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This week is British Pie Week, I didn’t make it up – http://www.britishpieweek.co.uk/ 

I heard of this because it was trending (unpromoted) on Twitter. Further investigation showed that it is made up and sponsored by Jus-Rol, the pastry manufacturers. The problem I have with this is NOT that a company is using an everyday dish to promote its product, but that inexperienced cooks might think they need a particular brand of pastry to make a pie – nonsense! Go experiment people! There are plenty of excellent recipe books out there in print and on the internet.

I’m buying into the spirit of the week anyway, but not with readymade pastry. I’ll be reading the Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies tonight and seeing what takes my fancy. I love pies (if you know me, this is evident at the waistline) so any week that promotes healthy and interesting cooking is fine by me, made up celebration or not!

Dragon Cake for Dad's 65th birthday by squeejay

It wasn’t easy to try and beat the Han Solo in Carbonite cake I made fro Dr B a few years ago, but this might be a good contender! I made it for Dad’d birthday last month.

Vanilla sponge with a strawberry and buttercream fillling for the body, a smaller round cake for the head with another half a small cake on top for the brow, cake wedges for the ail. All covered in fondant icing with added sparkles for scales.

Yum!

The knitting group I have been going to since moving back to Edinburgh has had to find a new home – sadly, the Tea Tree Cafe on Bread Street shut down this week.

I first starting going to the TT when I found the group on Ravelry in about April 2010 (http://www.ravelry.com/groups/tea-tree-tea-knitters). I can’t recommend Ravelry enough for just beign awesome. It’s free to join, has a database of around 192,674 knitting patterns, and around 67,845 yarns. as well as a huge international community of knitters of all ages and abilities. It’s like Facebook for knitters but a hell of a lot better. You can add projects to your profile, link it to the pattern apge, link it to the yarn page and see who else has made the item. and how they did it and what they used. Properly inspirational and easy to use.

The technology behind the site is pretty impressive too, geeks and anyone else interested can find a summary here: http://codemonkey.ravelry.com/2011/02/12/ravelry-in-bullet-points/. Impressive in that the whole thing is run by a team of around 3 people. I like that. It’s homey and cosy and I like the spirit of it. If only we could make a Ravelry for archaeologists…. :p

But back to the group – I think of them as my sort of extended knitting family. All lovely people, who come together for something they love and it doesn’t matter what else you do, where you work, age or experience. You only have to share as much as you want, and the escape from everyday life is lovely. The TT knitters have knowingly and unknowingly helped me through some really difficult/upsetting/stressful events without even knowing. Sometimes, knitting group gives strengh to get on with life when you can’t find it anywhere else. On call help for projects is nice too!

Finding a new cafe that will be willing to take up to 25 people at a time, who can quite easily take over the place with yarn and cake is hopefully not going to be too much of a challenge. We are trying out some places on a trial basis this month but any ideas would be welcomed.

Needs to be: in Edinburgh city centre (ish), space for up to 25 folk and their knitting, buggy accessible and have yummy tea, coffee and cake. Optional: wifi, comfy chairs!

Any ideas?

Puffle Cake Pops by squeejay
Puffle Cake Pops, a photo by squeejay on Flickr.

One of my nephews is currently obsessed with Club Penguin. If you have no idea what I’m talking about it’s a Disney thing and all you need to know is that there are some Penguins who have helpers/magic assistants called Puffles. In essence, and in the Disney merchandise mobile, Puffles are bean bags with hair.

I have long been a fan of Bakearellas Cake Pops, and made some a few years ago. I’ve got better at it though, and these are chocolate cake on the inside and chocolate coated on the outsife. The eyes are made of fondant and writing icing. The hair was done by ‘glueing’ chocolate cake decorations to the head with chocolate and then quickly dipping the pop in and out of some Wiltons Candy Melt coating, and twirling it around upside down to make spikes. They went down a treat!

Stollen: who doesn’t love the marzipan/rum goodness at this time of year? I get proper stollen cravings around now and so thought I’d give making my own a go. I found a few recipes and ended up trying this one: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2007/dec/02/foodanddrink.recipes.

It looks really good (if i do say so myself) but the taste is more biscuit than cake or bread. When warmed up it is delicious but is still more biscuity/harder than I think it should be. I am of course basing all my stollen prejudices on the many examples I’ve tasted in German food markets.

The only thing I can think of is that I maybe heated the milk up a bit too much when making up the yeast and killed some of it. I’m not sure. Anyways, one loaf for now and one in the freezer for christmas. I’m not put off though, and I’m going to try another Stollen recipe at the weekend: http://thebutcherthebaker.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/fresh-from-the-oven-stollen/ and see if that rises to the challenge a bit better (excuse the pun).