Femke de Vos Fotografie

Femke de Vos Fotografie

I have been a bit busy lately. I have been sewing some bits, which I will post soon. But mainly I have been working on setting up my business. I am taking the plunge and going to give this freelance thing a try.

I have always liked photography (although taking photos of food and my crafty projects I find extremely difficult!) and people tell me I have a good eye. I take nice photos of children and small groups, so I have set up as a children’s and family photographer. It’s early days, but I have done some portfolio shoots and am now trying to actually get people to pay for my services! On that note: 50% off a photoshoot if you book before 1 February 2014… 😉

Thoughts on ‘homemaking’

I am a homemaker at the moment. I hate the word, but there’s not really any other way to describe it. I hate the word housewife even more and I think homemaking is much more than housewifery.

For the first time in 12 years, since I’ve started working, I am without a job. Well, I had a brief spell of unemployment when I moved to London in 2006, but it didn’t last as long as my current situation. Both times the unemployment was gone into by choice after moving country. This time round I’m very lucky we’re in a situation we can afford me being unemployed for a bit.

I thought it would drive me crazy, the not working. It is to a certain degree. I miss the structure to my day and I miss having my own money. I miss the human interaction an office provides and I miss the sense of accomplishment brought on by being successful at work.

I think, however, that some of this is replaced by feeling accomplished when looking after your home. And I am not talking about cleaning and tidying. I am talking about making your house your home by making things that reflect your personality. I have just finished sprucing up our dining chairs. We have two different pairs, making four chairs in total. One pair had awful cream loose cushion on them and the fabric was so stained and horrid. A few weeks ago I made some simple covers for them and today I made chair covers for the other set of chairs. I will post about this later.

My sewing skills are still very limited, but my confidence is growing and I feel very accomplished having done this. I have taught myself a new skill. And I have made the flat more homely and us in the process.

I read an interesting article in a Dutch magazine about women not wanting the big, high-flying career and choosing to work part-time or stay at home altogether.  It was a great read and these women decided that there’s more to life than work long hours. I have worked full-time all my working life and have never really had the energy to do creative things. Oh yes, I have knitted many a thing, but I now have the energy to teach myself new skills, like sewing and crocheting. And I am starting to see the value of homemaking.

I am very much hoping I will be employed soon, but I am also hoping I will have some time during the week that will allow me to do some crafty projects and some homemaking as well.

I sewed something and it hasn’t fallen apart… yet…

iPad Sleeve

iPad Sleeve

It was MrFoxyMakes and my first wedding anniversary a few days ago. I was a bit stumped for a present, so I looked online for some inspiration. You know those lists which tell you what kind of material your wedding anniversary is? Well, the UK thinks your first one is cotton and the US one thinks it’s paper. I decided on cotton, as it meant I could use my extremely limited sewing skills. Turned out MrFoxyMakes used the US list and got me something from paper! Oh well…

Anyway, the iPad sleeve. Now, it’s by no means perfect. It’s probably a bit wonky as I’m finding sewing in a straight line still rather tricky (you should see the stitching on a hem I did on a pair of trousers that were too long…). The little corners to keep the iPad in place are different sizes, because I thought I’d be clever and then turned out I was really quite stupid. But hey, the iPad fits and MrFoxyBakes is over the moon! That’s the main thing, right?

I used a lovely pattern from Craftsy, which worked well enough. I changed it slightly though as I only did one pocket, not three as in the pattern. I was a bit stumped by the instruction ‘make bias tape’. Uhm? How do I do that? I couldn’t work it out, as the internet just assumes you have a nifty little accessory that makes the bias tape for you. So, in the end I just winged it really. The result wasn’t great, but it keeps the sleeve closed and it fits round the button…

This project was my introduction to Fat Quarters and I found a lovely website called The Eternal Maker and they had this lovely Patty Young Just My Type fabric. It caught my eye as MrFoxyBakes loves his typography and he’s also just my type. Obviously.

Would you like to see some pictures? Yes? Good!

Oh look, the inside!

Oh look, the inside!

Cute as a button

Cute as a button

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have also been making cushion covers, but they’re not quite done yet, so more on those later.

Now I must go and stop procrastinating and do stuff…

Foxy Makes

Hello! Welcome to Foxy Makes. It is a new incarnation of my old blog Foxy Bakes. Foxy Bakes was really a baking blog, but these days I bake less and actually make more.

A few things have brought this on.

In July I moved country for MrFoxyMakes’ work. This sounds a lot more dramatic than it is. We had the opportunity to move to Holland from the UK. For me, this was great as Holland is my homeland, and I lived here until 2006 when I moved to the UK. This move meant I gave up my job and I am currently gainfully unemployed.

To keep myself entertained and to provide a break from writing job applications, I have turned to craft. I have been a knitter for the last good few years, and I am now adding crochet and sewing to my crafty skills. Well, I say skills… I am ok at crochet and very much a novice at sewing.

I am very lucky my mum is a fantastic sewer and she has been helping me lots so far. I have a few projects I will post over the next few days and also a tutorial on how to make a new cover for a futon mattress, which my mum and I painstakingly made these last few days.

So, I hope the blog change will allow me to actually update it more. For now, I have to go as The Great British Bake Off is on in five!

It’s been a while

Hello. You probably have given up on this blog by now… Fair enough. I haven’t posted in a while as life has been a bit crazy. I have moved country in the past few months and am trying to find my feet back in my homeland of Holland.

I am continuing my journey for the perfect macaron and I will blog about this later.

The Bake Off is back, so yay! I will also jot down my thoughts on that in the next few weeks.

Clandestine Cake Club – Chocolate Fudge Cake

Chocolate Fudge Cake filled with Chocolate Meringue Buttercream, iced with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Chocolate Fudge Cake filled with Chocolate Meringue Buttercream, iced with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Wow, long time, no see. What can I say? I have been busy? I haven’t baked very much? All of the above basically… I’ve been tired and haven’t felt very inspired to bake things the last few months. But, then there was a meeting of Clandestine Cake Club a few days ago in Bracknell. I had only been once before as somehow it tends to fall whenever I have to work in the evening. But I could make it this time and the theme was Celebration Cakes as it was the first birthday of the Bracknell club.

So, I made a special cake. And it was scrumptious. The result was a rich cake with a light filling and although it could’ve been really sweet, it wasn’t. I made the chocolate fudge cake that was part of our wedding cake last year. But I decided to learn how to make a new kind (well, new to me anyway) buttercream and use that to fill the cake. I used my trusty Leith’s Baking Bible and made a cooked buttercream, which basically makes it like a soft meringue. I then iced it with salted caramel buttercream. A few people asked for the recipe, so here goes.

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Gateau Breton

*waves*

It’s been a while! Sorry. It’s been busy here, I’ve worked a lot, have been away to see my family, and it’s left very little time for baking things.

So today I made one of my favourite things: Gateau Breton, or butter cake, or if you’re Dutch boterkoek. I haven’t had this in many years and a few weeks ago I was in a restaurant in Amsterdam and they had it on their dessert menu and I just knew I had to make it. It’s undoubtedly one of the most unhealthy things you ever put through your mouth, and you should only have small servings as it’s rich!

It’s basically butter, sugar, flour and egg yolk. Sound nice? This is the recipe (from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess):

Gateau Breton

225g plain flour, preferably Italian 00
250g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter cut into cubes (get the best quality you can afford, it will make a difference)
6 large egg yolks

1 x 25cm springform tin, buttered well (and I would put some baking paper on the base; I didn’t and it’s now stuck to the tin, whoops)

Glaze
1 teaspoon of yolk from your 6
1 tablespoon of water

1. Preheat oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Mix the glaze and put aside while you get on with your gateaux.

2. Put the flour in a bowl (I never bother to sieve 00 flour because it’s so finely milled, but if you’;re using regular plain flour then do so), stir in the sugar and add butter and yolks.

3. With the dough hook attachment of the mixer, slowly whirr till you’ve got a smooth golden dough. If you’re making this by hand. make a mound of the flour on a worktop , then make a well in it and add the sugar, butter and eggs and knead to mix.

4. Scoop this dough into the tin, and smooth the top with a floured hand: expect it to be very sticky; indeed it should be.

5. Brush gateau with the glaze, and mark a lattice pattern design on top with the prongs of a fork. For a reason I am not technically proficient enough to explain, sometimes the tine marks leave a firm, striated imprint; at others, they barely show once the cake’s cooked (mine didn’t show, oh well).

6. Bake for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 180 C/gas mark 4 for 15 min and give it another 25 minutes or so until it’s golden at the top and firm to the touch.

7. Let it cool completely in the tin before unmoulding it. It will keep well if you’ve got a reliably airtight tin. when you come to eat it, either cut it in traditional – though slightly narrower – cake-like wedges or, as I prefer if I’m eating it at the end of dinner, criss-cross making irregularly shaped diamonds.

Serves 8-10 (It will serve probably double as it’s so rich!)

Making it and eating a wedge, brought me right back to my childhood. The ultimate comfort food on a wet day like this. It was accompanied by a mug of hot chocolate in the new mug and wee plate MrFoxyBakes bought for me in Amsterdam. It’s by Blond, in case you like the funky drawings…

Empire biscuits – a household favourite

Empire biscuits

A tasty favourite!

MrFoxyBakes hails from Scotland. A few years ago he introduced me to some very tasty biscuits called Empire biscuits. You can get them in most supermarkets north of the border. We would always bring back a few packs of the lovely treats, but we would miss them when we ran out.

So, I did some googling and ‘lo and behold, I found a recipe. A few actually. And I think I finally found the one we like the most.

What makes en empire biscuit so special is the combination of jam, thick icing and a little sweet on top. Yum. They’re rich, but so delicious!

This is the recipe I now use. It’s in imperial measurements, which I haven’t bothered to convert, as my scales do both… The recipe is from the Hairy Bikers’ Mums Know Best programme.

6oz butter
6oz plain flour
2oz icing sugar
2oz corn flour
Strawberry or raspberry jam
24 glacé cherries (I hate glacé cherries, so I use little sugar coated squishy sweets. I get them in Waitrose in the baking section.)
Icing:
Icing sugar
Water

1. Mix the ingredients into a bowl until you have a ball of dough in your hand. My advice would be to pop it in the fridge for a bit, as I found the dough too warm and soft to roll and cut.
2. Roll the dough with a floured rolling pin and create a circle about Πinch thick.
3. Use a cooking cutter to prise out 24 circular shapes. I never found to get 24 shapes, so I must be using a larger cutter. I don’t mind though, as I get about 16, so 8 biscuits, which is 4 each and that’s about right in our house as they don’t stay right for longer than a few days.
4. Place the 24 pieces on a baking tray.
5. Place in oven at 180ÂșC for 10-12 mins.
6. Remove from oven before golden brown.
7. Leave to cool.
8. To ice the biscuits mix icing sugar and water in a bowl.
9. Put strawberry or raspberry jam on 12 of the pieces and top with the other 12 pieces.
10. Ice the biscuits, using an icing bag. (I don’t use an icing bag, I use a palette knife and make sure the icing is properly thick, just about spreading consistency)
11. Pop a glacé cherry (or sweet in my case) on the top of each biscuit for decoration.
12. Eat! Just not all at once as it will make you feel ill. Trust me…

The Bake Off – my thoughts

So, it’s been a week since the Bake Off final and John won it! I really did not have him down as a potential winner, but he came up trumps when it mattered and I’m very pleased he won. I really hope he gets to go to Paris and become a patissier extraordinaire! He deserves it.

I think James will be just fine. He will set up some crazy bakery and write tons of books and will probably get a TV deal at some point. I like his attitude to baking, I really wish I was as unflappable as him!

As for Brendan… well… His baking was of a really high standard, but as a homebaker I just couldn’t relate to his bakes. He was also way too traditional for my liking, and he hardly experimented with flavours. He never seemed to push himself, whereas the others did.

I am sad it’s done for another year. But I celebrated by doing some baking this evening for my first ever Clandestine Cake Club meeting tomorrow! It’s a Dutch Spiced Apple Cake. I’ve made it before for MrFoxyBakes’ birthday treat at work, but never tasted it. That shall be rectified tomorrow!