Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Time for picnics

With Spring officially sprung, and some lovely warm weather over the last few days, I've been desperate to jolly off for a good ol' picnic. We had planned one for Mother's Day - we were going to visit Sandringham and have a great treat of cakes, sarnies, and strawberries under the watchful eye of the Queen (if she'd been there...). But the weather that weekend was dull and grey, so picnic was postponed.

Hopefully the ongoing project of the other half's VW Golf cabriolet will be completed this summer (it's been going on for about 4 years now!). As soon as the car is ready, we are off to the coast with picnic basket in hand, I'll make lots of goodies, we'll put the top down on the car and zoom! Off we'll go! That's the plan anyway.

In readiness for soft-top car completion, I've been looking for a fancy picnic basket to make the scene complete - we've decided we'll wait until the car's ready before treating ourselves to a really lovely one. I've found the most wonderful picnic basket company, Life's a Picnic, and their beautiful baskets are definitely on top of my 'wanted' list now.

The willow baskets are all unique and really sum-up the brilliance of a British summer. Handmade and vintage, I'm really covetting one of the baskets, although I don't know whether I'd prefer a teatime theme, or maybe one complete with Champagne flutes, for those extra special picnics...

They're not cheap, but then you really do get what you pay for in this life, and I think these look like they'd last a lifetime. I saw one in a local shop recently, and it was about a quarter of the price - but it was so badly designed that when the lid closed, it hit the glasses inside (I know this, because I closed the lid, and I heard glass smash...and quickly exited the shop).

They also do lovely cake stands. I have about 4 cake stands already, but you can never have too many - I certainly bake enough cakes to fill them all.

So, if anyone wants to treat me to a summer present, maybe if you missed my birthday in January, you know what to do....!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The bells of St Clements

For Mother's Day, I baked St Clements muffins - orange and lemon, with a lemony buttercream on top. They were meant to just be dusted with icing sugar to finish, but who can resist buttercream.

The muffin base was quite simple:

100g caster sugar
1 egg (although I only had 2 small bantam eggs to hand)
100ml milk
50g melted and cooled butter
1 tsp baking powder
175g self-raising flour

Cream together the sugar and egg, mix in the flour and baking powder gently, and add the melted butter, followed by the milk. The mixture looked a bit of a mess at this point - but I had faith. To the mixture, I added the grated rind of one lemon and one orange, plus a few chunks of orange, chopped up into small chunks.

Bake at 180 degrees (fan oven) for about 25 minutes.

Once cooled, I creamed together butter and icing sugar, with a splash of milk, together with more lemon rind, orange rind, and a splash each of lemon and orange juice. I like to make the buttercream quite tart, so I add more lemon than orange.

The muffins are light and fluffy, but still with that chunkiness of a muffin, with added luxury of the buttercream. Happy Mother's Day!

I have to add, those paper cases were a sod. They'd expanded in the drawer, so I had to re-fold every single one of the creases on every single blummin case.... it took forever. I won't be buying that brand of paper case again!