Who’s For Brunch?


It’s a conundrum. You wake up at 10, too late to be satisfied by toast but not really ready for sandwich time. And that is why brunch was invented. I’m a bit obsessed with brunch. I always try to make Sunday mornings a bit of an event; consider it my church – if you don’t find that too blasphemous (and if you do, well, erm, yeah).

I’m always on the search for good brunch eateries as well. And whilst there’s a plethora of them in London, it appears Guildford is barren. That may be to harsh, there’s a few places, but to be honest I’d rather stay in my pjs than run the risk of Cafe Rouge (sticky tables and crap eggs), Cote (breakfast service run by teenage boys) or Haha (don’t get me started). Giraffe is consistently good, but the atmosphere isn’t really the place you can sit and read the paper for an hour. What I’m looking for is the ideal brunch, which to me can be a variation of either one amazing dish, various courses, bits and pieces all combined on the plate, or just pastries. There must be coffee, always coffee!

I’m also thinking of the Golden Age of brunch, one I had at the Westin in Dublin. I’ve been twice, and both times have involved 12 family members squished around a table for six people, indulging in course after course of salmon, eggs, pastries, fruit; it even had sushi(!) gateaux and tiramisu. All in all, we spent about three hours chatting, and I think this is the heart of brunch. It’s the ritual of coming together, not being rushed, picking at things, preparing yourself for whatever the afternoon may bring.

So with that, I’m tackling the first course of brunch: cereal. Or granola to be more specific. I made it myself, after finding shop bought either teeth-dissolvingly sweet or that you are chewing on wallpaper paste. It’s so simple, and means you can include whatever you want.

The aim to is to get the oats dried out and crunchy, so in the oven it goes with butter, honey, nuts and seeds. Though, my dad is trying to avoid high sugar, so maybe next time I’ll give it a go with agave nectar. Then once that has cooled, add in your dried fruit. Simple!

So, I have that course tackled.


Unjinxed Cupcakes


Recently I’ve been having a bit of trouble making cupcakes. Whilst they’re perfectly edible, they either lack the taste of the perfect cupcake, or the iced top looks like someone has dropped it. These ‘failures’ led me to believe I’m jinxed.

However, I’m back and have regained my semi-formed prowess. Cakes of choice were some rosewater cupcakes, perfectly scented (though my jinx worries were that the cake would smell like ‘l’eau de granny’, ending up smelling like a blue-rinsed, eighty year old’s boudoir. MMmm think about that as you bite into it). But adding teeny amounts bit by bit prevented this, and with just a smidgen of patience – something I’m yet to excel at – voila!

Though now I just want to make every cupcake recipe going. Think I may have to pace this ambition.

A note on decorations though – I always find that the cupcakes in cafes and bakeries have far too much icing. I always try and go a bit light on the icing as otheriwse the cake itself becomes heavily masked, surely they have nothing to hide? Though I do have a friend who only eats the icing, leaving her boyfriend with the soggy naked cupcake. I suppose it’s down to taste, but one dollop does me, compared to the three the book recommended.

So far, positive reviews from the family, and as usual I’m sure work will be grateful for some sweet morsels to take the edge off the Monday morning rush. I’ll save one for my brother as well, ‘cos he’s had a crappy day, and I’m sure he’ll love nothing better than a pink, flowery and glittery cake. Hmm, maybe he’ll be nice and give it to his girlfriend.

*apologies for the bad photos, still looking for that darn charger…

Terry’s Brownies


So after the superb Underground Market* yesterday, I returned home with some brownies to munch on (I must admit, a few were eaten on the way home when we got stuck in traffic).

Two days after I made them, they are still, if not more, delicious. But why Terry’s Brownies? I took some into work today, and they were devoured with glee, with remarks that it tastes exactly like the infamous chocolate orange.

I took that as a compliment, but am suprised how strong the orange flavour is, considering it only has the zest of two oranges in a massive batch. I doubt that the well known manufacturer of chocolate orange flavoured orbs use real orange. What was a bit of a gamble payed off, and am suprised as any fruit near chocolate is considered an abomination in my eyes – the last choccies in the sweetie jar are always the crappy cremes.

I only have a couple left, but I am saving them for desert tomorrow. Smash some roasted pecans and walnuts over the top and I have a true fudgy treat!

*I’m afraid I was a bit silly and forgot my camera to take pictures of the market, but search on google and twitter and you’ll find numerous other stall holders have blogged away. Looking forward to hearing about the successes of the venture.

Secret Cake


Last night I made Secret Cake. So what makes it a secret cake? Well, it’s got vegetables in. Now, most people recoil in horror when you tell them this; but think more carrot cake, less spinach quiche with 200grams of sugar added.

The magic ingredient is courgette, which is a bit of a bonus as last year I had a glut of the green buggers until the rest of the vegetable garden caught up in September. I’m anticipating this being the case again this year, so the more recipes to use them up, the better.

If you’re still not convinced, remember courgette doesn’t really taste of anything, it just takes on the flavours it’s cooked with: here cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. And, yes, when you cook it for a long time it does go quite soggy. Whilst not nice for dinner, it’s awesome for making a moist cake.

It also benefits from cooking at a low temperature for a long time, but my oven proved too cool, and after 90 minutes I bunged lovingly placed it in a warmer oven, which gave it an amazing nutty caramel tasting crust.

Whilst it’s perfect to have by itself, the book I got the recipe for suggested butter, treating it like a tea bread. Though I’m thinking a light zesty icing, drizzled over the top, would go better. The sharpness of limes with the nutty flavour would work a treat. However, I’m also of the impression that everything taste better with citrus added.

Any suggestions on how to chop these a bit quicker?

I was in two minds about whether to bake it for the market – the cost of the walnuts is the thing putting me off (and then the chopping of them), but it was a success in the office, and so easy to assemble, that I think it’s worth the cooking time. Only question now is to ice, or not to ice?

Endeavours of the New World


So this is the first post. After having pondered for about three weeks, and then rapidly racked my brains in the last twenty-four hours, I’ve gone for what is actually a stupidly simple and obvious name for my baking frolics.

With my first ever cake stall at the first ever London Underground Market just over a week away; in true McManus style I have left rather a lot, if not all of it, to the last minute. I haven’t got a clue what to make (apart from hot cross buns – thought they would be seasonal), how much to sell it for, what to put it in, even how to get to sodding Kilburn.

But I am sufficiently calm tonight as I whipped up, literally, some meringues. That sounds rather smug, but it was actually quite easy – three eggs whites I had in the fridge, a bowlful of sugar, and some jarred cherry compote (a new guilty pleasure).

Lovely Meringue

Look at the pretentious little clouds of sugar

I’m going to tuck in, think about what to bake and sell, and design, and then write. I hope to be a bit funnier. Do bear with me, it’ll all start taking shape soon enough*!

Final Product

It was bloody good

*Hopefully the photography will get better too.