Sunday, 14 February 2010

Cupcakes for Valentine's

Valentine’s Day isn’t popular here, as for a long time we didn’t know it existed (being occupied we didn’t know about a lot of things that the rest of the world happily consumed, celebrated or savored). It also is too close to another important date – 16th of February, the day we became independent for the first time, this happened in 1918. So I guess it will never be very important for an ordinary Lithuanian, maybe just for the young school kids, who see it as an opportunity to secretly express their love, or for the businessmen, who want to sell more flowers, champagne and little tacky things.

Well, I got a card from my admirer and, to make this day at least a bit special, decided to bake some cupcakes. This recipe can be found in a book by Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas “Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery”, where it is presented as a perfect winter dessert!

Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes

You will need:

115g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
90g butter at room temperature
175g caster sugar
Grated zest and juice of one orange
2 large eggs
185g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of skimmed milk at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 160ºC (fan).

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it. This can be done in two ways: 1) in a microwave – on a medium setting in 30s bursts, stirring between each session; 2) in a bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water.

In a large bowl cream the butter, sugar and orange zest until the mixture is pale and smooth. Add the eggs and beat again briefly.

Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Mix the milk and orange juice in a jug.

Add the chocolate to the cream mixture and beat on a low speed until the mixture is just combined. Add one third of the flour mix and beat until it all comes together. Add half of the juice/milk mix and beat again. Repeat these steps until all of the ingredients are in.

Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases. Make sure you fill just two-thirds. Bake in the oven for about 28-30 minutes.

They can be decorated with some chocolate buttercream, but I think they are really nice even without it!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Walking on the Sea

It’s been a long time since anyone could walk on the Baltic Sea. Recent winters have been pretty mild and we hardly had any snow. You could describe them as boring periods in between autumn and spring, when the temperature stayed above zero and the sky was constantly grey. So the stories that our ancestors could get to Sweden on a horse drawn sledge seemed like legends.

If you think about it, it’s only 300km and the Sea is more like a lake – we don’t even have floods, so if the winters were cold enough maybe this has happened?

This winter is as it should be! After experiencing -20C several weeks ago, -7C feels really warm. Fields are covered in snow, we all have taken out our warmest hats and scarves and when the sun shines, we rush out to the Sea, which has actually started freezing!

I wonder, how deep is the water underneath their feet?

To my mind this photo proves that Sun is a star!

As the local river has frozen all of the ducks have moved to the Sea.

This was a huge and brave seagull, until someone decided to scare it away...

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Testing My Patience

Right… The first month of 2010 is gone and the second one will disappear even quicker, as 28 days isn’t much, is it? So I’d better start doing something interesting and useful!

We are still snowed under and an ordinary day starts with me lifting my shovel higher and higher (it’s because the snow piles are growing!). The situation on the roads isn’t good, so to tell the truth it’s so easy to give up and just stay at home…

Don’t get me wrong, nothing has stopped – children go to schools, their parents to work, shops are open and cafes at dinner time are quite full, it’s just that to get from A to B you need to put in twice as much effort as you’d need in the summer. (By the way, I have no problems with snow piles, with these you just have to lift your legs, but icy pavement is a disgrace!)

With blizzard behind the window and several seasons of English “Most Haunted” on DVD (people hunting ghosts all over the UK) my recent favorite activity in the evenings has been crochet. I’ve decided I want a proper granny square blanket! (I think that’s what they are called.)

I bought lots of colourful wool and started on the squares. After doing just one square I realized – it will take me ages… (4 per evening – need at least 16 for one row – how many rows? – maybe 7? – 8 would be better) So I guess that’s why these blankets look so nice – so much patience goes into making them.

The pattern for the squares I got from Vanessa’s blog: do you mind if I knit: . There’s a tutorial with loads of photos, so it’s perfect even for an absolute beginner.

I guess that’s all for now, as I need to make at least 4 squares in an evening and I need to stick to my plan!
Oh well, I hope I can finish this blanket before Easter…