Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Glasgow Living Part 20 - Dinner at The Counter Custom Burgers

Readers, we tried another new experience last week.  Dinner at The Counter.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s a custom burger joint and you’ll find it tucked in the corner of Springfield Quay in Glasgow.  It’s also the first UK franchise of The Counter, which is found across America and other cool locations like Dubai.
the counter glasgow inside sign

Fairly simple concept, go to your table, either order from the menu or, if you’re like us and enjoy variety, get your tick box notepad and pencil out and start selecting your protein, cheese, sauce, toppings, premium toppings and sides.  Single burgers and toppings are £9.50 and £13.50 for a double.  Sides are £3.25 each and you can also add premium protein or toppings if you are that way inclined (charges apply).
Pick a topping... any topping.

We really enjoyed our first trip – a special shout out needs to go to the tots we shared as a starter – bacon, spring onions, potato tots, cheese and ranch dressing arrived in a big bowl. There was more than enough for 2 people in there and was a great warm up to our burgers. 

the counter glasgow

The restaurant also has a varied drinks menu including a range of virgin cocktails.  We went mid week and I didn’t really fancy alcohol, so this was a nice alternative.  So often soft drinks are just a bit boring.
virgin mojito

The food came quickly, so if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat before going onto somewhere else, this is a good shout.  However, although it’s fast, the food is of a good standard.  A choice of buns were available  - including gluten free – and also, the venue serves halal meat, meaning it’s a great choice for large groups with various dietary requirements. On and when you choose your sauce it's served on the side.  #cleanhands

the counter glasgow
My burger - chicken, roast peppers, mozzarella, turkey bacon, side of fried onions and fries
The staff spent time taking us through the menu, checking our food was ok and made sure we always had drinks, but without being overbearing.  We also appreciated the chat with the Manager who gave us some background to the company and told us that the team were trained by the American arm of The Counter, to install the right vibe and values from the day The Counter opened.  
the counter glasgow
Inside The Counter

Some people may question the location – it’s definitely more premium than many of the other dining places at Springfield Quay and with that in mind, it’s worth making a special trip south of the River Clyde to visit.   It’s easily walkable from the city centre if you have 20 minutes to spare.

Glasgow’s had a great month of “firsts” and I’d recommend visiting this place whilst it’s the first of its kind in the UK (and I suspect it won’t be the only one within a few months!)

To find out more, be sure to follow The Counter on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Disclaimer:  I was provided a meal for two in exchange for a review.  Any opinions expressed are my own. 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Top Tips for a DIY Wedding Cake

Readers, I know it’s a shock… but I baked recently.   It’s been a while. This was one ‘el of a bake.  Likely the biggest bake I’ve ever attempted.  Yes… it was a wedding cake.

Our lovely pals got married last weekend just outside Edinburgh.  For my international readers, it’s the capital city of Scotland.  It was a traditional Scottish wedding with kilts, pipers and toasts from a Quaich.   It also featured a very modern two tier buttercream wedding cake, with a Victoria sponge (for these purposes, named after our bride, not that Queen woman) and a vanilla sponge with coffee filling (the groom’s fav cake).

Anyway, as a fellow smug engaged person and with an army of people out there planning their own weddings, I thought I’d do you all the decency of sharing my top 10 tips for a DIY wedding cake.

All in, I went through so many emotions during this process but actually, the end result resembled a wedding cake. It was hoovered up by guests and it didn’t collapse.  In my eyes, that’s a victory for all the home bakers out there using their skills to make people happy.

two tier simple wedding cake

So in no particular order, here we go!

1. Don’t make your own cake.  Seriously. 

By all means, DIY, but find someone you know, like and trust to DIY it for you, either as a gift, or for mates rates.  Seriously, you’ve enough to worry about bride, nobody wants to spend the days in the run up to their own wedding measuring the heights of sponges.

2. Plan ahead

This was a godsend.  MAKE A TIMING PLAN.  3 months before the wedding I’d mapped out what I needed to buy, any equipment I was short of, how many days I needed to finish the cake and how I’d get it to the venue.  If you’re not sure how to tier layers, watch YouTube videos.  I cannot stress how important this stage is.

3. Freeze sponges

Nobody on the day came up to ask what day I made the sponges on.  Even as a two tier cake, there were 3 x 10in sponges and 3 x 8in sponges required.  Unless you’ve got an industrial oven at home, you’ll need a few days to make your sponges.  Leave plenty of time to cool them properly in the tins, finish on a cooling rack and when completely cold, wrap them in two layers of clingfilm, then a layer of tinfoil and store flat in the freezer.

Before starting to torte, fill and assemble, remove from the freezer, take off the tinfoil and defrost at room temperature still in the clingfilm.  Allow around 10 hours to defrost at room temperature.

4. Take measurements and make layers flat. 

You need each of your sponges to have a flat top.  Measure the heights of each and chop off any domed tops with a large serrated knife.  Saves you putting mountains of buttercream like plasterboard at the sides.

5. Buy a rotating turntable

Best £35 I’ve ever spent from Argos. Plug in, switch on and it rotates the cake for you.  Voila, two hands to get the frosting on with and to use your tools to make edges flat.

6. Don’t skip the crumb coat

Get your crumb coat on and in the fridge to set overnight.  This provides a nice even base for your frosting layer to go onto.  Worked a treat.

7. Use Lurpack butter and purple gel colouring

Wanting a pale ivory rather than an off yellow frosting?  Lurpack works well.  Beat the butter to make it smooth and if you need it a bit whiter after your buttercream is made, add in a few drops of purple gel colouring.  It’s cheaper than buying special whitener.  Add I slowly though, you don’t want lilac frosting, just enough to make it a bit paler.

8. Use scraping tools

Wanting a smooth finish, or a wavy edge… there’s tools available.  Silicone or plastic, smooth or wavy, you can buy edging tools.  Use them, nobody gets nice looking finishes by hand.

9. Provide your cake with the support it needs 

That cake weighed a lot.  Like your boobs, your cake needs a good support system.  Don’t scrimp on this bit, use a thick board on the base.   Learn how to use dowels.  I had these in the base, a thin board between each tier and used barbeque wooden skewers pushed down in three places in the top of the cake.  If you are worried about getting your dowels or skewers through the middle board, cut it in half and take half an inch off each side.  Leaves a gap in the middle to allow you to push your supporting dowels or skewers in.  GENIUS.

10. Transport carefully

Keep it somewhere cool – buttercream hates heat.  It was 27c on the day of the wedding (roasting for Scotland, cold for other readers) so we kept the cake in a cool place as long as we could before it went out on display.  Also, buy a proper tall cake box with a lid.  I got mine on Ebay and it provided me with a fitted, heavy edged box that I felt safe putting in the car.  No chance that cake was moving once it was cocooned inside.

For all of you making wedding cakes for family and friends, I'd love you to share your creations with me.  Good luck!