Tip of the Week – Egg sizes

Tip of the Week - Egg sizes | The Littlest Bakehouse

It’s almost Easter! Let’s talk about eggs, but not the chocolate kind (sorry). 

 I love eggs, as does my flatmate, to the point that we sometimes completely over-buy and yet we never, ever have to throw them away because they’re too old. We’re far from being the only ones: when I asked on Twitter what foods people refuse to scrimp on, almost everybody said free-range eggs. 

I love that you can call eggs any meal you want, that you can eat them any which way at any time of day without it raising eyebrows. You can eat most foods at strange times of day, really — I’m pretty sure that’s what leaving home is about, the trade-off between getting your washing done for you and being able to eat completely weird food — but with eggs it’s kind of legitimate. 

The very best I’ve had come from a chicken farm near home, where the chickens roam free in huge enclosures and, before they started running down the dirt track to the main road too often and had to be fenced in, used to peck at your shoes if you stood still for long enough while they ran around your feet. They’re so good that I’ve been known to lovingly transport them more than 100 miles from home to my flat, knowing that at the end I’ll be rewarded with the brightest orange yolks that make them perfect for just about everything, even if they are sometimes a bit strangely shaped.

Anyway. Too often I read recipes and have the wrong eggs. I have medium when it says large, or I’m left wondering whether large in American recipes is the same as a UK large. As in women’s clothes, the sizing seems to be different everywhere you look. 

So here we go! Egg sizes translated. 

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Chocolate orange swirl loaf

Chocolate orange swirl cake | The Littlest Bakehouse

Back home, in that small village with the fields of crops I’m incredibly allergic to, most of my neighbours have known me since birth. They’ve watched as learned to walk, ride a bike, and eventually as my brothers and I left home.

My favourite neighbour is an 80-year-old man called Bill. Sometimes when I’m back for a weekend, I’ll nip over one evening, and we’ll end up drinking wine and chatting for hours in his front room, while my parents sit at home and wonder what on earth we could be discussing. Often, when he leans back in his chair, he’ll lace his fingers together and rest them on his tummy while he talks, his Scottish accent still very much there despite his decades in England. He’s not an ordinary old man – he’s fiercely independent and physically active – and we have the same conversations you would with anyone half his age or younger.

Chocolate orange swirl cake | The Littlest Bakehouse

But my upstairs neighbour here in London…for a month we weren’t even totally sure of his name, let alone what he looks like or if he’s, you know, an amateur taxidermist or model train collector.

It’s a strange thing, this silence between neighbours that you only really seem to get in big cities. The couple on the third floor keep themselves to themselves too, but we’ve bumped into each other while I’m wearing tracksuit bottoms enough that I’ve felt the need to reassure them that I do usually dress like a respectable adult.

This weekend, I made this cake and went upstairs to introduce myself and make small talk about things like fire alarms. Of course, it wasn’t until I got back to my flat that I realised I had a big flick of chocolate on my chin. So while I was thinking, “He is quite the dishy doctor”, he was probably thinking, “Why is this girl brandishing a foil package at me and why is her lower face covered in…oh, I hope that’s chocolate”. Forever classy. Forever terrible at first impressions.

Chocolate orange swirl cake | The Littlest Bakehouse

Luckily, the cake is good enough to make a great first impression when I’m too busy living a sitcom-worthy life to do so myself, even though I burnt it a little. And it’s super easy! Let’s go.

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AWOL & April

Silence seems to be the order of the day here, at the moment. So far, 2014 has been unrelenting in pace, throwing us all forward quicker than we’d perhaps like, hurling challenges to clamber back up from like we’re playing the Takeshi’s Castle of Life. My tiredness levels have reached the point where last night I even dreamed about sleeping, and when asked what my plans for the week are, said, “I’m cooking two of my friends for dinner tomorrow.” Sorry guys, looks like you’ll be on the table, not at the table.

I’ll get back to cooking properly soon, but for now it’s all a little uninspiring. The latest vegetable obsession – I’m a latecomer to this non-beige food party – has seen me wielding a julienne peeler at every courgette I can find. Honestly, courgettes are a revelation, but as much as I’d love to pretend that’s all I’ve been eating to fuel these long days, the chocolate smudges on my jeans tell a different story. A couple of nights ago I definitely gave life to the Frankentoastie, the gooey marriage of brie and Easter egg chocolate – the best kind, and we all know it – between two seeded slices. No regrets.

So instead of inflicting my recent bizarre meals upon you, here’s a little guide to what’s in season this month, and what you might like to cook with it. There are some absolute gems in here. 

 AprilInSeason

Asparagus

Asparagus is totally new to me. After seeing a hell of a lot of hype over asparagus season, I decided to give it a go, and oh boy was it worth the risk. Quick pan fry + sprinkled with sea salt = happy asparagus season.

Three-Ingredient Asparagus Tart – Simple Provisions

Vegan lemon asparagus risotto – Food52

Asparagus, goats cheese and lemon pasta – Smitten Kitchen

Asparagus quesadilla lasagna – Pinch of Yum

Broccoli (including purple sprouting broccoli)

Purple Sprouting Broccoli & Sprout Gratin | Natural Kitchen AdventuresPurple sprouting broccoli and sprout gratin – Natural Kitchen Adventures (pictured)

Broccoli and cheddar grilled cheese – I am a food blog

Broccoli pesto – Green Kitchen Stories

Cauliflower

Shaved cauliflower salad – Happyolks

Cauliflower gratin – Feasting at Home

Spiced cauliflower “couscous” – Love & Lemons

Cauliflower and caramelized onion tart – Smitten Kitchen

Kale

With spring upon us, it’s time to kiss goodbye to kale for a few months. Let’s make the most of it. 

Remarkable garlic kale – Eating With My Fingers

Sausage and kale stuffed shells – Shutterbean

Rumbledethumps – Abel & Cole

Rhubarb

Rhubarb and Rye-Cinnamon Tartlets | Top With Cinnamon

Forced rhubarb is out and in-season rhubarb is, well, in.

Rhubarb and rye-cinnamon tartlets – Top With Cinnamon (pictured)

Spicy rhubarb margaritas – A Cozy Kitchen for Etsy

Roasted strawberry rhubarb ice cream cake – Not Without Salt

Rhubarb curd – The Kitchn (!!!)

Rhubarb and vanilla jam – What Should I Eat For Breakfast Today

You might also like to check out the Saveur Food Blog Awards finalists – there’s some phenomenal talent out there.

The Best of The Littlest Bakehouse – an ebook

TLB BOOK COVEROne of the things that always baffles me when I come home is my mother’s recipe collection. Dozens of cookbooks, a folder full of ripped out magazine pages, some of them decades old, and a bunch of hand-written recipes. It’s extensive and spans at least 30 years, going by the design and crispy edges of some of those magazine pull-outs, and tells stories without trying. Even the style of recipe writing has changed in that time, no-nonsense instructions from Mrs Beeton giving way to seductive adjective-laden notes from Nigella.

But then I look at my own collection. A handful of cookbooks and a hell of a lot of internet bookmarks, likes on Bloglovin’, and favourites on Twitter. None of it is permanent beyond electrical pulses.

With this in mind, I’ve put together a small ebook. TLB has finally hit 100 posts — more significant, to me, than a blog birthday, purely because I disappear for weeks at a time — and to celebrate, I’ve brought together your favourite recipes. And the cookies I made last week, because honestly they’re astonishing.

Unsurprisingly, it’s mostly cake.

Click here to view it online, or here to save.

Dark chocolate chip cookies with smoked sea salt

Dark chocolate chip cookies with smoked sea salt | The Littlest Bakehouse

It’s my birthday this week, so cookies are back. It’s my party and I’ll gorge myself on browned butter if I want to.

It’s probably a symptom of having older siblings, but it’s hard to forget how old twenties always used to sound to me, how much I thought I’d have sorted by now. But then, I thought that at 18 and 21 too, so I suspect my heart and my brain will forever be playing catch up to the passing of timing and the aging of this bundle of cells. I also suspect we all feel the same way.  

But these cookies are probably one of the most grown up things I’ve achieved so far. They’re dark and toffee-y and use fancy salt — when did I become a person who gets excited by fancy salt? — in ways that take them a million miles from Maryland’s excuse for cookies.

Dark chocolate chip cookies with smoked sea salt | The Littlest BakehouseThe making of them completely feels like magic — the process of browning the butter, then whisking it with sugar and leaving it for a bit means that you start out with a gritty mix but end up with a gorgeously thick, glossy mixture. And then! And then you add the flour and the chocolate and it becomes the most gorgeously rich, nutty cookie dough imaginable.

It’s not a cookie to hand out to children — it’s one to be served warm, and savoured, the crisp outside giving way to a soft chewy inside, studded with dark chocolate brought to life by smoked sea salt. It’s an indulgence that, dipped into coffee, makes grey Monday mornings at your office job a lot brighter. It’s most certainly a cookie for grown ups.

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Music to cook to

music

So here’s the thing. Cooking and baking aren’t just about cooking and baking. They’re not wholly centred on the outcome, at least for those of us who take pleasure in flour explosions and licking our fingers to dab up the crumbs of cheese that have somehow escaped the grater.  It’s just as much about zoning out from the stresses of day to day life, concentrating on weighing ingredients and not dropping egg shell into your mix.

When I step into the kitchen, knowing that I’ll likely be there for hours, this is the playlist that comes with me. It doesn’t always run in this order and I’m adding to it all the time. There’ll always be a little bit of Celine Dion – belted out horribly, and loudly – and some dancing about in the square metre of floorspace to Walk the Moon. A touch of funk from Betty Davis, followed by possibly the oddest selection of music I could have put together.

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Chilli-infused double chocolate chip cookies

This is a post about cookies, an astounding cookbook, and a teensy bit about boys. Skip to the bottom if you just want the cookies. I understand. The real issue here is infusing browned butter with chilli and then mixing it with big shards of dark chocolate.

Chilli-infused double chocolate chip cookies | The Littlest Bakehouse

Anyway. The sun is finally shining, and the spring cleaning is underway, but today I’m taking a brief trip back to December. It was Christmas morning – too early for everyone else, because I’d been awake for hours with excitement – and the seven of us, all long legs folded and squished into various corners of the living room, were diving into the frankly ridiculous pile of presents.

My mum was frowning, watching me tear open the wrapping paper on a gift she’d bought. Pulling it off like a 5-year-old, I revealed the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book. I’d not requested it; she’d gone a little off piste, based on a love for the Cook’s Illustrated magazine. ”Is it okay? It’s not in colour! It came and I panicked because…it’s not in colour. And it’s full of drawings!”

Of course it was okay. It was perfect – old school drawings are half the point of Cook’s Illustrated, along with rigorous testing and gloriously geeky scientific explanations. I put it to one side, carried on unwrapping other gifts, every now and then just resting my hand on its cover or flicking to the contents to see what awaited.

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