Monday, 24 October 2011

As Promised

Today I made our Christmas cake, and as I was doing so remembered I'd promised to post the recipe for the chocolate yogurt cake of a couple of posts ago. So here it is now.

This recipe stands on the shoulders of Nigella Lawson's 'Buttermilk Birthday Cake' though it can't be said to be it. 

250g plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarb
¼ teaspoon salt
50g cocoa powder (dark, unsweetened, the real deal)
100g dark chocolate (70%, or near as damn it, cocoa solids) melted
200g Greek yogurt (this needs to be the authentic, thick strained stuff)
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
125g unsalted butter (very soft)
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs.
2 x sandwich tins, lined and buttered
Icing and filling.
300g dark chocolate (70% see above) broken into pieces 
250ml double cream
5 tablespoons greek yogurt

Preheat oven to gas 4 (180ºC).

Mix together, in a bowl, the flour, cocoa powder bicarb, baking powder and salt. Stir the vanilla extract into the yogurt.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each (the last one may make the mixture curdle, but don't worry too much about that, it happens, the cake still rises). Stir in the melted chocolate until the whole is a dark chocolatey brown. Add about a third of the flour mix, stir in vigourously. Add about a third of the yogurt, combine. Continue in this way: flour, beat; yogurt, beat, until everything’s in. If it seems a bit solid add a little milk to loosen it. Pour into the prepared tins and bake for about 35 minutes. It’s done when it’s begun to shrink away from the sides of the tins, and/or a cake tester comes out clean.
Put the tins on a cooling rack until they are cool enough to handle without oven gloves, then turn the cakes out of the tins and onto the rack.
Once good and cold you can ice them. To make the icing, put the chocolate and cream in a saucepan, place on medium heat, and whisk – at times idly at others vigorously – with a hand-whisk until the chocolate has melted and combined with the cream. Leave it to cool a little (if you can stick your finger in and leave it there comfortably it’s cool enough). Take about a quarter of the icing from the pan and put it in a bowl. To this add the yogurt, this is your filling. 
Put one of the cakes on the plate or stand you plan to serve the it on. Spread with filling. Place the other on top, and cover with the icing. 

This is one of those cakes you can't really go wrong with. I've baked it in a saucepan before and it's still come out perfectly, and I have messed about with the yogurt quantities too, depending on how much I had. As with all recipes read it over a few times so you can get the shape of it in your head. Then get everything ready before you begin. This will allow you to go about calmly and make the whole thing fun rather than frustrating. 

Note on sweetness: I love cake but am not a huge fan of sugar, if you prefer a sweeter filling and/or icing just add some powdered sugar to taste.

Let me know if you make it and how you get on.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The bathroom is nearly finished. It's taking so long because we have more time than money, and we have very little time. We also lack skill.

There was a problem with the ceiling: old paper and gloss paint patches we couldn't shift. So we bought some lining paper and attempted to apply it. Stevie on a step ladder at one end, me on a cupboard at the other, long stick in hand, as you can imagine it didn't work. I had to rethink. I didn't want to emulsion over the glossy patches because I worried it wouldn't take, and I didn't want to faff about with oil based paint: too stinky. So we just left it the way it was thinking, all the while, that we would have to employ someone to do it for us when we could afford it. Then I saw a picture of an artist's house on Pinterest: she had wallpapered a room in scraps. I didn't like her choice of paper but I liked the idea, thus Stevie went hunting for odd roll ends. He came back with a huge bag load, but they were all a bit shiny and I'm not a huge fan of shine. Silverware, yes, eyes, absolutely, but not wallpaper. I was after more of an old quilt aesthetic.

I mentioned this to my WOW* ladies one Wednesday as we were chatting after a lesson (they are really coming on, by the way, some of their stories are wonderful) and one of them said she had had some old wallpaper sample books for a project, but they'd disappeared: "Go and ask round the design shops and see if they are throwing any away," she said.

So I did.

I was given six books by a very kind young woman in home-ware shop in Gretna. I only needed a few squares so the rest are going to WOW for an art project.

The blind was another problem. The old one was manky: little black dots had eked their way across the surface, and i couldn't get them off. It had been up there for ten years, and had only cost three quid at Ikea, I figured we were due a new one. So, off we went to  get a replacement; they had roller blinds, and slatted blinds, and all sorts of other blinds, but no roman blinds. And it was a roman blind I wanted.  I looked online, there were loads, but none were the width of our windows. I could get 90cm, 120 cm, or 60cm; all of which were far enough from the 100cm I needed they might as well have been ten metres. So I checked the cost of getting one made, and found we could go on holiday for that much, and we haven't had a holiday since we went to Cornwall for a week in 2007.

Meanwhile, I kept seeing things made of old burlap sacks (again on Pinterest): cushions, chair-covers, table runners. They all looked jolly nice but I had no idea what burlap was or where it could be purchased. So I googled and found out it was hessian, and after a few clicks of my mouse I found a website that specialises in upholstery material. They sold hessian by the metre, not only that they had some that was exactly the width of the window, and it was only £1.62 a metre. I ordered four metres.

One day one of us will remove the masking tape.

Today I took the old blind apart with the idea of using the bits of string etc to make a roman blind out of the hessian. I cut the required length and attempted to hem, remembered I couldn't sew a straight line and, thus, there was no way I'd be able to make those neat little rod pockets. And, what's more just trying would make the whole enterprise hateful. So I improvised.

Detail: I'm particularly thrilled with the purple dotted line, it reminds me of postmen.  
Once the wooden batten was in place – shove, shove– and the little eyelets were screwed into it, I threaded them with the string. Then with a big needle, just caught bits of the fabric with the string where I supposed the rods would be if someone else had made it. It's not perfect, and it probably won't last, but I for now I'm happy with it.

I still have a bit of grouting to do, but can't find the squeezy thing for getting it deep in the crevasses. I need to work out what to do with the bath's side panels (marine ply, not pretty), and order the flooring. So, I'm waiting for more inspiration and pay day.

Now I'm off in search of a musician, so I'll come visiting tomorrow.

*Women of the World: a local charity that helps women who find themselves living here far, far from home.