Friday, 29 April 2016

Fat Friday #46 Red Berry Brownie

Happy Friday! Nothing better then a sweet, tart and chocolatey brownie to kickstart the weekend! This recipe is adapted as I actually ran out of sugar, so I used icing sugar instead. The result was amazingly fudgey and very chocolately. Give them a bake this weekend!

Recipe (Adapted from Primrose Bakery Everyday by Martha Swift
Ingredients:

  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 150g dark chocolate chunks
  • 150g white chocolate chunks
  • 200g fresh strawberries and raspberries (chopped)
  • 3 eggs
Equipment:
  • Microwave/Saucepan filled with water, with a heatproof bowl on top
  • Brownie tin lined with greaseproof paper
  • Bowl x 2
  • Wooden spoon

Method:
1) Preheat the oven to GM 4/180c/350f. Grease and line with greaseproof paper.
2) Melt the butter on the hob over a pan of hot water or microwave in the oven until completely melted. Set aside.
3) In another bowl, put the sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, flour and chocolate chunks and mix until combined.
4) Pour the melted butter into the dry ingredients, and stir (like a boss) until thoroughly mixed in. 
5) Add the strawberries and raspberries and very gently fold them into the mixture.
6) Pour the batter into prepared tin and spread evenly.
7) Bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool into the tin. 

Happy Friday!
Bake On! Penny x

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

What The #100happydays Challenge Taught Me

As some of you already know, I've been doing the 100 Happy Days Challenge. I've been posting everyday, on my Twitter feed, something that has made me happy or improved my mood. The idea of the challenge is to see if you can improve your outlook on life and help improve your mood. 
Well, I felt that it has had both positive and negative effects on my day to day life.
I'll start off with the negatives, having anxiety, the pressure of posting everyday was a little bit of an annoyance, with a mild bit of panic hitting me whenever I didn't post. Also, I do still like keep a little bit of privacy even when posting on the Internet, so I felt that I didn't want to post certain private moments (like when I ate a whole packet of cookies). 

Moving onto the positives however! After all, this is what the challenge is all about. Even if I had a really bad day, this challenge forced me to look at one thing that make me happy. It could be such a simple thing but it could be the difference in a bad or good day. 

Ultimatly, is it worth it? Is it worth posting everyday, for 100 days? Yeah, absolutely.

Because, it does make you see the positive in anything, even when the day isn't going your way. It can help improve your mood and make you see the fun side of life. I really suggest that you give it a try if your feeling down and out. 

Here are my favourite highlights from the 100 days:









Would you do the happy day challenge? What would make your day happy?

Bake On! Penny x

Monday, 18 April 2016

One of the Last Taboos-Mental Health

*Trigger warning-Swearing, mental health issues in this post*

This post has been a long time coming. If anyone who follows the blog knows that there has been a lack of updates and a huge delay in posts. This is not a post about 'how busy I've been' or 'there hasn't been enough time'. Not this time, this is more serious.

About a year ago, I had some terrible shit happen to me. I thought I was ok, I was starting a business with my friends, I was living with my boyfriend who I dearly care about, I was gyming it and I was happy. At least, I thought I was. However, I was living on a very fine line. A line that I didn't know I was on. 

I was on the edge, and then, I got my final push from the friend that I was meant to start the business with. I won't go into details of why she decided to end the whole thing, because if I told you her reasons, you would cringe. I will not go down that road of petty bitchy-ness as I'm not like that and will not go down to that level. 

The long process of fighting over the name of the business, insurance, ownership, everything, ensued thereafter. I was lucky enough to help legal help and I got professionally drawn up letters and emails. While I received bitter, unprofessional emails and texts.

In those few difficult months, panic attacks started. I was awake at night, worrying about everything. My safety, my career, reputation. I carried on like it everything was fine. While I was harassed every which way.

I think that, I took a brave step, a step that most people do not even bother with because its still a taboo. I went to the doctors, and was diagnosed with anxiety. Finally after all these years, it had a name! I wasn't insane or mental, I had a thing!! It was such a huge weight off me. It was only in those last few troublesome months, that it began to manifest itself into an ugly anxiety monster that reared its head into my life.

More people suffer with depression and anxiety, yet nothing is ever said because it is still not fully understood. 1 in 6 people (in the UK) will suffer with depression once in their lifes and yet its still a little 'awkward' to talk about. So here I am, being awkward, by talking about it now. I am not crazy, mental or insane. I have anxiety. I decided to to start Cognitive Behavioural Therapy rather then going onto tablets. I was approached with kind, helpful people who didn't judge me, as they knew better. So months later, I'm better, still on the road to recovery. The anxiety monster that loomed, is getting pushed back by 'Old Penny'. Which I'm getting back into.

I'm lucky to have support from a family who now understand (thank you), I have some support from co-workers who took the time to listen (thank you), I've got some fucking fantastic friends which I cannot thank enough for chatting about everything and lastly, my boyfriend Rob. He went through it all with me and could not do a thing about it. At the time, he just sat and listened. He saw me suffering and tried hard to help. He cried with me, got frustrated at me and ate all the chocolate with me. One day he told me that there maybe something more to it and suggested I seek professional help. Without him, I don't think I would have the strength to ask for help. Don't worry, I made him some cookies as thanks.

To those who helped and you know who you are. I'll always be grateful to all of you, so I'll be forever baking to say thank you. Which I don't mind. 

I'm not really sure how to finish this really. I'm not a doctor that can give you advice. I can't do a 'Top Ten Tips' for this, its ongoing. Mental health is still be researched and we've only begun to scratch the surface. The only advice, (if you can call it that), that I can offer is: be kind. If someone is reaching out by telling you that they think they maybe suffering from an mental illness. Listen and rather than suggesting to 'cheer up', suggest that they go to a professional. Be kind to others around you and you might make someone's day a little brighter. That's all really. If you take away anything from this, is that hope is not lost. There is help out there, please speak up about it. 

If you feel that you or someone you love is suffering with anxiety, (or depression) don't be afraid to reach out for help and come forward. There are people who can help, you just need to ask. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this and share with anyone who may benefit from it. 
Bake On! Penny x

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Penny Reviews Restaurants: Truffles of Southsea

On a brilliant sunny Thursday afternoon, I went for lunch with my nan to a restaurant that she would like, so we ended up in Southsea at a restaurant that I've been to before and had nothing but good experiences, Truffles of Southsea.

We arrived at 1:15pm, so well within time for the lunch time set menu. We settled down into the somewhat empty restaurant, with a lack of people it seemed a little chilly. There was a woman who was serving who was extremely polite and offered to take our coats for us. She allowed us to sit wherever we wanted to and asked us if we wanted a drink, an americano and a diet coke later. We settled on reading the lunch special set menu, which was really good value for money (£9,95 for two courses and £11.95 for three courses). I was impressed with the quality of the menu and ordered a cured salmon as a starter and seabass fillet with parmesan polenta and a beurre blanc sauce for my main course, with a side of triple cooked chips. 

The waitress asked if we needed the heating on and we said yes, sadly the air conditioning wasn't behaving correctly, so we had to sit a little chilly. The wait for the starters was perfect and presentation was lovely, with great attention to detail. The taste of the cured salmon was perfect, it reminded me of a sashimi texture, not raw however but not quite cooked. There was a beetroot and radish spread on the plate which added colour as well as flavour to the dish. Light and tasty as a starter. 

The starters were left on the table for about 2 minutes before being taken away by the polite waitress. She asked if we enjoyed the starters and made she we had enough to drink. She didn't linger too long at the table to make it awkward, as she cleared away our plates. 

We didn't need to wait too long for the main course, approx 10 minutes at the most. The seabass fillets were cut into angles, which made it look very contemporary. The parmesan polenta added colour to the dish and the beurre blanch added a richness that really brought the dish together. The issue I had was I found three bones my fish. I know that fish have bones and of course, there is never a guarantee that fish fillets will be completely boneless. Its a hazard that you have to take when you eat fish, however its still a little off putting. Even though the dish was nice, I felt a little more beurre blanc sauce would have been appreciated. The triple cooked chips were an absolute delight, a perfect mix of soft middle and crunchy outside. I also noted that there was a little flavour of truffle on the chips, which was a really nice touch.

We didn't opt for dessert or a drink as we felt that we wanted to leave because we were so full as well as being a little cold still. The waitress gave us the bill and we paid, but not without a little conversation. For £25.90 for a quality 2 course meal, drinks and a side dish, its a good price for a great lunch. 



Bake On! Penny x

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Penny Reviews Restaurants: The Coast Bar and Restaurant

When spending a little down time with my family on the Isle of Wight we found our way over to Cowes. The location itself is very well known for its yachting enthusiasts and small cafes. Being still in the Winter season, I wasn't expecting much to be open. That's when we happened upon The Coast bar and restaurant, which was full, almost to bursting! It looked like a busy lunchtime. As we entered we were greeted with the restaurant manager, he politely greeted us and directed us to an available table for two. 


The layout of the restaurant was cool, with sharp lines, comfortable chairs and with a view into the kitchen, which boasts a woodfire kitchen. What I really like in any restaurant is cleanliness, and Coast is spotless. 

The waitress handed us a menu each and asked us for a drinks order. One americano and diet coke later! The menu was small but well thought out with options for veterinarians. As we browsed the menu, the drinks were placed down and we were asked if we would like water for the table. In any restaurant that I've ever been in, I don't think I've ever been asked I would like water for the table. Its a really nice touch. Also, I would like to point out, that we were given a good amount of time to browse before the waitress came to take our order. 

I opted for a starter of 'Pan fried Scallops with a Cauliflour Puree' and for my main course, 'Venison with Rosemary carrots, Celeriac Puree and Cranberry Jus'. I took in the atmosphere and everyone was content, including the staff were amiable. It was really reassuring and comfortable, even though we were surrounded by lots of people.
My starter arrived within 10 minutes, I enjoyed every bite of it! I wish they had a main course version. The scallops were cooked perfectly, not chewy or rubbery. The addition of the pancetta really brought the dish together. The size was perfect as a starter, not to small or large. Presentation was lovely as well. 

The wait for the main course was a bit much, I think we waited about 40 minutes- (ish?), however we were always attended. When we finished the water jug, it was replenished and replaced as quickly. The staff here were so on the ball. The wait for our main course didn't arise as an issue as the staff were so attentive. 

When the main course did arrive, it was worth the wait. Beautifully presented and my venison was served pink (as it should be), it was juicy and well seasoned. The dish also had parsnip chips, which wasn't mentioned on the menu but it was a great texture against the soft texture of the meat and puree. The jus itself I felt could have been more tart, as it was a cranberry jus, but I still enjoyed it. 

Honestly, it was hard to pick out any fault with the food or service for that matter. I was so impressed with the whole experience. It was a little pricey for a lunch (£44 approx), we got what we'd paid for. If this is the quality of service and food at lunch, I would love to come here during the evening!

Overall, I would highly recommend that you make the effort to visit this restaurant, even if its for a coffee. I will definitely be coming here again!
Bake On! Penny x

Friday, 25 March 2016

Fat Friday #45 Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've finally sorted out my recipe book and finally found an old recipe I've never tried before. A cookie recipe that I found jotted down on a sticky note was hidden in the recipe book page. If its worth writing down, then its worth a try, right? It actually worked out really well. The perfect cookie, just chewy in the middle and crispy around the edge. Great to start a weekend, or ruin a diet. 



Recipe: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 12-15 cookies (Found in my recipe book, not sure where it came from) 
Ingredients:
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2g baking powder
  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 220g brown sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 335g chocolate chips (I used a mix of white, dark and milk chips)


Equipment

  • Baking sheets lined with baking parchment x 2 
  • Sieve
  • Bowl x 2
  • Microwave
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Wire Rack 


1. Preheat the oven tp 325f/165c/ Gas Mark 3. Grease and line the cookie sheets. 
2. Sieve the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside. 
3. In a separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave until a liquid. 
4. Add both sugars to the melted butter and mix throughly. 

5. Beat in the egg, the egg yolk, vanilla extract until fluffy.
6. Mix into the dry ingredients into the batter until combined. 
7. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.
8. Flour your hands a little, then roll the batter into 1 inch balls. Space them 3 inches apart on the baking sheet. 
9. Bake for 15-17 minutes in the oven or until the edges are lightly toasted. The middle should be soft but not gooey. 
10. Once you remove the baking sheets from the oven, leave the cookies to cook for a further 10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool. 

Happy Baking!
Bake On! Penny x

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Rules of Baking #1

Its been a while since I've been posting and I wanted to share some rules I go by when I fancy baking!


  • Double check you have all your ingredients
  • Before you even weigh out a single gram of flour. Read the recipe all the way to the end and then re-read.
  • Baked things are temperamental, so if you stay calm the cake/cupcake/baked thingy will turn out just fine. 
  • If something doesn't work, then don't worry. It can be made again and it should be done with  more determination then before. Don't give up, just try again.
  • If you're using molds for sugar paste then make sure that they are safe for food. 
  • No matter how badly you want to check on your cake and open that oven. DONT! Wait the correct amount of time and then open your oven to check your cake/bakey thing. 
  • Never be discouraged when a recipe looks to complex or sounds really posh. Until you try, you'll never know.
  • Gluten Free cakes can be tasty so don't be put off with making them!
  • Have loads of patience.
  • Come to terms that if you bake, you will put weight on and so will all your friends and family.
  • Bake On! Penny x
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