February Daring Bakers Challenge!

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. They have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

This is the first challenge I’ve made that I can’t actually eat. Since I stopped having caffeine (which tends to give me migraines), I haven’t baked with chocolate  – because I’m selfish and don’t see the point of making things that I can’t have! 😉 But I owed my grandparents a dessert (and my carob powder is hidden in the depths of my kitchen disaster at the moment), so I thought I’d be generous and make it with real chocolate. And I chose Wendy’s recipe for ice cream because it had fewer ingredients and I was feeling lazy.

This recipe was very quick and easy to make – I think I’d definitely have another go with my trusty carob powder! The ice cream I CAN taste and it is super yummy. I don’t even really like ice cream that much, but I just have this overwhelming desire to curl up on the couch and eat it straight out of the ice cream maker!

Technically, because it’s not heart-shaped, it’s not a Valentino cake, but the rules said we didn’t have to and again…lazy! Plus why expend all that extra energy on something I can’t have! So I made one large one and gave it to my grandparents, whose response seemed positive – my grandmother called me up and grilled me about how exactly it was made because she couldn’t figure out how it got the consistency that it was. I also made two small ones (one of which is in my photos) to give to my parents. They both liked it, too. I ended up serving the ice cream in a small ramekin because I was too anxious to get it served, photographed, and tasted and didn’t want to wait for it to set any more in the freezer.

So, yes, even though I haven’t actually tried it myself, reports have been that it’s quite good. Once I’ve dug my carob powder/chips out of the remnants of my kitchen, I’ll probably give this another try just for myself!

Click on the Daring Bakers logo above to check out everyone else’s Valentino cakes.


A tour of things I miss in the UK

Nearly all of these are foods (Natalie has pointed out that most people don’t really come to the UK for the food…but I do!), but, in no particular order, here they are:

1. Wine Gums – No, I can’t tell you what’s so great about them, but I love them. In fact, as we speak, there are 20 rolls of them tucked safely into my wellies!

2. Crepes from Le Creperie de Hampstead – Seriously the best crepes outside of, or in, France.

3. Cider and black – Best drink ever. Cider with blackcurrant cordial. A bit studenty, but fantastic! And why there is a bottle of Ribena tucked into the Wine Gum-free boot.

4. Socks from Marks & Spencer – great socks. Full stop.

5. Scones with jam and clotted cream (but mostly the CLOTTED CREAM!) – I don’t know why we don’t get this in the States. We are totally missing out.

6. Chips with cheese – Proper chip-shop chips with salt and vinegar and cheese. Nothing better in the world.

7. Desserts with custard – It’s a different custard to what we call custard in the States. The nearest thing I can think of is that it’s like a slightly thinner vanilla pudding that’s served warm and poured over a dessert. Any kind really, but the best to have it with is sticky toffee pudding. Haven’t managed to have it yet, but I’ve also got a package of Bird’s custard powder tucked into my suitcase (hopefully all my food will make it through US customs with me) so I can make my own when I get home.

Back to being responsible adults!

This morning, after a brief stop at Sainsbury’s to stock up on provisions (e.g., wine gums, Ribena, and custard powder), we went to see Holyrood House. It was very pretty – the weather is also very nice today (we’d forgotten what the sun looked like!) – and the tour was very interesting.

But now…now is packing time. Which has actually gone worryingly well – I’m very concerned I’ve forgotten something important.

So tomorrow we’re up super-super-early to get the train down to Heathrow and then we’re off on our separate ways – me back to Illinois and back to work and Claire on to Capetown and shark diving.

It’s been great fun and I’m sad to be off home, but it’ll be very nice to see friends, family, cats, and my apartment that is in shambles!

The salt’s burning my hand, is that normal? Or, a guest post…

…by Claire!

Claire has been my travelling partner for the last few weeks (she’s the one in the pictures who isn’t me). We met in 2003 working at Pax and she was the evil genius behind the Rock to Reef tour that Debby, Louisa, and I did in
Australia in 2006. She recently declared that she wanted to do a blog post of her own, so I thought this evening would be a good opportunity to turn the reins over to her. Take it away, Claire!

Up until this point on the trip my contribution has been purely witty interjections as Anne types. I have been both lacking motivation to post to my own neglected blog and lacking the highly mobile technology that is Anne’s iPod, Edward. And it is pure coincidence that my guest post corresponds with our boozy night out in Edinburgh. CO-IN-CI-DENCE.

Several pints, several shots and several pubs later… “is that jello?”, Anne declares as she scrutinizes my drink choice. No Anne, it’s a squashed frog.

The latest addition to the menu tonight is a “flat liner”. Tequila, sambuca and tabasco. Yes, go back and read that again.

We’re now home, with just enough buzz, a belly full of hot fat chip shop chips with salt and vinegar, and relieved of all our cash.

See photos.

Rats that sound like ducks!

This morning Gillian led us to drop off the car and then into the Royal Mile (their flat is very conveniently located – only about a 15 minute walk!). We headed to Mary King’s Close to do the tour of the underground Edinburgh – they choppped off the tops of the houses on four closes (very steep and narrow side streets) and built the Royal Market over it, leaving the closes’ residents to live in complete darkness. Apparently, it’s a very popular attraction and we had to book onto a tour for late afternoon.

In the meantime we went to the Camera Obscura where we harnessed the power of electricity (see picture – that’s one of three crackle balls in the world) and then saw the panorama of Edinburgh from the camera obscura.

We passed the time before our Mary King’s Close by stopping into the National Library and then the National Museum of Scotland for a bit. And then it was time for our underground tour!

Our guide was very funny (a dry sense of humor is always appreciated) and the tour was very interesting. And now we’re back at Nat and Gillian’s finishing our healthy, well-balanced meal of chips and cheese before we head out for a few drinks.

Cardboard with soft mush…but enjoyable!

After a quick night’s stay with some of Claire’s relatives (in a very lovely cottage), we were off to Scotland to see some of my friends when I was in Aberdeen! It was a very foggy morning, but very picturesque leaving England – we just skirted the edges of the Lake District (which I realized I’ve never been to).

We had quite an easy drive into Glasgow where we met up with Alison for lunch and a bit of a shop round the city centre. She took us up the Lighthouse (not a real lighthouse) so we could have a bit of an aerial view of things.

We’ve managed to make it to Edinburgh and Nat and Gillian’s flat and are planning what we want to see and how to pack all the things we’ve bought…


Okay, WordPress seems to be cooperating again – scroll down a bit (past ‘It’s okay! We’re on the right train!’) to see them as they’ve been posted on the day I wrote them.