Pumpkin rolls

pumpkin rolls inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread

Delicious at any time of the year, but particularly fitting to make for Halloween, these pumpkin rolls don’t just look the part, they taste it too as they’re made from a roasted pumpkin (or squash) dough.

I’ve written out the instructions (with some images) how to make these rolls into pumpkin shapes, but they can also be made into ‘normal’, round dinner rolls too. The dough is also marvellous when baked into a full sized loaf (top with toasted pumpkin seeds for extra oomph).

Notes

It’s a bit tricky to cut up just the right amount of pumpkin/squash for this recipe, so I suggest using a whole, small pumpkin or butternut squash. Once roasted it’s easier to weigh out the correct amount and any that is surplus to the recipe can be used up elsewhere (freeze for later, turn into soup, add to a pasta dish, mix into mash potato for example).

You can skip the shaping instructions and just make round rolls if you prefer.

Do make sure you get rid of all the string before serving!

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Scraper
  • Linen tea towel
  • Two large baking trays
  • Roasting tray
  • Sharp, large chef’s knife and potato peeler
  • Sieve (not fine gauge) and large spoon
  • Smaller bowl
  • Butchers/bakers string and scissors
  • Saucepan or microwavable bowl/jug (for warming the milk)
pumpkins - inksugarspice

Ingredients

  • 1 small pumpkin or squash (you will only need 120g once roasted, see notes above)
  • Strong white flour – 475g
  • Fresh yeast – 15g (or replace with fast action dried yeast – 7g)
  • Milk – 200g
  • Fine salt – 1 teaspoon (plus extra for the pumpkin)
  • Black pepper – several turns
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of a good quality olive oil, I used Filippo Beri organic extra virgin olive oil (plus about another 3 tablespoons to drizzle on the pumpkin for roasting and to oil the bowl)

Method

  • Warm your oven to 180C fan / 200 conventional / 400F
  • Halve the pumpkin or squash and scoop out the seeds
  • Take the skin off the pumpkin and cut into large chunks (about 3-4cm)
  • Spread the pumpkin pieces out into your roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil, about three tablespoons’ worth and then sprinkle with some salt
  • Bake for about 25 minutes. The pumpkin pieces should be soft when pressed with a fork or spoon. If they are not ready, leave in for another 10 minute
  • When ready, leave the pumpkin pieces to cool a little until you can handle them
  • While the pumpkin is cooling, gently warm the milk in a microwave or a saucepan a little and stir in the yeast. Leave this to one side while you prep the pumpkin flesh
  • When the pumpkin flesh has cooled enough to handle (but is still warm), press the pumpkin through the sieve into the smaller bowl. It’s easiest to press it through wi th the back of a large spoon. This will remove any little crispy edges that you wouldn’t want in your bread and break down the fibres so that it incorporates into the dough more thoroughly
  • Make your dough, by combining the flour, salt, pepper, mashed pumpkin, olive oil and the milk/yeast mixture in your large bowl
  • Once combined roughly, tip out onto a clean surface and begin kneading. This dough comes together quickly because of the pumpkin flesh, so knead it for about 7-8 minutes until it starts to become smooth and glossy. Only use additional flour if you feel it’s absolutely necessary
  • Once kneaded, oil the bowl and shape the dough into a ball. Place it into the oiled bowl seam side down and cover with a clean linen tea towel or similar
  • Leave to prove for about 45 minutes until risen
  • Divide your dough in to eight equal pieces
  • Cut up eight pieces of the butcher’s string – each about a metre long
  • Taking one of the pieces of dough, shape into a ball
  • [See the images below for the following steps) Take the string and its centre point over the middle of the ball of dough, flip the dough over and make a loop round the dough and finish with a little twist of the string – your ball of dough should have a loop over it. Make sure you come back to the middle of the ball of dough and ensure the string is not tight or cutting into the dough
  • Twist the string and repeat another loop at 90 degrees to the first, so the ball of dough looks like a parcel
  • Repeat twice more, keeping the string between the first two loops – so that the ball of dough is eventually sectioned into eight wedge shapes. Tie off loosely and trim off the ends of the string
How to tie up the pumpkin rolls with string so they get that quintessential pumpkin shape when baked - inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread
  • Place the dough ball on a floured baking tray
  • Repeat with the remaining seven balls of dough
  • Cover the dough and leave to rise for about 30 minutes, until the dough has started to rise through the string and created a pumpkin shape
  • While the dough is on its last proof, turn your oven on to 220C fan / 240F conventional / 475F
  • When the rolls are ready, place them in the oven and immediately turn it down to 200C fan / 220C conventional / 400F
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes until risen and getting brown
  • Leave to cool and when cold, snip off the string from the underside of the roll and pull through the threads to ensure there is no string left before serving
pumpkin rolls inksugarspice #pumpkin #bread

Using a flower press 🌸

Making a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice blog

Pressing plants, leaves, herbs and flowers is an ancient tradition across almost every culture to preserve their beauty for keepsakes, crafts and gifts.

There are two most often used methods of pressing to preserve plants: between the pages of an old heavy book (I once bought a second hand copy of Alice in Wonderland and found a pansy in the leaves – which was very sweet), but the most convenient and useful is a proper flower press.

You can actually also iron plants (carefully!) although I only employ this technique for a quick ‘set’ to start off with rather than for full drying myself. There are also some ways use a microwave (I’ve no intention to try this, so I can’t comment on whether it is effective). I like that flower pressing takes thought, time and patience. The rush of doing it in minutes detracts from its inherent gentle nature and seems an anathema to me. However, if you needed dried flowers as part of a business, such as hand making paper, I understand the speedy results appeal.

I’ve given you some ideas here on how to get the most out of a traditional style flower press, but most of these suggestions are relevant to using the weighted book method too.

This article includes helpful hints and tips on:

  • Blotting material choices
  • Preparing the plants
  • Placing plants in the press
  • When is it ready?
  • Ideas for using pressed plants and flowers (craft and project suggestions)

To make your own proper flower press very easily and cheaply, please see my post on Making a flower and herb press

Dried flowers - Making a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice blog
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Blotting material choices

You’ll need to press your flowers and plants between two sheets of a type of paper to help wick away any moisture and dry them out. There are a number of options, some of which need to be chosen carefully dependent on which plants you are pressing:

  • Blotting paper – this is ideal and not as hard to get hold as you’d think online or in stationery stores. The advantage of proper blotting paper is that it usually comes in larger sheets so you can cut the perfect size out for your press. It’s also quite thick and can normally be used multiple times before it needs replacement. I’ve also successfully dried used blotting paper out in the sun and continued to extend its useful life
  • Kitchen tissue paper – while this does the job of drying plants out well and has the advantage of being cheap and easy to obtain, it normally comes with an imprinted pattern on. This is fine for more robust leaves or waxy petals, but will leave the pattern on delicate plants. Also go for a plain white kitchen tissue if you do use it – and colour might transfer to the plant. Best to experiment on something not so important first. Alternatively, this can be used in conjunction with a thinner paper (such as tissue paper) as a wadding layer for thicker plants
  • Acid free tissue paper – a great option, but it’s not always easy to find the acid free version though. Use a number of sheets to provide a thick layer (one or two layers won’t work). Needs replacing in the press more often than other materials
  • Toilet tissue – don’t use the imprinted kind (see the note about kitchen paper). Useful as an emergency find! Bear in mind not to put the perforation line over a plant – it’s best used for smaller items that are covered entirely by the size of one sheet. As per kitchen tissue, use plain white
  • Printer paper – most printing paper is quite smooth and doesn’t work that well. Can be used at a pinch but may not dry out the plant that well and may need frequent changing
  • Newsprint, magazine paper etc – to be avoided. The print technique for newspapers does not set the ink with heat and it’s very transferable (how many times have you read a newspaper and got the ink on your fingers?). Magazine printing is heat set but the paper is glossy and flimsy and basically useless. Avoid
  • Watercolour paper and handmade paper – the flat type works brilliantly but this is difficult to come by (most papers of these type are textured). A rather expensive paper just for pressing flowers!
  • Hand tissues – these can work OK, but stick to white and un-embossed ones
Separating herbs and petals, so they don't touch, on blotting paper as a layer in a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice
Laying out on a blotting paper layer within the press – notice that many items can go into each layer, but try not to let them touch and don’t go over the confines of the paper (here are fennel fronds and cornflower petals)
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Preparing the plants

  • Take the most perfect flowers and leaves you can find
  • Flowers, leaves and plants that are naturally flattish or are delicate work best of all
  • For bigger blooms or large flower heads consider picking off all the petals and pressing these flat, rather than the whole flower head
  • Large, thick items can be sliced and dried – such as half a flower head, or a slice out of a rose or poppy head (such things make an interesting scientific-botanical style dried specimen)
  • Pick flowers and plants ideally when they are dry (without dew or rain on) but still plump and glossy and not starting to fade or go limp from water loss
  • If you can’t avoid picking when wet, dab off what you can gently and hang them up or stand upside down on tissue (see below) for an hour or two till bone dry
Ensuring plants are dry before putting them in a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice
Ensure flowers, plants, herbs and petals are thoroughly dry before they go into the press (drying wallflowers, clematis flowers, violas, fennel and cornflowers)
  • Don’t put any plants in a press (or book) which are at all damp (note that you won’t be able to avoid any wetness from the end of cut stems completely)
  • Give the specimen a good look-over – imagine how do you want it to appear when dry. Pick off any leaves that will stop it from pressing flat or buds, smaller leaves etc that you don’t want or that are damaged. Often you can arrange the petals or leaves a little to make the finished specimen look its best
  • Thick flower heads and thick waxy leaves don’t press that well and may take a very long time to dry. This means they are susceptible to going brown at the edges or encouraging the growth of mould. That said, do experiment with specimens that aren’t precious (in case you have to discard them) to find what works (I’ve had some good successes with whole rose heads for example)
  • While not necessary as a step when using a press, you can give the flowers a ‘head start’ into the position you want by giving them a quick iron! Place them between two sheets of your blotting material and put the iron on its lowest setting. Press down for a few seconds, let go for a few moments to cool, then repeat two or three times. This is particularly helpful when you want to put a thicker flower in a press (I used this technique with the roses mentioned above) or want a stem or leaf stalk to dry in a particular position
  • Some flowers and leaves fade after pressing, while a few seem to become more intensified in colour (pansies and violas are great for this). The best thing is to experiment and jot down your own notes about what works for you
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Placing plants in the press

  • Try and press as quickly after picking as you can (bearing in mind any drying off you need to do) to capture the plant at that moment
  • If pressing multiple items in one leaf of your press (for example you might be able to fit a number of leaves or pansy heads in one leaf) make sure they don’t touch each other
  • Make sure no part of a plant hangs outside the blotting paper/press
  • Prepare each ‘leaf’ of your press like a sandwich: you should have the cardboard inner, then a sheet of blotting material, then the plant(s), then another sheet of blotting material, then the next cardboard inner (which is then used as the base for the next flower sandwich)
  • Put all your weight on the press while tightening the wingnuts/screws to ensure it’s as tight as possible
  • Place your filled and clamped flower press somewhere dry
  • Check periodically during the drying period that the press hasn’t loosened. Tighten the screws up accordingly
Making a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice blog
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

When is it ready?

  • Thinner specimens may only need up to a couple of weeks, for example gysopfila, viola, borage flowers, calendula petals, dill or fennel, coriander leaves, nasturtium petals or similar
  • Larger or thicker items may take up to a month (especially any plants that are designed to hold on to water in a dryer climate). For these, peek at them after two weeks to check they’re not browning or going mouldy and that the blotting paper doesn’t need changing. Discard anything – including the blotting material it is in – that is going brown or shows mould and start again
  • Change the blotting paper only if it appears damp or very discoloured from the plant. I have seen other instructions that say replace often, but I’ve found it’s not necessary to worry too much about changing this. After all, if you were pressing using a book, you’d just leave it in there. Only change if you think the drying process would benefit from new blotting material
  • The plants will be ready when they look and feel ‘crisp’. But be gentle! They’re now very brittle and stems, leaves and petals can snap or tear and destroy those precious weeks of waiting
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Ideas for using pressed plants and flowers (crafts and projects)

  • Birthday and other cards
  • Wedding invites and place cards
  • Bookmarks
  • Gift tags
  • Decorating journals
  • Pressed into wax candles or soaps
  • Arranged in glass frames
  • Laminated
  • Edible plants that have been pressed can be stored and used for cake, bread and other food decorations or ingredients. A few words of caution: please be careful and consult a recognised list of edible plants. Also, bear in mind only some parts of a flower might be edible – for instance tulip petals can be edible, but other parts of a tulip are toxic. Also, even though a plant or flower is edible it may just be a dusty, dry old piece of paper to eat after pressing and only worth using as a decoration!
Making a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice blog

Don’t forget to visit my post on making your own flower press!

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Make a flower and herb press

Dried flowers - Making a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice blog

Welcome to an article that will help you make your own flower press from two old cork-backed placemats ~ although you can use these instructions with any boards/ply that is cut to size.

Dried, pressed flowers and herbs can be used in a variety of crafts, and as this is such an easy make, why not create your own pretty flower press?

It’s a simple make but one that will last you forever.

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Notes

I’ve also given additional instructions for preparing the boards for painting, should you wish to customise your press once complete (as I have done in some of the images). However, by using a placemat with an existing image, it will still look good.

You will need a sturdy surface on which to make the press, as you need to both drill and hammer. A solid or portable workbench with clamps is ideal. However, you can still make this at home if you have a strong working surface that will survive being pummelled with a hammer. Better if you have some scrap wood over which you can drill holes without damaging any surface.

Please do go on to read the hints and tips on this accompanying article on how to use a press and dry pressing plants.

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Equipment and materials

  • Two cork-backed placemats, typically 29 cm x 21.5 cm (or two 4 – 8mm depth boards, cut to a similar size)
  • Cardboard or an old cardboard box – enough to cut out six pieces of card using one of your placemats as a template
  • 4 carriage bolts (M6) and wing nuts – 6mm thread x 65mm bolt length is ideal (and what I have used)
  • 8 washers to fit the carriage bolts (and wide enough to cover the drilled hole, as this will depend on the drill bit size used)
carriage bolts, wing nuts and washers needed for the flower press
The four carriage bolts, four wingnuts and eight washers necessary for the flower press
  • Cutting mat or other surface protector
  • Sharp craft blade
  • Straight edge
  • Pen/pencil
  • Centrepunch (or a large nail) and hammer
  • Half moon cutter (if you have one – this is not essential but will give you the same results as my example)
  • Drill and 8 or 9mm wood drill bit
  • Sanding block or medium sand paper (about 120 grit)
  • Clamps, if possible (though I did test that you can handhold the placemats as you are drilling, as they are simple and quick to drill through)
  • Scrap piece of wood (to use as drill guard)

Additional equipment if painting the boards:

  • White primer aerosol paint
  • Paints or permanent markers of your choice
  • Matt clear aerosol varnish

Additional materials for use

  • Blotting paper or alternative – please see the guide on Using a flower press for a run down of materials and suggestions

Method

  • First of all, cut out the six cardboard inners, using one of the placemats as a template. Draw an outline round the placemat onto the cardboard and cut out with your craft knife. Now use this first one as a template for all the others: draw round it, cut out and repeat until you have six pieces
  • Next, mark where the drill points will be on each placemat: at each corner measure in 2 cm in from both edges and make a mark with your pen or pencil (you can cut a 2 cm x 2 cm square of card and use this as a guide if you wish)
marking the drill holes for the flower press
Marking the drill holes for each corner
  • Put a placemat cork-side down on a robust surface, such as a concrete floor, over a table leg (protecting the table first) or a workbech. Place the centrepunch (or the large nail) on one of your corner marks and hit the centrepunch with the hammer. This will make a guide indentation for your drill, to stop the drill from slipping. Repeat until all eight marks have been punched (four at each corner of both placemats)
  • Put a placemat cork-side down on the scrap piece of wood (if using). Position one of the punched marks over your scrap piece of wood and overhang the work surface (so you drill through into thin air, not your table!). Clamp down if possible
  • Position the tip of the drill bit into the punched mark, and drill through the placemat right into the scrap wood. By using some scrap wood underneath you minimise tearing of the cork (though some may still happen – don’t worry this won’t affect the press’ use – see the next point)
  • Drill all eight holes and then sand off any burrs and rough edges. (If the cork has ripped or torn at all during drilling, don’t worry! Just trim off the ripped edges with your craft knife and sand down. It won’t affect the press at all if some cork has been shorn off as this is outside the actually pressing area)
  • Place a washer on each of the four carriage bolts and push them through the holes of one placemat – make sure the picture side of the placemat has the bolt heads (and the cork is “inside” the press)
The carriage bolt (with washer, unseen, on the underside) pushed through the newly drilled hole in the mat for the flowerpress
A carriage bolt through the newly-drilled hole (a washer has been placed between the bolt head and the board, which is on the unseen underside. Note that the cork layer is on the ‘inside’
  • Now slice off a triangle on the corners of all six cardboard pieces. Just cut enough so they can fit in the press (if you have a half moon punch, as I have used, you can do this instead)
Cutting the corner off the cardboard inners, note that it's close to the drilled hole so that you keep as large an area of card for pressing as possible
Punching out the corner so that the card inners fir within the carriage bolts – you don’t have to have a half moon punch, just slice a triangle off each corner instead
  • Place all six cardboard pieces in the press and put the second placemat on top, feeding the carriage bots through the holes on this placemat. Keep the picture side upwards, so the cork is inside
Layering up the sized and cut inner cardboard inners
  • Pop the remaining washers on the bolts, then screw on the four wingnuts
the finished corner - with carriage bolts, washers and wingnuts in place and all six layers of carboard inners
How each corner should end up – a board, six layers of cardboard, the other board and all fixed with a carriage bolt, washers and wingnut at each corner. Note how the cork side of each board is facing inside

Your press is now ready!! However, you can customise/paint the placemats. To do this:

  • take off the boards from the press
  • sand down the picture side of the placemat
  • wipe off any dust and spray with the white primer (remember to do this in a well ventilated area)
  • paint, draw, decoupage or decorate the placemat as you see fit
  • once dry reassemble the press

To use (briefly)

  • Sandwich plants, leaves and flowers between two pieces of blotting material (see advice here) within each layer of the press
  • You can utilise up to seven layers for pressing plants, so you can do as little or as much as you like at the same time. You have two layers that are cork and cardboard, and five spaces between the cardboard laters (remember to use two blotting sheets with every layer)
Separating herbs and petals, so they don't touch, on blotting paper as a layer in a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice
  • When you have loaded the flowers into the press, push down on the boards as much as you can with all your weight using one hand while screwing on the wingnuts with the other (or get someone to push down for you). This initial weight/pressure will enable you to tighten the press more and facilitate the flattening/drying process
  • Plants will need at least two weeks to dry, thicker/more succelent-type plants will need longer
  • Keep somewhere dry
  • Check the press regularly to see if it needs tightening as the moisture is lost from the plants (you can do this without disturbing the plants)
  • Replace the blotting paper when it becomes discoloured or damaged
  • You may need to replace the cardboard layers from time to time as they become indented from use

Check out my some hints and tips on using your flower and herb press in the following article:

Using a flower press
Ensuring plants are dry before putting them in a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice
Making a flower press | Ink Sugar Spice blog
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Hanging herb planter

Make a hanging herb planter - Ink Sugar Spice

At the start of the year, one of the ambitions I had for this blog was to add in more craft-based posts as increasingly it has been just recipes and the bias of my blog has shifted somewhat. It’s now April, and this is the first craft-based post this year, so clearly I’ve been pretty rubbish. I didn’t even start my New year’s resolution, let alone break it.

You may have gathered from other posts that I tend to make anything myself that can be made by hand. I think myself very lucky that I have useful hands that do what I ask of them (as a result though, they do look like labourer’s hands sadly). It’s not about ethereal, arty creativity, that I make things. It’s simply my bloody-mindness: if it can be made, I’m going to have a crack at trying. I have a lot of ideas buzzing about my otherwise empty head, a pair of useful hands and not a lot of money, all providing an excuse to be creative.

These little herb planters are so easy to make and so cheap. I bought a few pots (“Socker” galvanised plant pots from Ikea) for £1 a piece and I already had garden twine and leather cord. You could also use any old shoelaces, scraps of ribbon or butchers’ twine you had to save buying anything new.

They can also be scaled up depending on what size plant pot you can get hold of, but I’d suggest that if you are making a much larger planter, then use five or six holes and cords to support the greater weight (remember that soil + plant + watering = a lot of weight).

The cord is the crafty thing here – three cords that suspend the plant pot are also used to braid an integrated loop. This loop is braided back into itself, making it strong, secure and very neat.

For me, these mini planters they allow me to have herbs in my kitchen without cluttering up the window sill. I routinely grow a lot of herbs in my garden (27 varieties last summer and I’m aiming for the same or more this year), but the ones I most frequently cook with I like to have in reach of my cooking area, instead of traipsing outside repeatedly. Plus they make the kitchen smell rather lovely.

They make fabulous presents too, when potted up with a fragrant herb, a succulent or a baby house plant.

Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Notes on decorating

  • You can keep these plain or paint them up as I have done. I used a small pot of water-based model paint, easily available from model shops in a huge array of colours (you can also use an enamel paint but these are smelly, harder to clean your brushes after use and take longer to dry)
  • A quick spray with a car paint would provide a quickly coloured pot if you don’t want to stick with the galvanised metal. If you are using spray paint, I suggest to spray the plant pot between making the holes and braiding the cord, as you don’t want the cord to be painted (and spraying before making the holes may results in marks or scratches)
  • Use masking tape with paint for spray paint to create stripes or spray over a stencil
  • Also decoupage would work, but use a clear spray varnish to ensure your work is waterproofed

Notes on materials

  • I picked up these small metal planters from Ikea at £1 each. I’ve also seen them in supermarkets (in the summer gardening section) and in saver/pound shops
  • You do need metal, as ceramic or plastic would shatter, unless you have a small Dremel or similar tool with which you could use to drill holes
  • Be really frugal and use cleaned-out tin food cans: it’d work especially well with the larger bulk-buy tins you can get
  • I’ve used both a leather cord and garden twine to illustrate how to make these, showing you that a variety of materials could be used. Any strong twine will do, though do bear in mind that eventually string or twine will degrade, especially if it gets wet during watering (or you hang the pot outside in all weathers) so may need replacing at some point. Leather cord will degrade too but will last for much longer
equipment
Equipment needed – Plant pots, plants, cord and/or string, knife or scissors, hammer, scrap wood, nail, paint, brush (although, oops, I’ve left out the bradawl)

Equipment – you will need:

  • One or more metal plant pots (make sure there are NO drainage holes in them – or it’ll drip all over the floor!)
  • Roughly 3 meters of cord, twine etc per pot (actually it’s a little less but this is a nice round number to work with)
  • Hammer
  • Old piece of wood
  • Nail that is the same diameter (or very slightly bigger) as the cord/twine you are using
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors or knife
  • A bradawl or small screwdriver or skewer would be useful
  • Herb plant or other small plant and a small amount of extra soil (if needed to fill in any gaps)
  • Additionally, paint and brush or tin of spray paint or other decoration

Method

  • Make three evenly spaced holes just under the rim of the pot, by tapping the nail through the pot into the spare piece of wood. (Do make sure it’s just under the rim or you will have problems later with water dripping out below the soil line)
punchedHoles
Holes punched into the pot and the rough edges tamped down
  • Wiggle the nail in each hole (that you’ve just created), to enlarge it a little
  • The nail will have made spurs on the other side of the pot as you tapped the nail through, so turn over the pot and tap these spurs down gently. If you leave them sticking out it can cut both your fingers and the cord!
  • Check that tapping down the holes hasn’t narrowed the aperture and that the cord still fits through – if it’s a little small place the nail back in and give it another ‘wiggle’
  • If you are using a spray paint or applying decoupage etc, this is the best time to decorate the pot (if you decorate earlier you risk scratching your paint/artwork when making the holes and if you leave it till you are finished you’ll have to mask off the braided cord, which will be more complicated)
  • To make the braided cord, cut three 70 – 90cm pieces of your chosen cord (the length depends on whether you want a shortish or long hanging braid)
  • Poke one end of a piece of cord through one of the holes, until about 5cm extends out from the pot
  • Tie off the cord securely, using your preferred knot – I use two half hitches. Make sure it will not unravel while holding the pot in place
knotAndHole
Two half hitches using leather cord
  • Repeat with the other two cords and holes
  • Grab all three long ends of the cord with one hand and, ensuring that they are as even as possible (so the pot won’t hang lopsidedly) make a loose, basic overhand knot. leave about 12-15cm of cord between the pot and the knot. Do not tighten the knot (you’ll need it loose later on)
braidAndHanging
The three strands, knotted onto the pot and then gathered into an overhand knot to start the braiding
  • With the three cords, make a loose braid down about 60% of the strands
3strands
Three cord braid
  • Identify the halfway point between the overhand knot and the end of the cords and bend the braid over at this point – this will create the loop to hang the pot
loop
Starting the loop – not that the loop should be braided, and not just plain strands
  • Now start to thread the loose ends into the braided part
  • It’s easiest if you work with one cord at a time, following a strand of the braid, weaving it in and out to match and creating a double braid pattern
  • A bradawl or thin screwdriver will help you open up a space to push the end of the cord through as you weave (this is why we created only a loose braid) If you are having problems weaving the ends in to a double braid because it is too tight, you will have to unravel and start the braid again
doubleweavecloseup
Weaving the ends back into the original braid, to make a double braid. This secures the loop and ensures it doesn’t work loose so you can hang the pot up with confidence
  • Keep going until you get to the knot
  • Once you have successfully woven one cord into the braid, repeat with the other two, so you are left with three small ends close to the knot
  • Loosen the knot a little and, with the help of the bradawl to make a gap, feed the ends of the three cords through the knot
knot
The loose ends fed through the overhand knot – this now needs tightening and then the ends trimming
  • Pull on the knot to tighten it and once you’re happy it’s secure, snip off the ends with a little to spare (to ensure the ends don’t slipt through the knot and unravel it)
braidFinishedCord
A finished leather cord braid and loop, note that because of the way we’re braiding, the loop itself is only a single braid (but will be strong enough)
  • Check that the pot hangs straight by lifting up the pot using the braided loop you’ve just created – you can adjust any ‘wonkiness’ by untying one of the knots at the rim of the pot, checking for straightness and retying
  • Now’s the easiest time to paint or decorate the pot (unless you sprayed it earlier)
paintedPot
Making sure the pot hangs straight – you can see the placement of the holes evenly spaced around the pot here, and the half hitches
  • Pot up your chosen plant, filling any gaps with additional soil. Make sure the soil level is about 1cm below the holes you made, otherwise when you water it will drip out of the three holes
  • You can now hang your potted herbs out
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Pane di Pasqua – Easter bread

FullSizeRenderA highly seasonal sweet bread, Easter bread has a long tradition across much of Europe developing from communion bread. Pane di Pasqua is not only symbolic, seasonal and delicious but is really fun to make because you can really be elaborate with the colourings for the eggs. It’s something that can easily be done with children: a bit of egg painting and then a delicious bread appears too!

Now I’m not religious but I appreciate the significance of this, so I’m not trying to make too light of it. It’s a bread with a lot of meaning for those who believe and for the rest of us it’s a fabulous sharing bread that can involve children, helping to interest them in learning to bake.

Notes

  • As this recipe uses tipo 00 or plain flour it will not rise much during the resting periods
  • Also, for the same reason, you will not have to knead the dough for quite as long as you do when using strong bread flour
  • If you have some cake release spray, you can use this instead of the butter and flour method of preparing the tin
  • This bread is a brioche-style bread, light and fluffy with a lovely taste of citrus. It’s nice eaten with a little butter, or toasted and slathered with a chocolate and hazelnut (gianduja) spread. The eggs can be lifted out, cracked open and eaten as per boiled eggs. Also, if it’s not eaten before it’s started to go stale, then it makes a lovely bread pudding, or simply warmed with custard and extra fruit.

Takes about 1 hour 40 minutes of preparation (of which 1 hour is totally hands off) and 35 minutes baking.

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Knife or dough cutter
  • A 21-23cm cake tin, ideally springform
  • Pastry brush
  • Small bowls (one for each colour you wish to dye your eggs)
  • Additionally, you may want to use some art masking fluid to achieve the two-colour patterns. You can purchase this online, in a stationer’s or art supply shop

Ingredients

  • 4 medium sized eggs
  • 30g unsalted butter, softened but not melted
  • 30ml Classic mild olive oil
  • 360g plain flour, tipo 00 (or plain ‘cake’ flour will do)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 150ml warm milk
  • 4g fast acting dried yeast
  • 60g candied mixed peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of fine salt

Additional items

  • 1 additional egg for coating the bread
  • 1 or more food-safe colours
  • Extra butter, oil and flour

Method – dyeing the eggs

Dye three eggs – this can be done in advance. For each colour use a separate bowl and dissolve a little food colouring in enough water to cover the egg. I’d suggest one capful if you are using liquid colouring and, if you are using gel colouring, scoop out a little mound of the colour using the ‘wrong’ end of teaspoon (this should be about the right amount).

Leave for at least two hours and ideally overnight. Don’t place the eggs in the dough unless they are thoroughly dry or the dye will run across your bread.

FullSizeRender(5)

To achieve the look of the eggs in the image, I first painted the eggs with art masking fluid. Wait until the masking fluid is dry and then dye as below. Once the eggs are dyed and are touch-dry, rub off the masking fluid to reveal the shell colour below.

FullSizeRender(4)

Method

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk
  2. Put the flour, sugar, butter, olive oil, salt and extract in the bowl, and make a well in the middle
  3. Pour in the milk and yeast and mix together a little, then add in one egg
  4. When the ingredients have come together, tip out onto a clean worksurface to begin kneading
  5. This dough is quite wet and sticky, but does not need any extra flour. You will find you are ‘scraping’ at the dough with your fingers more than traditional kneading for the first 2 minutes or so – persevere as it does quickly get much easier
  6. After about 2-3 minutes the dough will start to come together and keep its shape, picking up all the stickier bits of dough left on your worksurface
  7. Knead for 5-6 minutes, the dough will be smooth and still a little tacky
  8. Lightly oil the bowl, putting the dough in it. Cover with a linen tea towel or some cling film
  9. Leave to rest for 30 mins. This dough will not rise much
  10. While the dough is resting, prepare the cake tin by brushing on melted butter and tipping a little flour into the tin and swirling round
  11. After the dough is rested, knead in the fruit, making sure it is spread out evenly throughout the dough
  12. Divide the dough into three and roll each out into a long strand. The easiest way to ensure your strands are long enough to plait is to make sure they fit round the outside of your cake tin and the ends just meet
  13. Make a simple three strand plait. It’s easiest to make a neat plait if you start in the middle, work towards one end then repeat from the middle to the other end
  14. Pick up your plait gently and lay in the cake tin (as below)FullSizeRender(6)
  15. Match up the ends into the design of the plait as neatly as you can
  16. Gently tease open a section of the plait a little and place one of the eggs into this gap. Be careful as at this stage the eggs are still raw
  17. Repeat with the remaining two eggs, spacing them equally apartFullSizeRender(3)
  18. Cover the tin and leave for 30 minutes in a warm spot
  19. Turn your oven on to 200°C fan / 220°C conventional / 425°F
  20. After 30 minutes (again, the bread will not have risen much) place in the oven
  21. Whisk up the additional egg briefly and use it to brush the tops of the bread plait – do not paint the eggs though!
  22. Bake for 10 minutes and turn the oven down to 180°C fan / 200°C conventional / 400° F
  23. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes more until it’s a lovely golden brown. If the bread looks like it’s browning too quickly, you can cover the top with foil
  24. Leave to coolFullSizeRender(1)

Berry and apple pie with orange shortbread pastry art

berryApplePie1

No back story for this one and no science bit unusually for me but it does show you step by step how to create my signature contemporary pies with reverse lattice cut-outs. I’ve now been asked a few times for a run down on how I do one of my pies, so here is the full recipe and set of photos.

If you’ve got any queries about how to do this, just add it to the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer. I’d love to see any that you make yourselves – please show it here or tag me in Instagram or Twitter xxx

Notes

I have not used egg in the pastry as I do not want it to puff up during baking. It needs to bake as flat as possible and, as eggs are natural leaveners, not including any egg helps this. Also the pie is not blind baked – keeping a baking tray in the hot oven before you put the pie in helps to avoid that dreaded soggy bottom.

Equipment
  • 20cm pie tin
  • Rolling pin
  • Baking paper
  • Palette knife
  • Sharp knife
  • Baking tray wide enough to sit your pie tin on)
  • Pastry brush
  • Your choice of at least one small cutter
  • Bowls
  • Medium saucepan and wooden spoon
  • Rolling pin
Ingredients – pastry
  • Plain flour – 250g
  • Unsalted butter, slightly softened – 125g
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Caster sugar – 60g
  • Orange zest – zest of one large fresh orange
  • A little milk  – about 30ml to bring the pastry together and for brushing later
Ingredients – filling
  • Mixed fruit – 500g (can be fresh or frozen)
  • Eating apple – 1 whole apple, cored, peeled and diced (if you are using tiny apples, like a pippin, then you’ll need one and a half apples)
  • Granulated sugar – this is to taste, but you will need at least 80g and probably more depending on how tart your berries are. Plus you’ll need a little extra for sprinkling
  • Ground almonds – 60g
Method – fruit filling
  1. This will vary in the length of time taken, depending on whether you are using fresh berries (only about a 5 minute pre-cook) or frozen (about 15 minutes)
  2. Place your berries, the diced apple and the granulated sugar in your saucepan and put over a medium heat (leave the ground almonds for later)
    fruit
  3. You will need to continually stir and gently prod the berries to ensure they break up a little
  4. Whatever you do, do NOT add any additional water to the the saucepan – it may look at first as if they are too dry and will burn, but will a bit of stirring plenty of juice will come out. If you had added some water, the whole mix will turn out too wet for the pie
  5. Take the saucepan off the heat when the berries have oozed a little juice, some of them have broken up a bit and the apple has softened slightly
  6. Leave to cool while you make the pastry
Method – pastry
  1. No need to make this pastry in stages – put all the ingredients in a bowl together (excluding the milk) and rub together until you get it to the fine breadcrumbs stage
    2
  2. Drip in a bit of milk at a time (you only want ‘just enough’) until you can massage the pastry and bring it together into a ball. It’s ready when it picks up all the pastry bits from the side of the bowl – and remember not to overwork it
  3. If you’re in a warm or hot room, put the pastry in the fridge for five minutes so it’s easier to work with. If you’re in a cool room you can go straight to the next step. As it’s a simple shortcrust pastry it needs less consideration and resting than one with egg in it
  4. Have your pie tin ready. I used an enamel tin for this and have found I do not need to grease or flour it; it work fine as it is. You will know if your choice of tin is prone to sticking
  5. Break off about a third of the pastry and leave to one side
  6. Using two pieces of baking paper: one on the work surface and one on top of the pastry roll our the pastry as thinly as you dare. I do it to about 2-3mm. You will probably need to keep taking off the top sheet of baking paper and repositioning it so it doesn’t curl
    3
  7. Make sure it spreads wider than the full diameter of your tin
  8. Take off the top sheet and place your tin upside down on the pastry
    4
  9. Invert your pastry and tin together and peel off the baking paper gently
    5
  10. Lift and ‘feed’ the pastry into the corners of the tin and trim off the excess with a sharp knife
    6
  11. Put this excess together with the pastry you left to one side earlier
  12. Press down with your thumb all the way round the edge of the pie to ensure the pastry grips to the tin and doesn’t shrink during baking
    7
  13. Leave the pie tin to one side
  14. Roll out the remaining pastry using the same method as above (with the baking paper) and to the same thickness
  15. Press out shapes with your chosen cutter and carefully remove them. You want to use both the lattice you are creating AND the shapes you have cut out
    11
  16. Make sure that the gaps between the cut-outs aren’t too thin or they will break when you place the lattice on. Neither should they be too thick or you’ll have too much pastry. between 6-12mm is fine
  17. Make sure you cut out enough shapes so that the lattice it has created fits over the entire diameter of the pie
  18. What you have cut out will invert on the pie as you are going to flip the lattice pastry over
Method – filling and assembly
  1. Put your oven on to 190C fan / 210C conventional and put the baking tray in
  2. Spread out the ground almonds on the bottom of the pie
    8
  3. Now is the time to pour your cooled filling into the pastry case and spread evenly
  4. Dampen the edge of the pastry case with a little milk using the brush
  5. Lift the pastry lattice up with the baking paper still attached – flip this over and place it pastry-side down on the filled pie
    12
  6. Carefully remove the baking paper and press down the edges so that the lattice adheres to the pastry case
  7. Re-brush the edges of the pastry  where it is dry (the new lattice bits)
  8. Take your cut-out shapes and arrange them around the edge of the pie, pressing them down lightly (but not so hard you leave finger marks)
    13
  9. Sprinkle some extra granulated sugar over the pastry
  10. Pop in the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden
  11. Can be served warm or left to cool
    berryApplePie1

Enjoy 🙂

 

How to make your own tuile template

Pistachio and almond tuiles
Pistachio and almond tuiles – for the tuile recipe please see my separate post

Tuile templates are expensive for what they are – here’s how you can easily make your own for nothing.

All you need is an old plastic table mat (or the top of an ice cream tub or similar) and to use either a pair of sharp scissors or a craft circle cutting tool.

I’ve shown you a circle template here, but you can go on to create lots of different shapes: triangles, flowers, fruit, stars. Anything you can think of really!

Equipment

Equipment needed for making tuile templates
Equipment needed for making the templates

  • A cutting mat or board or any surface that you’re not going to cry over if you cut into it
  • A plastic placemat or the lid of an ice cream tub
  • A pair of sharp scissors
  • A permanent marker (if you use a normal pen or felt tip it won’t set on the plastic and you’ll just end up wiping it off with your hand!)
  • Masking tape (not strictly necessary but stops slipping)
  • A craft circle cutter if you have one (these are actually pretty cheap and easy to get hold of online or from craft or model shops)
  • Piece of thick paper cut out into a circle – a typical tuile will be 7-8cm (about 3″) to use as a template or
How to
  1. First of all, if you are using a place mat or other large piece of plastic, cut the item down to fit into your baking sheet. There’s no point doing this if you then can’t lay the thing flat on your bake sheet!
  2. Fold the circle of card in half, then half again (so it is a quarter circle) to find the centre. Use this to work out roughly how many circles you can get out of your plastic. You’ll need to leave at least a 1.5cm / almost 1″ gap between each circle. For a piece of plastic that covers an entire baking sheet I’d expect you to be able to fit in about eight circles and for a tub lid, about four.
  3. Put two strips of masking tape down the plastic where the centre points of the circles will be – this will help you mark the centres and to stop either the cutter or scissors slipping.
  4. Mark out where the centre point of each circle will be – use that piece of card you cut into a circle to make sure you leave enough gap between each tuile shape to make them evenly spaced and to ensure you haven’t put them too close to the edge or each other.
  5. If you’re using the cutter, put the blade to the right distance (remember it marks the radius not the diameter, so if you’re doing a 7cm tuile, set it at 3.5cm).

    Using a circular cutter, perfect for helping to make tuile templates
    Using the circular cutter
  6. Put the compass point on the centre mark and slowly and gently turn the cutter – it might be easier to keep the cutter static and turn the plastic. Better to make many gentle turns than try to cut out the circle with force quickly as this can distort the shape you at cutting out.
  7. If you are using scissors, you will need to mark the outline of each circle around the card, so you have a shape to cut to. Mark out all the circles.

    Using scissors to cut out
    Cutting out with scissors
  8. Carefully jab a hole in the centre of a circle being sure not to stab yourself! Cut towards the edge and then go round the inside of the line. Tidy up if need be.
  9. Whatever method you are using, repeat until you have all the tuile shapes cut out.
  10. If you want to go on and make other more unusual shapes, you need to use the scissors method or use a craft knife.
  11. Thoroughly wash the template before use but it should last you a long time.

    Two finished tuile shapes - one by cutter and one by scissors
    Two finished tuile shapes – one by cutter and one by scissors