Autumn/Winter at Pizza Express

A couple of weeks ago I went to go try out the autumn/winter menu at Pizza Express. Yes, you read correctly - Pizza Express do seasonal menus.

You may remember I went to an event earlier in the year to try out the new spring/summer menu which both Seamus and I adored, in fact we have been to Pizza Express since more times than I'd care to recall, both ordering the new additions to the menu every time. Not that we're predictable or anything.

On first impressions of the new menu, we were both shocked at how many new options there are - and not just foodwise, we both very much enjoyed the new additions to the drinks menu, hello Malbec! But back to the food, for a starter amongst the standard dough balls and salads, you can have breaded calamari with aioli, which I have to say is beautiful. More often than not squid is overcooked and rubbery but not here, nuh uh, and also it was a really nice change to have calamari breaded instead of in batter which is a usual combination. We also shared the risotto mio, a mushroom risotto with truffle oil, Pizza Express's favourite new ingredient this year. The risotto was lovely, I probably wouldn't choose it again PERSONALLY, but that's because I lo-o-ove calamari. However, it is worth noting that the risotto is a GF option - well done Pizza Express. Over all it was a struggle to keep the starters on the table longer than a minute.

Both of us opted for pizza as our mains, I went for the brand new Soho 65 on a romana base- a super fresh and light option with olives and fresh rocket scattered with chunks of unmelted mozzarella. Shay went for the romana autunno, a seasonal pizza with chorizo, sweet potato and goats cheese, which was actually the result of a competition Pizza Express ran to come up with a new pizza. As always our pizzas were excellent and neither of us said we'd hesitate to order those options again. We also ordered some sides to go with our pizzas - potato nocciola and broccolini. The nocciola were drizzled with a truffle oil and were beautiful little balls of carby goodness, as Shay put it, a posh way of having chips. The broccolini isn't new on the menu but I can't believe we'd never ordered it before - crunchy broccoli with parmesan?! Amazing.

And if we weren't stuffed enough, we ordered dessert. There's quite a few new options for sweets, a few that are totally indulgent to everyone's salted caramel obsession. I went for a few scoops of salted caramel ice cream and Shay went for the salted caramel profiteroles (yes!) that comes with a coffee, so he opted for an Irish one. Obviously.

As if you need me to say it, but the whole meal was utterly brilliant and that is exactly why I love eating at Pizza Express, it's great food every single time. The fact that there is now seasonal menus with new options every six months, well it makes me feel even less guilty for going back time and time again. The new menu is out now if you feel tempted to go and try it, I know I do... again!

Bake Off Bake Along | Until Next Year...

Yesterday Amanda announced the winners of our bake off bake along series. And what a series it's been.

The show itself was amazing as per, and I'm so glad that Nadiya won, because she was an utter superstar and totally deserved it. The bake along this year was TOUGH, and as Amanda mentioned in her post, I'll certainly be glad not to be sticking to a strict baking schedule for a while, it really was at times testing on my emotional well being - can't handle a baking fail - and denting on the old bank balance too.

I think my favourite bake from this year was most definitely the Iced Buns, they were utterly delicious and I enjoyed making every element, even if they looked a little odd, the tasted fantastic.

What I truly love about the bake along is us all committing to learning new skills and broadening our baking repertoires, you never know when you might need to make a vol au vent from scratch eh?

If you haven't already, head over to Amanda's blog to see who we chose as our winners of the bake off bake along 2015 and a look at her behind the scenes shots - because behind every baking blogger is a patient partner, ready on hand when you're about to have a baking related melt down... 'WHY IS MY DOUGH NOT RISING??????!?!?!?!?!' Ahem.

Anyway, thank you so much to everyone who read one of the bake along posts, got involved and posted a link in the link and helped to spread the word. I think I'll be in Australia this time next year, but don't think that's an excuse to get out of it... here's to a bigger and better bake along for 2016!

My Bake Off Bake Along Iced Buns

As promised. See how much this means to me?

I made my iced buns, in fact I made them on Wednesday and I've had this blog post ready to go since Thursday morning but time is just slipping right on by at the moment. I used this recipe for my buns thank you Mr Hollywood.

Just a quick update, it's my last day of work for a looooong while and I'm happy happy happy - if you can believe such a thing!

Anyway, I am SUPER chuffed about how this came out. I went into the bun making process with no expectations for how these would come out. So they're a little mishaped but in the grand scheme of things, fairly uniform, and they rose so much during the second prove that they were touching, which is mentioned in the recipe as something that needs to happen.

The dough for the buns was exceptionally sticky, I don't know why but they just were, which made them super annoying and difficult to shape but whatever. I'm sure I got dough stuck in my engagement ring but hey, I guess that's an occupational hazard. Don't worry I gave it a good scrub after hehe.

A couple of weeks ago I found blackberries in tesco, British ones mind, for one pound a punnet, which is pretty much unheard of right? So I panic bought and got three punnets. They've been sitting pretty in my fridge for over two weeks and to my surprise they were still looking great so I decided to make a jam with them as I had some preserving sugar in my cupboard which otherwise would have gone in the bin due to moving out. So there we go.

Although the process was LONG, it was actually really enjoyable and I wouldn't hesitate to make iced buns again, although definitely with a less sticky dough, so they can be shaped properly.

Just FYI, I took these into work and half of them were gone in 10 minutes - so chuffed that they went down so well. But then again, they did taste pretty good if I say so myself. Nothing like ending the Bake Off Bake Along on a high, right?

Bake Off Bake Along Week 9 Roundup & Week 10 | The Final

I can't believe the bake off is over for another year. I wait all year for it to come on and it goes within the blink of an eye! But who else was super happy for Nadiyah? Don't get me wrong, I loved Tamal but I was rooting for Nadiyah - those iced buns man. Although I do recall Shay saying he wished it wasn't so obvious Nadiyah was going to win, to inject a bit of excitement but I guess you can't have it all.

Before I get onto last weeks delicious looking favourites - chocolate was always going to be a great week wasn't it? - I'll briefly explain how the final week is going to work. You know the drill by now, so just carry on as usual. Amanda and I won't have a bake for you as we'll have already done ours but we WILL be announcing the winner and runner up of the Bake Off Bake Along 2015.

We've both been so overwhelmed with how great the last 10 weeks have been and how much fun it is as well as how many new blogs we've come across because of this thing. It's been stressful at times and I've certainly had my share of baking fails but I'm *so* glad we've all done this together! Pat on the back for everyone - huzzah!

So our favourites from Chocolate week are Angela for her sublime chocolate & mango tart... what a combo and just LOOK at the sheen on that bad boy! And Hannah for her brilliantly risen chocolate souffl├ęs! Congrats ladies, just one more week to go.

As always the link up is at the bottom of this post for our final week!
Ok, now I have a little confession to make. I've totally and utterly failed by not having time to bake this week. I hate giving excuses but I hope you can forgive me, as I am two weeks away from leaving the country and I moved house yesterday... stress overload.

HOWEVER, I still very much plan on doing the final bake which I'll hopefully have time for on Wednesday to post up on Thursday, so although it'll be a little late I'm hoping that with my biggest and most sad puppy dog eyes you'll find it in your hearts to forgive me.

Anyway, enough feeling sorry for myself, Amanda will be announcing the winner next week so make sure you keep your eyes peeled to find out whether or not you've won the Bake Off Bake Along 2015!

Bake Off Bake Along Week 9 | Chocolate

Week 9? How did that happen? We've only got one more week left people, and I think we all deserve a massive pat on the back, as well as a huge celebratory cup of tea to accompany our many bakes.

As usual, this week our favourites are over with Amanda, so head over there so see the winners from last week! And as always, make sure you add your bake to the link up at the bottom of this post :)

So on with this weeks bake - chocolate. I knew pretty much from the start there was only one bake for me this week, it had to be the chocolate tart, which gave me another go at tackling shortcrust pastry and actually trying something completely new. Although I think it's safe to say a peacock made of chocolate would have been new for all of us.

I really enjoyed this bake, I decided to go with a Salted Caramel & Chocolate Baked Tart because... umm hello? Salted caramel is pretty much the star of the 2010s, don't you think?

I'm well versed in making caramel now, having made the salted variety numerous times, and documented it on here too so I knew there wouldn't be too much to be afraid of. I used this recipe from Rachel Allen and I have to admit, it's a total winner.

When getting down to it, I couldn't actually remember if it was a requirement that the chocolate element be baked, which looking back I don't think it was, because I don't know how you could get the shine from chocolate after baking it. Silly me. Anyway, I still love this tart, it's like a fudgy chocolate pie, with a layer of salted caramel at the bottom just for, well, for fun.

I'm pretty please with how the whole thing turned out, although (yes there's always an 'although') the caramel seeped out of the pie... wahh! So there was a little caramel wastage but not so much that you can't tell it's there, because it's definitely still there.

I'm intrigued to see how you all tackle this one, looking back I wish I opted for a non-baked chocolate filled but ho hum, there's always something or someone to bake for!