Shared workspaces, abandoned travel plans and some Easter baking...

Let me tell you, it's been an interesting week, though unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. It's been a week of feeling like "I'm chasing my own tail" without getting anywhere. A distinct lack in concentration, some hick-ups in my work, a feeling of not being able to "get my act together" and a general sense of not having achieved anything. Ok, so I've met my deadlines, have answered (most) emails, took a few photos, but things just didn't flow. Everything felt like a major effort and took three times as long as usual. 

Of course I, like everybody else (or at least I hope I'm not alone with that one!), know that days like this are inevitable, that we all occasionally struggle to put one word after the next, form a coherent sentence never mind a whole paragraph. That's just life, sometimes the things we do day in day out just don't come easy. But there's a whole other reason behind this week: Monsieur has been struck down with the worst chest infection. Apparently it's been going around. I don't really know him being this unwell or staying off work for a whole week and I can confidently attest to the fact that this is well beyond 'man flu'. Of course, being the type of person he is, he didn't completely stay off work. No, he spent time working at his laptop (between sleeps) right opposite me. At the same table, because the office still isn't sorted out since our move. And this is the problem: I'm simply not used to having somebody around me all day when I'm writing or editing images. Don't get me wrong, I love shoot days when I'm surrounded by people, but that's a completely different thing from sitting at my "desk" (aka the dining table) trying to concentrate on "quiet" work. I've always hated open plan offices (whoever invented them clearly has no regard for people's welfare and deserves to rot in one of those offices - complete with bunch of self-important people continuously talking at the top of their voice - for the rest of their life!) and the fact that I felt like I'm being observed like a rat in a test lab has always made me uneasy and messed with my concentration. I need a space to myself to think, to write, to work. Most days I don't even have music on (unless I'm taking photos or I'm baking etc.) because I find it too distracting, preferring complete quietness instead. I might occasionally sit there staring into thin air whilst formulating a sentence in my head or thinking how to best approach a subject, but even this feels weird and uncomfortable when somebody is sitting opposite me and it doesn't matter who that person is. Of course I love having Monsieur around (not that I actually want him to be sick to achieve this!), but it's just not working when I'm working. Having somebody lift their head and looking at me just because I averted my gaze from my computer screen makes me nervous - even if that someone is the person I share way more with that just a desk. I know "are you ok?" is well meaning when I'm frowning, but more often than not I'm frowning because I'm thinking about something that requires some concentration and don't want that thought process to be interrupted. I end up barking "yes, fine, stop asking" and then feeling guilty. 

Luckily, for all of us, he's slowly getting better. Unfortunately though not quite well enough for us to take the break in North Yorkshire we had been looking forward to. We had planned to drive up last night and return on Tuesday. The idea had been to spend the Easter weekend walking around the moors, stopping in cosy pubs for a glass or two and just generally chill together. That plan had to be abandoned as there was no way he was going to sit in a car for five hours, arrive at a cold house and taking long walks was clearly out of the question. Since we're now stuck in London, I decided yesterday to bake something Easter-y. Some sort of distraction from the fact that we're not on our way to the countryside. So, I made these spiced Easter egg cakes. Small cakes, baked inside eggshells and flavoured with the spices of hot cross buns. If you're still looking to bake something for Easter, then here's my recipe. 

Ingredients for 8 small cakes/eggshells:

  • 70g plain flour
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 70g butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp Cointreau 
  • 20g mixed dried fruit
  • 9 medium eggs - one for the batter, 8 for the shells (I made scrambled eggs with them)
  • a little oil to grease the shells

For the white chocolate ganache:

  • 50g double cream
  • 50g white chocolate

Here's how it's done:

  • Preparing the eggs: there's a very good little tutorial on YouTube that explains it way better than my ramblings
  • Preheat your oven to 170C
  • Chop the mixed dried fruit really finely
  • Mix the flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon and mixed spice togther
  • Mix the sugar and butter on a medium speed until smooth and pale
  • Add the egg and continue mixing for 2 minutes on medium speed
  • Add the flour and mix on a low speed until smooth
  • Now add the Cointreau and the dried fruit, mix until incorporated and stop - don't over-mix the batter 
  • Put the batter into a piping bag or plastic bag with a corner cut off
  • Now take your prepared egg shells (see link to video in step one) and fill each half way with batter
  • Place each egg into the prepared muffin tin and put into the preheated oven
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes - insert a cake tester stick to make sure it comes out clean
  • Take the eggs out and leave to cool
  • Once cooled, carefully cut off any excess cake bits on the outside of the shells
  • Gently wipe the eggs with a damp cloth
  • Once completely cooled, peel some (or all) of the shells off
  • To make the ganache, bring the double cream to a boil
  • Break up the chocolate pieces and place into a small bowl
  • Now pour the hot cream over the chocolate and leave to melt
  • Once melted, gently stir and leave to cool a little
  • Using a small spoon, pour some of the ganache over each egg

Wishing you all a Happy Easter!