Rocky Road

Last Friday saw the UK raising money for Red Nose Day. At my work, we have one charity that we raise money for each year so nothing was organised to raise money for Red Nose Day. My dad, however, was involved in a number of events to raise money for this cause. First, he works in a call centre which was being used to take calls from members of the public wanting to make donations. Secondly, he was getting his head shaved to raise money. When he was younger, my dad used to have long hair and as he has gotten older he’s kept it short but has never dared to get rid of it completely. Why would he? He hasn’t started to lose any yet and it is still it’s natural colour (no grey appearing yet). Good on him for going through with it but now he’s worried it won’t grow back. Thirdly, charity bake sale. Cue him asking me (very nicely) if I’d do some baking for him. He re-requested some triple chocolate cookies that I baked for his team last month, which I did bake for him. But the week before, I found out that maltesers were promising to donate £5 for every photo that was posted on the Facebook page showing a Red Nose Day charity bake using maltesers. Now, that wasn’t a challenge I was going to ignore. So, it got me thinking about what I could make. Crush some maltesers and mix them into the cookie mix instead of chocolate chips? Nope, his team were looking forward to the original cookie recipe. Make some malteser cupcakes? Nope, last time I was involved in a cake sale, the cupcakes were still there until the end. Make a malteser cake? Nope, my dad would only worry about cutting it into pieces.

Rocky road….chocolate….biscuits….marshmallows….maltesers…winner!!!

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A bonus about rocky road is that it is simple to make and can be made in advance. No manic baking the day before trying to get everything ready for me to to take round to my dad. So, as mentioned above, my recipe only consists of four ingredients, yes, FOUR!! Everyone has an opinion on what should be in rocky road. Dried fruit, cherries, nuts, marshmallows, certain type of biscuit, certain type of chocolate, dusted with icing sugar….The list is endless. For me, I like to keep it simple. Adding too much can mean fewer people will buy it. With this recipe you can interchange the type of biscuit used (shortbread, shortcake, cookies, rich tea, digestives, oreo) or put in your favourite chocolate bar (crunchie, double decker, mars bar, milky way). But if you want to re-create my version, follow the below recipe.

  • 450g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 150g ginger biscuits, broken into 1cm chunks
  • 100g mini marshmallows
  • 80g maltesers

Line the base and sides of a 7×9 inch cake tin with baking parchment. Place the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of hot water. Bring the water to the boil, then take the pan off the heat and allow the chocolate to melt slowly. Once the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the pan and leave to cool slightly. If the chocolate is too hot the marshmallows will melt. Stir in the biscuits, mini marshmallows and maltesers and then press into the cake tin. Place in the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours or until set. Cut into 12 pieces.

I use basic own brand chocolate as I feel it is not as sickly as the brand and balances well with the sweetness of the rest of the ingredients.

I’ve made this before where I have used one third plain chocolate and two thirds milk chocolate which gives it a bit of bitterness.

I melted 50g white chocolate and drizzled over the top once it had set to add some contrast.

Mr W managed to sneak a piece before it went and loved it. I was worried the ginger biscuits might overpower but he felt they worked well. Feedback from my dad’s work has been good and some have wanted the recipe. Here you go 🙂

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Krakow – City Break

Last weekend saw me, my sister and my mum take our first trip abroad together, just the three of us. It’s crazy that in almost 30 years, we have only ever been to London together on a mother/daughter break. We wanted to go somewhere different and a few of mine and my sisters colleagues mentioned how good Poland, in particular Krakow was. With the help of dad, we managed to get a good deal on flights on a hotel. The hotel, Queen Boutique was in a good location, 15 minutes walk from the Old Town and 5 minutes walk from the Jewish Quarter. The train station was 20-25 minutes walk away and was how we got to the centre from the Airport. 9 zloty each and a straightforward journey and walk (if I can work out how to buy tickets and which stop to get off at, anyone can).

Beer Hall

Bierhalle – Pork Crackling and Lard, Sour Rye Bread Soup, Pierogi, Beef Stew with Potato Pancake

Groats

Gruzinskie Chaczapuri Restraunt – Georgian Dumplings, Breaded Pork Cutlet with Roast Potatoes, Goulash with Sauerkraut and Groats

Milk Bar

U Babci Maliny – Mixed Pierogi. Peramin Chill Out – Cocktails and Gin

We stayed there for four days (Saturday to Tuesday) and planned two days of activities before we got there. The difficulty was deciding which to do. If you’ve ever been away with me, you’ll know that I love food and when I’m abroad (especially somewhere for the first time) I like to try as much of the local cuisine as I possibly can. I probably ate more in these four days than I do normally in a week! A unique way of doing this is booking onto a food tour. I was able to find one with the help of Trip Adviser. Eat Polska offered a small group tour around Krakow sampling local cuisine. In four hours you would visit four different establishments and sample 12 different foods (plus a shot of vodka). We did this tour on the Monday and was worried that we would be repeating foods that we had already tried as we were having our meals in restaurants that did local cuisine (think goulash, beetroot soup, pierogi and sauerkraut). But we needn’t have worried. Our tour guide took us to places that we wouldn’t have considered (or I turned down as not authentic enough), very informative on the history of Polish cuisine and a true foodie. We were learning from each other on food trends, behaviours around food and I picked up some recipes. I surprised her with my knowledge on Polish cuisine (all learnt from my Polish Meat Free Feast). I strongly recommend booking a place on this tour (or look for food tours on your next city break). It’s not only about trying local cuisine but also about learning about the history and culture of the country. We visited one of the numerous food markets and the amount of seasonal fresh produce available was good. Made me envious of how much we take for granted having produce available all year round. We struggled with the cheeses and meats but still managed to eat all our cake 🙂 Our eyes may have been bigger than our bellies as we then stopped of at E.Wedels for a trio hot chocolate taster. You’ll be pleased to know that we were then in food comas for the rest of the day.

Food Tour

Eat Polska Food Tour (plus a Trio Chocolate Sampler)

Our tastings were:

  • Zapiekanka – Polish Street Food, pizza
  • Zalewajka – sour rye soup
  • Barszcz z pierogiem – red borscht / beetroot soup with dumplings
  • Obwarzanek – Polish pretzel
  • Sliwka wędzona – smoked prunes (yes…that is correct)
  • Śledź maties z kwaśną śmietaną, gryczano grzybowym poppingiem i dymką – matjes herring with sour cream, buckwheat popping and spring onion (a modern twist on traditional cuisine)
  • Stek Hanger na ziemniaczanym racuchu z boczkiem z sosem z boczniaków i pieczonego czosnku – Hanger steak on potato pancake with bacon and oyster mushrooms and baked garlic sauce (a modern twist on traditional cuisine)
  • Biała kasza gryczana smażona z warzywami, słonecznikiem i boczniakiem – Fried white buckwheat with vegetables, sunflower and oyster mushrooms
  • Puree ziemniaczane – Potatoe puree
  • Warzywa z czosnkowo – ziołowym masłem – Vegetables with herbs & garlic butter
  • Wódka Baczewski – shot of Baczewski vodka
  • Polish cheeses: – twaróg – quark, oscypek – smoked sheep’s milk cheese, koryciński – cow’s milk cheese, klagany – mild cow’s milk cheese, homiłki – cheese balls with mint
  • Coldcuts platter: schab – pork loin, salceson – brawn, boczek – pork belly, kiełbasa – sausage, pasztetowa – spreadable pate
  • Vodka chasers : smalec – lard, chrzan – horseradish, ogórki kiszone – sour pickles, sour dough bread
  • Kremówka – cream cake

Our second booked activity was a visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Although my mum was a bit reluctant to go on this tour, we felt we needed to as it is part of our history. Although very emotional, the tour and attraction have been done in a respectful manner. It is something that you would need to do if visiting Poland. It does take a day to visit and I would suggest that you only do the one trip in the day. Some tours offer both this and a visit to the salt mines but personally, I think that it is too much for one day. However, I would like to go back and visit Krakow again to go to the Salt Mines and visit some of the other attractions that we were unable to do. We managed to walk around the Castle and visit the Underground Museum. 

Sights

Before getting to Krakow, I had a mental list of the different foods that I wanted to try and I managed to sample them all. On our first day we had lunch in a beer hall where I got to try sour rye bread soup with white sausage. In the evening I tried Georgian beef stew with groats and sauerkraut. I learnt from the food tour that groats is buckwheat and is a well used grain in Poland. The following evening we visited a milk bar which was different. The menu consists of cheap, traditional foods. The room is set up with long benches and stools and is more of a self service. Orders are placed at the till and you then wait for your number to be called. I tried to re-create my homemade Polish feast and tried the beetroot soup and the peirogi three ways. Another thing I learnt from the food tour was that the beetroot borscht I’d made is known as Hungarian borscht in Poland (explains why the beetroot soup was more of a broth in the milk bar). Our final meal in Poland was in the Jewish District where we enjoyed a set menu. I finally got round to trying the last item on my mental food list, bigos stew!

Momo

Momo Cafe – Pumpkin Soup, Bigos (Hunters Stew), Mama’s Tea.

Soft Baked Pretzels

One of my New Year  ‘resolutions’ was to bake more bread/dough based recipes. I’ve mentioned in my blog a couple of times that it is one of the baking areas that I feel less confident in. The main reason for this being unsuccessful proving in the past. So this year, I aim to bake a new bread/dough based recipe once a month.

January saw me making my first rye bread. Over the last few months, rye bread has become one of my favourite bread options. Especially toasted for breakfast with smashed avocado or almond butter and banana. I particularly like the dense texture which is one reason why Mr W doesn’t like it. For this bake I followed the suggested recipe on the back of the dark rye flour pack. It was an easy recipe to follow (although the addition of a beaten egg threw me a little) and the end result was a decent, although basic, rye loaf. This recipe was more like the rye breads that you can buy from the bakery section in your local supermarket as opposed to a traditional rye bread. Although it did have the addition of caraway seeds which gave it a slightly aniseed taste which took a while to get used to when eating for breakfast. I’m going to attempt this bake again and follow a recipe Paul Hollywood recipe. His ‘How To Bake’ book has a number of different ones.

February found me wonder what to bake. I didn’t want to bake another bread as I wanted a new challenge. Also, I want to attempt sour dough but I am waiting until summer so I have warmer temperatures to get a starter growing. Mr W didn’t like my suggestion of attempting doughnuts again so I asked my sister for suggestions. I should have guessed what she would want me to bake. Her favourite bakery snack that she had to have every day whilst we were in Germany. Pretzel. A soft baked pretzel. I tried to put her off them by telling them that they were dipped in caustic acid before being baked (honest fact there, it gives them the crunchy outer texture. I was able to find a fairly easy recipe online that got the nod from sis.

They were surprisingly easy to make. They used active yeast which isn’t a yeast I’ve used before. As the name suggests, it needs to be activated in water before use. I’m used to fast action yeast. Unsurprisingly, the hardest part was shaping the pretzels put for a first attempt, they weren’t too bad. Ideally, they need to be eaten straight away as after two days, they’d past their best (but sis still ate them). Although not as good as shop bought, they were a decent attempt. The texture was softer but it had the flavour. They did seem a little greasy which is down to the lashings of melted butter that was used to coat them. I followed the recipe from this blog. If you want to try making them, head over. Do follow the recipe exactly. Although I thought there was too much melted butter it’s better to use your own judgement. See if you can master the classic pretzel shape. You think you’ve managed it but by the time it comes out of the soda bath, its a soggy mess lol.

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