What came first- the chickens or the blog?

The Eclair Stair

It seems remiss of me not to have mentioned series five of the Great British Bake Off yet, since we have just had the quarter final! No spoilers for those still to catch up, but I couldn’t let another day go past without referring to Richard’s Eclair Stair, which he constructed for his choux pastry yummies.
Richard is a builder, a family man, and a most excellent baker! and it would appear, a hen keeper!
“I was bored” said Richard, when quizzed about his home made mini wooden staircase, ” we can use it as a chicken ladder when all this is over”.
Chicken ladder? Really?
When I imagine a chicken ladder these images come to mind –




I’d love to see the a Gillybirds faces if I presented them with this beautiful, practical, delicious stairway to choux pastry heaven!



And the flavours?
Lavender and Blueberry, Rose and Raspberry. Yum! What more could a hen ask for.


Photos from BBC website, Daily Mail and Hello Magazine website

Leave a comment »

A Mary Berry Christmas


So inspired by Mary Berry (perfect Christmas name) and Paul Holywood’s Christmas bake Off special that we jumped up from the settee, threw on our aprons and got to work designing, baking and decorating our very own gingerbread hen house.
Now, our creation won’t be winning any prizes, either for beauty, finesse, or architectural design but we had a lot of fun.


And a wee sneaky nibble confirms that it tastes good too.


A worthy winner


Just to bring you completely up to date, the great British Bake Off was worthily own by Frances Quinn. Often accused of “style over substance” during the ten weeks of high pressure baking, Frances excelled in the final which included the technical challenge of a layered pastry picnic basket pie, making pretzels from scratch (really who does that?) and a three tier wedding cake. Frances for me has always stood out for her original presentation of cakes and breads, particularly her “secret squirrel” cake, which when you cut into it had the shape (in sponge) of a squirrel. I can’t work out how she did it. Anyone who makes biscuits that look like buttons is worth watching.
Well done Frances! But what am I going to do on Tuesday nights now?
PS I wish I could get a photo of me looking as good as that with my baking implements! 🙂


#Team Kimberley

So excited that tonight is the final of the Great British Bake Off!
With only “style over substance”Frances, “I’m a disaster” Ruby and the cool calm and collected Kimberley left, my money has been on Kimberley since Week One.
It was our Harvest Thanksgiving on Sunday and just as last year the Gillybirds little daily eggy harvest was polished and brought along for display. This year in tribute to the Bake Off I made a hopefully artistic display of the ingredients we use for baking – flour, sugar and eggs and some baking utensils etc alongside the flowers in a big rustic jug.
Go Kimberley!

1 Comment »

A Cake Fit For Angels

Who would have thought baking could make such exciting television? The Great British Bake Off. 13 bakers. In a marquee. Ingredients. Challenges. Creativity. Mistakes. The smell if burning. The taste of Despair. Its unmissable.
A few weeks ago the technical challenge was to make an Angel Food Cake. Considering myself a bit of a Domestic Goddess (no modesty then!) I had never heard of this cake and immediately googled it. Basically an egg white foam with a little flour and baked in a special ring tin. How hard can it be?

Following the BBC Good Food recipe for Angel Food Cake with lemon and passion fruit curd I set out to make a shopping list. As you can see, rather a lot of lemons are required. Eight. (You can tell from my scribbled shopping list that the editor could have done a better job of listing the ingredients.)
And eggs. Ten! (that’s four days laying for us) The yolks make the curd and the whites make the cake.The Gillybirds have had a great week of laying thankfully.

An Angel Food Cake Tin is a specialist piece of baking equipment so I improvised with a 10 inch round tin and filled a soup tin (empty) with baking beans to create a ring mould in the centre. No greasing of the tin surface- to cool you must sit the cake upside down so it needs to adhere to the cake tin sides (yet be loose enough to let go once cooled). Quite a challenge.

It was such a beautiful autumn day the inverted cake cooled in the garden (out of the reach of greedy dogs) while I chilled outside too.

Thankfully it came away very cleanly from the cake tin.

I made the delicious lemon curd yesterday and topped the cream covered cake with it. Spoon licking highly recommended at this stage. Mmmmm

20130928-224635.jpgMary Berry Angel Food Cake Recipe



Business as Usual





<a School holidays are over. Our days of living to no one else's timetable but our own have come to an end. And here at Gillybirds Manor birthday season has passed too.
The Girls have been laying very well, enjoying the wonderfully dry weather, their feathers have grown back, they look great. Very much business as usual.
Just as well as I have had so many birthday cakes to bake over the past couple of months. Summer is birthday season. In our house alone there has been a 20th, an 11th and a 19th, together with Auntie K who turned 40. Each cake takes 4 eggs, from my faithful Nigella recipe. Sometimes I make a simple vanilla sponge, other times I add cocoa.
The decor depends on the recipient. And how classy they want it to be, or how chocolatey. Or how Pokemon-esque.
Also this summer Miss A turned up with 36 bananas urgently needing to be used up, so the freezer is stacked with plenty of banana bread to keep us going for a while.
One of these days my mother will be making noises about getting all the dried fruit organised for Christmas cake. Only 4 months to go! Those Girls better keep on laying.

Colonel Saunders is very glad she isn’t a turkey!

1 Comment »

When Life Gives You Lemons

The Gillybirds have been laying very well and I had a massive glut of eggs. This combined with some heavily discounted lemons, led to a baking session yesterday using Paul Hollywood’s great book “How to Bake”, in particular his Lemon Meringue Pie recipe. It gets a big thumbs up from all the Gillyboys and Mr G himself. Today we shared some of this yummy pud with my parents, since mum cooked a massive rib roast for us all complete with mini Yorkshire puddings!
The list of ingredients includes 6 lemons and no less than 12 eggs. It may sound extravagant but it is well worth it. Today i served twelve portions, and a little of this goes a long way! If you enjoyed the Great British Bake Off on tv recently Paul’s book focuses more on bread making whereas Mary Berry’s books are mostly about baking.

Until I discovered this recipe we always made lemon meringue pie using a wee sachet of powder lemony stuff adding water and an egg yolk and stirring on the stove, making sure the lemon capsule broke to release the flavour of lemons, It is one of the earliest recipes I remember helping my mum to bake. I can honestly say that the process of making my own lemon curd is not any more complicated than this artificial mix, and tastes so much better.


1 Comment »

Un oeuf is enough

This Thursday marks the end of the birthday season in our house with son number two turning 18. The thought of having two “adult” children is bizarre! Anyway, as part of birthday celebrations I decided to delve into Michel Roux “Eggs” and have a bash at raspberry roulade. Now roulades hold no fear for me, I have been rolling up Delia’s Bouche de Noel complete with chestnut creme for years, and Michel’s sample on p272 looked delicious. Also I had by now 6 fresh eggs just itching to be transformed into something wonderful. And a hungry family to impress too.
It’s the night before the birthday. It’s getting late. Hands washed, apron on, ready to go. Ok, oven on, baking paper prepared. Now the first thing the recipe requires ‘one quantity genoese sponge mixture’. A quick search of the index, flick to p268. Sponge requires plain flour, 4 of my 6 beautiful eggs, sugar and melted butter. No trouble there. The process is followed as per page 268. 30 minutes later we have a beautiful Genoese sponge. As with Delia’s Christmas recipe I covered the sponge with a damp tea towel, headed for bed and quietly confident, left the rest until the morning. BIG MISTAKE.
Now some of you may know that I trained as a lawyer. What do they always drum into you? Always Read The Small Print. Don’t assume anything except that Your Client Is An Idiot. (yes really). Well I fell down on both counts. Guilty as charged your honour.
Up early to let the girls outside the next morning I return to Michel and flick back to p272 to proceed with the roulade. To my dismay I read the following –
Make the Genoese sponge mix. Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes only.
Arggh. My lovely sponge, cooked for 30 minute has been cooled for 8 hours! Never mind, the damp cloth should have kept it moist enough. Hopefully.
I read on.
For the filling, whip the cream and add the creme patissiere.
Oh. I hurriedly turn to p220 and my heart sinks. Creme Patissiere requires 6 egg yolks, sugar, vanilla pod, milk, boiling AND cooling. I have two eggs left. Briefly I wonder if squeezing the hens firmly in their nether regions would make them lay any faster this morning. But in the interests of hen protection I decided to reduce the quantities of the other ingredients accordingly and started whipping madly. Soon the tiniest quantity of creme patissiere is resting in the freezer. Michel would be tutting loudly.
I turn back to p272.
Fill the roulade as soon as it has cooled otherwise it will be difficult to roll.
Oops. Never mind. ( Looking back at this stage I should have cut the by now stone cold sponge in two pieces and served it as a cake, but panic and a fear of failure kept me fully in “roulade mode”. In future I should stop and ask myself “What Would Nigella Do?”)
Raspberry jam was spread, fresh raspberries added, and the almost /nearly /not quite chilled creme was thinly spread over the lot. Well, a hint of creme patissiere is better than none I thought.
Then the rolling. No trouble there. It had no intention of being rolled, it just broke. Not pretty. Never mind. A sprinkle of icing sugar, a couple of candles and it’s finished. If it was the Great British Bake Off I’d be hanging up my apron and packing my bags for home.
Back to the recipe. Michel reminds me to “chill for 3-4 hours”.
I think he means the roulade, but after that baking fiasco I think I’ll be the one to do the chilling, merci.

This is what you would be served chez-michael!