Friday 20 February 2015

Brit Decor: Bakes/ Rocky Road Doughnuts

All images / Mike Ahern

There is just something so cheerful and comforting about doughnuts. These sugary gems take me back to days spent at the British seaside - the sweet smell of freshly cooked doughnuts for sale in painted wooden huts on the seafront, or temptingly lined up alongside fluffy pink candy floss at the fairground. I love to reminisce!

I was recently asked to reveal the contents of my coffee table for an article (more to come on this soon) and one of the things I included was my 'food of the moment'; a doughnut. Although it's not one of the healthiest food items I could have chosen (that's an understatement), doughnuts have always been a favourite 'pick-me-up' treat of mine, and who can deny that the glazed and icing topped versions look particularly fun and vibrant.

In technical terms, the doughnuts I am sharing with you today are not, strictly speaking, Rocky Roads, due to the lack of crunchy ingredients, however, the flavouring is very much there - thanks to my recent discovery of Whittard's Rocky Road hot chocolate powder (yes it's an easy option) and the all important marshmallows of course.

Difficult to resist, right? 

Sunflower oil (for deep frying)
250g strong white flour
7g instant yeast
30g caster sugar
20g unsalted butter (softened)
1 egg
Pinch of salt
80ml warm milk

For the topping:
2 tsp Whittard's Rocky Road hot chocolate powder
1-2 tbsp water
150g icing sugar
Chocolate sprinkles

How to make:
Mix half a teaspoon of sugar with the yeast, along with a couple of teaspoons of warm milk. Leave to froth-up for around 15 minutes. 

Then sift the salt and flour into a mixing bowl with the remaining sugar. Into the middle of these ingredients pour the yeast mixture, adding the egg, softened butter and the remaining milk. Knead all of these together to form a soft and springy dough. Leave the dough in the mixing bowl and cover with a damp tea-towel for up to one hour (in a warm place) until the dough has doubled in size.

Lightly spinkle flour over a work surface before rolling out the dough to a thickness of approximately 1cm. Use an 8cm cutter to cut out the doughnut circles and a 2cm cutter for the inner circle. Lay the dough circles onto a baking tray and cover with cling film. Leave for a further 20-30 mins until the dough has risen.

Heat the sunflower oil in a pan - I used 1litre but could have used less. Once the oil is fiercely hot (be very careful!) gently place the doughnuts into the oil (2 or 3 at a time depending on the size of your pan) cooking each side until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked doughnuts from the oil and place onto some kitchen towel to drain. Leave to cool.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the water and then add the chocolate powder. Mix these ingredients together until you have a thick(ish) paste. Place this onto each doughnut and then top with finely chopped marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles.

Friday 13 February 2015

Brit Decor: Story Time

All images / Mike Ahern

Successfully styling a home isn't just about creating a style statement. We all know that without those all important personal touches feeding into a scheme, a space can appear very impersonal and lifeless. 

Thankfully, adding threads of personality into a room is the really fun part and we all have different ways of doing this - from proudly displaying our favourite holiday souvenirs and personal photos, to showcasing items that we may have even created with our own clever hands - all of these and so much more can help to make a house feel truly like a home.

One of my favourite things to do, especially during the duller Winter months, is to peruse our photo collections in iPhoto and search for those that inspire me enough to want to print and frame them. However, with our recent trips to both Venice and Rome, we literally have too many beautiful pics to choose from, which is the reason why I decided to turn my hand at creating a photo book.

Photo books can serve as charming visual reminders, and look great placed on a coffee table, so that visitors can instantly get a flavour of your own creative identity. I also love the idea of fiends & family visiting our cottage and being able to root through our book and share visually in our wonderful holiday.

In this instance, I opted for Polagram for my photo book - this is not for any promotional purposes, but simply because I have the app and it works for me, simple. The process of selecting the chosen images from our trip to Rome and my desired layout was oh-so straightforward, and before I knew it, my hardback book had arrived!

Have you recently made a photo book? Which brand did you choose and were you happy with the final result? I'd love to hear from you!

Friday 6 February 2015

Brit Decor: Makes/ Crochet Throw

All images / Mike Ahern

It feels so good to 'make' doesn't it? High on my to-do list of 2014 was to learn how to crochet and not only that but to actually have something to show for my efforts. An interiors related project perhaps...?

Many years ago as a child, my dear Gran taught me how to crochet and much to everyone's amazement I created a multi-coloured granny blanket, no pun intended. Frustratingly, by 2014 I had completely lost any ability to crochet, so it was a case of starting all over again with the help and, crucially, patience of my awesome friend, Cath Foxwell.

After many attempts I finally cracked it and from that moment onwards there was no stopping me, well almost! Once I had a rhythm and fairly decent speed, I felt confident enough to begin crocheting my throw using a UK double stitch with a simple neutral coloured wool and a striking royal blue for contrast and impact. 

The finished throw now takes pride of place in my office at the cottage and makes a great vibrant addition to my Stiffkey Blue feature wall. Best of all is the sense of satisfaction that this project gave me, where I can say 'I made this'.

I hope you feel inspired to make something or learn a new skill this weekend...

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