Washing doesn’t need to be such a chore with our time & money saving tips

woman holding clothes after washing them

If you’re thinking about buying a new washing machine then don’t do it until you’ve read these tips!

Opting for a quick machine will save you drying time

The quicker your machine spins, the dryer your washing will be at the end of the cycle. This means that you can have fresh new clothes in less time. In order to make the most of it we recommend going for a machine with a minimum of 1600 rpms.

Save money on power by choosing energy efficient

 When choosing your new washing machine make sure that you select one with a high energy rating and the option for an eco cycle. Anything above A+ is good. The more + signs the better energy rating. Washing on eco in an efficient machine can save you up to 60% on your power bills. A win for you and the environment!

Don’t go bigger than you need to

In this case we are talking about the capacity of the drum. If you have lots of space in your machine then that is wasting energy and your money. Washing machines typically come with capacities of between 5–13kg. For those who live alone and don’t go mad with their clothes a 5kg machine should be enough whereas we would recommend 10+ for families of 4 or more.

Avoid using your tumble dyer unless you need it

When you have a washer-dryer, you will probably feel like always setting it to wash and dry. Though this is an easy option it is not good for keeping your clothes looking their best. Colours will fade faster from the heat and they will also lose their shape quicker. Do not put anything delicate on to tumble dry, instead opt to air dry clothes whenever possible.

Use natural fabric softeners

If you have sensitive skin, you may already be avoiding fabric softeners. They can be full of chemicals which are bad for both the environment and your skin. To keep your clothes soft a more natural alternative is vinegar. It is non-toxic, perfume free and will leave your clothes super soft.

Use lemon juice to shift difficult perspiration stains

If you have some clothes that are suffering from a little discolouration try dabbing lemon juice and baking soda on the stains before washing. Bear in mind that it is better to do this when the stains are fresh, stains that have been washed in can be almost impossible to shift without bleach.

Line dry anything you want to iron

Giving your washing a really good shake and hanging it out to dry will make clothes so much easier to iron. If you tumble dry them and leave them in a scrunched pile you are making your life and your ironing so much harder !

Wash items inside out to avoid streaks

If you are noticing the colours of your darker clothes are looking streaked with lightness this can be caused by friction inside of the washing machine rubbing away the dye. Avoid it by turning your clothes inside out before the wash. This is also the only way to make sure that your jeans last in the best condition.

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Bargain student essentials – Our top pics

Off to Uni this year? Know somebody who is? Have a look at our favourite bargain student essentials to make sure that you have everything you need in your new digs without breaking the bank. Don’t forget that if you spend over £40 on our website that you will get free next day delivery, sometimes it pays to buy more!

a student looks into his future

Our top pics will suit the halls of residence down to the ground as they can all be safely stored away and used from the convenience of your room.

The Morphy Richards Equip Steam Iron – Bargain Student Essentials

You may be tempted to buy a super cheap iron but this is rarely worth it. A poor quality iron means way more time spent ironing your clothes when you could be doing things that are 10000x more fun. They are also way more likely to break.

Morphy Richards is a fantastic brand for assuring quality and value so you can be sure that you won’t be wasting your money when you pick up one of their products. The Equip Steam iron is lightweight and easy to use. It does everything that you need it to without spending a fortune. It will steam and iron your clothes in no time and comes at a VERY reasonable price.

Cuisinart 2-in-1 Grill and Sandwich Maker – Bargain Student Essentials

Cuisinart 2-in-1 Grill and Sandwich Maker down to just £76

This amazing grill from Cuisinart is perfect for making almost anything. Currently offered at a 16% discount, this multi functional grill is worth every penny.

Make delicious thick, deep filled toasted sandwiches in the Cuisinart 2 in 1 grill & sandwich maker. Have quick and easy omelettes, calzones, quesadillas, paninis and even pastries with the sandwich maker plates. The grill is also ideal for meats, fish or vegetables. Who said that student food was never healthy ?!

Morphy Richards Equip 2 Slice Toaster – Bargain Student Essentials

A solid brand at a bargain price, what’s not to love? This Morphy Richards toaster will make sure that you’re fed when you really can’t be bothered to make anything.

Morphy Richards Equip Jug Kettle – Bargain Student Essentials

This slick little kettle will make sure that you never go without your morning brew! It’s 1.7L capacity means you can keep your housemates happy and the cord storage means it can be kept neatly out of the way. The 2 year warranty makes this kettle an absolute bargain. There’s nothing to say it won’t serve you all the way through Uni!

Sage Smart Oven Pro – Bargain Student Essentials

The price may look a little steep for a student but this convenient little oven has so much to offer ! You will feel right at home in your new digs when you can make real meals which taste amazing. Bake cookies, pizzas , grill steaks and bacon, make toast for your whole flat; the possibilities are endless!

10 Pre-set cooking functions include: Toast 6 slices, Crumpet, Bake, Bake, Grill, Pizza, Cookies, Reheat, Warm, Slow cook & the accessories included: Non-stick 13″ pizza pan, enamel baking tray and enamel grill rack

Samsung Solo Microwave – Bargain Student Essentials

Let’s face it, when you’re busy working or hanging from a big night out a microwave is a bit of an essential.

This one is easy to use, eco friendly & has a ceramic enamel interior; it is easy to clean, anti-bacterial, durable and won’t scratch or crack.

Which coffee machine is right for you?

cups of coffee

A coffee machine can be quite an investment but if you choose the right coffee machine it will change your life! Make sure your money is well spent with our quick guide.

Choose the right coffee machine

When picking a coffee machine you will usually be picking between a traditional espresso machine , bean to cup or a capsule coffee machine.

If you want to get the most for your money then a traditional espresso/ bean to cup machine will give you more cups for your cash. If you’re looking for time and convenience then a capsule machine is perfect. For those who want to explore coffee flavours and perfect the art of coffee making then we would recommend a manual espresso machine every time.

manual coffee machine
Sage BES980BKS ‘The Oracle’ espresso coffee machine in black sesame down to £1449.
coffee grinder for manual machines
Sage BCG820BSSUK Smart Grinder Pro Stainless Steel £199.99

Will you need a grinder?

For a manual coffee machine you will need to purchase a good quality grinder. Having your grinder separate to the machine allows you to get the extraction time to an art. You can tailor make your grind to the coffee that you’re making and get the most out of your beans. With a bean to cup machine there is no need to purchase a grinder as the machine will do the grinding for you. Most bean to cup machines will still allow you to select which type of grind you would like for your coffee.

Using pre ground coffee will never release the optimum flavours from your coffee. For maximum flavour invest in a quality burr grinder which will create an even texture. Think about your priorities when choosing the right coffee machine.

You’ll also need a knock box…

A knock box is a handy gadget where you can knock out the used coffee grounds. Less mess ! You don’t have to traipse backwards and forwards to the bin. Simply empty it when it’s full.

A few quick tips to get the most out of making your own coffee

I think we can agree that you just can’t beat the flavour of the freshly roasted beans that go into making a proper cuppa’ coffee. Whether yours is a latte, mocha, flat white or americano the base is always the same – it begins with the espresso. Thinking about what kind of coffee you want to make will help you choose the right coffee machine. If you opt for a capsule coffee machine then you don’t need to worry about the espresso. Simply choose the pod that you want and let the machine do the rest.

capsule coffee machine.
The Sage Creatista Plus in Black Truffle SNE800BTR is at the top of it’s game in Capsule Coffee machines buy it now at £449.95 with free delivery.

For a glorious cup of coffee begin with an exemplary espresso. Start with premium quality coffee beans and take care to store them in a cool, dry place. Having them in an airtight container can extend their shelf life up to 3 months.

Firstly decide what kind of coffee you are making, the size of your espresso will carry the all of the flavour and you don’t want it to be too overpowering. Generally you will choose from the following espresso measures;

  • Ristretto – 24ml
  • Espresso – 36ml
  • Lungo – 45ml

When you choose the right coffee machine decide how much you want to experiment. A manual machine will always give you the most scope for creativity.

Good beans are the key

A good coffee will allow you to taste the fruitful flavour of the beans through the milk. Choose coffee grinds which are graded over 80/100 to ensure that you are getting the finest, speciality coffee. When you roast your beans, you must be wary of roasting out the flavours within the bean. Getting the roast profile and extraction right on the machine is going to provide you with #coffeegoals.

Storage

Leaving your beans in the open air will detiorate their quality quicker than anything, if you keep them in a airtight container then you can prolong their life from 1-3 months. Ensuring that your coffee beans are stored in a dry environment is key – they don’t need to be kept in the fridge.  

row of different types of coffee. created from using a manual coffee machine

The Importance of stretching milk

If you love frothy coffees then you will need to make sure that you invest in a coffee machine that allows you to steam & stretch the milk. Do you know what we mean when we say stretching milk? It simply means the process of bringing air into the milk for that lovely frothy effect. Take the milk nozzle and position it just outside of the milk. Then texturise it by spinning the milk in circles for a nice creamy/frothy texture.

Grinding to perfection – choose the right coffee machine

To achieve perfect extraction you need to make sure your grind is not too coarse in order for the water not to flow through too quickly because this makes for tasteless coffee. On the same hand if your beans are too fine then you can be too slow, making it overly bitter. Aim for 36ml in about 30 seconds from 13g.

coffee burr grinder for manual coffee machines

Cuisinart DBM8U Professional Coffee Burr Grinder Mill – down to just £51.99

Considering your budget, time and how much passion you have for making coffee should ultimately help you chose the right coffee machine.

Breathe easy this summer with an AirFree Air Purifier

While most of us are excited for Summer it can be a nightmare for those who suffer with allergies and hay fever. It is made even worse for people who cannot take antihistamines because of difficult side effects or conflicts with existing medication. The AirFree Air Purifier range is designed to allow sufferers to be free of symptoms of allergies and hay fever. The contemporary design will also blend seamlessly into your home.

Airfree Air Purfiers offer a natural solution to those who suffer from asthma and respiratory allergies. With its tested and patented technology the purifier eliminates dust mites, bacteria, fungi, virus, pollen, allergens of domestic animals and other microorganisms from the air within the rooms of your household. AirFree technology allows you to choose to breathe clean air at home. It will also help prevent instances of must and mould in humid environments.

We take a look at a sample of the range below;

The AirFree P80

The Airfree P80 Air Purfier in white  draws air from the room. It will then heat the air to around 200°C and effectively sterilize it. The purified air is then cooled and returned to the room.

The Award winning design is neat and practical. There is no maintenance, no filters to change, and the device is light and portable. It will purify air in a room of 32m² and is completely silent. This silent technology means it is just as appropriate for use in a bedroom as any other room in the house. There is even a cool blue adjustable night light. The environmentally friendly technology means there are no ozone or ion emissions and the appliance has low energy consumption. Perfect for the whole family from adults to babies.

The Airfree Iris 40 Air Purifier

The Airfree Iris 40 Air Purfier in white  draws air from the room, heats it up to 200°C and effectively sterilizes the air. The purified air is then cooled and returned to the room. This model is suited to slightly smaller spaces than the P80 because the Iris 40 will purify air in a room up to 16m². This model is still completely silent and appropriate for use in any room in the house.

Award winning design means the appliance is neat and practical and there is no maintenance. There are no filters to change, and the device is light and portable. The Airfree Iris has a rainbow spectrum of light colours . Choose one colour at the simple touch of a button. Set the appliance to run in random colour selection to create a soothing and calm environment.

Airfree environmentally friendly technology means there are no ozone or ion emissions and the appliance has low energy consumption. Just set it up in your room and it will eliminate up to 99.99% of any microorganisms and allergens in the air.

Airfree Lotus Air Purifier White

The Airfree® Lotus is top of the range of Airfree purifiers because it combines a distinctive design with exclusive technology. Just like other AirFree purifiers, the Airfree Lotus offers a natural solution to help those who suffer from asthma and respiratory allergies. The Airfree Lotus also changes colour and opens the outer ‘petals’ of the appliance creating a calm and welcoming environment.

The Airfree Lotus Air Purfier in white sterilizes the air in the room by heating it to 200°C. The purified air is then cooled and returned to the room. It’s a very simple, natural and effective solution that eliminates any microorganisms and allergens in the air. All of this functionality is performed in complete silence so you remain undisturbed. The Airfree Lotus will purify air in a room of 60m².

Award winning design means the appliance is neat and practical – no maintenance, no filters to change, and the device is light and portable.

Airfree environmentally friendly technology means there are no ozone or ion emissions and it has low energy consumption. Just set it up in your room and it will eliminate up to 99.99% of any microorganisms and allergens in the air.

For larger scale white goods visit our sister site www.calvertsonline.com

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The Mighty Mini …. and other mighty grand artisan mixers

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Getting to know the Mighty Mini and other Kitchenaid Stand Mixers

Did you ever long to buy a fabulous KitchenAid Stand Mixer but did not? Maybe you are a little pushed for space or didn’t quite have the budget? The Kitchenaid mini stand mixer may be exactly what you are looking for.

Say hello to the KitchenAid Mini Artisan Stand Mixer! With a bijou footprint and being both 20% smaller and 25% lighter than standard models,  the Mini Mixer will fit snugly into any kitchen or utility.  The mini mixer will still demonstrate the same well-loved design that is exemplary in looks and performance.

Is bigger better?

p160245_10z_5ksm3311xhtHeralded as the ‘Mighty Mini’, this appliance still packs a punch. The 250 watt air-cooled direct drive motor does everything you need and the full metal construction and premium finish still looks and feels fantastic.  The Mini also has a 3.3 litre mixing bowl. This is more than enough to meet all of your baking requirements. The mini Kitchenaid stand mixer can still process up to 680 g of all-purpose flour and 8 egg whites (medium).   Not only that but this very neat appliance can be used as the driving hub for all of the classic Artisan Mixer attachments. So you can still make your pasta, meat balls, pastries and more. It’s every bit as fabulous and reliable as its bigger sibling.

Will it work the same?

From a design viewpoint,  the mini is simply a smaller version of the classic artisan stand mixer . It has the same smooth and elegant tilt-head format and is very easy to use and clean. Available in four colours you can choose from honeydew and hot sauce, or two classic colours, matte black and matte grey.  Whichever colour you choose you will not be disappointed.

If your heart is set on the big version we still have plenty of KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixers to choose from, all with free delivery.

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Its all happening at KitchenAid. Not only have they  introduced the Mighty Mini but they have adapted their range of original classic mixers. The Artisan 5KSM150 will ultimately be replaced by three new options –  the 5KSM125,  the 5KSM175 and the 5ksm175.   All three of these ‘mighty grand’ mixers have the same classic and beautiful design, original planetary mixing action for more efficient mixing and 10 speed settings. Its the same reliable,  easy-to use Artisan Stand Mixer, compatible with the classic attachments for that complete KitchenAid Artisan experience that you just cannot find elsewhere. The differences fall mainly in the colour range and accessories. The 5KSM175 Exclusive mixers are available in Chrome, Nickel and Copper for the ultimate in sophisticated baking. Check the summary below to help you make your selection.

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Cool Contemporary Cakes for Every Celebration

six teal icing cupcakes with sprinkles

Cake designer Steph Longbottom shares some of her amazing creations and offers her tips on how to create the perfect celebration cake

Steph Longbottom - Cake Designer Steph Longbottom
www.bettybuttercream.co.uk
Steph Longbottom, 25, from Barnoldswick, Lancashire, was always more interested in eating cakes than making them. As someone who always used packet mixes to make her sweet treats, Steph fell into baking when she made her son’s first birthday cake almost three years ago. Now owner of cake designing business Betty Buttercream, she tells us how to create the perfect celebration cake.

Create the perfect celebration cake, flavour versus design

When creating a celebration cake, it’s easy to get carried away with the look of your final design. But it’s important to focus on the flavour as well as the fondant.

“You need to think about the way your cake looks and tastes. For me, one without the other makes the whole process a waste of time. It’s all about getting that balance exactly right.

“I like to really focus on the flavours. I actually wrote all my own recipes because I wasn’t happy enough with existing cake recipes,” says Steph.

When it comes to creating your own recipe, you’ve got to put in the hours to achieve perfection – as Steph knows all too well. You will need to put in love and attention if you want to create the perfect celebration cake.

“I baked every single day until I perfected each recipe. Before I went into baking professionally I used to love packet mixes. I really thought about the elements that were in my favourite mixes and looked for similar recipes online to take certain aspects from those as well.”

Tutti-Fruti Cupcakes

Pictured above: Steph’s ‘Tutti Fruiti Cupcakes’ – Madagascan vanilla sponge with a sweetie filled bubblegum and tutti frutti frosting.

“I made these for a young lady who wanted to surprise her sweet-toothed friend,” says Steph.

She describes her baking style as eclectic and creative rather than practical and organised.

“Because I use my own recipes, I tend to alter them every time. I’m quite eclectic in that way. People say baking is an exact science, and it is to an extent, but I will change things to suit what someone has asked me for.

“If I think a tiered cake should be denser, I might alter how much flour I use, or if I think a particular cake would suit a more gooey texture I’ll change my recipe accordingly.”

The Farm

Pictured above: ‘The Farm’ – a quirky spin on a traditional wedding cake using green fondant and a tractor topper.

“This cake was chosen by the bride as a surprise for her husband to be. The design features the whole family plus a cheeky sheep.”

I Can’t Live Without My KitchenAid Mixer when I need to create the perfect celebration cake

KitchenAid Mixer - Baby Pink

Pictured above: Steph’s mixer proudly displayed on her kitchen worktop.

As a professional baker, Steph knows how important it is to have the right tools for the job – particularly for something as important as a celebration cake.

“I have a gorgeous baby pink KitchenAid mixer, which I won at a baking competition. It was great because I’d been using a wire whisk until then, but since having the mixer I’ve realised how important they are in baking.

“They make the process so much quicker, and it’s all about quantity as well – I can make larger amounts. If I ever needed to replace my mixer I would do it straight away, I don’t think I could live without it now.”

Steph was surprised to find out how easy it is to use a mixer.

“I was shocked to find how simple it is to use them. It’s got a mechanism to drop the whisk up and down and buttons to control the speed, that’s all there is to it.”

Essential Tools if you are to create the perfect celebration cake

Karen's Rose - Wedding Cake

Steph’s electronic scales are equally as important when it comes to baking her next masterpiece.

“I couldn’t live without my electronic scales either. If I halve my ingredients, I like to see the amounts exactly, so I have some standard kitchen scales which I actually have a spare set of just in case anything happens to them.

“You need some really good baking pans as well. I generally stick to the big-name brands as I’m more inclined to think the equipment is going to work well.”

‘Keren’s Rose’ – a wedding cake made using polystyrene dummies. Only the bottom is edible – a Victoria sponge with Madagascan vanilla pods and sweet raspberry conserve.

“The bride wanted a floral look but was allergic, so I hand crafted each rose and all the foliage too. A very traditional and elegant creation.”

Making Your Luxury Cake on a Budget

Baking a cake doesn’t have to be a costly process. Even for a luxury wedding cake, Steph says there are still ways to achieve it on a budget.

“Naked cakes are quite big at the moment. They’re basically just a cake without any fondant. People are starting to use them for weddings and I think they’d be really nice for birthday parties too.

“I do a lot of dummy cakes, where you add polystyrene tiers which are covered with fondant and placed on your cake for decoration. That can be a cheaper option too.

“If you want a six-tier cake, just have one or two tiers edible. The price difference is huge. Once you start to understand how many people a six-tier cake will serve, you’ll probably realise you’d have to invite a lot more people or have loads of cake left over.”

The Marquise - Wedding Cake

Pictured above: ‘The Marquise’ – a traditional Victoria sponge encased in delicate ivory ruffles, pearls & flowers.

“This cake travelled from Lancashire to Gretna Green on the bride’s knee! It was named after the bride and groom as he had lots of input in the design too.”

Although amateur baking has become popular, Steph wouldn’t advise people to make their entire wedding cake.

“Personally I wouldn’t like that pressure if I was a novice baker. I think something like a wedding cake is such a huge responsibility. You might be able to make a naked cake, but I wouldn’t like to teach myself how to use fondant a few days before my wedding.

“If you have some cake design experience, sourcing a standard cake and decorating it yourself is a cheaper option and way to add your own style and flair to your wedding.”

Make Your Wedding Cake Unique

In recent years, the cake industry has become more fashion orientated.

“Traditionally with wedding cakes you’d get a three-tier fruit cake with white or ivory fondant and piped designs. A lot of the more experienced bakers are amazing with piping, but newbies like me don’t know much about it because we don’t get asked for it these days.

Ebony and Ivory Cupcakes

‘Ebony and Ivory’ – A selection of the cupcakes created for a large black and ivory inspired cupcake tower. Flavours included fudge chocolate, white chocolate and vanilla.

“The bride wanted to incorporate roses and lace, which created an elegant vintage theme, proving that cupcakes can make a big impact at weddings,” says Steph.

“I think it’s just more fashion orientated now. For me personally and a lot of people, it’s as big a deal as the dress is.”

When it comes to flavours, Steph also says it’s important to find something that’s right for you rather than your guests.

“People often include a vanilla sponge in their cake if they’re having a few tiers, as that generally appeals to everyone.

“I think it’s more important to find something that represents you and what you love. If it’s a really good-quality cake it will get eaten. I don’t think there are many flavours of cake that loads of people dislike. Find something that you want rather than thinking ‘oh but nanna won’t like that very much.’ It’s your cake.”

Out-of-the-Box Wedding Cakes

Xbox Cake

If you’re looking to create something a bit quirky, there’s nothing wrong with going for something totally out of the box.

“I once made a cake with an Xbox design. It was a traditional ivory three-tiered cake with cascading flowers, but the second tier was a black Xbox and the top tier was a stack of games.

“The bride took the designs of popular games and changed them to things like ‘maid of honour’ and other things that represent getting married. I put those on to edible paper and included figures on the top with the groom holding a controller.

“It was actually a surprise for him. He saw the cake for the first time at his wedding, so that was really nice to be a part of.”

For her own wedding, Steph’s chosen some of her amazing cakes as centre pieces.

“I have so many different cakes that I love, I’ve decided that for my own wedding, instead of centre pieces and table decorations I’m going to have a different cake at every table. That way I can have lots of different styles and flavours.”

Family-Friendly Baking

Steph often gets her three-year-old son Frank involved with creating new recipes.

Frank

Pictured above: Frank posing with the gingerbread house and caramel shortcakes he and Steph made for Santa.

“I generally try out new recipes with my little boy who’s three. We’ll bake them together and I’ll decide whether or not to put them up on my Facebook page. Frank loves helping me and has his own little pinny and chef hat.”

She believes there are lots of plus points when it comes to baking.

“Just seeing how happy people can be over something that’s come out of your oven is amazing. People get so emotional over the final design, quite a few of my customers have actually cried. It’s just phenomenal. It keeps your house smelling really nice too – that’s a major plus point.

“Baking is a cheap and fun family activity. It’s been around for hundreds of years and will always be with us. Anybody can give it a go, so what a wonderful thing to share with your children, friends or relatives.”

How to Have Your Cake and Eat It – the Healthy Way

Is there such a thing as healthy baking? Freelance blogger and amateur baker Ashley Turner gives us her take on how to have your cake and eat it, the healthy way.

Ashley Turner Ashley Turner
Ashley is a full-time, freelance blogger from London. Originally from Kentucky, she explores recipes from all over the world. Ashley and her husband moved to London three years ago, as it was one of their all-time favourite cities. When she’s not busy writing on her two blogs, Plated and Sated and Pink Julep, Ashley loves sightseeing, travelling, live music, cooking and baking. She is also on the committee of her local bake club in Putney.

flat lay photography of mug on brown wooden chopping board

We can sometimes feel bombarded by information about the latest fitness craze or the next super-slimming diet. But it’s important to remember that being healthy isn’t just about counting the calories. It’s also about what’s in the food we eat.

Amateur baker, Ashley Turner, tells us:

“There’s definitely such a thing as healthy baking. It’s much better to eat things when you know what’s inside them rather than having something wrapped in plastic that’s usually full of chemicals,” she says.

Nutritious ingredients are the first step to enabling you to have your cake and eat it, the healthy way

When we think about baking, we imagine fairy cakes and buns – sweet treats that you only eat on a special occasion because they’re not considered as healthy.

With the rise in home baking, more and more people are using alternative recipes to suit their health needs.

“You can substitute sugar with honey and use healthier grains, like spelt. People are now coming up with ways to bake without eggs for those who are vegan or have cholesterol issues. Using things like unbleached wheat flour and coconut oil is also much healthier,” says Ashley.

Ashley Turner

Pictured above: Spelt – one of the first-known grains for bread making. Spelt is a healthy grain full of fibre and protein. Find spelt recipes here.
(Photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/593787)

Healthy Baking Options can Save Both Pounds and £££s

With all the horror stories and documentaries about pre-prepared food, as a nation we’re thinking more about our health.

“Across the board, people are getting back to basics. There are lots of health trends occurring, for instance there are loads of bicycle shops popping up around London. People are more interested in exercise and thinking about what they eat these days,” Ashley says.

Just like going for a run, baking can help you relax and also make you feel like you’ve really accomplished something. Ashley once achieved the seemingly impossible – healthy yet delicious brownies. It was one of her proudest baking moments.

“I once successfully made gluten-free, wheat-free, sugar-free, dairy-free brownies, and they tasted good! That’s definitely been my biggest accomplishment, because I was baking for people with food allergies.”

Trends like baking, home cooking and being healthier seem to have occurred as a result of the recession. Not only are many packaged foods bad for you, they can also be pricey – you are way better off if you can have your cake and eat it the healthy way.

“Baking is not expensive at all. It costs around £4.00 to make a batch of blueberry muffins, which is what you pay for one at most cafes these days. Food allergies are much more widely known about as well. With home cooking and baking, you can take a recipe and alter it to suit your needs. It’s not just cheaper, you can be more creative with food when you bake.”

Halloween Blueberry Muffins

Pictured above: Ashley’s Halloween Blueberry Muffins. “Blueberry cornmeal muffins are my new favourite thing to bake. I got the recipe from ‘Kitchen’ by Nigella Lawson and it’s super-easy. I love this recipe because it’s a fresh take on the traditional blueberry muffin. The cornmeal or polenta adds a really interesting texture. They’re amazing when they’re fresh out of the oven.”

Baking  can change your lifestyle if you can learn to have your cake and eat it the healthy way

For Ashley, baking is so much more than just a hobby. It’s also about a lifestyle choice.

“Instead of buying bread or bagels, I’ll make some muffins and that will be our breakfast for the week. In those instances, baking is less of a hobby and more just how we live. It’s is not just about using your time, but creating something that’s tasty and good for your health. I get a lot of satisfaction from that.”

Key Lime Pie

Pictured above: Ashley’s Key Lime Pie. “My Faux Key Lime Pie is something I’ve been making regularly for years. I love Key Lime Pie, but finding key limes isn’t always easy, so for this recipe I use regular limes and that way I can make my favourite pie anytime, anywhere. The digestive biscuit crust is just heavenly and super-easy to do if you have a food processor.”

Get Ashley’s Faux Key Lime Pie recipe here.

Bake Your Way to a Happy Festive Holiday

Whether it’s for birthdays, Christmas or Easter, there’s nothing quite like giving your friends, family and neighbours some home-baked treats.

“Festive baking is my favourite kind of baking. I remember my mother making fudge, cookies and cakes to give to people as gifts. When anyone came over we used to send them home with a batch. This year I’m getting involved with Christmas baking for friends and clients,” says Ashley.

We asked the baking fanatic what’s on her wish list…

“I’d really like a breadmaker. Stand mixers are amazing too, my grandmother used to have one and I remember watching my mom drool over it,” she adds.

Ashley does most of her baking by hand, but says small appliances like mixers and food processors can be really useful and make tasks less time-consuming.

This feature was produced by Go Electrical, experts in top brand home appliances. Their cookshop is full of handy bakeware, and they also offer baking gadgets like stand mixers and food processors.

Why has Britain Gone Baking Mad?

After the finale of this year’s The Great British Bake Off pulled in over 8 million viewers, it seems everyone is dusting off their apron and trying their hand at creating their own masterpiece. We asked two baking bloggers why they think baking so enjoyable and why does it keep growing in popularity?

Amy Jones
She Cooks She Eats
Melanie Rodger
Dinner Therapy
Amy Jones, Blogger at She Cooks She Eats
Amy Jones, 23, London
Melanie Rodger, Blogger at Dinner Therapy
Melanie, 25, London
Amy is a researcher for a digital media company and started baking three years ago. She regularly updates her blog She Cooks She Eats with unique recipes. Amy finds baking both fun and relaxing: “Some people go for a run, I bake.” Melanie, a senior family support worker, also began baking three years ago, and created her blog Dinner Therapy to encourage her to explore exciting new recipes. She also attends a cake club in Putney, South London. She says: “Baking is fun, challenging and can give you a great deal of confidence.”

Baking is Part of a Great Tradition

Amy Jones, editor of the food blog She Cooks She Eats, says: “Baking is a very traditional activity, which TV shows like The Great British Bake Off represent. There is often history to baking recipes. I think it’s nice to bake a recipe which is 100 years old, and really play into that tradition.”

She started baking about three years ago, and began blogging to keep recipes together and share her creations with others.

“I love creating recipes which other people can enjoy. People will often send me photos of meals they’ve made from things they’ve seen on my blog, which can be really rewarding,” she adds.

As well as stirring up nostalgia and comforting feelings, baking has started to take on a more modern form.

Melanie Rodger, creator of the food blog Dinner Therapy, says: “People like the retro, nostalgic trend because it’s very popular at the moment and offers that warm feeling, but baking can also have a contemporary twist with the techniques people are using.”

She started baking in 2010. After getting married, Melanie found herself making the same old boring meals she cooked as a student. So she started the blog to encourage her to try out new recipes.

“I also wanted lots of people to see that trying out new recipes is not a difficult thing to do and can actually be quite fun,” she says.

Melanie attends her local baking club in Putney. She continues: “When I was at school doing food technology I was absolutely awful at baking, which knocked my confidence a bit. But this January my friend started the club, so we meet once a month with something we’ve baked according to the theme. That really got me thinking and challenged me to try and make new things.”

Recession has Boosted our Love of Baking

Both bloggers believe the recession may have had an impact on the increase in home baking.

Amy says: “It’s less expensive to make a cake than it is to buy one. Baking is also a cheaper form of entertainment. Baking a loaf of bread will take about four hours, which is much cheaper than, say, going to the cinema twice.”

Malteser Cake

Pictured above: Amy’s Malteser Cake. “This Malteser cake is one of my favourite recipes – I’ve made it for birthday parties, charity auctions, and to celebrate the end of exams with a friend. It’s easy to make and you don’t need any special equipment — just a bowl, a spoon and a saucepan. Both the icing and the cake have a combination of chocolate and malt flavours, so it tastes like a Malteser through and through.” (Link to recipe)

Melanie agrees that with more people staying indoors, we’re more likely to get back to basics and explore traditional home activities.

“The recession and people staying indoors more has certainly played into the trend. Making a cake costs about a third of the price of buying one, and turning up to a party with a cake or dessert you’ve made is much nicer than bringing something in a box that you’ve bought.”

She also points out that baking gives people a sense of accomplishment.
“Providing you pick the right recipe, baking is quite easy and it gives you a real sense of achievement. After I’ve made a cake I’ll often think oh wow, I made that – it’s a nice surprise.”

Anyone Can Bake

No matter what your age, gender, or cooking expertise, anyone can give baking a bash. It can also be a fun family activity, says Amy.

“My boss has a two-year-old daughter and his wife bakes with her all the time. Children enjoy baking as it keeps them occupied and can be an easy activity even as a young child. Teaching children to bake and cook gives them a respect for food. Kids are notorious for not trying new things, but if they’ve made something themselves, they’re more likely to want to try it.”

Melanie adds: “Being a successful baker is all about practice. It’s only when I started practising more at home that I realised I could actually bake. Of course certain techniques are difficult to master, but basic baking is pretty accessible for most people.”

Grasshopper Cake

Pictured above: Melanie’s Grasshopper Cake. “I made this for Putney Bake Club’s February meeting, themed Spring Has Sprung. It’s a chocolate sponge with mint flavoured buttercream filling and icing, decorated with sugar flowers and chocolate fingers. I made the icing with dairy-free spread, as I find it makes the best buttercream.  I used a handheld mixer for this one and baked it in a round sandwich tin.”  (Link to recipe)

Practice Makes Perfect

Baking can be a fun activity which anyone can enjoy, particularly with the winter evenings drawing in. It’s a good idea to practice your baking before offering your creations as gifts. Both Melanie and Amy have baking disaster stories to share.

Melanie laughs: “When we got married, we got lots of people make their own cakes – so I decided to join in and bake some myself. Unfortunately mine were so terrible they looked like a small child had decorated them. I had to pretend I hadn’t made any, because they were too awful to show anybody – particularly compared to the others people had made, which looked really professional.”

Amy says: “It was my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary was last year. They wanted a two-tiered sheet cake. I didn’t bother practising because I’d had a lot of experience with baking. I bought a brand new tin, which I hadn’t worked with before.

“The first cake fell apart as soon as I took it out of the tin. The second cake refused to cook – it was in the oven for twice as long as it should have been, and was still a sloppy mess. I started again and the third cake was in for half the time that the recipe said. It was literally black – I tried cutting into it and it was just ash. To make matters worse, I was making this on the day of the party. In the end we nipped to the supermarket and bought an anniversary cake, because my baking just went completely wrong.”
Even the most experienced bakers can slip up from time to time, but with a little practice your sweet treats will be perfect.

Baking Christmas Wish List

We asked Amy and Melanie what’s on their baking Christmas wish list this year?
Amy says: “A wider variety of tins. It’s really important to have the right size tin to suit what you’re baking. If you’re following a pastry recipe for an 8-inch tin but actually using a 10-inch tin, the pastry will probably be too thin, causing it to break.”

“It might sound quite simple, but I’d really like some mini tartlet tins. My husband hates quiche, so I never want to make a massive portion and the mini tins are really handy for this. I would also really like one of the snazzy stand mixers. They’re a great thing to have because you can just chuck all your ingredients in,” says Melanie.

With a little practice and the right equipment, going baking mad can be an easy, affordable, and fun activity – join the craze today.

This piece was written by Go Electrical, who offer a wide range of home appliances, including baking appliances. 

More smart technology from Samsung

Smart technology from Samsung home cinema has come to Go-Electrical. Purchase the newest Samsung televisions from go-electrical.co.uk. We now also have the Home Cinema range so you can enjoy a truly inclusive viewing experience.

There are Soundbars and Theatre Systems available from Samsung. The Soundbar is a speaker which offers premium sound in the home. The Theatre System includes multiple speakers and a media player (usually DVD or Blu-ray).

The Samsung HW-F751 Soundbar

The Samsung HW-F751 Soundbar is brilliant if you want to get the cinematic experience at home. It matches wirelessly with a 46” Samsung TV so that there is no need for a separate remote control.  It’s sleek silver finish blends seamlessly side by side with the new Samsung televisions without looking like an “add-on”. This Soundbar also comes with a Valve Amplifier to filters out unnecessary noise. So you can enjoy only the purest sound whilst watching your favourite film or documentary.  This Soundbar also features a sensor which detects the speakers’ position and it then alters the sound output accordingly so the sound is perfect.

Samsung HT-E350 Home Theatre System

The Samsung HT-E350 Home Theatre System features five speakers and a DVD player. Place the speakers around the room to experience a true surround sound experience. Power bass technology means that the system produces a deeper, smoother and richer sound. The low notes are still delivered to the viewer. The HT-E350 also has another clever feature; Smart Volume. Smart volume means that with  a few adjustments and settings, the viewer doesn’t need to fuss about the volume level.  From TV to DVD, all channels become balanced.

Smart technology from Samsung

The top of the range Home Theatre System is the Samsung HT-F9750W which consists of a 3D Blu-ray & DVD system and an incredible seven speakers. Including a Dualit Unit Subwoofer. This amazing piece of kit is definitely for the die-hard film buffs who like to see, hear and feel a film. Despite the amount of pieces the HT-F9750W is very easy to set-up. This easy set-up is thanks to Samsung’s clever intuitive graphical user interface which means even the most tech-phobic user can be enjoying surround sound in super-fast time.

If a Soundbar or a Home Theatre System sounds like something you would like to have in your home, then visit our Home Cinema pages here, and if you haven’t yet discovered the brilliant new Samsung televisions then you can find out about them on our website, or by visiting our previous blog post on them.

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