Spring has Sprung (maybe) hopefully :)

Well the last couple of days have seen a delightful shine in the air. Birds have been chirping, sky is blue with cottonwool balls of clouds dancing along (I know, the words are a tad whimsical but that’s how I feel today 🙂 enjoy it!). My garden is showing signs of life too. Lovely, although it is a teensy bit early so hope we don’t have too much of a downturn on the weather front (forecast is looking a little chilly ahead)

Anyway, I digress. I have found myself recently with a little time off. Apart from napping, I have also been crocheting like a demon and also a spot of baking again. Lovely.

Todays venture has resulted in a batch of lemon curd for my daughter to take back to Uni with her tomorrow so that she can make some lemon curd and white chocolate muffins. Check out my recipe here, for the lemon curd. Keeps for about two weeks in the fridge although we’ve never had it long enough to test that theory!!!

I am hoping she sends me some pics. I have also finally got all the pieces together for my latest blanket, here is a sneak preview of some of the pieces 🙂 

The other thing I have been doing is trying to get better at my food photography skills, looking back over the last year to try and find a picture of spring flowers, I stumbled across some pics I took last year that never really got showcased. Apologies for the self indulgence but I really like them despite the fact that one of them is of the peel of a garlic bulb!!! Not to mention that this is the best pic I have produced in the last year (I think!)

Enjoy,

Lx

 

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Well for goodness sake, how is it March again already!!!

I am such a lackadaisical blogger!!! I keep crocheting and lately baking a bit more too. Think to myself, mmm must write up a blog post about that and then promptly don’t. Anyway, the next few posts will (I hope) have new recipes and also some links to some exciting CAL’s (crochet a long) that are coming up or already started.

This post though is motivated by my sweetest, youngest child. In her third year at uni she has decided that it is time to embrace the baking genes that run deep in this family! Text received requesting a recipe for banana muffins. I directed her to my blog as that is where said recipe resides. Shock horror, the offspring has not read my blog. Rude!!!!

Anyway, once over the shock, we discussed the pitfalls of baking without scales and she went ahead and produced a delicious batch of muffins that she shared with her coworkers that weekend. happy days. I am looking forward to the next time she comes home so we can bake something together and post pics.

Although I don’t have a picture of her baking, I do have a really cute picture of Agnes!!

Cute Agnes

Enjoy,

Lx

Gingerbread House 2016 edition

As always, Christmas Eve is made up of me and mine making gingerbread houses. See my previous Christmas posts for recipes (although there are very many fabulous ones online). This year we also made two miniature houses for gifts as well as a gingerbread star tree. I have to say Christmas Eve is truly my favourite day during the festive period. Have a wonderful time, love and sparkles xx

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Enjoy,

Love L x

Mini Lime Meringue tarts – yummy and super cute too :)

img_3488 Not much baking seems to be happening these days in my household. The children have grown and are all busy living their lives. There simply isn’t the need for all the baking that I used to do. That coupled with my passion for crochet that has developed over the last few years has meant that baking has slipped from my daily routine.

I decided that this quite possibly was not the way forward for me. Welcome to my mini lime meringue tarts.

Sweet Shortcrust pastry

  • 125g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 50g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 medium egg yolks
  • 50g caster sugar

Meringue topping

  • 4 medium egg whites
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar

Lime curd

  • around 5 – 8 limes (depending on size), squeezed- warm them up first to get lots more juice and zested into the bowl
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 100g butter

 

Method.

  • Firstly you need to make your pastry as this will need to be rested in the fridge for at least half an hour, an hour is better 🙂 Preheat your oven to 190 degrees c
  • Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
  • Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Chuck in your butter
  • Rub the butter in until it looks like breadcrumbs.
  • Using a fork you can then add your egg yolk and if needed a tsp or so of water.
  • Gather the dough together with your hands and wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge.
  • Once your pastry is rested you can line your tins. I used muffin tins that I had lightly greased with butter. I pricked the bottoms of the tarts and then baked for around fifteen minutes or so until they were just turning golden. Basically you want them around 90% done I think. This recipe was very much about winging it so play with it to suit. You can use baking beans if you wish, up to you. You could also make a large tart as well.
  • Whilst your pastry is chilling you can get on with your lime curd.
  • in a double boiler (one bowl over a saucepan of simmering water) pop all your ingredients, whisk together over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves and then heat gently for around 20 minutes. Leave it to cool, it will get thicker. Hey presto lime curd. This will make a reasonable amount so any leftover curd can be popped into a jar and then stored in the fridge for up to two weeks, yummy spooned straight from the jar into my mouth 🙂 Other citrus fruit works just as well, lemons (obvs) but also orange and although I haven’t tried it I suspect grapefruit might be a bit yum too.
  • Meringue – whisk your egg whites until stiff peaks form. Mix your cornflour, vinegar and vanilla in a small separate bowl.
  • Add the sugar whilst whisking, a spoonful at a time. Once your mixture becomes stiff and glossy you can add your cornflour, vanilla and vinegar mixture. Whisk for another minute or so. Pop your meringue into a piping bag or you can spoon on the meringue. Whatever your creative juices require really.
  • This mixture makes enough meringue for a dozen tarts plus a couple of trays of meringue kisses or you could even make some small pavlova bases. It will depend on how much meringue you got out of your four eggs and how generous you were on the tarts 🙂
  • In your pre baked tart shells spoon in some curd and then pipe on or dollop on your meringue. Pop into your oven that is now around 190 degrees c for around 5 – 10 minutes, keep an eye, you want the meringue to start browning. Once they are going brown, turn your oven off and leave them in it with the door slightly ajar to finish drying out the meringue a bit more.

All of my recipe components came from the wonderful step by step cookbook by Good Housekeeping. I have had various versions of this over the years including my Mum’s 1957 version. Cannot recommend it enough. You can often find a version in charity shops and pretty cheaply online too. Have a hunt.

Enjoy,

Lx

Christmas Gingerbread 2015

IMG_2424Usually on Xmas eve (in fact every xmas eve that I can remember) we have made a Gingerbread house. This year has already looked a little different as we moved house in February, then the oldest children moved out as well. The youngest is already into her second year at Uni so things have been a little less xmassy in general 😦

So with that in mind, this year we decided that as all the children would be with us from xmas eve, we would start a new tradition of decorating the tree with homemade items as well as the gingerbread house. Well needless to say the gingerbread house is still in it’s component parts awaiting icing as well as numerous sweeties. We may finish it tomorrow, we may eat it!

Anyway, for your xmas pleasure, here are the pictures of our fabulous tree, resplendent in popcorn and cranberry tinsel, gingerbread peeps and hearts, red red ribbons, pompoms and a crochet unicow 🙂

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Merry Christmas,

Enjoy,

Lx

The yummiest, “healthy” (maybe not) flapjacky, oat and date ginger slice also Gluten Free :)

Oat and ginger slicesOver the last week I have baked Nigella’s new breakfast bars which I was going to post the recipe for. Then I stumbled across this recipe in the Peyton and Byrne British Baking book. I literally cannot stop eating them, although in about five minutes I will have to as I am on the last bit (don’t tell hubby!) 😦

I may still write up the Nigella one as it is definitely on the healthier side. This one gets it’s sweetness from lots of golden syrup but my goodness they are worth it.  The added extra nomminess, I think comes from the fresh ginger. I’ve not used fresh ginger before in anything other than curries and stir fries but after this I will definitely try it in some sweet bakes. It cuts through the sweetness and adds just the right amount of freshness and heat. I have a ginger cake recipe that I may try it in 🙂

Although the recipe calls for dates I would think most dried fruit would work well here. Think apricots with the ginger may be lovely. I may make that later on today!!

Photo’s are not great today as the camera appears to have run away so I was limited to my phone.

Ingredients:

  • 180g unsalted butter plus a little extra for greasing your pan
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 100g de-stoned dates (I had 125g left over which was fine, tis a very forgiving recipe) and chopped into small bits
  • 20g fresh ginger
  • 275g rolled oats
  • quarter teaspoon salt

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C or gas mark 4.
  • Butter and line your tin. The recipe calls for a 20cm square. I used my brownie tin which is a 25cm oblong. Don’t overthink it, as long as your mixture is in a tin around that size then it should bake fine.
  • In a saucepan melt your sugar golden syrup and butter together over a low ish heat stirring with a wooden spoon constantly. Once melted pop to one side.
  • Put your oats and salt into a bowl and if you want to you could add some cinnamon and ground ginger too. I did because I can’t ever seem to follow a recipe to the letter. Mix.
  • Add your dates to the butter mixture and grate in the ginger too. Mix.
  • Combine wet and dry, easy peasy. I added a few more oats as the mixture was quite wet. I may have been a little heavy handed with the golden syrup.
  • Put your mixture into your prepared tray and using a spatula smooth over till it is even.
  • Bake for 30 minutes till golden.
  • Leave in the pan to cool completely before cutting up and serving. These apparently last for up to a week in an air tight tin but hubby took some to work and I ate the rest so all gone in less than a day!!

oat and ginger slice

Enjoy,

Lx

Yummy Focaccia style bread

IMG_0011Before I go to far into this recipe, I must thank my daughter in law to be for the wonderful photography. I am truly amazed by how yummy she has made bread and tomatoes look 🙂 Jasmine Poole you are a wonder 🙂 check out her wonderful website 

I have been using this recipe for ages. My kids have referred to it over the years as Your Focaccia. I am pretty sure there was an actual recipe that I followed at some point but I honestly don’t know which one. I often make this when I know I have either the whole family home or friends coming over. It’s an easy to make bread (I think) that I happily serve with olives, antipasti and olive oil with a smidge of balsamic. It also magically turns into burger buns when cut into squares. The other week we had it with roast chicken that had been marinated in honey and turmeric 🙂 The only thing I would suggest is a must is a good solid food mixer. You can of course knead by hand but the mixture is pretty wet so the mixer makes light work of this hard sticky job.

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Ingredients:

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 325ml warm water
  • 10g sea salt, crushed plus extra for sprinkling on top later
  • 7g fast action yeast
  • a good drizzle or 4 of olive oil. I prefer the light one but your choice. Rapeseed oil is good here too although I am sure not correct for a focaccia.
  • dried herbs – rosemary is traditional but I often use whatever is to hand.

Method:

  • In your mixer bowl. Put in your water first and then your dry ingredients. Make sure your salt is away from the yeast. Or even mix the salt in with the water first.
  • Set your mixer with the dough hook to the lowest speed and mix for 10-13 minutes or so. As it is mixing drizzle in a good slug of olive oil. This is easier if you do this fairly early on in the process. You want a lovely smooth dough that’s nice and stretchy.
  • Once mixed, unhook your dough hook and pop a plastic cover of some sort over the top of your bowl. Shower cap is the best way to do this, makes the job so much easier. You can pick them up from eBay easily for pennies or make sure all your friends bring back the shower caps from their hotel stays 🙂 I honestly am never happier than when someone gives me their free shower cap (not used though!!)
  • Leave your gorgeous dough to rise for an hour or so till doubled in size. This can take longer, worry not. Keep it cozy and draught free and that will help.
  • Flour the tray you will bake it on and pop your risen dough on top and gently push it out to a sort of rectangle shape.
  • Leave to prove again for about half an hour whilst your oven heats up to whatever the top setting is.
  • Your lovely dough needs a couple of finishing touches before you stick her in the oven. First give your dough lots of deep dimples with your fingers and then drizzle over some more olive oil. Sprinkle your salt and herbs and then pop in your piping hot oven.
  • Cook at this high temp for the first ten minutes only and then turn your oven down to between 180 and 200 depending on how feisty and fan assisted your oven is. Then cook her for about another 20 minutes. Again you will need to watch and see how fast your oven is. What you want is a loaf that looks golden, smells fab and makes a hole sounds when tapped on the bottom.
  • Cool on a wire rack for as long as the family will allow, although it does slice more easily if it is cool.

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Enjoy,

Lx

Peanut Butter Shortbread cookies with a salted caramel peanut sauce/topping/filling :) and a very messy kitchen

IMG_2158Well after a short break (of many many months) I have decided to bake something new to me.

Over the last year with moving house and an op, I have not baked much. When I have it’s been sticking to the old faithfuls recipes that I know off by heart.

Had a look through my first Bake Off Book and found a recipe for Ruth’s Shortcake Biscuits. The recipe includes how to make a salted peanut caramel, I have never attempted this before. The cunning plan here was to make hubby a batch of biscuits that I would not be tempted to eat. I do not like peanuts at all 😦 YUCK

The end result is supposed to be two biscuits with the caramel filling inside. My caramel was a little on the runny side but as it took me three attempts to get this far I went for it. Not sure i would ever make caramel again, it seems way trickier than I would like for a sauce that could be bought fairly easily in a shop!

Anyway here is the recipe in all it’s complicated glory.

Ingredients for the shortcake

  • 440g unsalted softened butter
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of good quality crunchy peanut butter
  • 680g plain flour

Ingredients for the caramel filling/topping/sauce 🙂

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cold water
  • 100g unsalted butter, diced
  • 100ml double cream
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes – to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped salted peanuts

You can also make a peanut praline to crumble on the top but I chose not to make any more caramel at this point. Feel free to experiment, I felt that this recipe had plenty of sugar going on by this point.

Method

  • Cream the butter and sugar together from the shortcake ingredients. Keep going till they are creamy and paler in colour.
  • Beat in the peanut butter.
  • Add sifted flour and bring together to a soft dough. You may need to get in there with your hands but be warned it is super sticky.
  • Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 15 minutes.
  • Roll out dough to a thickness of around 5mm, cut out rounds using a 6.5cm cutter. Chill those rounds for another 15 minutes and then bake in batches on lined baking sheets for 10-12 minutes, 180 degrees C. Once they are golden, pull them out and leave to firm up a bit on the baking tray before transferring to a cooling rack.
  • Meanwhile!! Ha ha ha, make the caramel. I really struggled with this as my sugar kept crystallising . The recipe calls for the water and sugar to go into a deep saucepan and then heat gently till sugar dissolves and then bring to boil. Once sugar syrup looks like a caramel colour take off heat add cream and butter taking care as they will splutter, swiftly mix and place back on heat. Mix on gentle heat for a minute or so to make smooth thick caramel sauce. Add the chopped peanuts and transfer to a heatproof bowl to cool.
  • I found this helpful page on sugar work online which explained some of the science beneath the sticky mess I made. Hey presto third attempt worked. I took it a little over so the caramel is quite dark but I think that takes the edge of the sweetness.

IMG_2153Anyway once you have your component parts and they are cooled you are supposed to sandwich them together. Not sure how my husband is going to manage to take these on a train tomorrow. The cookie is gorgeously short and therefore breaks at the mere suggestion of topping! No idea if these taste any good either, did try them out on the guys that just fixed our windows and they made some Om nom nom type noises so I’m assuming they are good 🙂

Really could have done with Jasmine Poole Photography here today, she always makes my food look really yummy.

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Enjoy,

Lx

Puttenesca bread

Puttenesca breadOne of our favourite recipes for a weekday yummy dinner that can be made in merest moments is Pasta Puttanesca. It is a great, cheap and tasty dish that I of course must thank Nigella for introducing me to. The basic recipe makes a delicious sauce that you add to your pasta of choice (tagliatelle is our fave for this) and top if you like with a little parmesan and serve with crunchy garlic bread or french bread. Om nom nom.

Well looking for inspiration for my bread recipe the other day I wondered what would happen if I took the puttenesca sauce and added it to a bread. I thought the result was pretty tasty. I think the trick to making a filled flavoured bread is to really ramp up the flavour. Next time I think I will add extra of pretty much everything as although the flavour was good it wasn’t nearly punchy enough.

Anyway, this is what I did (next time I’m going to add more anchovies and olives)

Basic Puttenesca sauce , serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 can anchovies – really finely chopped
  • 1 can tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 20 or so black olives
  • clove garlic – finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or to your taste)
  • tablespoon or so of capers
  • olive oil or rapeseed oil for frying

Method:

  • Heat up your oil in a frying pan and add your anchovies, lowish heat and sort of melt them. I know that sounds odd but trust me, gently sizzle them and they will kind of melt down.
  • Once you have done that add a few or more chilli flakes (to your taste) and your chopped garlic to the pan and gently fry for a minute or so. Not too hot or the garlic will burn. This recipe works fairly well without garlic. There has been several occasions when I have forgotten this and no one seemed to notice 🙂
  • Chuck in your chopped tomatoes and bring that up to a simmer.
  • Add your olives and capers, again you can add more or less to your taste. None of my kids like the capers at all but the sauce really misses them if you leave them out. It’s just not quite right without. All of my offspring happily eat round the capers. I’m sure one day they’ll eat them by mistake, ha ha.
  • Anyway, let this sauce gently bubble for around ten minutes. This is the perfect amount of time to cook your pasta and some garlic bread if you like.
  • Sometimes I add some of the starchy pasta water to my sauce, especially if I need this to feed four 🙂

For my Puttanesca bread.

  • I made a batch of basic white bread, see my recipe here
  • Once it had done it’s first prove, I gently flattened it out on my floured work surface. On this I spread my cooled puttanesca sauce. Then I rolled it up, swiss roll style, popped it in an oiled roasting pan. You can use whatever you have that’s large enough for the bread. Mine was a fair size!
  • Leave it to one side to have a second proving for an hour or so.
  • Meanwhile heat up your oven to 220 degrees c
  • Once the oven is hot and your bread is ready, pop it in the oven. Bake at this high temperature for ten minutes or so and then lower temperature to 200 degrees c and bake for another 20 minutes or so. You will need to adjust this according to how feisty your oven is and whether it is fan assisted.
  • I have only made this bread once so please bear this in mind if you give it a go. The recipe has not been tested at all! lol
  • Tasted pretty good though with a bit of parma ham for lunch later that day 🙂

Yum yum

 

 

 

Christmas 2014 Gingerbread Village

Gingerbread and UnicornWell as ever,me and mine planned to build a gingerbread house for Christmas. Apologies as ever for the lateness of this post, I decided to be poorly for most of the festive season 😦

This year though after trawling through the internet I found some templates for miniature houses and decided that we would make a gingerbread village. Normally it would just be me and the offspring doing this but this year we had help from wonderful friends, Annabel, Claire and Cat. We had a wonderful morning and as you can see it was very serious work!

Serious concentration - promise everyone had fun

Serious concentration – promise, everyone had fun!

My daughter and I purchased a range of sweeties including jelly tots which seem to prove harder and harder to get hold of each year and then I spent the day before Christmas eve making the gingerbread bits. The templates I used came from Miniature Gingerbread House Template 1 and mini mini gingerbread house template 2 . You can of course google away as I did, there are plenty online.

A dusting of icing sugar

A dusting of icing sugar

I used the same recipe that is featured in my original Gingerbread House article but the BBC good food one is also pretty good (you can find that one on the first template link.

Very, very pleased with the end result just don’t know what we are going to do next year to top it 🙂

Gingerbread Village 2014Enjoy,

Lx