Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Hairy Bikers' Polverones.


According to the little bit of online research I've done about these biscuits, the correct spelling is actually 'polvorĂ³nes' but since this recipe is from The Hairy Bikers' Big Book of Baking, I will abide by the Bikers' spelling.

Polverones are a Spanish almond biscuit, similar to shortbread in texture, that are apparently very popular in Spain at Christmas time, which is exactly why I chose them!


This holiday season I wanted to make something new and specifically I wanted to make something European. Maybe it's my own tiny backlash against the mood of this last year or maybe it's just because Christmas always makes me think of beautiful European treats and Christmas markets. Either way, I grabbed my copy of The Hairy Bikers' Big Book of Baking, full of recipes from all over Europe, and looked for some Christmas biscuits. With all that white icing sugar like snow, the polverones looked perfect.



Luckily, this recipe is so simple, even I couldn't screw it up. I'd recommend it on that basis alone.

The Hairy Bikers' Polverones

Ingredients

  • 75g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 250g plain flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • a good pinch of fine sea salt
  • 125g butter, softened

Method

  1. Sift the icing sugar and flour into a bowl and stir in the ground almonds and salt.
  2. Add the softened butter and very slowly rub the butter into the dry ingredients, using your fingertips. The mixture will be very dry to begin with but after a while it should begin to form a dough - similar to a shortbread mixture.
  3. Preheat your oven to 180C/fan 160C and line a large baking tray.
  4. As soon as the dough begins to come together, form it into a flattened ball and place between two sheets of baking paper. The dough will be very crumbly so you may need to press it together a little. Using a rolling pin, press the dough down very gently until it is about 2cm thick.
  5. Use a plain 4-5cm biscuit cutter to cut the biscuits and carefully transfer them to your lined tray. Bring the trimmings back together and repeat this process until you have used up all of your dough. You should get around 12 biscuits.
  6. Bake the biscuits for 12-15 minutes or until they're just beginning to turn golden. They should be pale so don't let them brown too much.
  7. Leave the biscuits on the tray to cool completely. They'll still be very crumbly so don't even try to move them while they're still warm.
  8. Finally, dust with icing sugar!


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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Gingerbread house mark II.


We did it! Last weekend, the same day that we went to Eden's Festival of Light and Sound, Jess and I finally made a successful gingerbread house. Look at it. It's a beautiful little gingerbread chalet with only one tree outside because my mum ate the other one and thought we wouldn't notice.

Some of you may remember when Jess and I tried to make a gingerbread house last year...


But let's not dwell on that! This year's house is beautiful and covered in jellybean roof tiles and able to stand up all on its own!! Well it was... it's all been eaten now... let's look at some more pictures of it!




My tips for a successful gingerbread house are as follows:
  1. Just buy a kit. I actually wanted to get one of those kits where the gingerbread is already made and you just assemble and decorate but we ended up using a box mix instead. It was still 1000x easier than making it from scratch.
  2. Think small. Last year's house was ridiculously large. Those gingerbread house cookie cutters are out of here.
  3. In Jess's words: 'if in doubt, cover it in sprinkles.'
Also, of course, we had some gingerbread dough left over so I got out the cookie cutters and Jess made some shapes, just like last year. No Donald Trump gingerbread man this year, thank God, but she did try to freehand a snowflake that ended up looking a little too much like a spider for my liking...


(I decorated the snowman in the first picture but the rest of these are all Jess. I'm particularly fond of the tree and it tasted just as good as it looks!)

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Eden Project Festival of Light and Sound.


Last weekend my parents, Jess, and I all headed out to the Eden Project for this year's Christmas at Eden event - Festival of Light and Sound.



This year's event is primarily a laser show filling the Mediterranean Biome with an otherworldly display of light and music. Lasers stretch out across the landscape outside the biomes and a few charming sights can be seen inside the Rainforest Biome (including the lovely fairy below who was probably my favourite part of the whole evening. She was pretty fond of my light up Christmas tree hat too) but the Med is definitely the main attraction.

I have to say, the droning monk music and laser display didn't quite fill me with Christmas cheer as much as last year's Enchanted Rainforest event, but there is a certain alien beauty to this year's display and I hope you'll agree that it made for some great pictures!
























If you're in Cornwall and want to check out the Festival of Light and Sound, the dates and times can be found here and there's even a twitter and instagram competition to win gig tickets for next year's Eden Sessions.


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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

October & November reading wrap up.


It's been so many weeks since I posted anything here I feel like I've forgotten how! I did win NaNoWriMo though so I think we can all agree it was worth it. Now, let's talk about the books I've read.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

When I was about ten years old we did a production of The Wind in the Willows at school and I was made the understudy for the entire show, which meant I had to learn the whole script off by heart. I hated it. So that might explain why I never had any real inclination to read the book even though I've owned it for as long as I can remember. However, I did finally pick it up in October before going to see Julian Fellowes's new musical version (which is excellent btw and I highly recommend it if you get the chance to see it) and it turns out that when I'm not having to learn the lines for every single speaking role with no chance of ever actually saying them on stage, I actually like The Wind in the Willows a lot! Although the brief interlude with the nature god in the middle was a little strange.

★★★★☆

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

I've enjoyed both of Robert Galbraith's previous novels, The Silkworm being my favourite, but I have to say this is probably my least favourite of the three so far. The mystery was gripping, the villain was compelling, there was a lot of great character stuff with Strike and Robin, and it was fantastically written, as always, but there is just so much loathing of women and violence against women in this book. I know that's the point and that's fine, and it certainly says something about Rowling's writing that it got to me, but it did just get to the point where I found reading about it kind of exhausting.

★★★★☆

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I'm sorry to say Northanger Abbey is probably my least favourite of the Austen books I've read so far. Although, given how much I've enjoyed all the other Austen books I've read so far, that maybe isn't saying a whole lot. My real problem was that I really enjoyed the part of the story that took place at the abbey but that was only about half the book. Had more of the story taken place there I would have liked it more, but that's not to say that I didn't enjoy it as it was!

★★★★☆

Emma by Jane Austen

I've always had a sneaky suspicion that when I eventually got around to reading Jane Austen's books Emma would be my favourite. Well, I don't think it's quite pushed Pride and Prejudice out of the top spot, but I am pleased to say that Emma is definitely up there. I think maybe I just love when Austen includes slightly offbeat fathers. I can't be sure if Emma was a little slower than I would have liked or if it was just that thanks to NaNoWriMo it took me longer to read than it normally might have, but either way I think I could have done with it being just a little bit shorter. That's such a tiny complaint though in the grand scheme of how much I liked this book.

★★★★★

The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon

I saw Francesca Simon speak at a literary festival in October and picked up The Sleeping Army after her talk. It is a childrens' book so didn't grip me quite as much as it might have were I actually the intended age group but after all that Jane Austen I just wanted something quick and easy and a kids' book seemed the perfect choice! It's a pretty fun adventure story and I'd certainly recommend it for that middle grade age bracket.

★★★☆☆

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