Monday, 25 August 2014

Benthall Hall National Trust a Day Out in Shropshire

Not far from where I live is the National Trust property Benthall Hall, near Broseley, Shropshire.  A property I confess to having never visited before, an impromptu visit by my sister and I for tea and cake was called for. I am quite sure I checked the time they opened before we left but still managed to arrive twenty minutes before they opened!  

Benthall Hall Rose Garden
Benthall Hall is situated above the gorge of the River Severn, not far from Ironbridge. It is a stonehouse built in 1535 and part of the house is occupied by the Benthall family today.

It was a cooler and rather cloudy day and we did have to dodge a shower or two. We explored the garden first, there is a walled kitchen garden, though my favourite area was the Rose Garden with topiary trees and shrubs. A great location to sit and enjoy the flowers and history of this property. Next to the walled garden was the Elizabethan skittle alley, something for both children and adults to enjoy.

Beautiful raindrops on roses, sadly no whiskers on kittens
Benthall Hall's Magical Front Door
Entrance into the house was through this delightful front door, I felt as though I was about to step into a fairytale. There were some rather nice pieces of china in the house and you get a sneak peak at the wonderful floor tiles hidden and protected by the wooden flooring.

Benthall Hall National Trust in Shropshire
The tearoom is situated inside the house on the ground floor,  the call of tea and cake was too great and we decided to break up the tour of the house with a tearoom pit stop. The tearoom it self was in a plain room in the house, the service was polite and efficient with tea served in vintage china. I think I am rather spoilt by the tearoom at Sunnycroft which truly has to be one of the National Trust's most beautiful tearooms.
Carrot Cake and a cup of tea
There are two walks around the Benthall Estate to enjoy, the Woodland Walk and the Parkland Walk possibly not for a rainy day though. The standout area of the property was the Rose garden, a very picturesque setting  and definitely the jewel of this National Trust property.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Fabric Pin Board Tutorial

This Fabric Pin Board tutorial really is very easy to follow. It took me longer to choose the fabric than it did to make the fabric pin board. I was quite pleased to have found a bargain of a cork pin board just £1.99 from B&M Bargins, although I did splash out on the fabric £12.99 a metre. 
Fabric Pin Board Tutorial

Here is what you will need to make a fabric pin board?

  • Cork pin board 60cm x 40cm
  • Fabric 68cm x 48cm 
  • Wadding 68cm x 48cm
  • Ribbon 4 metres
  • Map pins (optional)
  • Staple gun and staples
  • Hooks for hanging

Things you need to make a Fabric Pin Board

Consider which way you plan to hang your pin board, portrait or landscape and make sure you cut out your fabric so the pattern is in the right direction.

Step 1   Measure and cut out the fabric, I used pinking scissors to help prevent fraying. Iron the fabric.

Step 2   Measure and cut out the wadding.

Pin board - wadding - fabric

Step 3   Place your fabric on the table so you are looking at the wrong side, place the wadding on top of this. Place your pin board cork side down. I then used one pin on each edge to lightly secure the fabric to the back of the pin board, turn over and make sure you are happy with how it looks. 

Step 4   Turn back over and using a staple gun staple through the fabric and wadding onto the wooden frame.  Fold the corners so that you do not have a lot of bulk showing. 

Take care of the corners
Step 5   If needed trim any excess fabric showing at the back, I know some of you will have allowed for extra, just in case.
Make your own Fabric Pin Board
Step 6   Add ribbon making sure there is some tension to it. Stapling to the back as with the fabric.  There is no wrong or right way to do this just depends how much room you need to secure notes/photos or items to your pin board. Push through a map pin where the ribbons cross.

Step 7   Fixing to the wall. My cork board came with wall fixings, which I screwed through the fabric into the top of surrounding wood using my hands. 

Fabric Pin Board with Ribbon
I hope you find this tutorial useful, if you do make a pin board yourself please leave me a comment with a link to it, I would love to see it. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Recipe Mini Eclairs with Violet Essence Icing

I have discover choux pastry with this easy bake Mini Eclairs with violet essence icing. I was inspired  by the Rose Eclairs I had at my Fortnum and Mason Afternoon Tea, this was my first time at making choux pastry, which I have to say is one of the easiest pastries to make - or is that just beginners luck.

Recipe for Eclairs with Violet Essence Icing
This recipe creates a light fragrant petite cream cake, that taste of Summer. The Mini Violet Eclairs recipe was the perfect edition for the recent Afternoon Tea held in the garden last month. 

Recipe - Mini Eclairs with Violet Essence Icing

  • saucepan
  • wooden spoon 
  • scales  
  • baking tray
  • baking parchment 
  • piping bag
  • elair nozzle (optional)
  • whisk
  • bowl
  • sieve

makes 12

33g plain flour
75ml water
pinch of salt
25g butter
1 beaten egg

icing sugar
violet essence
purple food colouring (optional)
1 small carton of double cream

  • Heat oven to 200 degrees c.
  • put the water and butter into a saucepan, heat slowly until it melts
  • bring to a brisk boil
  • Remove saucepan from heat, add flour and stir quickly. The mixture will form into a soft dough, leaving the saucepan sides clean.
  • Allow to cool slightly, then gradually add the egg and beat hard until you have a smooth and shiny mixture.
  • Place the mixture into a piping bag, use a wide round nozzle or just snip the end off a piping bag. 
Piped Choux Pastry for Eclairs
  • Pipe onto the lined baking tray. For the mini eclair pipe the mixture to a length of 8 cms. If you do not have a piping bag then use spoons dipped in water and place blobs of the mixture you will end up with choux pastry like those used in profiteroles.
  • If your piping is not very even or one of the ends is sticking up, dip a fork in water and slightly even the piped mixture. But do not squish it!
  • Bake in oven for 10 minutes on 200 degrees c. Bake for a further 12 minutes on 180 degrees C.
  • Turn off oven and remove pastry from oven, make a small slit at the end of each eclair, then place back in oven to dry out for 5 minutes.
  • Then leave to cool on a wire rack.
Mini Eclairs Recipe

Filling with cream

Fill the choux pastry fingers with double cream, whipped to a thick but soft consistency, so that you can still pipe it. You can either pipe the cream into the choux finger using a special eclair nozzle. Or you can cut the choux finger in half sideways and then add the cream.

To make the violet icing

125g icing sugar sifted
25ml water approx
1-2 drops violet essence
purple food colouring
  • You want to aim for a thick but spreadable consistency.
  • gradually add the water to the icing sugar, mixing gently at first then whisk well to remove any lumps. 
  • Add the drop of essence, taste the icing to see if you need a drop more. 
  • Add a tiny amount of the food colouring, you want to a achieve a light lilac colour.
  • You should have a thick but spreadable consistency.
  • Either spread the icing with a palette knife or dip the eclair into the icing to cover the top. 
  • Leave to set on a wire rack.
Mini Eclairs Recipe with Fragrant Violet  Icing
I am entering my Mini Violet Eclairs into Recipe of The Week hosted by A Mummy too. Also into CookBlogShare hosted at Super Golden Bakes. Finally also joining in with this weeks Bake of the Week specially hosted by Hay in a Day
Link up your recipe of the week   Casa Costello

Other recipes you may like to try:-
Chocolate Chip Shortbread
Vanilla Macaroons

Friday, 15 August 2014

How to Store Apples

If you have apples ready for harvesting, you will probably have plans for eating or baking with them. Quite often though you can be left with an excess of fruits. For those fruits that are in good condition, no bruises and blemish free you can store the apples over Winter. 
Storing apples over winter
How to store apples
Picking apples - you will know if an apple is ripe as it should come away from the tree with a small twist.

Storing apples - you must have a perfect apple for it to store well. No marks, bruises or blemishes so pick them carefully and inspect them well.

You do not need a fancy wooden apple store, I will show you how to store apples using old newspaper and reusing old office trays.

  1. Select suitable apples to store - no blemishes, bruises or marks.
  2. Wipe the apple with a clean rag
  3. Cut or tear your newspaper into squares, the size will depend on how big your apples are.
  4. Place the apple upside down, in the centre of the newspaper, taking each corner of the newspaper to the top of the apple, these can overlap.
  5. Place the wrapped apple right side up on an old office organiser tray.
  6. Store in a cool dark place, I store mine in the garage.
  7. Check the apples every 3 to 4 weeks, remove any apples that are starting to rot so they do not affect any of the surrounding apples. Usually you can smell a sweet fruit smell if there is an apple that is starting to turn bad.
I have used this method for storing apples for the last 6 years successfully. Here is hoping for a bumper harvest of apples this year.

How to store apples using old desk trays and newspaper
Storing apples

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Afternoon Tea in the Garden

An afternoon tea in the garden, how very English of me. A belated Christmas gift for my brothers girlfriend, a wonderful setting with perfect weather and the garden looking rather good too. The afternoon tea menu featured a new bake for me of choux pastry to make the Violet Eclairs - which incidentally were divine.

Afternoon Tea Cakes
11-17 August is afternoon tea week, so why not join in. I really enjoy baking and putting everything together to host an afternoon tea. But I am aware not everyone has the time or feels happy baking, you can still host your own afternoon tea by buying your cakes and bakes - create your own afternoon tea menu.

Afternoon Tea  - cucumber sandwiches
Afternoon Tea Menu

Beef finger sandwiches 
Cucumber finger sandwiches
Cheese Scones


Violet Eclairs
Sultana scones
Rhubarb and Gooseberry Fairy Cakes
Earl Grey Teabread


Twinnings English Breakfast tea

There were a few cheats with my garden afternoon tea, I am not sure if you have spotted them. I did not have any loose tea so used tea bags! Also on this occasion I did not want to waste the crusts so kept them on the sandwiches.

Afternoon Tea Cakes