Short break to Wales: Pembrokeshire Coast

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I’m back! The last few years have been full of travels and memories and I’ve been itching to share them so here I am again…my little diary of adventures.

For the first time, we decided to spend Christmas away from home. I had never been to Wales and wanted to get away from the city so we packed a car full of food (typical for our family 😅) and headed west.

On our first day, luck was not on our side, but with bags full of energy (turned out it was just me…) we braced the rain and the cold and walked along the Pembrokeshire Coast.

Tip: If it’s raining and you want to be outside/go for a walk, wear the full gear…(waterproof, hat, scarf, gloves) and pack a towel and dry clothes in the car. The wind on the coast is pretty brutal.

We made friends along the way 🐑 but the pelting rain cut our walk short. Turns out it’s pretty cold when you’re soaked through! Nonetheless, the cliffs and rock layers that we did see were stunning.

We made a spontaneous stop to Rook’s Bay on our way back to the cottage, which was well worth seeing. When the tide is low, the beach is expansive and would be great in the summer months. Dad had a great time collecting rocks (it’s true what they say about adults becoming children again…).

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For Christmas Day, we stayed local. Since the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path runs all along the coast, we were spoilt for choice for walks. We did a short stroll from Abercastle and were rewarded with spectacular views of the cliffs.

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Let me know if you have any other recommendations for Wales – I’m sure I’ll be back one summer!

Peach Galette with Rye and Spelt Flour

DSC_0057 copySummer is here and that means an abundance of sweet summer fruits! And using seasonal fruit means that you don’t need to do much to make the most of them. Galette is a great way to showcase the ingredients and it can look so professional just by the way the filling is arranged, even though it’s deceptively easy to make!
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The pastry for galette is pate brisĂ©e, which is wonderfully flaky and buttery. For this recipe, I’ve used a combination of rye, spelt and wholemeal flour for nutritional value, and it creates a very slight earthy flavour to accompany the tartness of the fruit.
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Pastry, fruit and a sprinkle of vanilla sugar and maybe a drizzle of honey…that’s it! Easy.
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There are several types of “pate” doughs, so their uses can be confusing. Here is a quick guide to the most common:

  • Pate BrisĂ©e (flaky pastry – used for pies and galettes)
  • Pate SucrĂ©e (sweet shortcrust pastry – used for tarts)
  • Pate Sable (sweet with a sandy texture, from the addition of egg and ground almonds – used for tart bases and biscuits)
  • PĂąte feuilletĂ©e (puff pastry – used for mille feuille)

DSC_0117 copyPùte Brisée
Yields 1 large galette

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 1/4 cup wholemeal plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup (110g) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water
  • 3 large peaches, sliced
  • 1 tbsp vanilla sugar
  • egg, beaten
  • honey, optional
Method
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and sugar. Add the chilled, cubed butter and, squeeze the cubed butter between your fingertips until it resembles coarse sand.
  2. Add 1/8 cup of ice water and mix together the dough with your hands until it holds together when squeezed. If needed, add more ice water by the tablespoon until the dough reaches this consistency.
  3. Form dough into a disk, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using. Dough may be stored up to 1 month when frozen.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  5. Roll out the refrigerated dough to a circle about 3mm thick. It is easier if you roll it out on parchment paper so it can go straight into the oven.
  6. Arrange the sliced peaches on the dough, fold the edges in, egg wash the edges, and sprinkle vanilla sugar all over.
  7. Bake for 40 mins until pastry is golden. Serve with a drizzle of honey.

Chocolate Raspberry Brownies

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Chocolate and raspberries together make brownie perfection!

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I love the ways these turned out – so creamy and rich! And the slight tartness of the raspberries complement the sweetness so well. The raspberries can be replaced by your favourite add-ins. I’d recommend cherries, walnuts, white chocolate pieces or macadamia nuts – get creative!

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The important thing to remember is not to overbake brownies. I have done it on one too many occasions and the result is a disappointing, dry cake. You also don’t want a mouthful of sticky dough, so try to get the balance right. The aim is a soft, moist interior and a deliciously crunchy top.

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Chocolate Raspberry Brownies (makes 9 squares)

Ingredients

  • 185g unsalted butter
  • 185g dark chocolate
  • 85g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 3 large egg
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • handful of raspberries (can be frozen)

Method

  1. Line a 20cm square tin and preheat the oven to 180c
  2. Melt the butter and dark chocolate in the microwave and set it aside to cool slightly
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and light
  4. Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the eggs and fold together
  5. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the mixture and fold gently
  6. Add the raspberries and fold
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 mins. If the middle is still wobbly, keep baking for another 5 mins and keep checking – make sure not to overbake!

Best bites in Amsterdam

Here’s a guide to some of the best bites in Amsterdam – enjoy!

DSC_0093 copyWinkel
Apple pie should be on the top of your list of things to eat in Amsterdam and this cute cafe is the best place for it. It’s recommended by the locals, and at the rate that they churn out these pies, it is definitely popular. Although it’s not a looker, it is by far the best apple pie I’ve tried. Crunchy, sugary exterior, perfectly textured sweet apples – it’s a cross between a cake, a crumble and a pie. All-in-one, what more could you want?

IMG_1648 copyTwo For Joy Coffee Roasters
This relaxed, trendy cafe is known to serve the best coffee in Amsterdam – even recommended by a local we met at Winkel.

Zuivere Koffie
A great local place for a brunch, cake and coffee near our Airbnb. Salmon, cream cheese and avocado bagel – you can’t go wrong with this simple combination.

Dutch Homemade
Treat yourself to beautiful chocolates and colourful macarons. The range of unique flavours will make you spoilt for choice. My raspberry macaron had such a great texture flavour.

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Senses Restaurant
Lars Bertelsen at Senses has created a surprise menu concept, so you simply pick 2, 3 or 4 courses and leave it to hands of the very capable chefs. True to the name of the restaurant, each course plays with the senses in terms of taste, colour and texture. Our 3 course meal started with the most intriguing amuse-bouche of liquid beetroot carpaccio encased in white chocolate and dusted with raspberry powder. A delightful burst of juice as you bite into the creamy chocolate, and a strange flavour combination that somehow worked. The starter was my favourite for presentation – the colours and patterns were just spot on! Flavourwise, it was too mild – raw mackerel, tomato, pickled radish, tapioca cracker with squid ink. The main course was rump of lamb with sweet potato pie, crispy pastry filled with harissa lamb neck, aubergine tapenade, basil crumble and onion sauce. A good, rich sauce but the dish needed some bolder flavours – the basil was not evident. The dessert redeemed the meal for flavours, although a bit too much! Strong, citrusy yuzu cremeux with sweet meringue, pandan ice cream, pandan cake, basil sauce, sable biscuit and fried dough. A lot of flavours and textures that didn’t all work together but each element was delicious.
Senses is a great restaurant if you like to be adventurous with your food and it is such good value for the quality of ingredients and execution (€32.50 for the 3 course lunch).

IMG_1661 copyTrattoria Toto
This homely restaurant near Vondelpark and the museums is a little piece of Italy in Amsterdam. Popular with locals and a good choice of pizza, pasta and risotto. The 4 Stagioni pizza was crisp and flavourful, the salmon tagliatelle and octopus pastas were also tasty and served al dente.

Amsterdam – Things To Do (With Map)

The first thing to do when you get to Amsterdam is walk. Everywhere. This is the best way to absorb the beauty and quirks that the city has to offer, and enjoy the slower pace of life. There is so much to love about the city!

If you get a chance, rent a bike – it’s Amsterdam’s best mode of transport (and much faster than the trams).

Cute cars and beautiful frontages provide perfect photo opportunities!

And not a straight house in sight…

Here are some interesting Amsterdam facts:

  • Ever wondered why the houses are so narrow? There used to be a tax on the width of houses!
  • Narrow houses means you need to find an alternative way to get your furniture to the top floors. This explains the wonky houses. The slight forward tilt reduces the risk of items colliding with the building as they are hoisted up from the outside of the building.
  • Take a glance upwards when you walk along the streets, and you’ll see an arm and hook protruding from the houses. Don’t be alarmed next time you see furniture dangling from the front of a house!

Keukonhof – Flower Garden

The Netherlands is known for its flower production, and their appreciation of flowers is exhibited at Keukonhof. A beautiful park that has been lovingly designed to display the beautiful blooms. Mid April is the best time to go to see the flowers in full bloom, and we were lucky that the weather was good for at least half of the day as it makes all the difference. Being outside in the cold for hours is never fun. However, the park does have a massive indoor building where even more unique flowers are displayed, in case you need to hide from the weather.

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Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum is one of the largest and most beautiful museums in the Netherlands that is dedicated to the country’s art and history.

Did you know that the Dutch were considered to have established the first multinational corporation, The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC) in 1602? The company monopolised trade in Japan from its trading post on the artificial island of Dejima, where this was the only place Europeans could trade with Japan for more than 200 years. VOC traded throughout Asia and profited from the spice trade among other goods, allowing them to amass huge fortunes. The Dutch were influential around the globe throughout the 17th century, a period referred to as the Dutch Golden Age.

The layout of the museum is so user friendly, allowing you to absorb all the key elements of Dutch history. Don’t miss Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid” and Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” – just some of the most famous pieces housed in the museum that are more breathtaking in real life. Art is definitely better appreciated when you can see the details up close.

Red Light District

Walking around the RLD is a must for anyone visiting Amsterdam as it is a true eye opener. The tranquil, cobbled streets along the canals are transformed by the glaring neon lights and red lanterns, as women parade themselves in the red-fringed windows. The country has had a long liberal attitude towards prostitution and leisure drugs, where the practices have been legalised and controlled. Even as we walked around the district at 10pm as a party of three girls, I did not feel unsafe at any point. You can read more about the area here.

Other things to do in Amsterdam: Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, Bloemenmarkt, Heineken Experience, Coffeeshops

Holidays always begin with my crazy, obsessive planning, so feel free to use the below map that marks the places (mostly restaurants/food) that I wanted to see.

Beautiful Chocolate Marble Bread

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Beautifully golden-brown – the most divine chocolate marble loaf!

A chocolate slab is used in the dough and plaited to create this gorgeous marbled effect – even I’m surprised by how neat this turned out!

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This bread was made using the tangzhong method, which creates wonderfully soft bread. It involves cooking a paste using flour and water, before adding it to the main dough – a simple addition that makes such a difference to the texture of the bread, and helps it to stay soft for a few days. It has been my go-to method for making soft bread for a few years now. Give it a go and let me know how it goes 🙂

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Chocolate Swirl Bread (makes 2 small loaves)

Recipe adapted from Christine’s Recipes

Main dough ingredients:
  • 25g bread flour
  • 125ml water
  • 350g bread flour
  • 6g instant dry yeast
  • 60g sugar
  • 4g salt
  • 24g milk powder
  • 150g milk
  • 30g unsalted butter
Chocolate dough ingredients:
  • 50g plain chocolate
  • 20g margarine/ butter
  • 20g bread flour
  • 10g cocoa powder
  • 5g corn flour
  • 60g milk
  • 30g sugar
  • 1 egg white

Main dough – Method

  1. To make the tangzhong, whisk 25g bread flour and 125ml water together in a small saucepan over a low-medium heat. The mixture will thicken quickly and when lines appear in the mixture, remove from the heat.
  2. Add tangzhong and all ingredients except the liquid and butter in a bowl, gradually add 1/2 of the water and knead well (gradually add milk if required). Add 30g butter and knead until the window pane stage is reached (simple guide here).
  3. Spray water on doughs and place in separate containers. Cover and let it proof for 60 mins.
  4. Punch down the doughs, roll into respective balls, cover and let it rest for 10 mins.
Chocolate dough – Method
  1. Melt the chocolate and margarine via double boiler method, and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, and cornflour. Then add in milk and sugar. Mix well and then add the melted chocolate, margarine mixture. Lastly add in egg white. Whisk till all well combine.
  3. Cook the mixture on a low heat and whisk constantly. The chocolate filling is ready once the mixture turns thick (obvious lines appear on the mixture surface as you stir).
  4. Transfer the chocolate dough onto clingfilm. Cover and leave aside to cool (about 3-5minutes).
  5. Separate into 2 portions and roll each out to about 18cm x 12cm. Wrap and keep in the fridge to set.

Assembly

  1. Roll out one of the main doughs into a rectangle shape 20x15cm. Place one chocolate dough on top of the white dough. Roll out to 30x20cm.
  2. Cut into 2 equal portions. Place one piece on top of the other. Roll out the dough to 30x20cm, repeat another two times.
  3. Cut it into three strips and plait them together. Place the dough into a greased tin. Spray water and cover.
  4. Repeat with the other main dough and chocolate dough.
  5. Let it proof for 40-60 mins or until doubled in height.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 30-35 mins.
  7. Remove from the tin and let it cool on a wire rack for 2 hrs before cutting.

Battenburg – Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone!

As usual, it’s grey and rainy in England this Easter bank holiday (why is the weather like this every bank holiday?!) but this Battenburg will sure brighten things up! The pink and cream checkered pattern just screams SPRING! 🙂

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This cake looks so simple but it epitomises the best of British cakes –  moist sponge cake coated in jam and wrapped in marzipan. Oh we British love our jams!

Battenburg_0577 copyWorking with marzipan involves a little mess with kneading, but it’s so much fun and a great activity with kids. Store-bought is the convenient, cheat’s way of doing things, but I will get around to making homemade marzipan – promise!

I used some off cuts to make the mini Battenburg – isn’t it cute?

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Hope everyone’s enjoying the long weekend!

Battenburg (makes 1 cake)
Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food
Ingredients
  • 175g very soft butter
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • Âœ tsp baking powder
  • 3 medium eggs
  • Âœ tsp vanilla extract
  • ÂŒ tsp almond extract
  • pink/red food colouring
To assemble
  • 100g apricot jam
  • 1 x 500g block marzipan

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line a 20cm square tin with parchment. Add an extra fold in the middle of the pan so you can bake the pink and cream mixture in one pan without the colours mixing. Otherwise, you can bake the mixtures separately in 2 rectangular/loaf pans.
  2. To make the sponge, beat the sugar and butter until fluffy. Then add the eggs and a tablespoon of the flour (to prevent curdling) and beat.
  3. Add the rest of the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, vanilla and almond extract. Beat until the mix comes together smoothly.
  4. Split the mixture in half, and mix in the pink (or red) food colouring to one mixture.
  5. Add the pink mixture to one side of the prepared tin, and the cream mixture to the other side.
  6. Bake for 25-30 mins until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool.
  7. To assemble, heat the jam in the microwave for 20 seconds, until runny.
  8. Cut the almond slice in half to create 2 rectangles, and do the same with the pink slice. Trim so they are all the same length and width.
  9. Roll out the marzipan block on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar to just over 20cm wide, then keep rolling lengthways until the marzipan is roughly 0.5cm thick.
  10. Brush with apricot jam, then lay a pink and an almond slice side by side at one end of the marzipan, brushing jam in between to stick sponges, and leaving 4cm clear marzipan at the end. Brush more jam on top of the sponges, then sandwich remaining 2 slices on top, alternating colours to give a checkerboard effect. Wrap the marzipan tightly and trim.
  11. This will keep in an airtight box or well wrapped in cling film for up to 3 days, and can be frozen for up to a month.