Sian Julian Instagram Tiptree cheesecake

Tea time at Tiptree

Sian Julian Instagram Tiptree cheesecake

 

As an Essex girl born and bred, Tiptree jam is – and always has been – part and parcel of every day life. I remember my first holiday abroad with my mum, I couldn’t believe they had Tiptree jam at breakfast! I had no idea it was such a global brand, but having eaten it my whole life I can attest that it simply is the best (not that I’m at all biased!).

If you’ve never tried any Tiptree products, it extends way beyond jam. My favourites include the Hot Gooseberry chutney – great with cheese and meat; Brown sauce – I do love HP, but this one is extra special; Orange and Ginger Marmalade (the ginger makes it healthy, right?); and the Hot English Mustard. If I had to pick just one jam for the rest of my life, it would be the Tiny Tip Raspberry. Divine. Though the blackcurrant is also rather special – both are amazing in a cream tea!

Anyway, back to the point in hand. It shames me to say that, until Saturday, I’d never made it to any of the Tiptree Tea Rooms. Along with two of my school friends (one who hadn’t seen in far too long, so it was a bit of reunion too!), off we trotted to the Lordship Tea Room at Writtle College. It’s a really lovely building – much bigger than expected, with ample (free)parking – and a special mention must go to the staff all really friendly and squeezed us in almost straight away.

Great first impressions were backed up by some really tasty food – I opted for a bacon and brie toastie. I asked if they could pop some chutney in, but instead I was given a whole mini jar of my favourite gooseberry (no extra charge!) – there’s no picture, because I ate it before I remembered!!! I was very impressed.

It’s hard to miss the cake stand at the front, and having seen lots of people order delicious looking sweets, we decided it would be rude no to. Behold the Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake (pic at the top). The lightest, melt in the mouth cheesecake with bits of brownie stirred through it. Heaven! Honestly one of the best cheesecakes (if not the best, how it was that light I don’t know!) that’s ever crossed my lips.

We also frequented the cute shop next door, which stocks the full Tiptree range (of course), a patisserie counter with more of their baked delights, a meat and cheese counter, plus lots of other trinkets.

So will I be going back? Yes, definitely! A humongous toastie, generous portion of cheesecake, pot of tea and a fancy apple and elderflower juice came to the princely sum of £14 which I don’t think is too bad at all. In the shop I got a Millionaire’s Chocolate Tart to take out for about £3, plus some lovely cheeses – including my favourite, Yarg which isn’t always easy to get hold of! If you’re in the area, I highly recommend a trip.

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Conquering hollandaise

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I can’t express adequately how much I love hollandaise. Often when I go for brunch I tell myself I can’t possible have Eggs Benedict again, then find myself picking it – how is one meant to resist?! Sometimes pancakes win, and that’s okay, but there’s something so divine about the combo of poached eggs and hollandaise. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures.

However, until last weekend I had only ever had hollandaise when out or out of a jar (yes, I know – but the Maille stuff is pretty bloody good!). Buoyed by having made a successful first attempt at madeleines the night before I got to work. And I’m not going to lie, I was surprised by how well it came together.

I used the recipe on BBC Good Food website and halved the quantities, still plenty for two! Word of warning; if you’re sensitive to salty food (like I am) you may want to use unsalted butter or a butter you know not to be overly salted, then season yourself. Mine was delicious but I prefer it to be tangier. Live and learn.

I’ll definitely be making it again, just with my trusty Yeo Valley butter instead. Yum.

Finished iced and decorated chocolate lips cake

Luscious lips chocolate cake

Finished iced and decorated chocolate lips cake

Yes those are glittery lips!

If you hadn’t guessed by now, I love baking. I’m also somewhat of a chocolate fiend, so when looking for last minute birthday cake inspiration for one of my loveliest and closest friend’s birthdays, I turned to John Whaite’s beautiful book (again!).

John Whaite cook book chocolate cassis cake

The recipe and inspiration!

To make the cake taste extra special I used some Willie’s Cacao Rio Grande dark chocolate drops (for the 85g melted chocolate) and Divine cocoa powder.

chocolate lips cake ingredients

I’m a big fan of muscovado sugar in chocolate cakes as I think it gives it a nice fudgey note. I wasn’t sure about using butter, oil and eggs all together, but it definitely made for a really light sponge, with a nice crumbly texture.

chocolate lips cake mix stages

Cake mix stages – bottom left shows digital scales in action, one of my favourite Christmas gifts you can set it to zero in between each ingredient so you don’t have to use lots of bowls, jugs etc.

I didn’t have any blackcurrants lurking in the freezer, so I swapped these for raspberries. I cooked the raspberries in the amount of cassis John recommends stirring through the cream – or mascarpone in my case. Sweetened slightly with a few tablespoons of icing sugar, the cooled raspberry and cassis mixture was stirred in to create an utterly delicious and pretty pink filling.

Chocolate lips cake construction stages

1. Putting cassis syrup on the sponge 2. Raspberry and cassis mascarpone cream going in the middle 3. Second syrup soaked sponge on top, covered in dark chocolate buttercream and 4. Top of finished cake, covered in edible glitter.

The original recipe called for nothing more than the syrup on top, but I decided it needed glitter. And lips (we got her a Lulu Guiness purse – her work famously features lips!). This looks really pretty, but edible glitter is amazing at making something so simple look complex. All you need to do is dust your buttercream or frosting in the colour of your choosing, cut out a stencil and sprinkle the other glitter over this. Et voila! You have yourself one luscious lips cake.

This is easily one of my favourite cakes I’ve ever made. It’s simple to prepare and tastes absolutely amazing. I’ll definitely be making it again.

Chai infused fudge

Chai fudge…might be one of the best things I've ever made 🎉

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I do love fudge. Sweet, creamy, totally indulgent…what’s not to love. I really can’t believe it’s taken me till now, my 26th year, to attempt to make it! Especially as it’s relatively easy as sweet treats go.

I could’ve stuck with the purity of Nigella’s Vanilla Fudge recipe, which is the basis for this, but I wanted something more festive. Whenever I have a cup of chai it always reminds me of Christmas-time, no matter what time of year it is.

So, I thought ‘I wonder if chai fudge would work?’ I can assure you it does. I didn’t really know how to go about doing it so pretty much went on instinct, brewing the tea bags in milk and adding that to the mix…it worked out really well.

I kept some for myself, but the rest was distributed to other family members and friends who were very happy about the matter!

PS – this recipe is not just for Christmas, it would make a lovely birthday present or treat for when you fancy something sweet.

Recipe and method: Nigella’s Vanilla Fudge

For the chai flavouring

1) Measure out your milk (it doesn’t specify, but I used organic whole milk as semi or skimmed probably doesn’t have enough fat)

2) Pour into a heavy bottomed saucepan and gently heat until steaming hot, but don’t boil

3) Remove from the heat and pop in two chai tea bags; leave to brew for at least five minutes. You want it to release as much flavour as possible.

4) Leave to cool and use in the recipe as normal.

Top tips

Use a sugar thermometer if possible – I did use the ice bowl method too, but at least with a sugar thermometer you know it’s been cooked to the right temperature.

You could swap the milk for cream, and infuse that instead.

If you don’t have an electric hand whisk, I would suggest having someone on hand to help you beat…I did it for about 8 minutes with the electric whisk!

If chai isn’t your thing, then what about another tea? Earl Grey or redbush might be nice too.

New Year…Fresh start

I know I’m a little late in the game with this, but after taking a nice break over the festive period work and life took subsequently took over.

I’m not one of these people who sets strict New Year’s resolutions, but I certainly gave myself lots of time to think. Rather than goals, I’m thinking more in terms of what I value and tangible actions – actions do speak louder than words, after all.

1) Making more time for the people who are most important to me: I don’t think I’ll be finding this one too hard!

Girls 🍸🎉👯 @chlobeany @sweetkellyjayne @lizacrow

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2) Rather than say I’m going to do things, just do them. I’ve been talking for age about running my own business, going travelling and doing qualifications in patisserie. So far, I’ve applied for a patisserie course, so watch this space.

3) This one is going to sound selfish, but here it goes: stop doing things I don’t want to do. I’ve kind of been slowly doing this anyway over the last year or so, but sometimes I still feel myself succumbing to pressure. It’s more of a general theme of learning and accepting that I don’t have to do things that make other people happy, but not me.

4) Learn something new. I might go back to French or try a new language, or maybe make my own clothes. Pilates and meditation are also on my list. I know I want to push myself and see what I’m capable of, rather than always doubting my abilities and ending up not trying anything new. It’s definitely a cycle that I need to break.

So, Happy New Year to you all – hope you had a good one and enjoyed lots of time to relax, see friends and family and take some time for you. What are your aims for the year? Or do you think more in terms of values and smaller actions you can achieve? I’d love to hear it!

PS – I will start posting recipes etc. again soon. Lots of yummy ones, including my Christmas hit: chai fudge – delish.

Sian x

Tis the season…for baked camembert

baked camembert crispy baguette

excuse the shadow!

Ah, tis the season for indulgence and excess, and what better way to celebrate than with a whole baked mini camembert to oneself? Not much. It ticks every box and as is the perfect lazy lunch.

It really couldn’t be simpler to prepare…shove a few bits of garlic in, cover with foil and baked in the oven for about 15 minutes or until its gooey. Serve with crispy baguette slices, crackers or whatever you prefer. Enjoy!

Spiced choc cupcake

A spiced chocolate cupcake experiment

Spiced choc cupcake

I had an intense craving for dessert the other night, but nothing to hand. So I decided to raid the store cupboard (note – more like very messy baking cupboard) and see what I could come up with.

I had a pot of Green and Black’s cocoa powder, and as it’s the festive season I thought why not make a quick all-in-one spiced chocolate cake mix? So I did. And it was good. Although, I think it would benefit from some orange zest and milk chocolate chips (I didn’t have any!) next time. The addition of some melted dark Green and Black’s on the top was a very welcome bitter note, though perhaps too bitter for some!

I didn’t actually write the recipe down, but the method is simple…4-4-2-4. If in doubt, stick to this old classic ratio of ingredients 4 ounces each of butter, sugar and flour, plus two eggs. It works every time.

In this case 3oz flour plus 1oz cocoa – though you could do less or more, depending on your palate. Add spices to taste – I used 1tsp cinnamon, a squirt of nutmeg syrup, 1tsp vanilla essence and 1/2 tsp mixed spice.

I used the Mary Berry classic all-in-one method i.e. chuck it all in a bowl and beat with an electric whisk until smooth. I baked them for 12 minutes at 180.

Serve warm, straight out the oven with some extra melted chocolate and cream if you like.

Here’s a handy link to Nigella’s website for anyone looking for metric / cups equivalents