Monday, June 29, 2009

Bittersweet in person on Sunday!

This Sunday, July 5th, Bittersweet Bakers will be in charge of their
very own cake stall at the Amwell Street Village Fete!

View Larger Map

Join us for some serious cake eating, family type fun and hopefully just a good day out.
It seems we will be just off Inglebert Street (near Filthy McNasty's pub)so please
come and see us from 12pm-5pm.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Hello all,

Sorry I haven't been posting much but I have been really busy lately setting up Bittersweet Bakers! Most of my baking talk with continue on the new blog I have set up for that at so if you are interested, please bookmark it!

I will continue to talk about knitting every so often, but mostly I am putting my projects on Ravelry. My Rav id is ahalshaw if you would like to see what I am up to.

x Arianna

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Result

Cookies are fine thing to make when the weather is miserable and frankly, so un-summery. The constant rain outside is instantly made better when you sink your teeth into meltingly warm fresh chocolate chip cookies. The world is somehow right again and no crappy weather can take the smile off your face!

As you can probably tell, the experiment was a success and I really think you should run off and whip up a batch immediately. I cooked a dozen or so at the 24 hour mark and really, they were very good... but nothing compared to waiting 48 hours. I couldn't cook any at the 36 hour mark due to the timing but I am so glad I waited. The dough was so well dried out it was crumbly and I had to scoop the dough out and form them into a ball for baking. But the effect on the finished product was epic.

Even though this may shock you, I think there is too much chocolate called for in the recipe as it takes away from the crunchy, golden cookie so I decreased the quantity by a third. The cookie part of this really doesn't get enough credit, it really is more than just a vehicle to eat warm gooey chocolate. The flavour of the cookie base is buttery, salty, caramelized and rich which cradled the strong, bittersweet chocolate so delicately. The edges were crisp and the center yielding and soft, as the layers of the thin chocolate discs melted into streaky heaven throughout the cookie. Just perfect in every possible way.

I ate 4 before going to bed last night. 4!!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A Frenchman's Cookie

I still religiously read the Dining section of the New York Times every week, albeit online, and to my amazement a couple weeks back there was a great article on chocolate chip cookies and how NYC pastry chefs work their magic on this very classic-so-classic-you-really-shouldn't-mess-with-mrs.tollhouse-classic American institution.

Now, I am not really one who usually abides by this sort of nonsense as on an everyday level I haven't met a recipe that I haven't tweaked in one way or another. One of the best parts of going to culinary school was learning how the chemistry/magic of pastry recipes can be gently pushed in other directions while still maintaining it's integrity.

So, like many people who have baking blogs I too read this article with much excitement and enthusiasm! The recipe and tips are very interesting especially the the last bit, a sprinkling of sea salt on the top...genius. At my culinary alma mater, I had the pleasure of taking a few classes with Jacques Torres and the man certainly knows a thing or two about chocolate...then I graduated and went to work for his arch rival uptown and I had to forget all about it, but I digress. :-)

I had the luck to find some very yummy Valhrona Manjari 64% feves (discs) to use for this recipe. The cult of Valhrona, to which I swear my allegiance, is really starting to take off in London finally. Not only is the chocolate, in all it's gorgeous flavours easier to find, it's even popping up on the odd dessert menu here and there. Check out the size of these discs...the cookie batter really is just a vehicle for a serious amount of chocolate. yay! Nestle, eat your heart out.

If Londoners don't truly appreciate Valhrona yet, using the discs in these cookies might just win them over.

The recipe quite interestingly, requires a certain amount of maturation time for the flavours to really bond. I have whipped up a batch...and without tweaking the recipe for once... this afternoon and will post again tomorrow at the 24 hour mark then again at the 36 hour mark for a taste test.

Sounds like a great way to spend a Sunday, doesn't it??

Hope you are having a great weekend!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Luca - Cabled Baby Blanket

I am on a roll this week with my patterns! I am really happy about it actually as I have been off from work all week and have done quite a bit on my to do list such as cooking, redecorating and of course knitting. I have been on Ravelry so much this week my hubby is starting to call the laptop 'the axiom'. (If you haven't seen Wall-E, run out and see it. You won't regret it!)

I posted about this blanket awhile back (ok, nearly a year ago) but here's the pattern for 'Luca' (find it on Ravelry too, here) named after it's first recipient. I have realized that I didn't take down too many details about making this blanket in my notebook, so I apologize in advance but it's a simple rectangle so I hope this will suffice!

'Luca' - Cabled Baby Blanket

Materials used:

8 or 9 x 50g balls of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK (I used colour 9)
5 mm needles ( I knit ‘straight’ on a long pair of Addi Circular needles so it was easy to handle)
Cable needle
Darning needle

Gauge: Sadly, I didn’t take note of this but this pattern can really suit any gauge

Size of FO: approx. 24 inches x 36 inches

Abbreviation: C8B – Sl 4 st to cable needle and hold to back, k4 then k4 from the cn.

Stitch Pattern:
This starts as a 13 Row pattern with two cable rows in the first sequence and one cable row in every sequence thereafter.

Odd numbered RS Rows: k10, p3, (k2, p2, k8, p2)* to last 15 sts, k2, p3, k10
Even numbered WS Rows: k13, (p2, k2, p8, k2)* to last 15 sts, p2, k13

CO 168 stitches with your preferred cast on method.
Knit in garter st until work is 1.5 inches.

To start stitch pattern:
Rows 1 and 3: k10, p3, (k2, p2, k8, p2)* to last 15 sts, k2, p3, k10
Row 2 and 4: k13, (p2, k2, p8, k2)* to last 15 sts, p2, k13
Row 5: k10, p3, (k2, p2, C8B, p2)* to last 15 sts, k2, p3, k10.

Continue and repeat Rows 6-13 only until work reaches desired length.

Row 6-12: follow odd and even number row pattern above.
Row 13: k10, p3, (k2, p2, C8B, p2)* to last 15 sts, k2, p3, k10.

To complete, end on Row 8 and change to garter st for last 1.5 inches.

BO when blanket is desired length and weave in ends. Block if desired.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Matilda - A winter scarf

Hello all...

Another pattern for you from this year's knitting arsenal. 'Matilda' is an amazing scarf that I fell in love with it after the first pattern repeat. Not only did I get amazing compliments every single time I have worn it, but it really knits up as the most luxurious yet sturdy fabric. This really is a showstopper and by far my favourite project of this past winter. I would really recommend it as your next scarf project as it is so interesting to knit and you will love the texture. Especially if you love cabling and even more so if you are one of these super coordinated people who can whizz up masses of cables without a cable needle!

I have named it Matilda, as I was watching the glorious BBC series Cranford while I was knitting it. (A series I really hope continues, it is just so so good!)

I chose the wool on impulse early last winter when Rowan Cocoon came out as it just called to me from across the room. It's beautifully spun and with a slight sheen and I really adore it. I chose the lightest colour as it really makes the lattice cable pattern pop and I wouldn't recommend the darker shades for this for that reason. If you see the archives of this blog, you will see that I frogged a striped cabled scarf in Cocoon with the dark charcoal shade because it was very stiff and was like night and day in texture to the fluffy lovely Scree colourway. Pattern also on Ravelry of course, here.

(Please note that this pattern has been recently adjusted due an error. Apologies!)

‘Matilda’ – Cabled Winter Scarf

Materials Used:

5 x 100g balls of Rowan Cocoon in ‘Scree’ for a scarf length of 2 meters or as many to make your preferred length.
7mm needles
Cable Needle

Gauge: any will do ;-)

CO 50 stitches (or multiples of 6 to suit your yarn/gauge + 1 edge st on each side) with your preferred cast on method.

Knit in the following stitch pattern until the scarf measures 2 meters or your desired length. Weave in ends.

Stitch Pattern:
6-st RC Sl 3 sts to cn and hold to back, k3, k3 from cn.
6-st LC Sl 3 sts to cn and hold to front, k3, k3 from cn.

Row 1 and all RS rows : Knit.
Rows 2 and all WS rows: Purl.
Row 3: K1 (edge), K3, *6-st RC; rep from * end to last 4 stitches, K3, K1 (edge).
Row 7: K1 (edge), *6-st LC; rep from* to end to last stitch, K1 (edge).
Rep Rows 1-8.



Thursday, July 17, 2008

Toasty - Cabled Hot Water Bottle Cover Pattern

I know I am the worst blogger in the world, so to make up for it, I would like to give you a pattern of mine that I have just now finally written up. I am posting this as my very first pattern on Ravelry because someone asked me for it! You can find it here on Rav or below.

I made this cabled hot water bottle cover for my friend Laura last winter and I would really recommend it as a great Christmas gift and there is plenty of time to get started.

Without further ado...

'Toasty' - Cabled Hot Water Bottle Cover

Materials used:
4 x 50g balls of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky (I used colours 11 and 23)
6 mm needles or size needed to obtain gauge.
Cable needle
Darning needle
Standard Hot Water bottle (I used Sanger brand)

Gauge: 16 stitches/24 rows over 4 inches in stockinette.

Stitch Pattern:
Row 1: k2, p3, (k12, p3)*rep *to last two stitches, k2
Row 2: k5, (p12, k3)*rep *to last two stitches, k2
Row 3: k2, p3, (k4,C8F,p3) *rep *to last two stitches, k2
Row 4: k5, (p12, k3)*rep *to last two stitches, k2
Row 5: k2, p3, (k12, p3)*rep *to last two stitches, k2
Row 6: k5, (p12, k3)*rep *to last two stitches, k2
Row 7: k2, p3, (C8B, k4, p3) *rep *to last two stitches, k2
Row 8: k5, (p12, k3)*rep *to last two stitches, k2

Pattern: For the body CO 52 stitches with your preferred cast on method. Knit in stitch pattern until work measures double the length of the hot water bottle. Change colours half way through if making a contrasting coloured cover.

BO when cover is desired length, fold and mattress stitch up the sides and the shoulders leaving 24 stitches on each side, in the centre, to pick up and knit for both edges for the neck.

For the neck:
Pick up and knit 24 stitches and knit in double rib (k2, p2) until neck measures 8 inches. Repeat this on the other side and mattress stitch the two pieces together on the sides. Fold over completed neck as shown in photo and insert empty hot water bottle. Alternatively, you could knit all 48 stitches in the round with one or two circular needles if you are familiar with these techniques.

Tip: Water bottle goes in easier through the neck when bent a bit in half vertically.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I bake a lot.

But I am truly rubbish at taking photos of it. I recently talked to a friend who happens to be a photo editor for a huge imagery company, and she gave me some tips so I am hoping my images will improve. That doesn't do much for the fact my greediness well outbalances my need to photograph so usually, by the time I get to the camera....pooof....nothing but crumbs remain.

Perfect case in point... I made a free form Apple Tart this past weekend to take to a dinner party and it was just amazing! We served it with caramel ice cream and it really couldn't have felt more in rhythm with the cold crisp weather we are having. Anyway, I had to literally move my friends out of the way to get these photos, a before and after shot, of the lovely, dreamy apple tarts.

I used Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe for the amazing Flaky Cream Cheese pie crust which is a god send if you are a pastry novice but still very useful for things like a free form tart when you don't have the pan supporting the weight of the filling. The crust was crisp and light, but still substantial enough to slice easily and provide a striking balance with the soft aromatic fruit.
I rolled out the dough and cut out a large circle by tracing around a bowl turned upside down and piled in the apple filling I made an hour earlier. For all you eagle eyes out there, the photos above aren't of the same tart. I ended up making one large one for 4 people to slice (on the left), and a second single serving (on the right) with the scraps.

My recipe:
Apple Tart Filling
4 Bramley Apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 squeeze of half a lemon
2 tbsp Calvados
1 vanilla pod, scraped and seeded
1/2 cup of sugar (more if the apples are very tart)
1 nob of fresh ginger, (size of thumb tip) grated
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
- Stir all ingredients together and let rest, covered with plastic wrap for an hour.
- Scoop apples from bowl and pile neatly in the centre of rolled out dough.
- Fold edges of pastry around in a neat, overlapping fashion until secure
- Chop up 1 tbsp of butter and fleck on top of apples
- Egg wash pastry and sprinkle the whole tart with demerara sugar
- Bake at 180C or 350F until golden and bubbly, as well at the tart dough looking crisp
Serves 4 greedy people :-)

However, as promised, an catch up of sorts. I have been doing lots cupcaking lately and that has a lot to do with the wedding season that has just passed. I did two wedding cakes, one large and one not so large for two couples I adore. Both of whom share my love of simplicity and didn't want the normal fruit cake marzipan nightmares that pass for wedding cakes in this country.
So, I baked them these....

The big one on the left is Chocolate Truffle cupcakes (one of my best) and Apple Spice cupcakes with cream cheese icing. Exactly the right sort of flavours for a September wedding. The smaller one was made up of Lemon and Raspberry cupcakes with a lemon mousse icing and Guinness and Ginger cupcakes with spiced cream cheese icing.
Both times all of the guests fawned over them and of course I was very bashful about it, but inside I was so proud to give my friends such a gift. I love making things and I would much rather do something like this for people I love than buy them a matching kettle and toaster, or whatever trendy people ask for on their wedding lists... isn't that why we make things in the first place? To give people a unique joy that can't be bought? Well, I do anyway.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Latest Knitting Exploits

Lots going on, barely a minute to catch my breath! Luckily that hasn't stopped me knitting or baking, or I would be going insane! I have completed 3 projects in the past couple of weeks and here are the results! (Modelling done by my patient husband)

However, I have been indulging in a bit of web based fun and have of course fallen a bit in love with Ravelry. I have been bad and been updating my profile and projects on there, not here. If are already there, look for me 'ahalshaw'. If not, see you there soon!

I also went to the first UK Stitch n' Bitch this past weekend with a couple of fellow knitting friends and had the best time. It was a great atmosphere and much yarn buying ensued! Yay! I will post photos of course...

The best was attending a workshop/talk by Jane Brocket of Yarnstorm fame. She was just as charming and lovely in person, talking about her crochet flowers, as I imagined. If you don't have her amazing book. Get it or hit up Santa for Christmas! I hope my life is as charming as hers one day...

Next weekend, Paris! After which I will update you on all the cake eating done over the last few months.

Hope all is well out there!

x Arianna

Monday, October 15, 2007


I know I promised a cake update but look at the lovely yarn I bought at the knitting show this weekend! Mostly the show was appalling, so crowded and so much crap...(who knew they made acrylic yarn in 5 lb balls?) and I have never been body checked by so many old ladies on their way to a cross stitch demo but there were treasures to be found. Treasures indeed!

The top yarn is Shimmer 5, 'Velvet Olive' by Colinette. Ooh and Ah. I wanted to wrap myself up in all the long flowing hanks at their display. So gorgeous. I think I am going to make a scarf out of this one because it's so shiny and so touchable. Pattern, tbc.

The bottom yarn is Koigu, for socks of course, from the lovely Socktopus stand. So gorgeous but unbelievably expensive!! Really shocking actualy. I hope it's as nice as everyone says.... I think monkey socks for these babies as the colourways should really show off the pattern.

I started this scarf over the weekend but I think I am going to abandon ship and start on the shiny Colinette for a cable scarf instead. I am not that thrilled with it. It's Rowan Cocoon but I don't really like how it feels knitted up. Maybe for a cool stripy hat instead? I only bought two balls, but still... waste not, want not.

Also, I was finally invited to join Ravelry! I am really excited about it and have been slowly putting up pics and patterns. I think it's going be very fun to geek out over everyone's photos and amazing talent in one cool place. Yay!

Hope you had a nice weekend!


Sunday, October 07, 2007


Ok, see that wasn't so bad.

At least I broke the seal, ripped off the plaster and got back on the horse by posting in a insomniatic fit the other night. It's all good.

I have been staring at the link to this blog on my desktop with fear and trepidation for ages. I know it's something I really want to do, but really haven't been able to give it the time it deserves. Also, after reading all the amazing blogs out there and see how well everyone is able to communicate. Like I said, Loser. But I am working on it. It's a like a blogging rehab program ....

I will start out this update with what I have been knitting over the past few months. As creatively stunted as I felt earlier in the year, I have made up for it a million times over. I have a knitting up a storm and have a wish list of projects I want to do that is a mile long, let's hope my wallet will stretch as far! I have developed a serious addiction to luxury yarn. I have actually been spending more on yarn than on handbags and cocktails!! You can see the gravity of the situation. I figure if you spend hours, days, weeks handmaking something you might as well go for the best yarn you can afford! Also, there seem to be so many amazing patterns out there, and I intend to do them all! But let's back track and show you what I have been doing lately..

I will work backward. So, my friend Becky gave birth to a lovely little boy and here's the cabled (of course, I really can't help myself) blanket I made in a lovely deep Sky blue from Debbie Bliss, Cashmerino on 6mm needles.

It's lovely and soft, and long enough to wrap around the little 'un or put in the pram. It was a huge success and the new mommy and daddy loved it. Again, this is a blanket of my own design and I would be happy to share the pattern.

The next thing I knit was from the new Rowan New Shapes book, which is really great if you are thinking of getting it. So many stylish and easy, chunky knits for this season. That and the new Rowan Magazine 42 and I am overwhelmed with ideas...

I knit this pattern, named 'Sage', but instead of using Big Wool as directed I used up some wool I impulsively purchased at Loop earlier in the year. I had one of those reactions to Blue Sky Alpaca yarns that really makes grateful I learned to knit. It was so saturated in colour (a gorgeous anthracite grey) and so soft, I literally couldn't put it down. So I bought all 5 skeins. Even though I didn't have a pattern in mind. Yeah, I do that. Most of the time it works out... ha ha When I saw this pattern I knew it was the perfect one for my seriously soft and luxurious alpaca yarn. Luckily the gauge was the same knit on 15mm needles, but in my frenzy of finding just right pattern (finally!) I didn't clock that a ball of the fuzzy alpaca gorgeousness only yielded half as many yards as the Big Wool. Huh. Nice one. Well... a quick search around and I bought 4 more skeins. It's really, really a good thing that I love this shrug/wrap so much as it didn't end up being the cheap 5 ball project I was hoping for.

I have been obsessing about knitting some socks for ages. I love how crazy and excited sock knitters get (and you know who you are) when talking about socks so I thought I would give it a whirl. I can't say I was an instant convert, but it was really fun and they knit up surprisingly quick. I usually shy away from anything requiring me to use needles less than 5mm because I have the shortest attention span in the world. I stuck it out and voilĂ , I made a pair of socks for my honey!! Despite the hairy turning of the heel and sorting out the whole grafting thing, it was much easier than I thought. I will be trying it again, and this time using that monkey socks pattern that seems to get everyone so excited. This time it was just the standard pattern that came with the socks, but I used two circular needles (3.5mm) instead using Regia Silk Colour yarn in the blue colourway you see below. I can't even tell you how cool self-striping yarn is. It's like magic!

Here's the finished product and the happy recipient modeling them...

Tonight I am going to start on a new scarf as the weather is turning crisp and cool again. I picked up two balls of the new Rowan Cocoon this weekend. So soft and nice, mohair and merino. Yay! I am thinking of a striped scarf, in two shade of more like shale the other with black overtones, in an intricate cable pattern. I love cables so much it's obscene. I really had to restrain myself from putting cables into that shrug above. I can't help tweaking patterns, but this was the first time in ages that I actually knit something without tinkering around with it. Like I said... very short attention span.

Hope you had a great weekend!

Friday, October 05, 2007


I really haven't forgotten about my little blog here. I just ran out of things I wanted to talk about for a spell while life sort of unfolded. I haven't even had time to make it over to the new Whole Foods yet!

However, I have been cooking/knitting up a storm for the past 6 months. I did a few wedding cakes this summer, knit a few gifts, knit a few non-gifts and generally have been eating my way through most of central London. If anyone is still reading, I will post all about it all in the next day or so.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Current WIP

After knitting yet another birthday gift (this time only a small black slip-through scarf in RYC Rowan Cashsoft but the photos just didn't come out), I am finally getting on with the project for me! I have been desperate to start this for AGES, but after a knitting gift frenzy I finally was able to sit down and start it....

As mentioned below, 'it' is a gorgeous cable wrap jacket from the Rowan book Scottish Inspirations. I have chosen a different wool than the pattern recommends (because I can't ever just follow a pattern), which is the lovely slate blue RYC Soft Tweed. It has lovely flecks of dark blue, yellow and pink on close inspection but from far away it looks like a dreamy blueish grey. It has a really nice texture and since I picked it up for £2 a ball it's a bargain to boot. It's a good thing too as I am going to need 16 balls of it!

After some serious maths, I have scaled the pattern down to my gauge and to accomodate for the much thicker new wool. It was a bit confusing at first, but now it's right on target and I sat on the sofa last night knitting like a demon possessed to try and make a dent in it. I really want to wear it when we go on holiday on the 24th so it's going to take a few evenings of this determination to make sure it happens. Luckily it's pretty much knit as one huge rectangle with slits to sew the sleeves in, so no faffing around with shaping and sewing up at the end. My dream project!!


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

One Gift Down...

I finished a gift! Hurrah! This baby took me about a week to knit, and is sooo lovely to touch that I am thinking of making one for myself. I used two colours (one colour on each side) of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky and decided to just make a pattern up because I couldn't find the Ann Budd Aran one I liked so much and no other pattern I looked at had lots of cables. It really worked though because it turned out great and my friend absolutely loved it!! I am happy to share the pattern if you are interested.

Happy Knitting, xx Arianna

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Comfort Knitting

The weather is downright nasty here in London and all I want to do right now is snuggle up on the sofa with a lovely blanket, a cup of tea and the serene click-click-click of my knitting needles. I have finally been brought back to the knitting place in my soul that loves winter and making lovely things out of soft and soothing wool.

Before my holiday in December I was having a creative block... I was about to embark on a lovely two week holiday and had not a single good knitting idea. Not one!! Too much stress can really kill my creative inspiration. Instead of knitting something for the sake of knitting I decided that during the holiday I would work on learning a new skill instead of a project... so I learned all about cabling finally and of course, now I want to do little else!

I was totally inspired by a photo I saw in last month's Living Etc. magazine and decided that making knitted cup cosies would not only make fantastic handmade gifts, but would seriously help me with my overflowing odd-ball yarn issue.

I really love them and i think they turned out fantastic! I bought the buttons from Liberty for a really special touch and the three recipients of these mugs went crazy for them!

I realise after looking on the internet that this isn't a new idea... but it was just what I needed to feel creative again!!

After giving these out and feeling properly knit obsessed again, I ventured out to the sales and picked up some fantastic yarn on sale and have a great list of projects now!

1. More Cup Cozies, and lots of them. So many January and February birthdays to knit for!
2. Socks. Sock knitters are evangelical about the fun in knitting your own socks so I am going to give it a go. I am not that keen on using such small needles, but I am going to at least try! I bought some fantastic self-fair isle-ing wool... I feel cozy just thinking of them!

3. A fantastic cable coat from the Rowan book Scottish Inspirations... it's like a blanket with sleeves. On a cold January day, nothing sounds better. It has the added bonus of lots of cables. I can't wait! I will be knitting it with a lovely grey-blue Rowan wool (Soft Tweed), again.... I am dreaming of comfort knitting at the moment.

I have also been baking as well..... Mr. H has become obsessed with making the perfect Ginger Snaps and we have tried 3 recipes so far but the perfect biscuit is a work in progress. I am sure we will try again this weekend and I will let you know what we come up with!
xx, Arianna