Viennese Fingers (Blogtober 6)

Soapmakers Eat Too…

Every year, in mid-August, our village holds a Horticultural & Craft Show. Gardeners, photographers, crafters and cooks compete to show off their skills and be the best in their category.  Our garden is still a work in progress, I’m no photographer and I’ve had no time recently for any craft bar soapmaking, but baking… now baking I can do.  I entered six classes, and won four firsts and two seconds (go me!) One of the firsts was for my Viennese Fingers*

Viennese Fingers

Viennese Fingers

Ok, so these may look a little wonky, but they’re prize winners!  They really are the lightest, crumbliest and shortest of biscuits which are ridiculously easy and surprisingly quick to make. I’ve been making at least one batch (usually two!) of these each week recently and they’re loved by the whole family. Give ’em a go and impress your nearest and dearest.

Before you start, preheat your oven to 180C – if you have a super-efficient oven then you might want to reduce it to 170/175C, but either way keep an eye on the biscuits as they’re cooking.

This recipe will make approx. 20 fingers.

Ingredients:

  • 175g soft margarine (you could use butter, but I’ve found marge is better in these)
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 125g plain flour
  • 60g cornflour
  • 100-150g plain dark chocolate

You’ll also need a piping bag and nozzle. This is the one I use.

Piping nozzle

Piping nozzle

It needs to be be fairly big as the mixture is quite dense – this one is 3cm diameter at its wide end…

To make up the biscuit mix, thoroughly beat together the margarine and the icing sugar with an electric mixer:

Ingredients, thoroughly combined

Margarine & Icing Sugar

Add the two flours and mix well again:

All ingredients combined

All ingredients combined

Now you’re ready to pipe – it really IS that easy 🙂

Place the nozzle into the piping bag (I often use disposable piping bags blah blah…and fill the bag with the biscuit mixture.  I find it helps to place the bag into a large glass and fold the ends over the top of the glass to hold it in place…

Piping Bag in a Glass

Filling the Piping Bag in a Glass

Filled Piping Bag

Filled Piping Bag

Grab a couple of baking sheets, cover them with greaseproof / baking paper – do NOT grease neither the trays nor the baking paper. Pipe 10 ‘fingers’ of mix onto each lined tray (leaving 1-2cm between them as they will spread a little).  As you can see from this picture my piping isn’t particularly uniform, but who cares?!

Piped fingers, ready to be baked

Piped fingers, ready to be baked

Put them in the oven and time them for 14-15 minutes.  See these little round ones at the front? That’s what I do with any mixture left in the bag that I don’t think will make a full finger-worth of biscuit – perfect sized morsels to pop in your mouth when nobody’s looking 😉

Fingers in the Oven

Fingers in the Oven

You want them just cooked, barely beginning to brown… The ones on the top here are too brown – you want them more like the ones on the bottom..

Baked Viennese Fingers

Baked Viennese Fingers

WHILE they’re in the oven, break up melt the dark chocolate. I stand a narrow mug in boiling water in a saucepan, and melt the chocolate in that.

Melting Chocolate

Melting Chocolate

Once cooked, take the fingers out of the oven, leave to cool for a few moments, then transfer them onto a wire rack to cool.   DO NOT throw away the greaseproof/baking paper – we’re going to use it again in just a moment.

When the fingers are cool to the touch, take them one by one and dip one end, and then the other, in the melted chocolate.  Place it back down on the greaseproof/baking paper on the baking tray.  Try to make sure that the chocolate from one finger doesn’t touch the chocolate from another or they’ll stick together when solidified and can be difficult to part without breaking the fingers themselves.

If (like me) you find this process a little tedious, simply place the fingers onto the greaseproof/baking paper and drizzle the melted chocolate all over them:

Dipped or Drizzled? You choose...

Dipped or Drizzled? You choose…

Place them, still on their lined trays, into the refrigerator for half an hour then hey presto, you have the most delicious accompaniment to your afternoon cup of tea. Or coffee, if you absolutely must 😉

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

Vickx

*Ahem* I’m going to completely gloss over the fact that I was actually the only person to enter the Viennese Fingers category in this year’s show.  I am reliably informed that had they not been up to scratch, I would absolutely, definitely, without a doubt, NOT have been awarded a first for them. And anyway, they WERE bloody good!!!

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An Outdoor Adventure – The Week in Soap 10th Sept, ’17

It’s Tuesday eve, and I think I’m pushing the time limit for posting a round-up of last week, so I’m going to make this a quickie…

The main focus of the beginning of last week was ‘Back to School’, which didn’t actually happen until Tuesday, when both kids headed into school with a quick kiss and barely a look back.  I gave a little jump for joy, and headed straight into the soap kitchen to make soap. Mostly restocks (double batches of Bewitched & Luscious Lavender) but also made some progress on the Christmas stock – a double batch of Warm Gingerbread which, as per the test batch, moved really quickly, but I managed to get a small drop element in there. Cut photos to come next week I hope…

Bewitched, Warm Gingerbread & Luscious Lavender

Bewitched, Warm Gingerbread & Luscious Lavender

I added a little mica swirl on the top of the Warm Gingerbread, just for some added interest:

Warm Gingerbread Mica Swirls

Warm Gingerbread Mica Swirls

Wednesday and Thursday I was at the (part-time) day job, but managed to find some time to start on cutting, bevelling, wrapping and labelling a big order of mini guest bars.

Mini guest bars

Mini guest bars

The rest of the week was spent doing the usual soapy stuff, including spending as much time as I could uploading info and photos to the website – I think I’m still on track to launch at the beginning of October *crosses fingers*

Friday… Friday was kind of special, and had been planned for a while.  Before having children my husband and I used to do a lot of hill / mountain walking, but we’d not been to the top of a mountain for about eight years. With both kids in school, we packed a lunch and off we went. The weather wasn’t great and we got a good soaking on the way up, but the weather cleared at the summit and we were rewarded with a lovely view. We descended in sunshine and were dry before we got home. It was absolute heaven, and we’re already planning the next one…

The view from the summit 1

The view from the summit 1

The view from the summit 2

The view from the summit 2

Happy Hikers

Happy Hikers

The Week in Soap: 9th April ’17

A day late, but better late than never eh? Anyway, this weekly update will be super-short.   The kids are off school for the Easter break, and I have even less time than usual to get all the things done…

I only managed one night of soaping in the last week – I made double batches of Boho Baby and OMH. I tried using a mica called ‘Arctic White’ instead of Titanium Dioxide for the white portion of the OMH, and I really wish I hadn’t, but hey ho, it’s good to try something different occasionally (shan’t be trying that one again though!):

Boho Baby / OMH

Boho Baby / OMH

Last week I  also managed to hastily put together a post outlining the core range of soaps.  It’s a poor substitute for a website, but at least now when I’m asked what I have it’s all listed in one place and I can just send a link.  It has however highlighted the fact that I need to do some work on product descriptions and on photography (though luckily my husband just bought a DSLR camera so that might happen soon) before I launch the website.

The second bit of news is that I made facial soap – finally! It was on the goals lists for the last two months and while I’ve been working on the recipe for quite a while, I just never got round to actually making it.  I put a lot of research into this one, and while it’s colour and fragrance free,  it’s chock full of some other amazing ingredients. I’ll post separately about it soon.

Now I’m (kind of) back on track goals wise, I should be thinking about April’s goals but you know what?  We’re already 10 days in and I’ve got 14 days of school holidays to get through – I’m cutting myself some slack and not setting goals for April.  I’ll just keep on building inventory (starting to feel a little more comfortable with the numbers on the rack now), wrapping / labelling, fulfilling orders and doing my weekly soapy presentation / monthly market.

Thanks for reading, back soon!

 

The PERFECT Yorkshire Puddings (I promise!)

Yorkshire puds. Those crispy, crunchy yet soft in the middle mopper-uppers of homemade gravy are the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday (or-any-otherday) Roast.  They’re traditionally served with roast beef, but I’d be very unpopular in our house if I dared serve ANY type of roast without Yorkshire puddings.  Luckily I have the perfect, fail-safe recipe to guarantee golden crispy loveliness each and every time:

Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshire Puddings

When I posted a few weeks ago that I’d made some Yorkshire Puddings, Sarah of Sas-Oki Soaps challenged me to post the recipe so that she could decide for herself whether it truly is foolproof, so here it is! I hope more of you will give it a try too.

To make 12 delicious Yorkshire Puddings you’ll need:

  • 150g plain  (all purpose) flour
  • 300ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 medium sized eggs
  • plenty of salt & pepper
  • lard (for cooking)

Pre-heat oven to 230c / fan 210c / gas 8

Whisk the two eggs into the milk, and season the flour well with the salt and pepper.

Seasoned flour and eggs whisked into milk

Seasoned flour and eggs whisked into milk

Slowly beat the eggy milk into the flour until it’s all combined:

Milk & flour combined

Milk & flour combined

then pour it into a jug and let it sit for half an hour. (When I’ve been in a hurry I have made them without letting them sit for very long and not noticed much difference in the result, but I still  let it stand if I can):

Batter in a jug, ready to pour

Batter in a jug, ready to pour

After half an hour or so, put a generous knob of lard into each cavity of a 12 cavity muffin tin:

Muffin tin with lard

Muffin tin with lard

then place the tray into the preheated oven and let it get smoking hot. Really, REALLY hot.  Take the tray out of oven and place it on the hob, over some heat – the aim is to prevent the lard from cooling down before/while you pour the batter.

Pour the batter into each cavity of the tray, filling them about two thirds full.  If you have a little left over top up some of the cavities – it doesn’t matter if some are fuller than others.  While your pouring you should see that the fat is so hot that the batter begins sizzling and bubbling immediately:

Sizzling pudding batter

Sizzling pudding batter

Pop the tray straight into the hot oven, and cook for approx 25 minutes, or until they’re puffed up, brown and crispy. Keep an eye on their progress, they might take a little less time, they might take a little longer, but at this high temperature they could burn quite quickly if you leave them in too long.  Oh, and don’t open the over door before the cooking time is up, or they’ll collapse…

I took some snaps of my last lot every five minutes or so – apologies for the picture quality, the oven door doesn’t make for a great window!

Yorkshire Puds 1

Yorkshire Puds 1

Yorkshire Puds 2

Yorkshire Puds 2

Yorkshire Puds 3

Yorkshire Puds 3

Yorkshire Puds 4

Yorkshire Puds 4

Serve as soon as possible after taking out of the oven:

Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshire Puddings

There – told you it was easy! There is absolutely NO excuse to buy ready made Yorkshire Puddings ever gain 😀

Teisen Gri – Traditional Welsh Cakes – A Recipe

Teisen Gri (literally translated – Griddle Cakes) are traditional Welsh cakes that we make and enjoy all year, and especially around the 1st March when we celebrate St David’s Day (the patron saint of Wales).  Last week I took a break from soaping and made (another) batch of deliciousness…

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes

They’re similar to a fruit scone, but flatter and cooked on a griddle over direct heat. Traditionally they’re dusted with caster sugar after cooking, but I usually skip that step. They are honestly utterly delicious – perfect to have with a cup of tea, and they’ll keep a good few days in an airtight container. They don’t tend to last that long in our house though! I posted the above picture on the blog a while back, and I’ve been asked a couple of times since for the recipe, so here goes. This recipe makes 20 – 30 Teisen Gri, depending on the size of the cutter you use.

Ingredients:

  • 225g salted butter (lard is a traditional alternative – I always use butter)
  • 450g self raising flour
  • 0.5tsp mixed powdered spice
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 170g mixed dried fruit  (currants are traditionally used)
  • 2 eggs

Method:

  1. Rub together the flour and the butter until they are the consistency of breadcrumbs. I usually do mine in a food processor:
Flour & Butter

Flour & Butter

2. Mix in the mixed spices, sugar and the mixed fruit:

Don’t forget the mixed spices – makes a huge difference to the final flavour

Sugar

Sugar

Mixed Fruit

Mixed Fruit

3. Add the two eggs and mix:

Add the eggs

Add the eggs

Mixed

Mix

4. Bring it all together on a floured surface, adding a little more flour IF it feels too sticky to roll out:

Dough ready to roll

Dough ready to roll

5. Roll out the dough to about 0.75cm.  Many recipes say 1cm thickness, and while personally I find this a little too thick, it’s trial and error to find what suits you. I neglected to take a photo of this stage – sorry!

6. Cut out rounds using a fluted scone cutter, and place on a pre-heated griddle. Don’t grease the griddle – dry is best.  A thick bottomed frying pan would work if you don’t have a griddle:

Cooking on the griddle

Cooking on the griddle

7. After a couple of minutes, when the underside has developed a nice dark colour (some of these below should really have been darker) flip over and cook on the other side:

Flip

Flip

8. Once they’re cooked and nicely browned on both sides, place on a cooling tray and, if desired, dredge with castor sugar.  Enjoy hot or cold, with or without butter.

I’ll be back on topic with my next post, but even soapers have to eat eh? Let me know if you give these a try (and what you think of them!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commitment

I’m slipping.  After successfully completing Blogtober, I planned on continuing to post at least twice a week, but because I don’t have that challenge mentality it’s just not happening. I need a plan.  I need structure and regularity (and a little more determination :-D).

Commitment

                        Commitment

So here’s the deal. I’m making a commitment, now, to post a minimum of twice a week, most likely on a Sunday and a Wednesday. I plan on doing a weekly roundup on a Sunday evening of everything soapy (or maybe the top 5 soapy events / the best soapy stuff) that has/have happened that week. I’d also like to start sharing some book reviews (I have an AWFUL lot of soapmaking books, for starters) and also posts about other products that I’ve tried and enjoyed.

Somewhat disconcertingly, out of all my Blogtober posts, the one that received the most ‘likes’ was the recipe for a Swiss Roll. Ohhhh, OK. Nothing to do with soap at all.  Well, this blog is supposed to be about my soaping life, and baking is part of that, so I will probably share some more of my favourites – occasionally.

I do have plenty of ideas for the Wednesday blog posts, I just need to buckle down and write them. Now that I’ve made a commitment to post more regularly, I think I will!

 

 

 

 

Free time? What’s that?

Last month I posted this photo on my Instagram page:

Lovely Language Literature :)

Lovely Language Literature 🙂

It’s a selection of books I’d bought with some Amazon vouchers I’d received for my birthday back in July.  At various points in the subsequent comments I mentioned that my degree is in Linguistics, and as well as being fluent in a second language (Welsh), I have also studied French, German, Spanish and Russian.  Ever since my teenage years I’ve had a passion for anything to do with language in general, and to this day I have a special interest in the history of language and how different language interrelate.

I was fascinated by the comments this post elicited from other soapmakers – so many are bi- or even multi-lingual, and/or have an interest in history, as well as a huge variety of other interests and hobbies.  Soap, soapmaking and soapy social media have a tendency to dominate my life and I forget to take a break and do something completely different.  Truth be told I struggle to find the time to stop and do something different.  Having a business that is also one’s hobby is not the best combination for a good work/life balance it would appear. In the last six weeks I’ve managed to read just the first 35 pages of one of those books, despite finding it deeply absorbing (I usually manage 1.5 – 2 pages in bed before nodding off, no matter how hard I fight it).

So, go on, tell me what you do in your free time. What are your interests, your passions, and how do you find the time to indulge them?