Recipe: Plaited Loaf

Somedays when I go to write a blog it seems like I’m only writing this thing for all the dough… No, that’s not a clever way to reference that I’m making money through this blog (lets be honest, I don’t think that I’d ever become that popular what with my ridiculous rants…), but it is a cunning pun which allows me to awkwardly segue into today’s recipe post! Bread!

Yes, once again I have been watching GBBO (see the Muffin recipe to learn about the initialism (it’s not an acronym before you start! Acronyms are pronounceable!) if you don’t know what I’m talking about! Anyway, one of the challenges the bakers faced this week was to bake an Eight Strand Plaited Loaf of bread, according to the recipe handed out by one of the Judges, Paul Hollywood. I had some spare time on Friday, so I thought that I would give it a try and it is a fantastic looking loaf, if I do say so myself! Here is a recipe for you so that you can impress your friends with an…

Eight Strand Plaited Loaf!

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Ingredients
500g strong white bread flour
2 x 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
10g salt
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
340ml water
1 egg
Flour for dusting

Method
Put the flour into a mixing bowl and add the yeast on one side and the salt on other. Stir the ingredients together.

Add the olive oil and 3/4 of the water and mix together by hand. Then add the remaining water.

Turn the dough out and knead until silky and smooth looking – about 10 mins.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove and rise for about an hour.

    OPTIONAL STEP: Have a nice cup of tea!

Turn the dough out and knead for a few minutes. Separate the dough into 8strands of equal size, 16 inches long and roll into sausage shapes.

Fan the strands out from a central point at the top, like an octopus and stick the tops of the strands together, and then onto to the work surface. Now comes the tricky part.

Plait the dough. Follow this plan:

Label the strands 1 to 8, from left to right. Each time you move a strand, it will take the number of its new position in the row of strands.
Step 1: place 8 under 7 and over 1. Step 2: place 8 over 5. Step 3: place 2 under 3 and over 8. Step 4: place 1 over 4. Step 5: place 7 under 6 and over 1. Repeat steps 2 to 5 until all dough is braided.

The full recipe and plaiting guide can be found here: Full Recipe

Tuck both ends of the dough underneath to make it look nice and place on a floured baking tray before leaving to prove again, for another hour.

    OPTIONAL STEP: Have more tea!

Beat the egg and brush it over the loaf so that it bakes a nice golden brown colour.

Place the tray into a preheated oven at Gas Mark 5 (200 degrees) and bake for 20 – 30 minutes.

That’s it! Pretty simple huh! Check out the full recipe, linked above, to see videos on how to knead and knock back the bread if you’re unsure, and you can even find tonnes more recipes from the Bake Off!

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Student Survival: What to take to Uni

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The end of August is nigh, and with it comes the migration of students everywhere, both new and old, returning to their University! Tonight I had the misfortune to stumble across an article about what parents should make sure that they buy their child for their first trip to university and I found that I have a bit of a problem in telling whether or not the author is joking. I’ll let you decide for yourselves, by checking it out HERE

Read it? Good.

Half of the stuff on that list is useless and flashy and just there for the sake of being there and showing off. I for one have never seen the appeal of “Oxbridge Charm”. If I wanted people to think that I went to Oxbridge, I’d have applied to both Oxford and Cambridge (as it happens I am so not a fan of the archaic rule of these universities that I never even considered applying to them for even a moment). Some of the stuff on that list is clearly for students that come from wealthy families who probably have more money than sense a vast sum of trust money set aside for them. I mean, what student needs a ¬£200 suit jacket? In fairness, some of the items on the list are useful, but not the brands that are suggested. I for one prefer a PC to a Mac and lets face it a bike is a bike regardless of make, charm, cool factor and cost!

I thought I’d put together a few suggestions of what I think are absolutely useful items for any of you freshers moving away for the first time.

Cutlery
Most halls at normal universities are now self catered, meaning that unless you want to order in takeaway every night (whilst this sounds like a good idea, both your body and your bank account will hate it after a while, trust me!) then you had better bring some cooking and eating implements. Chief among these are cutlery! No matter how nice your housemates might seem, they WILL steal your cutlery. Without fail. You will have no forks left by the end of the year thanks to these vultures, unless you buy a big set and keep a few in your room! Problem solved!

Posters/Pictures
This is probably your first time living away from home and in my experience, everybody starts to get homesick at one point in their first few weeks. Having a selection of posters and pictures to brighten up your room will hopefully make you a bit more comfortable and settled in, as well as making your room look pretty.

Hygiene Products
Until such a time as I rise up and take over the world, deodorant and other hygiene products will be your responsibility to remember (I hope you’re ready for my army of Cleanliness Enforcers to remove you of the need to do this yourself…). Nobody wants to sit near or hang around with the smelly kid, and you will become the leper of campus if you don’t keep your stink under control. Body wash, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, shampoo (greasy hair should be made illegal…) are not that hard to find in a shop and they don’t take that long to use. Oh and if you’re one those people who claim that “I don’t need to use deodorant as I don’t have a body odour problem!” you do. Everyone in your life has just been too nice to say anything until now. Slap on some lynx and shut up.

Stationery
Don’t be the idiot that turns up to lectures without a pen and paper. People will wonder how on Earth you managed to get in.

Clothes Airer
Laundry is a rip off. This lets you hang up your wet clothes to drip dry and save you a bit of moolah for the pub later that evening. Mine has been useful all through both of my years so I recommend them to everyone!

Plastic Bowl
A multipurpose tool for students. This allows you to wash up, transport water from one room to another, clean mould off your walls (personal experience, not all halls are lovely and clean…), throw up into, wash your socks in… Everything! And if you miss the bowl whilst you’re summoning the Chunder Dragon, you can fill it up with warm soapy water whilst you’re scrubbing the vomit off your floor as demons play the bongos on your brains…

Recipe: Stud Muffins

‘The Great British Bake Off’ started again this week! In case you don’t know, it’s an amazing TV show which takes 12 amateur bakers and pits them against each other to see who is the best baker. Like all good head to head shows, someone is booted out by the judges for failing to impress with the bakes that they’ve produced that week and so the show goes until the final when the Master Baker is pronounced the winner. This is TV at its finest, Masterchef for only baked goods! Needless to say, if you’re free Tuesday Nights at 8pm UK time, you need to watch this.

In case you haven’t been reading my blog long, or you have been and you are thoroughly unperceptive, you might not know that I LOVE cooking. Any kind of food, any course, any cuisine I just like to cook. My real passion in cooking though, is baking. Cakes are a particular speciality of mine, and combined with my housemate, we’ve made a few impressive looking birthday cakes for friends (not to blow our own trumpets here but these cakes are pretty doggone awesome). Unfortunately, one baking fad that I’ve never really got into has been cupcakes. If you go anywhere on the Internet that has anything to do with baking at all, you’ll see someone that has made a cupcake. Now these cupcakes can just be regular, plain run of the mill iced cupcakes, but more often than not they’ll be some pretty amazing pieces of baked artwork. In contrast to some of these fantastically beautiful cupcake creations, I’m going to share a recipe for the cupcakes ugly cousin. Today, we’re making…

    Double Chocolate Chip Muffins!

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Ingredients:

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250g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
2tsp baking powder
170g caster sugar
1/2 pack chocolate chips
175ml milk
2 eggs
100ml sunflower oil
1 – 2 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Mix all the dry ingredients together into a bowl and stir them to combine.

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Add in the eggs, milk, vanilla and oil and fold them into the mixture until everything is combined.

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Spoon the mixture into muffin cases and place on a tray (paper muffin cases are fine, but we have reusable silicone ones).

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Place the muffins into a hot oven for 10 minutes, then turn them and put them back in for another 6 minutes.

Whip the muffins out of the oven and make sure that they have risen properly.

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Remove the muffins from the case if you’re using silicone cases or they’ll sweat!

Enjoy them!

They’re really easy to make and absolutely delicious, so why not show some love for the less attractive sibling of the cupcake and make a batch of your own muffins and share them in the comments!

I don’t understand interpretive theatre…

Last week I had the joy of going to see “The Bell” in Newbury marketplace with a good friend of mine. It was a lovely night, the pyrotechnics were incredible, the actors didn’t break character and the whole thing was pretty groovy. Except for one small thing…

I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

For the whole performance, I just did not understand what we were supposed to be seeing. The information for the play said that it was the story of human survival in a land torn apart by invading forces. Right. Here’s what I got from the performance.

It started off with a post apocalyptic Christmas Day. The actors were covered in blood and dirty, torn clothing and had clearly just come off the field of a furious gift giving battle. The rallying cheers of ” HO!” “HO!” “HO!” went around the group multiple times, before the leader of this group of warriors, a Santa Claus slimmed down and made lean and unforgiving by the ravages of war, addressed us and told us that our entire lives are a battle and that we must stand together. It didn’t help that he delivered this in fluent Spanish, before translating it into English, where it lost some of the magic. A little morbid considering that this was a show where people brought their young children, no doubt due to the concept involving Santa Claus (at least as far as I’m interpreting it). Nevertheless, these were the good guys.

A massive group of what I can only assume to be demons borne of Scrooge and negative festivity then invade the marketplace from the other side, swinging their flags around (I’m under the assumption that the red cloth attached to the sword length stick is meant to represent blood and destruction) and generally terrifying people and being 7 feet tall, with the actors on stilts. This battle raged on, with the good guys bouncing on trampolines and brandishing their own flag weapons. What I didn’t get was that these evil enemy demons seemed to have very weak, spindly legs and yet everyone seemed to be focussing on attacking their heads… Tactics, people! The demons also seemed to have an army of the dead, carrying flaming torches and flares. I don’t know quite why, but I assume it was a metaphor for death and destruction. Either that or they ended up at a Hawthorne Heights gig! (no offence to HH, or their fans, but you can be the most depressing looking people!)

The battle ended, the demon enemies vanished and the survivors climbed atop a frame to rally everyone into rebuilding their broken world, whist lamenting the loss of their leader and their loved ones. They declare they will build a bell and the music of it will chase away the darkness and be a testament to resilience. They then travel through the crowd, cheering at people to rally support before finally raising a huge bell which is then set alight and become wreathed in flame.

Then the show ends. The whole performance took about 45minutes and I just gave you a very brief overview, but yeah…

Somehow I don’t think that I fully grasp the subtle nuances of interpretive performances. I seem to have trouble with the idea of reading into the hidden messages subtly weaved into the show. I think I’ll stick to plays with a clear plot and writing blogs about cookery and idiots….

Stop Doing That… At the Gym, Part 2!

Once upon a time, way back in the recesses of my secondary school lifestyle, I carried a bit of puppy fat. As I was at the age where kids are merciless in their scorn and fury, I often got called unsavoury names and had a few jibes thrown at me. It wasn’t the nicest of times, but being such a stalwart individual I just let them bounce off me and carried on living the life that I wanted, not caring what they said.

Now imagine my surprise when, eight long years later I see one of those guys that had at one point called me out for being a bit squishy round the middle. In the gym. Looking pretty out shape. Oh how the tides have turned. The gym is the gift that keeps on giving! However, I was nice and courteous, had a brief word and continued with my workout without giving him another thought.

The rest of the idiots in there were another matter entirely. Yet more people still seem to be doing some really irritating things at the gym, and I’m here to help you make sure that you don’t do them yourself! After all, if I’ve learnt anything from my encounters this week, it’s that karma can be a real “Bee with an itch!” (this blog IS family friendly!)

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STOP: Singing
I know that the songs they play over and over again in the gym can be very catchy and doubtless whatever is on your iPod is amazing and makes you feel like you can join in at any moment. Just don’t burst out into spontaneous song whilst we’re lifting weights or having a jog on the treadmill. Life isn’t an episode of Glee, try to contain yourself, please!

STOP: Poorly spotting
If you lift free weights it’s good practice to make sure you have a gym buds that will spot you and make sure that you don’t injure yourself if you drop the weight bar or just cannot lift it during your bench press sets. This keeps everyone safe and happy and the world can carry on. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some terrible spotters. These assassins gym buddies have been looking around, checking out the cute girl on the cross trainer whilst their so called pal is struggling to keep the bar away from his throat. Use a bit of sense and pay attention guys!

STOP: Hogging equipment
If the gym is busy just remember that you’re not the only one that wants to use the machines and weights. So don’t be a useless drain on society selfish and do your set and move on. You can always come back to the machine after letting a few people get a quick set or two in!

STOP: Carrying a bottle of powder around
This one is a major bugbear of mine. I mean seriously, if you want to see me get riled up then come into the gym carrying your regular water bottle and one of those stupid ‘shake’ bottles filled with about half an inch of powder. I understand that you think protein shakes will help you build unhealthy, comical big muscles and it’s entirely your choice if you want to jack up on synthesised protein. Go ahead. Just don’t bring it to the gym and wave the bottle around, just so that everyone can see that you’re a big boy and you drink protein shakes. Unless you plan on drinking it during your session, it can be left in your bag and you can stop embarrassing yourself.

STOP: Spitting in the water fountain
I don’t think I need to say anything further, you disgusting creature…

STOP: Talking on the phone
For many people, the gym is place of quiet reflection and serious focus. If you start blathering loudly on your mobile, you’ve broken the peace and will receive the cold, judgemental, death harbouring looks of the rest of the gym users. If the call you relieve is THAT important, then go outside into the hallway and take it. If you’re on the gym floor, talking on your phone is both annoying and distracting. Not to mention, you stand a chance of injuring yourself as you’re not paying attention!!

Whew, that was a fair bit!

Posts for the next few as may be a bit scant as I’m not sure what time I’ll have, but hopefully I’ll get something up!

Dealing With Your Drunk: A Guide

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September is fast approaching and many new recruits will be heading off to University after the summer, ready to start the next stage of their academic lives. However, the introduction of a group of overage people with access to cheap alcohol is inevitably going to lead to some cases of mass drunkenness, in amongst the studying of course. Seeing as this coming September will see me begin my third year as a professional drinker student, I thought that I’d give you a quick guide of the types of drunks that you are likely to encounter and how to deal with them. (NB – for information on how to deal wit the aftermath Click this

    The Emotional

Easy to spot by the fact that they mope around the party until the river of alcohol that they’ve knocked back causes the floodgates to open and the tears burst out. Emotional drunks tend to have kept every little insecurity and problem bottled up inside them until they get themselves into a state of lowered inhibitions, then there’s no stopping them…

How to deal with them:
Stop them drinking, get them up onto their feet and if possible take them for a little walk and let them spill everything out to you. Even if they don’t remember it in the morning, it will make them feel a lot better in that instant. You can then get them safely back to their bed where they can sleep the problems off. Under no circumstance should you bring this up in the morning unless they imitate it first. Sharing is caring, but some things are best left with an air of ambiguity.

    The Tired

Sleepy doesn’t even begin to cover these guys. They can be the most up for a night out and the life of the party right up until that first drop of alcohol touches their lips and then BAM they’re out like a light, snoring away with a sound akin to an overworked sawmill. Nothing could wake them up now!

How to deal with them:
If they’ve fallen asleep after you’ve gone out, then someone should probably take them home before the bouncer ditches them outside and they end up falling asleep in the bushes or shop doorways on the way home.
If they fall asleep at pre-drinks or at a party though, it’s an entirely different story. They have become free game, so get your sharpies at the ready, your blank canvas has just presented itself. Just make sure that you deny all knowledge of this happening to them when they wake up the next morning with a giant phallus drawn on the side of their face…

    The Angry

I don’t know what this guys problem is but he can fly off the handle quicker than the Hulk with ‘road rage. These guys are generally, but not always the standard “bro” of the party that has been making a spectacle of himself at all. It takes nothing to set them off and they’ll get physical with anyone and everyone, be it the weedy kid with the glasses, their best friend or the bouncer that looks like Shrek after being put through a meat grinder.

How to deal with them:
Try to distract them from being angry by engaging them in non-threatening conversation. If you’re lucky enough to have the gift of the gab then they’ll quickly become putty in your hands. If your skills of verbal manipulation aren’t up to scratch then try to get them away from bouncers, if they’re your friend or near to bouncers if they aren’t. Above all else, if King Kong starts swinging those massive mat bags he calls arms around then don’t get hit! If you are forced to engage then kick him squarely in the ‘nads. It isn’t fair, it isn’t nice but damn is it hilarious effective.

    The Slutty

This one will flirt with absolutely anything that has legs and this can get them into trouble if they end up trying it on with someone else’s boyfriend or girlfriend. The best Slutty drunks also have a tendency to remove items of clothing, just to really class up their act…

How to deal with them:
Keep an eye on them and if you notice someone glaring at them with murder eyes then try to move them away and break up whatever little fun party they may be having. If they take their clothes off, don’t let them and above all else, don’t leave them alone with the creepy guy in the corner. That’s the beginning of a murder mystery novel there…

    The Lunatic

Crazy doesn’t cover it with these guys, they’ll do anything for a laugh, take any bet and will come up with insane ideas that others in your group will happily go along with in their befuddled state. Basically, think of the Joker in The Dark Knight, that’s this guy. The psychotic, whooping laugh is optional with these guys but like super villains, all the best have one.

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How to deal with them:
Damage limitation is the name of the game. You have to stop them in their craziness before they hurt the self or someone else. You’re the Batman of this scenario, just without a suit or gadgets. I’d suggest that throwing them around an interrogation room whilst mercilessly beating them and screaming at them is probably not the best idea though… ūüėČ

Humiliating myself for a good cause

You know I was planning on taking part in the male Race For Life for Cancer Research UK, the Boys Beating Cancer run? Well, that was last Sunday and I did indeed take part.

In the few weeks leading up to the run I had been spamming the link to my JustGiving page all over Facebook and Twitter, trying to drum up as much sponsorship as possible and I think it worked! Well, maybe it was the fact that I promised to dress up in a rather fetching outfit if my friends pushed the total over £75 by the morning of the run. The sad (from my point of view) news came through whilst I was at work, with my friends pushing my total up to £80 by the end of the night!

True to my word, Sunday morning arrived and I walked out onto the field of Newbury Rugby Club looking like this:

Yes, that is a rather fetching tutu and fairy wings combination, topped off by the sparkly pink bowtie (said bowtie is hanging up in my room as a trophy of the hilarity of this race).

The run itself was tiring but i managed to complete it in just over 25 minutes, knocking a fair bit off of my old personal best for a 5k – amazing what a little humiliation can do!

It might not be gold, but a medal is a medal!

The race was fun and for a good cause and over the course of the next few days the total money that I managed to raise had increased to £100! AMAZING!

I’d like to say a great big thank you to all of the people who sponsored me and so here is my public note of thanks for you all!

Big Thanks to the following sponsors!:

Justin Lakey
Gill Hall
Tansy Spencer
Ali Hall
Andy Hall
Charlotte Dickenson
Anne Wenlock
Charlotte Wenlock
Joe Smallman
Annabel Haines
Nikki Broocks
Dean Crispin
Emily Welfare
Timothy Jeffrey

Here’s a picture of my pulling my attractive “I just ran 5k” face to say thanks!

Attractive, I know.

Until next years run guys!