Friday, 22 October 2010

Halloween Cupcake Wrappers

In a spectacular piece of disorganisation I have managed to list some Halloween cupcake wrappers with only one week to go before the big day.

Please buy some people, please - otherwise they'll be looking at me from the stock room for 12 months making me feel like a fool. (Either that or I will have to eat a lot of scary cupcakes. Hmmm, maybe not such a hardship...?)

Anyway, they're ever so nice, and feature a parade of Halloween characters, including a rabbit in a pumpkin. (Note to self - idea to shamelessly exploit Humphrey for marketing purposes and force him into a pumpkin?)

"Just you try it!"

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

As if by magic, the Maileg pixies appear....

I have been expecting the Maileg Christmas pixies for a couple of weeks now, so wasn't too surprised when I glimpsed a flash of red in the woods outside the office this morning. They are here!

They're always pretty shy this early in the year (these are the best photos I could get) but don't be fooled. Give it a few days and they'll be popping up all over the place.

In fact, one has already tried to sneak into the office this afternoon - but Humphrey was quick to react and 'see him off'.

Oh dear, it's going to be a long couple of months. If you think you might be up to the job of adopting one I would be very grateful and have listed them on the website here - but be warned, they're mischievous little folk!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Autumn gardening with Sylvain rabbit

Thought is was about time for a Cottontails garden update...

Most of our spring / summer crops have been harvested now, but the parsnips are still in the ground (apparently they are happy to be 'stored' there) and I am trying not to look at the ravaged purple sprouting broccoli - am just hoping it might resurrect itself for spring.

Being a beginner, I kind of assumed I should just tidy things up and leave it alone for the winter, but a quick bit of research revealed that no, there are still plenty of things to plant in October. This left me without an excuse, so this afternoon Sylvain rabbit and I donned thick jumpers and headed outside to sow some more seeds...

We have planted peas which should be ready in spring (we are planning to eat tiny pea shoots as well as peas - rabbits love these apparently, and Humphrey has volunteered himself as a taste tester)

And broad beans (again, we are hoping that come spring we will be able to eat some plant tops - nice wilted in butter apparently - and also some whole tiny pods).

And in our new mini greenhouse thing we have filled pots and seed trays with spinach and various winter salads.

By the way, do you like Sylvain's jumper? Those of you with a keen eye and encyclopedic knowledge of Moulin Roty will notice that he is not wearing his usual stripey dungaree outfit. I am considering creating a small range of clothes for the soft toys and this is a prototype. What do you think? He is also wearing a lovely Snapdragon robin badge. I have a few in stock here or visit Jane's own Snapdragon website for loads more.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Miss Mouse's Miniature Apple & Blackberry Crumbles

Time for another installment in our baking adventures, and this time one of my mice decided to have a go at individual apple and blackberry crumbles - perfect mouse size.

We decided to try a recipe using a 'sable pastry base' thus elevating the humble crumble into something rather special. Ideal for mouse dinner parties. The recipe is given in full at the bottom of the post.

First we gathered blackberries from the hedgerows and apples from the trees Co-op, and we sauteed the fruit in a little butter until soft, then added some sugar.

The sable pastry was made using icing sugar, butter, egg yolk and flour and is essentially a sweet light pastry. And the crumble has ground almonds in it... yum. It all sounds good, yes?

But this is where I have to tell you that the whole thing didn't quite work. The delicate pastry was pretty sticky and it was an almighty fiddle, blind baking it in tiny tins. It kind of rose like a sponge and became a less of a pastry base than a small cake. (I am guessing this was not supposed to happen?) Anyway I'm afraid the camera was abandoned as me and the mouse battled to save the situation.

The end result, as you can see, is something rustic rather than refined. It looks quite pretty on a Moulin Roty fruit dish though...

I definitely want to try again - and if anyone at all fancies having a go I would LOVE to hear what happens and would gladly share your pictures and tips on here. I am certain there is a very elegant but yummy little pud in this recipe - I just haven't quite nailed it.

The mice loved it though and ate it up with lots of clotted cream.


Miss Mouse's Miniature Apple and Blackberry Crumble

For the sable pastry

90g unsalted butter
110g icing sugar
1 large egg yolk
150g plain flour

For the filling

30g unsalted butter
3 large Bramley apples, peeled and roughly chopped
100g blackberries
75g caster sugar

For the topping

40g unsalted butter, diced small
30g ground almonds
60g caster sugar
80g plain flour

Clotted cream to serve

First, make the sable pastry. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add egg yolk and mix well, then fold in the flour. Press the dough into a ball and pop in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Meanwhile, for the filling, melt the butter in a pan, put in the apples and cook until they are soft. Add the blackberries and sugar, stir well until dissolved and remove from the heat. 

For the crumble topping, rub in  flour, almonds and butter to breadcrumbs then stir in the sugar. 

To assemble the crumble: Grease four individual tart tins (or one 16cm size if you are a very large mouse). Roll out the sable pastry on a floured surface to 5mm thick, line the tins with the pastry, trim the edges and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 175*c / Gas mark 4.

Line four individual tart tins with greaseproof paper, fill with baking beans  and bake blind for 10 minutes or so until the pastry is light golden. Remove the beans and the paper and fill with the apple mixture. Sprinkle the crumble over the top and bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden brown. 

Serve with Devonshire clotted cream.

 (This recipe first appeared in the Independent ten years ago, and sadly I have lost the details of its original author. If it's you, or you recognise the recipe, please do let me know and I will credit it properly. In the meantime, we will let Miss Mouse take the glory.)

Saturday, 2 October 2010

There's something in the woods...

Look what I spotted growing in the woodland area outside the Cottontails office this morning!

I have harvested some and they are for sale at £2.80 per pair here on the Cottontails website. Off to do some more foraging now....