Author Archives: Party Spanner
I’m feeling sheepish. It’s been almost three years since I added a new post to this blog – and a year since my domain expired. Um.
I’m not even sure why I stopped writing the blog to be honest. Things got a bit hectic, then a bit CRAY CRAY, then a bit normal, then a bit WHAT THE FUCK?, then a bit OH YEAH! then a bit OH GOD WHY?! and I just sort of lost the will to throw flour, sugar, butter, honeycomb, bananas, feet, games, cake into the mix and I gave up.
So a really quick catch up for all of my readers who don’t know me personally (currently running at about 3 if my stats are to be believed)…
Son1 is 18. EIGHT fucking TEEN. *SIGH*. You know those times when they’re three and they won’t just GET OFF YOU and then they’re screaming in a huddle on the floor in Clarkes while you try to buy them some new wellies and you try to get them up off the floor and they scream “YOU’RE HURTING ME MUMMY…AGAIN!”? I tell you something, that is a walk on a cool beach while the sun shines down on your skin and you’re holding a cocktail called “relax” and the sea is gently swooshing and all is calm compared to an 18 year old.
Son2 is 15. His party this year was a paintball thing he’d begged to have. The starting time was 8:45 on a saturday morning. I struggled to wake him up at 8am, then dashed round to friend no.1 whose whole family were still conked out – I’m not sure who was more embarrassed about the door knocking, but the mum in her dressing gown certainly looked ashamed when she gazed out at me waiting in the car…I told her to get him sorted and that I’d head for friend 2 and then swing back for friend 1. Headed to friend 2 and sent Son2 out to knock on the door (I wasn’t making that mistake again) and nope. Another knock back as he wasn’t ready either. Off I went to Friend 3 who was actually waiting at the door impatiently. I finally rounded all of them up, dropped them at the paintball and waited for the call to go and collect them.
Oh Partyspanner is dead.
Lovely Po is no more. He died an hour before his appointment with the vet for the big injection. A gentleman to the last. We still miss him.
BUT HEY! We have a new, wonderful, amazing addition to the family, my gorgeous, funny granddaughter Robyn. We’ve weathered plenty of storms to get to the place we’re in at the moment but each raincloud has been worth it because I get to spend some time with this fabulous new person (stubborn as an ox, funny as a meercat) and on top of that I get to spend some time planning some actual parties again…and OH, such parties I plan.
I got it into my head that I wanted to have a bash at making some choux pastry.
The original plan was for prefitoroles, but then I thought…why make life easy? Why not have a go at some classic chocolate eclairs?
Why not indeed.
I melted some butter in some water (what?)
Before adding flour, some sugar and a pinch of salt
I beat the flour into the wet mix until it formed a ball of dough…only it didn’t really form a ball. It formed a paste and in my
stupidness naiveness, I thought that this would be ok. I then let the paste cook off for a couple of minutes, giving it a bash with the spatula now and again.
If it looks like this…it’s wrong.
I removed the mixture from the heat before adding and beating in eggs. The first egg was a double yolker – WHAT ARE THE CHANCES? – so then I was a bit confused about how many more eggs I should add, plus it was chicken twins, PLUS the yolks are important, but so are whites so OH GOD THIS IS NIGHTMARE.
I landed on the side of adding less eggs, so I only beat in two more.
Instead of thinking at this point “This dough looks a bit sloppy, I should probably stop adding liquids” I beat in another egg. Which left me with this:
Let’s skim over the fact that I actually tried to shove this mixture into a piping bag and make some desparate eclair shape.
So I added some more flour to the mixture to make it more dough-like. I vacillated between putting the dough over the heat and cooking out the flour and doing something weird to the eggs, or keeping the dough cool and not fucking it all up completely. A mixture of the two seemed like the worst possible option, so of course, this was the route I took.
I managed to get a somewhat dough like substance, and piped some strips onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper.
Right. If you’ve followed this so far and are thinking…”Oh, it’ll be OK” then you really need to read the rest of my blog. It certainly WON’T be OK, and it certainly WILL make me swear a lot. So you might want to bail out at this point if you are of a sensitive nature.
Baked the fuckers. The fuckers didn’t rise, the fuckers didn’t brown, the fuckers were fucked.
They were as flat as pitta bread once cooled. There was no way they could be split in half and stuffed with cream.
So, I’ve paid good money for cream and butter and chocolate. I’m not prepared to let the ingredients go to waste, and so I start again. Mum told me that she’d tried to make choux pastry for a dinner party back in the ’70’s three times before she succeeded. She said this while giggling behind her hands.
Butter and water. BOIL THE BASTARDS.
2ND EGG IN
Into a piping bag with a nozzle. In retrospect I would leave the nozzle off and pipe straight from the bag.
PIPE THE STUFF
I whipped the cream
And then got on with the chocolate glaze.
So, I decided to half the glaze and only make enough eclairs for 4 of us – I can freeze four of the pastries.
Half the chocolate into a saucepan with some water, and then I forgot that I was halving the recipe so I shoved the full amount of icing sugar and cocoa power into a bowl and, well..
A drop of water sorted that out.
I halved the buns. There were three types.
And the ugly
The buns were cut in half, and piped with whipped cream
And then I topped them with the chocolate icing
Here we go with an ostentaciouis picture
They are delicious though.
You can find the recipe I used here.
Disclaimer – Yes, I know plums are funny. Yes I know I have double entendred myself to within an inch of my life. ENJOY!
Seasonal stuff going on here on partyspanner at the moment, and so we turn to fruit in the back garden. It’s not yet time for the quince to fruit but the plum tree is groaning with goodness.
Rather predictably my mind turns not to plum tarts or plum jam (although I am planning on making some spicy jam in the next few weeks) but instead I have decided to make some plum schnapps. Yes, yes I know I went on and on about blackberry vodka but the thing is, it’s easy to make and once again serves as a great drink to serve at Christmas.
In for a penny in for a pound of plums as they say.
I used approximately 20 plums, halving them and removing the stone before placing them into a kilner jar.
And so, the plums go into the Kilner jar before being topped up with 70cl of vodka.
Off this jar goes to a dark place, to be occasionally brought out and shaken, for at least 3 months. It will join it’s cousin, the blackberry vodka, in imprisonment. I almost feel a bit sad.
I’m planning on checking on these (taste test obv) in late november. Until then, Good luck to you, my vodka friends. *salute*
Before you run off screaming into the hinterlands of the internet just bear with me.
It’s harvest season for blackberries NOW. These little bubbles of jet are hanging from thorny bushes as we speak and they are not only taste GREAT, but they’re FREE! FREE!
These bushes tend to grow (or rather not have been cut down) near railway lines, rivers or woodlands. I found this lovely harvest in a local green space but I have already had quite a good crop from the bushes which grow right next to the office that I work in. Ree-sult.
If you can’t be arsed to go blackberry picking then you can buy punnetts from your local supermarket. Don’t do this.
I would estimate that my haul would have cost about £30.00. Here it is:
I expect you’re wondering what all of this has to do with Christmas? Well the answer lies in the kilner jar.
Oh yes, we’re about to make some blackberry schnapps. Using fresh, wild blackberries. Aren’t I the annoying food wanker?
This is such a simple recipe, but it will need at least 3 months to develop, and as the blackberry season is upon us it seems like some sort of madness not to listen to mother nature as she croons “make some serious booze for Christmas”. I’m a listener.
So, once you’ve picked your blackberries – and ignored any jeering or pointing that may occur – they are going to need a VERY good wash.
I bung them in a colander under gently running cold water and GENTLY pick up a handful at a time and give them a jolly good swish. This fruit is crazy delicate so you must treat them as you would an elderly relative. (Make sure the water is warm in their case though, please.)
Once you’ve washed, and discarded any berries that are a bit iffy, then you need to dry them out a little bit. Just place the washed berries onto some kitchen roll and leave them for half an hour.
Once the berries have dried off, tumble them into a clean kilner jar. I have filled mine 3/4 of the way full of fruit. Then pour on vodka (as you can see I’m still using the old cheap version – honestly it’s a waste of money to use more expensive brands), secure the lid and leave in a cool dark place, shaking occasionally.
I haven’t added anything else. I am thinking that a vanilla pod would be nice and maybe some sugar, but I’m just going to let it be for a month before adding anything further.
Why not join with me. Become. Become like me and make some booze for Christmas even though it’s only August. DO IT.
After I had made the Ruby Wedding cake I decided to use up some of the left over marzipan.
I read a lovely recipe which used honey and little tiny marzipan bees! As I still had some almond flakes left over as wings I was all over this recipe.
I didn’t have the patience to allow my butter to come to room temperature in it’s own time so I chopped it into little squares to cut down the warming time. (This might have BEEn a factor in the disaster to come – yeah, it’s another disaster.)
I followed the recipe and beat the eggs and sugar followed by melted chocolate
I then sieved cocoa powder into the mix before adding boiling water – I’m fully committed at this point. Fully Fucked Up.
The batter seemed a bit runny. I remember commenting on it’s consistency at the time. Oh GOD for a time travelling delorian.
And then I had a cake ready for the oven.
So into the oven it went.
I’m not sure whats going on here, but it continued in this weird bubbling over fashion for AGES until the top of the cake turned into charcoal while the underbelly of the cake carried on, lava-like, bubbling over.
The cake had actually coated the tin in cake. I love cake as much as the next fat person, but a cake that turns the cake tin into a cake is verging on the ridiculous.
So. I do not have a happy ending to this cake. It was awful and there was no going back.
It was weirdly delicious. It tasted like a crunchie bar but without all the Friday Feeling.
I went to a hen night back in January and got fairly spectacularly drunk.
I’m going to gloss over the worse of my behaviour, but let’s just say that it included sambucca.
And a waiter
I offered to make a cake for a friend’s joint 40th wedding anniversary and her husband’s 60th birthday party. I was full of my own ability and puffed up with the dizzying confidence of someone who’s downed a bottle of Rose wine and 3 shots of sambucca. Expansive arm gestures waved away the “Cake for 60 people”, and I just kept showing people my leopard skin shoes while claiming that cake making of that level is “no problem *hic*, I love you, I’d de- Be- de-DELIGHTED to make your cake…LOOK! There’s the wai *hic* ter! Less have anover shot yeah?”
This isn’t the first time I’ve offered to do something drunk that I would usually shy away from, but it is the first time it included baking.
So. A cake to feed 60 people. Clearly, I couldn’t make something like my Baby Shower Cake, this one is going to have to be a
bleugh fruitcake and fairly traditional. Thanks so much Drunk me. I owe you one.
The cake murdered my sleep for a couple of months, I KNEW I was going to have to make this thing and I knew it was ambitious. I mucked about on the internet for a while looking for a recipe and struggling to know how big a cake I should be baking when a friendly baker told me that I needed a 12 by 12 inch square tin.
So I RENTED a tin. Yup that’s right, I live in a world where I can rent cake tins from my local cakeporn shop.
Suddenly the big day of cake bakery was almost upon me. The night before I prepared the dried fruit.
I weighed out a ridiculous amount of ingredients,
And soaked the ton of fruit in a mixture of brandy (Christ knows how old this shit is, I found it in the back of the liquor cabinet) and ameretto.
After allowing the fruit to soak overnight I got on with baking the cake.
I actually had to buy a washing up bowl to mix the batter.
Yes. That’s right I was actually making a cake that was too enormous to be mixed in a bowl. I would do a shocked face here, but I’m still too shocked to even type it out.
I started by mixing a daft amount of butter with an equally weird amount of sugar and black treacle in my mixer
and mixing it until it formed a light fluffy weirdly split looking goo. I then added 12 eggs. Yes. TWELVE EGGS! Madness had overtaken me by this point and I vacillated between terrible fear and hysterical laughter as I cracked each egg into the, frankly disgusting, mixture.
The time had come for me to mix the wet ingredients with the dry and thus, it was time to move to the washing up bowl.
Once the batter was mixed I poured it into a greased and lined, rented cake tin.
I then baked the cake for about 3 weeks (5 hours actually) until I was reasonably sure it was cooked through and then I had to turn it out of the tin. This was nerve wrackingly AWFUL! Honestly, I cannot describe the terror of tipping this huge tin upside down and hoping for the best – I also didn’t even have a wire tray large enough to cope and had to use a clean oven tray. I managed it though.
This cake is quite “blonde” because it hasn’t had time to mature.
I then went away and
got drunk thought about the cake for a couple of days before icing the beast.
Before I could start icing I needed to wrap this behemoth with marzipan.
I heated some apricot jam and brushed over the cake before rolling out the marzipan
I managed, in a moment of non-spannery – to roll out the marzipan AND place it onto the cake without anything
interesting terrible happening and then I had an enormo cake which needed to sit for 24 hour hours before icing.
The day of the party loomed at me.
To the icing.
Have you any idea how stressful it is to roll out a massive ball of icing into a thin layer which will fit a square cake? No? LUCKY YOU!
I managed it. The SKY engineer arrived around this time to change one of our Sky boxes over. I had to hold a conversation about the weather, the government and the price of i-phones while I iced the cake. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
The icing needed to set for a day before decorations were added.
I finished the icing on Friday night, the party was on Sunday but the cake was being collected on Saturday afternoon. This was going to be tight, and annoying and MUCH harder than I had imagined.
I’d bought some red shades of pre made icing from the cake porn shop and a gerbera daisy flower cutter in two sizes. I felt that it was flowery enough for a cake, manly enough and it would hide a multiple of sins.
So I rolled out some of the red icing and pressed out the daisy.
And I did that for about two hours. It was exciting stuff. I alternated between a cherry red and a deeper, darker shade of icing. I then started by building up the sides of the cake.
I somehow managed to
fruit up decorate the terrible brilliant icing and ended up with a cake that looked like this
I boxed the cake and got it ready for collection
And then I went to the party.
And looked at the cake it’s in glorious setting
And then we had a laugh and that, before we got attacked in the car park by a crazy BNP type fella and we all ended up terrified and it was awful.
I have no idea how the cake tasted as it wasn’t cut during the party and I’ve been too pissed off to ask considering the dreadful end to the evening.
That was kind of a downer – on the upside? I finally wrote a new blog post?
I haven’t made bread by hand since I left school, *mumble, mumble* years ago. I seem to remember really hating the kneading part of the process and I think I made a couple of brick like loaves before I gave up on the whole idea, and bought a bread maker.
The thing is that recently, I have fallen in love with the Hairy Bikers and have been watching their latest series on BBC2, Bakeaction, avidly. They’re so lovely and friendly and, *sigh*. I think they remind me a bit of my Dad’s friends when I was growing up. I find them very comforting.
On the german leg of their trip these two lovelies made some potato bread, and whether it was the carby imaginings of a fed up dieter, or whether it was just the fact that loaf looked chewy and tasty and keeps for a couple of days, I was set on a course of mixing, kneading, proving, shaping, proving, baking and finally gorging.
To start, I boiled some potatoes and once they were soft, I drained them, reserving some of the starchy water, and mashed them up with some vegetable oil.
Once the potato water had cooled down to a hand hot temperature, I added the dried yeast and sugar and left it in a warm place until it frothed.
I added the warm, bubbling yeast to the warm oily mash (*drool* God, I really need to sort myself out a love life at some point in the future – this level of sensuality should not be confined to fucking FOOD INGREDIENTS) and mixed them well before adding the flour slowly and gently bringing all of the ingredients together with my hands. *cough*
Once I had a ball of dough I started the kneading process, the bit I was dreading the most. I really enjoyed it! Feeling the dough change from a sticky lump of ingredients to a cohesive, elastic, springy ball of dough was really gratifying.
So once I’d kneaded for 10 minutes I lightly greased a bowl and some cling film (I use an Olive Oil spray to make it a bit easier. Not that it’s hard to grease a bowl and some cling film, but I thought you might appreciate the tip) and left the dough to prove in a warm spot for an hour.
Once the dough had doubled in size, I knocked it back
– just because I’m hard, like to make sure that the bread doesn’t have great big massive bubbles in it, and then gazed upon the beauty of it.
I stretched out the dough into a square which was *technical* about a half a thumb deep.
And then folded the two long sides up towards one another, pinched together, and placed on a lightly greased and floured baking tray (I USED THAT OLIVE OIL SPRAY TO GREASE THE TRAY – It’s a tip, you can take it or leave it) to prove for another half an hour – hour, in a warm place. I went for the little sun trap in the corner of the kitchen.
Before baking, slash the dough and sprinkle some flour, before shaking some black onion seeds across the top of the loaf.
I had preheated the oven and so shoved my bread in and baked for 35 minutes.
Now, I know you’re not meant to open the oven too often and blah blah, but I turned the loaf once during cooking time. It needed turning or I would have ended up with half the crust being burnt and the other half being aneamic. It worked for me, but I was using this first loaf as an experiment! I was feeling all
arrogant brave, and luckily for me, it worked out ok.
The difference is entirely down to leaving the loaf to prove for longer on the second prove.
Anyway, after leaving the loaf to cool for a terribly irritating amount of time filled with “can we cut it now mum?” “”what harm could it do, if we cut it now, it won’t hurt”, “It must be time”
I cut the loaf, and buttered it.
To me, as Born Again Baker this whole process is just, well it’s enriching to me in some way. Urgh, I know that sounds ridiculously stupid and wanky and sentimental, but honestly? A bit of flour, a sachet of yeast, sugar, salt and potatoes can make a loaf that has persuaded Tom to have breakfast before school, that’s a pretty amazing loaf of bread.
However, I don’t get on well with bread and should be leaving it alone. I’ve eaten at least half of everything I’ve made thus far.
We’re two loaves down here, I’m scared.
For the recipe – BEWARE!! – Check out the link at the start of this post.
Pray for me…
I’ve got loads of stuff to tell you, but I’m going to start with waffling on about the amazing jelly shots I made for a dinner party I had a couple of weeks ago.
If you’ve ever read my blog before, then you know how to make flavoured vodka in a dishwasher. I’m trying to remember what inspired me to make a sherbet lemon flavoured vodka, but unfortunately I’ve drunk too much lemon sherbet vodka and it’s melted that section of my brain.
I used four packs of old fashioned sherbet lemon sweets – Sainsbury’s sell the old fashioned “quarter” sweets. These are perfect, four bags of these to one bottle of Sainsbury’s basic vodka (750cl) is my recommended
So, smash the sweets up and place them all in your kilner jar.
I love this next photo. I clearly felt at this moment that the watermelon and bare breasted statue SAID something
I think the most we can gather from this is that I was already intoxicated.
Right so – blah blah, add the vodka, stick it in the dishwasher, shake it regularly while it cools. Read the link.
This vodka did not need filtering so while it cooled, I melted four leaves of gelatin in some hot water.
This was a disaster! The water was far too hot and the gelatin instantly set, I ended up with a jug of stiff horribleness.
I started again using warm water and poking at it.
Once I had a jug of soft gelatin leaves I added half a pint of hot lemon sherbet vodka and stirred vigourously.
I like my jelly shots to be quite hard *face*. Depending on your preference, you could add more vodka liquid to make a more wobbly consistency, 3/4 of a pint to 4 leaves of gelatin would be pretty good.
I poured the jelly into espresso cups. I’m a bit of a wanker, let’s face it!
I would love to show you a picture of these babies turned out onto a plate with a dusting of lemon sherbet and a little bon-bon in the front of the shot and OH MY GOD.
I can’t though because I made these and then I tried one and then the rest of my life since is a blur.
Give it a go – or don’t *aggressive*