Sunday, 28 May 2017

Tarn Crag: finding the path

First walk of the week staying at Pye Howe, right next to the path we had failed to find previously. Given the footpath was marked from the road, we took this opportunity to start from the house and to discover where the footpath went.  We were without Isabelle, since her DoE practice expedition was scheduled for this week, her help with Poppy up and down will be sorely be missed.

Difficulty: 6
Walkers: Tim, Caroline, Grace (12), Evie (9), Poppy (6 1/2)
9:44, 0.0km 0h00 0m, Start (97)
11:16, 3.0km 1h32 348m, Silver How (395)
14:46, 9.2km 5h02 803m, Tarn Crag (Easedale) (550)
16:14, 12.5km 6h30 947m, Blea Rigg (541)
17:45, 15.5km 8h01 986m, End (98)

Out of the house, and almost straight up the hillside.  With little difficulty we found the stile over the wall that we had missed 2 years before.  It was pretty hot work climbing up, despite the partial cloud cover and the occasional wind.  After getting to the ridge, we walked along to get to Silver How.  Here we were able to see lots of walks we'd done in years before.

Now the sun had come out more, so out came the sunscreen.  Evie decided to focus protecting her best bits.

We walked back along the ridge, starting climb up to Blea Rigg, but turning off to the left before reaching it, to walk down to Easedale Tarn for lunch.

It was the start of the bank holiday weekend and there were quite a few people, but still room to find our own rocks to sit on.  Most of the walk was fairly empty of people, as we'd deliberately picked less travelled paths.

After lunch we climbed up to Tarn Crag.  This was the hottest part of the walk - full sunlight, very little wind, and relentless climb up for a couple of hundred meters.  Evie especially was quite hard to motivate, we had to time the sugar rushes causes by the sweets we'd brought for best effect.  Still, we made it to the top of Tarn Crag.

We went back via Codale Tarn, a little less descent before climbing back up to Blea Rigg, but also a slight circular walk.  After passing the tarn, we then climbed back up to the ridge on the other side.

Back up to Blea Rigg, after missing it on the way out. 

We returned, not quite the same route back down, but close enough to find the stile back over the wall, I think give it another couple of goes and we'll find it with no problems!  This was the view looking up the Langdale valley, with the Crinkle Crags just visible at the end.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Lesson 15: Sugary Breton Puff Pastries / Kouign Amann

The next lesson to try looked appealing - very simple ingredient list, and interesting instructions about rolling out a whole pack of butter...  The fresh yeast was got from Arjuna Wholefoods on Mill Road.

First step was the dough, made in the kitchenaid, it took almost exactly 3 minutes to combine.  I chopped up the yeast after adding it to the flour before mixing, since it was in quite large lumps.

After the initial rolling out.  I had the target distance marked roughly, but probably should have rolled out a little larger.  I'm not sure what the comment at the end about 'sugar melting in the refrigerator' means, since at that point you've not added any sugar...  When rolling out and combining with the sugar it was definitely melting though - towards the end the dough was quite sticky and wet.  I didn't weigh out the sugar, I just kept on adding more at each stage with generous covering.

I didn't have enough proper rings, so improvised a little, which was fine.  I did then only target making 11, and even then they were a little under 10x10.  This made the folding in not work on some of them - better to a little over 10x10 for this size of ring.

It took me a little time to realise that the photo in the book is of the underneath of one, even so I think mine were a little full - a few of the larger ones really came out of the ring too far.  So I think aiming for a little above 10x10 and aiming to make 12 or 13 would mean rolling out thinner and then not overfilling each one.  The greaseproof paper was very useful - the sugar spread between the rings when cooking and solidified - great to eat, although not very good for the teeth...

They really looked quite authentic though...  A little hard to take out of the rings, but with care they came out without breaking up.  They tasted absolutely wonderful - the kids weren't that impressed, but that just meant leftovers for us!  I took a few into work and people agreed that they were great.

Next time

  • Roll out thinner, cut slightly larger than 10x10 and aim for making 12 or more
  • Unsure whether there is anything you can do about the sugar melting/dissolving when you combine with the dough - is it just as the dough is slightly wet?  Or is it related to temperature as hinted at in the book?
  • Consider cutting in half before serving...

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Lesson 12: Pâte à Choux / Tarte Chouquettes

Some careful planning to be able to cook this on a very busy Saturday.  Made the cinnamon pastry and the pastry cream the night before, the choux pastry in the morning then the rest in the afternoon.

First off the pastry cream.  First time making this, and the result was pretty good.  The vanilla seeds were quite visible in the result, but it tasted good.

First attempt at the choux pastry failed - the mixture wasn't hot enough.  The butter had melted, but it hadn't started to simmer, and it never got thicker.  For the second go I read around on other websites about making choux pastry.  I made sure the mixture was properly simmering, and had the flour sifted onto a folded sheet of greaseproof paper.  With one had holding the hand electric whisk I was able to turn the heat off, then start whisking and added the flour in one go right away.  It thickened up straight away so needed very little whisking.

I used a piping bag and a tip that was advertised as 'size 8'  but had an opening of 12mm in diameter.  It just about made 32, and some of the puffs ended up too big.  I also made a big mess spooning the mixture into the bag, for the pastry cream and whipped cream I put the bag in a pint glass which worked a lot better.  Still, they looked about right at this point...

After cooking - miraculously they all rose and looked amazing!  Some were a bit big, and they perhaps could have had more egg glaze on.  I cut holes in the bottoms with a knife, then cooked them upside down for another couple of minutes, then stored in a box for the day.  They were still fairly crisp later in the day, but the next day they definitely would have needed heating up again.

Now to make the bases.  I was using a 10cm diameter cutter, with rings that were 8cm internal diameter, the sizing worked really well.  I was left with very little wasted pastry, and some of the bases were too thick, so aim to waste a bit more...

All in the rings, they were advertised as crumpet rings on amazon, but they were the right diameter.  Not sure whether they should have been taller, but there was enough depth after cooking.

The sides had shrunk down during cooking, and the bases had risen up - I'd given another fork hole when cooking.  In the end it didn't matter too much that they were a bit curved up.

And finally the finished plates. Given the puffs were a bit big, the larger ones ended up being not much smaller than the bases, so one half I put a single puff ball on the base with cream around the sides.  The other bases had two puffs on.  All in all, I only had enough pastry cream to squirt some into 20 puff balls after filling the bases.  Even though the balls were big I was only putting a bit into each one, but clearly even this was too much given it should have stretched to 32, or I could have over-filled the bases.

They all disappeared, although some of the bases were left uneaten.

Things for next time

  • Heat up the water/butter to simmering before adding the flour
  • Don't make the pastry too thick in the bases
  • Better holes in the bottom of each pastry base before cooking
  • Fill piping bags inside a pint glass
  • Make sure the balls are really quite small when piped onto the baking tray
  • Don't over-whip the whipping cream
  • Only need to melt about half the chocolate.  Using the back of a desert spoon worked well for drizzling the chocolate.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Map of all Lake District Walks

This shows all the walks we've done, each circle is the starting location. The colours inside the circle show the length of the walk: red is longest, down to green as the shortest. Hover the mouse over a circle to see the details of that walk below the map. Blue routes have a blog entry for that walk - click on that circle to go straight there.