Friday, 10 December 2010

Immodesty, according to Facebook

Every once in a while, an application comes along on Facebook which is actually worth a visit. Although it's a bit scary to think that somewhere on the interweb, all your statuses great and small are snuggled up together along with a bunch of metadata.

Get yours here!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

More gingerbread cookies!

Although this time they are more like art works. I went to the annual gingerbread house exhibition, where proceeds go to charity, to get in the mood.

I have to say I'm impressed with these, although they also lead one to wonder how the Scandinavians manage to have such a good economy when they appear to spend a not inconsiderable number of office hours doing these...

The ship has cheated slightly by not making the sails out of anything edible, but I think it's still pretty impressive.

OK, so they never win anything, but at least they have a sweet stadium!

Top tip: Making windows out of gelatine sheets.

OK, OK, I know, the petroleum industry are evil and pollute the world. But look! How can anything with this many Smarties on it be evil??!

Otherwise, winter has finally gotten over the first ridiculously Siberia dry and cold spell and it has started snowing properly.

I cannot even see the houses up in the hill across the harbor, though that could partly be due to my dirty window rather than just the snow. I have to go outside soon, which will be less than comfortable, but still, it's impossible not to enjoy it.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Gingerbread cookies! From the cold North!

I spent four hours yesterday baking gingerbread cookies. Four. Hours. Standing on the very hard wooden floor of the kitchen, barefoot in my wooly socks and quietly cursing the fridge cold cookie dough for being so hard to roll out.

After the first few trays I realised the trick was to make GM use his 190cm of manliness to flatten it with the rolling pin, and then doing the less physically demanding bits of cutting and baking the cookies myself.

At any rate, the cookies turned out lovely, and I shall decorate a large heart shaped one tonight to say "For GM, the strongest baker in the world" and hang it in the window.

I compiled the recipe myself, and I think it came out well, although next year I will add allspice and more pepper to the mix for extra flavour.

Gingerbread cookies
(makes a really large tin of little cookies and two larger hearts for hanging)

220 grams dark syrup (line the measuring cup with unflavoured oil to reduce stickiness)
220 grams sugar
220 grams butter
2 eggs
1ts ground cinnamon
1ts ground cloves
1ts ground cardamom
1/2 ts ground black pepper
1ts ground, dried ginger
660 grams plain flour
1ts cream of tartar

Melt the butter in a pan large enough to fit all the ingredients. Take it off the hob and add the syrup. Mix the sugar and spice and add this to the pan. Give the eggs a light whisk and add them. Last of all, sieve the flour and raising agent into the pan and give everything a good stir. Just to warn you, this requires some man power and a sturdy spoon... I've broken one in the past trying to do it. Leave in the fridge overnight.

On baking day, preheat oven to 180 degrees C, or 170 if you are using a fan oven. Roll a chunk of cookie dough out to a thickness of about 3mm for cookies and 4-5mm for larger decorational items or a house if you are ambitious.

Use cookie cutters to make shapes and move them to a lined baking tray. I find this whole operation easiest to do with cool dough on a silicone mat, which means you don't have to add any flour in the process.

Bake for about 8 min. for small cookies and a little longer for the larger shapes, the cookies should brown slightly, although this is surprisingly difficult to tell. Cool on a rack, decorate with icing and store in an air tight container. Taste delicious with hot spiced apple juice or some mulled wine.