Great Coffee at Home

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With the growth of coffee chains on the high street, many of us now have a better appreciation of what a good cup of coffee really is.

Cup of Coffee

It is the time of year that we do more entertaining at home so what better than to serve guests a fantastic coffee when they visit.

Coffee machines also make great gifts – but what do you need to know?

Most coffee makers can be classed in 4 main groups of machine.

Filter coffee makers

Pod system machines

Espresso pump machines

Bean to cup machines

Filter Coffee Machines

A simple way of making large volumes of coffee. They are available in different cup volumes and are very easy to use. Hot water drips slowly through ground coffee infusing a pot or jug. The machine boils the water and the jugs are often insulated to keep the coffee warm and there is usually a hot plate also to keep the drink at the correct temperature.

Further options are permanent filter or paper holders. Paper holding machines can be more convenient as you discard the paper filter at the end of its use. Permanent holders need thorough cleaning but can offer a more cost effective option.

Paper filters are widely available form most supermarkets.

Programmable filter coffee machines are also available including a timer feature.

Pod System and Espresso Pump Machines

Work on the same principal of boiling water and steam in a chamber. The water is then forced through the coffee, with the steam being used to heat or froth milk.

The base coffee made in each case is known as espresso and is rich and more concentrated than filter coffee. Espresso can be drunk as an espresso coffee or milk can be added in various forms to create cappuccino and latté.

Pod system machines – such as Nespresso or Starbucks Verismo use pods which contain blended, roasted, ground, coffee, hermetically sealed in capsules that stay fresh for up to 9 months. Pods can be bought by mail order, online or from selected store. This is an easy way to make coffee and offers a consistent taste each time.

Starbucks Verismo Coffee Machine

For cappuccino and latte, a milk frother or heater is required. Manual devices are available, however some pod machines offer a milk frother either as an integral part of the machine or as an accessory

Espresso pump machines are usually a little more expensive than pod machines.

Pump machines have a separate tank and a boiler that is thermostatically controlled and should feature a “Thermoblock” system which regulates the water temperature.

Ground coffee is placed in the coffee holder and pressed or tamped down. It is important that the coffee is ground for use in espresso machines and that the coffee is compressed to allow the water to be forced through the coffee creating the ideal flavour.

Delonghi Vintage Espresso Coffee Machine

Most espresso machines also take selected pods to use instead of loose coffee, and many come with space to warm cups on the top of the machine making use of the heat produced.

The water pressure and temperature is all important – an espresso pump machine should create water pressure of no less than 11 bar up to 19 bar. Water temperature needs to be between 85 and 92 degrees. Thermoblock systems help control this.

Once in the cup check out the “crema.” This is the pure coffee extract you find on the top of the espresso.  It should smell rich and remind you of the smell you get at the counter of a good coffee bar. The most intense part of the espresso is the top couple of centimetres, a little like the head on a glass of beer.

Once in your cup you can decide how to drink your coffee.

Espresso – just how it comes out of the machine – maybe with a little sugar

Cappuccino: 1/3 espresso, 1/3 hot milk, 1/3 frothed milk

Latte: with added hot milk. Normally ratio is 1:6 espresso to
hot milk.

Macchiato: espresso with a little touch of milk

Americano: hot water with a dash of espresso.

For cappuccino or latte, you can use the steam head on the espresso machine to heat and froth the milk.

Take a steel jug (this helps transfer the heat) and fill half way up. Any milk can be used whatever the fat content, as it is the protein in the milk that creates the froth not the fat.

Place the steam wand in the milk and turn on the steam. This will heat the milk. If you require froth keep the wand in the milk a little longer moving it up to the surface of the milk – but keep the wand in the milk or this will blow the milk out of the jug.

Tap the jug on a hard surface to remove bubbles and pour the milk into your glass, cup or mug. For a frothy cappuccino the froth can be spooned out.

 

Bean to Cup Machines

Gives you fresh coffee at the touch of a button.

These are a fully automatic machine and as such are toward the top end of the price scale.

Coffee beans are added to the hopper and the coffee is then ground. Milk and water are added to the tanks in the machine.

Once you select an option from one of the many settings on the machine your drink is dispensed.

A simple and clean way to get the coffee of your choice.

There are many choices and products on the market to help you achieve the perfect coffee at home.  Aldiss now sell a range of coffee machines and are happy to talk you through them at their Fakenham and Norwich stores.

Interior Design Trends for Bedrooms

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This week’s guest blog is from Nanci Gillett of Burhnham Interiors

At this time of year as the nights draw in and the weather turns colder, I turn to my bed and my bedroom as the place in my home I most look forward to going to at the end of the day.  Therefore, I would like to talk about the latest trends for the bedroom in 2013.  If you are building a new home or doing a remodel, you have the opportunity to create a bedroom that is an amazing living space or a relaxing retreat.

Luxury Master Bedroom

I have found that homeowners are wanting open, spacious bedrooms with high ceilings, large his-and-hers walk-in closets and bigger master bathrooms, complete with double sinks and tv’s in bathrooms or at the end of the bed.

Homeowners are looking to make their bedrooms more of a living space, complete with a separate sitting area, if space permits, which can also double as a gym area or office with decks or patios connected to the bedroom.  And of course, fireplaces and built-in blackout shades are popular.  Multiple textures on the walls, furniture and bedding add interest to these spaces.

Lighting is key in bedrooms.  Life is so busy for everyone now and even at home the chaos can continue.  The bedroom has become a retreat for people to come home to.  It’s a place to feel quiet, serene and peaceful.  Of all the rooms in your home, the bedroom is usually the biggest reflection of yourself.  It’s where you want to feel the most safe and peaceful.

When it comes to colour, we know that the Colour of the Year for 2013 is emerald, but will we see it in bedrooms?  In paint, wall covering, furniture and textiles neutrals are great using green as a complement to our beautiful coastal landscape, and I am sure we will see it pop up more.

There are two new colours entering the scene for décor in 2013, jewel tone green and vampy rose red.  These rich colours are riding in on a wave of renewed interest in luxury and opulence.  They will feel especially appropriate for updates in the bedroom.

Clear, cool greens will replace yellow-based lime, pear and granny apple greens that we have seen for so long.  Emerald and forest will dominate the darker side of the new green spectrum, while mint and jade will fall to the lighter side of the range.  Sophisticated reds are the future of the warm colour story in the bedroom.  Rose red combined with burgundy and smoky amethyst creates a dramatic look for your space.

Bedrooms remain a place of refuge for most with a soothing and calm colour palette, however the use of wallpaper, whether it is patterned or simply textural, is in high demand.  This added layer on the wall makes the spaces more intimate and personalised.  Luxurious textiles and a hint of glamour in the bedroom are often wanted, and this can be accomplished with lovely velvet, mohair or even cashmere… and maybe a mirror or two.

Bedrooms aren’t just for sleeping anymore.  One of the hottest trends in bedrooms for 2013 is turning your bedroom into a relaxing, spa-like oasis.

To accomplish this look you can use the following:

A non-gender specific attitude in the master bedroom now dominates.  Gone are the frills, doodads and patterns in favour of layered texture (white linen, raw silk…) that both he and she can live with.

High, upholstered headboards (often fixed directly to the wall) now replace traditional wood bed frames while footboards are now being eliminated altogether for better viewing of the tv.

Dark hardwood floors are now popular as they offer more durability, drama, flexibility and perceived home value.  Over the hardwood floors investment texture-driven area rugs now provide comfort underfoot.  They can be sent out and cleaned without disrupting the entire room.

Modern, matching bedside tables, tall lamps with table dimmers that put everything at arm’s length while sitting up in bed become the pampering new focus.

Traditional bedspreads are out in favour of the turned down bed look, putting more focus on the sheets and sleeping pillows which are now stacked.  Throw pillows are out in favour on a long accent body pillow that spans the width of the bed.

Recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

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This week’s guest blog is a recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Streusal Muffins from Pixie Hall Cakes

Pumpkin Muffins

I cannot believe that another month has gone by! I’ve been buying jumpers and thick socks to prepare for the colder weather (I do a lot of standing outside in the winter at various farmers’ markets and events – warm clothes are essential!) and we’ve still got warm weather! I’ve spent October afternoons in short sleeves, walking the dog and evenings with friends in beer gardens. The weather is lovely but I’m still craving the cooler weather so I can snuggle up in my new clothes. I promise I’m not complaining…much.

Anyway, October to me means pumpkins! You see them everywhere around now with little plastic carving tools and are relegated to some scary faces and a spot in the garden with a glowing tea light inside. I’m sure you think pumpkins are just about good enough for soup but only if you chuck a load of onions, garlic and chilli in to make it taste of something. I’m afraid you’re going to have to trust me on this one.

Think of these muffins as something along the lines of a carrot cake, it’ll help you get past the whole “why are there vegetables in my dessert?” thing. Cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg give these muffins warmth, the oats in the streusel topping makes them heartier than a plain muffin and the pumpkin keeps them moist.

These are pretty quick to put together and are delicious warm or at room temperature. They keep well for a few days in an airtight container.  If you came to my in store cupcake demonstrations a few weeks ago then you’ll already know my top tip: use an ice cream scoop to ensure you have even amounts of batter in each muffin case and you can be sure the cakes will bake evenly.  If you don’t have a scoop, then just fill each case using a spoon and try to get them as even as possible.

There are a few ways to go about making the pumpkin puree. Cut your pumpkin in half and roast it at 180C for around 30-45 minutes until soft, scoop the flesh out and puree with a stick blender or food processor. You could peel and chop a pumpkin into small cubes, place in a large, microwaveable bowl, add a splash of water and cover in cling film. Microwave for 7-12 minutes until tender then puree as above.  If you’re feeling really lazy, I have spotted cans of pureed pumpkins in the supermarket. The cans are a bit expensive but they would save a lot of time and are perfect for keeping on hand for recipe like this.

Spiced Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

Pumpkin MuffinIngredients:

For the topping:

3 tbsp softened butter

50g light brown sugar

4 tbsp plain flour

1 tsp cinnamon

3 tbsp oats

For the muffins:

115g softened butter

200g caster sugar

50g light brown sugar

3 eggs

60ml oil

310 grams of pumpkin puree

235g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

1½ tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C, line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Place all the topping ingredients into a bowl and, using your hands, rub together until combined and clumping slightly. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until pale and fluffy.  Whisk in the eggs, one at a time until well combined and then stir in the pumpkin and oil.

Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg into the bowl and stir gently until just combined.

Using an ice cream scoop (or a spoon), divide the batter between the muffin cases. Scatter the streusel topping evenly on top of each muffin and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden, risen and a toothpick in the centre comes out clean.

Allow to cool and store at room temperature in an airtight tin for up to 4 days.

Linds Hall runs Pixie Hall Cakes in Fakenham and can be found selling her delicious baking at Fakenham Farmers’ Market on the 4th Saturday of each month.

Tweet Linds @PixieHallCakes

Photographs by Keith Osborn Photography

Carpet Cleaning Myths and Tips

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This week’s guest blog is from Glyn Charnock, Owner of Chameleon Cleaning.  Glyn is also a Director of the National Carpet Cleaners Association.

Cleaning Myths and Old Wives Tales

We have all heard stories, myths and old wives tales related to cleaning. These days there is more advice out there than ever, with the internet being full of all sorts of information.

Of course, not everything you see on the internet is true and not all the advice on there is good. So I thought I would see if I can help bust a few myths.

Don’t Clean Carpets Until You Absolutely Have To It Wears Them Out.

Cleaning carpets is actually the best thing you can do to make them last as long as possible.

Walking on carpets doesn’t actually cause much wear to them at all, UNLESS they are dirty. Soil (dirt) in carpets contains lots of grit which has sharp edges. When we walk on carpets the fibres move around and the grit scratches and cuts the fibres like sandpaper, eventually cutting through them and making the carpet literally wear away.

Vacuum cleaning will only remove surface soil from the carpet. Periodic professional deep cleaning will remove deep down grit and soil form the carpet, making it last much longer.

Wool Carpets Never Need Cleaning – They Clean Themselves

Wool is a fantastic fibre for carpets. It is hard wearing, feels nice, looks good, is warm under foot and is very good at HIDING soil. Because it is so good at hiding soil compared to some man-made fibres, it can often seem like it doesn’t need cleaning.

Unfortunately this just isn’t true. Dirty carpets will wear out much faster than clean ones whatever fibre they are made of, and as I said in last months’ blog, carpets filter the air in our home keeping the air clean. Dirty filters don’t work as well.

Once Your Carpets Have Been Cleaned They Will Get Dirty Much More Quickly.

This was true many years ago, when carpet cleaning products and equipment left sticky residues in the carpets which attracted soil, making the carpets get dirty much more quickly.

Cleaning products, methods and equipment have moved on hugely since the days of old. Modern professional cleaning products do not leave sticky residues behind. The equipment is much better at rinsing out these products along with the dirt in the carpet.

Carpets will actually stay clean for longer if they are professionally cleaned. Modern fabric protectors will make vacuum cleaning more effective, as well as helping to prevent spills from causing permanent stains.

Just be aware that many consumer cleaning products, including those for use with hire or DIY carpet cleaners, still contain old fashioned chemicals which can cause rapid re-soiling.

Washing Up Liquid Is Safe To Use Anywhere.

Washing up liquids are often seen as a universal cleaner by householders, being used for washing cars, dishes, clothes, carpets, upholstery and anything else.

These products are actually very powerful cleaners which are virtually impossible to remove from carpets and fabrics without extraction equipment. They can cause colour loss (bleaching), damage fibres and glues in carpet, and will definitely cause rapid re-soiling.

They also contain chemicals which can fix colours from things like food and drink, “setting” the stain in to the fibres and making future stain removal all but impossible. They can also damage paintwork and speed up the rusting process so don’t wash your car with it either!

Red Wine Spill? Poor White Wine on it.

All this will do is waste twice as much wine, and spread the stain.Red Wine Spill

Blot up as much of the wine as you can with kitchen paper or a clean towel. Take your time and be thorough – it will make the stain removal process much easier. Apply plenty of pressure to get the last of the liquid out of the carpet – once you think you have removed as much as you can, place a fresh piece of paper towel down and stand on it, you will be surprised how much more comes out.

Even if there is no visible mark remaining, clean the area as there will still be residues left behind which will attract dirt. Use a mild detergent, (NOT washing up liquid!). One for washing woollen clothes is suitable (even if the carpet isn’t wool). Mix a teaspoon of detergent in half a pint of warm water, and add 1 or 2 teaspoons of white vinegar. Avoid consumer cleaning products – they can fix the stain.

Apply the detergent to a soft cloth and dampen the area, blotting from the edge of the area to the middle. DO NOT RUB! Do not over-wet the area. Repeat the blotting process with plain water as a rinse.

Finally place paper towels several layers thick over the area, weight down with something waterproof and leave overnight.

When the area is properly dry, if there is still a mark, repeat the process. If there is still a mark, call your local member of the National Carpet Cleaners Association.