Ode to Mary Berry

Mary Berry is a queen. I mean, not only can the woman produce a damn fine Victoria Sponge, but she has raised a family whilst cultivating a 6-decade long career. She’s the ultimate girl boss in my eyes, with high moral standards and even higher standards in food presentation.

My admiration for Mary is well known. People will text me to let me know when ‘the Bezza’ is on TV, my family have sourced many Great British Bake Off related birthday gifts for me over the years, and on parting company with my previous employer, I was even presented with a copy of Mary Berry’s ‘Classic’ recipe book as a leaving gift.

I enjoy Mary Berry’s characteristic take on home-baking and home-cooking. From her opinions on “soggy bottoms” to her love of “informal” presentations; she’s unpretentious, methodical and simply hopes to encourage everyone to make a stab at creating delicious meals at home. This outlook on baking fits well with my ethos for Easydoughsy – don’t over-complicate things, and have a go! I can only hope that someday I will execute my bakes with the same poise and grace as Mary!

Mary has amassed somewhat of a cult following as a result of her time on the Great British Bake Off (GBBO). I believe this is predominantly down to her cheeky sense of humour, love of booze, and inspiring fashion choices. Fashion, in particular, isn’t often something you’d associate with an 80-something year old. However, Mary has become a style icon in her own right. Her love of brightly coloured blazers from the high street caused a stir, triggering several sell outs of bright/floral jackets across both M&S and Zara. Mary has broken down barriers through these blazers – forcing the public to readdress how they view older people, and older women specifically. These brightly coloured uniforms are not just a style choice, but an important symbol. They enabled Mary to stand out from the crowd; all eyes on her and her invaluable knowledge, gained through many years of hard-earned experience. Woman should no longer become invisible in the media once they hit a certain age. Showing diversity on our screens is key to providing people of all ages with inspiration and positive reinforcement… we all need a good role-model, after all.

So, as one of my most cherished heroines, Mary will always be at the forefront of my mind throughout my baking adventures. When I come across a challenge or dilemma I like to imagine… “what would Mary do?”. And, of course, when considering any baking advice, the final word should invariably be from Mary. – ‘In Mary we trust!’

In tribute to Mary, here’s my attempt at one of her most classic bakes – the Victoria Sponge. This recipe can be found, for free, online at BBC Food.

https://www.bbc.com/food/recipes/mary_berrys_perfect_34317

Ingredients 

  • Self raising flour (225g)
  • Margarine (225g)
  • Caster sugar (225g)
  • Baking powder (pinch)
  • 4 eggs

Prep the cakes

  1. Grease two 20cm cake tins and line with baking paper.
  2. Set the oven to 180 degC.
  3. Weigh out the ingredients into a large bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. (mixing the egg and sugar together first, followed by the flour and eggs can aid the mixing process – particularly if you’re mixing by hand!)
  4. Divide the mixture between the 2 trays as evenly as you can.
  5. Pop the cakes in the middle shelf of the oven for 20-25mins.

Building the cake

  1. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack for cooling.
  2. Once the cakes have fully cooled, generously pour raspberry jam over the top of one cake before sandwiching the other firmly on top.
  3. Dust the cake with icing sugar to serve.

#queen #sponge #victoriasandwich #girlboss #classic #informal #nosoggybottom #maryberry #GBBO #cake #baking #stepbystep #blog #Scotland #Aberdeenshire #Easydoughsy

Ultimate guide to prepping for GBBO Ep1

  1. Buy snacks. It’s top of the list for a reason… you will end up hungry and craving sugar. Unfortunately, this is just a fact we have to accept. For bonus points, bake your own cake in advance (but prepare to feel inadequate, as the bakers produce edible masterpieces on-screen).
  2. Research the contestants and then swiftly choose your favourite based upon their 3 sentence back story and photograph alone. It’s shallow, totally unfounded and you’ll probably choose the contestant whose life most closely resembles your own, but at least you’ll have someone to cheer for from the outset. Bios for each of the contestants can be found at the GBBO instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/britishbakeoff
  3. Book-out the living room between 7.50pm and 9pm. You will require complete and unrestricted access to both the TV and sofa, so it is safer just to claim the room for yourself. Channel hopping in the advert breaks is also strictly forbidden, for fear of missing a single moment of the action.
  4. Taking this a step further, from 7pm onwards, start to remove all potential distractions. This means feed the dog, put the kids to bed, close the curtains, send the husband to the shed (and no I don’t care if it’s cold and getting dark) – whatever it takes dammit!
  5. With 8pm looming, change into PJs and slippers. Transform the snuggliest blanket in the house into a super hero cape for extra coziness. Please note: bras are prohibited… they stifle the joy.
  6. Boil the kettle and make a nice cup or tea/coffee/hot chocolate with mini marshmallows/Ovaltine (if that’s your bag?!). Remember to swoosh your blanket cape behind you as you race across the kitchen between the fridge and the mug tree.
  7. Gather your snacks / hot beverage of choice and park your bum on the sofa. Open your mind to the world of innuendos, Hollywood handshakes and Toksvig/Fielding quirky comedy. Embrace the familiarity of the 3 challenge format and star baker award. It’s time to welcome GBBO back into your life.
  8. Discussions start at 9pm. Bring any leftover biscuits pls.

#GBBO #GreatBritishBakeOff #snacks #ultimateguide #Easydoughsy #Blog #joy #comfort #cake #Ep1

Run a mile

I go through phases when it comes to fitness and, in particular, running. Sometimes I’m super-motivated and training towards a particular race or event, other times it’s been so long since I’ve run that I’ve forgotten where I’ve left my trainers.

At one point I used to drag myself to the gym 4 times a week, hop on a treadmill and not allow myself to stop until I had run the 5,6,8 or 10kms I needed to do to keep up with my training plan. With the rigmarole of having to mentally prepare myself for the slog of each gym session, I felt like I was getting nowhere fast. I would break up my running time into 10-minute slots, hating each and every moment. The first 10 minutes were all about trying to get a steady breathing pattern going, the second 10 minutes would just be about making it through to the final 10-minute slot, where the mantra there was “nearly done, don’t stop now!”. I did improve my fitness levels, lost a bit of weight and even managed to speed up a little. But the daily dread of having to re-start my 30-minute torment was something that not even a motivational playlist could fix! Therefore, after completing a half marathon, I hung up my running shoes.

Fast forward a couple of years, after taking some time out with an injury, I have been slowly trying to get back into running. I’ve taken to the roads this time though – no more treadmills for me! I want to enjoy exercise, not fear it. I learnt to run without music, enjoying the world around me instead of pounding beats. I downloaded Strava to track my runs… though quickly deleted it, deciding it wasn’t for me – I didn’t like the competitive nature of the app. That nagging feeling of having to keep up a certain pace to avoid looking like a failure in front of your followers didn’t fit my needs. However, I can see how this works for others, particularly those in training for an event where they hope to achieve a ‘good time’. For the first time in my life I’ve been on runs with a running partner. My boyfriend and I will take the dog out and run ‘a loop’ near where we live. I enjoy the social aspect of running with a companion – I find it provides me with motivation to keep going, although sometimes I do get paranoid about being too slow for him!

This week I made a massive break-through. I enjoyed my run. I took it slowly, I didn’t worry about what time I was clocking and I just enjoyed running for the sake of running.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still days where I have to force myself to put on my trainers and get outside (I’m very much a fair-weather runner!), and there are often weeks where I don’t run at all. But I’m working on striking that balance.

#running #runningtime #runningmotivation #exerciseroutine #outside #outdoors #exerciseforfun #balance #fitness #fitnessfun #blog #Scotland #Aberdeenshire #Easydoughsy

Malteser Slice

One of my mum’s recipes… this has been super popular in our house for at least 25 years! It really never disappoints!

This recipe takes around 20mins to prepare and 3 hours to set.

Ingredients (makes 1 tray)

  • Margarine (115g)
  • Golden Syrup (3 table spoons)
  • Milk chocolate (255g)
  • White chocolate (450g)
  • Digestive biscuits (225g)
  • Maltesers (225g)

Prepping the base

  1. Measure out the margarine, syrup and milk chocolate into a Pyrex mixing bowl.
  2. Set up a “bain-marie” (that’s some boiling water in a saucepan with a glass bowl sitting on top!)
  3. Allow the chocolate mix to melt, stirring occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, crush the digestive biscuits in a food bag with a rolling pin.
  5. Lightly crush your Maltesers in a second food bag – make sure there’s a mixture of well crushed and barely crushed Maltesers.
  6. Once the chocolate has melted, add the crushed digestive biscuits to the mixing bowl and stir.
  7. Add 3/4 of the crushed Maltesers and stir once more.
  8. Lightly grease a high edged baking tray.

Completing your Malteser slice

  1. Pack your chocolatey biscuit base into the baking tray. Level and smooth the mixture as best as you can.
  2. Set up a second bain-marie with your white chocolate, mixing occasionally.
  3. Once the chocolate has fully melted, carefully pour over your biscuit base.
  4. Smooth out your white chocolate and sprinkle the remaining crushed Malteser pieces over the top of the chocolate.
  5. Transfer to the fridge to set for a couple of hours.
  6. Once set, cut into (large!) portions before serving and devouring!

This recipe is perfect for parties, bake sales and picnics! (And is so easy to make!)

#Easydoughsy #recipe #blog #Aberdeenshire #baking #Scotland #chocolate #biscuit #yum #bakingmadeeasy #stepbystep #bakesale #homemade #homebaking

New shoes!

Stop the bus, hold the phone; it has happened. – I’ve only gone and found the greatest pair of everyday shoes! Yes, actually the best ever. You have no idea how happy this makes me.

Whilst at the Scottish Game Fair back at the end of June, I spied a lovely pair of shoes at one of the many trader stands. I tried on the Ariat “Bit Cruiser” loafers in chestnut, and instantly fell in love.

Now, I may live in the countryside, but I’m not horsey. Therefore, I had never actively come into contact with the equestrian brand Ariat before. I only wish I had known about them sooner. Their springy, cushiony insole allowed my feet to sink into the shoes. There was a nice little notch out of the heel to prevent rubbing. The suede was soft. And, most importantly, they looked good. I took a few steps around the trader stall, then bought them immediately.

I’m normally unbearably fussy with shoes. I suffer from blisters and hum-and-haw over every shoe purchase. However, these shoes were a revelation. They work with chinos, jeans and casual dresses. They can be worn for office work, casual Fridays, lunches out, shopping trips, running errands and everything in between.

They are a tad on the expensive side, at £80. But I would suggest that, in this case, you get what you pay for. I’ve worn these bad boys nearly every day since I bought them, and have not once regretted the decision to part with my cash. To be fair, I’m not sure how they’ll hold up once the wet weather returns in the autumn. But that’s a problem for future me to deal with. Present me is content and enjoying having happy feet. Ariat do make lovely wellies I hear though…

Right, got to dash, I’m away to buy them in every colour (navy, sand, sunshine and baby blue!) before the summer ends. Go forth! Spread the word! True joy in shoe-form does exist!

#newshoes #ariat #dreamshoes #blog #Scotland #Aberdeenshire #Easydoughsy

ps. I’m most definitely not being paid for this article!

Wild Camping – Take #1

“Let’s go camping!” – ok, great.

“I’ve mapped a route” – excellent, that’s super.

….“So it’s 30kms with 5 peaks on day one….” – uh-ohh.

………………………………………………….

Needless to say, I requested a route change.

So off we trotted, backpacks fully laden, into the hills and valleys of the Cairngorms National Park.

We began our route at the Spittal of Glen Muick car park, walking along the banks of Loch Muick before rising up and over into the next valley. The weather was mild and overcast, with occasional fine mists of rain – never heavy enough to require a jacket; ideal hiking weather.

Owing to the fact that we weren’t under any time pressures (and were feeling the strain of heavy backpacks) we navigated our route slowly and purposefully. Our springer spaniel led the way, bounding and lunging about the hillside with glee. Next time he’s getting a doggy-backpack to slow him down a bit too!

The scenery was eerie, with dramatic hues of greens and browns. Shadows and shades appeared furtively across the glens, with the sunshine ebbing and flowing through the clouds. This created some spectacular scenes, the like of which can only be fully appreciated in-person. Encountering the looming hills which edge the valley, feeling them tower over you and making you feel but 6 inches tall is a rare sensation for those of us more used to dwelling in towns.

We walked for the best part of the day, stopping occasionally for water-stops, or to take a few photographs. It was relaxing to escape from everyday life, knowing everything we needed was on our backs, except perhaps some additional water, which we would source from the river which we walked along. …I really did try my best to ignore the rubbing of my boots and the bruises forming on my collar bones, although sometimes even panoramic vistas and world-renowned landscapes aren’t enough to take away the pain completely!

With only a few kilometres until our anticipated camping spot, we stopped to explore some large rocky pools which had formed in the river. This provided us with an excellent excuse to remove our walking boots and socks, and embrace some fairly chilly paddling. Sitting on a rock, with feet dangling into the flowing water below, I watched one man and his dog explore the breadth of the river in more detail – jumping from one stepping stone to the next, egging each other on. It’s the simple things which bring us joy!

After some campsite-scouting we settled for a (relatively) flat area on the hillside, some 30 meters from the river, with gorgeous views of the valley below. Living in Scotland, wild camping is permitted under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. The general rule is that small scale camping is allowable on open/wild land, provided that campers leave no trace. (‘Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos’ was what I was always taught!) This provides locals and tourists alike with the opportunity to connect with the landscape and embrace the idyllic peacefulness of knowing there’s no one else for miles around.

This was our tent’s first outing. It was slick to put up (and take down!), coped well in a flurry of rain showers, and was spacious enough inside for all our gear.

We’d packed a portable BBQ with burgers, spaghetti hoops, marshmallows and a few tinnies (that’s cans of beer to the non-Scots!). Quite a feast! Talking and eating, whilst trying to avoid the midges and keep the pup away from the fire at the same time meant that the evening flew by. Pity our tent pitch site turned out to not be quite as lump-free as we had hoped though!

The next day, after an early start and a double check of our site for any forgotten items, we headed back onto the trail. With a much shorter route and lighter backpacks, we found ourselves making good time back to the car. A quick stop at Ballater for late morning breakfast rolls, and then it was back to reality!

Hopefully camping take #2 will be even better, now we’ve had some practice!

#outdoors #fitness #blog #camping #wildcamping #tent #hiking #walking #hillwalking #dogwalks #BBQ #marshmallows #adventuring #Aberdeenshire #Scotland #scenery #springerspaniel #paddling #backpack

The Mama-Measure

My greatest annoyance when being taught to cook/bake by my mother was her blatant disregard for standardised measurements. “Just add some of this” or “keep pouring until it looks like that”; it was a first-timer’s nightmare! To make matters worse, she just could not comprehend my frustration. In her eyes this was a completely normal and rational system. Move over metric, on your bike imperial, there’s a new unit of measurement in town!

It is only now, as I’ve slowly increased my knowledge base, that I am starting to appreciate the now-dubbed mama-measure. Scales can be slightly off, eggs can come in different sizes, and that extra couple of drops of cooking oil can easily throw off the consistency of your mixture. Knowing the anticipated consistency of your mixture is key. Actually knowing how to fix the consistency of your mixture is even better. Too wet – add some more flour, too dry – add some milk, the solution will vary dependent on the recipe.

Developing the ability to go off-piste and deviate from the recipe can be tricky. You know at the back of your head that the recipe is tried and tested, it is intended to be executed verbatim. And yet, you know your little tweak will help improve the overall outcome of your bake. I would urge you to take that chance, add that extra dollop of cocoa powder, splash in that extra drop of milk; this is your opportunity to break the rules.

Many of my bakes don’t go according to plan. This is the real world. They don’t look poised and put-together, ready to be photographed for the front cover of a magazine. Instead, they’d require some heavy airbrushing and a good bikini wax before they’d even make it to page 56. However, I like for my baking to look home-made. A wonky muffin or an odd shaped cookie won’t make them taste any less delicious. In my eyes, these beautiful imperfections are what make a bake. (And what distinguish them from their supermarket preservative-laden counterparts!) No one expects you to attain the standard of a Michelin chef. I like to try new recipes, substitute ingredients with alternatives which meet my guest’s dietary requirements, or simply adapt an old recipe to use up whatever is sitting in the back of the cupboard! Therefore, it may take several dodgy attempts to uncover the perfect dairy-free substitute for that cake mixture, or determine the missing spice for those biscuits. I try not to get precious over using precise measurements. A gram or two either way on the scales is “close enough”. To be fair, “adding a bit of this, and some of that” might just be the right method after all.

Experiment. Have a go. It’s very rare that a bake goes so awry that it is no longer edible!

#mamameasure #realworld #learning #consistency #closeenough #blog #baking #Scotland #Aberdeenshire #Easydoughsy