Hollyblue Bakery Passes it’s Food Hygiene Inspection

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Today was a big day in the life of the Hollyblue Bakery – the day of the food hygiene inspection! Having had a couple of months to think about today, I have to admit I was massively nervous. It’s not like I’m a stranger to food hygiene inspections; I worked as a pub assistant manager for a couple of years, so I’ve seen my fair of inspectors cast their beady eyes over my kitchens. Of course, at the pub you never knew you were being struck until you opened the door and a grim looking person flashed the dreaded card. Naturally, back then had I known it was them I would have staged a freak flood / power cut / terrorist attack / rapture rather than open the door. Now however, it was not a slap on the wrist from my boss I was risking, but the very existence of my own fledgling business. And there was no create-your-own-rapture kit to hand!

To make things worse, I had no idea what to expect. This was not an industrial kitchen with nicely day-dotted food in order in the fridge and carefully labeled cleaning products ordered from the same supplier as every other commercial kitchen in the world seemed to buy from. I clean with Flash kitchen, and although I try to clean out the fridge, I can’t get my darling housemates to day-dot their leftovers. Most of the time I can’t even get them to eat them before they start growing! What exactly do the authorities expect from a small home-catering business anyway?

Thankfully, the inspector was really friendly, and was fairly understanding about the challenges of working in a shared kitchen. We mainly chatted, which surprised me as I had kind of expected her to snoop around a bit and try to find dirt or something. I guess with hindsight, the most important thing is that I understand how and why to follow certain practices day to day, not that I can present a clean kitchen for a one-off inspection. The only things she really wanted to see was the fridge, my cupboard, cleaning products and training certificates, which were all fine, thankfully.

In the end I got a very satisfactory 4 stars; the inspector said she’d like to give me 5 but unfortunately because of structural weaknesses in the kitchen, she couldn’t. Since sadly I’m never going to get my Landlords to rip up the wooden floors or put in an extra sink, I think I’m going to have to be content with that.

Even though it was a bit stressful, the experience was actually reassuring in a way. It’s nice to be given a piece of paper that confirms that you do know what you’re doing, and to know that next time, I don’t need to google “how to create your own tsunami” the night before!

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The Great Extract Experiment – Week Four & Rose Extract

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One month into the extract experiment, I finally decided to test my wares. This weekend I baked my delicious Lavender and White Chocolate Brownies using my homemade lavender extract! Not entirely sure how much lavender extract one would usually use, so I added to taste, which amounted to 3 teaspoons. I did feel that this was a little too much, so I decided to intensify the flavour a bit. I drained out all the old lavender (which had totally discoloured by this point) and added another 1/2 cup dried lavender and a splash more vodka, shook it up and re-sealed it.

As I was vamping up the lavender extract, I decided to do the same with the vanilla and orange extracts too. I just added a couple of pods and some extra vodka to the vanilla extract since it was looking pretty healthy anyway, but the orange extract was looking fairly sorry for itself, so I chucked in the peel of 2 more large oranges. I think I will try out my Chocolate Orange Brownies with it this weekend and let you know how they turn out. The earl grey extract is looking a lovely shade of syrup-y brown and smells promisingly strong, so I didn’t touch that. I will need to test that out this weekend too, so watch this space.

Since I have modified the recipe for the extracts, I have updated the initial post so that it’s all up to date. I’ve set my sights on a new project now; rose extract! I’ve been thinking about trying rose flavoured brownies for my Valentine’s seasonal special, so I need to work out how best to add the flavour. I’m not sure whether the alcohol will be too strong for delicate rose petals, but we shall see.

It took me forever to find organic rose petals online! apparently most rose petals will have been sprayed with pesticides (not the kind of thing you want to be putting in cakes!), so organic or ‘culinary’ rose petals it had to be. Steenbergs seem to be the main suppliers, but they sell small pots of rather ill-looking petals for a fairly high price. In the end I stumbled across a gorgeous delicatessen based in London that sold them quite reasonably (50g for £1.99). Melbury & Appleton also sell all sorts of quality deli produce, ingredients and kitchen accessories, so it’s well worth a look if you’re curious. I’m hoping the petals will arrive by next week, so I’ll be posting more information on the latest stage of the Great Extract Experiment soon! x

NEW Festive Brownies – Special Christmas Edition Now Available

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I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but feel that Christmas is approaching at an even more alarming rate than usual this year. This time of year always flies past in a whirl of christmas parties and shopping and mulled wine drinking, but with the Hollyblue Bakery to prepare for Christmas, as well as my home, office and social life, time seems to have speeded up even more than usual!

Nevertheless, I have still found time to develop the newest addition to our Brownie family, just in time for Christmas. I wanted to create a brownie that somehow captured the essence of Chrismas; warm and indulgent. I’m thinking blazing log fires, mulled wine, dried oranges and cinnamon, mince pies, roast turkey, carols by candlelight… How on earth do I capture that in a brownie?! Someone did suggest mincemeat (like the type you put in mince pies, not minced meat!) but I just couldn’t see it working. What I did do was start from a good, solid base and work from there. I started with Cranberry and White Chocolate, and gradually built upon that to arrive at the current recipe, which I call Cranberry Spice and White Chocolate. It’s basically the most delicious mix of my favourite Christmas flavours; cranberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange and white chocolate. Plus a splash of brandy for good measure (thanks to my lovely housemate Becca for that suggestion).

The Hollyblue Christmas Brownies come gift wrapped with the usual love and care, but with a festive twist; green tissue, festive ribbon and, of course, space for your Christmas message. The gift boxes make an unusual and personnal Christmas gift and can be ordered any time up until Sunday 18th December. Please be sure to message me to let me know if you want your order to arrive before or after a certain date. 

Please do check out my Etsy Shop for more fabulous Brownie Gift Box flavours, or email us at hollybluebakery@gmail.com for futher information.

How to Make Non-Alcoholic Christmas Punch

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Today the Hollyblue Bakery made an appearance at the Artisan Market at St Edyths, Bristol, today. It was a great day, the cafe we were running was a great hit, raising a massive £146 for charity! Our new Christmas flavoured brownies went down a treat too. We weren’t allowed to sell alcohol so we created Hot Spiced Non-Alcoholic Punch and Hot Spiced Apple in place of Mulled Wine and Spiced Cider. One of my lovely customers asked for the recipe, so I thought I’d post the recipes on here so that you can try it yourselves. Please note that the quanities are large since we were catering for the masses; it can be bottled and stored to re-heat later, or try reducing the recipe by half if you prefer.

Hot Spiced Non-Alcoholic Punch
  • 2 cartons Orange Juice
  • 1 Carton Cranberry Juice
  • 3 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Mixed Spice
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Whole Orange spiked with Cloves
Hot Spiced Apple
  • 2 cartons Apple Juice
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Mixed Spice
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 Whole Apple spiked with Cloves  (the apple may break up slightly whilst simmering, but this adds to the flavour, I think)

Just chuck the whole lot into a saucepan and bring to the boil; simmer for 10 minutes to fully infuse the flavour. Breathe in the delicious Christmassy aroma and allow to cool very slightly before serving. x

The Great Extract Experiment – Week 2 & Earl Grey Extract

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A week and a half into the extract-making experiment and the progress is looking promising. The vanilla extract expecially, looks a reassuringly warm brown colour, and has taken on a slightly more syrupy quality. The orange extract is looking more yellow than

orange… as I don’t have any orange extract in the house at the moment I can’t check whether it is supposed to be that hue or not! It would be rather ironic if I have to go out and buy orange extract to enable me to make extract! The lavender extract continues to get darker, which I am sure must be the a good sign. I think I will need to make some Lavender and White Chocolate brownies to try it out!

 Since the other extracts are doing so well, I decided to venture out a bit further, and make an attempt at Earl Grey extract for my delicious Chocolate Earl Grey brownies. So I used the following recipe:

Earl Grey Extract
  • 250ml Vodka
  • 3 tbsp loose leaf Earl Grey tea

I’m not sure if this will work. I have concerns about over brew-ed tea and losing the delicacy of the Earl Grey in the vodka. So I’ll let you know how it goes; watch this space! x

The Great Extract Experiment – Day 1

I opened my cupboard last night to give the extracts a quick shake and I just could not resist taking a photo to share with you! I hadn’t really been expecting much change at this stage, but all three extracts have made significant progress in the first 24 hours. The vanilla extract (centre) has taken on a warm caramel hue and the orange extract is now distinctly yellow. But most exciting has to be the lavender extract, which (although you sadly cannot tell from the picture) has turned a bright shade of blue-purple! I almost squeaked with excitement! I’m so excited to check out today’s progress!

I have concluded, though, that I probably went a little bit overboard with the lavender, and considering that the beauty of lavender is the delicacy of it’s flavour I think I need to balance it with a bit more vodka. Since the advice out there indicates that you can top the extracts up so long as you stick to the same type of alcohol (rum, vodka, whiskey etc), I will be picking up another bottle today. Perhaps I’ll start off an Earl Grey batch while I’m at it, for my Chocolate Earl Grey Brownies. x

The Great Extract Experiment – How to Make Home-Made Extracts

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Vanilla essence, orange extract, peppermint extract, almond extract, lavender oil…. I seem to be forever paying premium prices for miniscule bottles of these precious liquids, and with the Hollyblue Bakery launching last week, I’ve been wondering if this really is a cost effective way to bake. Having struggled for some time to find a recipe that will allow me to add lavender infused water to make my delicious Lavender & White Chocolate Brownies I’ve been wracking my brains for a better way to do it. Furthermore, convinced that anything home-made is going to be 100 times more delicious than its shop bought counter-part, I couldn’t resist the challenge to try and produce my own.

To start with, of course, I needed to get my terminology right. What is the difference between an extract and an essence anyway, and which one should I be making? According to various sources, an extract is made by extracting flavour from its natural source (so vanilla pods for vanilla, or orange peel for orange), where as essence is made from an artificial flavour source. A nice and easy decision; I’m making extracts then. (Plus any imposters in my cupboard sporting the “essence” label have been promptly relegated to the bin!)

Having done some research on the internet, I have to confess I was surprised to find that the basis of an extract is in fact alcohol. Recipes vary in their recommended alcohol, including brandy, whiskey and, most widely, vodka. I opted for vodka and although I was unable to obtain a 100 proof vodka as recommended, I am hopeful that 80 proof will do just as well.

So, armed with a large bottle of vodka and three jars, last night I set out to begin my Epic Extract Experiment! I have decided to start with three extracts; vanilla, orange and lavender. The recipes I used are below:

Vanilla Extract
  • 300ml Vodka (80 proof)
  • 8 Vanilla Pods, split in half
 
Orange Extract
  • 300ml Vodka (80 proof)
  • Peel of 4 large Oranges, carefully peeled to not contain the white pith (which apparently would make the extract too bitter)
 
Lavender Extract
  • 300ml Vodka (80 proof)
  • 1 1/4 cup Dried Lavender
  • Due to the volume of lavender, add the first 3/4 cup lavender to start off with and hold the remaining lavender aside. After 3-4 week, once the lavender has completely lost its colour, sift out the old lavender and add the other 1/2 cup.
 Method
  • Sterilise the jar and lid by submerging in water, bringing to the boil and boiling for 5 minutes;
  • Pour vodka and flavouring into the jar, seal tightly, shake well and label;
  • Store in a cool dark place, shaking regularly.

The recipes vary widely in terms of how long they advise the extract be left before it is useable. I have seen anything from two weeks (for lavender) to two months (for vanilla) suggested. I guess it will be a case of wait and see, although I’m not cerain how I will check whether it’s ready; as I recall vanilla extract never tasted great on its own anyway! If anyone knows how you check an extract is ready to use, please do let me know!

So hopefully in a month or two I’ll be making brownies with my very own home-made extracts! If it goes well, next on my list is going to be Earl Grey extract, so watch this space! x

Hollyblue Bakery is LIVE!

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Due to a busy week in my personal life, Hollyblue’s go-live has had to be slightly staggered, but we are now fully live on both eBay and Etsy! I’m still ironing out a few details (does anyone know how I can stop Google from correcting my spelling of ‘Hollyblue’ to ‘Holly Blue’?!), but it’s all very exciting really. Some of my items have even been ‘favourited’ on Etsy!

I have to say that setting up a shop on Etsy has been a breeze; you get your own shop for free, you can create a profile complete with a banner, you can preview everything and it will even show you how your stuff appears on Google. I am really quite pleased with it, especially my new banner, which is also now displayed at the top of this page!

You can now access my listings directly via the links at the top of this page, so please do take a look and place your orders!

5 Days To Go – Hollyblue Bakery Go-Live Monday 07 November

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The date has been set, and the Hollyblue Bakery is now in a flurry of activity as the count-down begins to Monday 7th November, the day Hollyblue goes live on the net for the first time. As of this date, you will be able to purchase delicious brownies, lovingly created, beautifully wrapped and delivered to your door, at the click of a button from Ebay and Etsy. The links to the items will be available at the top of this page to allow extra-easy access.

So in the run up I am busily trying to tie-up loose ends, make sure all my spreadsheets and accounts are ready to go and not go too overboard with excitement! I also need to do a big shop to make sure I’ve got everything. Exciting times! xx