It seems that everyone’s a blogger these days doesn’t it? Or maybe it just seems that way because of the people I choose to surround myself with – let’s call them friends. As many bloggers as there are, there’s as many different styles of blogging, as I guess there would be, we’re thankfully all very different, us human beans. Beyond the limitless subjects that are available for comment and perlustration, are the layout, tone, look and feel of the blogs themselves, ranging from the magazine style, professional looking and public service type sites to those far more indulgent. I started my first personal blog three years ago, at the same time I opened my personal Twitter account, and have always written primarily for myself, enjoying the experiences it’s opened up for me, staying also very aware I have a small audience, which is cool; means I can write whatever the hell I like, as indulgently as I fancy. In a similar way, I’ve never partaken of reader competitions or those blogger round robin type things, guest posts etc, nothing against those that choose to, it’s just not my thang, I’ve remained wary of being into sucked into the commitments and pressures those bring that would inevitably tear me away from the main purpose of this.
This – At the end of the day this is my hobby.
I enjoy to write my feelings and thoughts down, experiment a little, explore as much as I can and hopefully learn a little along the way. This is my place. It’s supposed to be fun. Partly the reason I’ve never felt the need for an overhaul or ‘new look’ or for it to look anything other than what it is; just my blog. Because of the above, I quite often find myself explaining to PRs that I’m not necessarily going to write something up parrot style, blog each and every experience (unless, of course, it’s something I’d wholeheartedly recommend) , I’m certainly NEVER going to promote a press release/cocktail/recipe I haven’t experienced first-hand. Might sound obvious, but….well, you might be surprised.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a product reviewer either, although I sometimes get sent products to ‘review’, I always explain that I may put my own spin on the ‘review’, and will only write it up if it’s something I’d personally endorse. Prime example was the juicer I was sent after I point blank refused to take part in the juice fast it was sent on the back of. When I first started most of my blogger friends were on the chocolate and baking end of the blogger spectrum and so I developed a good relationship with many of the chocolatiers in the country. I still ADORE chocolate, but there are those that can, and do, that exclusively, it seems silly for me to go into lengthy detail of bars that I love, that on the whole are made in such small batches that they will never *quite* be the same again, as is the case in the wine and coffee worlds.
I originally, naively, thought I’d be able to bash out three blogs a week; one review, one recipe and one lunch/coffee place post. Yeah. So, that was slightly ambitious. I’ve settled into a less than I’d like, due to work and other commitments, compromise. This, after all, isn’t the only place I write, but as long as I blog each month at the very least, and I have managed this since the very beginning, that’s good enough, I’ll try not to be too hard on my self. It’s got to remain fun.
Gosh, that turned into a bit of a New Years monologue didn’t it?! Sorry, I’m meant to be telling you about booze.
It was at the launch of The King of Soho Gin (which I’ll tell you about another time I expect, so I’ll leave that there) that I met the UK distributors who got in touch directly and, after finding out I was a big fan of one of the other products in their portfolio, sent me a whacking great bottle. Rather than imbibe it glibly as was rather more than tempting, I decided to wait until I’d found a more interesting use for it. After all, like chocolate, I’m not specifically a booze writer, there’s many far superior, more knowledgeable and more dedicated than I. Oh, I imbibe plenty of the alcohols myself, as you might have gathered, but writing you a note by note breakdown of flavours seems unnecessary when there’s sites dedicated to it. Instead, I told them I’d have a play. And I did.
Antic Formula. A sweet vermouth, full of vanilla and bourbon notes, herbal and complex, heavier than many and dominant, some may say over powering; there was a small backlash when bartenders started using it in place of any sweet vermouth, tit for tat, but that seems to have calmed down a bit now, as it transforms a drink quite significantly. I admit, at first I was a sucker for using it in my Negronis, but as my palate for these things developed I realised it’s far too sweet and rich, knocking the balance, so intrinsic to this particular cocktail, out of whack. Now I like to play around with different ratios, usually falling on half antica, half regular martini rosso for my sweet part, along with the usual equal parts of campari and a simple gin like Beafeater. But then, I also add a maraschino cherry with my orange zest, so what do I know?! I was invited to a friends afternoon tea last weekend (check out the stunning cinnamon buns Simon made!), she’s one of my original blogger friends, I’ve known her for over three years, and for much of this time I’ve also been promising to make her doughnuts. So, with doughnuts on the brain, not an unusual scenario to be fair, I thought it was probably a good opportunity to flex my creative muscles and incorporate some of my giant bottle of Antica. It also happens that my love of the humble cocktail cherry is at an all time high for some reason, and the two suddenly seemed an obvious pairing. You may have thought I’d go down the Martinez route, but to me gin is too cool and elegant for dough and baking, not nearly warm enough for what I wanted. No, the Manhattan is where this was headed.
Starting with a sourdough leaven the night before, as I always do now when doughnut making, I add this to the Dan Lepard Short and Sweet recipe I’ve come to call my own (*cough* with credit to the man himself obviously *cough*), replacing around 50g of the plain flour from the recipe for wholegrain spelt, to add a little warmth and a touch more bite and flavour. I omitted a quarter of the milk from the yeast mixture, instead using the equivalent volume in whisky to soak some chopped up glade and maraschino cherries and some finely chopped orange zest. Adding the soaked fruit and a further dash of whisky to the next stage when combining all wet and dry ingredients. Following the usual proving steps and a jolly dip and swim in the deep fat fryer I leave the doughnuts to cool while I mix up the icing. This is the dangerous part, for I’ve discovered one of the most luscious, easily ingestible and addictive things known to beast; HELLO Antica Formula icing. I struggle not to spoon dripping, gleaming spoonfuls directly into my gob, instead limiting myself to a single mini dough ball, dipped. Several times…Yes, I know the vermouth is goodly sweet enough without being combined unnecessarily with sugar (golden icing in this instance) but we’re talking doughnuts here. Get over it. The resulting glossy paste is a headily boozy sweet concoction with depth and subtle, fruity caramel and vanilla notes, that when drizzled over the surface of the cakes, melds and mingles all the other flavours beautifully.
* Disclaimer – I’m always wary of taking anything fried out of the house as it’s NEVER good stale and frankly deteriorate rapidly, literally moments after it leaves the fryer in my opinion. Fried stuff is always, ALWAYS best gobbled fresh, straight from the fryer, preferably before anyone catches you.