Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Special Guest - Ruth Clemens!!



Hello everybody! 

Today I am thrilled beyond belief, and that's saying something, to have Ruth Clemens, Baker Extraordinaire, joining my non-blonde blonde ramblings here on Creating and Baking.




Ruth first came to our attention as the super cool, uber organised finalist in the first series of The Great British Bake Off. Since then Ruth has gone on to create her own very successful blog, the pink whisk. She is also the author of three books including her Brilliant Baking Step-By-step which I reviewed a short while ago. Ruth is constantly working with major baking brands, writing for magazines and this month is encouraging us all to bake some lovely loaves as part of the Lurpak February Challenge on http://www.bakeclub.co.uk. Make sure you sign up and take part so you can be in with a chance of winning a set of Ruth's books, including the soon to be released Creative Eclairs - more of which later!

So I hope you are sitting down with a brew and a slice of cake; I have some of Ruth's Choc Chip and Fudge Madeira cake to enjoy whilst we learn a little more about our guest.

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Being an established cookery writer, which non-food authors are favourites on your bookcase at home?
 
I love Tess Gerritsen, Jo Nesbo and then a good variety of light-hearted chick lit – I tend to avoid the baking stories though, that’s just a bit too much like a busman's holiday for me and I do love to curl up with a good book and lose an hour or two!

Your family has a baking history going back four generations. Could you share one of your great-grandmother Thirza's trade secrets with us?
 
I wish I could! Unfortunately my memories of her and the bakery were when I was a young girl and I have to admit I didn’t pay enough attention unless it was to lick the bowl and spoon, or to do the taste testing before baked goodies made it to the counter! The two generations  of my family between my Nannan (Thirza) and me didn’t want a career in baking and so the Bakery was run by members of staff until eventually it was sold - something that I deeply regret. What she did give me is a love of baking, a love of the smell and the sounds of clattering tins and busy kitchens. She also taught me that baking is to be shared and enjoyed by as many people as possible; Nannan was a truly inspirational influence on me and I hope that I can leave as good a memory when I’m gone.

 I, too, have a houseful of boys, so how do you express your inner pink other than through baking?

I just have to keep asserting a strong female influence much to their disgust! This includes dancing randomly round the house, singing along to the radio at the top of my voice, asking them which top goes best with which trousers and explaining the ins and outs of various makeup/beauty regimes even though they have absolutely no interest. Also dragging them round The Trafford Centre (our local large shopping centre) fairly regularly, making sure they’ve examined and had a good sniff at everything in Lush before being allowed in the Apple Store. They’re not keen on the enforced girliness but at least they tolerate it now, and if I have to trapse through the mud with them, ride bikes up blustery muddy hills and cheer them on at sports games from the freezing cold sidelines then I think it’s only fair!

You equipment list includes suppliers from the US and Australia. How do certain items differ from those available in the UK and why do you prefer them?
 
I have to admit I love seeing what equipment and supplies that you can get in other countries; you can sometimes come across some really different items before they make it over here. The US and Australia supplier lists in the books are more because I’m lucky that my books are launched in the US and Australia at the same time as the UK so it’s to give the international readers some pointers as to where to buy their bits from too!

I am a fan of Anna Olsen and she recently branched out with a Food Network programme using fresh food items. Would you consider widening your remit to include more savoury baking and making?
 
Very much so. Until recently I’ve never been much of an inspired cook, I think mostly down to the fact that my boys were younger and completely unadventurous so it became very disheartening when no-one would try it, let alone eat it for their tea. However, as they get older they’re much more willing to try different things and broaden their horizons.
 
The reason I tend to come back to sweet baking is because it’s so much easier to share. You can tempt most folks with a slice of cake, I can dispatch my husband with a plate of sweet treats to share at work, drop boxes of goodies off with my sisters, deliver slices of brownies to my Nanna for wrapping individually and storing in the freezer not to mention squirrelling the odd jam tart in the boys lunch boxes!

What would you say to people who want to bake for themselves but don't quite know where to start?
 
Get a bowl, a spoon and a good recipe and get stuck in! You can’t beat the taste of something you’ve made yourself – the proud factor ups the taste level immensely!  Its hugely rewarding when you can share it out too and say "I made that"; you can’t beat a good bit of baking.
 
What future aims and ambitions do you have for your baking career?
 
It may sound a bit odd but I just want to carry on baking for the people I love; I’ll carry on sharing my recipes as long as people are interested and after that really who knows? First and foremost I’m Mum, wife, daughter, sister and friend and those are the people I love to bake for. Aside from that I’m extremely lucky that I have a lot of ‘online friends’  through the blog that I love to bake for too and, whilst I can’t share the slices out that far, I can pass on the recipes so that they can all bake for their families and friends too. 
 
Through the blog I have had some amazing opportunities and experiences, writing books and recipes and working with all sorts of brands which I have loved doing and who knows what the future will hold? My big hope is for a kitchen extension so I have a better space to work in, but I can bet I’ll still be balancing things on the toaster and the drainer and using the microwave for impromptu storage even then!

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Thank you so much for your time today, Ruth, and I am really hoping to review said new book, Creative Eclairs, in the very near future!







Monday, 17 February 2014

Homemade cleaning wipes

Morning! Finally got round to doing something I have thought about for a while - my own cleaning wipes. I have recently discovered the benefits of using soda crystals for cleaning so thought I would give this a go.

I have used said soda crystals, lemon juice and some water. In a bowl I put half a cup of the crystals, a quarter cup of lemon juice and half a cup of water. The lemon juice and soda crystals make a lovely fizz when they react with each other! You could also add tea tree oil if you want a more disinfectant wipe.

 

  
Then you can use something like Plenty Big One or Super Strong paper sheets for the actual wipes if you don't have anything in your rag bag to use. As I was just trying out the recipe today I have gone for the paper sheets but recently recycled some of my boys' old jimmers so will use those next time and, of course, you can wash and reuse those again!

Then you soak your sheets/rags in the cleaning solution and ring them out. I have used old take away boxes to store mine in so I can keep one upstairs and one in the kitchen. I have poured a little more of the solution into the box to keep them really moist. The mixture I have given here should be good for 30 sheets but probably less for the rags if they are thicker. they can be used for wiping round the basin and toilet or wiping down tops in the kitchen, anything really.
There are lots of recipes for this kind of thing on the internet/Pinterest so see what works for you and give it a go.