Tag Archives: Review

VonShef Stand Mixer – A review

VonShef Mixer

Photo courtesy of Domu

Domu sent me a stand mixer to put through its paces. The VonShef stand mixer has a 1260w motor and comes with a dough hook, whisk and paddle.  It has a similar styling to the KitchenAid with its curved body and stainless steel bowl.

I was interested to see how it would perform against my KitchenAid. I use my KitchenAid mixer daily, mixing bread doughs for the family, making cakes and occasionally I use it for students at my bread courses who want to learn how to mix their doughs in their stand mixers.

The Vonshef is a fraction of the price of the KitchenAid, but then it doesn’t have the sturdy workmanship that you expect of a stand mixer in the KitchenAid price range. The VonShef is made of plastic and so does not have the heavy, sturdy feel of the KitchenAid, but the benefit of this is its portability – the VonShef can easily be lifted in and out of cupboard if you don’t have the workspace to store your stand mixer on the worktop. The VonShef’s plastic is slightly more lightweight than the cheaper Kenwood Mixers on the market, but the VonShef is also cheaper than the cheapest Kenwood.

I have been thoroughly testing the VonShef over the past couple of weeks. It has made cakes and mixed the enriched doughs and pizza dough ahead of a bread class. I have been impressed with its performance.

It managed to mix five doughs consecutively (1 white pizza dough and 4 enriched doughs), using the mix and rest method, without any difficulty. The mix and rest method replicates the stretch and fold in the bowl by hand method that I use during the bread classes.  Both take advantage of allowing the gluten proteins time to develop (as soon as you add liquid to flour the two proteins that make up gluten, (glutenin and gliadin), start to form chains) and then giving them a helping hand by mixing (machine) or folding (hand), allowing to rest and then another mix or fold.  Both methods prove equally effective to a long knead by hand or running the mixer for 5-10 minutes.   The instructions for the VonShef mixer advises that you don’t run the mixer for longer than 5 minutes to avoid overheating the motor and the mix and rest method avoids this. Although, I think a five-minute knead at speed 2 is more than sufficient to develop the gluten of most doughs.

The VonShef has a few features that really stand out.  The splash guard fits well and makes adding ingredients mid-mix easy.  The pulse action is very quick and is great when you have added eggs to a cake mixture. They are mixed evenly and efficiently.  When I was making the cake, I found that I had to scrape down the bowl after each addition of a new ingredient, but I have to scrape down my KitchenAid too. The mixer worked perfectly well at mixing a light airy sponge.

It wasn’t just any cake either, but my eldest’s thirteenth birthday cake. A very important cake indeed.

Unicorn cake

So how do I rate the VonShef stand mixer? Well, it is noisier than my KitchenAid and nowhere near as sturdy or, let’s admit it, as beautiful, but for a mixer in the price range that it is in it is a great piece of equipment that makes great cakes and works perfectly well for mixing bread doughs. If you are looking for a budget mixer rather than a once-in-a-lifetime purchase then I can recommend the VonShef.

Disclaimer: I was sent a VonShef mixer free for the purposes of this review.  The opinions expressed are my own and honest after thoroughly testing the mixer. 

 

 

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

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. 

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.

 

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.

 

Make it Easy Cookbook

Make it easy cookbook

I was kindly sent a copy of Jane Lovett’s Make it Easy Cookbook to review. The introduction to Jane’s book leaves you in no doubt that this is a woman that you can trust to deliver recipes that will work for you. Having been classically trained at Cordon Bleu she has worked at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, run her own catering company and has tested and developed recipes for cookery books, magazines and TV. She runs regular cookery demonstrations from what looks like a beautiful home and garden in Northumberland.

The book is designed to help you plan ahead with your cooking, and will give confidence to any unconfident cook. It is brimming with top tips, hints and do’s and don’ts to help you cook a dinner party from scratch without fuss and ending up frazzled. Every one of the recipes has a tip on how to get ahead, perhaps by preparing it a day ahead,  and most recipes have a hint or tip which helps guide the novice cook, or the more experienced, towards success.

Jane Lovett Cookbook

The recipes that struck me as must-makes included her stuffed marrow recipe, a great way to use up that glut for the veg grower. Her recipe for slow cooked Chinese duck legs sounds delicious and easy and can be made two days in advance and happily sit in the fridge developing a richer flavour.

For dessert I would be hard pushed to choose between the stem ginger ice cream or the ginger creams with pistachio brittle. I have a thing for ginger.

Jane’s book is full of wise advice and would make a great Christmas gift for the keen cook in your household and would prove endlessly useful for those times when you need to plan a meal ahead.

Jane Lovett’s Make it Easy Cookbook is published by IMM Lifestyle books and is available at all good high street and online retailers priced at £12.99.

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary copy of the book for the purposes of this review. All of the opinions are my own and are honest. 

 

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.