Category Archives: review

EasiYo yoghurt maker

EasiYo Yoghurt Maker

Sometimes the stars shine down on you. I have wanted to try making my own yoghurt for ages and over Christmas I was looking at getting a yoghurt maker, but I wasn’t sure it would be worth the investment. Then I get an email asking if I would like to review an EasiYo yoghurt maker. It arrived and I have been playing with it and perfecting the art of making my own yoghurt. Actually you don’t need to do that as you can buy a powdered yoghurt that makes the whole process easy. These powdered yoghurts comes in lots of flavours, including strawberries and cream and pineapple with coconut bits and full instructions for making the yoghurt are given on the sachets. However, if you are a regular reader of these pages you will know that a powdered yoghurt is not really me.

So I have been making yoghurt the traditional way with milk and a live yoghurt culture. Whilst you could do this in a thermos flask, the EasiYo yoghurt maker does make it easier and all I have to wash up is the plastic container that I have made the yoghurt in, rather than a thermos, which I always have trouble getting scrupulously clean (from experience bicarb is the way to go by the way). So in answer to my own question over Christmas then yes, I think it is worth making the investment to buy a yoghurt maker. You can see the full range and buy your own yoghurt maker from the EasiYo online shop.

Bear in mind that when you are culturing milk, hygiene is important. Make sure your pan, thermometer and the plastic container are clean and as a precaution I rinse them all with boiling water.

By making yoghurt this way you can choose the milk that you like best, whether that is whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed, organic or if you can get it raw milk from your local farmer.

Unhomogenised milk is always better than homogenised when making dairy products as it has the fat globules intact. The homogenisation process forces the fat globules through very small holes breaking them up under pressure and the surface area of the fat globules increases to such a degree that they can’t bond back together, meaning that the cream is dispersed evenly through the milk. Unhomogenised has that lovely creamy layer at the top and adds an extra richness to your yoghurt.

Once you have chosen your milk then you just need a starter pot of yoghurt and it needs to be a live yoghurt. The one I use didn’t have “live yoghurt” listed on the pot but it is a pot of plain greek style yoghurt and works well as a starter culture.

You need to heat the milk to almost boiling point (85°c). This will improve the chances of your yoghurt not having the wrong bacteria in it and it will improve the texture, making it richer and smoother. Heating milk unfolds its proteins enabling them to stick to the fat globules and to each other. Heating your milk slowly is always better for the finished yoghurt. Give the milk a gentle stir regularly through the gentle heating process.

Then you need to cool your milk to finger hot (47°c). It is best to do this slowly, by taking it off the heat and giving it a gentle stir from time to time.

It is also better if your yoghurt starter has been out of the fridge and is up to room temperature, otherwise the temperature of your milk will drop quickly and your yoghurt will take longer to get going.

500ml milk
3 tbsp live yoghurt (brought out of the fridge a couple of hours before so that is close to room temperature)

You also need a milk pan, a thermometer and an EasiYo yoghurt maker

Method
Pour the milk into a pan and place over a gentle heat. Place a thermometer in the milk and heat gently to 85°c. Take the milk off the heat and leave to cool to 47°c. Stir the yoghurt into the milk until well combined.

Put your kettle on to boil. Pour boiling water into the EasiYo container that sits inside the insulated container to sterilise. Tip this water into the insulated container to the level indicated on the side. Pour the milk and yoghurt mixture into the plastic container and seal the lid,  then sit it inside the insulated container and put the lid on. Leave to ferment for about 8 hours until the yoghurt has thickened. If you leave it for longer it will be thicker and stronger tasting. When it is how you like it just place the container in the fridge and it will be ready to eat once it has cooled.

I like my yoghurt thick like Greek yoghurt so after it has had eight hours fermentation I pour it into a sieve lined with muslin (or you could use a clean tea towel) and sit it over a bowl until it has drained to the consistency I prefer. It doesn’t take long to do this. Then I place my finished yoghurt in the fridge.

Remember to keep 3 tbsps back for your next batch of homemade yoghurt.

Disclaimer: I was sent an Easiyo yoghurt maker for review purposes. This review is based on my own experience and honest opinions and does not contain any text given to me by the PR agency that sent me the yoghurt maker. 

Homemade yoghurt

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Dotcomgiftshop review

Dotcomgiftshop very kindly sent me a voucher to buy myself a few early Christmas presents. They have lots of lovely things for the kitchen, home and kids and lots of unusual gift ideas. It was very hard to choose how to spend my voucher.  Being practically minded though I decided on buying a few of their gorgeous aprons. These will come in useful for the bread making courses that I run. It’s just a shame that they don’t sell some with a more masculine design. Lots of men come to my courses and lots of men enjoy cooking.

Here are the aprons I chose, hanging ready for the next bread course. The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot the matching flour shaker that I also chose. Again, something that will come in very useful at Veg Patch Kitchen.

aprons

I am really pleased with these aprons, they are excellent quality made from 100% cotton and feel like that they will wash and wash. The adjustable neck straps means that one size fits all and they have a very handy front pocket. I think my favourite is the Vintage Apple design, but the Mid-Century Poppy comes in a close second.

There really is a gift for everyone at Dotcomgiftshop. I was very tempted by their tableware, some of the plates are just gorgeous, particularly the Moorish Stoneware and the Japanese inspired range. Pop over and take a look and see if you can tick off a few items from that Christmas list.

Disclaimer: I received an incentive of vouchers to write this post, however, all the opinions and content are my own and honest. 

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Hotel Chocolat Easter treats

Easter is almost upon us and in this house that means an Easter Egg hunt on Easter Sunday. I  (cough) The Easter Bunny writes a load of clues and hides them round the garden, each clue having a little pile of eggs next to it. The girls love it, although the eldest might feel a bit old for it this year. However, the Easter Bunny stands for none of this “I am too old now” malarkey.

It was a great treat, then, when I received a gorgeously presented package in the post from Hotel Chocolat.

Hotel Chocolat gift bag

Especially when hiding inside were their Dozen Quail Egglets. These are very tempting bite sized (if you have a big mouth like me) chocolate eggs. Two each of Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, Raspberry Supermilk, Hazelnut Praline, Strawberries & Cream and Mousse au Chocolate.

I admit to having snaffled most of them all by myself, well, the girls will have enough chocolate eggs next Sunday. All of the chocolate eggs are as delicious as the next. My favourite though is probably the peanut butter flavoured. I am a sucker for anything that has peanut butter in it.

Hotel Chocolat has a fantastic range of Easter goodies available and they come in such lovely gift bags that whoever you buy for will feel very spoilt indeed.

NB: This post is a review of an item sent to me for free for review purposes by Hotel Chocolat. All opinions are my own and are honest.

 

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Dotcomgiftshop

Dotcomgiftshop recently listed twenty-five of their favourite baking blogs and I was thrilled to be included in the list. They also kindly sent me one of their recipe tins, which is very handy for keeping all of those cuttings in order, and a voucher to choose some lovely things off their website. They have a wide selection to choose from. I was most interested in their kitchen and baking related items but there really is something there for everyone in your family. So, if you still have that special person to buy for get yourself over to dotcomgiftshop for a look. Ordering is easy and delivery was quick.

These are the items that caught my eye.

Dotcomgiftshop items

I love those little milk bottles. If we manage to sort out something for friends over Christmas I plan to serve a cocktail or two in them. The sugar pourer is something I have been coveting for years. I always get a little over excited when I  find one on a café table. The butter dish appeals to my nostalgic side. We had one very similar when I was a child. The tea cosy will be much used and is very pretty. There are lots of matching items available in the same paisley pattern too.  I might have added a few extra items to my basket too but as they are destined to be under the tree on Christmas morning I thought it best to not show them on here.

Disclosure: I was sent a voucher to buy items for this review. All opinions are my own and are honest.

 

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Hotel Chocolat treats for Christmas

I have been holding off from using the word until at least November. I am the sort that starts to think about Christmas about mid November-ish. But I think about chocolate most of the time. Hotel Chocolat kindly sent me a selection of the gorgeous treats that they have available this Christmas. To be honest when I was asked which chocolate I would like to try I couldn’t make up my mind. My youngest had no such problem. Straight away she asked if we could try the marzipan and the mint selections. She is very different from me in many ways, as all children should be, but we have the exact same taste in chocolate. Here is what arrived in a beautifully presented gift bag.

Hotel Chocolat

The youngest dived straight in and she and I both agree that it would be hard to choose between the marzipan or the mint if we had to. The little solid Santas would also be lovely to find tucked under the tree come Christmas morning.

Hotel Chocolat

Which would you choose?

Disclosure: I was sent these items free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own and honest. 

 

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Honey and almond buns

It’s Real Bread Week this week and this is something close to my heart. The difference between real bread, made with those four ingredients of flour, yeast, salt and water and the bread that you get in the supermarket with all the added emulsifiers, fast proving and bland fluffiness are a world apart. I urge you to bake your own bread or if that doesn’t appeal (although please give it a go, just once, and I promise you will be hooked) then try to find a bakery that makes bread that meets the Real Bread Campaign’s standards.

Most of my days are consumed with the making of bread, the trialling of new recipes or the teaching of bread baking to others.  In celebration of Real Bread Week I thought I would make these beauties.

Honey and Almond Buns

These were inspired by a free sample of Manuka Honey I was sent to review by Manuka Doctor. Manuka honey is reputed to have many health benefits, with its antibacterial properties.  Now I cannot vouch for its ability to cure you of your ills, but I can tell you that it is very tasty. It has a creamy, smooth consistency and is really quite delicious, and not as strong tasting as some Manuka honey that I have tasted in the past. I ummed and erred about whether I should cook with it, as Manuka honey is expensive and is probably better spread on your toast or added to your peppermint tea (and most of my jar has been used for both of these purposes) than used so extravagantly as I do in this recipe. However, I was sent a jar to review and this is a cooking blog and would you really be interested in a picture of my honey spread on a bit of my toast? If you are making these buns at home then I recommend you use a very good local honey (and check the jar carefully to make sure it is local honey and not just packed locally) and save your Manuka for your toast and to sweeten your tea or smoothie.

This recipe is the enriched dough recipe I use in my baking classes, but with the sugar swapped for honey and it really does ring the changes, making a deliciously sticky and aromatically sweet bun.

Honey and Almond Buns

300g strong white flour
250g plain flour
10g salt
10g fresh yeast or 5g easy bake yeast
1 egg, beaten
150ml milk
150ml water
50g butter
50g honey

For the filling:
30g melted butter
50g flaked almonds
100g honey

For the glaze:
2 tbsp honey
Flaked almonds

Method
Place the flours, and salt in a large bowl, mix well. If you are using easy bake yeast then add this to the flours. If you are using fresh yeast crumble into a small bowl or cup. Heat the milk and the water over a gentle heat until just warm to the touch. Pour a little over the yeast and stir well to dissolve. Add all the liquid and yeast to the flours. You don’t have to wait for the yeast to bubble.  Melt the butter with the honey over a gentle heat and add to the flour with the egg.  Mix well together and then knead for about five to eight minutes until smooth and elastic. You can do this with the dough hook in a free standing mixer, with the mixer on speed 1 and for about three to five minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball, place into a bowl and cover with a large bag or lightly oiled clingfilm and leave to prove for about an hour to an hour and a half. With all of the egg, milk and butter in this dough it may take longer to rise. So use your judgement and when it looks like it has doubled in size it is ready for the next stage.

Lightly flour your work surface and turn the dough out. Roll the dough into an oblong measuring 20cm x 40cm. Brush all over with the melted butter. Warm the honey and brush all over. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Roll up from the long end like you would a swiss roll. Cut into nine equal pieces.

Lightly butter a square 20cm tin and place the buns in three by three (see above pic). Using your palm to flatten slightly so that when they have proved they will all be joined together in a batch. This will mean you have that lovely soft sides to your bun when you tear the nine buns apart once cooked (see pic below). Cover again with a large plastic bag or lightly oiled clingfilm and leave to prove for about thirty minutes, or longer if your kitchen is cold. They will have grown and merged together.

Preheat your oven to 200ºc, or use the roasting oven of the Aga with a grill rack set on the floor of the oven. Remove the bag or clingfilm and place in the oven and bake for about 25 -30 minutes until the buns are golden. Drizzle over another 2 tablespoons of honey whilst the buns are still warm and sprinkle over some more flaked almonds. Leave in the tin for ten minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

honey and almond bun

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Singing Hinny

I was kindly sent a Kitzini silicone baking mat to review and I have been giving it a thorough test over the last couple of weeks. I started with a jammy dodger recipe, but the recipe needs more tweaking before it’s ready to share with you. They spread too much and needed to be a bit more substantial to be jammy dodgers that I would be proud to tell you about.  I made some buckwheat and almond cookies that are really good and will be shared at some point in the near future.

Jammy dodgers about to go in the oven

Jammy dodgers about to go in the oven

Buckwheat and almond cookies

Buckwheat and almond cookies

I have been impressed with the Kitzini mat. It has even heat distribution and is easy to clean, much easier than a buttered tray. Any spills wipe off very easily. The mats are oven, microwave and freezer safe and can also be used as pastry mats. They are available  at Amazon and are currently on sale.

I also made a Singing Hinny which worked really well with the mat on the simmering plate of the Aga. I have made a Singing Hinny a few times directly on the simmering plate and it works fine, but using the Kitzini mat did mean that it didn’t need turning as often to prevent the bottom scorching.

Singing Hinny

Singing Hinny dough with the underside cooking on the Aga

The Singing Hinny gets its name from the singing noise it makes when it hits the heat of the griddle. I sadly, have yet to experience a hinny singing to me yet. Maybe, one day.

The Singing Hinny is delicious served warm, sliced into wedges, split and buttered. Jam is optional but good.

Singing Hinny

Singing Hinny cooking on the Aga

This is supposed to cut into 8 wedges but Mr OC and I can eat it all in one sitting.

225g self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
50g butter (lard is more traditional but I don’t often have it in the fridge)
50g caster sugar
75g raisins or currants depending on what you have in the cupboard
1 egg
6 tbsp milk

Method

I make mine in a food processor which makes it very quick and easy. Put the flour, salt and butter into the processor and whizz together briefly. Add the sugar and whizz again. Add the egg and milk and whizz, then add the dried fruit and whizz very briefly. It should now be easy to bring together into a ball using your hands.

If you don’t have a food processor, rub the butter into the flour using the tips of your fingers. When it resembles breadcrumbs stir in the sugar and salt. Add the dried fruit, egg and milk and work gently together with a spoon or your hand until it forms a ball.

Place onto a lightly floured work surface and flatten to a disc using your hand. You can cook it on the simmering plate of the Aga or in a heavy based pan over a low-medium heat. Turn after about 8-10 minutes when it should be well browned. Cook for another 8-10 minutes. Leave to cool for a minute or two on a wire rack and then cut into wedges, split horizontally and spread with butter.

I was sent two silicone mats by Kitzini for review purposes. I received no other payment and any opinions expressed are honest and my own. 

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