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

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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

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

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

 

Millionaires shortbread, the sexy edition

The close up

The close up

I make this recipe fairly regularly but have only recently started getting (I believe) better at taking close up shots of some of my bakes. So for your enjoyment and mine. Here are my recent attempts (no photoshop, can’t work it. I did crop them though as I have worked out how to do that, am a technical genius, lol) of millionaires yumminess.

Enjoy,

Lx

Millionaires Shortbread

Christmas Gingerbread House Countdown :)

Beginning to add detailEvery year on Christmas Eve ( well every year for about the last decade) we have made a gingerbread house, watched a cheesy xmas movie and eaten yummy treats. This year we want to change it up a little. My son’s girlfriend suggested that we make a TARDIS. “OK”, can do that methinks, it is after all a box and as long as she doesn’t want it bigger on the inside I think we will be fine.

What I would like to do though is something a bit more adventurous in gingerbread architecture. I was thinking that a hobbit type house might be cool or perhaps go for it and maybe do a gingerbread Guggenheim Museum. We could do our house in gingerbread, actually really like that idea. Decisions, decisions. Will add to this post once I have settled on an idea 🙂

Meanwhile, here are the pictures from last years effort 🙂

Enjoy,

Lx

Finished result

Another really easy recipe for your biscuit collection, Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Biscotti It has been such a long time since I have been able to truly bake 😦 I have been working full time and baking sadly was one of the casualties.  After much soul searching though I decided to follow my bliss and quit my job and try and find one that works for me and my family. Scary but very liberating. Only been at home for a few days but thought I would do a family favourite that my daughter especially likes to dunk in tea! Personally these biscotti are scrummy with an excellent coffee, but truly, whatever floats your boat is good.

Thanks as ever to Nigella for the recipe which I only tweak a bit.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract – I use vanilla paste for preference but either is good
  • few drops of almond essence
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Nigella’s recipe is for 50g shelled almonds and 75g chocolate chips. I tend to use around 50g chocolate chips and no almonds but I think you can use anything that your family loves, white chocolate chips and dark combined may be nice. Hmmm may do that next time…..

Method

  • Preheat oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees C
  • Whisk the egg and sugar together until thick and pale. I use an electric whisk for this and also the freshest eggs tend to whip up much more satisfactorily. When you lift your whisk out of the mix it will leave a trail of ribbons.
  • Beat in the vanilla and almond essences, then fold in the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Then add your almonds/chocolate chips or whatever you have decided to experiment with. I usually jump in with clean hands at this point as that is much easier.
  • Once you have all your ingredients combined you need to shape the dough into a log about 25 x 5 cm and place this onto a baking tray that you have lined with baking paper.
  • Bake for 25 minutes till a pale brown colour. Check your oven after about 17. Mine usually is done at around 22 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to harden slightly for around 5 minutes.
  • Then cut diagonal slants about 1cm in thickness so that you have finger like pieces.
  • Place these back down on your baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, flip them over and then give them another 5 minutes.
  • Cool on a rack and then store in an airtight container for the 5 minutes you have before the family realises they exist and nom the lot!

Biscotti and coffee

Enjoy

Lx

Stem Ginger Cookies – super yummy and a really easy recipe that always works

 I think that this next recipe is my very favourite to make (well it is at the moment!!).

I pretty much always have the ingredients handy, and as far as I can tell this recipe is the easiest one I have come across for a really good, chewy cookie. I am playing around with the recipe, as I think there is probably scope for an excellent oatmeal and raisin cookie (probably my favourite cookie to eat, but have been sadly disappointed with recipes over the years, so going to have a go at making my own!! Fingers crossed)

Right first things first, this recipe comes from “The Great British Book of Baking” which accompanied the TV series The Great British Bake Off. Lovely book, very nostalgic.

Ok, first things first, here are the ingredients:

  • 350g self raising flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 85g  golden syrup
  • 1 medium free range egg – beaten
  • 35g (2 pieces) stem ginger, drained and finely chopped

You will also need 3 baking trays greased with butter. However I never have more than 2 available so always have to cook this recipe in 2 batches. Worry not, they only take minutes to cook, so you won’t be hanging around the kitchen that long even if you only have one tray handy.

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C or Gas Mark 3
  • In a bowl, sift your flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and sugar. I tend to just put all the ingredients into the bowl and then mix together using a whisk. This works really well.
  • Then in a small (non-stick if you have one) pan, melt your butter and golden syrup together over a gentle heat. Leave it to one-side until it is just lukewarm.
  • Then pour that mixture, the ginger pieces and your beaten egg into your bowl with the other ingredients and combine together.
  • Once combined you can roll the mixture into about 24 walnut sized balls. Best equipment for this is your hands!
  • Place these onto your prepared trays giving them plenty of room as they will spread out.
  • Now according to the book these will need 15 – 20 minutes to cook. Mine have never taken more than 13 minutes so do start checking them after 10. Once they are spread out and golden brown take them out of the oven, leave them to cool for a minute or two on the tray ( this will firm them up a bit) and then using a spatula, slide them off onto a cooling rack.
  • Try not to eat them when they are hot, you will burn your tongue and they actually taste better cold.
  • They can be stored in an airtight container.

My variation on these, or added extra I suppose is dark chocolate. In a bowl in the microwave, gently melt around 50 – 100g dark chocolate. This very much depends on how much chocolate you want on your cookies. I usually melt around 75g and then using a piping bag, drizzle dark chocolate on to your cooled cookies. You do not have to do this as they taste properly gorgeous without chocolate, but sometimes you have those days when only chocolate will do!

Anyway, do have a go at these as they are so satisfying to bake.

Enjoy

Lx

Variety pack of yummy treats

A very sad day last week for myself and several colleagues who were made redundant. I was one of the lucky ones and managed to secure another post at the same organisation ( only 2 days a week but should give me more time to bake – YAY positive side )Image

In celebration of all my amazing colleagues ( two of whom have set up a fab new venture http://www.tdp-training.org.uk/ ) I decided to make a selection of yummy treats. Some of my cakes were prettier than others. The Lemon drizzle cupcakes look very sad really but taste so scrumptious I ate 4 before I even got to work. ( I will never be a size 12 again 😦 )

I have posted the recipe for the Millionaires Shortbread before so no need to repeat. The other cakes are both versions of a basic vanilla cupcake recipe, in fact they are based on my Mums original 4,4,4 and 2 recipe which you can find on my home page https://clarkfamilyhandbook.wordpress.com/about/.

Lemon drizzle fairy cakes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of 4,4,4,2 fairy cakes. This makes either 16 small traditional fairy cakes as shown above or 9 muffin sized cupcakes.
  • 1 lemon
  • about 50g icing sugar but more or less according to how much of a sweet tooth you have.
  • a skewer or cocktail stick

While your fairy cakes are baking, put the juice of your lemon and the icing sugar into a teeny saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. This only takes moments.

When your cakes are cooked, pull them out of the oven and using a skewer puncture the little cakes all over so that you can then gently spoon on the lemon syrup which will then soak in. This needs to be done as soon as they come out of the oven. Leave your cakes to cool in the baking tin. I was a little impatient removing mine and the cases came away from the cases, not very pretty. They still taste yummy though.

Summer Fruits cupcakes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of 4,4,4,2 fairy cakes. This makes either 16 small traditional fairy cakes as shown above or 9 muffin sized cupcakes
  • one 300ml carton of double or whipping cream
  • icing sugar to taste
  • vanilla extract or paste. ( I prefer the paste )
  • fruits of your choice – I used raspberries and blueberries.

This time you need to make sure your cakes are cooled as the cream topping won’t sit well on hot cakes.

Whip your cream and vanilla extract until it is just holding it’s shape. Careful with this as cream thickens all of a sudden. Then with a hand whisk mix in some icing sugar if you like. I like the flavour of this with the vanilla and cream plus it seems to hold it’s shape better especially if your cakes are being iced a few hours beforehand. Once you are happy with this place your mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and then pipe your swirls onto your cakes. Pop your fruits on and then lightly dust the cakes with icing sugar. Gorgeous.

Enjoy

Lx