Fair-ly fearless

Well my dears, after an exceedingly long gap (sorry about that, you may blame my degree!) I am back with another post.  And, you guessed it, it’s about knitting.

The last time I told you all about my Fair Isle fears I was still grappling with a scarf on the wrong number of stitches with a rapidly failing pattern.  Well, since then things have progressed, just not in the way I thought.

In an idle moment (they are incredibly rare in my life, but they do happen sometimes) I picked up one of my Christmas presents that I had yet to make use of.   It was a book of 20 mug hug patterns.  For those of you who are unaware, a mug hug is a knitted band that you can put around a mug so that you can hug it with your hands (inspired name eh?) without burning yourself on it.  I used one whilst on work experience with The Knitter Magazine and got a bit addicted to snuggling my muggling (sorry couldn’t resist the rhyme).  So my mum bought me a book so I could knit my own.

Phew, that was a long catching up paragraph!  Basically, I found 2 Fair Isle mug hugs in that book.  HALLELUJAH!  I probably don’t have to tell you that a mug hug is much smaller than a scarf and, as such, is a much smaller undertaking.  So I have now done both of them.  And it was not that bad at all.  I had to concentrate pretty hard, but I still managed to have 24 on in the background (nothing like Jack Bauer saving the day to put your knitting fears into perspective!)  I think they are pretty neat but they are a bit higgledy piggledy so that will have to improve.  I actually really enjoyed the challenge in the end, so I think it’s safe to say that it was a success!  I have yet to iron the second one so it is not quite ready to be viewed, and I haven’t taken a photo of the first anyway.  But when I do, you will see that my colour choice has transformed an innocuous pattern into Space Invaders.  An improvement I think.

So I am no longer a Fair Isle fail.  I am still scared of it, and I still have a loooooooooooong way to go before my Fair Isle is as good as my normal knitting, but at least now it’s not the big bad monster living in my knitting books.

I still want to make the Fair Isle socks I have a pattern for.  They are my goal.  I have learned that me and knitted garments don’t go well together.  Too much time and effort in knitting makes me impatient and sloppy.  But socks I can handle.  And so I will.  But it’s not that simple, when is it ever?  To knit these beauties I have to conquer my only other knitting fear: circular needles.  Watch this space readers…circular needles, here I come!

Recipe Time

It’s February.  The weather is dismal.  My water bottle leaked on my way home from uni and made my bum soggy.  What does my mind instantly go to?  Mary Berry’s Dark Indulgent Chocolate and Walnut Brownies.  They are heavenly and gooey on the inside, with a thin but crispy crust on the outside.  Chunks of chocolate mottled throughout and the odd crunch of a nut.  There is nothing else I want right now.  But unfortunately, I don’t have all the ingredients for the recipe, and there is no way I am venturing outside again.

So, what shall I do?  I shall share the recipe with you all.

I originally got this recipe from a book of my mum’s.  It’s the old edition of Mary Berry’s cake book.  I can’t remember the name right now, but I know, on the front, Mary is sitting at a table with a cake proudly standing before her.  This book came out on every special occasion and baking day.  We use Mary’s recipes to death in my house because they are quite simply perfect and really easy to do.

Mary Berry’s Brownies have sort of become my Signature Bake (yes, I watch too much Great British Bake Off).  I can’t even remember the first time I made them, but now, if I ever want a foolproof recipe that pleases everyone I know where to turn.  I’ve made these as a “thank-you-for-letting-me-stay-with-you-for-a-week” present, as camping food (although, FYI, if you keep them in a plastic bag and take them to the beach, they do get a bit sweaty; sweaty beach brownie is now my favourite tame insult) and as general guest pleasers.  They are devine.  I now use Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.  If you call yourself a baker, and you don’t have this book, I shun you.  Go out and buy it now!  In fact, even if you don’t call yourself a baker, you will after using any of these recipes.

So without further ado, here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

350g (12 oz) plain chocolate (39% cocoa solids)

225g (8 oz) butter

2 level teaspoons instant coffee granules

2 tablespoons hot water

3 large eggs

225g (8 oz) caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

75g (3 oz) self-raising flour

175g (6oz) chopped walnuts (I use pecans because I prefer the taste)

225g (8 oz) plain chocolate chips

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170C/Gas 5.  Grease a 30 x 23 cm (12 x 9 in) traybake or roasting tin then line and base with baking parchment.

2.  Break up the chocolate into pieces (try not to eat any!) and melt slowly with the butter in a bowl set over a pan of hot water, stirring occasionally.  Leave to cool.  Dissolve the coffee in the hot water.

3.  In another bowl, mix together the coffee, eggs, sugar and vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the chocolate mixture.  Fold in the flour, walnuts (or pecans) and chocolate chips and then pour the mixture into the prepared tin.

4.  Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 40-45 minutes or until the brownies have a crusty top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Leave the brownies to cool in the tin and then cut into 24 squares.  Store in an airtight tin.

 

Trust me, these are an instant hit, they might not even last long enough to get into an airtight tin!  For a photo, just look at the top of the page, behind the name of the blog.

Happy brownie-ing!