate mousse and chocolate bars, but not chocolate cake nor chocolate ice cream, I know, weird, right?

steph-cake
Steph’s Black Forest Gateau

David’s cake has a lovely mirror shine, but it’s too boozy, the Armagnac flavour overpowers it.

Alice’s cake looks wobbly and clumsy and Paul says that the cake lacks the full chocolate flavour.

Steph’s Black Forest Gateau has a 70’s feel, according to Prue, but it is “a very nice cake,” although slightly overbaked.

Technical Challenge

This final challenge was set by Paul and it was six twice baked Stilton souffles with a biscuit on the side. This is where “the baking fairies” seemed to desert Steph as she makes an error with her baine-marie, using cold water instead of boiling resulting in souffles which collapsed as they hit the baking tray.  Alice doesn’t know how to make a roux, much to Sandi’s surprise and David carries on in his normal calm manner.

Technical Positions

3rd – Steph (Egg whites beaten to death, biscuits too thick).

2nd – Alice (Bit raw, uneven, pale biscuits)

1st – David (Not a bad effort, thin biscuits).

Showstopper

It’s all down to the Showstopper and this week it’s illusion baking, you know, when a cake looks like a pie, but tastes like a cake! Mind blowing!

To start off with, Alice has received some bad news, her mum and dad might not be able to make it as their flight from Ireland has been cancelled, so she starts her showstopper a little teary eyed.

Once again, Steph has problems, each of her elements for the illusion picnic basket isn’t going well, even the electric whisk decides to attack her. “I’ve saved the worst ’til last, maybe it was a week too many,” she says despondantly.  Perhaps she should have taken a time out and had a go on the helter skelter!

picnics
Baker’s Illusion Picnics

Alice’s End-of-the-School Year Celebration picnic was “A good effort,” and the scotch eggs were a highlight.

David’s picnic illusion was a hit, with Paul calling it “Exceptional,” and Prue giving him a “Bravo.”

From Steph’s picnic basket made out of nougat to her lemon cake, everything had an issue, so much so that Paul went over and gave her a hug saying, “Never mind, Steph.”

My final tweet of the week is from Richard Osman:

election

And the Winner of The Great British Bake Off is….

bakers

So we come to the result, all the past contestants and families have congregated to hear the verdict and we learn that this year’s winner is ……  DAVID!

davidI think David thoroughly deserved this, he was always consistent, being second in the Technicals for an number of times and he is no longer the bridesmaid…

Well done David! And I will point out that he was one of my picks as the winner from the start!

(And by the way, Alice’s parents made it!)

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing these reviews and am amazed at how many views they have received.  Don’t forget I am still doing reviews for Strictly, but if you have any suggestions for new programmes that I could review, please let me know by commenting.

See you next year – Keep Baking!

 

Creamy butternut squash pasta bake

fresh-start

I’ve never been fond of Macaroni Cheese, I’m not sure why, but this dish has never appealed to me, but after mooching through Tom Kerridge’s book, A Fresh Start, I saw this recipe for Creamy Butternut Squash pasta bake. I like butternut squash, so I thought I would give it a go.

Ingredients

ingredient-butternet

575 calories per serving

  • 1kg butternut squash, cut into chunks (about 2 cm)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g macaroni
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

For the cheese sauce

  • 60g butter
  • 60g plain flour
  • 1 litre whole milk
  • 60g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

For the topping

  • A handful of sage leaves
  • 40g sun-blushed tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 50g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin oil (or use olive oil)
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

How did I get on?

The first thing that needed to be done was to cut the butternut squash into chunks. So for that, I called upon my husband, or rather my husband volunteered as he didn’t want to see me chop my fingers off!  Here’s how he got on:

After he had cut up the butternut squash, not quite as fast as in the video, we put it on a roasting tray, drizzled it with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, where it cooked on the top shelf for 25 minutes at 220ºC/Gas 7.

Once it was cooked and cooled, then comes my favourite part, you put three quarters into a blender and blitz it together.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the macaroni until al dente.

For the sauce, melt the better, add the floured stir for one minute. Then add the milk and whisk until it thickens slightly. Then add the Parmesan and nutmeg and stir until the cheese has melted. Grab your butternut squash puree and stir it through. That’s the most difficult part over with!

ready

Drain the macaroni, add to the sauce and stir well. Tip into a deep baking dish and scatter over the rest of the butternut squash, sage, sun-blushed tomatoes and breadcrumbs. Drizzle with the oil.

This is placed in the middle shelf of the one, turning on the oven grill at the same time (I have to admit, I forgot to do this!).

Bake for ten minutes and then take out and scatter the pumpkins seeds evenly over the surface and return to the oven for a further five minutes.

Thoughts

done
The finished dish

This dish was very tasty, a change from your normal macaroni cheese dish. It wasn’t hard to prepare, the most tricky bit being the sauce. There wasn’t much preparation apart from the butternut squash, so once you had prepared and roasted this, the rest didn’t take very long at all.

This makes enough for six people, so if that’s too much, you can freeze it and just defrost it and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes.