The South East has been very hot for the last 5 days. Trying to bake in this heat is difficult – cakes don’t rise as much, buttercream icing melts and I feel as if I’m working in a sauna. However, at least I’m not a dog or cat wearing a fur coat!
Since lockdown has eased, I have been baking again for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough and business has been good. After all, why not treat yourself when so many other pleasures have disappeared. I have also been baking cakes for other customers who want a whole cake for a birthday or other celebration.
I have also been making chutney and jam – today it is strawberry jam which I use in the Victoria sponge. This is perhaps not the best pastime for such a hot day but it keeps me out of the sun. The chutneys were for Southborough Butchers – if you are local to Southborough, pop in and buy a jar from them. Jams can be bought directly from me – contact me via message or email and I’ll let you know which are in stock.
Thankfully, it has been easier to buy the basic ingredients for all the foods I make, although supply is still a little erratic. Icing sugar seems to disappear off the shelves very quickly so I have to bulk buy but flour and eggs are there every week now. Who knows what will happen in the autumn but for now, I will carry on making what I can when I can, making the most of the fruit harvest.
I am planning to have three Open House sessions in the run up to Christmas when you can buy any of my preserves, cakes, biscuits and other Christmas gifts. These will be in my home, in Southborough, between 2pm and 8pm.
I will advertise the dates as soon as they are confirmed so please keep watching this blog, Facebook and Instagram. If you live in Southborough, there will also be a poster in the window.
If you would like to place an order for specific items, please contact me by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by Facebook messenger on the Too busy to make page, or by Instagram at @toobusytomake.
I can now take card payments or you can still pay by cash or bank transfer.
The price list on the blog has been updated (price rises for some ingredients do mean there are a few increases). I always use good quality ingredients including organic free range eggs, organic flour and unsalted British butter.
About once a week, I have a day off from baking. Today is such a day – I delivered two cakes to The Earl Grey this morning (Victoria sponge and gluten free Chocolate Fudge cake, for those that are interested) and their next order is for one on Thursday and three on Friday. I have loads to make for the Riverhill Himalayan Garden tomorrow for delivery on Thursday, so will have a long day in the kitchen.
Sometimes, my ‘day off’ is spent shopping for ingredients. I buy most from Sainsbury’s but also go to Waitrose (organic self raising flour, sugar) and Lidl (dark chocolate, limes, mascarpone and nuts). Going to three different shops does take time but I like the quality of the ingredients I use.
Sometimes, I make preserves instead. My latest is a new batch of lime marmalade which still needs labelling.
This afternoon, I am making a batch of Granola to see me through breakfast for the next month or so. Chopping the fruit takes a little time but it is worth it – toasted oats, seeds and bran with honey and groundnut oil, with dates, apricots, sultanas and toasted hazelnuts, which I have with yoghurt and fresh fruit.
Tonight I need to make 4 trays of Rocky Road so my cake tins are ready for baking tomorrow. This isn’t baking as it just requires melting, chopping and mixing followed by overnight in the fridge to set.
And then there is supper …. possibly Lebanese spinach and chickpeas, recipe courtesy of Riverford, followed by ironing (not my favourite job!).
So even on a day off from baking, there is plenty of cooking going on!
With fruit continuing to ripen earlier than the last few years, this week is becoming my ‘Processing Damsons’ week.
My other half loves Victoria plums and is very happy picking huge quantities of them but he prefers to eat them as they are. So, last Sunday, we went to our local pick your own fruit farm and picked a few pounds to keep him happy. Some were ripe, but most needed an extra week.
We also found a few Damson trees with lots of ripe fruit, so picked about 30 pounds!
This week, I am making loads of Damson chutney, Damson cheese and various other Damson recipes to use these small delicious plums. These should be available to buy in the run up to Christmas as well as at the Chiddingstone Castle Country Fair on Sunday 9 September, along with other preserves that I have been making.
I went fruit picking this week as I wanted to make more redcurrant jelly and blackcurrant jam. Even though we went early in the day, it was still very hot – the blackcurrants were significantly smaller but still have that lovely concentrated flavour.
Having picked the fruit, I then spent the following day making the jelly and jam – perhaps not the best job to be doing on such a hot day! However, I have 18 jars of Spiced Redcurrant Jelly and 22 jars of Blackcurrant Jam ready to be labelled and then they will be available to buy.
Other fruits seem to be ripening earlier than the last couple of years (I made redcurrant jelly in the middle of August the last two years) – I have seen blackberries in the hedgerows already looking ready to be picked – so I think my preserving pan will be getting lots of use in the coming weeks.
About a year ago, I started making cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough. To begin with, I made just Victoria sponges, then we added carrot cake, coffee and walnut and lemon drizzle cakes. Numbers have increased as their business goes from strength to strength and most weeks I am baking at least eight cakes plus some flapjacks or butterscotch brownies.
New favourites include lemon and blueberry, white chocolate and raspberry and a cherry Bakewell cake. I love trying out new recipes so it is always fun being set a new challenge by Roz and the team. Some recipes need tweaking so they produce a three layer cake, some are adapted after tasting to produce something that the customers will enjoy. Some have to be translated from American cups to metric but with my trusty balance scales, electronic scales, measuring spoons and calculator, anything can be done. I just have to remember to write everything down so I only have to calculate it once.
Since mid-March, I have also been making some cakes for the Riverhill Himalayan Garden. They mainly order gluten free chocolate fudge cakes, gluten free cocoa, courgette and pistachio cakes, Rocky Road and traybakes in a variety of flavours including white chocolate & raspberry, blueberry & Demerara, pear & hazelnut and plum & almond.
In addition, I occasionally make other cakes for special orders such as birthdays.
This increase in cake production has kept me busy but I am still trying to find time to keep up with preserve making, building up stocks of marmalade, chutney, jam and jelly to see me through to Christmas and making the most of seasonal produce like elderflowers, by making cordial. The delicious soft fruit season is starting so I will be making the most of as many different fruits as I can, including them in my baking as well as preserving them for the months and years ahead.
After a very busy end to 2017, I was left with just a few jars of chutney and jelly and no marmalade or jam for sale. So, in the early months of 2018, I have been restocking the larder.
So far, I have made my Apricot apple and hazelnut chutney and Lime marmalade and today’s job is to start a batch of apple jelly. These apples are being cooked up with some white wine vinegar and lemon zest. When the apples are soft, I will strain them overnight and then add sugar to make a savoury jelly to which I’ll be adding chillies. I will also be making another batch which will have mint added to it instead.
When ready, some of these will be delivered to my local butcher in Southborough, for them to sell. I will also keep a few to sell at Farmers’ Markets in the coming months. If you would like to buy any, please contact me via Facebook or email.
When you are getting ready to go on holiday, there are all the normal things to do such as washing, packing, tidying up, taking the animals to kennels, emptying the fridge, turning off lights …… and picking redcurrants!
Having had a busy week or two, I realised I had not had time to pick redcurrants and as the season is so short, by the time we get home, they would be finished. So, it had to be done. At least we will be able to have redcurrants jelly with our roast lamb over the next few months.
The beginning of the new year has been a good time to do a thorough stock take and to start making more chutney.
Thank you to everyone who bought food from me in the run up to Christmas. I lost count of the number of Panforte and biscuits I made! Thank you also for the lovely comments – it is pleasing to hear that you enjoy eating the foods I have made as much as I have enjoyed making them.
I have made three chutneys so far this year
Apricot, apple and hazelnut which has cardamom seeds, ginger and mixed spice giving a crunchy texture and spicy fruit flavour
Plum, pear and apple with chilli and pepper giving a hot flavour
Pear and apple which is a classic chutney flavoured with cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
All three chutneys are maturing and will soon be ready to purchase. Those of you who are local to Southborough can buy a selection of my chutneys and jellies from Southborough Butchers on London Road. They all go well with cold meats and cheeses and can also be used to enrich casseroles and gravies.