Monday, 29 April 2013

Jobs and other useful things

I know, I know, it has been very quiet for a very long time again here on this little blog and I can only apologise for my extended leave of absence. It has been a bit of a roller-coaster month here in our house and priorities have been reshuffled to make things work. So, to catch you up on the last 6 weeks, here are the highlights.

Firstly, as everyone in the UK will only be too happy to tell you, the weather has finally gotten warmer and Spring is finally here!! Trees have burst into blossom and bright green new leaves are popping out of seemingly dead branches everywhere. Happiness!!

Secondly and most significantly, I have started working again. After a long and painful job hunt, I was offered a very unexpected job that fitted our current situation perfectly and within days I went from being a stay-at-home mum to a full-time employee. It took some getting used to for all of us to adjust to this new arrangement and it was a big shock to my system to have to fit my normal life around a working life, but things are slowly starting to fall into it's own natural rhythm again. Luckily the job still offers me lots of day-time hours at home with Little T and P and we have been able to enjoy lots of sunny days in the garden and going for walks and bike rides in the National Forest and I have even had time for some of my beloved hobbies too.

In the few spare hours I could find over the weeks, I was able to finish off my "Sunset" shawl. Just in time for those chilly evenings when you need to wrap something around your shoulders when you sit in your garden to watch the sun go down.

Grabbing my crochet hooks and a bit of yarn still is one of my favourite ways to relax after a chaotic day of trying to keep customers, managers and toddlers happy. 

Of course, cooking and baking still ranks very high on my list of "great ways to spend an hour" and even though a lot of our meals and sweet treats are quick and easy these days, I made some time this weekend to bake something special. I wanted something chocolatey, P wanted something creamy and Little T wanted cake, and so the "Chocolate Eclaire Cake" was born. A lighter than air, whisked sponge base, filled with a sweet Chantilly cream and topped with sticky, glossy ganache, what more could you want!

This cake does take a bit of time to make and prepare, but it is more than worth the extra effort and just in case you find yourself with an afternoon to fill and want to try a taste of this amazing cake, here is the recipe :)

Chocolate Eclaire Cake 

For the cake:
3 large eggs (room temperature)
85g caster sugar
22ml luke-warm water
85g plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C and butter and line a 20cm round cake tin.
Place the eggs, sugar and water into a large bowl that fits snugly over and not in a saucepan of gently steaming water, (just like melting chocolate in a double boiler). Using an electric hand mixer, whisk the mixture until it has doubled in volume and is pale in colour and very fluffy. Carefully remove the bowl from the saucepan and keep on whisking until the mixture has cooled down slightly and thickened
Sift the flour and salt onto the egg mixture and gently but thoroughly fold it in using a large metal spoon, being careful to not knock out too much air but also not to leave any pockets of dry flour.
Gently pour the mixture into your cake tin, letting it find it's own level and place it in the middle of the preheated oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cake starts to pull away from the edges of the tin and sounds creaky when lightly pressed with a finger.
Leave the cake to stand for 10 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

 For the cream filling:
150ml double cream 
2 tablesp icing sugar 
1 teasp vanilla extract

Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. 
Using a serrated knife, split your cake into two through the middle to form a bottom and a top. Place the bottom half onto your cake plate and spread all of the cream filling evenly over the surface and place the top half back on.

For the ganache:
100g dark chocolate (70% minimum)     
100ml double cream
25g butter (room temperature)
50g icing sugar

Break the chocolate into small pieces and place it with the double cream into a heavy based saucepan. Over a gentle heat, stir the melting chocolate into the cream until its smooth and evenly mixed. Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring to melt and mix the butter into the ganache. Pour this mixture into a large mixing bowl, add the icing sugar and whisk until the it thickens (about 5 minutes). 
Slowly pour the ganache over your cake and decorate as you please.

This cake doesn't keep for much more than a couple of days, but that's not really a problem as we ate half of it after lunch and the other half after dinner. 

I do hope to be able to make more time to share my makings and baking on here with you again as I have missed my blog, as I always do when I have to neglect it for a little while. I shall be back as soon as I can, but for now I have to go feed a couple of hungry tummies and tend to my newest hobby... growing herbs :)